Sammy Sosa walked disgruntledly out of Wrigley Field in the middle of his final game with the Cubs back in October 2004. He was fined $87,400 for going AWOL and the Cubs traded him before the start of the 2005 season to the Orioles for Jerry Hairston Jr., Mike Fontenot and Dave Crouthers.
The relationship between Sosa and the Cubs has been strained since that incident — and the PED stuff hasn’t helped — but it might be time to let bygones be bygones. Here’s new team chairman Tom Ricketts, speaking in front of fans and reporters Saturday at the annual Cubs Convention in downtown Chicago:
“When we got here, there wasn’t much communication and we just really haven’t focused on it,” said Ricketts. “But maybe it’s an issue we pick up this year and see what we can do about it.”
“With Sammy, it’s awkward. I think over time there will be a good solution for all this stuff. But obviously we saw what happened with the Hall of Fame voting this year. I don’t know. It would be nice to put this chapter to rest and just welcome back all the guys who were from that era who were suspected of doing whatever.”
Those quotes come courtesy of CSNChicago.com’s Patrick Mooney. Sosa hit .284/.358/.569 with 545 home runs and 1,414 RBI in his 13-year stay with the Cubs. He owns several prominent franchise records.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.