Saturday, January 29, 2005

Sosa: It Was Fun While It Lasted, But...

Sometimes things have to happen. Have to.

Sometimes an arm or leg has to be amputated. Sometimes plugs have to be pulled, on lives, on projects, on tubs. Sometimes the bar closes and you have to leave. (That sucks, I know. "Last" and "call" are two words right up there with "it's" and "yours" on the list of unexpected two-word phrases you don't want to hear.)

And Sammy Sosa had to be traded.

All good things, they say, must come to an end, and Sosa's tenure as the face of the Cubs has come to a long-anticipated halt as he heads off to Baltimore to be replaced by strange fellows by the names of Jerry Hairston Jr. and Jorge Julio and Minor League Prospects (Who, who, and who?)

Of course, it can be argued that the Sosa era of Cubs history, when you think about it, wasn't all that special. Sure, his spirited gallops to right field, his patented hop off of home plate, and his kisses to the camera will always be looked upon fondly, but what do the Cubs really have to show from thirteen years of the Sammy Show?

Not much. A bunch of losing, one infamous playoff collapse, and a horrendous breakup that should warm the hearts of over-sensitive teenage lovers everywhere going through breakups of their own.

Granted, the perennial Cubs disappointment has plenty to do with the inept and cheap ways of the pathetic Tribune Company, which would rather scalp tickets to its own fans and fight with the city of Chicago over ways to further turn Wrigley Field into a cash cow than win, but, as much fun as Sosa could surely be, let's not forget that he was a guy seemingly more interested in stats and public persona than winning.

Let's not forget that Sosa took steroids and corked his bats. (Merely allegations? Sure. And O.J. was only alleged to have murdered Nicole.)

Let's not forget that Sosa always had to be the center of attention, right down to having his boom box heard above everything else in the Cubs locker room, even the chagrin of his teammates.

Let's not forget that Sosa walked out on those teammates on the final day of last season, on Fan Appreciation Day no less.

Let's not forget that Sosa hasn't once bothered to contact the Cubs during this, the most controversial offseason of his career.

Let's not forget that Sosa fought with Dusty Baker, who has only put together the two most successful back-to-back Cubs seasons since...well, I can't even remember.

Let's not forget that Sosa probably wanted out of Wrigleyville as much as the Cubs wanted to dump his exorbitant salary and his ruined reputation.

Most importantly, let's not forget that Sosa had reached the point where he was largely disliked by his coaches, his teammates, and Chicago fans, an amazingly forgiving lot. Most telling, many of those delusional Cubbie fanatics who'd rather die than give up the hope that some year will be "the year," and who considered Sosa a holy figure, had even come to realize that Sosa had digressed into more trouble than untouchable talent

Sosa had to be traded.

Here's an idea. Find some photos of Sosa, or better yet, a DVD or tape of his highlights. Then pop in Jet's "Get Born" album and flip to the song "Look What You've Done."

Now play the highlights and the song simultaneously.

Try it, it works. It's strangely sad and beautiful all at the same time.

Listen to the lyrics:

"Take my photo off the wall if it just won't sing for you anymore/ 'Cuz all that's left has gone away and there's nothing there for you to prove/ Oh, look what you've done, you've made a fool of everyone/ Oh, it seems like such fun until you lose what you have won."

Amen, Australian garage rockers with the funny-looking drummer who I saw in a Walgreens while you guys were in Chicago and he was with a scorching hot rock chick. I want to be a rock star, too. Then somebody else would be in Walgreens buying my hay fever medicine for me and I could spend my time with scorching hot rock chicks in hotel rooms and strange, new positions.

Incidentally, the very next song on the Jet album has a chorus that howls, "You're gonna get what you need!" Prophetic? We shall see. I like to think that the answers to anything can be found in rock songs, particularly any song written while in the throes of a drug-induced state of euphoric pondering.

Don't get me wrong. GM Jim Hendry still has more work to do than Ashlee Simpson's agent. As it stands, the Cubs' outfield is Corey Patterson and a bunch of wide-eyed hopefuls and modestly impressive journeymen. The loss of Sosa and Moses Alou is a lot of offensive production to replace, not to mention surly attitude and "Just For Men."

The talk is that the acquired prospects will be shipped to Tampa Bay for Aubrey Huff, who is a nice player, but not an outfielder. I'm not sure how this works, and I'm not sure that Lou Piniella, of all managers, would appreciate dealing with any more youngsters.

Magglio Ordonez is still available, though his signing with the Tigers seems imminent.

Jeromy Burnitz is still out there, but he's 35, and his impressive stats were no doubt inflated by playing in the light Rocky Mountain air of Coors Field.

Still, more moves must be made yet.

In the meantime, Cubs fans can decide between begrudgingly letting go of a tainted, sullen hero or accepting that a mixed era has inevitably come to a sad and unfortunate conclusion. It can be argued that Sosa's legacy was destined to take this ugly turn ever since his geri curls shrank and his biceps began to bulge, along with his power numbers, with mysterious rapidity. Sosa wrote his own tale. You get what you deserve, and all that jazz.

Really, though, the end of Sosa's stay in Chicago was imminent the moment last fall his infamous boom box met the wrong end of a baseball bat as unnamed teammates watched, assumedly in glee.

Think about that for a moment. Does that sound like a guy you want in your clubhouse? A guy so disrespected that his personal belongings are trashed to the encouraging chants of wild-eyed, circling teammates in a scene reminiscent of something out of "Lord of the Flies?"

No, not really. I'll take Hairston, his hustle, his encouraging on-base percentage, and his youthful willingness to fit in, to succeed, to keep his boom box volume at a more personal level.

Sosa's gone. It's over. It's all over. It was fun while it lasted, but another summer will come and life goes on. Someone in Cubbie blue will trot out to right field and the Wrigley Field faithful will drunkenly stumble in from the nearby taverns and convince themselves that someday their undying love will be returned and life will be perfect and nothing will ever matter again.

So farewell, Sammy, and good luck. I mean it. You gave us many needed smiles while playing for a team dripping with lasting failure. You will not be forgotten. Ever. And, besides, I'm guessing you'll quite like the end of your career as an aging DH in the American League.

Sorry it had to end this way. But let's not kid ourselves and say it wasn't expected.

Oh, it seems like such fun until you lose what you have won.

But you know what? How funny would it be if Sosa decided not to waive his no-trade clause and this doomed marriage was forced into one more year of cohabitation?

Now that would be total Sosa.


Blogger WarriorFive said...

I notice a common theme with Sosa talk lately. 'Hey, thanks for the smiles. Thanks for the Home Runs and sorry it had to be this way'. I recently said to my wife that if it wasn't for his smile, he'd have been spit upon and swept out of Chicago long ago. Sorry to compare Sammy to BushCo., but doesn't Bush hide his corked bat(rigged elections, Supreme Courts, and Super Bowl hosting states) and steroids (bloated GOP senate and house, Daddy's name, and Oil backing players) behind the smile of Christan Conservitism? Same Bullshit. You're right, Unkown Column, when you say that Sammy gave Chicago nothing other than a sprint and a hop. No pennants, no respect, no fire over his tenure. Had he not been the token player that Chicago Tribune and company could send out there as an excuse and get-out-of-jail-free card for not turning out any winning seasons. For me Sosa turned out to be the girlfriend that I found out afterwards screwed the Footaball and half the Chess team AFTER we broke up. The guy shot steroids and cheated...point blank. Sure, alot of the other power hitters we're doing the same thing, but that doesn't make it right. I never loved Sosa, I only blushed when he smiled, but knowing what I know now, I think the guy should take his ways elsewhere.

7:39 AM  

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