Messing with Sosa Bad for Baylor, Cubs

Article excerpt

As the debate over Sammy Sosa's value to the Cubs continues, consider this newspaper observation from the weekend:

"(He) was much loved and occasionally lamented. He inspired and frustrated. He was often a blessing and sometimes a problem."

That pretty much sums up the mixed emotions concerning Sosa, doesn't it?

Except that paragraph wasn't written around here about him. It was written in Seattle about Ken Griffey Jr. and his decade there as baseball's best player.

Apparently superstars are complex individuals everywhere, not just in Chicago. We want them perfect in every way when they aren't even perfect at what they do best.

The best way to handle premier players is let them be what they're comfortable being, when they're comfortable being it.

Imagine if the Lakers tried to slim down Shaq so he would fit into Brandi Chastain's sports bra. That's what Don Baylor seems to be trying with Sosa. The impression since he became Cubs manager and implication since camp opened are he wants to squeeze Sosa into the Cubs training bra.

Get into spring training, Sammy. Work on your fielding. Hit that cutoff man. Steal that base ... The only problem is, if all this clutters Sosa's mind the Cubs will have a mediocre fielder, erratic baserunner and another hitter who won't slug 60 home runs.

Sosa isn't in spring training yet. This has created quite a stir - in the media anyway - pitting Baylor against Ed Lynch, star player Mark Grace against superstar player Sosa, pro-Sammy fans against anti-Sammy doubters.

Not much has changed from last spring, except for Baylor replacing Jim Riggleman. Sosa not only made a belated entrance then, too, he came in a dozen pounds overweight and generated much anxiety.

I know, because I expressed some of it myself. My view was that if the Cubs were going to repeat as a playoff team, it would be nice if their best player arrived on time, in shape and in a parallel universe with teammates.

Well, as it turned out, there was reason to fret because the Cubs plunged from the playoffs in 1998 to last place in 1999. …