CHISportsNation

Tom Ricketts loved the Chicago Cubs. When he and his family purchased the team in 2009 he had three guiding principles: Win the World Series, be a good neighbor, and preserve Wrigley Field. Tom was only a fan of the Cubs so he knew he had to find a baseball savvy executive to help him achieve his goals and found Theo Epstein in 2011. Like the bionic man, Theo planned to rebuild both the team and the culture of the Chicago Cubs. Theo brought in Jed Hoyer who embraced the idea of player development within the organization. Culture was key. Players recruited had to have skills that could be developed but even more than that, character would be key. Character on field with the ability to handle difficult situations with integrity and character off using their platform to help others and be role models. Ego was poison and would not be tolerated. Chosen to lead the group Joe Maddon. A humble man who wants his players to be the focus. A positive person who would develop the same atmosphere in the organization and who will always mentally prepare and focus on his team, not the opposing team. That is the Cub Way and Cub Culture. And the fan gift? One world series win, and counting.

Prior to the Epstein culture, baseball endured the steroid culture. But even before the steroid culture, there was an amphetamine culture in pro baseball. It is thought amphetamines were prevalent in baseball for decades and prior to 1971 when they were banned from baseball, nearly every player used them and readily admitted it. Because baseball turned a blind eye to this problem for decades, it is easy to see why Anabolic Steroids use was also ignored for so long. Both are, in a sense, enhancement drugs, but steroids were stimulants with growth hormone along with synthetic and natural substances that allowed players to gain muscle mass, train harder and longer and recover quickly. In 1991 baseball banned steroids but did not test for them until 2003 and the rest of course is baseball history.

Samuel Kelvin Peralta Sosa started his career with the Chicago Cubs in 1992 and would become one of the games greatest home run hitters. Aside from that, there is little on field accomplishments that Sosa can be proud of. His WAR was 58.4 far behind the 73.2 average of the 24 right fielders in Cooperstown and his OBP was a mere .344. In 2005, in a hearing before Congress Sosa made the following statement: “To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything. I have not broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic. I have been tested as recently as 2004, and I am clean. Sammy never injected himself he states nor did he ever fail a drug test both prove nothing. You would have to be blind not to see the physical changes in Sosa through the years. Proof is in the pictures folks.

In 2003 Sammy was busted using a corked bat in a game. While he said it was a mistake, he only used it for batting practice was irrelevant. The Cubs banned the use of corked bats. Anytime, anywhere. While using a corked bat does not give any advantage in the velocity of the ball, it does give the batter a huge advantage in swinging a lighter bat, giving a faster swing allowing for more accurate hits. Therefore, advantage player.

Sosa was clubhouse cancer,and with the exception of 2 or 3 former team mates, it would be difficult to find a kind word. While the Cubs organization should be held accountable in turning a blind eye to the Sosa antics, Sosa is still regarded as one of the top five worst team mates of all time. It is more than being a jerk in the clubhouse, I am sure there are many of those, it is about being a selfish, egotistical man who only plays for himself showing no regard for his team. It costs games, other players, and kills moral. Never, ever have I read Sosa saying anything about wanting to win, or be in the world series, which is ultimately what each and every Cub fan wanted. Sosa would show up 2 weeks late for spring training. Upon entering the training clubhouse, he would announce his arrival and welcome others to “his house.”  He ignored coaches  while at the plate and when running the bases, simply doing as Sosa wanted. Without permission, Sammy left the team 13 minutes into the last game of the 2004 season. Sosa hired a man named Julian Martinez to carry his boombox from city to city, clubhouse to clubhouse. You see, nobody messed with Sammy’s boombox and nobody else is allowed to choose music. Kerry Wood switched lockers and moved as far away as Sosa as possible. It is also rumored Kerry Wood took a bat to that boombox in 2004 when Sosa made his escape. Sosa never, ever took blame for missing a fly ball or getting picked off base or ANYTHING. If reporters dared ask about these incidents, he ended the interview.

The myth of Sosa saving baseball must also be debunked. Baseball was not dying in 1998; in fact attendance records show it was very healthy. In 1996, there was a 6.5% increase in attendance and in 1997 there was a 4.9% increase in attendance. The average increase in attendance in 1998 was not as high as the previous years. It was in 1999, coming off the year of the savior, that attendance decreased by 1.8%. Also, the 1998 world series was the worst rated in MLB history. So if you praise Sosa for saving the game, tell me, did it need to be saved? Not according to the numbers. Plus, we now know that the magical home run race was a mere illusion.

We can also debunk the fact he has never been invited back to Chicago. When Mr Cub, Ernie Banks passed away in January 2015, Sosa was invited to attend the funeral. Rather than taking this invitation as an honor, Sosa made it an option refusing to attend in fear his presence would be a distraction. The saddest account of Sammy’s ego I have ever heard.

Sosa started a charity foundation in 1998 to give back to his native Dominican Republic. However, in 2000 the organization came under serious fire after charges of mismanagement, financial misappropriation, theft, and nepotism and is no longer in operation.

There is a saying in baseball that the smartest person in the clubhouse either has the highest batting average or the most zeros on his paycheck. Players think because they are adored by fans, they can do as they please because all will be forgiven so player excuses for any kind of cheating, notably using steroids, was simply they got caught up in the culture and did something most players were also doing. They had one motivation; money. And they all got to keep the millions earned while the fans were duped. Accepting these players back into the fold is rewarding deceit. These players lack authenticity and their actions morally wrong. Certainly there is the argument that Whitey Ford cut up baseballs, and Perry spit on baseballs, and Cobb gambled, Aaron took amphetamines and these players are not only accepted but in the HOF. Does that mean we have to continue the trend? I, for one, hope not. I want baseball players to be heroes to kids so that the next generation will hold ball players up to even higher standards. I want baseball to represent all that is good in American culture and making the traits of sportsmanship, work ethic, sacrifice, and empathy a sense of pride for all teams making fans proud. Baseball is the soul of American Sport and should end sensationalizing cheaters and frauds. There is no reversing history but there can be a future were fans stop enabling egos and start rewarding character. The Chicago Cubs organization currently leads the pack in developing skilled players while also making a fan commitment that they will present a team to be proud of both on and off the field. Sammy Sosa fits no place in that scenario.

 

I want to end this with an excerpt from Ryne Sandberg’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech. I don’t believe I need to explain why. (Sandberg played with Sosa 92-94 and 96-97.)

But Harry, who was a huge supporter of mine, used to say how nice it is that a guy who can hit 40 homers or steal 50 bases or drive in 100 runs is the best bunter on the team. Nice? That was my job. When did it become OK for someone to hit home runs and forget how to play the rest of the game?

When we went home every winter, they warned us not to lift heavy weights because they didn’t want us to lose flexibility. They wanted us to be baseball players, not only home run hitters. These guys sitting up here (other Hall of Famers) did not pave the way for the rest of us so the players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third. It’s disrespectful to them and to you and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up.

I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponent or your teammates or your organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform.

Make a great play? Act like you’ve done it before.

Get a big hit? Look for the third-base coach and get ready to run the bases.

Hit a home run? Put your head down, drop the bat and run around the bases.”

Respect.

 

 

Sandberg speech Chicago Tribune

 

 

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