Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2007

Commentary: Sosa rebirth would be huge in Texas

February 1, 2007


Moments after the Sammy Sosa news conference, ESPN Radio's Dave Shore hustled over to clarify one of my penetrating questions regarding the Rangers' latest hired gun.

Shore: "Did you realize you used the word 'juice'?"

Me: "Uh, no."

But while we're at it, let me say this: Sosa should "inject" some real enthusiasm in a fan base that could use a "boost," particularly if he makes "clear" that he's still the "cream" of baseball's power hitters and not just a washed up "Barry Bonds" or "Mark McGwire."

Editor's note: Any more buzz words from here on out are absolutely unintentional, unless specified by the author.

Many readers have expressed concern as to what the Rangers could be thinking, bringing back Sosa. Maybe you think it's loony, too. Out of baseball last year, Sosa was about as ineffectual for Baltimore in 2005 as he was in his testimony before the House committee investigating steroids abuse in baseball.

Good news: In Tuesday's conference call, he seemed to understand most of the questions quite well. Maybe he just doesn't understand politicians.

Anyway, Sosa has all the right answers now. Even more important, the Rangers make all the right points.

The risk/reward factor is higher on the reward side. He's signed to a minor-league deal, meaning he doesn't have a guaranteed roster spot.

He comes in and stinks it up, he's gone. He comes in and acts like a diva, he's gone.

He comes in and even approaches what he did before 2005, and the Rangers have plugged a significant hole in the lineup.

Maybe you remember Sosa's numbers: Nine straight seasons of at least 100 RBIs, 12 straight seasons of at least 25 home runs, 11 times at least 35, three times he's climbed the magic mark of 60, fifth on the all-time home run list with 588.

The guys in front of him? Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron.

Of course, you could bring back Hammerin' Hank, too, and it doesn't mean he'd scare anyone but his cardiologist.

But let's try another comparison. A once-feared slugger puts together meager back-to-back seasons. Then last year, at 38, the same age Sosa is now, he hits 39 home runs with 114 RBIs.

Moral: Frank Thomas turns that season into a two-year, $18 million deal with Toronto.

Question: Can Sosa put up those kinds of numbers for the Rangers?

Answer: If he does, people will start asking questions with the word "juice" in them again.

Let's be realistic. What if Sosa hits, say, .270 with 25 homers and 80 RBIs? Would you take that behind Mark Teixeira?

"I want more than that," Rudy Jaramillo says.

No one knows Sosa's swing better than Jaramillo. No one is better prepared to fix it.

Jaramillo has known him since Sosa was a skinny 16-year-old kid coming up fast with the Rangers. Of all the great hitters he's been around, Jaramillo says Sosa is the toughest mentally. Even at 38, after a year away from baseball, Sosa would worry opposing pitchers.

Jaramillo says it's all still there: the bat speed, the work ethic, the body, the will.

The downside? He'll be the center of a media storm in spring training.

Here's what I believe: Sammy Sosa deserves a second chance, especially considering the bargain rates.


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