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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

A Corker from Sammy!

...and the usual hijinks from Professor Chaos.

You have to admit one thing.  The Sammy Sosa corked bat incident provided Sox fans with a few minutes of levity that took our minds of this disastrous road trip.  It also managed to divert media attention away from the continued inaction by Sox management to do anything about the free fall this club is in. 

In case you missed it, Prof. Chaos has apparently lost all contact with reality.  Last week the professor was quoted as saying that this club was built “for the long haul” and that he still believes that Sox hitters are going to snap out of it and make a run for the AL Central title.  At least he didn’t say it’s still early. 

Prof. Chaos, however, is only slightly less delusional than a lot of Cubs fans who, despite conclusive evidence and even an admission on the part of Sammy Sosa that he was using a corked bat, are still making excuses for their fallen idol. 

One caller to a sportstalk radio program went so far as to suggest that someone planted that bat in Sosa’s cache.  Mind you this was three days after Sosa gave as his excuse that he uses the corked bat in batting practice to “entertain my fans.”  The problem with this excuse is that Sosa takes his batting practice early at home when there are few fans present to entertain. 

Sosa’s defense was even more laughable than some of the fans excuses for his cheating.  According to Sosa, he was so involved in the game, that he didn’t realize what bat he had picked up.  In order to believe this, you have to believe that: 

(a) Sammy did nothing in the on-deck circle except watch the game; 

(b) Can’t tell the difference in weight between a corked bat and his regular bat; and  

(c) Doesn’t mark his batting practice bats like every other major leaguer does. 

The problem is that any one of these possibilities strains credulity.  Furthermore, in order to believe Sosa you would also have to believe that: 

(a) Sosa never used a corked bat before in a game; and  

(b) The first time he ever used one in a game, it shattered, revealing the cork. 

Yeah, right.  You could almost believe that except for the fact that after the batboy grabbed the barrel of the bat, it suddenly disappeared and still hasn’t been found.  It would seem that somebody must have known something. 

You have to applaud the quick action taken by Major League Baseball once the foreign substance was found in the bat.  It only took them “several innings” before they got someone in the Cubs locker room to make sure no other corked bats were removed.  With the amount of time he was given, Sosa could have back a truck up to the door and moved the entire locker room. 

Yet many of Sosa’s fans were quick to point out that none of the additional seventy-six bats tested had cork in them.  Some went so far as to say this exonerated him.  I guess this means he only cheated a little bit. 

More troubling were those fans who pointed to transgressions by Hall-of -Famers such as Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford, who have both admitted that they doctored baseballs while pitching, and George Brett of the pine tar incident fame.  Maybe they don’t teach this anymore, but when I was growing up, “Everybody else does it” was not considered to be an excuse for breaking rules.  The usual comeback for that was, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” 

Naturally the media has been all over this.  The Chicago media, who have ignored various accusations about Sosa’s conduct for years, suddenly felt betrayed.  Now, according to them, this places everything he has done throughout his career in doubt.  Much of this is coming from the same people who defended Sosa when he refused to take a test for steroids when asked to do so by an out-of-town writer.  We suggested then that maybe the local press should actually get out and do a little investigative reporting.  They didn’t, and now they are surprised. 

Perhaps the most disgusting display of all came from ESPN.  The Cubs-Yankees game was scheduled to be their Sunday night game of the week, and they could see their rating dropping through the floor to about the fifth subbasement if Sosa was out of the game.  So fans were treated to a two-hour Sammy-thon Wednesday afternoon. 

Among the lowlights were Bobby Valentine stating that corked bats should be made legal, and the sawing open of the bat with which Sosa hit his 498th home run.  The message seemed to be that if one the bats he hit a home run with wasn’t corked, none of them were.  It also served as a great ad for the sports memorabilia company that owns the bat.  It is understandable, though.  ESPN uses Sosa a lot in its baseball programming, and they’ve done a great job of building him up.  They certainly don’t want to see him tumble just before a potential ratings monster. 

They shouldn’t have been worried, though.  Bob Watson waited until Friday to pass judgment on Sosa.  Sammy immediately appealed the eight-game suspension that Watson meted out.  This insured that he would appear on both Fox and ESPN this weekend and that he’d be back for the Sox series June 20-22 at Wrigley Field. 

The big question, of course, is, “Why?”  Here is one theory.  It was noted by many in the media that Sosa had trimmed down quite a bit when he came to spring training this year.  Perhaps with this sudden slimness, Sosa lost a little of his strength and perhaps even his timing.  If that doesn’t suit you, then you could blame his infected toe for messing up his timing.  Sosa, possibly not wanting to disappoint his many fans, refused to take a minor league rehab assignment when he came back from the 15-day disabled list after he had his toenail removed.  This further messed up his timing. 

In order to get his timing and/or power back, Sosa may have decided he needed an edge.  He has been accused of trying to get such an edge in the past.  If those allegations are true, corking a bat would not be incompatible with his previous behavior.  The lighter bat would help his swing, and many ball players believe the cork makes the ball travel farther than when hit by a solid-wood bat of the same weight.  So Sosa used a corked bat. 

One writer has suggested that last week wasn’t the first time he had done so, pointing to Sosa’s use of a similar black bat on at least one other occasion in which he drove in a game-winning run after striking out five times with a blonde bat. 

Whatever the circumstances, the facts are simply this.  Sosa cheated.  Sosa was caught.  Sosa should take his punishment like a man. 

After all, Sox fans have been doing that all year by watching the club that Sosa diverted everyone’s attention from.


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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