Sammy Sosa still belongs in the Hall of Fame
A memo to Jason: I know how strongly you disagree with Rob's strong distaste of Sammy. Feel free to tack onto this article, or write another one of your own.
A memo to Rob: Telling people from my generation about your hatred of Sammy Sosa is probably on the same level as telling children that Santa Claus may not be everything that he's cracked up to be.
Still, a few weeks ago I penned this piece about Sammy as he officially announced his retirement: Sammy Sosa belongs in the Hall of Fame. The premise of the piece is that, as he was never caught cheating, Sammy's induction should be a no-brainer.
Then it turns out he was caught in 2003. Whoops. It's probably a safe bet that he was caught fairly early on, hence his turn to cork. But you know what? Sammy still belongs in the Hall. And despite all his short-comings, he is still a great Cub, one who we'll remember for a long time for a bunch of reasons.
Probably the best thing I said in that previous article: I don't necessarily subscribe to the notion that we are born flawed but I certainly agree that our life makes us that way rather quickly. Heroes have dark sides. Villains can be charitable. And Sammy Sosa was a long-time flawed hero who played the charitable villain brilliantly.
That was Sammy. He was selfish, self-aggrendizing, and self-important. He alienated Mark Grace, and Ryne Sandberg, and Don Baylor (maybe we can forgive him the last one). He hit epic homeruns, took epic upper-cuts, and stole bases to the frustration of his teammates. He talked about money in the clubhouse and during the game whether the Cubs were winning or losing. He blasted his boom box and it was eventually smashed to pieces. He evaporated in September of '04 and was as responsible for the team's collapse as Dusty, taking massive missed swings when short ones contacting the ball into the shallow outfield would've got the job done.
He was never my favorite player -- in fact, he replaced my favorite player. But his jersey was the first I ever owned. I still have it in my closet, unworn since 2002 because it was washed and worn to the point of oblivion.
Anyway, Rob, the point is this: I get why you don't like him. You want the guy who will play selflessly, who will throw himself at fly balls, who will throw down a surprise bunt with runners in scoring position, who will rally a team through both his words and actions. But I do think that you take it too far because I remember clearly what he did on the field to win, and while it doesn't erase his numerous, flagarant flaws it does allow for me to remember him fondly.
So, now we know for a fact that he cheated, as if that changes anything from when we only knew without proof that he cheated. File this one under "unpopular opinions of Kurt," but I don't really care. Every guy to hit 500 or more homeruns since the 80's cheated, maybe with the exception of Ken Griffey Jr. Big deal.
The point is that in an era where everybody cheated, Sosa was still head and shoulders better than most of the rest. I guess the implication is that he either had the best trainer or he would've still been better than the rest had nobody ever discovered steroids.
And yes, with apologies to your assertations to the contrary, Sosa's homeruns and RBI were not empty calories. As much as the Cubs clearly couldn't do it with him alone -- see 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 -- they also couldn't have done it without him -- see 1998, 2003. Sosa's contributions were huge. His Nintendo numbers will never be duplicated. His enthusiasm and play will never be forgotten ... nor will his ego and selfishness.
Anyway, I would respectfully suggest Rob that you take comfort in this one fact that was true in 2003, was true a month ago, and is true now: he is not, nor was he ever Mr. Cub. He was never, nor would he ever be loved more than Banks, or Sandberg, or even Grace and Wood. Our organization's marquee player is not a cheater. But one of the best we ever saw was, and his positive test from 2003 does nothing to change the amazing things he did.
And with that, like you, I'll leave this one in the past ... until his eligibility comes up (or his loud denials of cheating, whichever comes first).