Ryne Sandberg thinks Sammy Sosa won’t make the Hall of Fame and believes that he shouldn’t make the Hall of Fame. I agree with the first part and, while my mind isn’t 100% made up about it yet, I’m inclined to disagree with the second part. Either way, neither Sandberg’s position on that or mine is terribly interesting. I do find this kind of interesting, though:
Sandberg and Sosa were Cubs teammates from 1992 to ’94 and from ’96 to ’97.
“I was around Sammy for about five years before I retired, and there wasn’t anything going on then,” Sandberg said. “I did admire the hard work he put in. He was one of the first guys down to the batting cage, hitting extra. I figured he was working out hard in the offseason to get bigger. It was just happening throughout the game, that even myself was blinded by what was really happening, maybe starting in the ’98 season.
I’d like to know if there’s any evidence upon which Sandberg bases his “Sammy didn’t use until 1998” position, because it seems awful convenient for him to say that nothing untoward was happening until the very moment those two stopped sharing a clubhouse. Sosa was on a 50+ homer pace in 1996 before an injury ended his season. Was it not possible that he was using then too? If he wasn’t, isn’t it the case that the progression to 66 homers a couple of years later isn’t quite as unnatural as it seemed?
My point here isn’t to try and pinpoint when Sammy started taking PEDs — I don’t know that and neither do you and neither does Ryne Sandberg. The point is that comments such as Sandberg’s represent an attempt at drawing lines, however subtly, between heroes and villains that does not reflect what actually occurred in the game over the past couple of decades. There were almost certainly people in the Cubs’ clubhouse using steroids before Ryne Sandberg retired at the end of the 1997 season, and there were definitely people in the league using steroids before then too. I suspect that Sandberg and other putative non-users knew that on some level, and for them to say they didn’t today strikes me as implausible and rather self-serving.
Jose Canseco did not invent steroids in 1988 and hand them to McGwire and Sosa at a secret summit meeting in the winter of 1997. They were all over and around the game, and if you believe the massive amounts of reporting that has been done on the subject, they were openly discussed by users and non-users, players, ownership and media. If people wish to be serious when it comes to steroids in baseball, it would be helpful if they’d acknowledge that fact rather than scapegoat the big targets and feign ignorance.