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Popping the Cork
2003-06-04 22:19
by Mike Carminati

Evdently, MLB found no cork in the 76 other Sammy Sosa bats after X-raying them.

My first reaction was, "Whoa, that's a lot of bats."

My next reaction was that this issue is now left up to personal opinion. If more cork had been found then Sosa's alibi that he accidentally used a practice bat in a real game would have held no water. But now his story is at least one of two possible scenarios, the other being that he knowingly used a corked bat.

So what does this mean? Other players, including Albert Belle, have used a corked bat, been punished, and moved on. However, none were as popular and as revered as Sosa. I think that this will permanently tarnish his image. There will be those who will discount his achievements due to the incident. AP writer Ben Walker for one thinks that Sosa must have known what he was doing. Maybe there will be enough detractors to delay his entrance into the Hall of Fame. Even if the story dies down during his career and eventual retirement, it will inevitably be revived when his Hall of Fame credentials are discussed. I don't think that his image will be irrevocably damaged--he'll still have his ardent supporters--but I think that it will be tarnished. He's Pete Rose for the new millennium.

What do I think? I have heard arguments to the effect that cork does not make a ball travel faster as well as Sosa's alibi. Even though I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as far as his version of the events, he still used an illegal bat in a game. He just would have done it out of carelessness. It doesn't matter: he broke the rules, and as Robert Blake prophetically stated, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." He'll serve his suspension, and then baseball should forgive but not forget. I don't think it really would have affected his stats, given Adair's research, even if he had used a corked bat on a regular basis, but the fact remained that he cheated. The effect is largely perception, how one feels about him as a person and a player. That's what will be tarnished. His stats are his stats and they can't take those away, but Sammy will no longer by baseball's unofficial ambassador on the field. He lost that probably forever. It'll be interesting to see if managers challenge his bat in the future. And his All-Star vote tally should be telling as far as public opinion on the matter. Will his batting practice sessions be as well-attended (and will he still cork for them)?

Sammy will have to live with it for the rest of his baseball life. For a sport that allowed Steve Howe more comebacks than Aerosmith, that's kind of tough. But as so many say about Rose, Sammy knew the rules and should be prepared to face the consequences. Now, if the only had the gambling equivalent of a broken bat stuffed with cork, maybe baseball fandom's opinion of Rose would be different.

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