The New Curt Alliaume Blog (calliaume) wrote in illinois_sports,
The New Curt Alliaume Blog

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Farewell, Sammy

It's looking like Sammy Sosa is headed out of Chicago. After spending virtually all of his career in the Windy City (first with the White Sox after a cup of coffee with Texas, then over to the Cubs for the glory years), it looks like Sammy's about to be traded to Baltimore for Jerry Hairston and prospects.

Reactions from the Baltimore side have varied from there's no downside to having Sammy Sosa around to how many oft-injured sluggers will the Orioles acquire? Reaction from the Chicago Tribune columnists is pretty unanimous: good riddance. (Registration may be required.)

I prefer to take the long view. Sammy Sosa has had a terrific career with the Cubs, including a magical 1998. For several years, he was the only reason to watch the team. We can't forget about that.

Somewhere along the line over the last few years, he got sick of losing. For a change, however, the team then surrounded Sosa with more talent -- but that didn't seem to help. I don't know if he had personality issues with Dusty Baker, or thought he'd rather be the one star on a losing team than one of a galaxy on a winning team, or was getting frustrated over mounting injuries and diminishing skills. In any case, he could easily have stayed around had he not bolted during the last game of the season, then dumped all over Dusty Baker (a staunch Sosa supporter until then). But he basically sealed his fate by his angry blast at the team, then silence thereafter.

From the Cubs' point of view, they're probably happy to get rid of some of his salary. Here are his career numbers -- in the last four seasons, his OPS numbers have been 1.174, .993, .911, and .849. You don't want to know what the next number's going to be given the previous four. At least the park he's going to isn't any more of a pitchers' park than Wrigley is.

The big question is, what will the team do to fill right field? Jerry Hairston is basically a second baseman, and an injury-prone one at that. (At least he's an Illinois native -- he grew up in Naperville, and his father had a long career with the White Sox.) With a .378 on-base percentage, he'd be ideal at the leadoff spot. But then who plays right? The only free agents left are questionable Magglio Ordonez, who looks headed to Detroit anyway, and over-the-hill Jeromy Burnitz, who had a good season last year -- but in Colorado, where the air is thin and the power stats are inflated.

Getting back to Sammy, however, I'm reminded of when I was a 14-year-old in New Jersey, and the Mets traded Tom Seaver to Cincinnati. There are significant differences: Seaver was traded at his peak, the ballclub clearly wanted to get rid of him for salary reasons, and newspaper columnist Dick Young forced the issue with a spurious column in which he implicated Seaver's wife was jealous of the salary and lifestyle afforded by former Met Nolan Ryan and his wife. All I can tell you is a lot of baseball fans shed a lot of tears around New York that night, and the team didn't recover its fan base for seven years.

I don't think many people are shedding tears in Chicago. But I do ask that we all remember the good times with Sammy, as well as the recent years. Sometimes it's best for all parties to move on.
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