Every year at the Cubs Convention somebody asks Tom Ricketts a question about Sammy Sosa and every year (at least since 2010) Tom bungles the answer. It should not be a hard question to field, especially since he knows it’s coming. What he should do is assemble his crack public relations team before the event and strategize how best to answer that question.
What could go wrong? These are the same PR advisors who handled the Cubs throwing a giant get well soon card for Ron Santo (signed by hundreds of Cubs fans) in a dumpster right behind Wrigley Field. They’re the same ones who couldn’t adequately explain why they threw away a huge inedible cake–it was inedible! Short of putting it in a cake museum, what else is there to do with it?
What Tom should do is enlist the friends of the Cubs on Twitter. You know them, they’re the ones who post shouty, “He’s not the owner of the Cubs!” tweets whenever Joe Ricketts does something despicable in politics or shuts down another media outlet because the employees want to make a living wage.
Anyway, this year Tom Ricketts really stepped in it when he was asked about Sammy. He gave a broad answer about all of the “Steroid Era” guys and said that they “need to put everything on the table.” But it was clear that he was talking about Sosa.
I wrote about it on The Athletic last Monday and a few people, not many, but a few, accused me of being mean to poor Tommy. I also got some crap for things I wrote about Crane Kenney and how I think he’s doomed to completely botch the Cubs local TV rights deal in two years. I’m not right often. But I’m right about this.
There was much Sosa discussion all week and the hot takes were flying.
Two of the more obnoxious hot takers were, without much surprise, the Cubs mascot who does wear pants, Dave Kaplan and Chazap Barber College customer of the decade David Haugh. Both of them are anti-Sosa’s re-acceptance by the Cubs and both kept saying, “So, you want Sosa to come back and be a Cubs ambassador?”
First off, let’s not act like being a Cubs ambassador requires US Senate approval. Ryne Sandberg is a Cubs ambassador and I don’t think they’ve sent him to Venezuela to talk to President Maduro about how sanctions are affecting the country’s ability to export shortstops.
Secondly, I don’t think I’ve heard anybody insist that Sammy get any kind of official role with the team.
The outrage, such that it was, was about Ricketts insisting Sosa apologize. Nobody’s asking for a statue, or a number retirement (except strangely, Hub Arkush), or him to even get invited back to the stupid Cubs Convention. If the Cubs simply gave Sosa the treatment they give to class 4A boys’ swimming state champions in any random year, that would be fine. Have him wander out onto the field and throw out a first pitch. Have him wave to the crowd, and have him leave the game early, just like he did on the final day of the 2004 season.
Now, the reason Kaplan and Haugh are more adamant than most is because Sammy screwed them a few years ago. They thought they had a big scoop. Back in 2015 they thought they were going to have Sosa’s big “come clean” moment on their little listened to radio show on that ill-fated FM all sports station. Kaplan apparently flew to Miami to interview Sammy, but before the interview, Sosa backed out saying that the ambassador (there’s that title again) to the US from the Dominican Republic told him not to do the interview.
Let me just say what I think about all of this.
I personally do not care if the Cubs ever bring Sosa back. I liked Sammy when he played for the Cubs, and his 1998 through 2001 seasons were amazing. But I caught on pretty quickly that something was wrong during that era. Guys were fucking huge. But, I didn’t really care. The only times I’m glad that baseball’s morality police go off on people are when it keeps Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens out of the Hall of Fame, because I think both of them are assholes. Until Anthony Rizzo in game four of the 2015 NLDS, Sosa’s homer off of Ugueth Urbina in game one of the 2003 NLCS was the loudest Wrigley’s ever been (it got pretty loud when Kerry Wood homered in game seven, but there was a lot of desperation in that eruption–Sosa and Rizzo’s elicited pure glee…anyway…). Sosa left under sad circumstances, and it was somehow overshadowed by how relieved we were that Chip Caray was also leaving.
All I really care about is that the Ricketts drop the act. If you don’t want Sosa around because he’s weird, and kinda creepy, and because you think he’s going to say weird shit, that’s fine. But don’t hide behind the idea that your morals are at such a level that you can’t play nice with him unless he drops to his knees and begs for mercy. You had no problem trading for Aroldis Chapman in 2016, you had no problem playing Addison Russell during baseball’s investigation into whether or not he abused his wife, and as far as we know that’s still never been resolved. To think that you can accept, to some degree, domestic abusers, but not a guy who might have taken PEDs at a time when much of the league was doing it, is an absurdity. You also had no problem hiring Manny Ramirez, a three time PED test flunker, and having him coach your impressionable young players at AAA Iowa.
Demanding a mea culpa from a player who played on the team long before you owned it is petty, and misguided and quite frankly a dick move.
So, Tom, the next time you get asked about Sammy, have a better answer.