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A few thoughts about Sammy Sosa and the Cubs

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What would it take for the former Cubs slugger to be welcomed back?

DANIEL LIPPITT/AFP/Getty Images

News item: At the recent Cubs Convention, Chairman Tom Ricketts said Sammy Sosa won’t be welcomed back until...

“I just think we need to put everything on the table and move forward,” Ricketts said of Sosa and others who played in the steroid era.

Ricketts has remained firm in his stance regarding Sosa, who played 13 seasons for the Cubs but wore out his welcome after the 2004 season.

”I think we have to be sympathetic to that era,” Ricketts told the audience. “But the players owe us some honesty too.

Let me stipulate right now that while Sammy was hitting his team-record 545 home runs as a Cub, yes, he did entertain me. And yes, he did help the team win (two postseason appearances while he was a Cub).

Twenty years after he first hit 60-plus home runs — and he remains the only major-league player to hit 60+ more than twice — I still feel, in some ways, that something wasn’t quite right about that. Almost 11 years ago, Mike Bojanowski wrote a long and comprehensive profile of Sosa’s career (up to that time) for the Top 100 Cubs series here, and this stands out:

I’d like to remember ‘98 that way, a season of joy, a season for the ages, fit for groupies and students alike, our season. But I can’t, not anymore. It was stolen from us, under false pretenses, and time has not assuaged the anger.

I felt the same then, and I still do now.

You, perhaps, disagree.

The way in which Sosa left the team at the end of the 2004 season has been endlessly debated, and I don’t intend to relitigate that here. It was, however, in my view a culmination of what Sammy had always been — all about himself. Before his breakout season in 1998, we frequently called him “Selfish Sammy,” always more interested in mugging for the cameras than being a good teammate. When Ryne Sandberg was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005, a passage of his speech was widely felt to rip Sammy for being selfish:

These guys sitting up here (other Hall of Famers) did not pave the way for the rest of us so the players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third.

It’s disrespectful to them and to you and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up.

Respect.

Sandberg and Sosa were teammates from 1992-94 and again in 1996 and 1997; those were the years Sammy was often viewed as being “all about himself.”

Let’s examine a few things at work here. It’s widely acknowledged that the powers that be in baseball, from the commissioner’s office down to team management, didn’t have much of a problem with the alleged PED use that was stirring the home-run surge of the late 1990s and early 2000s, because it put butts in the seats.

We can stipulate that the Cubs’ current ownership and management was not part of this, because they had nothing to do with the club until after the 2009 season; by that time there were new rules in place about PED use and the so-called “Steroid Era” was coming to an end.

Two players who left the game in some measure of disgrace, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, have both issued apologies, of a sort, in order to take jobs within baseball, both as hitting coaches. McGwire, in particular, appears to have been well-accepted back in the game. Bonds seemed to stay out of trouble and controversy in his stint as Marlins batting coach.

We’re not talking about the same thing here for Sosa, admittedly. The most he’s likely going to do is be allowed to wave hello at Cubs Conventions and perhaps make appearances on behalf of the team.

Even so, I ask: What harm would it do for him to sit down with Tom Ricketts and, as Ricketts said, “put everything on the table?” Sammy, go meet with the man and swallow your pride for a day and have a heart-to-heart talk. Because in the end, Tom Ricketts is a Cubs fan, as well as team owner. I’d say he’s got to have good reason to feel the way he does. Why won’t Sammy go and find out what that reason is?

Until then, my personal feeling is: Let Sammy say he was sorry for what happened, have the team accept it, and then he can come back. Even then, though, in my view any return Sammy makes is likely going to be about him, not about us as fans.

Well, I’ve probably stirred up enough with this article. Now it’s your turn.

Poll

Sammy Sosa...

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    ... should be welcomed back by the Cubs unconditionally
    (198 votes)
  • 51%
    ... should be welcomed back by the Cubs only after he meets with Tom Ricketts and apologizes, or at least comes to an understanding with him
    (400 votes)
  • 18%
    ... should not be welcomed back at all
    (145 votes)
  • 4%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (39 votes)
782 votes total Vote Now