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Madden: Sosa scandal just screams cover-up

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Old concept, great new twist: Refreshing Sosa notes! A corker of an idea, I'd say.

The Sammy Sosa corked-bat affair is reminiscent of the Kennedy assassination. People seem to buy the absurd theory that Sosa picked up the loaded bat by accident, just like they believed a single gunman shot JFK. The batboy disposed of the corked barrel; Jack Ruby disposed of Lee Harvey Oswald. Sosa's other bats were examined behind closed doors, which just screams cover-up. As with that historic day in Dallas, we will never know the real story behind the Sosa scandal. It's a shame it didn't happen in Houston, because the Astros' ballpark has a grassy knoll in center field.

A lot of people issued variations of this statement after Sosa's bat exploded: "He's innocent until proven guilty." The minute Sosa's bat broke and cork flew out, he was proven guilty of cheating. The degree of Sosa's guilt was the only thing that had to be determined.

The physicists who said using a corked bat doesn't necessarily help a hitter provided interesting information. Interesting information that is totally irrelevant. Carrying a concealed weapon is a crime even if you don't shoot someone. Using a corked bat is cheating even if it doesn't work.

I don't believe Sosa used the corked bat by accident. The difference in weight would have been immediately noticeable. But I also don't believe Sosa has used a corked bat on a regular basis. Sosa has been in a prolonged slump. As of the fateful game Tuesday, Sosa had just 12 home runs in the Cubs' previous 97 games. Sosa was desperate, so he took a desperate -- and illegal -- measure.

The main purpose of batting practice is to get your swing down for the game. So, it is illogical to believe Sosa used a corked bat just for BP because a corked bat would be significantly lighter and actually throw off his swing. Sosa might want to put on a show for the fans in BP, but given his meager statistics this season, you would think that preparing for the game would come first.

When Sosa used a corked bat, he cheated in a way where it was possible to be caught. So why wouldn't Sosa cheat in a fashion where he couldn't be caught? If Sosa juiced his bat with cork, why wouldn't he juice his body with steroids or Human Growth Hormone?

Sosa has mostly displayed grace in the aftermath of Tuesday. But he came off as whiny when he talked about the media treating him "like I'm a criminal." Sosa might be a media darling, but the source behind his bulging biceps and expanding cranium has often been questioned by ink-stained wretches and microphone jockeys. Sosa's mantra in this regard has always been, "Prove I'm guilty." Now that Sosa has served up a ready-made scandal, did he expect the media to organize a ticker-tape parade? You provided the story, Mr. Mount-Rushmore-come-to-life. We just report and/or opine on the facts.

Players and managers from the past and present have largely embarrassed themselves by defending Sosa in absolute and overblown fashion. Two exceptions: New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre, who called the incident "a dirty mark," and ESPN's Rob Dibble, who intelligently lambasted Sosa with the kind of intensity he once reserved for posting important saves and fighting Lou Piniella.

Former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent said Sosa should be suspended for 30 days. I agree. The better the player, the higher the standard should be. Instead of cutting superstars slack, sports should put them under a microscope in hopes they lead the way by behaving responsibly.

When the 1919 World Series fix broke, baseball owners believed their investment would be best protected by sweeping the scandal under the rug. But Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis believed banning the eight Chicago Black Sox would serve exactly the same purpose, and serve it better. When trust doesn't exist between a sport and its fans, that sport will die. So if any of Sosa's 76 confiscated bats were corked, the hushed-up truth had better never leak.

Sosa forever will be reminded about using a corked bat by fans, foes, friends and media. Which makes me wonder how much longer happy-go-lucky Sammy will remain happy-go-lucky.

Here's some great research by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander: Sosa's corked bat was black. After returning from a recent toe injury, Sosa struck out eight times in two games with a blond bat. He then switched to a black bat. Last Saturday, Sosa whiffed five times against the Houston Astros with a blond bat, then singled home the winning run in the 16th. With a black bat.

Shoeless Joe Jackson helped fix the 1919 World Series. He is banned from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Pete Rose allegedly bet on baseball. He, too, is banned from the Hall of Fame. In his book, pitcher Gaylord Perry bragged that he consistently doctored the baseball en route to 314 wins. So why is Perry in the Hall of Fame? Aside from being the basis for a character in the movie "Major League," I mean.

Mark Madden is the host of a sports talk show from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays on WEAE-AM (1250).

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