Another big-name slugger busted for steroids? Better get used to it
Sammy Sosa is the latest to be busted for steroids but far from the last
Anyone who knew Sosa's history and dramatic career arc was not surprised
We have seen this too many times before -- and probably will see it again
So the archeology of a corrupt era in baseball history continues. Sammy Sosa, identified by the New York Times as having tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003, is only the latest but far from the last discovery as the fragments of the past surface like bones from under a sandy soil.
The discoveries have become numbing, even annoying to many, especially because of the drip-like rate of leaks associated with the 2003 survey test and "The List" of 104 names. We can wish it stop, wish lawyers didn't leak, wish it were not so messy. But this discovery is not nearly as messy as what baseball players did to the game and their profession for more than a decade.
Get used to it. You will hear more names of players who otherwise would be headed for the Hall of Fame identified as steroid users. Right now there are many of them just nervously hoping they at least outrun the truth for the five years after they retired, when they can first appear on a Hall of Fame ballot. Sosa didn't make it through Year 2. Mark McGwire was soiled in Year 4. Roger Clemens made it through two months. Unfair? The clean ones, of course, have absolutely nothing to worry about.
The survey testing was supposed to be anonymous, but as one former player pointed out, "How could it be anonymous when you have to sign your name to a piece of paper when they took the sample?" The players association could have acted quickly to destroy the samples. It didn't. The players could have stayed clean just long enough to pass a test they knew was coming, and no testing system would have kicked in at all. They didn't.
Sosa's entry into the Hall of Fame was very much in doubt even before Tuesday. The weight of circumstantial evidence and buzzing among baseball people in and out of uniform always did engender heavy suspicion, even before his 2005 demureness in front of Congress. Naivete would be in order to think someone who corked bats and competed passionately for individual records and glory against Barry Bonds and McGwire in an age with no enforceable drug rules in place would draw a self-imposed line at using steroids -- just as his body transformed into a hunk of musculature.
At the age of 28, Sosa was a career .257 hitter who slugged .469 and who hit one home run every 19.4 at-bats. He was a decent enough player. But over the next six years -- from 1998 through 2003, the last year you could juice without penalty -- Sosa hit .302, slugged .635 and hit one home run every 10.6 at-bats. He hit more home runs in those half dozen years than Hank Greenberg, Gary Carter or George Brett hit in their entire careers. He became one of the all-time greatest sluggers ever, or so we were led to believe.
There was no shock around baseball Tuesday. Ho hum. Even Sosa's lawyer, according to the Times, declined comment. We have been through all of this too many times before, especially with players who were too good to be true. And so it shall continue to be.
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