Sosa gets eight-game suspension
Slugger will appeal and play this weekend vs. Yankees
By Nancy Armour, Associated Press, 6/6/2003
CHICAGO -- Sammy Sosa was suspended for eight games by major league baseball for using a corked bat, and he immediately appealed the decision.
Corked bat suspensions list
|1997||Wilton Guerrero||Los Angeles||8|
|1974||Graig Nettles||N.Y. Yankees||0|
Nettles, after hitting a broken-bat single against Detroit, was caught having superballs in his bat. He said the bat was given to him by a Yankee fan in Chicago and he picked it up by mistake.|
The appeal had to be filed before Friday's game -- the first of a much-hyped, three-game series against the New York Yankees -- to make the Cubs' slugger available to play.
"We support him in his appeal," Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "We have no reason to believe it was more than a one-time incident as he described it. We will support him and his rights that he exercises to appeal, and hopefully have his suspension reduced."
Hendry said he doesn't know when Sosa's appeal will be heard. The commissioner's office will set the date.
The Cubs are off Monday before going to Baltimore for a three-game series.
A piece of cork was found just above the handle in Sosa's bat Tuesday night when it shattered after he grounded out in the first inning of the Chicago Cubs' 3-2 victory. Sosa didn't deny the corked bat was his, but he said it was a batting practice model that he had grabbed by accident.
Hendry noted that Sosa "has been shattering bats his whole career" and no other corked bats had been found.
"As he stated all week, he understood he made a mistake," Hendry said. "He knew there was going to be a suspension, and I think he feels it's worth the appeal to try to have it reduced. But he's in a good frame of mind.
"I think he feels badly that he's going to be sitting out some games," Hendry added.
Other players who have used corked bats have been suspended for up to 10 games. The Cubs had hoped that Sosa's cooperation, as well as the fact that no cork was found in any of his other 81 bats that were checked, would work in his favor.
Baseball officials didn't find anything in 76 bats confiscated from Sosa's locker after he was ejected from Tuesday night's game, and the Hall of Fame said X-rays or CT scans of its five Sosa bats showed no cork or anything else that would violate baseball rules.
Sosa met Wednesday at Wrigley Field with Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office. Bob Watson, baseball's vice president in charge of discipline, met with Hendry, manager Dusty Baker and the Cubs' clubhouse manager Thursday, but he did not talk to Sosa.
"Because of the circumstances and his upfrontness and his honesty about it, and the things that were checked out thoroughly, we're hopefull it will be reduced some," Hendry said.
Hendry said the Cubs won't ask for a specific length of suspension, just that it be reduced.
Asked what he thinks a fair punishment would be, Baker said he couldn't say.
"I don't know what a fair verdict is. We were hoping it wouldn't be this long in the first place," he said. "It's out of our hands. It's in the hands of the authorities."
Sosa wasn't available for comment, and Cubs officials said he will only take game-related questions after Friday afternoon's game against the Yankees. But after having controversy swirl around them the past two days, the Cubs seemed relieved to finally have a resolution.
"I'm hoping the whole thing dies down," Baker said. "It probably won't for a while, but I'm hoping that it does and we can get back to baseball."
Said Kerry Wood, "He stood up and faced it, and gave his explanation. To me, it was an honest mistake. He stood up and admitted it, and hopefully we can move on."
But Yankees manager Joe Torre wonders if Sosa will ever be able to fully put this behind him.
"My feeling is whether he's completely cleared or not, the jokes will continue. Every time he hits one a long way, everybody will scratch their heads," Torre said. "I think that's bad with what he's done in this game."
Boston Red Sox ace Boston pitching ace Pedro Martinez came to his Dominican countryman's defense, saying it was being blown out of proportion because of racial bias by the media.
"If it was (Mark) McGwire, it would still be a big deal, but not like this," Martinez said. "We might be Latin and minorities, but we're not dumb. We see everything that happens."
But Hendry said he didn't see it that way -- and neither does Sosa.
"He made a mistake. He broke the rule. Accident or not, the rule was broken. He deserves some punishment," Hendry said. "We're just hopeful his cooperation, and his respect for the game in the past, and the records he set with certainly not corked bats will hold some credence."
Several other players have been caught or have admitted using a corked bat. But none has had the gaudy resume of Sosa.
In a five-year stretch from 1998-02, he hit 292 home runs. He's the only player to hit 60 or more homers in three seasons, hitting 66 in 1998, 63 in 1999 and 64 in 2001.
He's No. 17 on the career list with 505 homers. And at just 34, many believe he'll have a chance at Hank Aaron's record of 755 homers.
Sosa insists he's never done anything illegal.
"I feel very bad for having used that bat, but my conscience is clean," Sosa said Thursday. "I'm not a criminal nor someone who intended to deceive or take advantage of others."