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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Bonds and Sosa

As a Cubs fan I’ve been interested to take a look at the career of Sammy Sosa in the wake of the BALCO mess. This has an impact because it was reported that the Mets had backed away from Sosa after the Jason Giambi revelations last week.

At the risk of sounding like a Giants fan defending Barry Bonds it should be remembered that Sosa, unlike Mark McGwire, admitted only to taking Creatine and not andro (Androstenedione, a substance that is virtually the same as a steroid differing only be a single hydrogen atom). Of course, although Sosa hasn’t admitted it doesn’t mean he didn’t take it. After all, we know that he doesn’t object to cheating on principle given the corked bat incident of 2003 and his unbelievable denial from ignorance.

In his defense, however, one can raise two points. First, in the case of Sosa it should be noted that he definitely changed his offensive approach with the help of hitting coach Jeff Pentland. Watching tapes of Sosa from 1997 and before you immediately notice the higher hand position, a more closed stance, and his closeness to the plate.

Second, it should be remembered that Sosa’s peak power seasons came at the ages of 29-32 and not 37-39 as in the case of Bonds. This is much more inline with the historical peak in power for players coming slightly after their physical peak during ages 27-29. Much to the disappointment of Cubs fans his decline in the last three years is more typical of players in general as can be seen in the following graph.


Perhaps I’m an optimist and grant that being a Cubs fan colors what I’ve said here but until I see other evidence I’m cautiously optimistic that despite his faults Sosa did not cross the line.

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