There are plenty of good Spring Training updates out there along with projections for player and team performance headed into 2011. For something different, I figure it’s interesting to revisit stories of seasons past when, as seems to happen nearly every year, “Hope Springs Eternal” for players and teams.
Thirty-six-year-old Sammy Sosa arrived in Baltimore in 2005 looking for a fresh start after a tumultuous end to his 13 seasons at Wrigley Field. As the Orioles incorporate fresh faces into the 2011 lineup, including a couple of aging sluggers at or around Sosa’s age at the time, here’s a look back on what was being said about Sosa at the time.
If anything, this story reveals how difficult it is to get an accurate read on those things we’re most likely to read about prior to the season — intangibles like a player’s attitude and drive.
The following excerpts are taken from a June 13, 2005, Sports Illustrated article by Tom Verducci.
First, a word from then-Cubs President Andy MacPhail on Sosa following his departure from Chicago.
Says MacPhail, “I do like Sammy. I appreciate all he accomplished for the franchise. To some degree I am sympathetic to him because he doesn’t quite understand the depth of the negativity that he incurred.”
Next, a Spring Training anecdote that suggests Sosa had lightened up and perhaps changed his early season ways.
On his first morning in an Orioles uniform, an on-time Sosa, the guy who made a habit with the Cubs of showing up–he thought–fashionably late for spring training, busted out of the batter’s box and sprinted full-bore for second base, the first in line for what he thought was a team baserunning drill. When he looked back, however, he saw his new teammates standing idly or walking back to the dugout. He’d been set up. But he laughed and lit up one of those smiles that for many people will always take them back to the sweet summer of ’98 and the great Home Run Race.
And finally, some words on how Sosa’s fall from baseball grace perhaps introduced some humility to his persona.
What is remarkable about Sosa this season, though, is what he is not. In Baltimore he is not the captain, he is not the best player in the room, he is not the diva with club officials and personal valets at his side, he is not the clubhouse deejay oblivious to the annoyance of his infamous boom box, he is not–by a long shot, given the boos he hears wherever he plays on the road–the most popular player in baseball. Sosa can’t sell Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn like he used to.
His teammates and manager Lee Mazzilli marvel at Sosa’s boyish enthusiasm and comportment. Pitching coach Ray Miller appreciates the counsel Sosa gives the club’s young Latin pitchers, including Daniel CabreraJorge Julio. Second baseman Brian Roberts praises Sosa for having “the greatest attitude every single day. It’s energizing. He doesn’t get mad and doesn’t get down no matter what. I’ve been amazed at that.”
“It’s perfect,” Sosa says of his fit in Baltimore. “It’s like when you move into a new house. You just want to enjoy it.”