Wednesday, February 15, 2006

So long, Sammy

Sammy Sosa, the 5th-leading home run hitter in MLB history, is retiring, according to his agent.

We will save the whole career recap and get to what the people want. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting our first Sporlitics argument (with ourselves):

Why Sammy Sosa is NOT a Hall of Famer

We'll compare Sammy to another great outfielder, one who is repeatedly denied entrance to the Hall despite much support. We figure if Sammy is better than Jim Rice, he deserves to get in. If not, he should not be granted admission to Cooperstown. We begin with the favorable comparisons:

Sammy has hit more home runs than anyone but Hank, Babe, Barry, and the Say Hey Kid. He has 124 more RBIs than Rice, stole more bases and led the league in runs (twice) once more than Rice did.
Plus, the intangibles: For most of his career he was considered one of the game's true good guys, garnering numerous humanitarian awards. And baseball will forever owe a great debt to Sammy and Mark McGwire for rescuing the sport in 1998. That impact can never be measured in numbers. But numbers are what Cooperstown is all about...

Now, the other side:

Jim Rice may have fewer RBIs, but he played in nearly 200 fewer games. In that many fewer games, Rice has 148 more hits, which obviously leads to a MUCH higher carrer batting average (.298 to .274). Rice struck out 771 fewer times (771!) and batted over .300 twice as many seasons (eight to four).
The Hall is also a measurement of consistency, and Rice outpaces Sammy there, too. If you take out the four seasons in the prime of Sammy's career (1998-2001), his BA drops to a paltry .259. You can't do that with Rice, who batted .300 all over his career and garnered MVP votes in eight different seasons.
Lastly, again the intangibles. Sammy may be the first casualty (along with Raffy Palmeiro) of the steroid era. That, combined with his corked bat and late-career swoon after steroid testing may punish him. Few players have experienced such a quick, precipitous drop in fanfare.

The final verdict:
Sammy was a great player who captivated the game like few have ever done. And as we noted, Bud Selig should be at Sammy's beckoned call for the rest of his natural life. Baseball would not have been rescued without him.
But, Sammy's greatness was too short-lived. A deeper look at his career stats, when compared to another great outfielder not in Cooperstown, reveal that Sammy should not have his likeness bronzed. His '98 bats should forever be in Cooperstown. His portrait should not.


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