I’m not one to throw stones at those who have already been pummeled by
them but … I’m also not one who looks at the MLB players associated
with steroid use (whether they’ve admitted it or just been linked to or
accused to them) as bad people or outcasts because I likely would’ve
done the same thing. But …
My only beef with the jacked-up sluggers of the 1990s and early 2000
comes when they continue to deny what we all know is true. While
steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs have been in the game for
decades, the recent-completed (wink, wink) “Steroid Era” was the last
time the game of baseball was truly must-see TV and we all know why. We
tuned in more than ever and spun through the turnstyles at our local
ballparks at a furious pace because we wanted to see Home Run Derby
within each nine-inning affair. Everybody loved the then-commonplace
12-9 shootouts that included six or seven long balls typically reserved
for batting practice. We found out with each 475-foot blast that it was
only chicks that dug the long ball and we couldn’t get enough.
Unfortunately for that to happen, the MLB players of that time couldn’t
get enough either. Enough juice that is. But despite the suddenly ripped
physiques and oversized noggins populating the MLB landscape, we all
looked the other way and stuck our proportionate noggins in the sand
because cheating the game equated to a more exciting game and a better
Unfortunately, like anything else, too much of a good thing is bad and
MLB had definitely had more than it’s fill of foreign substances in the
mix. So in came the steroid police, the Mitchell Report and suddenly
what most of us already knew became public knowledge. Players were
cheating the long-standing history of the game by using
performance-enhancing drugs. And shortly after, those associated with
using were vilified. And unfortunately for Major League Baseball, those
being targeted were the games biggest stars. Guys like Barry Bonds, Mark
McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The same guys who just months earlier were the
very source of the game’s renewed excitement level and swooning
attendance numbers. It was very combustible combination.
So the heroes were transformed into villains and villains clammed up
like witnesses in a mafia murder trial. Some denied, some entered the
Witness Protection Program and seemingly disappeared. The smart ones,
they admitted they used, said it was only in attempt to get back from an
injury quicker. They were eventually forgiven, or at least looked at
differently from those who remain steadfast in their denial. Those
players who talked themselves into believing their own lies forever
tarnished their careers.
And that brings me to Sammy Sosa. You remember Sosa, the
larger-than-life, cartoon-like figure that patrolled right field in
Wrigley Field. He “developed” himself into one of the game’s top power
hitters and ruled Chicago in a Jordan-like fashion for much of his
tenure on the North Side. Until he was linked to steroid use that is.
Once the finger-pointing began and Sosa’s numbers started to decline,
the Wrigley faithful and more importantly, the front office began to
distance themselves from the once-formidable slugger. The relationship
quickly soured to a higher degree and Sosa was eventually jettisoned to
Baltimore in a 2005 trade before fading into the black hole of MLB
mediocrity that led his retirement in 2007.
Since that time Sosa has become a recluse of sorts but did turn up in a recent interview for Chicago Magazine. In the piece, Sosa’s bitterness toward the Cubs organization came shining through loud and clear.
“The Cubs threw me into the fire,” he said. “They made people believe I’m a monster.”
He also wondered aloud why the team hadn’t retired his jersey number yet?
Well Sammy, the reason is simple. The reason is because your time with
the team is all tainted. Despite the mind-blowing numbers you produced
and the thousands of fannies you put in the park, you didn’t do it
naturally and then lied about how you did it when given the chance to
As for the drug test he allegedly flunked in 2003—evidence, if true,
that could permanently stain his legacy—Sosa ducked the topic. “I don’t
want to talk about that,” he said. “Let’s talk about something else.”
Apparently dodging the issue is popular in the front office, too. When
Cubs officials were asked why there hasn’t been a “Sammy Sosa Day” or a
jersey retirement ceremony for their former hero, the team responded by
saying they didn’t want to talk about it and asked if they could talk
about something else.