Sandberg on Sosa

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.

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  1. Seth said...

    I tend to agree with you. I’d like to think that Sandberg wasn’t a steroid guy, but we’re never going to get past all of this if people keep making statements like this.

    That being said, I agree with Sandberg that Sosa shouldn’t make the Hall of Fame. Not only the steroids, but also the corked bat proved that he was in no way concerned with the purity of his game.

  2. Jack Marshall said...

    All evidence indicates that Sandberg is a genuine integrity-and-honor guy (his speech at the Hall of Fame is a classic), so his opinion here was highly predictable. And we can’t discount this well-documented effect: people are often slow to suspect others of conduct they would never consider themselves. I have been deceived by drug-abusing friends and alcohol-addicted loved ones much of my life, and I even now have a tendency to overlook clear symptoms of addiction and abuse out of good will, hope, naivete, and an apparently flat learning curve. I was once in the cast of a musical that had the most beautiful women I had ever seen, and I spent the entire run trying to get any one of them interested in me. At the end of the show, my fellow actors finally explained to me that it was well-known that all of the women in the cast were lesbians, due to the casting proclivities of the (also gorgeous, also gay) director. Once I was told, it was screamingly obvious: how could I have missed it? Well, I didn’t want to think that, and I wasn’t looking for it. Maybe Sandberg knew, but it is certainly possible that he didn’t.

    (And yes, I am sadly aware of the fact that I would have probably struck out whether the women were gay or not.)

  3. Derek said...

    I’m with Jack on Sandberg.  I don’t think he’s being disingenuously self-serving.  Naive, probably.  There’s at least some reason to believe Sosa was more secretive about his use than some of the other players who’ve been caught and were clearly part of a multi-player steroid nexus on their ballclub.  It’s possible that Sandberg never saw anything himself.

    Re:  Seth on Sosa, it’s far from clear that Sosa absolutely belongs in the Hall on merit—JAWS doesn’t love him, for example—but I think that boiling down his HoF case to just whether he was “concerned with the purity of the game” seems like a poor choice of issue for a single-issue vote when you consider some of the guys who are already in.

  4. Tom said...

    The problem with all of this is that if you ask Sandberg if he used steroids, his answer is the same given by Sosa, Palmeiro, McGwire, or any other player.  Just because no one cared about steroids in the 80’s and 90’s doesn’t mean that no one was taking them.  So whatever any player and former player says about the subject probably should be taken with a grain of salt.

  5. Jack Marshall said...

    I don’t understand this argument. So because Benedict Arnold and George Washington would have given the same answer if asked if they were in the process of betraying their country, we have to conclude that Washington may have been lying too? Why are baseball players in a special category where the only thing that bears on their credibility is their occupation? There should always be a presumption of innocence, shouldn’t there, until there is some tangible, logical reason for suspicion? This is the next step from Ibanez, isn’t it…the automatic presumption that despite appearing to your peers and the public as an honest, dedicated, responsible straight-shooter
    (a description, I would say, that no one would apply to Sosa, Bonds, Clemens, A-Rod or Manny) and having nothing in your appearance, associates, career performance or activities that would suggest PED use, that a player’s statement that he didn’t use them should be taken with “a grain of salt”? Or am I misreading this?

  6. Aaron Moreno said...

    What matters here is that Ryno was not around when Sammy took steroids, and you have nothing to connect the two. Sandberg has no knowledge of these events you speak of, and you all should just move along.

  7. Dave said...

    Rather than saying a player’s denial of PED use should be “taken with a grain of salt” it would be better to adopt the notion that we can’t know with complete certainty whether a player was/is clean or dirty unless he admits use or tests positive (sadly, there is no definitive negative in this case).  But it is absolutely valid to make statements of probability based on the information available.  Sandberg’s record suggests non-use while Sosa’s record, prior to the revelation about the 2003 test, was more suspicious.  That being said, until the sport and the public reach an equilibrium where we are reasonably confident that PED use will be thoroughly and reliably detected, performances such as Ibanez’s will be deemed more suspicious than they perhaps should be.  Justified or not, players are now subject to the backlash of the public that feels burned for having been lied to for so long (though many of us did close our eyes and put our hands over our ears).

  8. TC said...

    I think the chronology of steroids is interesting.  Canseco is huge and juiced and hitting taters in 1988.  Then… nothing until 1998? 

    I’d be curious to read a story about steroid use in 1992 when Fred McGriff led the league with 35 homers.

  9. TC said...


    Clear steroid injury?  WTF?  I have no idea if Bo was on anything at all, but, I ask, what makes a “clear steroid injury”?  If anything, the effects of steroid abuse are UN-clear.

  10. gunznfnrozez said...

    Ever get a look at Bo…?

    More seriously, to shatter a hip in that area, even in the NFL, is extremely rare, especially since he had no family history of hip issues.  The hip is a common injection site which weakens the bone in the area.  Outside of the visual evidence on Bo, this is a clear indication not only of steroid use, but of the injection site.

  11. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Gunz: you’re just speculating. You have no evidence of anything Bo Jackson ever did wrt PEDs, let alone “clear” evidence, and if you have nothing more, I’d prefer it if you couch your accusations in that regard in appropriately speculative terms.

  12. gunznfnrozez said...

    How about a simple “Bo Knows Roids”?

    Or a more complicated one…

    The facts, the nature of the injury, and the visual evidence, as well as the rampant steroid use in the NFL, strongly suggest that “Bo Knows Roids”.

  13. gunznfnrozez said...

    Let me follow w/ an explanation.  This is not to say I dislike Bo, I actually loved Bo and still do.  Do I have enough evidence to convict the guy?  No, but then again, apparently there wasn’t enough evidence to convict OJ of murder.

  14. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Believe what you want to.  Personally, I’ve seen no evidence plausibly suggesting that ever used steroids.  There are people who have been bigger than Bo Jackson. There are people who were faster. Yes, he was the total package, but he was not enough of a freak of nature where simply looking at the man should convince anyone of anything. What’s more, his hip injury was a contact injury, not a degenerative thing we’ve seen with some PED users.

    And if none of that sways you, try this on for size:

    Bo knows lawsuits, so again, I suggest you tread carefully in this tall grass.

  15. TC said...


    Prince is having double hip replacement surgery.  No family history.  Lifestyle is low impact (in comparison to Bo, at least).  No trauma to the area. 

    What do you think?  ‘Roids?  Injected through both hips to help him hit the high notes? 

    You’ve got one line of thought: steroid abuse can lead to weakened muscle and bone at the site of injection.  The problem is that Bo’s hips underwent such extreme exertion and trauma as a result of his football playing that it’s impossible to sit in your armchair and positively conclude that Bo juiced.

  16. gunznfnrozez said...

    I understand you want irrefutable evidence, and wanting to avoid speculation and a witch hunt etc.  I don’t have an axe to grind at all.  But to me, the guy was clearly a juice head, and i say that in the least offensive way possible, the guy was a tremendous specimen, as are Arod, manny, and bonds.

    Outside of an admission or a tell-all biography, which he would have no real incentive to do, we’ll never know for sure.  To me, the signs point to steroid use.  A shattered hip at that age, even in light of the hit he took, is a steroid injury.  Its actually difficult for me to imagine the bulk of the NFL is not on PEDs, drug testing being the farce that it is. 

    As to people being bigger and faster, Bo was an NFL running back, can someone dig up his time on the 40?  I bet it would put him in the top 5 in the game in terms of raw speed at the time.  Cecil and others were certainly bigger, but Bo was considerably stronger. 

    And Prince isn’t 28 years old with a shattered pelvis.  The sexy dancing didn’t help the ole’ hips either.

  17. RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

    Re: Bo Knows Speed
    For what it’s worth, from his Wikipedia page, “…He also ran a 4.12 40 yard dash, still considered the fastest verifiable 40 time at an NFL Combine.[2][3]”

    I was in my late 20’s when Bo was doing all of this baseballing and footballing, and based upon what I saw him do, live and on TV broadcasts, and what his contemporaries did, I am not of the opinion that Bo Juiced.  I think he was just one of those, ‘once in a generation’ type of remarkable dudes who was blessed with other-worldly ability. 

    I can appreciate how you might arrive at your conclusion, gunz, but in Bo’s case, I have to disagree. Bo was clean.

  18. Ben2009 said...

    Sosa shouldn’t make the HOF because “he was in no way concerned with the purity of his game.”??  Since when has the game been pure?  Even if you accept the pre-Jackie Robinson era as a product of the times, how concerned was celebrated cheater and HOFer Gaylord Perry with the “purity of the game”?  Not very – he was concerned with being effective, and he was.  Same with Sosa and, for that matter, anyone else who used PEDs.  That’s not to say using PEDs isn’t cheating – it is – but so is throwing a spitball.

  19. gunznfnrozez said...

    Steroids were invented in the 50’s, their use popularized in amateur sports in the 60’s by the Soviets, rampant by the late 60’s and early 70’s.  While their use may not have been popular or their benefits fully understood in baseball until the late 80’s (not just Canseco, but others, see: Bo Jackson, who lost his career to a clear steroid injury), who’s to say that some pro players from the early 80’s, late 70’s, or earlier weren’t using them in some form or another? 

    At this point, I, and think the public in general is tired of the discussion, mostly b/c its filled with lies on the one side and self-righteous blow-hards on the other.  Bottom line, your favorite player from this era probably took steroids, HGH, or greenies at some point.  Steroid testing in general is a farce, as the NFL and the Olympics prove, because you can’t test for a newly invented compound.  They never would have caught Conte, Bonds, etc if they didn’t find the vial with the sample in it.  As a fan, we’re forced to either ignore it and try to enjoy the game anyway or walk away.

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