Stick a fork in Sammy, he’s done
16 February, 2006
So, Sammy Sosa has refused to accept the Nationals’ offer of a chance at their roster and is (presumably) retiring. I have little love for the man — by the time I became serious about baseball, he was pretty much done, and more of a drag on the Cubs than anything else — but I wanted to direct my 2 readers who care about baseball to this lovely post by excellent Cubs blog Bleed Cubbie Blue about Sosa’s career.
Sure, I nicknamed him “Twitchy.” Sure, I dissed the man every time he came up. Sure, I complained loudly to all and sundry when he’d swing too early at three pitches in a row. But I cannot scoff at his slugging accomplishments — steroids don’t help you see better, and it’s judgment, not just strength, that makes a hitter good. That post sums up my “but what do you really think” opinion of Sosa. As far as I am concerned his tragic flaw was merely not handling his diminishing skills with grace.
Interestingly, BCB notes two head injuries that he thinks played a role in Sosa’s decline, and it’s a compelling argument. I didn’t know about the 2002 collision, but I hope never again to see a helmet shatter like Sosa’s did in that game in 2003. It was absolutely chilling to watch someone avoid death by centimeters for the sake of my entertainment.
This is what I love about sports, and what I never seem to be able to explain to non-fans. They ARE the human condition, simplified, with jerseys and logos and referees to blame and a finite end to each game. But all the emotions and struggle with self and others is there, just waiting for observers to use it in an onion of metaphor for anything they need. When I take a person new to baseball to their first game, I get tongue-tied about where to start: the history of the club, what this season means to them, how it’s going? their relationship with the particular opponent, what kind of month they are having and why? Where the game fits in the pennant race, where the teams fit in the league? Each player, where he is in his career, how he’s doing this year or this month and what it means for his future? The (often surprisingly many) ways in which the game/team/moment intersects with the wider world? There are more stories than I can wrap my head around, much less explain, and that’s before the purely techne-cal joy I get out of the game itself: understanding how it’s played and judged, participating by scoring it and predicting it as it happens.
(That’s plenty for now, be assured there WILL be more of this sort of musing as baseball season progresses…)