The Chicago Cubs host an annual fan convention during the offseason, where past and present players and coaches come and sign autographs, take pictures with fans, and host Q&A sessions for fans. One player is always left off the invite list, a player who before Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, was the face of the Cubs.
He would fill up the stadium just to give fans a chance to see him play live. He was one of the most exciting players of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. He was a seven-time All-Star throughout an 18-year career. A six time Silver Slugger award winner, and Major League Baseball’s Most Valuable Player in 1998.
Of course, the player is Slammin’ Sammy Sosa.
Sosa had a fair amount of controversy during his tenure with the Cubs, but it certainly didn’t stop them from playing him. He spent 13 years of his career donning Cubbie blue. During one of the Q&A sessions today, a fan asked Cubs’ owner Tom Ricketts when the team will allow the former outfielder to return. Ricketts explained that if Sosa wishes to be welcomed back to the team, he needs to “put it all on the table” in terms of his performance enhancing drugs use.
Ricketts went on to explain that he believes that “players from that (steroid) era owe us a bit of honesty”. Sosa has not been invited back in any capacity since retiring in 2007. He is the franchise’s all-time home run leader, including putting up three years of at least 60 home runs.
He also never tested positive for steroids.
This is the same team, not to mention the same owner, who approved hiring Manny Ramirez as a player/coach, and has acquired Aroldis Chapman and John Lackey. Chapman and Lackey’s cases are a little different, but Ricketts was willing to bring that controversy into the club, so why not let Sammy come back? In fact, back in 2014 when the team hired Ramirez, President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein discussed the possibility of hiring Sosa. Sosa has said multiple times he has no intention of returning to coach anytime soon, if ever.
Epstein said that although he does not know Sosa personally, he does think Sosa would have something to offer to the players in the minor-league system.
About a year ago, Sosa did an interview, talking about his days with the club. Sosa said that he won’t beg to come back, that he has too much pride to do so. However, he feels like he owes it to Chicago to eventually come back, and if the Cubs come to him with the opportunity to come back, he “won’t say no”. Sosa also admitted that he poorly handled the end of his tenure with the Cubs. Sosa said on leaving the last game early: “That was a mistake by me. I should have stayed there. It was the last game. My intention was to finish my career in Chicago.”
However, he wishes that the Cubs could move on and welcome him back. He continued by saying “I know I had a tremendous career in Chicago. When nobody knew who Chicago was, I put Chicago on the map.” Especially during the 1998 season, when it was “Sosa vs. (Mark) McGwire” in the race to see who could put up more home runs, nobody was as exciting or as fun to watch than those two players. During his 13-year tenure, the cubs went 982-1,058 with only two playoff appearances. Without Sosa, the team and Wrigley Field’s attendance numbers would’ve been much worse off.
So, Ricketts and Sosa both seem to have no intentions of backing down. Sosa says he has no reason to admit to something he didn’t do, which is exactly what Ricketts wants from him. Ricketts defends hiring Ramirez in 2014 because Manny was willing to admit his mistakes and open up about his PED usage. Sosa has no intentions of backing down from his stance. He ultimately believes the Cubs will eventually bring him back. He has yet to visit Wrigley field since his time as a player.
He said, “If one day they want to do something, I want to do it in style. If it’s going to happen, it’s got to be the right way. Don’t worry, one day they’re going to do it. I’m not in a rush.” Ricketts is going to be just as stubborn, though. If the team didn’t invite him back during the “perfect” opportunity to, after they won the World Series last year, they may never.
Both Sosa and Ricketts may prove to be too stubborn to ever be able to move on from the past and have Sosa be welcomed back to Wrigley Field. However, Ricketts needs to listen to Sosa here. Sosa clearly would love to be welcomed back but isn’t going to listen to demands set by the team. He wants to do it his way.
Bring Slammin’ Sammy back, Cubs.