Sammy Sosa has all but disappeared from Major League Baseball, and Theo Epstein has the power to change that. Last week, Epstein and the Chicago Cubs stole headlines by hiring Manny Ramirez to be a player coach with their AAA affiliate in Iowa. Though Sammy Sosa played 13 seasons for the Chicago Cubs, Theo Epstein went with one of his favorite players from his days with the Boston Red Sox. The move has reopened a wound that may not close until after this generation of baseball fan is long gone.
Both Sammy Sosa and Manny Ramirez play major roles in the steroid era of Major League Baseball. While the substance abuses of Manny Ramirez have been largely documented– he violated the leagues drug policies twice– Sammy Sosa has chosen to deny his use.
During the late 1990’s, Manny was still up and coming with the Cleveland Indians, and Sammy Sosa was in his prime with the Chicago Cubs. Sosa and Mark McGwire were largely credited with revitalizing baseball following the strike season of 1994. Until the steroids era was exposed by MLB, the 1998 season was considered one of the best ever.
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Maris’ single season home run record, and the Cubs were chasing the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL central title. Fans everywhere cared about baseball again, even though everyone knew something was unnatural about the whole experience. Because testing for PED’s was practically non-existent at the time, there are almost no records to prove players like McGwire and Sosa were using.
While Manny Ramirez and others would be exposed through proper testing and documentation in post-steroid MLB, fans and teams are left wondering about heroes like Sammy Sosa. Sosa has never come forward to admit his failings, while Ramirez has owned up to his mistakes. Theo Epstein told Patrick Mooney of Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, “I don’t know where things stand with Sammy right now. But I do know that it was important to us that Manny has been very upfront about admitting his mistakes, that Manny was very cooperative with Major League Baseball, and that Manny is interested in making sure younger players don’t make the same mistakes that he made.”
The relationship between Sammy Sosa and the Chicago Cubs is so bad, they did not even invite him to participate in the 100 year celebration of Wrigley Field last month. Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, told the Chicago Tribune that he hoped Sosa and the Cubs could move past the quiet feud that has developed over the last decade.
“We had Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire… a lot of guys… Alex Rodriguez. They admitted to doing something that is not right. But I don’t know if Sammy ever admitted to that. (Sosa) is quiet a guy. He did a lot for this organization. And nobody could answer (why he was not at the celebration). I wanted him to come. And later on it came out that Sammy wanted to come. Nobody invited him.”
It seems that what matters most to Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs is for Sammy Sosa to publicly apologize for the harm he did to the organization. With each year that passes, it appears that the Cubs are hoping the Sammy Sosa era would just fade away. Unfortunately for the club, fans and record books just won’t let Sammy Sosa vanish.
[Image via NY Daily News]