30 January 2007

Slammin' Sammy, or Strike Three?

ESPN and the rest of the baseball world reported Sammy Sosa's contract agreement with the Texas Rangers today. His signing to a minor league deal will easily become one of the top stories of the upcoming spring training (which can't come quick enough).

The Rangers risked little to sign him, may in fact have little room for him. Frank Catalonotto, Kenny Lofton, and Nelson Cruz will be roaming the outfield for the team this season, with Brad Wilkerson serving as backup. This is at best an average foursome, and there is a place for Sammy should he be worthy.

I see the Sosa signing as the ultimate unmasking of the sham the steroid sluggers created. Looking into the crystal ball, I think Sammy's spring training will be a truncated version. Come February it will have been nearly two years since Sammy saw a major league pitch. Will he be able to catch up to a fastball? At age 38 will he be able to run down a ball in the outfield, or will he be nothing more than another Matt Stairs? Unless he's ditched the juice for the fountain of youth, I highly doubt it.

Sammy could have taken the quiet route like Big Mac, and dropped out of the baseball world. But his pride got in the way with the Orioles in 2005, and it's bitten him once again. With all of the cameras watching it will be Sosa who comes to be the epitome of the steroid era. Now clean of steroids, it will be piles of strikeouts and defensive mistakes where homerun trots once existed instead. Without the steroids, without his youth, it will be a quick stint as a Texas Ranger for Sammy Sosa. But it will also be the lasting, final image of the final chapter of Baseball's Steroid Era.