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Slam 'em Sammy
by alex ciepley
Sammy Sosa just can't get out of the news. Yesterday he resumed moaning to the press about how he's been treated by the Cubs. This time around, it has to do with Baker's (wise) decision to drop Sammy down in the order.
"I'm not a sixth batter. I'm a cleanup hitter or third because I've earned that right with almost 600 career home runs."
By this logic, of course, Hank Aaron could unretire at this moment and bat third for the Cubs next year. Or better yet, Jim Hendry could exhume Babe Ruth's bones and stick him in the cleanup spot.
As recently as, say, Friday, I really thought that Sosa was going to be back with the Cubs next year. I'm no longer as confident. It's become apparent that he wants no part of the team, and with clubs like the Mets actually expressing interest, I think there is a good chance he will be gone next year.
I'm not of the camp that says you should trade Sosa just to get rid of him. I think you should trade Sosa if you can get good value back, or at least the financial flexibility to allow you to sign a guy like Carlos Beltran.
Many people will argue that he's become a "distraction" or a "cancer", but I would argue that Sosa has been a distraction for much of his career, and it hasn't affected his teammates' on-field performance to this point. I'd also argue that Sosa himself has faced plenty of off-the-field tempests in his career, and he's not been the type of athlete that lets those issues affect how he performs on the field.
When Sosa is physically hurt, his production goes down. But when his problems are salary disputes, or arguments with the manager over stealing more bases, or criticism over his defense, it generally doesn't show up on the score card.
My hunch is that Sammy will have a fine year next year--nothing close to 2001, mind you--but much closer to 2002 than 2004. I'm just no longer sure that season will take place with the Cubs.