Did Sammy Admit It Without Admitting It?

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Did Sammy Admit It Without Admitting It?

Chicago Cubs

In an otherwise disappointing event, there was at least one moment in last night’s premier of ‘Long Gone Summer’ that stood out to me.

It came as Sammy Sosa, late in the doc, was asked about his current lack of a relationship with the Chicago Cubs organization. As you’ll recall, Sosa is something of a persona non grata until, in Chairman and Owner Tom Ricketts’ words, Sosa provides “a little bit of honesty” about what happened during the Steroid Era. It’s a controversial stance among some fans. But I think it’s relatively uncontroversial to say here in 2020, that, given what we know of the era – and how MLB did very little to manage what was going on, and perhaps even actively encouraged it – the guys who do offer up some honesty are generally regarded pretty well. We put their accomplishments in a certain context, and we remember their performance and that time and place for what it was. Even guys like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, whose juicing arguably most seriously eroded the stats baseball fans hold dear, have been welcomed back into the baseball fold with relative ease after they came clean.

So, then, here’s the moment from the documentary that stood out:

Let me be clear: that’s not an admission. Sosa did not say the magic words, and hey, let’s leave open that 1% chance that he, in fact, never did use performance-enhancing drugs. But the thing about those comments from Sosa? They are different than anything we’ve heard before.

We’ve long heard Sosa’s standard line when asked about whether he used steroids: “I never tested positive.” It has become his anthem, even as we now know it is just a terrible dodge of a legitimate question. Even if you accept that Sosa never tested positive – we could debate the merits of the Mitchell Report – that doesn’t answer the question of whether he used or not.

To me, the way Sosa answered the question in the documentary was new, and maybe it’s because the question was framed around his relationship with the Cubs, rather than a really facile doping question. Sosa wonders why the focus is on him when “pretty much everybody in that era did it?” Obviously we can answer his question with ease (because you’re the 609-homer man that we’re talking about wanting to have back in the fold), but it’s what lies underneath his question that justifies focus. If Sosa is saying “pretty much everybody in that era did it,” then either he’s saying he was the rare exception that did not (he has never even hinted at such a thing), or he’s saying, yeah, of course he did, because everybody did (he has never actually said this).

This is easily the closest Sosa has ever come to acknowledging what happened in that era, and intimating that it may have included himself. Combine it with his mention of Bonds and McGwire in his 670 The Score interview, specifically pointing out the fact that two of the most well-known steroid users in baseball history have been welcomed back into the fold, and it’s like Sosa is working overtime to get as absolutely close to the line as possible without explicitly including himself in the group.

It feels like Sammy is saying it without saying it.

Ultimately, I don’t know that Sosa will ever allow himself to just say the words, and this might be as close as we get: a non-admission that focuses on his perception of being aggrieved. What’s frustrating is that, where he feels singled out is the very thing he could point to as context for an admission! He could simply say, “Yes, I did it, in large part because I felt like everyone was doing it at the time.” Then you apologize, and we understand, because that was the era. It’s over. It’s easy.

Or at least it seems easy to us from the outside. We can’t ever really know what’s going on in another person’s life or mind. After all these years, and with the perfect opportunities this week brought, though, it’s fair to conclude that one thing going on in Sammy’s mind is that he cannot allow himself to just say the words.

So be it. I still wish he were welcomed back.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.