Sammy Sosa in exile while Manny Ramirez rewrites Cubs Way

Sammy Sosa in exile while Manny Ramirez rewrites Cubs Way
August 19, 2014, 9:15 pm
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While Manny Ramirez rewrites The Cubs Way, Sammy Sosa has been pretty much scrubbed from franchise history.

Sosa remains in exile during Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary season, because he doesn’t really have friends in high places or behind the scenes, and he hasn’t followed Major League Baseball’s roadmap.

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein took on Ramirez and his baggage and made him Triple-A Iowa’s player/coach after winning two World Series titles with the Boston Red Sox and getting MLB’s blessing. Team personnel have talked up the way Manny Being Manny has helped young right-handed power hitters Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler.

Whether or not you think Sosa should be posing for the cameras at Cubs Convention or singing the seventh-inning stretch, it’s definitely weird timing with the team doing 1990s tributes during a six-game homestand that began Tuesday night against the San Francisco Giants. 

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Chairman Tom Ricketts got the Sosa question again from a fan at a recent event for Class-A Kane County in Geneva.

“I have a lot of people that are on either side of that discussion that contact me,” Ricketts said. “It’s something I really need to be thinking about. But at this point, I’m not sure what happens next. 

“It’s strange. On the one hand, obviously, there’s an era that everyone’s a little embarrassed about and saddened by. On the other hand, you can’t just pretend that never happened and these players didn’t exist. It’s a complicated question, and one I think about a lot, but I see both sides of it.”  

The Red Sox inducted Roger Clemens into their Hall of Fame last week. The Giants had Barry Bonds come to spring training as a guest instructor. Mark McGwire admitted he used steroids, did the media tour and now works as the Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach.

Like Manny, could Sammy help the next generation of players ticketed for Clark and Addison?  

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“Why not?” catcher Welington Castillo said. “(But) that’s got to start from those guys to want to be open to be here, and teach the young guys and (share) the success they had in the past.”

Castillo grew up in the Dominican Republic idolizing Sosa and spent time around Ramirez in June at the team’s Arizona complex. Castillo rehabbed an injury while Ramirez tried to get into playing shape after signing a minor-league deal that shocked the baseball world. 

“I tried to absorb all that I can from him,” Castillo said. “He’s really open to teach, especially with young guys. Manny was Manny. He was a really good player – and then he did all the stuff that he did. But who doesn’t want to be like him, you know what I’m saying? He was a superstar.

“All the other guys learned from him, even the new guys (who) just got drafted. Right away, they’re just asking, ‘Hey, can I go with you to the cage?’ He said, ‘Sure, let’s go, I’ll be there 7 o’clock every day.’”

Ramirez violated the drug policy twice, walking away from the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 rather than face a 100-game suspension. Epstein said Ramirez ultimately cooperated with MLB investigators, finding religion, turning his life around and wanting to give something back to the game. 

“He was great,” Baez said. “I learned a lot of stuff from him, my approach to right-center, (watching) his routine every day, going to the cage and the way he works. I mean, he’s always got a bat in his hand doing something, either swinging the bat or just hitting in the cage. He talked to all the guys and a lot of guys learned a lot from him.”

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A 2009 New York Times report identified Sosa as one of the 100-plus players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during the anonymous survey in 2003. Even with 609 career home runs, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America has shown no love in the Hall of Fame vote, Sosa falling from 12.5 percent to 7.2 percent during his two years on the ballot.

The Cubs sent out a press release last week that ran almost 1,800 words, promoting the 1990s homestand, mentioning Sosa’s 1998 National League MVP award in passing while highlighting a specialty drink for sale inside Gate D:   

“Adults 21-and-over can enjoy a Home Run Hop. This Dominican-inspired cocktail is made with island flavors including Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, Myers’s Silver Rum, pineapple juice and coconut water.”

The Cubs weren’t shy about promoting Sosa during the 1990s, but almost the entire organization has turned over since his messy exit in 2004. There was also no denying his box-office appeal, making Wrigley Field the place to be and creating the team’s international brand.  

“When I was a kid, I would have to find out anywhere someone had a TV,” Castillo recalled. “Because back in those days, Sammy and McGwire were big. Everybody wanted to see those guys play. Everybody enjoyed it in the Dominican every time Sammy hit homers. 

“One day, I said, I want to be like them, because that was the No. 1 star from the Dominican in my time.” 

It’s up to Sosa if he wants to be a marquee name in Chicago again, or a Sammy Being Sammy hitting coach.      

“That has to come from Sammy,” Castillo said. “I think he doesn’t miss anything like this now, because he’s doing his own thing. But it will be good for a young team like the Cubs (having) a player/coach like Sammy and Manny.

“Who knows? Those guys have to be open to it, and I guess the front office has to be open to them doing the job, too. Let’s see.”