First things first… the elephant in the room. Did Sammy Sosa cheat? As far as black letter law, yes. He was caught with a corked bat on June 3, 2003. That violates the rules, which he was caught and punished for, whether he used the bat intentionally or not. The New York Times also reported that Sosa showed up on the 2003 survey of PED users. Sosa himself said, under oath, “To be clear,I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything.” That is likely untrue. He probably did. And it doesn’t mean a thing.
As we’ve reached the point in the season that the Cubs embark on a home-stand celebrating the 1990s, however, this is a point where Sammy Sosa needs to be back at Wrigley Field. It is simply unacceptable that the Cubs not acknowledge Sosa’s existence during that decade when he was the Cubs during the decade. His .277/.336/.542 slash line, his 307 HRs all accompanied by signature hop, and his 1998 NL MVP award leading the Cubs to a playoff berth are all things to remember in a celebration of the decade. They happened. They mattered.
By not bringing Sosa back for the celebration of the 1990s, the Cubs appear to be, at best, hiding from Sosa and, at worst, erasing his existence as a Cubs legend. That’s right. He’s a Cubs legend. If a guy hits 545 HRs for a team and is the face of the franchise, he’s a legend, no matter how and why he left the team.
Going through this exercise of celebrating Wrigley Field, decade by decade, was a pretty good idea by the Cubs. Not inviting Sammy Sosa for the 90s is a monumental error. As blasphemous as this is going to sound, Kerry Wood is hardly worth celebrating in the 1990s. He appeared in 26 games in the entire decade. Sure, one of those games was historic. Let’s remember it. But as a whole, Kerry Wood should be most celebrated on the next home-stand, when the Cubs celebrate the 2000s, where he led the team to the brink of a World Series appearance. Without Sosa, the Cubs are stuck with Wood’s game and then guys like Kevin Tapani and Brian McRae, who ain’t moving the needle.
Surely, the omission of Sosa has to be linked to the potential fan reaction. After all, who wants to celebrate a decade with the star player from that decade getting, at best, a mixed reaction? It makes sense. At the same time, fans have the right to boo. And Sosa deserves any boos he gets. His probable PED use, the way he became a diva as his career wore on, the 2004 exit, and the clubhouse boom box all lend itself to Sosa getting a chilly reception. Ultimately, though, that is for the fans to decide. I would cheer. Many would join me. Others would boo. They wouldn’t be wrong. As Cubs’ fans, we all get to remember Sammy as we see fit. For me, he is a massive part of why I am a baseball fan. That’s probably true for many Cubs fans who are around my age (29). We grew up with him. He watched his majestic blasts onto Waveland. We were captivated by the 1998 chase. It needs to be acknowledged by the team…who probably hasn’t given back any of the money they made by selling #21.
Sammy Sosa is connected to the Cubs, no matter what. The vast majority of his 609 HRs came with the Cubs. He hit number 600 against the Cubs. He was the face of the franchise for over a decade. He walked out on the team he made his name with. Stopping short of Ernie Banks, though, Sammy is in the discussion of the next most famous (and should probably be considered the greatest) Cub. He should be at Wrigley for this home-stand. And the next one. It’s time to bring him back…and let whatever happens happen.