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Sammy Sosa Must Go

I read those words and I almost cannot believe I am writing them, but write them I must.

Those of you who haven't been Cub fans all that long, only remember Sammy from 1998 on, the Sosa who was Mr. Cuddly Bunny with Mark McGwire during the great Home Run Race, and who put up three sixty-homer seasons, and who put up perhaps the greatest single offensive season in Cub history in 2001 (64 HR, 146 runs, 160 RBI, a .328 average, .437 OBA and 1.174 OPS).

But before that, there was Selfish Sammy, with gold chains and Jheri curls and a walk/strikeout ratio of about one to five, and that was the Sosa we knew before 1998, and that, apparently, is the Sosa we know at the end of the 2004 season.

Even Raul Tavares, who is a blogger from the Dominican and a big Sosa fan, is fed up, titling his latest post "Oh Sammy! Shut Up Please" -- and you'll have to pardon Raul's not-so-perfect English, but his point is well taken. That's after Sammy bitched and complained to a Dominican Republic newspaper about his being dropped in the lineup, and other perceived "slights".

Yes, Sammy has had two serious injuries -- and as I wrote during the season, the one that most people have forgotten, a collision with Mark Bellhorn in August 2002, may have been the one that he still hasn't quite recovered from, perhaps contributing to the bursitis it was announced that he was suffering from late in 2004 -- but injury doesn't excuse whining about where you hit in the batting order, or leaving the team without an excuse on the last day of the season, for which he got Kerry Wood, now perhaps the acknowledged team leader, to smash his boom box that's been such a divisive thing in the clubhouse for years.

You know what, Sammy? You've hit 574 homers, and among active players only Barry Bonds has more. And Bonds keeps his spot in the batting order. Know why?

Because he keeps producing, and despite his not-so-sweet public image, he keeps his mouth shut and helps his team win.

There's a lesson to be learned here, and I don't think Sammy either has learned it or is capable of doing so.

Therefore, it's time for him to go.

This creates an obvious problem, because if everyone knows he has to go, that reduces his trade value, making it a seller's market. Sammy also has a clause in his contract that guarantees his 2006 salary of $18 million if he's traded, making him pretty unpalatable to another club.

But two years ago Mike Hampton, having spent two horrific years in Colorado and with more than $80 million left on his deal, was traded in a creative deal that ended up with the Florida Marlins, for whom Hampton never played a game, paying $30 million of that deal, and the Atlanta Braves reaping two pretty decent years out of Hampton. The Rockies were happy because they dumped him, the Marlins wound up with Juan Pierre, a key player for their 2003 World Champions, and the Braves got a pitcher who threw well once out of the thin air in Denver.

It's this sort of creative deal that Jim Hendry will have to come up with in order to deal Sammy, and we have already seen Hendry's creativity in the Nomar Garciaparra trade last July 31.

There are teams that still see Sammy Sosa as a drawing card, and probably figure that once out of Chicago, he won't have the baggage with him any more, and they may be right. It has been rumored that the Cubs might try to trade him to the Mets; there is a large Dominican community in New York, and Sammy's still popular there, and the Cubs would take Cliff Floyd's contract in return, and then flip Floyd to an AL team where he could serve as DH.

This could be workable; other teams interested could be the Orioles, where Sammy could split time between OF and DH; the Rockies, who could use a drawing card and where Sammy has always hit well; and maybe even the Expos franchise -- that team could also use someone to put people in the seats to give them a jump start for their first couple of years in Washington.

In my lifetime, only four players have played longer for the Cubs than Sammy Sosa (who has 13 seasons here) -- Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams (Mark Grace also had 13). All of those are among the most beloved in Cub history. Banks and Sandberg retired as Cubs, and we wish Santo and Williams had had the same chance -- and they continued to be beloved as Cubs, and still are, long after they retired.

I'd hoped that Sammy, who now holds the club home run record with 545 as a Cub, would also be able to do so and would go into the Hall of Fame wearing a Cubs cap (which he still might do, given that his greatest seasons were here).

But now, he's worn out his welcome, and the run he does out to RF every day, cocking his finger to his ear as if to say, "Let me hear the love", is tiresome.

Time to go, Sammy, so that the team can heal from the turmoil of late 2004, and so that the club can afford to sign Carlos Beltran, and win.

It's our turn.