Why now, after all this time?
Even though both teams have been nothing less than sucktastic this year, the weather is lousy, and due to the sheer arrogance of the Cubs' management that waived the usual requirement that this series be scheduled for a weekend (because, hell, they'll pack the park regardless of the day of the week), it takes a lot to knock the annual Crosstown rivalry out of our minds.
News that Sammy Sosa, franchise home run record holder and world class fraud, did in fact test positive for PEDs in 2003, the last year they were not strictly "illegal" in MLB, after all of his craptalk about Flintstone vitamins, has gotta be the top story. Shoot, if I were Fred and Barney, I'd have my lawyers in the Circuit Clerk's office tomorrow to file the defamation suits first thing in the AM.
So, how about it, Goats? How many of you are shocked tonight? How many of you are still clinging to the shred of denial, that the stories are false? I hope to God that if you've been coming here for five years, or one year, or even one week, that you've been fed enough solid nutritious brain food about the Cubs that you are able to tell a true baseball hero from a lying, cheating, scumbag creep.
You should know where I stand. I hated the punk BEFORE he even joined the Cubs. I hated him when the White Sox' GM, Larry Himes (yep, HIM) traded Harold Baines, a friggin' Sox icon, to Texas for the sideshow fraud. He came up and became a free-swinging whiff machine. Sure, he had speed and power, a strong arm, and obvious filling out to do. Physically, Sosa was a specimen. But his arrogance rubbed his teammates wrong from Day one.
Through moves like the Baines/Sosa trade, Himes managed to get himself fired on the South Side, and after a brief layover, ended up in charge of our team. He could not wait to get his guy over here. On the short term, it sucked because we traded George Bell for him, who ended up having a great season for the 1993 Division winning Sox. On the medium term, it became clear quickly that Himes would end up alienating Sosa's new teammates by the favoritism Himes showed him. Teammates such as Greg Maddux, Mark Grace and Ryne Sandberg, who outlined his disgust about Sosa's preferential treatment in this book, "Second to None". All this before Sosa accomplished a damn thing.
In the long term, I did not enjoy a single day of his Cubs tenure.
It made me puke in 1993 when Sosa was stealing bases late in a lost season to make his first 30/30 club. So okay, you did the 30/30. So did Howard Johnson, for cripes sake. So is it sufficient to go out and make a 30/30 gold medallion and hang it around your neck? Nah, the thing to do if you're Sammy is to go back to the Dominican and buy a freakin' shopping mall and name it the 30/30 Mall! He did it again in 1995 in a short season, but all the stats in the world weren't adding up to wins. He rarely got the clutch hit, he chased bad pitches all over the league, and his arm was SO strong that he couldn't possibly utilize a cutoff man like mere mortal outfielders. Sosa was not a winner, and it was clear to me that any future Cubs success would be not because of him, but in SPITE of him.
He was headed for a huge homerun season in 1996 when his season ended early due to injury, and it was at that point that most likely a decision was made. For when he returned in 1997, not only did he appear rested and fit, Sosa was MORE than fit! Sammy rehabbed with a vengeance - he was considerably more muscular than before. The next year, of course, Sammy and Mark McGwire "saved baseball".
I realize many of you were young in 1998 when Sosa and Big Mac put up their video-game numbers. A revered record, one that was regarded as safe as Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, was not only broken, but obliterated with extreme prejudice. People all over America and the world were captivated, the young and old, Anglos and Hispanics. Everyone except the cynics, the mopes with the long memories like my own, who remembered when Sosa was a twig. It was plain as the nose on my face that both men were juicing, both men standing there night after night for photographs, both men with facial skin so tight it appeared that their skull muscles were about to burst through their very faces!
My apologies to all of you who got all excited about the Great Home Run Race, but the whole thing left me cold, and honestly, a little itchy to wash my hands after every game I watched.
The questions followed soon after, countered by the hysterically ludicrous denials. All I take is children's vitamins, Sosa claimed. Dude, please. Even if you were entirely legal, anyone can go to the GNC and buy all types of protein, amino acids, and designer creatine. My own kids use that stuff to bulk up for high school football. It's a tad pricy for me, but a man making multi-millions could certainly afford it, and to think he would turn his back on these products and stick with Fred and Barney...hell, Sosa was making FUN of us with his ridiculous denials, and we ate it up!! We..drank...his milkshake!
It infuriated me that he broke Ernie Banks' franchise home run record. Now when you look in the Cubs record books under homers, all you see is Sammy. Finally, the game caught up to him. The corked bat and his AWOL act in 2004 were the acts of a frustrated, desperate man. He managed to squeeze out a couple more years without steroids, He always was good for 25 homers a year, in his sleep. But these days, you can find a 25 homer guy who hits cutoff men, who know how to situationally hit, and who don't alienate entire clubhouses with his entourage, his 300-watt boomboxes and his me-first attitude towards the game.
He went before Congress and acted dumb, a man who made himself into a cottage industry in America during the 1998 season, required an interpreter to answer 'yes' and 'no' questions. Years went by, Mitchell Reports were filed, the Tejadas and Clemenses and ARods of the world were dragged under the microscope, and the 104 positive tests from 2003 were made public (as a whole, no individual names save A-Rod). Sammy somehow flew under detection. There was plenty of time for the man to come clean. I understand coming forward would take an impossible level of courage. Then again, the man had an outrageous ego, so large that he thought he could get away with the Crime of the Century, but maybe someone who thinks so much of himself would harbor the notion that hey, even if I come clean, my fans will still love me!
So why now? Why him? After all this time, when there are 102 other names just stewing in the "2003 Ledger" besides Sosa (and A-Rod)? Might it be because of his phenomenally crass 'retirement statement', that he is just going to "sit patiently and wait for his call from the Hall of Fame"? Pretty eloquent statement, from a man not comfortable enough with his command of English that he needed an interpreter in Congress.
The timing is too coincidental. More than ten years after the Great HomeRun Race, six years after the test was taken, and two years after he last played in the majors, Sammy Sosa finally pissed someone off so egregiously that they dug down deep and shovelled up the dirt on him. They found the smoking gun.
So it returns, as it always should, to you, the fan. Are you amazed, caught by surprise? Are you saddened? Are you angry today? Or are you feeling a small shred of righteousness, as I am? I've known he was a fraud for nearly 20 years, and if the damn corked bat wasn't enough to convince you, the truth is now out here.
All that's left now is the yelling. We all know what was said about Jose Canseco, then Barry Bonds, Raffy Palmiero, Roger Clemens, and A-Rod. If things follow according to form, there should be a wild month of teeth gnashing and hand wringing now that Sosa is "out". But you know what I hope? I hope by the end of the week, everyone has gotten over it and it dies down to nothing. Sammy Sosa doesn't deserve our emotional investment.