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Sosa Just a Shooting Star

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Sammy Sosa has a real problem. A year ago one would have thought the problem would have been attributed to his borderline embarrassing performance in front of congress at the steroid hearings. But now, Sosa has a problem few would have believed before last season. He has a baseball problem.

Forget the steroid allegations (which, I admit, are pretty difficult to ignore) and his questionable attitude. This offseason, the player with 588 career homers has received little interest from anyone for his baseball ability. Sosa was a bust in Baltimore last season. He played just 102 games and hit an uninspiring .221. He also managed just 14 homers. In fairness, Sosa was hampered by injuries.

But at 37-years old, few have wanted to bring the former superstar in, even for an incentive-laden deal.

Part of the problem may be Sosa himself. The man who made national magazine covers and had videogames named for him just a few years ago made over $17 million last season. You’d have to think taking a $15 million pay cut (although lord knows I’d work for the league minimum) is hard for him to swallow.

The Nationals offered Sosa a contract. It has been rumored to be incentive- heavy and for less than $2 million. Sosa turned down the deal. Now, it’s been reported Sosa will retire. If Sosa does call it quits, it will have been a fast fall. Everyone remembers 1998 and the Sosa-Mark McGwire race to break Roger Maris’ mark of 61 homers in one season. But Sosa did not exactly fade after that. Sosa has hit at least 35 homers in six of the last seven seasons.

Now, after one bad season, he may be done.

It has often been said that someone who can play will always be given opportunities, no matter how troubling their character is. But with Sosa, it’s hard to see his character not being the main reason for his unemployment. One can only speculate the reasons for Sosa’s fall. But, just 12 homers away from 600, he apparently has decided another season is just not worth it.

But what of his legacy? There are only four players in the history of baseball who have hit more homers. Only one of those players, Barry Bonds, is active. Dealing with Bonds’ legacy is another issue altogether.

The other three –- Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays -– were assured not only of the Hall of Fame, but also a spot in the discussion of the greatest hitter ever.

And consider some of the hitters Sosa has passed: Mickey Mantle, Harmon Killebrew, and Frank Robinson.

In any other time, Sosa would be signed simply to boost gate receipts. Instead, Sosa is just a name that nobody really wants. It’s sad in some ways. And yet, it’s simply a reminder that no star shines forever, and some burn out faster than others.

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  • Victor Lana

    Maybe it’s just my perception, but I always liked Sosa better than McGwire. I thought McGwire had the attitude, but maybe I’m wrong. Either way, Sammy and Mark’s legacies are extremely doubtful now with the steroid thing.

    However, Mets GM Omar Minaya has long craved Sosa’s presence in Metsville, so I’m not going out on a limb to say I think Minaya will offer him a deal to come down to spring training.

  • Matthew T. Sussman

    That would make him a racist, don’t you think?

  • Bliffle

    How sad. Maybe GWB was right to fire Sosa! And all this time I’ve been using Bush’ firing of Sosa as an indicator of his management ineptness! Should I change? Naaaah. Nobody else does.

  • Matthew T. Sussman

    Assuming Sosa hangs it up for good, won’t it be odd that the 1998 season’s two biggest stars both retired quietly.

  • Victor Lana

    Suss, on comment #2, you know what people were saying. Minaya just wanted a big bat (and big star). He has that with other players now, but he still could pursue Sosa. It would make the battle for right field at Shea very interesting.

  • sal m

    you’d be hard pressed to find another superstar who had a faster fall from grace than sammy…did the steroid use catch up with him or is it the calender??? there have been rumors that sammy is anywhere from 3 to 5 years older than the age he cops to – 37 – and you can do the math.

  • Zach Baker

    I think age is part of it. But again, we are talking about one off year. I didn’t touch too much on steroids because everyone has said everything about it, including me. I guess my real point is, Barry Bonds didn’t play much last year. But if he was a free agent, someone would sign him in a heartbeat, and he’s just as questionable as Sosa. Why is this?

  • Victor Lana

    I repeat: don’t count Sosa out. The Mets have nothing to lose to let him come to spring training and take a chance. Other teams would also be in the running.

    The only other possibility is that his body is shot. I’ve heard guys who were on steroids talking and they say it’s like their muscles were balloons and the air was let out (think Giambi).