Archive for Sunday, November 7, 2004

Commentary: Cubs desperately need taker for Sosa

November 7, 2004


— It could be we're too close to the Sammy Sosa situation to have a reasonable perspective on the guy. It's possible we're having trouble seeing the cork forest for the cork trees.

But I doubt it.

So we ask ourselves: Why would any team in its right collective mind want this guy? What can he offer even the most gullible franchise? And why do we feel the perverse need to ask these questions when all we want is for Sosa to go away?

The Cubs would rather not ponder any of it as they try to trade Sosa, the greatest home-run hitter in team history and a man who somehow became one of the biggest horse's patoots the club ever has had (no disrespect intended, Dave Kingman).

The reality for the Cubs is that they have to trade him and his $36 million contract if they want to make a run at Houston's Carlos Beltran and a quality closer. Conventional wisdom says the Cubs are going to have to swallow about half of Sosa's contract if they want to move him. History tells us the Cubs have a strong gagging reflex when it comes to swallowing contracts.

They say they expect Sosa to be their right fielder next season, which is what they're supposed to say if they want to strike a better deal. But the Cubs want him out of here in the worst way after his petulant walkout at the end the season. The Mets reportedly have expressed interest. Here's hoping they didn't pay much attention to the Cubs this year.

If they did, they saw a former superstar in serious decline.'s Jayson Stark says Sosa had the fewest runs batted in (80) in history for a player who hit 35 homers in a season. He struck out once every 2.49 times he stepped to the plate. The Mets probably know Sosa can't field his position well, and he treats the cutoff man the way a miser treats a panhandler.

The lure, theoretically, is Sosa's drawing power. A team that has trouble filling seats will look at Sosa as an attraction. And he probably will increase attendance somewhere, but not to the extent some people might think. Wrigley Field is packed because it's Wrigley, not because Sosa is playing there. When the Cubs are on the road, attendance increases because of Cub fans, not Sosa fans.

This isn't Michael Jordan coming out of retirement and filling arenas for Wizards games. Sosa doesn't have that kind of appeal anymore. He used to, when he was smiling and hugging Mark McGwire during their home-run race. You don't cork your bat without it having an effect, though. And you can't abandon your teammates on the final day of the season without creating a fan backlash. But we will leave other teams to their delusions and hope somebody sees Sosa as a cash cow.

As a Texas scout, Mets general manager Omar Minaya signed Sosa out of the Dominican Republic in 1985. If he has a soft spot for Sosa, it would be perfectly understandable. And maybe he sees something many of us can't see anymore. The Cubs had better hope so.

If Cubs general manager Jim Hendry can pull off a Sosa trade, he should be Tribune Co. employee of the year. Then he can set his sights on Beltran, who wants a 10-year contract, according to agent of darkness Scott Boras. There might be a team crazy enough to give that to him, but it won't be the Cubs.

With Sosa out of the picture, though, anything is possible. The Cubs have to prove they're serious about the foreign concept of winning a World Series. Getting Beltran would prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. But losing Sosa would be a nice start.

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