Cubs slugger likely will be suspended for at least five games for corked bat.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 6, 2003
CHICAGO - Major League Baseball's investigation into Sammy Sosa using a corked bat was completed Thursday, and a ruling is expected today.
Based on precedent, circumstance and likely leniency because Sosa admitted his infraction and cooperated with the investigation, a suspension of five to eight games seems likely.
"I'm prepared for anything," Sosa said.
Bob Watson, MLB vice president for on-field affairs, spoke with Cubs president Andy MacPhail, general manager Jim Hendry, manager Dusty Baker and clubhouse manager Tom Hellman, but not Sosa, at least according to Sosa.
Sosa's name was further cleared - if proving that he didn't use illegal bats previously clears his name - when Hall of Fame officials announced that five Sosa bats in their collection (four from 1998, one from this season) had been X-rayed and revealed no cork or other illegal substances.
"I think everybody feels confident it was a one-time mistake," Hendry said.
Even though Sosa was caught using the bat Tuesday against the Devil Rays, he was allowed to play in the final two games of the series, getting ovations from the Wrigley Field faithful while going 2-for-8 with a run-scoring single.
Whatever punishment is announced today, Sosa is likely to appeal, which works out so he can play in the hyped weekend series with the Yankees, which will be broadcast nationally by FOX on Saturday and ESPN on Sunday night.
"I think the world would be disappointed if he can't play this weekend," Baker said. "Go talk to ESPN and FOX and ask them if they want Sammy to play."
As for Yankees pitcher David Wells telling the New York Post he didn't think Sosa should get to play?
"David Wells has a lot of room to talk," Baker said. "I like David Wells, but I didn't know he was so saintly. I hope they don't bring any skeletons out of David's closest. He's got a huge closet."
Sosa said he didn't appreciate the mocking by former teammate Mark Grace, who carried around a bat with a cork taped to the top and told Arizona teammates, "I didn't know it was corked."
"You see something like that, you're making jokes of a mistake," Sosa said. "You have to understand not good people do that. If that's how he feels, God bless him."
Grace told the Chicago Tribune that the bat belonged to a teammate and that Sosa was being overly sensitive: "I'll never apologize for having fun. It was nothing to take personally."
Since the facts of Sosa's transgression are not in dispute, the MLB investigation seems aimed at finding out whether he used a corked bat before - or, as some say, at proving he did not. While MLB officials were satisfied after testing 76 bats taken from Sosa's locker, it is possible Sosa had other altered bats off-site or a quick-thinking member of the Cubs staff disposed of them.
"The sad part about this whole thing is that he had 70-something bats (checked) and it's like people still don't believe him. That's what's unfair. He was wrong with one bat, it was a bad decision. He made a mistake," Baker said.
"He is being treated like a criminal. The act was a crime as far as baseball is concerned. I wish they'd treat it like a misdemeanor instead of a felony."
STILL, AN HONOR: Several Illinois congressmen are expected to visit Wrigley Field today to honor Sosa despite the possible suspension, according to the Associated Press. The U.S. House voted 372-0 Monday to congratulate the slugger on his 500th home run and praise him as a role model. Today he will be presented a copy of the House resolution.