By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The ballots are in, and it’s quite evident that an alleged user of performance-enhancing drugs will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in late July.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Best Rain Friday Night
The early returns on votes made public have catching great Mike Piazza garnering more than 85 percent of the required 75 percent needed to gain entry into the hallowed museum. Piazza never found himself amid any government investigations into PED use, but he admitted to using androstenedione and was often accused by players, coaches and other in private of using PEDS, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale detailed.
The new, relaxed attitude toward alleged PED users could impact former Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa and the chance of many players of the 1990s through 2004. Entry into the Hall of Fame for this group now seems attainable, without the past scrutiny that came with the era. Sosa appeared on 6.6 percent of the ballots in 2015. The 2016 voting results will be revealed Wednesday night.
The trending ballots have Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens up close to 15 percent over 2015. If it holds, this would give both players more than 50 percent of the required 75 percent need for enshrinement. The consensus around the voting group of BBWAA writers is that with no suspensions from MLB, alleged users are being looked at for their work on the field much more than the past. And with the coaching jobs that have been given to Bonds, Mark McGwire and Manny Ramirez, the writers seem more prone to vote for the best and consider the era for what it was.
What happens with Sosa, the much-maligned superstar who has fallen out the face of the baseball earth, remains to be seen. Sosa and the Cubs have yet to make contact since he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles after the 2004 season. Leaving with his 13 years of dominant play in the rearview mirror on the North Side, Sosa and his path have always been one of the oddest happenings in Chicago sports history.
Sosa made his share of mistakes, and getting caught with a corked bat was certainly detrimental to his resume. Still, it’s a hard and undeniable truth that he was the only reason to attend Cubs games for the better part of 10 years in Chicago. Sosa hit a franchise-record 545 home runs and was an international celebrity, with the president of the United States on his speed dial.READ MORE: Getting Hosed: A Look At The Universe Of Chicago Water, And Its Sometimes-Sordid History, This Earth Day
After recently being hired as the Marlins’ hitting coach, Bonds is now the first alleged PED user to get a mainstream job without admitting the error of his ways. This has angered many baseball owners greatly, who point out that McGwire and Ramirez admitted their mistakes before getting a ticket back into the game.
In the case of Bonds, no such deal was made with MLB. This type of laxness by the league may been a new sign to the voting constituency. The BBWAA voters who were once on the fence of this hot topic might now believe its fine to vote on the era’s stars differently than in the past.
Sosa and the Cubs are no closer today to detente than 10 years ago. With other alleged PED users have been welcomed back by their former teams, the Ricketts family has waited patiently for a change in the Sosa camp’s way of dealing with the issues that included him walking out on one of the team’s games during September 2004. Sosa’s numbers and play are well-documented in baseball and the Cubs’ record books. Regardless of his separation from the team, he was one of the most popular players in Cubs history during his playing career.
Sosa hit 609 home runs and is the only player in baseball history to hit 60 or more home runs in three different seasons. In the recent past, these numbers have been viewed as a negative. For many fans and former fans of the sport, Sosa’s time period in the game was viewed as a dark cloud in baseball history.
With the vote likely confirming the election of Piazza come Wednesday, are we looking at a new voting dynamic for Sosa and that era’s superstars?MORE NEWS: Shuttered By Pandemic Last Summer, Guthrie's Tavern In Wrigleyville Has New Owner And Will Be Reopening
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.