In an article for ESPN Chicago this weekend, Jesse Rogers reported that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said that former Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa isn’t welcome back until he comes clean about his use of performance enhancing drugs. At the Cubs’ annual fan convention, Ricketts said, “Players from that era owe us a little bit of honesty. The only way to turn that page is to put everything on the table.”
Ricketts added, “I think we have to be sympathetic to that era … but the players owe us some honesty, too.”
Sosa, now 49 years old, spent 13 of his 18 seasons with the Cubs, hitting 545 of his 609 career home runs and becoming the franchise home run leader. The Cubs made the playoffs twice while he was there, in 1998 and in 2003. Sosa ranks ninth on the all-time home run leaderboard. According to Baseball Reference, he’s sixth on the Cubs’ all-time leaderboard in Wins Above Replacement at 58.5.
It’s clear that Sosa is otherwise worthy of the treatment teams give to their former legendary players, so for Ricketts to focus on Sosa’s alleged PED use is odd. The Cubs directly benefited from the excitement that Sosa created both on and off the field. Along with reaching the playoffs twice, attendance increased in a big way, peaking at over 3.2 million in 2004. The value of the Cubs increased and people who had invested in the Cubs saw better returns. Of course, Ricketts didn’t buy the Cubs until 2009, but those that did benefit from Sosa’s allegedly enhanced performance never offered to return any of the money they made. The Cubs never volunteered to have the team’s achievements during Sosa’s career stricken from the record.
As Rogers notes, the Cubs recently employed Manny Ramirez, a former player who was suspended 50 games in 2009 for failing a drug test. He was also reportedly among the 104 players to test positive in 2003, though he was never punished for it.
Furthermore, Ricketts’ moral crusade against Sosa rings hollow when the team acquired Aroldis Chapman ahead of the 2016 trade deadline and rode his arm to a championship. In December 2015, Chapman allegedly choked his girlfriend and fired off a gun eight times. MLB suspended him for 30 games, although charges were dropped. As we’ve mentioned here many times, just because charges were dropped doesn’t mean Chapman didn’t act in the way it was alleged. Victims often don’t cooperate with authorities due to fear of retribution from their abuser and/or to not have to relive their trauma. PED use, unlike domestic abuse, is a victimless crime. One does not get to blackball alleged PED users if one has knowingly employed alleged domestic abusers.
EDIT: As a reader on Twitter pointed out, Sosa was accused of beating his wife in the early 1990’s. According to a report from Kevin Van Valkenburg of The Baltimore Sun in 2005:
His wife of less than a year, Karenlie Bright, claimed in Dominican court that Sosa beat her, hit her on the head with a rum bottle and tried to kill her when she refused to grant him a divorce. Sosa denied the claims, and the mess quietly disappeared.
So if Ricketts is going to try to keep distance from his Cubs and Sosa, that should be the reason, not alleged PED use.