Over the past few decades Major League Baseball has experienced some changes, changes that have affected everything, right down to the way the game is played. But no matter how many changes this sport is subject to, it always remains
America’s favorite pastime, even if it sometimes gets lower ratings than NASCAR.
One of those changes is that recently, good ol’ baseball has transformed into this alliance of rich men with richer bosses and expensive equipment (but as long as the game’s good, who cares, right?), who come from all over the world: from the Caribbean to Japan, all to make some bucks by simply playing some ball. These men are watched closely by millions of fans from different countries who all hope their favorite player, their favorite team will succeed. Well, I’m one of those fans.
As an outside-the-U.S. fan, I have to follow how my countrymen are doing in the Majors and, as a Dominican, I have to be damn proud of them too. You see, the
Dominican Republic is a very tiny country with nothing, almost, to make it special. Sure, we’ve got beautiful beaches and all, but you will never see us in a G-8 summit, however, I still love my third-world country (and yes, we do have juice boxes).
But no matter how insignificant a country you might think this is, it was still able to “grow” some great talent, such as Juan Marichal, Vladimir Guerrero, Rico Carty, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, etc. And it honestly feels really, really good to say that those men are Dominicans. So, you’d think we have a lot to be proud of, right? Well, we do, but we also have a lot to be ashamed of… who, for example? My first vote goes to Sammy Sosa, oh, and that other kid that lied about his age to play in the Little League World Series… he was like 15!
In my opinion, Sammy Sosa has brought shame to the
Dominican Republic and it really pains me to see that the rest of the Dominicans are too nice to admit it. They’ve given him an infinite amount of opportunities, and I just can’t stand it anymore. I’m here to tell the world, that Sammy Sosa needs no more chances, he hasn’t earned them.
The truth is that Sosa was a great player; he used to be an icon. Awhile ago, here in the Dominican Republic, when you talked baseball, you talked Juan Marichal, but honestly, after 1998, when you talked baseball, you talked Sammy Sosa. Everybody knew who he was here, even those who didn’t know anything about the sport! Sammy was really our Dominican hero, after him, nobody’s been able to reach the status he did.
In 1998, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were given the honor of reviving baseball. After the ’94 strike, the mood was bleak, people were hardly going to the stadiums and a lot of the players were still not too happy, as was the country. But these men came in with the goal of chasing a giant: the Roger Maris single season home run record of 61, which hadn’t been touched for 37 years. People finally had a reason to watch baseball, the chase was on, it was like 1961 again but with steroids (of course, what you don’t know won’t kill you).
And after Mark McGwire broke it and the country was divided in those who were glad to see him do it and those saddened by the revival of the Maris ghost, just to kill it again, everybody saw Sosa hug McGwire, and as the whole world had this wonderful warm and fuzzy feeling in their hearts, baseball fans knew the game would never be same again.
Sammy Sosa broke out, the revolution had started. In 1998, Sammy ended the season with a whopping 66 home runs, but he wasn’t the leader, he was second to McGwire’s 70. In 1999, Sammy had 63, but he wasn’t the leader that year either, he finished behind McGwire’s 65. In 2000 Sammy’s dreams came true (not) when he finished the year with a leading 50 home runs. In 2001… well, we’re not even going to go there. After his 64 homers for 2001, Sammy’s super amazing slugger years ended, and he remained a very good player with the Chicago Cubs, who people were still amazed to see and who people still looked up to as the man who revived baseball.
Sammy Sosa deserves all the credit for those accomplishments. Back in 2003, 2004, Sammy was the man for the Cubs, and us Dominicans—myself included—were loving every minute of it! His signature hop after every homer, his odd ‘kiss, chest, kiss, chest, V’ routine, the way he made Dominicans feel special, etc. All of these things made Sammy a true hero. We loved him to death and we didn’t miss a minute of his Major League action.
When people gathered around to watch him, the country stopped. Whenever there was a big game, a Home Run Derby he was participating in, anything at all, people made huge parties to sit around a TV, drinking beer, eating every single Dominican food you can think of, all to see him get a dinger. I remember how it was, I remember the people in my house, my neighbors, everybody, screaming whenever he hit a homerun. People were proud of him; people were so excited to have such an honest, committed and humble man to represent them so greatly in a totally different country. Or so they thought.
When did it all start going downhill, you ask? Well, I’m almost as glad you asked as I am to answer you, but not quite. It all began on a Tuesday, June 3rd, 2003: Sammy Sosa hit a broken-bat grounder that caught the attention of chief ump, Tim McClelland. There was something strange in Sosa’s bat, and McClelland saw it in a piece of it. After checking it out for a little bit, he called over the rest of the umpiring crew, and Sammy Sosa was in big trouble. The most shameful thing that could happen to a professional slugger happened to him: he got caught using a corked bat.
A corked bat is a modified bat. Some baseball players sometimes take a bat to someone with a drill and some experience with it, who makes a deep hole at the thicker end of it, introduces some cork and then covers it up, so it is not noticed. Players end up with a lighter bat with a lot more bounce, thanks to the cork at the core of it. And Sammy Sosa had used one in an official game and got caught.
Naturally, Sosa denied using it consciously, he said he just had it lying around, to use it for batting practice and get the crowd going before the game. But, of course, nobody believed him, even after having his other 76 bats examined and cleared, as well as the ones donated to the Hall of Fame. Nope, Sammy stood there, ashamed, unaware that he was witnessing the start of the decline of his career.
After that episode, many injuries followed, as well as a couple other incidents that have proven that Sammy Sosa was indeed not as honest, committed or humble as people thought.
Sammy went from one injury to another, from one slump to another and from one boo to another. The 2005 season ended for him without any opportunities for 2006, year which he spent traveling around with the Dominican president, forming a ‘representative committee’ to go to many different countries in search of political negotiations (but who cares about that). And when 2007 came, Sammy found himself with very little offers yet again. I remember this one particular incident where he himself said that he was in the middle of negotiations with the Washington Nationals, rumor that the team bluntly denied. After a while, though, they did offer him a couple of minor league contracts, which he declined. Then, the Texas Rangers offered Sammy another minor league contract which he agreed to; he probably realized that a minor league offer was the best he would get.
Sosa made the roster and is now playing with the Rangers and has had a regular to mediocre season so far, but, in all that, has exceeded expectations, at least my own. He’s got 10 home runs, 46 RBIs, 18 walks, 60 strikeouts and a batting average of .248. Where he stands, he is just a couple of homers shy of 600, but he is also in a horrible slump given that he hasn’t hit one since May 22nd, that’s 66 at bats with no dingers.
But you know Sammy Sosa and you know that that cannot be his worst streak, well it’s not. In 1992, while with the White Sox, Sosa went 132 at bats with no homers, that made up 28 games. In 2005, while with the O’s, it was 72 at bats, rounding up 20 games. His third longest streak was in 2003, with the Cubs, when he didn’t hit any homers for 68 at bats, 17 games, he’s closing in on that last one.
Sammy is indeed a good guy, deep down; he just needs a little help finding that again. He’s done a lot of good work in the
Dominican Republic: he’s opened baseball leagues for disadvantaged kids, he’s made huge donations to our country, he’s made some campaigns to fight poverty, among other things. But what really bothers me is that most of those things he did before his fallout, after 2005, I haven’t heard of a single thing he’s done out of the goodness of his heart since then. And you know what? I’m not saying that he’s got to do all of that to be a good guy, the problem is that his dedication to the Dominican community was what characterized him, that’s what made people admire him and consider him the fun loving guy everyone loved.
Okay, I’ve pointed out his high points and his low points, but why do I despise Sosa so much? Well, to me, he’s a cheater, and not just the kind of rule-breaking cheater, but the disappointing-the-people cheater. And if there’s one thing I hate is when someone lets down the people that place their trust on them; that is just despicable. Sammy Sosa was idolized by Dominicans and he’s let them down, and they’re so great, so loving, that they don’t even realize it.
In my opinion, Sammy Sosa has used steroids. I’m sorry, guys, but I can’t hold it back anymore. I honestly think he has, it’s not about the Canseco book, it’s not about the rumors, it’s all about him and knowing the way he is, his character, what he’s capable of, and I think he’s capable of deceiving to that extent. Look at him, he’s got the perfect steroid body, and the perfect body-obsessed attitude. Sammy loves to show off his body, he’s the first guy I’ve seen who shortens his sleeves and tightens them to show off his guns. Trust me, that is not a gym body, that’s a juice body. Have you seen how thin he was? And how big he got? And how that change happened right around the time he broke out as a real slugger? It’s perfectly clear, if you ask me.
Now, now, don’t go getting all riled up on me; this is just my opinion—what I think. And, you know what? If you’ve got something different in mind, that’s your thing, just don’t try and get me to change my outlook on the deal, because I simply won’t. I write to say what I think, so I’m sorry, dudes!!
Sammy Sosa disappointed me, and he’s disappointed his fans, that’s the bottom line. But, is there room for recovery in Sosa’s future? I’ll let you decide.