I worked at Wrigley Field from 1996-1998 as a security guard, predominantly in the right field bleachers. At almost every game I worked, Sammy Sosa would coming running out at the beginning of the game and the crowd would go insane, especially those siting in right field. It was a lovelfest. Two of those three years, the Cubs were pretty awful. One of those years was nothing short of magical. All three were made better by Sammy Sosa.
Well after I had left Wrigley Sammy was still the driving force of the Cubs. From 1998 until 2002, Sammy led the Cubs in WAR. For five seasons, he was the most productive bat in the line up and for quite a few before, eight seasons total. In 2001 he had an incredible 10.3 WAR, finishing second to Barry Bonds in the MVP. Even in his final year as a Cub, Sosa hit 35 home runs and 21 doubles in only 126 games.
Yet in that year, the knives came out for Sammy. The suspicions about PED use were surfacing, the accusations of being a prima donna in the club house and the belief that all of the chest tapping, kiss blowing was all an insincere act. It's amazing how fast Sammy went from local hero to local goat. Looking back on his transgressions though, it's hard to believe that Sammy deserves to be be completely shunned from the Cubs history. It has an almost Soviet level of denial about it. "Sosa not invited back. He must make apologies." To whom exactly? The organization? An organization that has changed owners twice since Sammy played, that profited greatly from Sosa's performance and even played up Sosa's star turn. Or did Sammy make the cameras focus on him after every home run? And while the fans may not have known about the PED use, I find it hard to believe that no one within the Cubs organization knew anything. That within the smallest locker room facilities in MLB, no one saw or suspected or even covered up some aspect of the whole PED chapter. Like I said, hard to believe.
In litany of sport transgressions, or better stated, transgressions by athletes, Sosa is hardly the greatest of sinners. By taking PEDs, Sosa didn't run the risk of harming anyone, yet Mark Grace has had two DUIs, a potentially life-threating action, and is still a folk hero among the Wrigley faithful. Leaving the stadium before a game was over is worse than that? Leaving a stadium when everyone knew that the Sosa-Cubs relationship had soured beyond repair is somehow unforgivable?
Or maybe it was the appearance before Congress in 2005 with an interpreter that still rubs the fans and the Cubs the wrong way. The chirping about how he spoke English well enough when he was earning all of that money was constant. Perhaps I'm slow, but I don't go into any legal action without a lawyer at least looking over what I'm signing, someone to help me understand the language of what I'm getting into. If that was in a country where I wasn't a native speaker, you're damn straight I'd have an interpreter along for the ride. Again, maybe I'm just slow, but holding such an action against Sosa seems unfair.
Or perhaps the Cubs want Sammy to apologize to the fans. For what I don't exactly know. His PED use? Will that bring the scales back to balance? Or do they want him to apologize for all of those home runs that everyone loved at the time? For becoming a celebrity? And when is the last time the Cubs, or any professional sports organization apologized for their behavior that angered fans?
If Mark McGwire can be employed in baseball and still cheered in St. Louis and Barry Bonds can be welcomed back to the Giants, and Andy Pettitte, and Jason Giambi, and Matt Williams and many, many others can be forgiven and brought back into the respective folds of their former teams or back into baseball in general, can't the Cubs do the same? Shouldn't the Cubs do the same? There might be things that Sosa did that are regrettable, but looking at those sins, nothing Sosa did seems severe enough to deem a life-long sentence of persona non grata.
PED user? not the only one, not be a long shot. Prima Donna? I've been told there a few of those in professional locker rooms. Disliked by his teammates? Again, that doesn't strike me as rare. Selfish? I don't know how hitting all of those home runs was selfish. Dishonest? yeah, maybe. However, a celebration of Cubs history without Sammy Sosa seems more disingenuous and petty than anything Sosa ever did to the Cubs during his time in Chicago. Be the bigger person in this feud Cubs and let Sammy come home.
John Jackson also wrote about Sammy and shares many of my views, worth a look.