First Posted: 1/15/2009
A quick sprint out to right field, a few taps on the old chest, and Major League Baseball finally had its finger-kissing, fun-lovin' Sammy Sosa back.
There was plenty of hoopla Wednesday evening surrounding the Chicago Cubs slugger, who made his return from a seven-game suspension after being caught with a corked bat a few weeks ago.
Whether fans have chosen to forgive Sosa, who claims the whole fiasco was merely a case of having the wrong bat in the wrong place at the wrong time, is still up in the air.
Where MLB stands on the matter, however, is crystal clear.
Originally Sosa was given an eight-game suspension, but that number was reduced to seven after the outfielder appealed.
For baseball's Chief Operat-ing Officer Bob DuPuy, the de-cision wasn't a hard one.
“I am convinced of the sincerity of Sosa's explanation and his contrition,” DuPuy said in a statement. “In my opinion his candor and the promptness of his apology on the night of June 3 were exemplary.
“However, at the end of the day, each player must be ac-countable for his own equipment complying by the rules, whether the violation is deliberate or inadvertent. The suspensions over the past 20 years for the use of an illegal bat have ranged from seven to 10 games. Given the circumstances, I felt that the lower end of the range was the most appropriate.”
Given the dark cloud hanging over baseball, the penalty should have been doubled.
Baseball missed its chance when Sosa's bat, along with his image, shattered that fateful night.
With the game drowning in an androstenedione-saturated, steroid-filled quagmire, fans no longer simply marvel at a gargantuan home run. They now must ask whether the ball, the player or the bat was juiced in the process.
Sacred records are being shattered in this new era of the long ball, yet baseball has done little to preserve them.
That is why it was so impor-tant for them to take a stand with Sosa.
Honest mistake or not, Sosa should have been made an ex-ample out of.
The ruling should have been swift and harsh: 16 games for cheating and a $250,000 fine.
Toss in a stern warning from Commissioner Bud Selig that cheating -- accidental or otherwise -- simply will not be tolerated, and the fans would have seen baseball was serious about protecting the integrity of the game.
Instead, they bought his lame excuse rather than grow a backbone.
So there Slammin' Sammy was Wednesday, hoping to put the whole mess behind him.
“I have to deal with that for the rest of my life, no question,” Sosa told the Associated Press. “But I'm only human. I'm not the only guy in this world that made a mistake.”
Sosa's right about the latter. And he's got the big wigs in baseball as proof.
Jim Stamm can be reached at 739-4322, Ext. 118 or by e-mail at [email protected]