It was just a few comments, but, if you’re looking for a turning point in the Chicago Cubs/Sammy Sosa relationship, this could be it.
The Tribune’s Fred Mitchell spoke to Ernie Banks about, among other things, the Cubs’ failure to bring Sosa in for the 100th Anniversary Game at Wrigley Field on April 23. Banks told Mitchell that he hoped to see Sosa at the game, and implied that he’d like to see Sosa brought back into the Cubs family. For his part, Sosa was disappointed that he was not included, and has suggested that he might reach out to the Cubs to try and be a part of things going forward.
Although I believe that bringing Sosa in for that game would have been a mistake, given that it would have then been all about Sosa/Cubs instead of Wrigley Field, I also think it’s time to figure out a way to get Sosa back in the fold. And, when Ernie says things like this, people listen. He’s called Mr. Cub for a reason.
To be sure, even Banks’ comments contemplate that Sosa will have to do some things before he comes back to the Cubs in any formal way (including an open and honest discussion of steroids, as other players have done). But with Banks talking about Sosa being a part of Cubs events like the 100th Anniversary Game, it’s really hard to see the fissure lasting too much longer.
And, hey, if you’ll indulge me a moment of marketing-think: as you know, the Cubs are celebrating Wrigley Field’s history this year with decade-themed home stands throughout the season. It just so happens that the 1990s home stand takes place in late August, when the Cubs are likely to be out of the race, and perhaps stretching for a little excitement at the ballpark. It would also be a slightly less intense time of year to bring Sammy back.
Doesn’t that seem like the stars aligning for Sosa to be the headline act at one of those 1990s games? The decade fits, as does the timing – that gives the Cubs and Sosa almost four months to work out their differences, and get the ball rolling.
Assuming there can be a genuine repair of the relationship, I think the fans generally would be on board with this kind of approach. If you’re celebrating the 1990s at Wrigley Field, Sammy Sosa was a huge part of that. And if Ernie Banks is among the Cubs’ ambassadors that wants Sosa to return, then it should probably happen.
As I’ve said all along about Sosa: there will always be some bad feelings, but I’m ready to let them go, at least enough to welcome Sammy back with open arms. He’s still a legend in the Dominican Republic, and he’s the kind of star that you wish your organization had to talk to/relate to/show off for young Latin players.
I’m not going to pretend there was never any ugliness, but it’s been 10 years. I want to look back and remember the good stuff again. There was a hell of a lot of it.