Least Favorite Cub - #2 - Sammy Sosa
Well, of course he makes the list. You might be surprised (provided you hadn't read the introductory post) that he isn't first. No, no, there was one Cub I hated worse than Swollen Sammy Sofa. He will get his, man. I will issue the NSFW on that one.
If I am going to list five Cubs I cannot stand, I have to have this guy on the list. Now, if you have been around the past few years, you may think there is precious little I can still say about the man. The most controversial GROTA post ever involved my totally self-righteous patting myself on the back on the day he was finally outed as a steroid test failure. Some folks felt I should then go bathe with live electrical appliances. Some folks can kiss my shiney metal ass, too. Once again, I am not a hard man to find. You want to literally throw a punch at me, I am here for you whenever, however.
But to my point for today, and it isn't so much focused on Sosa as it is towards the countless numbers of men who have comprised Cubs rosters over the years. I have known three owners: one named Wrigley, one soulless profit-sucking corporation, and a small handful of superannuated frat boys and their sister. These ownership entities have managed to compile some of the most inept competitive organizations in professional sports history.
A whole spectrum of beholden general managers and VPs of "baseball operations" have gone out over the past 65 years, and due to a combination of poor evaluation, financial agendas, and irrational obsessions, have brought in a plethora of square pegs to fit round holes.
One of those ill-fitting suits was Larry Himes, who fell in love with a young Dominican ballplayer, and not only filled the player's head with unreasonable expectations, but also did his level best to shove the same expectations down our throats. As the White Sox GM, he traded away popular players for Sosa, touted him as the next great superstar, and essentially gambled his position on the guy. Sosa came to America totally raw and utterly consumed with himself, so what does Himes do? Lavish him with all sorts of undeserved autonomy. Just go out and do your thing, Sammy. Don't listen to anyone but me.
It backfired royally. Himes lost his job. Sosa was sent to the minors.
Now, since the Sox are in Chicago, most Cub fans have the opportunity to follow what goes on down there if they choose, and I categorized the above scenario as the "Himes/Sosa" debacle, and figured neither one of them would ever, EVER turn up in the big leagues again.
So I was first alarmed, then completely and thorough disgusted, when the Cubs decided to 1) bring Himes in to run the team, and 2) trade a decent hitter (George Bell) for Sosa. Both of the "actors" in one of the most open failures in recent Chicago sports history were HERE, on MY team!
So no, I never gave Sosa a chance, or even a shred of consideration during his entire career with us. From the moment he joined the Cubs, all plans, transactions, scouting and development were done with the firm belief that we had the Best Right Fielder in Baseball. All the trades that could have been made; all the money he was paid that could have went to shore up other positions; because it was just a given that Sammy Sosa was an Impact Player that would lead us to the elusive Championship.
Good Lord, he hit a lot of home runs, and drove in a lot of guys. Any one of us can go out to his stat sheet and marvel at the ridiculous power numbers he posted. To that, I say, yeah, but...
...if he put up a 65 homer, 160 RBI season in, say, 1969, for any team in the league, that team would have won the division. Those kind of numbers would represent a serious strategic advantage for the team he played for. Hell, if he posted those numbers LAST year for (nearly) any team in the league, that team would have won a division. Those numbers are just so much more than what the rest of the league could do.
But when he posted those numbers, in 2001, there were more than a handful of guys hitting 40-plus, 50-plus homers. His (best) season was an outlier, sure, and it certainly went a long way toward the relatively decent season we had, but it wasn't SO much better than everyone else that it represented a clear-cut advantage.
The thing is, I have somewhat made peace with Sosa the player. He cannot be faulted for putting up huge stats when he did. Therefore, you may think that simply by numbers alone, that he should have been considered the Best Player Alive at that time. But he wasn't. He never, ever learned to play situational baseball. Jeesus, what if he had? What IF he hit cutoff men, ran the bases intelligently, and knew when to shorten his swing, sacrificing the chance at a home run when a mere single would win a game? He did not do those things consistently, therefore, he was not one of the best players in baseball.
My main problem with Sosa, in the end, wasn't so much what he did or did not do. My problem was with his bosses. They operated as if he WAS the best player in the game, and designed the team around him. He was crammed down our throats, and this was a problem for me, because I KNEW all along I didn't like the taste of Sammy Sosa, and I bitterly resented Larry Himes and Andy McFail and Jim Riggleman and Don Baylor and Dusty Baker and everyone else who held him as our biggest trump card.
It was a losing play, which I knew all along, which eventually bore out to be the truth. Just like many of the other developments I have detected since I started watching the game, just in Sosa's case, it was THE largest gamble and THE largest failure in my lifetime. What would make me happy? If some of the squirting jackloads who jump all over me because I "harsh their buzz" would pull their heads out their asses and see the real game as it happens on the field, and not on their precious spreadsheets.
Vaya con Dios, Sammy. There are others I hate worse than you.