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Sammy and the Nats—Sosa's So Spaced Out
2006-02-13 19:07
by Mike Carminati

Sammy Sosa is reportedly ready to retire instead of accept a non-guaranteed, one-year deal worth $500K from Washington Nationals.

Sammy's Scooter, that is the guy who is leaking Sammy's side, is quoted as saying, "Sammy doesn't think of himself as someone who has to beg for a spot on a big league roster."

Really? Did Sammy watch Sammy play last year?

He continues, "Sammy wants to get to 600 home runs, but he's not willing to humiliate himself to keep playing. He feels that the lack of interest in his services this winter constitutes a humiliation."

Remember when this prima donna was America's sweetheart, with the finger-kissing and the McGwire hugging? Rickey Henderson was supposed to be a conceited player, but he was willing to play independent ball in St. Paul and Newark just to get a shot to play in the majors again. Sammy won't even drive down I-95.

This is a guy who was caught corking his bat and seems to picked up a whiff of juicing, whether that is or is not justified. Sosa's just damaged goods. He may not be as much or a pariah as his ex-teammate, Rafael Palmeiro, but his legacy has been damaged, perhaps irreparably.

Besides he's 37 years old and has seen all his batting ratios drop every year starting with his career 2001 season (from .328/.437/.737/1.174 in 2001 to .221/.295/.376/.671 last year) along with his home runs, runs batted in, and runs scored. He just isn't aging well.

But maybe we are being a pit tough on Sosa. This is a guy who has hit 588 career home runs and had 35 taters just two years ago. Could he bounce back?

Well, I looked up all the players 36 or older who registered an OPS at or below .700 with at least 200 plate appearances. On average their OPS's continued to plunge by 11 points while they lost about 108 at-bats the next year. Only a handful registered an OPS over .800, a number that would be respectable for a corner outfielder:

Gavvy Cravath191837121426.232.320.376.6961919214.341.438.6401.078.383
Hal McRae198640112278.252.298.378.675198732.313.405.500.905.230
Joe Judge19333977220.255.317.318.635193415.333.412.467.878.244
Ernie Lombardi194436117373.255.317.370.6871945368.307.387.486.873.187
Tony Taylor19733784275.229.276.338.614197464.328.389.484.873.260
Willie McCovey19763882226.204.283.336.6191977478.280.367.500.867.248
Yogi Berra19623786232.224.297.388.6851963147.293.360.497.856.172
Greg Vaughn20023669251.163.286.315.601200337.189.326.514.840.239
Miller Huggins191537107353.241.377.283.66019169.333.500.333.833.173
Kiki Cuyler193536107380.258.335.361.6951936567.326.380.453.833.138
George McQuinn194636136484.225.317.316.6331947517.304.395.437.832.199
Hank Sauer19553879261.211.286.387.6731956151.298.403.424.827.154
Jim O'Rourke188837107409.274.319.372.6901889502.321.372.438.810.120
Billy Jurges19443685246.
Gil Hodges196137109215.242.313.372.6851962127.252.331.472.803.119
Paul Waner194239114333.258.376.324.7011943225.311.406.396.802.101

So is a Sammy revival out of the question? No, but the odds are not good. Only 17 men out of 301 that met the criteria made our list. And of those 17 only seven has 200 or more at-bats.

As for me, I'm fine with him retiring with less than 600 homers. Not that I have anything against Sosa, but I don't think he's anywhere near the level of Aaron, Ruth, Mays, and Bonds. Especially, if it causes poor Sammy a little "humiliation".

2006-02-13 23:14:49
1.   das411
So with all of the trouble that Sosa and Palmiero have had this past year or so, and the way they have both handled it, could King Barry possibly deserve a little more respect now too?
2006-02-14 05:39:21
2.   Mike Carminati
Not from me--he has my utmost respect. He is the best ballplayer I have ever seen.

As for the rest of the world, they will probably need one Barry-esque season without injury while steroid testing is being enforced.

2006-02-14 07:28:10
3.   das411
I 100% agree Mike.

Not to completely hijack the thread, but two things have particularly impressed me about him:

In an August 2001 game at Shea, Bonds popped one off the top of the right-field wall and (I saw this with my own two eyes, the MSM would never have you believe this) he hustled his way into a triple. Even sitting on 55 HRs in AUGUST, the dude was gunning hard for every possible extra base and iirc he ended up scoring and SF won the game 5-4.

The other indelible Bonds incident I was lucky enough to see in person was on a certain Sunday in April 2003 that you just might remember Mike. Around the 5th or 6th inning the Vet started to buzz as people noticed that rather large 0 for the SFG's hit total. It didnt take long to figure out that The Barry would be up in the bottom of the 7th. Instead of dropping down a bunt (Ben Davis-style) into the overshift, Sir Barry stood in there and watched Millwood paint the corner with that ridiculous tailing fastball he had that day.

Say what you will about him as a man, but as a ballplayer Bonds knows everything about how to play the game the right way.

2006-02-14 07:55:50
4.   Brent is a Dodger Fan

What if you restrict your sample to not only those who were 36 and had an OPS under .700, but also added in some criteria about where they had been previously, such as:
- career-year (peak) OPS over 1.000
- Something to do with Sammy's performance at age 32 or 33 or 34 or 35...

What concerns me about looking at the average is that Sammy wasn't an average player in his prime, so why should his performance decline like an average player? (It could, in fact, be more likely to decline more -- regression to the mean, but it would be good to know if formerly great players decline less than fomerly average or poor players).

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