A Sammy Return
Once camp goes full squad, but before the games actually start we have this lull. When we don’t have actually swings to look at and performances to analyze, there’s a scrap for news. So there was some attention paid to the fact that Theo Epstein said that if Sammy Sosa worked something out with the ownership or whoever with he has to work it out, he wouldn’t stand in the way of Sosa being a part of the organization. Which has to be the most wishy washy answer ever, and I don’t know what else Theo is supposed to say.
All the key players from when Sammy’s departure turned so sour are gone. No teammates, new GM, new president, new ownership. So clearly none of these people carry a grudge and probably don’t care in the least. He wasn’t their problem and they’d probably never thought it was something they’d be asked about.
But people think it’s weird when a former team legend is no longer part of the team. We can probably thank John McDonough and the Hawks for this being A THING now. Their first act, or one of them, was to have this big ceremony announcing ol’ Wife-Punchey Hull and Mikita would be part of the organization again, basically meaning they get drunk and glad hand the skybox holders on the 100 Level every night. But now everyone looks at their own team in town and wonders if they’ve left anyone in the cold.
Sosa is obviously a harder case, because of how he left and the fact that some people, and I don’t know if I am one or not, look at his best years as completely tainted. I used to, not sure I do now as this PED-whichhunt has surpassed the ridiculous stage. I still don’t feel completely at ease with all that went on but not nearly as passionately as I did.
But it’s more than that with Sosa. On the one hand, for most of his Cubs career Sosa was just about the only thing worth watching. The only good teams he played on before 2003 was 1998 and 2001. From 1992-1998, most of those teams were awful. There were others. So we appreciated that there was at least a few moments of excitement in every game with Sosa, though sometimes it was exciting even though it was what he shouldn’t have been doing, like airmailing a cutoff man or trying to stretch something into a double or triple when the ball had barely dribbled to the warning track.
But it’s strange, when a player had served that long on a bad team and finally got chances at the playoffs, there’s usually a feeling of “win it for him.” There was never that with Sosa. He wasn’t the biggest story on the 2003 or 2004 team that melted down. He was part of it, and there was the whole debate in 2004 on how he couldn’t bat in the middle of the order anymore. But there was so much going on with that team that it was only one of dozens of stories.
So that’s not it. Mostly I think it’s because there always seemed something false about Sammy, whether that matters to you or not. Cubs fans have always wanted something of a special relationship with their players. It doesn’t help anyone now that Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Ron Santo, all great players who stuck around the team forever. And whatever my complaints, it’s clear that all three genuinely love being Cubs and Cubs fans. Later, Kerry Wood kind of fills the bill, though with a gruffer exterior.
You never got that feeling with Sammy. He said all the right things, made all the gestures, but it all felt like an act to just be more popular. It always felt like Sammy was on the campaign trail. Which is why no one cared when he left, because we’d all seen through it at that point.
Me? I don’t care, either way. Having Sammy come back and throw out a first pitch isn’t going to determine whether the Cubs win a World Series one day. But I also don’t think you can ignore history either. Sosa, whatever his baggage and methods, was the best player on the Cubs for basically a whole decade. He certainly wasn’t the only guy in that clubhouse with some funny vitamins. He just played better than all the rest who did. It’s probably best time to bury that hatchet. A team’s history is a team’s history, even if some of it is kind of icky.