Sosa Takes the Road Not Traveled

While Cubs manager Dusty Baker pondered another apathetic offensive performance Monday night at a local Milwaukee watering hole, Sammy Sosa decided that he had finally heard enough of all of the batting order rhetoric. Sosa called Baker three times after the 3-1 loss to the Brewers, and it wasn't until the early morning hours that the two men finally connected.

Sosa offered to move down to the five spot in the order for the good of the team and most likely his sanity. While the end result was the correct one, the process leading to this point was far from perfect. One would be hard pressed to recall any instances when a player, especially one of Sosa's stature, felt compelled to hang his head and volunteer to move down in the order. It doesn't happen because it shouldn't happen.

The batting order adjustment should have been made by one person and one person only, Dusty Baker. Instead of acting in the best interests of the team and moving Sosa down himself, Baker's course of action was to take no action at all, and force one of the game's preeminent sluggers to question his own ability.

Ironically, Baker chose to comment publicly in one area that he should not have any, Sosa's batting stance and did not take charge in one area where he most certainly should have, the batting order. By mismanaging these two events it is highly probable that Baker has sent Sosa's confidence to a depth that may be too low to dig out of.

Prolonged slumps have a tendency to make fans and media forget about a player's career accomplishments, and Sosa's case is no exception. The Wrigley faithful have become the Wrigley hateful, booing loudly and angrily after every Sosa at bat. Some argue that Sosa puts more time into his antics (running out to his right field position and the trademark hand gestures) then he does his game. Others complain that too often his home runs come with the bases empty in games already decided. Statistics have a funny way of puncturing myths however. He is among the league leaders over the past several years in home runs hit in the ninth inning on. And Sosa's antics are a non-issue, because his energy level never wavers and his hustle never falters.

Media and fans have spent the better part of the last month measuring Sosa against his salary, his spot in the batting order and younger versions of himself. Booing is the right of every fan, and Cub fans have exercised this right in full force. The stakes are high, and Cub fans do not have much experience in rooting for a team beset with stratospheric expectations. So fans boo. Corey Patterson, Joe Borowski, Kyle Farnsworth, and Sosa have all taken tours as the scapegoat du jour.

The drop in the order did not pay immediate results for Sosa and it is anyone's guess if the move will make a difference. But hopefully the situation will serve as a lesson to Baker that, as the manager, he should be the one to act decisively for the betterment of the team and not wait for Sosa to stew, Todd Walker to rust, or Kyle Farnsworth to implode.


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