Players react to Sosa allegations

June, 16, 2009
Levine By Bruce Levine

Sammy Sosa's alleged positive drug test has surprised few people who assumed the only man in baseball history to hit 60-plus home runs three times had been getting a little help for a good portion of his career.

Reportedly, Sosa was one of 104 players to test positive in Major League Baseball's first collectively bargained testing for performance-enhancing drugs in the spring of 2003. That's 104 out of 1,200, which was more than 5 percent of all the players on 40-man rosters. Because more than 5 percent tested positive, that kicked in permanent drug testing in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement's new rules that were agreed upon in 2002.

I asked Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano how Sosa was looked at in their native home of the Dominican Republic.

"He's still a hero there," Soriano said. "He put up some big numbers and they still like him very much. Everybody followed him and [Mark] McGwire [in the home run race of 1998]."

I then asked Soriano how he felt about Sosa.

"He used to be my hero when I started playing baseball when I was growing up," Soriano said. "He's still my hero no matter what."

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry refused to speculate on Sosa's alleged positive test.

"He was a guy that played every day," Hendry said. "He didn't want any days off. He certainly put up numbers and performed for the fans in high fashion. Except for 1998, there were some very lean years here on the North Side. He had a lot to do with helping the franchise and entertaining the fan base. I hope people remember him for some of the good things he did."

Only Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee and Carlos Zambrano have remained on the Cubs' roster since Sosa's last appearance with the team in 2004.

"I don't know if all of this is good for baseball or not," Ramirez said. "Get all of the names out there -- I don't think it's doing any good here by just bringing two guys out. I don't think this is doing baseball any good."

Ramirez was asked about the two years he spent as Sosa's teammate, and whether he saw anything that didn't look right.

"Everybody talked about it," Ramirez said. "I played with him for two years, and I never saw him do anything wrong."

Another big-time home run hitter, Sox DH Jim Thome, sitting on 550 home runs, had this perspective.

"It shows that Major League Baseball is very serious about what they're doing," Thome said. "If you do something wrong in the game, you're going to pay the price. Until we know more about this situation, there's really not much to say."

What I can say is that it's possible Sosa, like many of this era's players, took advantage of everything he could until the rules changed about steroids in 2004. Sosa's real problem will not be whether he gains entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it's whether Congress wants to pursue possible perjury charges against him. Congress will review what Sosa told the congressional committee about his use or non-use of steroids in 2005.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.



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