I used to have strong feelings about Sammy Sosa, whether positive or negative. But the inexorable waves of adulation and apprehension that marked his career with, and infamous departure from, the Cubs have worn my emotions down to a cold, glassy stone with little sentiment one way or the other. Bring him back, keep him at arm’s length; it really doesn’t matter to me at this point.
That doesn’t mean, however, that I can look away from the comments Sosa made in an interview published on the personal blog of former Cubs media relations employee Chuck Wasserstrom. They’re a little wacky and outlandish, to be sure, but also poetically just coming from a man many still perceive as Judas.
“It’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem,” Sosa responded when asked about being convicted in the court of public opinion. “Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (laughing) — and he was our savior. So if they talk (poop) about Jesus Christ, what about me?”
Huh, so that’s…something. Say what you will about him, Sammy Sosa has always been a man who knows how to command a crowd. He certainly had a flair for the dramatic and rarely left the fans wanting. And what about all of his disciples who’ve long been pining for him to make amends with the Cubs, and vice versa?
“I owe something to the people – to the crowd in Chicago,” Sosa said of coming back to sing the Stretch or attend Cubs Convention. For that, I would come back. But I’m not going to go up there and say, ‘I’m here. Please bring me back and give me a chance.’ No way. I’m not hungry. I have too much pride. They know where they can find me. They’re in their way; I am in my way. If they want to have a meeting – of course … I’m a gentleman. I’d never say ‘No’ to that. If one day it happens, I’d be happy.”
That actually sounds like a bit more of an olive branch than the record-setting slugger has offered in the past, though the familiar caveats still exist. The Cubs, likewise, have long maintained that it’ll take a show of contrition from Sosa in order for them to be comfortable sitting down, let alone welcoming him home. Even if he doesn’t come back in person, Sosa claims he can get up-close access to his old stomping grounds.
“Look, if I don’t see it again, I’ll send my drone over there and I’ll watch it from my house. I won’t have to move (laughing).”
That idea is only too fitting, as Sosa was indeed watching his former team take on Trevor Bauer and the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.
“Wow, it was incredible. Chicago showed the world that they can do it, and I hope they can repeat. As soon as they hired the manager (Joe Maddon), I was very happy about it. That manager gives chances to the young players. He knows how to deal with the young players. He makes everybody comfortable. Many managers – they don’t know how to deal with people. Believe me, this manager has that gift. That’s why everybody wants to play for him, because the guy is great. That World Series was one of the greatest. Both teams fought to the last out. And when (Rajai) Davis hit that home run…my goodness, it was a little bit scary. But then after that, it was amazing. Unbelievable.”
Dammit, he’s almost managing to soften up my impassive stance on his return. The trademark bombast and selfishness are clearly evident, but this time they’re tempered with more self-awareness than I remember Sosa displaying in the past. He’s readily admitting his pride, that he’s in his own way. And he’s rightly calling the Cubs our for being similarly in theirs. Maybe both sides can find a little common ground somewhere in the middle.
And, you know, it feels like some sort of reconciliation would be a lot easier now that the Cubs have won it all. With that massive emotional mote removed from their eye, the frosty relationship with their former superstar is but a mite of dust. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, et al. are the faces of the franchise now and wouldn’t be overshadowed by the return of the prodigal son.
As recently as a couple years ago, I had argued strenuously against the idea of the Cubs proactively inviting Sosa back, firm in my belief that he needed to offer a mea culpa. But does any of that really matter now? Is anyone still holding firmly enough to those stale matters of decorum and propriety that they can maintain this grudge? Even if that’s the case for someone as high up the chain as Tom Ricketts, I’d bet his grip is loosening.
At this point, with the Commissioner’s Trophy in tow and a young team that’s shown us all how fun Cubs baseball can be, I think it’s time to bring back the man who made all of baseball fun again nearly 20 years ago. Regardless of how he left town, and probably even because of it, you know it’ll be one hell of a fun time when the prodigal son returns.
The fatted goat has already been killed and if Binny’s can’t come through on the booze, it sounds like Sammy can just turn the Gatorade into wine. It’s only a matter of time at this point.
“If it’s going to happen, it’s got to be the right way,” Sosa said. “Don’t worry, one day they’re going to do it. I’m not in a rush.”