Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Sammy Sosa

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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.

Reader Blog: Trade Winds

Jim Hendry has been the Cubs GM since mid 2002, so we’ve got a lot of trades to look at. I’m going to highlight one or two from each season that strike me as particularly important or illuminating.

2002: Cubs trade Todd Hundley&Chad Hermansen for Mark Grudzeilanek&Eric Karros.

Hundley is my least favorite Cub of all time. He was shitty.  He was overpaid. And he was a mean son of a bitch. The Cubs handed him a 4 year, $23.5 million contract before the 2001 season. In his two years as a Cub, Hundley totaled 579 plate appearances and posted an OPS below 700. For those who prefer batting average, Todd hit .187 and .211 in 2001 and ’02. He’s most famous in Chicago for flipping off the home fans while rounding the bases after a home run. He was like Fukudome without the production, pleasant demeanor or sobriety.

Somehow, Jimbo convinced the Dodgers to take this sad sack off our hands, and send us something useful in return. Both Grudzeilanek and Karros contributed to the division winning squad in 2003. Grudz became our starting 2B, and he could inside out the ball to the opposite field as well as any hitter I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget watching Karros videotaping the playoffs from the Cubs dugout during the NLCS. It really felt like he was one of us. He wasn’t a bad platoon first baseman either.

Oh, and Hundley was pumped full of steroids for much of his career. So there’s that.

2003: Cubs trade Jose Hernandez, Matt Bruback&a PTBNL for Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton&Cash.

Cubs trade Ray Sadler for Randall Simon.

2003 was Hendry’s finest season. The Cubs would not have won their division that season were it not for Ramirez, Lofton and Simon. Lofton and Simon are long gone, while Aramis remains as the greatest Cubs 3B since Ron Santo. And Hendry gave up practically nothing to get them. Thanks, Pittsburgh!

2004: Cubs trade Hee Seop Choi for Derrek Lee.

Cubs trade Brendan Harris, Alex Gonzalez&Francis Beltran for Nomar Garciappara & Matt Murton.

The Choi for Lee deal rivals the Aramis Ramirez trade for the best of Hendry’s career. Clearly, Jim was on his game in the early nineties. Choi never realized his potential, and is probably best remembered for being carted off the field after an in game collision with Kerry Wood.  Derrek’s achievements speak for themselves. He is my favorite Cub, and I will be sad to see him go if this is truly his last season here.

As much as the Nomar trade did not work out, I believe now as I believed then that is was the right move to make. The Cubs SHOULD have won their division that season and were trying to add the missing piece for a postseason run. Obviously things didn’t work out. Mercker bitched, LaTroy imploded, Sammy stepped out, and the Cubs massively underachieved and missed the postseason altogether. The following April, Nomar suffered the most excruciating injury imaginable, and that was that. He was on the DL until August, and by that time the only interesting question left was whether DLee would win the 2005 NL MVP. The Cubs finished 21 games behind the Ratbirds, who won 100 times that year.

2005: Cubs trade Sammy Sosa & Cash for Jerry Hairston Jr., Mike Fontenot and David Crouthers.

Cubs trade Ricky Nolaso, Sergio Mitre & Renyel Pinto for Juan Pierre.

2005 was the first year that Hendry really pissed me off.  These two trades, which neatly wrap around a lost season, signal a real change in Jim’s ability to maximize value on the trade market. Let’s tackle the Sosa deal first. Sosa was a diva who didn’t mesh well with his teammates. He was getting older and was obviously on the decline. He still hit 35 HR in 2004. He should have brought more in return than he did. I believe he would have, if not for the systematic way the Cubs undermined any leverage they might have had in trading him. As you all undoubtedly remember, Sammy left the ballpark 15 minutes into the final game of the 2004 season. This became public, and it shortly became obvious that Sosa would never be welcomed back into the Cubs clubhouse. When 29 teams know you have to trade a guy, 29 teams will not give you good value in return. Fontenot was the only piece worth mentioning here, and he’s a platoon 2B who was nearly DFA’d by the club this past offseason.

Then there’s Juan Pierre. Hendry’s worst trade as the Cubs’GM. Full disclosure. I despised him then and I still do. Maybe it’s because, along with Josh Beckett and Pudge Rodriguez, I still associate him with the 2003 Marlins. Maybe it’s because he posted a crappy OBP with zero power. Or his limp dick outfield arm. Or maybe it’s because we lost 96 games and I needed a scapegoat. Here’s why this trade still pisses me off to this day: Ricky Nolasco is awesome. He’s exactly the kind of player the Cubs need to keep if they are going to be successful. And Jimbo traded him for one subpar year of a crappy player on a terrible team. GAHHHHHHHHHH.

2006: Cubs trade Greg Maddux for Cesar Izturis.

This one is more emotional than anything else. Hendry traded Maddux to the Dodgers to give him a shot at winning a championship. Respect.

2007: Cubs trade Rocky Cherry and Scott Moore for Steve Trachsel.

WTF? Cherry and Moore were no great shakes, but I can’t begin to fathom what Hendry was hoping to accomplish here. Trachsel was old and finished. Trachsel made a few starts, didn’t pitch well, and was left off the postseason roster.

2008: Cubs trade Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson & Josh Donaldson for Rich Harden & Chad Gaudin.

Cubs trade Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg.

Like the Nomar trade, the Harden deal was a well meaning, but ultimately failed attempt to improve the team for a deep postseason run. I saw Harden’s first Wrigley Field start in person. He was DOMINANT. If memory serves, he went 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 10 K. I was convinced he was the missing piece.  Two years later, the Cubs have no rings, and Harden struggles to get out of the third inning with fewer than 100 pitches thrown. At least it doesn’t look like those prospects amount to much.

Kevin Gregg was a disaster and I'm glad he's gone.

2009: Cubs trade Mark DeRosa for Jeff Stevens, John Gaub and Christopher Archer.

And the Trixies wept.

2010: Cubs trade Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva & cash.

Cubs trade Aaron Miles, Jake Fox & cash for Jeff Gray, Ronny Morla and Matt Spencer.

Two things are obvious to me about these most recent trades: First, it is far too early to say anything definitive about these deals.  Second, they were all about Hendry fixing his free agency mistakes from the previous offseason. That’s never a good thing for a GM. I was furious with Hendry for suspending Bradley for the last 15 games of the 2009 season, as it robbed him of any leverage he might have had in trade talks. I was furious all over again when the Cubs traded for Silva, who has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball for the last several years. Now I’m just sort of numb. I know Silva isn’t an ace, and his sub – 1.00 ERA is the product of small sample size. I’d be thrilled if he finished the year with an ERA under 4.50, and right now that looks like a possibility. As for Gray, at least he got AAron Miles out of here. Meh.

Hendry made a number of brilliant trades early in his GM career. Since 2004, he’s been significantly less productive in the trade market. It’s not clear whether other teams simply got smarter, Jim lost his touch, or something else altogether, but Hendry hasn’t had an obvious win since the trade that brought Derrek Lee to Chicago. Hendry’s trades aren’t getting it done anymore. He should be fired.

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A revised take on Sammy Sosa

Sammy Sosa was a god among men who pissed liquid gold and blew rainbows out of his ass. He was charitable beyond all measure -- he once adopted ten thousand Dominican orphans and bought each one of them their own private island, on which he built mansions that included a personal McDonalds off to one side of the main kitchens.

Sammy's teammates loved him and he shared his music with all. Ryne Sandberg once personally requested that Sosa impregnate his wife so that she would conceive a child of superior stock.

In the clutch there was none better than Sosa. He once even hit an errant pitch with his batting helmet in order to win the game -- it managed to clear the left field bleachers by several feet.

Perhaps the shining pinnacle of Sosa's career came the year he decided to also pitch for the Cubs. It turned out that Sammy was ambidextrous and on days in which he wasn't playing RF, Sosa would start games as a righty pitcher. On days in which he wasn't starting, he came in and pitched lefty relief. For that reason he once led the league with 66 homeruns, 25 wins, and 50 saves. He was awesome.

All of this is more acceptable than the alternative history that some people spout. Were we to even hint at there being any discord in the clean, shining career of Sammy Sosa people would be upset. For that reason I am happy that the truth is out, and let it be known now and forever that Sosa was -- and is -- the greatest Cub to ever live.

Cubs 101 - Pt 34 - Sammy Sosa, the 30-30 Man

Brought to you by Coast to Coast Tickets!
Samuel Peralta Sosa was born a poor black sharecropper's son in the Dominican Republic.  Actually, I'm not certain his dad was a sharecropper, but you get the gist.  His was the prototypical humble beginnings of many of the Dominicans that were scouted, recruited, and signed by MLB in the 70's and 80's, up to the present day.  Sammy was a strong, quick,and skilled young lad when he was signed by Texas in 1985.  He made his major league debut with Dubya Bush's Rangers four years later, and even though Sosa matured quite a bit during his minor league apprenticeship, he was still largely as skinny, raw, and undisciplined as he was when he left home.  It only took Dubya's people 25 games, 84 at-bats and 20 strikeouts to decide to trade Sosa to a rival GM who was panting with (what we can assume to be platonic) man-love with him.

Of course, that rival GM was Larry Himes of the White Sox.  Himes only had to give up Harold Baines for him.  Baines, of course, was the face of the franchise, and his owner's favorite player.  But Himes must have convinced his owner that Mr. Sosa provided the fast-path to championships and winning beyond wildest dreams.  So then, Sosa came in and hit .233 with 150 strikeouts in his first full year.  After he followed that up with a .203 mark in 1991, Jerry Reinsdorf did the following: retired the number of his beloved Baines; fired Larry Himes; and when Himes (inexplicably) found employment a year later with the crosstown Cubs, traded Sosa back to him.  Which made him our property and the 23-year-old cornerstone of our franchise.

One problem right off of the bat - we already had cornerstones, good solid ones, named Sandberg and Maddux.  But thanks to his GM, Sosa was installed in the middle of the order, in center field, every day, an arrangement which lasted about 60 games, until he injured himself.  Inexplicably, Sosa earned himself a 400% raise for his 3/8ths of a season in 1992, from the league minimum, to $750k.  He also was installed in right field the next year in order to minimize injury risk, as well as to take advantage of his strong arm, which Sosa liked to display as runners tried to take extra bases.

Most general managers (nearly all of them in the 80's and 90's) placed utmost importance on players perceived to have 'five-tool impact', and there were few players at that point in time that were as young, with so much potential, as Sosa.  He bashed pitches, ran very well, and could send throws from deep in the outfield all the way to home plate.  His shortcomings were the typical ones for any raw prospect player - plate discipline; running routes to fly balls; overzealousness on the basepaths; and most of all, a brash, flashy nature.  It was easy to overlook all of that when he was only 24 years old.  He was young, and he could possibly mature and focus his talents.

On a fourth place Cubs team in 1993, one with Jose Guzman and Candy Maldanado instead of Greg Maddux and Andre Dawson, Sosa smacked 33 homers and stole 36 bases.  Larry Himes declared victory, and Sosa for his part received his first of what would be three gigantic multi-million dollar contracts.  Now, I don't begrudge the man for wanting to commemorate his accomplishment by purchasing a small token as a remembrance, but to this day, it rankles me that he purchased a shopping mall in his hometown and renamed it the "30-30 Mall".  I mean, certainly, the 30-30 Club is rather exclusive, but your team still hadn't won anything, and wouldn't it be more satisfying if you could buy a shopping mall and call it "Cubs Pennant Mall"?  But such was the me-first nature of Mr. Sosa.

The next few years, for the life of his first contract, Sosa put up great power and speed numbers.  In the somewhat abbreviated season of 2005, he hit 36 homers and stole 34 bases, making him a repeat member of the 30/30 Club.  He most certainly would have made it three years in a row, but the 1994 season was cut short with Sosa only five homers and 8 swipes shy.  He was making money commensurate with the great young players in the game, and at the end of the 1995 season was only 27 years old and only had two years remaining until his next big deal.

But Sosa was not happy.  He was not getting the acclaim and respect he deserved, from the national media, from his teammates, and now (since Himes had been relieved of his duties) from his own front office.  He started talking about looking elsewhere for his next big deal.  His agents started wondering out loud if the Cubs shouldn't try to trade him to a club who would respect Sammy more for his contributions. 

From the time he was plucked from the slums, to this very day, Sosa's biggest fault was a lack of self-awareness, an over-inflated self worth.  It never occurred to him that the reason why he was not getting the love he thought he earned was of his own making.  His teams never won, in no small part to his own lack of fundamental baseball.  He widened his strike zones; did not have  a great average with runners in scoring position; he got caught stealing in over a third of his attempts; he was infamous for his disdain of cutoff men; and he misplayed more than his share of fly balls.  Furthermore, Larry Himes managed to alienate or eliminate all of the clubhouse leaders, giving all credit to Sosa while assigning blame to the rest of the team.  Finally, he committed the almost unforgivable sin of complaining about his contract in Chicago, a place that demands unflinching loyalty from its sports heroes.

So for all these reasons, Sammy Sosa was not getting the fame he deserved.  Of course, Sosa never saw it this way.  A man who twice made the 30/30 club deserved more, and he believed he knew the reason why - it was because that particular club was NOT the place to be anymore.  Guys like Jose Canseco and Barry Bonds started a new "club".  No, not THAT one.  The 40-40 Club, of course.  Canseco was the founding member in 1988, and Bonds hit 42 homers and stole 40 bases in 1996.  When people talked about "the complete package", they pointed to Bonds and Canseco, and a new kid, Alex Rodriguez.  They were the state of the art - they were the ones keeping Sammy Sosa from the accolades he so richly deserved.

In the confusion of the 1994-5 strike, Sosa actually had signed an offer sheet with Boston, but when the smoke cleared, he remained a Cub, and his big payday loomed after the 1997 season.  Sammy, who did have a big heart, an even bigger ego, and loved hard work, figured out a way to leapfrog over everyone else, straight to the top. 

Kurt Evans
When Sammy Sosa started his career with the Cubs in the mid 90's, I was a teenage kid who did not have access to the Chicago papers or even the opinions of the Chicago-based fans, and I thought Sammy was pretty effin' cool.  I know I wasn't alone, either.

Pretty much all of my early opinions on the guy come from three sources -- Harry Caray, who described Sammy as being incredibly special in 1992, Steve Stone, who noted young Sammy's ridiculous hair style (subtly jabbing the flashy Sosa as having perhaps the wrong kinds of priorities), and Baseball Weekly, where I got to see the results of Sammy's exploits without experiencing his negative qualities.

Still, I was none-too-pleased when he became the defacto heir after Larry Himes sent Andre Dawson away from Chicago 1 homerun shy of 400. 

But was Sosa the empty calorie that Rob describes?  At certain points, he absolutely was.  In 1993 when the Cubs were a decent team lacking the punch necessary to really compete, Sosa was abysmal with runners on base.  He batted .214 in 1993 in "close and late" situations, and with 2 outs and runners in scoring position Sosa batted a putrid .160 with 19 strikeouts in 75 at bats. 

It was the same thing in 1995, when the Cubs were competing for a playoff spot until the last series of the season.  Sosa, who would hit 34 homeruns that year, would be the anti-intelligent hitter.  While batters typically improve against pitchers who they see more than once in a game, Sosa got worse -- he batted .310 the first time he faced a pitcher, .252 the second time, and .228 the third time and beyond -- and he was again a .226 hitter in "close and late" situations.

Still, Sammy deserves some credit.  He may have always grated some fans with his hot dog tactics and some teammates with his me-first mentality, but Sosa was always exciting to watch and he didn't exactly hit 600+ homeruns accidentally.  And when he was in his prime, be it from chemical advantages or other kinds, he was undeniably amazing, and no longer an empty calorie offensive player. 

And, back again to me: we have discussed two quite different perspectives on the most polarizing player in Cubs history.  Kurt notes that even before Sosa's unreal home run binge period from 1998-2003, his "primary" statistics (HR, RBI, AVG) were far superior to anyone else on the Cubs, and compared favorably to the cleanup hitters on nearly every other ballclub.  PEDs or not, Sammy was a supremely talented player.

I am beginning to think that the best thing to be is a Cubs fan who doesn't live in Chicago, or at least one who insulates himself or herself from the media.  For the 90's brought on, at least in the Chicago market, the advent of the major Sports Radio influence.  Until then, sports talk shows were only on a couple of minor stations, for a few hours a week.  Overnight, two major stations started full-time Chicago sports talk, and several other stations, to compete, beefed up their sports talk programming.  The hosts and program directors of these shows had a lot of hours to kill, and a favorite target, especially during the summer months, was the Great Sammy Sosa.

As a frequent listener, I was made aware of every cutoff man Sosa missed, every man he left on base late in games, and especially, every complaint he or his agent put forth in regards to the 'respect' he felt was lacking from his front office, once Himes was shoved aside.  And, of course, a few years later, the Internet really took hold, and far more people stepped up (like myself) and spent countless hours picking apart Sosa's faults to an even more minute level of detail than even the blowhards on the radio.

So is that really fair to his legacy?  Imagine what might have been said if the Internet and sports radio were around during the rise, stagnation, and eventual crumbling of the "1969 era" Cubs?  Would be feel the same way about Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins, and some of these other guys if their every flaw was laid out open for all of us to pore over and analyze?  Probably not.

Fact is, though, Sosa came along too late.  Thus, as a rabid Chicago Cubs fan, who listened to every possible hour of sports radio and read every website, and heard nearly everything about the man; true, exaggerated, or completely false, it all shaped my opinion for the worse.  Just as for Kurt, living elsewhere, who got his information from TV, a more "mainstream" media, where the positives tend to be emphasized and the negatives glossed over, at least more so than on the radio and the internet.  His opinion, along with a generation of younger fans and non-local fans, thought Sosa to be the leader and savior of the franchise.

I understand.  Of course, I completely disagree.

Sponsored by Chicago Cubs playoff ticket broker Coast to Coast Tickets.

Gamecast: June 17th vs. White Sox

Jon Danks (4-5, 4.81 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (4-2, 3.39 ERA)

Story Lines

The minute we get away from the steriods saga it comes back just in time to ruin baseball once again. At this point who cares who used and who didn't? Baseball let it happen, they're cracking down now, and it is time to move on.

Anyway, there is a game today and every day until the All-Star Break, I believe. This is also the first meeting of the year against the Cross-town rivals, so that's something I guess.

In other news, it's raining in Chicago. I doubt the game starts on time, and I'm not sure there won't be a second rain delay at some point.

Who's Hot

Derrek Lee - Lee's hitting .391 in his last six games and sporting a 13-game hitting streak. Of course he's only got two extra base hits during that time.

Geovany Soto - In his last six games, Soto is 7-for-20 with 1 HR and two doubles. It's still not great, but it's a lot better.

Who's Not

Kosuke Fukudome - Looks like Fukudomes good start to 2009 is about through. It's crazy how he can look so good for time and totally suck the rest. Wait, I guess it isn't that crazy considering he's a Cub. He's 2-for-22 in last six games. Ouch!

Alfonso Soriano - What are we going to do with Sori? We've all seen the crazy slumps and crazy hot streaks, but nothing has last this long. He's an automatic out right now, whos 3-for-his-last-25. No wonder we're .500.

Note from Kurt: At the risk of alienating Kevin, I'm just taking Chris's post from yesterday and moving it up to today

In which I call out Rob for his transgressions

Yesterday, the NYTimes outed Sammy Sosa as a steroid user. To no one's surprise, no one was surprised.

In response, Rob, the long-standing-anti-Sammy-voice of Goat Riders climbed atop his well worn soap-box and delivered his opinion. This opinion led to a post at Another Cubs Blog calling Rob "ridiculously stupid," a "racist pile of garbage," a "shit," and a "waste of space." MB21, the eloquent author, did not support his claims with any examples, he just made them, and then suggested that Rob climb in a bathtub full of water with a plugged in toaster.

When Kurt, and later I, objected to this post. We weren't met with an apology, but rather more vitriol.

Stepping back, GROTA is a blog. We traffic in opinions. Lame ones (see me), insightful ones (see stats posts), funny ones (see Jason), boring ones, ignorant ones, dumb ones, good ones, etc. And to top it off, we're not afraid to criticize those opinions... but we (the ruling council of GROTA) have declared that personal attacks are out. If you say something stupid, your opinion is stupid, not necessarily the person with the opinion. If a player performs poorly on the field, they performed poorly, that doesn't mean they are a bad person.

While GROTA isn't perfect in sticking to our rule, we're much better at it then some of the other blogs in the CBA. (Your Honor, I broke the law, but not as bad as that guy!) Furthermore, the solid friendship cemented electronically, alcoholically, burito-ey, and reality-ey between the Goat Riders often leads us to act like a pack. We take care of our own instinctively. No one wants to be torn apart by wild hyenas, so we protect the whole pride when we're under attack. Whether that's a fault or a strength, I'm not sure. But, it is what it is.

So now, the hyena's are circling. Our fellow Cubs blogging brethren think that one of our own is a "piece of shit" and we're not too happy about it. We're snapping and snarling on instinct, but I've been asked by MB21 of ACB to put that instinct aside and look at the situation objectively. So, I will do so, to the best of my ability.

Long-time readers (you know, those who actually remember when I used to be an active member of this community) know that Rob and I almost never agree. It took a long time before the out-front tensions were erased by the familiarity of getting to know someone beyond their blog posts, but for several years now, Rob and I have been friends and we've come to a mutual understanding of our own predilections. Most importantly, we both realize that each of us have value because we are people, and not because we hold the right/wrong opinions.

So, it is with some dismay that I will note that Rob was wrong in his post from yesterday. He called Sammy a "lying, cheating, scumbag creep." I agree that Sammy has lied. He has also cheated, but I think Rob overstepped the boundaries calling Sammy a scumbag creep. Perhaps Rob could have finished his list of three with a "selfish steroid user."

That's it. That's the only thing in Rob's entire rant that I found inappropriate, and frankly, I expect Rob would explain that calling Sammy a scumbag creep is the conclusion of his argument, which he proceeded to defend with a long list of selfish actions on Sammy's behalf. (Note the difference between ACB's unsupported attack on Rob and Rob's supported attack on Sammy.)

So therefore, I'm officially calling out Rob. You should not have called Sammy a scumbag creep. I don't think that GROTA should back you up on that one opinion and I'll disassociate myself with that statement.

As for ACB, I've shared my opinions with MB21, and he's responded. I disagree with most of his opinions, but I'll leave it to this: I think MB21 is too quick to judge, too quick to inflame, and probably not a very nice person. In other words, he's a meanie. My momma told me to ignore the meanies on the playground, so I will proceed to do so. ACB is dead to me.

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).


No, don't go run out in the streets and celebrate.  I am NOT going away.

But something occured to me this morning.  Now that he has been exposed once and for all, I don't ever ever have to write about Sammy Sosa ever again.

I'm putting away my anger.  RIP, Pumpkinhead.

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.

Sammy Sosa belongs in the Hall of Fame

Sammy SosaQuestion: Should a guy who's never been caught doing steroids be banned from the Hall of Fame over suspicions that he may have been doing something that wasn't against the rules of baseball at the time?

We're asking ourselves this today and we'll be asking it again in four or five years as Sammy Sosa enters Hall of Fame eligibility.  But unless something dramatically changes the way the voters think then we can already guess the answer: Sammy is going to have about as much trouble reaching Cooperstown as Mark McGwire, maybe a little less because his overall numbers are better.

As Cub fans, it's a conflictive situation.  Do we remember the guy who hopped when he homered (and blew kisses to his mother), who gave the fans not one but two thrilling chases for 60, who broke his post season homerless streak in about as epic a fashion as possible, who once threw his entire body at a ball he had no chance of catching in a vain attempt of preserving a no-hitter, who came from poverty and became a superstar?

Or do we remember the selfish, gold medallion wearing, Ryne Sandberg disgusting, money-chasing cheater who corked his bat, who alienated his teammates with his boombox and attitude, and who exited Chicago in disgusting fashion at the tail end of the '04 season when he "played sick" and vanished?

Why can't we remember both? 

A funny thing about heroes -- they are rarely pure as the driven snow.  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. 

It's funny, though.  I don't remember him really for his heroics, nor do I remember him for his flame-out.  I remember him for being Sammy Sosa.  He was a guy who desperately wanted to be loved by the fans, who wanted to succeed, who put himself ahead of his team, who occupied a cornerstone position on my favorite team for better than a decade. 

And yes, he belongs in the Hall of Fame, although I suspect that he won't reach those hallowed halls for more than another decade from now.  Still, he belongs there.  After all, it's not the Hall of Saints, nor is it the Hall of Clean Athletes.  Sosa was a massively productive player who was known -- at times -- for his charity who came from nothing, overcame a reckless youth, and went on to be an amazing player before we decided to hate him because he never gained control of his greater demons.  None of that contradicts "Hall of Fame" status, at least not in my opinion.

Therefore, if it's possible for you to put aside the fading sense of betrayal, if you can either ignore the ever-present allegations -- or simply choose not to care about them, be they true or false) -- then I suspect you'll probably leave with the same impression as myself.  Sosa is a Hall of Famer. 

He was for a time The Greatest Cub.  And when we're old men and women and he's long gone we'll still be talking about him. Hopefully part of that conversation will include the memory we share of when he finally got recognized by the Hall of Fame.

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