Thursday, June 21, 2007
Sammy Sosa Hits 600th Career Homer. Damon and Chipper Join the 2,000 Hit Club.
Sammy Sosa hit his 600th career homer last night. Here's the Yahoo News AP Sports excerpt:
Sammy Sosa joined an elite club, hitting his 600th home run against his former team. Meanwhile, two younger sluggers hit key home runs to rally baseball's hottest teams to victories.
Sosa became the fifth member of the 600-homer club, hitting a solo shot in the fifth inning of Texas' 7-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs, his former team.
"It was something that cannot be explained," Sosa said. "Getting my 600th against the Chicago Cubs, and my first team (was) the Texas Rangers. It's like everything clicked. My emotions, I don't know what they are."
After driving a 1-2 pitch to right-center for a solo shot in the fifth inning of Texas' 7-3 victory, Slammin' Sammy bounced out of the batter's box with his trademark hop and thrust his right fist into the air before reaching first base. He was mobbed at home plate by his teammates while the scoreboard showed pictures of all five members of the elite club: Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sosa.
The home run came off Jason Marquis (5-4), the 364th pitcher the 38-year-old Sosa has homered off in his 18 major league seasons.
There are a lot of people who lump Sammy into the steroid swamp with Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, but the only thing he has ever been caught doing is having once used a corked bat. Well then, why the sudden improvement from being a 30-35 homer a year guy to having three years of 60 or more homers in a four year span? How about the fact that he learned to control the strike zone better?
As a youngster with the Rangers and White Sox, his strikeout to walk ratio was a horrendous 5-to-1. With the Cubs, from 1992-7 it improved to 3.3-to-1, still pretty bad. Then, Sammy was mostly a mistake hitter who crushed careless fastballs and hanging curves. From 1998-2003, his ratio of strikeouts to walks improved to 1.6-to-1, which is why he showed a proportionate improvement in his batting average (from about a .260 average before 1998 to .302 from 1998-2003, though his career average is .273) and his power numbers.
Do corked bats or steroids make one a better judge of the strike zone? Was Sammy on the juice? I don't know the answer to those questions. Instead, I think we should look at his stats and see that he figured out, either by himself or with the help of a solid coach or coaches, that he could get better pitches to hit if he would make the pitcher work rather than swing at the first fastball that looked good to him. The results speak for themselves, and Sammy should be proud of this accomplishment.
Also, belated congratulations to former Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon. He got his 2, 000th career base hit about three weeks ago against the White Sox. The same kudos for Braves third baseman Larry "Chipper" Jones who got his 2,000th career hit this past weekend against the Indians.
In late-breaking news, the Red Sox are off today, and are travelling to San Diego for a three-game weekend series against the San Diego Padres who lead the NL West. The Yankees lost today in Colorado, which made it a three-game sweep for the Rockies as they beat Roger Clemens (who failed to get his 350th career win) 4-3 at Coors Field. The loss puts the Yanks back at .500 (35-35), 10 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox.