Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Little Commentary About Sammy Sosa

When I chose Sammy Sosa's 1992 Score card for my card of the week on June 5, 2009, it was mostly because of his retirement announcement. I had a gut feeling that something bigger was on the horizon. I thought that if there was anything on Sosa, this would be the perfect time to spring it.

On June 16, 2009, word "leaked" that Sammy Sosa had failed a drug test in 2003. If five percent or more of the players failed the test, then a permanent testing policy could be put into place. When this was first announced, the majority of the White Sox members voted to boycott the test. The thinking was that a refusal resulted in a positive test. Frank Thomas and many others were ready to make that sacrifice in order to force a testing policy to be a part of baseball.

The team was talked out of the boycott and no player, to my knowledge, refused to take the test. The agreement was that whoever tested positive would be kept anonymous. Any time that there is potentially explosive information like this, you know it's going to eventually leak.

Since Jose Canseco's books have been published, there has been slow trickles of information bubbling to the surface. I'm of the opinion to let the floodgates open and whoever else is on the list is out of luck. The still unnamed players have had six years to come forward. That is an ample amount of time to get their affairs in order and face the music.

Will this list be the end of speculation from this era? Certainly not. This is just from one test. We will never know how many players took any banned substances before 2003. The clean players who put up fantastic numbers are the ones who are suffering the most. Players like Frank Thomas, Jim Thome and Ken Griffey Jr. put up great numbers during this time. While I'm almost positive that none of those players cheated, they are now under suspicion because of the years that they played.

I can never be 100% certain about anyone who had career years during that time. That, I think, is the real tragedy of the steroid era. The players who deserve the accolades will never properly get them. There will always be a lingering doubt.

In my Sosa post on June 5th, I danced around the issue of Sammy's drug use. There has been plenty of speculation, but no hard evidence until now. I grew up rooting for Sammy. Since one of my favorite players was traded to acquire him, I wanted him to succeed. If only to justify the trade of a fan favorite.

Now that the truth has finally come out about Sammy Sosa, am I glad? No. I made my peace with what he was accused of doing a long time ago. I don't feel sorry for him. He knew exactly what he was getting into. I don't buy his non-English speaking act either. He spoke English well enough when he was the toast of the North Side of Chicago.

I feel sorry for the fans. They shelled out a lot of money on Sosa merchandise. They bought tickets through ticket brokers with inflated prices just to see him. Little kids trusted Sammy Sosa. They idolized him. I watched kids' heads bop up and down following Sosa's hop when he hit another long one. I watched ladies of all ages try to catch one of Sammy's kisses, when he was rounding the bases.

I feel sorry for the clean players, whoever they may be. Most of them were faced with a great moral dilema. Either go with the flow or possibly be out of a job. I applaud those players who decided to fight cleanly for their jobs. It couldn't have been easy in some clubhouses. In other clubhouses, I'm sure it wasn't as hard.

Hours after the news broke, I heard Lou Piniella talk his way out of his responsibility as a manager to know what was going on with his team. If I'm not mistaken, he referred to not knowing the difference between a steroid and a reefer. That doesn't exactly leave me brimming with confidence that he ran a clean clubhouse in Seattle or in Tampa Bay.

Joe Torre also danced around the issue when asked about Manny Ramirez the other day on the Tonight Show. He spoke candidly with Conan, but it seemed awfully guarded at the same time. Not that I blame him for feeling uncomfortable about the issue. Manny's problem came this year, not six years ago.

I wish that whoever is the source of these leaks would release all of the names left on the list. There is absolutely no reason to prolong it any longer. Let's get past this and hopefully move on. It's easy enough to blame Jose Canseco for the wide use of these drugs, but it's not the cause for any player who has tested positive. Every player made their own decision to take drugs. No one forced players at gunpoint to take anything.

I can be easier on the players who admitted to taking banned substances, but that doesn't make them less guilty. All that shows is that they are willing to take responsibility for their own actions. Some players refuse to do that. They are the game's biggest shame. Players like Jose Canseco aren't innocent either. They choose to name names for their own gain. That's helping, somewhat, but it's not an action that should be rewarded.

Shame on you, Sammy Sosa. Shame on you for pretending to be something you're not. Shame on you for lying to adoring fans. Shame on you for setting a bad example for the children. Shame on you for lying to congress by saying that you never used "illegal performance-enhancing drugs," have never "injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything," and have not "broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic."

You, Sammy, are a disgrace to the game. Your years of denial only further tarnish your crafted image. While there is no possible way to erase your misdeeds from the box scores, I can only hope that you are calmly waiting to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame for eternity.


shoeboxlegends said...

Excellent post Steve!

Dinged Corners said...

Excellent post.

Regarding the McGwire/Sosa battle, at least they were evenly and steroidly matched. *sigh*

night owl said...

As much as I'd like all the named released, that list was supposed to be confidential. The crapstorm that would arise between the union and MLB if that whole list came out would be immense. Possibly "shutting down the game" immense.

I think it's time to move on, even though I'm very conflicted about that. The players of that generation, clean and unclean, are tainted with the same brush without the release of all the names, but sometimes that's just the way it's got to be.

Steve Gierman said...

I was of the opinion to leave the names unreleased, but whoever is leaking these names seems hellbent on releasing them all. As long as there are names still on that confidential report, there will be names that leak.

All the names will be released eventually, so I'd rather get it all done so baseball and the fans can get past this ugly part of the game. With someone leaking names, this list will hang over everyone's heads until all the names are revealed.

James said...

Treat it like a bandaid... rip it off fast and the pain will go away quicker. Just release all the names now and be done with it.

GOGOSOX60 said...

I remember actually being excited about the Sox getting Sammy Sosa, as he was gonna be a speedy, decent glove and power hitter.

Great Crosstown game today, way to go John Danks!

'30-Year Old Cardboard said...

Very well said. I could not agree with your last 2 paragraphs any more...

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Steve.

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