When it comes to Sammy Sosa and the Chicago Cubs, the lack of a reunion – or the intention to have a reunion – should not be a surprise at this point. The former Cubs slugger has been estranged from the organization since the day he left early on the final day of the 2004 season, and nothing that anyone has said since should yield optimism that fences can be mended.
Not that the way he left the organization has been the primary motivation for creating distance, at least not since almost everyone associated with the organization at that time has long moved on, and new ownership took over five years later.
At the Convention, responding to the obligatory annual Sosa question, Tom Ricketts offered his most specific take on why the reunion has not yet happened, and what would need to happen for it to occur.
“I really believe all the players from that era … I think we owe them a lot of understanding,” Ricketts said. “We have to put ourselves in their shoes and be very, very sympathetic to everything, all the decisions they had to make, and certainly as it turned out, after testing had begun in 2002, a large number of players test positive …. Players from that era owe us a little bit of honesty. The only way to turn that page is to put everything on the table.”
In other words, until Sosa owns up to everything that the Cubs – and most realistic observers – believe he did at that time, they will have no interest in bringing him back into the fold.
I can see the line that Ricketts is trying to walk there, and I appreciate his recognition that players at that time were operating with something of a silent blessing from the league, itself, about what they were doing. Not every player was juicing, of course, and I have the most sympathy for the players who did not use PEDs and perhaps did not succeed in that era because of it. But the reality is, usage was rampant. And everyone knew what was going on. So to act now like we can be holier than holy to exclude those players (from participating in the current game, or going to the Hall of Fame) is the height of hypocrisy. I appreciate Ricketts acknowledging that.
That said, the players from that era who’ve been welcomed back into baseball – with a couple notable exceptions – are the guys who were honest about what happened. The Ricketts Family has drawn that line in the sand, and I accept it, even if I’d rather we all just figured out a way to move on. I doubt Sosa is going to comply with the desired admissions.
As recently as February of last year, Sosa gave an interview that made you shake your head, not entirely coming clean about his past, and not really indicating a desire to do so any time soon. Soon after, it was reported that the Cubs had closed the door on any possible reunion.
We’ve said for a good long while now that, while we can’t know all the ins and outs of the organizational relationship with Sosa, it’s long past time for the two sides to do whatever they need to do to make something work.
Am I convinced Sammy was clean and do I totally absolve him of other transgressions in his time with the Cubs? Nope. But I also no longer harbor any ill-will, and simply want to reconnect with so many fond memories of his time with the Cubs. I doubt I’m alone in that.