Although anyone with a pair of eyes already knew it, there is finally concrete evidence that Sammy Sosa took PEDs. Sammy has been revealed to be among the famous 104 names, along with ARod, that tested positive in 2003. Instead of stating the obvious, or feigning disgust like I’m sure that Disney-owned sports channel will do, I’m going to examine the role of steroids in Sosa’s career. Specifically, I want to know why, when half of all baseball players were juicing, was Sosa hitting so many more homers than everyone else?
Sosa holds the record for most 60+ home runs seasons (3), most homers in one month (20), most homers in a 4 year span (243), and ended his career 5th all-time in homers with a whopping 609. The question I have always asked myself and others in looking at his career is: Was Sammy just doing more drugs than everyone else, or was he really that much more talented?
For the sake of this debate (with myself), I’m going to ignore the corked bat since we’re not sure how long he was using it, while it’s pretty safe to say that Sosa was on steroids from 1998-2003. Seeing as Sosa had already been a member of the 30-30 club twice, had hit 40 homers in a season, and hit .300 for a season before that time frame, it would be stupid to say that what he did in his career was purely due to the drugs he was taking and had nothing to do with natural athletic ability. A good way to measure this is to compare him to his contemporaries. Though Mark McGwire could out-slug Sammy, he never had the speed and quickness that Sammy did, which accounts for both his base stealing and Sammy’s higher batting average. If not for his chronic back problems, McGwire may well have surpassed Sosa’s total home runs and seasons with 60+, but the average and speed were never there. When compared to Bonds, Sosa ends up having more seasons with staggering home run totals, but not more overall. This is likely due to Bonds not starting on PEDs until getting jealous of McGwire and Sosa after the 1998 or 1999 seasons. Though both were 5 tool players, Bonds tools were always better than Sosa’s, and would have ended up with more homers, a higher average, more gold gloves, and more steals no matter how many drugs either of them did.
Nobody else who used in that era, be it ARod, Giambi, Sheffield, Piazza, or any number of other players, slugged as many homers as Sammy, or did it as long as he did. If Sosa had been using more ‘roids than the rest, why did he not suffer the injuries that are a hallmark of using such as tendon or ligament tearing? Yes, he once threw out his back sneezing, which is laughably suspicious. But unusual injuries can happen to anyone. In the end, we are left with two nagging questions: Why did he hit so many more home runs than anyone else? And why was he able to do it for so much longer than anyone else? I think the only answer can be found in Sosa’s final season. In 2007, Sammy returned to the Rangers after taking the entire 2006 season off. His final numbers that season were 21 homers, 91 RBI, and a .253 AVG in only 114 games at the age of 37. If he had played 150+ games, he easily could have hit 30 homers and driven in 100 runs. At age 37. After a year away from baseball.
In the end, the answer to my question is: a little bit of both. Sosa did use steroids to a large effect. But he really was as talented as the best players of his era, all of whom (save for a select few like Griffey, Jr. and Frank Thomas) were on PEDs.