Sports View: Sosa suspended for using corked bat
By Chuck Martin
I made an honest mistake, said Sammy Sosa. Uh-huh. Sure. One of the best hitters in the game cannot tell the difference between a corked batting practice bat and a legal bat. MLB hitters spend more time holding, and caressing their bats than holding and caressing their significant others. And Sosa expects us to believe his story. Well, believe what you want, but this is why I cannot believe he made an honest mistake.
First, hitters revere their bats. They are made to the exact specifications ordered by the players. Wooden bat making is an exact science. Players immediately know if a new shipment of personalized bats meet the tolerances demanded. If the handle is too thin or too thick, back go the bats. If the weight or length is slightly off, back go the bats. Corking a bat reduces the weight of the bat by about an ounce. Anyone who has ever used wooden bats can immediately distinguish between a 33-ounce and a 32-ounce bat. If you cannot do that, you are not a Major League hitter. And Sosa is a great MLB hitter.
Second, Sosa said he uses the corked bat to show off for the fans in batting practice. What fans? The Cubs take BP two hours before game time. The visiting team begins its BP 90 minutes before game time. Fans are not allowed inside Wrigley, or most other MLB parks, until 90 minutes before game time. Guess what? The Cubs BP is over before any regular fan can even enter Wrigley Field. Honest mistake? No way.
Third, the corked bat had a large C on the end. Is Sosa blind? He had been in a terrible slump since returning from three weeks on the disabled list for his toenail troubles. He had been striking out repeatedly. A corked bat is lighter but still maintains the density in the sweet spot, which is where hitters want to make contact with the ball. Sosa needed an edge, and he cheated to get it. The bat splintered, he got caught using an altered, illegal bat, and there is no mistake about that. Had he hit a home run and discovered his honest mistake as he returned to the dugout, do you think he would have confessed to the ump? Doubtful.
MLB examined the rest of his bats and found them to be legal. Imagine that. MLB cannot afford to have a scandal that impugns the integrity of one of its most popular players. That is one reason there is no drug testing agreement between MLB and the players union. Sosa claims he does not use steroids, but he refuses to provide a urine sample to prove his denial. He also said he accepted full responsibility for his honest mistake but now is challenging the decision to suspend him for eight games. Make up your mind, Mr. Sosa. You said you would accept your punishment but now you file a grievance.
Sosa is a great home run hitter, an admired ambassador for baseball, and a certain Hall of Famer. But, as of June 3, 2003, for at least one at bat, a cheater. His explanation insults the intelligence of anyone who ever used a wooden bat in a competitive baseball game. Those who are gullible enough to believe his explanation should ask themselves this question: Did Sosa cork his own bat, or did he hire a craftsman to alter his bat, and will he use another corked bat in the future?
The mere fact that he possessed a corked bat is proof of his dishonesty. If you believe his BP story, then he was intentionally misleading fans with his BP prowess. The fans thought he was using a legal bat in BP, but if he was not, then he was deceiving the fans he says he loves. Using a corked bat in a game is detestable. Sosas reputation will forever be tarnished. Unfortunately, this incident adds another sad chapter to Chicagos baseball history. Say it aint So…sa.
Chuck Martin is a Byron resident who has coached baseball and who has an interest in sports.