Sosa's ego a problem ... again

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Sosa's ego a problem ... again

When I walked into Sammy Sosa's house in the Dominican Republic back in 2006, the former Cubs slugger was getting ready for his annual birthday bash, a lavish red-carpet affair that he threw every year that drew celebrities from the baseball world to Hollywood.

Salma Hayek was among the A-listers in attendance that year. I got a glimpse into the private life of a very public sports figure and knew immediately Sosa still thought himself larger than life, even after he had left the Orioles unceremoniously two years before and had his storybook career with the Cubs end bitterly.

He hadn't yet retired from the game, his comeback in the works, but his star was surely faded, yet his sense of self shined brighter than ever.

The first thing Sosa did when he greeted me at the door was give me a tour of his beachfront home in the private resort area Casa de Campo in LaRamana. Our first stop, the foyer where Sammy proudly pointed out the large portrait of himself hanging next to a large portrait of Jesus. I smiled at the obvious parallel he was trying to draw with his artwork and realized Sosa still believed he walked on water.

Egos like this aren't built in a day and aren't built alone. Baseball, the Cubs and fans all had a hand in the making of Sammy Sosa.

Sosa and former Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire are credited for 'saving baseball' back in 1998 when their home run race was celebrated and encouraged. The Cubs, the league and Sosa made a lot of money during that time and not a single person questioned it or balked at the audacity of it. Now that the full extent of the steroid era has come to light, that period went from being glorified to vilified faster than Sosa could whiff at a 99 mph fastball.

A guy like Sosa couldn't fully comprehend going from super famous to super infamous overnight, and so he maintained his innocence and his pride.

When I asked Sammy at his home in 2006 whether or not he had ever used performance enhancing drugs, he of course denied it and said, "there's no evidence of it". Three years later, in 2009, a New York Times article reported that Sosa had indeed tested positive for steroids in 2003. The slugger has never addressed the report.

The answer he gave me back in '06 may reveal why he hasn't refuted that story.

"I really don't have to worry about what these people thinking," Sosa retorted when asked about the perception that he used steroids. "Because this is not my problem. My own world, me, I'm happy. I know who I am. I don't have any control about these people and what they are thinking because they are going to think it anyway, so why should I worry about that, c'mon."

What Sammy said is true, people are going to think what they are going to think about him, regardless of what he says or does, but he is wrong about one thing: it is his problem because what people think is going to keep him out of the Hall of Fame. And believe me, Sosa thinks he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

"Do you think with my numbers I should not be in the Hall of Fame?" Sosa asked me incredulously back in 2006. "Hello?"

Hello? Sammy? Your haters are calling, can you hear them now? Baseball writers are sure to loudly reject Sosa's bid to Cooperstown based on suspected steroid use. I do not have a vote. All I ask of those who do is to decide what you want to do with the so-called steroid era and be consistent with it. Either they are all in based on numbers or they are all out based on what we know about drug use at the time.

You can not pick and choose which suspected steroid user gets in based on how well they refuted the evidence or whether or not they admitted it and how contrite they were. Did they cry during their admission (McGwire)? Or, are they still denying it (Sosa)?

None of that should make a difference. We have no way of knowing the full truth. PED's have forever tainted sports of all kinds and are still tainting the games today.

My sense is that the media and fans want to choose who gets admonished and who gets forgiven based on their own personal bias. Drug users like Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte and Ryan Braun are still playing and still being cheered on. Cheaters like Braun get to keep their MVP awards, but guys like Sosa are vilified. Even McGwire and Barry Bonds are welcomed back to baseball and their franchises with open arms.

Bonds, like Sosa, has never admitted wrongdoing, yet he attends Giants games at AT&T Park regularly. Sosa is persona non grata in Chicago, all because he maintains an arrogant defiance.

How dare he be so cocky? No vote for you until you admit everything and say you're sorry, and if you can manufacture some tears that would help us forgive you. And, after all of that we still won't vote you into the Hall of Fame because than you would be an admitted drug user, right now there's still some gray area.

Oh yeah, and if you can say you're sorry for leaving a Cubs game early back in 2004, you know the incident that ended your career in Chicago? Then maybe you can return to Wrigley Field without getting spit on.

We build our sports figures up to tear them down. Yes, Sosa made his own choices and his own bed so to speak, but standing in his living room six years ago it struck me how much he truly doesn't understand why some people hate him.

I have to admit, neither do I.

Yes, even after Sosa kept me waiting for three hours that day to sit down for the interview in which he made us change locations several times because he didn't want to sit in the hot sun, I rolled with the superstar punches because Sosa is no different than any other out-sized-ego-athlete I've dealt with. Only he's one people choose to hate.

In Sosa's mind, he only did what baseball asked him to do, produce home runs, bring glory back to the game and fans back to the seats. Nobody cared how he did it, until now. Sosa may never get into the Hall of Fame, but if he is living the same kind of life he was six years ago, he may not care.

"My own world, me, I am happy. I know who I am."

Cubs reportedly set to trade Jorge Soler to Royals for Wade Davis

Cubs reportedly set to trade Jorge Soler to Royals for Wade Davis

It appears as if the Cubs have answered two big questions surrounding Joe Maddon's team this winter.

With so many solid options in the fold to play everyday in the lineup, the Cubs now reportedly have one less guy to worry about in the outfield and one more pitcher to add into the late-inning mix.

USAToday's Bob Nightengale reported late Tuesday night the Cubs and Kansas City Royals had a deal in place with pitcher Wade Davis coming to Chicago and Jorge Soler acting as the return piece, though the deal was not official yet as of Wednesday morning.

[RELATED - Wade Davis trade would give Cubs a proven October closer]

As Nightengale also said, the Cubs gave up a lot for Davis, who will become a free agent after the 2017 season and was limited to only 43.1 innings in 2016 due to forearm issues:

Soler has struggled to stay healthy and cash in on his enormous potential during his two-plus years in the big leagues with the Cubs, but he is still young (he'll turn 25 in February) and won't become a free agent until after the 2020 season.

The main question with Soler entering 2017 was going to be where he would play — and how often — given Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Jon Jay and Albert Almora were already in the outfield mix and the anticipation Ben Zobrist would also see some time in the outfield with Javy Baez locking down second base.

It's no surprise to see Soler dealt this winter, but as David Kaplan said on Tuesday's CubsTalk podcast, Theo Epstein's front office is all about years of control, but if the deal goes through, they will have traded four years of control of a guy who was their top trade chip for only a year of control on a relief pitcher who has averaged only 61 innings per season the last three years.

However, if the 31-year-old Davis is truly the only return, he helps give the Cubs a boost in 2017.

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Davis — who spent the first four years of his big-league career pitching for Maddon in Tampa Bay — has emerged as one of the premier relief pitchers in baseball over the last three years.

In that span, Davis tallied a 19-4 record with 47 saves in 54 chances, a 1.18 ERA and sparkling 0.892 WHIP. He also struck out 234 batters in 182.2 innings while giving up just three homers. 

As the Cubs look to defend their first World Series title in more than a century, Davis would help shore up the bullpen and given his past experience, would figure to be able to pitch more than just the ninth inning come playoff time (if healthy). Davis would add another elite option alongside Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. in Maddon's remodeled bullpen.

Soler should benefit from a clear path to consistent playing time with the Royals, especially moving to the American League where he can slot in at designated hitter which may ultimately be his best position.
 

Wade Davis trade would give Cubs a proven October closer

Wade Davis trade would give Cubs a proven October closer

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Cubs are reportedly moving closer toward acquiring Wade Davis — an All-Star closer who’s already notched the final out of the World Series — in a deal with the Kansas City Royals that would involve outfielder Jorge Soler.

The Cubs are making pitching their top priority this week at the winter meetings as they build out the team that will defend the franchise’s first World Series title in 108 years. If healthy, Davis would provide exactly the kind of late-game force the Cubs were looking for when they checked into the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C.

At a time when Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen are looking to smash the record contract the San Francisco Giants just gave Mark Melancon (four years, $62 million), the Cubs could stay flexible for the future and mitigate risk with Davis, who will make $10 million in 2017 and can become a free agent after that season.

“We’re still talking about a lot of things,” manager Joe Maddon said before the Davis reports surfaced late Tuesday night. “We’re always looking to augment bullpens. Bullpens are so different on an annual basis. And I think every organization — especially after this (postseason) — is looking to reinvent their bullpens in different ways.”

The Royals had been at the forefront of that movement, using Davis as part of a deep, powerful bullpen that helped them shorten games and win back-to-back American League pennants and the 2015 World Series.

Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays teams originally groomed Davis as a starter before flipping him to the Royals as part of the blockbuster James Shields/Wil Myers deal in December 2012.

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Davis blossomed in Kansas City, putting up ridiculous numbers as a setup guy/closer. He allowed zero homers in 2014 (1.00 ERA) and 2016 (1.87 ERA) and gave up only three in 2015 (0.94 ERA). During that time, he piled up 234 strikeouts against 59 walks in 182 2/3 innings. He has a 0.84 ERA in 32 1/3 career postseason innings.

Davis, 31, dealt with a strained right forearm this year, but injuries have been a recurring issue for Soler, who would be getting squeezed for playing time even when healthy at Wrigley Field.

The Cuban outfielder has shown flashes of his enormous potential since signing a $30 million contract in the summer of 2012. But Soler (.762 career OPS) looks more like a designated hitter who might benefit from a change of scenery to help unlock some of those physical gifts.

Soler still hasn’t turned 25 yet — or come close to playing a full season in the big leagues — but this is why the Cubs stockpiled so many hitters and prepared to make trades for pitching.

Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop almost disappeared during the playoffs, though the Cubs think that can be largely written off as late-season injuries and issues of timing and sharpness. The Cubs believe in Carl Edwards Jr. but still had to carefully manage his innings and appearances during his rookie season.

This wouldn’t necessarily stop with Davis, either. The Cubs plan to give Maddon some shiny new toys in the bullpen.