By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) When it comes to Sammy Sosa’s future, AOL Fanhouse columnist Lisa Olson has a bold prediction.
“Within a few years,” she wrote in a column published on Thursday, “the Cubs will hoist [Sammy] Sosa’s No. 21 up a foul pole at Wrigley Field, a pinstriped flag that will fly alongside Ernie Banks and Ron Santo and all the other greats. Waves of ovations will bring Sosa to tears, remind him of all the many times when Cubs fans loved him unconditionally. He’s never really stopped craving it.”
Oh, I’m sure Sammy hasn’t. But Sosa’s need for affection happens to be the only part of Olson’s prediction that I find logical. In regards to the rest of it, well, I think she’s using a cracked crystal ball.
Or perhaps her fortuneteller is on PEDs.
Last September, Kerry Wood urged the Cubs during his own appreciation day to better appreciate Sammy Sosa and other ex-Cubs, saying “It would be a shame to not have those guys. Sammy and Mark McGwire pretty much singlehandedly brought the game back by themselves (in 1998).
“Sammy did tremendous things for the city. We all know how he left and how it ended with him. But ultimately that one mistake he made at the end shouldn’t determine his future here in Chicago.”
After Kerry’s statement about Sammy, the Tribune’s Steve Rosenbloom went on to write, “Wood’s right. That one mistake shouldn’t determine his future in Chicago. No, all the mistakes Sosa made in being exposed as a fraud should determine his future in Chicago, and that future should be non-existent.”
This week, however, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said during Cubs Convention that the club might try to re-establish a relationship with Sosa. Sammy, in turn, picked up that ball and ran with it.
“They know where I am,” Sosa said on Wednesday during a live interview on the website Ustream.com. “If they want to find me, they have to call me. I’m always available.”
The online chat was part of Sosa’s growing digital campaign to improve his public image after he received just 12.5 percent of the Hall of Fame vote in his first year of eligibility. During the interview, Sosa contended that the Cubs should retire his number and that both he and McGwire belong in Cooperstown, although he declined to address PED usage during his career.
“I’m not going to come here and say anything that is going to jeopardize my future,” Sosa said. “Right now whatever it is, it is. I am not (somebody who) is going to go out there and say anything I don’t have to say. I’m waiting for my time. … I don’t like controversy. Definitely, you know, time will determine everything.”
Such statements prompted Olson this week to theorize that for Sosa, “Every day must be like the one on June 4, 2003, when many of the 33,317 souls at Wrigley stood and gave him a tender ovation in his first time at the plate since being tossed out of the previous game for using an illegal corked bat.” She then went so far as to argue, “This proved what he yearned to hear: Fans would adore him no matter how small or great his sins.”
However, while time may have indeed stopped in Sosa’s mind in 2003, a lot has happened with him in the eyes of Chicagoans in the decade since. And it’s silly for Olson to think that Cubs fans are as doe-eyed and naïve about Sammy as they were back in ’03.
I instead believe that if Sosa was to return for an Appreciate Day at Wrigley, he would be showered with far more boos than cheers when he set foot on the field. In 1998, Sammy gave me the most enjoyable summer of my life with the “Great Home Run Race” that he and McGwire staged – both literally and figuratively. I cherished that year and, to be honest, I actually miss the fun-loving, joke-cracking Sosa from those days. He was a blast and a hoot.
But he was also a farce.
That Sammy Sosa no longer exists. Truth is, he never really did. And the last thing I think Cubs fans are eager to do is cheer the guy, retire his No. 21 and raise a flag to honor him for eternity.
Chicagoans may indeed be suckers for the Cubs.
But I don’t think they’re suckers for Sammy. Not anymore.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.