Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It's Over for Sammy

The New York Times just ruined Sammy Sosa's evening.

From the Michael S. Schmidt article...
Sammy Sosa, who joined with Mark McGwire in 1998 in a celebrated pursuit of baseball’s single-season home run record, is among the players who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003, according to lawyers with knowledge of the drug-testing results from that year.
The disclosure that Sosa tested positive makes him the latest baseball star of the last two decades to be linked to performance-enhancers, a group that now includes McGwire, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro.
- - snip - -
The 2003 test that ensnared Sosa was the first such test conducted by Major League Baseball. Under guidelines agreed upon with the players union, the test results were to remain anonymous but would lead to testing with penalties the next year if more than 5 percent of the results were positive.
That is indeed what occurred. But for reasons never made completely clear, the test results were not destroyed by the players union and the 104 positives were subsequently seized by federal agents on the West Coast investigating matters related to the distribution of drugs to athletes.
The union immediately filed court papers alleging that the agents had illegally seized the tests, and over the past six years judges at various levels of the federal court system have been weighing whether the government can keep them. An 11-judge panel in California is preparing to rule in the case, but regardless of its verdict, the losing side is expected to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
As the union feared, the names on the list have begun to emerge. In February, Sports Illustrated reported that Rodriguez was on the 2003 list, and Rodriguez subsequently acknowledged that he had used steroids for three years. Now, Sosa’s name has been disclosed.
Well, that it sure to send some shock waves down to the Dominican Republic.  Sammy's been away from the spotlight for so long, and Manny became such a sensation, that people often forget just how big a star Sammy Sosa became.  He arrived in Chicago right as the Michael Jordan dynasty was looking for someone to take the baton and capture the city's sports scene.  After Sammy hit 60+ home runs in three separate seasons, he became a national hero in the Dominican Republic.  The President of his country became a close friend and business partner.  Sammy's welcome home parties after each season became more lavish year after year, culminating in a scene similar to Akeem's wedding reception in Coming to America.

The transition from winning titles with Michael, Scottie, Rodman, and Phil Jackson to watching Sammy Sosa turn into a slugger who's production had never been seen before was almost too much to appreciate at the time.  Here's one of those inexplicable moments when the timing is just right for a budding superstar to be blessed with a perfect situation for stardom.

Behind the scenes of the Pepsi commercials, meetings with mayor, and appearances with Oprah, were potential injections of anabolic steroids, epo, human growth hormone, primobolan, applications of the cream, clear, testosterone, female fertility drugs.  This is just a sad, sad day for Cubs fans.

We wanted to hope that Sammy's success was, in spite of the mounting evidence, an extreme example of good fortune and hard work meeting up at the same time - for about nine consecutive seasons?  It's incredible to look back and try to understand how we rationalized this success as combination of good luck, a lot of natural weight lifting, weaker pitching staffs due to expansion, and juiced baseballs.

This is the most personal positive test to come out all of this for me.  I was one of the fans who applauded Sammy and always cursed the ways of Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi.

I always loved how weird Sammy was.  He was eccentric.  As a young player, he wore high tops with fluorescent stripes.  He shaved lines into the sides of his flat-top 'fro.  He spoke terrible English and not exactly the clearest form of Spanish.

In addition to the 600-something home runs, what made him a super duper star was the enthusiasm he played with and the million dollar smile he shined from the outfield grass or the dugout.  He sprinted to his position in right field at the start of every game, and the bleacher bums loved it.  He hopped after hitting long fly balls.  He made strange faces, as if no-one was looking, all the time.  He flashed hand symbols to the camera, while blowing kisses and tapping his heart, after his home runs or putouts in the outfield.  That sort of stuff transcends generations of fans, and before anyone knew it, Sammy Sosa was a household name.

Still, sitting here today, I can't help but think that really there's not much to be said, except, it's too bad.  It's a shame that most of the accomplishments we celebrated during the Selig Era were done under less than natural circumstances.  I don't want to open my ears to an argument that it's the same as scuffing a baseball or taking amphetamines in the 70's or 80's.  It's not the same.  The players knew they were Cheating, with a capital C.

Sammy, we love you, but you're out.  You don't get your number 21 retired.  You don't get to be in Cooperstown with Ernie, Billy, Fergie, Ryno, Maddux, and hopefully Ron Santo and Andre Dawson.  On the bright side, Sammy, at least now no-one will ever care that you corked that bat against the Devil Rays.

Moving forward, I don't want to dwell on the shame of the past.  In fact, I will try to find joy in celebrating the fact that the light will shine brighter on the players we can hope and pray were clean.  For all these reasons and many more, Greg Maddux and Ken Griffey, Jr. will be treated like royalty around these parts.


  1. This wasn't a matter of IF, but WHEN the news came out.

  2. This wasn't a question of IF, but a question of WHEN this news came out.