As a general rule, I don't pay much attention to the Cubs Convention. It's a love-fest, and that's fine as in the middle of winter the thought of baseball can at least make the brain-freeze temps seems bearable...for like a minute and a half. The news is rare, and what there is is usually some player telling us he's changed his off-season regimen and/or this is the best he's felt in a long time. And you get your first look at free agent signings in Cubs jerseys I guess, though hoping they don't plan on playing with a turtleneck under it and suit pants when the season starts.
Still, a more interesting nugget than usual popped up on Saturday when Tom Ricketts had a thought, even an original one if you can believe it, regarding Sammy Sosa.
From the Sun-Times: “Players of that era owe us a little bit of honesty, too,” he said. “I feel like the only way to turn this page is just to put everything on the table. That’s the way I feel.”
Of course, this seems in direct conflict with Ricketts's quotes right before it:
“I really believe all the players from that era who were in that kind of steroid era … I think we owe them a lot of understanding,” Ricketts said. “We have to put ourselves in their shoes and be very, very sympathetic to everything, all the decisions they had to make, and certainly as it turned out after testing had begun in 2002, a large number of players test positive.”
What I'm not sure I understand is what Ricketts's endgame is.
Where did he get this idea, I wonder? Certainly I've never heard a lot of fans clamoring for Sosa and others to issue an apology, at least not in a long time. It's kind of a known secret what went on, and though Bonds, McGwire, Clemens, and how many others you want to include have never explicitly come out and said what they did, I don't think they have to.
At this point, I'm not sure what they're apologizing for, or what they would be. They didn't really break any rules when they were doing it, and certainly not ones MLB had any hope of enforcing. And in some ways, they've been screwed over. Bud Selig built the "revitalization" of the game after the strike of 1994 on their accomplishments, even though it was pretty clear what was going on. No one said anything. And then once the winds changed, Selig and baseball lashed out and froze out the very players who apparently had "saved" the game.
As for Sosa himself, is this something that Cubs fans really care about? I just don't get the sense that it is. And really, I'm not sure Cubs fans care about Sosa that much any more at all. It's been over 13 years since he walked out before the end of the 2004 season, and that's been it. It was easy to pin his PED use as a reason to keep him cast out when the feelings over that were still raw. But does it make any sense to now? Some I'm sure would like to say so, but they were alos probably cheering their heads off when Sosa was dragging an underwhelming '98 team into the playoffs by its ears, or keeping the 2001 team in contention, or a huge part of the 2003 team. We don't get it both ways.
Sosa was weird, yes. His teammates most likely hated him to a man. He didn't care about much else except Sammy. The press didn't care much more for him than his teammates did, which has certainly colored how he's viewed now.
And yet he was the only reason to watch the Cubs for a decade or more. Whatever he was, he wasn't boring.
I don't know what Ricketts is playing at here, honestly. Perhaps he fears that opening the door even a crack--a first pitch or pregame ceremony--would lead to a discussion about whether or not #21 should fly off one of the fair poles. And that very well could happen, because whether he likes it or not Sosa is one of the greatest Cubs of all time. That's just a fact. And while Sosa's numbers between 1998-2003 look downright cartoonish, if PEDs were never a thing and he'd just hit 30-35 homers for 12 straight years, would we even be having a debate about his number being retired?
It's also a strange moral high-ground for Ricketts to take. One, Manny Ramirez was a coach in the organization and not only does he have the same PED cloud over him but he quit on the Red Sox to force a trade to the Dodgers in even worse fashion than Sosa did in '04. But that didn't happen here so I guess no one cares? Ricketts presided over a team that traded for Aroldis Chapman, so what is this soul he's trying to hold onto, exactly? Of the two, Chapman and Sosa, which committed the worse offense? Oh yes, Addison Russell is still the starting shortstop, and we can't say there isn't a cloud with him, too.
It feels like Ricketts here is just beating up on an easy target, one that costs him nothing. Sosa is off on the outer rim, and his response to this, if there is one, isn't going to cause much of a ripple anywhere. Ricketts is using him as a stepping stool basically because he can. When he could have made a statement about his team's morality or principles that would have caused problems with his front office and/or the team on the field, he was the same fan we all are. And that's fine in some ways. I don't expect a sports organization to be a paragon of virtue and I doubt too many people do.
Whatever Ricketts hoped to accomplish, he missed.