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2015 Spring-Training Countdown: Day 21, Sammy Sosa

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In which I ask you to contemplate the return of the slugger.

DANIEL LIPPITT/AFP/Getty Images

Well, this is complicated.

Had the PED era not been what it turned out to be, had Sammy Sosa and others put up the numbers they did and been viewed as "clean," Sammy and his contemporaries (Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and others) would now be hailed as among the greatest players in baseball history and would likely all be already enshrined in the Hall of Fame, or be close to being so honored.

It's not that simple, of course. I'm not here to make the argument on either side of the players who have either admitted PED use or who have been accused but have either denied or remained silent. In the end, it seems likely that many of these players will gain Hall admittance. You can't simply ignore the best players of an entire era, many of whom were Hall-worthy before they took a single PED.

Which raises the question about Sammy. I don't want to make any specific accusations here because Sammy's one of the players from that era for whom there isn't any specific evidence of PED use, though there's certainly circumstantial evidence around. I also want to state here that I was perfectly fine with having him testify before Congress in his native Spanish, with translations provided. If English weren't your native language, would you want to be put on the spot like that and have to speak in a language whose nuances you might not have completely mastered? I sure wouldn't.

Last April, not long after the Cubs' 100th anniversary celebration at Wrigley Field, Ernie Banks decided he was taking on a personal mission to reconcile Sammy and the Cubs:

"I had talked to (Cubs Chairman Tom) Ricketts a little bit about it. He said he didn’t know what to do ... whether he was going to have him come back or whether he was not going to have him come back to the (100-year celebration of Wrigley Field)," Banks told the Tribune.

"(Ricketts) said: ‘Well, I’ll let you know.’ Then when we got to the 100th anniversary, I asked everybody out there: ‘Is Sammy coming? Is Sammy coming?' They said: 'We don’t know ... we don’t know?'"

Apparently, the Cubs want Sosa to address the long-standing speculation that he used banned substances while on the way to overtaking Banks as the Cubs’ all-time home run leader. Then, perhaps a reconciliation could be discussed.

"He can admit to that (steroid use)," Banks said. "We had Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire ... a lot of guys ... Alex Rodriguez. They admitted to doing something that is not right. But I don’t know if Sammy ever admitted to that."(Sosa) is quite a guy. He did a lot for this organization. And nobody could answer (why he was not at the celebration). I wanted him to come. And later on it came out that Sammy wanted to come. Nobody invited him."

The Cubs apparently still want that speculation addressed, as Tom Ricketts hinted at the recent Cubs Convention that "certain things" had to happen before such a reconciliation could happen.

Now Ernie is gone, and Sammy is not going to attend the memorial service:

Former Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa will not be attending the funeral of Ernie Banks on Saturday, a friend of Sosa's told the Tribune on Wednesday.

Sosa is scheduled to travel Saturday to Japan on a business trip that already had been pushed back as he awaited word on Banks’ funeral arrangements.

Sosa also was unsure whether there would be an opportunity to visit privately with Banks’ family on Friday, and did not want to risk diverting attention away from the services for the Cubs legend by appearing in public, the friend said.

I can understand that. If Sammy did appear, that would create a media circus and take away the attention from where it belongs during the service, on Ernie.

Nevertheless, I note in particular this part of the Tribune article linked above:

Banks, who took trips to the Dominican Republic to meet and golf with Sosa, often referred to Sosa as "being like a son to me."

It would have been Ernie's greatest pleasure to help reconcile Sammy and the Cubs. Sosa did bring a lot of happiness and pleasure to Cubs fans during his time here, whether by illicit means or not, and was a key part of two Cubs playoff teams. It's now been 10 seasons since he last played in pinstripes, and seven since his retirement. Perhaps enough time has gone by that the Cubs and Sosa can begin to reconcile and help heal some of the wounds of the Steroid Era.

I'd like to hear what you think. Let us know in the comments and vote in the poll.