Friday, June 5, 2009

Card Spotlight: 6-5-09

1992 Score #258 - Sammy Sosa

This week, Sammy Sosa announced his retirement. He last played two seasons ago. I'm left to wonder if Sammy thought that he had something left to give a ball club. The last few years of Sosa's career were nothing short of embarrassing.

He ran himself out of Chicago by exiting a game early in 2004. He followed this up by hitting .221 for Baltimore in 2005. No team wanted him in 2006, so he sat that season at home. In 2007, the Rangers took a chance on him. He brought his average up to slightly below average, he tacked on a few more home runs and swelled his strikeouts to 112. To be fair, that was still less than most of his seasons with the Cubs.

I chose this card to showcase for many reasons. This 1992 Score card was one of the last to feature Sammy as a member of the White Sox. He was shipped off to the Cubs right before the 1992 season began. The card also shows that Sammy Sosa used to be known for his defense. He was like a gazelle in the outfield, during his last season with the Sox. Sosa was put in primarily for his defense. He had a tendency to strike out frequently. Only 28 of his 609 Major League home runs came during his two and a half years with the White Sox.

This card is a time capsule. Sammy is sporting his Will Smith fade hairstyle. Sosa could be about to make a great catch or he might be about to boot the ball of the heel of the glove. Either way, it could be exciting. Sammy is super skinny in this shot and appears quite athletic. His appearance would bloat a few years after this and when the home runs went up, the defense went down mostly.

The nice thing about the photo on the card is the extra player. Sure the card says right field, but Sammy played in other places in the outfield, when needed. I can definitely tell that he was in right field. The player ready to back Sammy up, if the ball should get away from him, is none other than Lance Johnson. One Dog (Lance Johnson) only played away from his center field staple in two games in 1991, when this picture was taken. Those two games were in right field. From the positioning of Lance, there is no possible way that he was in right field.

Now that Sosa has announced his retirement, he says that he is just waiting for his induction into the Hall of Fame. There are steroid allegations dancing around him that won't go away. Nothing has been proven, but the stigma of those allegations may be enough to sink his chances for enshrinement. If Sammy had continued on the path that he chose before going to the Cubs, I don't think his numbers would hold up. He would be stuck in the common bin and Sammy Sosa would be a stumping question in sports trivia.

Still, this card shows an innocence that is now lost to the ages. Sammy reminds me more of what Rickey Henderson might have looked like in a White Sox uniform than of Sammy Sosa. I can look back and wonder about the path not chosen. I choose to look at a promising defensive wizard that took a path to the dark side.

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