Tag: Sammy Sosa

Why the Chicago Cubs Should Reconcile with Sammy Sosa

The year was 1998.

Bill Clinton had just announced that the United States was experiencing their first budget surplus since 1969. “Armageddon” and “Saving Private Ryan” were topping the box office and setting records of their own.

At the same time that the American economy was experiencing a new realm of success, the economy of the American pastime was on the same pace thanks to the thrilling season-long home run derby between Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs.

Like the economy and Bill Clinton, both baseball stars would come crashing down from their high. All three individuals would later be called to testify in the United States Congress, with all three individuals narrowly avoiding any severe punishment.

Clinton was able to miraculously save his marriage and continue his political career.

McGwire would soon retire from playing baseball in 2001 but would return to St. Louis as their hitting coach in 2010. Shortly after being hired, McGwire admitted and apologized for his steroid use. He made a mistake, admitted it, and moved on. McGwire is currently the hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Sosa’s case is not so positive. After a harsh breakup between the Cubs and Sosa that ended in a trade that sent Sosa to Baltimore, the slugger’s interaction with the organization has been like that of an unfaithful ex-boyfriend. After a disappointing 2004 season, Sosa stormed out of the clubhouse during the last game of the season and drove off. He had alienated his team, his fan base and the entire Cubs family. He went from the head of the table to that one relative that no one liked to talk about.

At one time, the relationship was a honeymoon. 1998 was a year-long Academy Award winner for best picture for both the Cubs and baseball as a whole. The game had been struggling since the lockout in 1994 that saw the cancellation of the World Series for the first time ever. Baseball survived both World Wars, the Great Depression and the sixties, but it couldn’t overcome the greed of owners and players in ’94.

Enter the home run race.

Sosa and McGwire quickly became the poster children for America’s pastime, capturing the nation’s attention and saving a game that only a few years ago was dead to many fans. The two giant teddy bears were impossible to dislike. Biceps bulging, smiles shimmering and records shattering, the two stars were battling for a record like siblings fighting over the last piece of chicken.

It was the perfect fuel for the game. The Cubs and Cardinals rivalry had been established long ago. Sosa and McGwire were just pouring the lighter fluid on the nearly extinguished fire.

There’s no debating the impact that the home run race had on baseball. Sosa led the Cubs to a Wild Card berth, the team’s first playoff appearance since 1989. MLB attendance totaled over 70 million, up nearly seven million from the previous year. It was only the second time in history that the attendance was over 70 million.

The season ended with 136 home runs between the two sluggers. McGwire totaled 70 and Sosa smacked 66. Roger Maris’s record of 61 home runs was broken by not only one but two people. Fittingly, the record was broken by McGwire as Sosa watched from right field in St. Louis. The two embraced as the world watched on. It was like Hollywood had written it up.

However, the glory didn’t last long for Sosa. Five years later in 2003 he would be busted for using a corked bat, raising the question of just how many of his home runs were legitimate. That same year, he would test positive for steroids as revealed in 2009. The Cubs suffered one of the most humiliating crashes in postseason history and would fail to make the playoffs in 2004, prompting the breakup between the Cubs and Sosa.

Though he may not have been at Wrigley Field, Sosa’s mark hasn’t been erased. Flying high atop Wrigley’s roof is a flag bearing the number “66,” a tribute to Sosa’s historical season.

There’s no debating that Sosa took baseball and the Cubs to uncharted territory. For the second year in a row, Sosa is on the ballot for the Hall of Fame. Though Sosa’s votes are few and far between, a formal apology and acceptance of his responsibility for the fallout that happened from 2003-04 would be a great place to start. McGwire did it. A-Rod did it (once already). Now it’s Sosa’s turn.

The records will always have an asterisk next to them, but there will always be ambiguity in terms of who used, who didn’t use and who was a fraud.

Sosa has already gone on record to say that he would like to be welcomed back to Wrigley. If he accepts responsibility, there is no reason that he shouldn’t be. His contributions to the team and the game are indisputable. He may not get the statue that he mentioned, but he can at least earn the respect of the team and fans in some ways.

After recent years of futility, Cubs fans have had little to celebrate. Two seasons of more than 95 losses has dampened the spirits of Cubs fans itching for a World Series and a chance to be five outs away from the World Series like they were in 2003 with Sosa. It may be another few years until the team is a contender, so now may be a good time for the team to reconcile with Sosa.

The Cubs have nothing to apologize for. For years, the team and its fan base worshipped Sosa only for him to storm out like a five year old being denied candy. But once Sosa offers an apology and comes clean, the Cubs would be making a great move by thanking him for the great years that he brought to Cubs fans and the organization.

While we’re at it, can anyone find Steve Bartman? That’s someone that the Cubs do owe an apology to.

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Chicago Cubs: Cubs Should Not Retire No. 21 After Sosa’s Comments

The saga of Sammy Sosa could have gone much differently had the Cubs traded him to the Yankees in 2000. At the time, Sosa was coming off of two historic seasons in which he hit 66 and 63 home runs, respectively. 

According to the Chicago Tribune, the offer from the Yankees was tempting to Cubs officials. 

MacPhail strongly considered trading Sosa to the Yankees. Rumors persisted that New York had offered an enticing package of second baseman Alfonso Soriano, outfielders Ricky Ledee and Jackson Melian and right-hander Jake Westbrook.

The Cubs instead opted to sign Sammy to a six-year, $110 million deal. But try to imagine a 24-year-old Alfonso Soriano at second base and a 22-year-old pitcher named Jake Westbrook joining the back end of a Cubs rotation that would feature Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano.

Makes you wonder…   

The final four years of Sosa’s tenure with the club were often exciting, but his numbers fell in every statistical category. Aside from looking at new advanced statistics, Sosa only declined in play and value after 2000. 

The Cubs made a strong playoff run in 2003, and it sparked a period of exciting Cubs trades and free-agent signings that lasted until the end of Jim Hendry’s tenure. Derrek Lee, Nomar Garciaparra, Greg Maddux, Juan Pierre, Jacque Jones and Ted Lilly are just a handful of acquisitions over the past decade that had varying degrees of success. 

The final straw for the team apparently came when Sosa walked out on the team on the final day of the season in 2004. Sosa claimed he was in the clubhouse until the seventh inning, but stadium cameras show him leaving shortly after the first pitch.


Sosa was fined one day’s pay and later traded to the Orioles in the offseason prior to the 2005 season. The No. 21 sat idle until Jason Marquis claimed the number to no objections from team officials in 2007. Marquis was signed to a $21 million deal at a time when the purse strings were cut loose for the Cubs.

The number has been worn every year since then by several different players.

It was worn by Milton Bradley, who had his share of controversies during his brief tenure. Tyler Colvin then wore it for the 2010-11 season before being traded to the Rockies for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers.

Joe Mather donned the uniform briefly in 2012 and is no longer with the team.

So the number is now wide open, and Sosa wants it to stay that way. He says it should have been retired a long time ago.

“This is a good number that I carried for 14 years (actually 13) in Chicago, and I represented that number, so that number should have been retired a long time ago.” 

Sosa’s comments come after Cubs owner Tom Ricketts suggested the team would be open to reengaging Sammy after years of no communication.

‘‘Maybe we should revisit that,’’ Ricketts told reporters Saturday morning after a Q&A session with fans. ‘‘When we got here, there really wasn’t much communication, and we haven’t really focused on it. But maybe it’s an issue we pick up this year and see what we can do about it.’’


It would not be right if Sosa’s first visit back to Wrigley Field came when they retire his number. Sosa believes his performance on the field alone merits his number being retired. However, he fails to recognize the exclusive class he would be joining. 

The Cubs players with retired numbers are elite individuals, athletes and Cubs ambassadors, consisting of four position players and two pitchers: Ernie Banks, Billy Wiliams, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux and Fergie Jenkins.

All of them have given back to the team and Cubs community in a variety of ways. They have worked in the front office and in community and fan outreach. They even appear at spring training and mentor young players. Not to mention that Ron Santo was the Cubs radio broadcaster for two decades. I’d also like to point out that Santo’s number was retired 30 years after his last game with the Cubs in 2003. 

They have earned their place in Cubs lore not just by the numbers, which Sammy apparently believes he has earned.

The Hall of Fame voters sent a resounding message to all alleged steroid users that they won’t be given an easy pass for what they did. It doesn’t help Sosa’s case that he was one of few to testify before Congress and then appear on a list of 104 players who tested positive for PEDs.

Sosa is the franchise leader in home runs for the Cubs. He had a great career with the Cubs despite the controversies and fallout from the steroid scandal.

Sosa was a fan favorite for many years. Watching him play was what brought a lot of people to the game. He certainly had the highest jersey sales for several years on the North Side. All that plus his numbers (and nothing else), and he has a strong case for the position he already thinks he’s in.

One day, Sosa will be honored at Wrigley Field.  

But he owes something to baseball and the team, and he should come back to the organization, even in a small capacity, before he claims his number should be retired. 

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MLB Hall of Fame: It Should Include Bonds, Clemens, McGwire and Sosa, but How?

In an era where every player who has Hall of Fame-worthy numbers is scrutinized under the harshest of microscopes, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have become the steroid era figureheads, examples of what happens when your career is tainted with suspected or proven use of performance-enhancing drugs—but that shouldn’t deny them access to the hallowed grounds of Cooperstown, NY.

The MLB Hall of Fame is an exclusive club, and rightly so. For some fans, it’s the place they take their baseball loving son or daughter to show them the history and legends of the game they love. For others, it’s purpose is to determine the good players from the legends.

Hall of Fame voters shouldn’t punish presumably clean players (Craig Biggio, for one) for playing in an era where steroid use was rampant, simply for not knowing who was clean and who wasn’t. Players who have never failed a test now are often tossed in the category of “they didn’t get caught, but everyone was cheating so they probably were too,” which is a poor, lazy attempt to discard an entire generation of players and their records. 

What needs to be done, if the Hall of Fame is to achieve its former glory and respect for the process, is to find how to deal with the steroid era players. Clean or not, the players from that era obliterated records. Even with normal progression (players over generations have become more and more machine-like (Patrick Willis in the NFL, Albert Pujols in the MLB, etc) and as players become more naturally physically gifted, they will undoubtedly break the records of the players who played cards in the locker room instead of lifting and training. Its been long joked about how Babe Ruth, one of the ten best baseball players ever would down hot dogs during games. I doubt we’d see a player at his peak performance level sneaking a few ballpark dogs in the dugout anymore.

As times change, training, general skill level and a better understanding of the game put today’s players at a better starting point than they ever have had previously. 


To better make the case that players who are elite are just that much better today, look at Bonds’ first 13 seasons (up to the season prior to his 73 home run season). Clearly, Bonds was already a Hall of Famer if he retired mid-season.

2,010 Hits, 400+ doubles, 445 Home Runs, 1299 RBI, 460 SB and a .288 AVG.

That’s a Hall of Fame résumé if I ever saw one. He went on a historical tear after, ripping 73 HRs into the stands, and breaking the single-season record set by McGwire in the magical 1998 season.

Which brings us to the next man left out of the Hall this year: 1998’s other half, Sosa. 

For all his ups (10 straight seasons of 35 HRs, 100+ RBI, a member of the 500 HR club, an NL MVP and HR Derby Champion in 2000) Sosa’s career has been marred by corked bat incidents, steroid allegations, testimony in front of congress denying his use of PEDs, and his slightly awkward change in skin color leaving some to think that he was trying to look more “white.” Considering the oddities in Sosa’s career, he might not have as strong a case as the other players in this article. His batting average was only .273 and that is including likely steroid influenced years. Bonds’ statistics were outstanding before his use. 

Clemens, too, famously appeared before congress, denying use of PED’s through his illustrious career with the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays and Astros, which began a lengthy legal circus around his testimony. His career is almost unparalleled, and stands up well among the greats in baseball history: 354 Wins, 1.17 WHIP, 3.12 ERA, 4,672 Ks, seven Cy Young Awards and an MVP.


Career numbers like those will continue to be an inconvenient problem for the MLB and the Hall of Fame voters to say no to after a while, once context and perspective can frame the era. Too many pre-steroid era writers and voters refuse to consider the careers of the tainted players, though some were Hall of Fame worthy before their alleged or confirmed usage.

To fix the Hall of Fame’s steroid era problem, there isn’t one quick fix solution. Realistically, time may be the only thing to forward the conversation to a better solution than exclusion. Personally, I’d be OK with a ”steroid era wing” or at least a description of the allegations briefly stated on their plaques in the Hall. For example:


This makes a clear statement that while a great player, the integrity of his numbers is to be questioned and his career deserves a closer look than just a look at his stats. This statement could of course be amended per player, if they tested positively or were found to have cheated. 

No solution will be perfect, but much like when the NCAA sanctions a school, it’s not as if that team didn’t exist or no one saw the BCS game they won; and it’s certainly not as if steroid era players who hit more than 60 home runs and seven-time Cy Young award-winning pitchers never happened. They did, and baseball needs to recognize that. This era cannot be swept under the rug, and its records forgotten. If voters cannot agree to the candidacy of steroid tainted players, perhaps they should be replaced by veterans of the game, who may be a better judge to weigh the careers of the accused.

Who closer to the game, more knowledgeable, more trustworthy than former players, to be the key holders to the greatest club in all of sports? A jury of their peers.

When writers reflect back on this past era in baseball, they will note that several of its greats made the Hall of Fame. As for the list of lucky players, it will be up to time, and the voters, to tell us who they’ll be.

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2013 MLB Hall of Fame: How Voters Should Judge the Steroid Era

The 2013 MLB Hall of Fame class has been all over the news lately.

The announcement comes Wednesday, Jan. 9., and this year marks the first time that the some of the game’s greatest but also most controversial players—Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Curt Schilling—are eligible to be elected.

MLB Network has brought in everybody and their mother to give their two cents on who should be elected and how the era should be evaluated based on the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs.

Opinions on the subject are widely varied.

Some experts and observers accept that it was just the era that these players played in and are willing to overlook cheating to include players like Bonds, who despite admitting to unknowingly using steroids, is still the all-time home run leader.

Another option was to induct them later and hold them off of the first ballot as protest. Some say that any player suspected should be kept from baseball immortality.

One final opinion that has been posed by former reliever Dan Plesac and others—one that I find completely absurd—is that it’s an all-or-nothing situation, where either everyone should be withheld or everyone should be considered as if they did nothing wrong.

Starting with allowing them in or postponing their admission: cheaters are cheaters. Bonds used a substance and he even admitted it. Inducting Bonds, who forever put a black mark on the entire league, into the same class as role models like Cal Ripken Jr. and Jackie Robinson goes against everything that the Hall of Fame should stand for.

I’m also of the belief that it withholding a vote until a certain amount of time has passed is silly. Either the player is a Hall of Famer or not. In the end, it’s not like there are different tiers of the Hall of Fame.

On the subject of penalizing anyone suspected, that goes against everything America stands for. As citizens, we are innocent until proven guilty and that should carry over to baseball.

It’s pretty easy to say who definitely took drugs. Positive tests and admissions of guilt are valid proof that players cheated. Therefore, they should never be Hall of Famers. It’s a much tougher call on players suspected of using performance enhancing drugs, such as Roger Clemens. I am a Clemens hater, mostly because I really dislike the Yankees and the World Series broken bat incident with Mike Piazza.

But he is, without a doubt, one of the greatest pitchers ever. Unfortunately, nobody could ever prove that he took steroids. Whether or not you believe that he was clean is your opinion, but just because you think he cheated doesn’t mean that he did. Clemens is a Hall of Fame pitcher, and if Ryan Braun stays clean and productive, he should make it too.

The all-or-nothing proposal is just silly. Making sweeping generalizations is usually not smart and that’s how stereotypes form. Penalizing players for just being in the steroid era, whether or not they had any link to steroids at all, is just wrong. Players should be judged on a case-by-case basis.

In summation, every player is different, so each should be evaluated individually. If they have been proven guilty, they are out. If they are not proven guilty, they can be considered. In my opinion, Bonds, Sosa and McGwire are out. When Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Bartolo Colon become eligible, they are out too. Clemens, Bagwell and Piazza deserve to be in.

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Hall of Fame Vote 2013: Why Sammy Sosa Doesn’t Deserve to Be in Cooperstown

For a five- to six-year span, Sammy Sosa was one of the best home run hitters in MLB

With Sosa eligible to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time, the question is whether or not he belongs with the greatest players in the history of the game.

Could Sosa be part of the 2013 Hall of Fame class? Does his career home run total warrant a near-automatic bid ticket to Cooperstown?

Or will voters hold suspicion of PED use against him, as they surely will with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and other names associated with baseball’s steroid era? And even if those players eventually get in, does Sosa have the sort of career numbers that simply cannot be denied?

Sosa has 609 career home runs. That is eighth on MLB’s all-time list, ahead of legends like Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt and Mickey Mantle. 

There was a time when that many home runs by a player would have guaranteed his entrance into the Hall of Fame.

Reaching 500 homers was considered an incredible achievement. It still is, of course. Only 25 players in the history of the sport have reached that milestone. But 600 home runs is another level. Eight players are on that pedestal. 

But career home run totals have to be viewed differently now because of the influence of PEDs and their perceived affect on the game. (I say “perceived,” because we don’t know exactly how or how much these substances help players. It’s all speculation, though there certainly appears to be some convincing evidence.) 

The six best single-season home run totals in baseball history all occurred from 1998 to 2001. Five of the top 10 career leaders in home runs played from the 1990s to the 2000s. 

Reaching 500 or 600 home runs during that era, regardless of whether or not you believe many players were doing so with pharmaceutical help, doesn’t appear quite as special as it did during the 1970s or earlier. 

Consider also that Sosa was reported to have tested positive for PEDs in 2003, according to The New York Times. If Hall of Fame voters are keeping Jeff Bagwell out of Cooperstown for being suspected of taking steroids, actual proof doesn’t help Sosa’s case. 

But Sosa will certainly be remembered for the 1998 season, during which he and Mark McGwire grabbed the attention of baseball fans, sports fans and the popular culture with their race to break Roger Maris’ single-season record of 61 home runs.

It was a reminder of how fun following baseball could be. We love to see records chased, especially a mythological achievement like the most home runs in a season. 

Sosa actually did break the record, hitting 66 home runs that season. But McGwire hit 70, achieving a mark that looked as if it may never be surpassed—or at least hold up for more than 30 years, as Maris’ total did. 

However, this wasn’t just a one-year aberration for Sosa. Of those top six seasons on the all-time home run list, he has three of them.

Sosa is the only player in MLB history with three seasons of 60 or more home runs. We spent 37 years wondering if anyone might hit that many homers again. He did it three times in a four-year span.

Over a six-year period, Sosa hit at least 40 homers. Not even Bonds or McGwire can say that. 

Sosa is unquestionably one of the best home run hitters MLB has ever seen. But was he one of baseball’s best players? Does hitting a whole lot of homers make someone a Hall of Famer?

Maybe this is the baseball equivalent of Buddy Ryan’s infamous dismissal of receiver Cris Carter when he was head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles: All he does is catch touchdowns. 

Did Sosa only hit home runs? He had 160 RBI in 2001, making him only the second National League player to accumulate that many in a single season. (The other was Hack Wilson, who holds the record of 191 RBI.) Four seasons earlier, Sosa drove in 158 runs. 

Sosa also has 2,408 career hits, which seems like a surprisingly high total for a slugger. McGwire, for instance, has 1,626 for his career.

But if you look at the all-time hit leaders in MLB history, Sosa’s total puts him in the company of players like Todd Helton and Bobby Abreu. With all due respect, I don’t think we’ll be debating their Hall of Fame chances in the years to come. 

In a previous article, I wrote that Barry Bonds deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. So why Bonds and not Sosa?

Bonds was worthy of Cooperstown in the 13 seasons before he reportedly began taking steroids after the 1998 season, according to the book Game of Shadows. He has nearly 3,000 hits and 2,000 RBI. He has more than 500 stolen bases. His career OPS is over 1.000. 

Oh, and Bonds’ 762 home runs are the most in MLB history. He was capable of hitting 40 home runs in a season even before he supposedly began using PEDs.

Sosa was a fringe major league player in the first four years of his career. Then something appeared to click. Perhaps it took him that long for his game to come together. 

But Sosa jumped from eight home runs in 1992 to 33 in 1993. Was that because he played in nearly twice as many games? Or was something else going on? Sosa made an even bigger jump from 1997 to 1998, going from 36 homers to 66.

Even Bonds didn’t have that large of a spike when he hit 73 homers in 2001. It’s certainly worth raising an eyebrow over. But again, maybe Sosa had a breakthrough with his swing. 

Did we mention that Sosa was once caught using a corked bat? That seems worth noting. 

Sosa has a compelling case for the Hall of Fame for all of the reasons mentioned above. He also has an MVP award and seven All-Star appearances on his resumé. At one point, he was perhaps the best home run hitter in baseball. 

But was Sosa truly one of the best players of his era? And should the notable spikes in his home run numbers during his career raise suspicions? Those questions will likely be enough to keep him out of Cooperstown. 


Follow @iancass on Twitter.

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Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds: Glorified Cheaters





I’m talking about the MLB network, specifically, the countdown they’ve been airing about the 40 greatest individual seasons since 1940.

Four of those seasons belonged to Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. Bonds was ranked #1 for his 2004 season.

Well, MLB network, I’m not sure how to tell you this but, um, uh, er, well, those guys cheated.

Steroids? Human Growth Hormone? Performance enhancing drugs? Any of that sound familiar MLB network?

Apparently not.

There was no mention in the countdown that Clemens’, Sosa’s, McGwire’s and Bonds’ seasons may have been tainted.

No hint that any of their accomplishments were anything less than legitimate.

I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out why MLB network would include those players in a countdown like this. Maybe they were taking an “innocent until proven guilty” attitude.

But I think these guys have pretty much been proven guilty.

At the very least, McGwire should have been excluded, he has admitted using performance enhancing drugs.

By treating Clemens’, Sosa’s, McGwire’s and Bonds’ accomplishments as legitimate, MLB network is being disrespectful to the players who played by the rules.

Even worse, it sends the wrong message to kids.

It says to children, “If you cheat, we’ll not only look the other way, we’ll glorify your illegitimate achievements.”





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Baltimore Orioles: Manny Ramirez Could Become Sammy Sosa Round 2

I might as well be up front about this before I go into much detail. Signing Manny Ramirez is not a good idea.

Manny just isn’t the answer for any team.


If I were Baltimore Orioles general manager Dan Duquette, I would be going nowhere near Manny Ramirez at this point in time. Or ever, for that matter.

Despite being in the cellar of the American League East, the Orioles are a team with potential. Top prospect Manny Machado is not far from being a part of the Orioles’ lineup, and the rotation is chock full of a bunch of young hurlers that could put it together at any moment.

The O’s won’t be competing this year—and probably not next year either—but why throw the walking distraction, Manny Ramirez, into a group of unseasoned, young talent?

Manny won’t have any positive influence in the clubhouse and, more importantly, probably won’t even produce enough to be a consistent member of the lineup.

Signing Manny would be like bringing back another former slugger, Sammy Sosa.

On Feb. 2, 2005, the Orioles and Chicago Cubs pulled off a trade that sent Jerry Hairston, Mike Fontenot and David Crouthers to the Cubs and Sosa to the Orioles.

Sosa was coming off a .253/.332/.517 season with 35 home runs and 80 RBI. Clearly on the decline in his career, Sosa had previously tested positive after a drug test in 2003.

Needless to say, he produced at a level much less than expected in his one-year stint with Baltimore. He hit .221/.295/.376 with 14 home runs and 45 RBI in 380 at-bats.

Manny, should a team actually sign him, will miss the first 50 games of the season because of a failed drug test. He most likely won’t be playing in every game following, so is 90 games of a possibly non-productive Manny Ramirez worth it?

Ramirez has brought nothing but negative media to himself over the past few years of his career, and GM Dan Duquette should think twice before extending a contract his way.

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Jose Bautista in Midst of Historic 2-Season Run, Where Will He Rank All-Time?

Jose Bautista‘s improbable rise to stardom in the Major Leagues is one of the best post-steroid era stories in baseball.

Recently Yahoo Sport’s Jeff Passan wrote a must-read piece (after you finish my article, of course) breaking down Bautista’s path to the Majors and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Bautista has his doubters, for sure, that just can’t wrap their mind around the notion that a player who had never hit more than 16 homers in any season in his career could jump to 54 in a single season without the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Bautista explains, and Passan eloquently describes, that he was unable to make the necessary adjustments to become the hitter he is now because any decrease in productivity would have jeopardized his career.

Thus, he went through five teams before finding the stability he needed in Toronto. A team that would work with him and allow him to make the adjustments while remaining an everyday player.

As the results began racking up with each ball knocked over the fence, Bautista’s confidence grew, and he was able to unload on pitcher after pitcher on his way to his first home run crown in 2010.

The encore performance is underway, and so far he is on a run that could windup placing him amongst the greats of the game, clean and not steroid-tainted.

Passan writes:

“What he did remains inconceivable: evolve from a nobody, a piece cast off by the sport’s dregs, into the most dangerous hitter on the planet. He hit 54 home runs last year when no one else hit 40, and he followed up this season with the best two-month stretch since Barry Bonds.”

The stretch Passan is referencing by Bonds was his 2001-2002 season in which he had a combined total of 119 homers. The two-year span by Bonds ranks fifth on the all-time list of two-season homer totals.

Eight out of the top ten two-season home run totals are owned by players with ties to steroids, including Bonds’ run.

Mark McGwire ranks first with 135 homers between the 1998-1999 seasons.

The two top-10 performances by a player with no steroid implications? Babe Ruth in 1927-1928 with 114 homers, and Ruth again in 1920-1921 with 113 total homers.

The only modern-era player with such a stretch and no steroid implications is Ken Griffey, Jr. Griffey currently has the eleventh best two-year string of success with 112 homers in 1997-1998. Griffey also topped the 100-homer mark for two-year spans in 1996-1997 and 1998-1999 with 105 and 104 homers, respectively, during those spans.

Bautista currently has 75 homers with 92 games remaining in the season. If he continues on his current pace he would wind up with 48 homers according to ESPN. The combined totals would give him 102 for the 2010-2011 combined seasons, good enough for the 19th best two-season total in history, seventh best among players with no steroid connection.

Pre-steroid use, depending on when you believe that was, Mark McGwire never achieved 100 homers in two seasons. Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds only reached those totals during the years they allegedly were on the juice as well.

It is worth noting that today’s greatest power hitters, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard, have never accomplished this feat.

Future Hall of Famer, Jim Thome, has only reached the 100-HR-over-two-seasons plateau once in his career, between 2001-2002 (101 homers).

Bautista’s rise to stardom already has all the makings of a feel-good Disney movie with a happy ending and a lesson to be learned about determination and never giving up on your dream.

His present day accomplishments, though, have the makings of history written all over them.


Players With 100-Hr 2-Season Totals
Jose Bautista 2010 54 2011 ?? ??  
Player Year HR Year HR Total
Mark McGwire 1998 70 1999 65 135 *
Sammy Sosa 1998 66 1999 63 129 *
Mark McGwire 1997 58 1998 70 128 *
Barry Bonds 2000 49 2001 73 122 *
Barry Bonds 2001 73 2002 46 119 *
Babe Ruth 1927 60 1928 54 114  
Sammy Sosa 2000 50 2001 64 114 *
Babe Ruth 1920 54 1921 59 113
Sammy Sosa 1999 63 2000 50 113 *
Sammy Sosa 2001 64 2002 49 113 *
Ken Griffey Jr 1997 56 1998 56 112
Mark McGwire 1996 52 1997 58 110 *
Alex Rodriguez 2001 52 2002 57 109 *
Babe Ruth 1926 47 1927 60 107
Jimmie Foxx 1932 58 1933 48 106
Ken Griffey Jr 1996 49 1997 56 105
Ken Griffey Jr 1998 56 1999 48 104
Alex Rodriguez 2002 57 2003 47 104 *
Sammy Sosa 1997 36 1998 66 102 *
Ralph Kiner 1949 54 1950 47 101
Jim Thome 2001 49 2002 52 101
Babe Ruth 1928 54 1929 46 100
Roger Maris 1960 39 1961 61 100
* Player implicated as steroid user  


Brandon McClintock covers Major League Baseball for BleacherReport.com. You can follow him on Twitter:        @BMcClintock_BR.

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The Top 5 Hitting Seasons of All Time

Since the beginning of baseball, there have been players who have had mind boggling, amazing, record-breaking seasons. Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Ted Williams are some of the best to ever play the game of baseball, and they have all had historic seasons. So have many others.

These are the top 5 hitting seasons of all time.

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Steroids in Baseball: Did They Actually Save the Sport in the 1990s?

A sport bruised by work stoppages. Millionaires fighting with billionaires. Fans showed their displeasure the best way they knew how. They stopped going to games.

Things picked back up in the late 1990s, with more fans piling into more parks than ever before.

There was some thought that fans came back because of the sudden surge of offense via the most exciting thing in the game, the home run.

Things really picked up in 1998 when Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr. and Greg Vaughn all finished with 50 or more home runs, with McGwire and Sosa both eclipsing the record set by Roger Maris in 1961. Nine other players slugged over 40 homers.

A whole bunch of failed drug tests, grand jury indictments and 13 years later left people connecting the dots between that power surge and the use of performance enhancing drugs. Most notable of course being steroids.

So while saying home runs saved baseball was cliche at the time, there is now a thought that the very thing so many of us are upset about is what saved baseball.

I’m not so sure about that.

In the early 1980s, baseball had two short work stoppages. Eight days in 1980 and two days in 1985. Sandwiched between those was a 50-day dispute in 1981. Still, attendance stayed north of 20,000 per game league-wide, eventually rising to over 25,000 for the National League and nearly 30,000 for the American League.

Just as things were starting to get better, they got uglier.

The 32-day lockout in 1990 was nothing compared to the 232-day strike launched by the players in 1994 that wiped out the World Series for the first time.

After attendance averages had reached as high as nearly 37,000 for the senior circuit in 1993, the fans seemingly had enough.

Then came the aforementioned power surge and fans flowed back through the turnstiles as if they had turned the other cheek or decided to give their national pastime another chance.

Attendance rocketed into the 32,000 range for the AL and north of 38,000 for the NL where McGwire and Sosa were putting on the fireworks show.

With reasonable regression expected after the home run record chases, attendance league wide dropped to an average of around 30,000 per game in 2000. Throughout the next decade, we’d see a spike as high as 32,694 in 2007 with the low being around 28,000 during a small hiccup in 2002.

The league isn’t seeing the attendance it did in the late ’90s, but it’s not seeing the lows of the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s either.

With relative labor peace in baseball compared to the nasty fight with the NFL, and the one expected with the NBA, things have been smooth.

A sport once marred by strikes, lockouts, bickering and fighting has seen nothing but immense growth over the past 16 years thanks to revenue sharing, media and merchandising booms and more.

Did steroids save baseball?

I don’t think so.

Baseball, in all its beauty and glory, saved baseball. Just by showing up.



Alex Carson is a Mariners and MLB writer and blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @AlexCarson

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