Maybe Sosa shouldn't be so calm

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After spending the last six months or so sitting around waiting for his phone to ring, Sammy Sosa is finally ready to call it quits.

He’ll walk away with quite a resume:
609 home runs (sixth all-time), three seasons with more than 60 home
runs, seven All-Star appearances, one MVP award. Clearly, Hall of Fame
numbers.

He’ll also carry with him, however, the stigma of steroid abuse.
None of it concrete or proven, mind you, but a large enough pile of
circumstantial evidence to raise plenty of suspicions.

In comments made Wednesday to ESPN, Sosa was already engaged in a
preemptive attack on anyone who would doubt his candidacy for
Cooperstown.

“Everything I achieved, I did it thanks to my perseverance, which is
why I never had any long, difficult moments [as a baseball player]. If
you have a bad day in baseball, and start thinking about it, you will
have ten more.

“I will calmly wait for my induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Don’t I have the numbers to be inducted?”

It’s an odd turn of phrase, and likely little more than bluster. Anyone
who would “calmly” wait out such an honor would not feel the need to
announce it to the world. Sammy Sosa is going on the offensive, while
sounding quite defensive about it.

In a thoughtful column for the Chicago Sun-Times, Chris De Luca takes Sosa to task. He has some questions for Sosa that he’d like answered.

Why, De Luca asks, didn’t Sosa meet with Sen. George Mitchell?

Why would Jose Canseco – who has been proven correct on a number of steroid issues – say that the physical changes in Sosa’s body clearly point to use of performance-enhancers?

Why, given the chance to confront the allegations, would Sosa take a pass?

While Sosa is calmly waiting for his induction to the Hall of Fame
— he can expect some anxious moments — he better either keep his
mouth shut on the subject of steroids or be willing to take the
allegations against him head-on.

So is Sosa a Hall of Famer? If it were solely up to the numbers, the question would be ridiculous. First ballot, no problem.

But as Mark McGwire has found out, it’s not going to be that easy. When
Sosa’s name comes up on the ballot in five years, voters will be faced
with these two questions:

1. Do you believe Sammy Sosa took performance-enhancing drugs?
2. Does it matter?

In the next five years, more information could come forth either
damning or absolving Sosa on the first question. It’s unlikely, but
possible.

So it will probably come down to the second question. Does it matter? Keep in mind, voters are asked to consider character.

Voting — Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

So far, based on the actions of Hall of Famer voters, it does indeed
matter. Unless Sosa comes up with a good explanation, he would be
advised to not sit and wait so calmly.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

Blue Jays roster and schedule
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”