Chicago Cubs: Alex Rodriguez Fiasco Proves Cubs’ Competence in Handling Sammy Sosa, Other Problem Players

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New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez Should Give Fans a Break
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Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees.

COMMENTARY | The only thing missing from Alex Rodriguez's histrionic exit from an ongoing grievance hearing Wednesday was a smashed boombox.

I'm not even sure whether kids still call 'em boomboxes these days, but I am pretty sure that ghetto blaster is not the preferred nomenclature. Either way, maybe Joe Tacopina, A-Rod's lawyer, busted up the recording device in the room before he left.

In a press release that came suspiciously soon after the controversial New York Yankees slugger took his ball and went home, it was ruled that Bud Selig did not have to testify at the hearing. Rodriguez called the arbitration process "a farce," and was "disgusted with this abusive process, designed to ensure that the player fails."

The statement went on to lament the absurdity and baselessness of both the punishment levied on him by MLB and the ensuing circus of "testimony by felons and liars." His actual statement to MLB attorney Rob Manfred, according to what sources told Yahoo Sports, was that "this is [expletive] bull[expletive] and you know it." Never mind the fact that Selig has never testified at a player's grievance hearing, a fact that would have been evident to Rodriguez and his legal team.

Farce? Absurd? If I didn't know better, I'd say that Alex Rodriguez had read one of my articles about either the Chicago Cubs or Chicago Bears. But while the comments were directed at baseball and Bud Selig, those entities appear to be like rubber and A-Rod is glue.

So what in the blue hell does this have to do with Sammy Sosa? Let me see if I can connect some disparate dots here. Like Rodriguez, Sosa had been accused, more than once, of using some extra measures to gain an advantage. There was the corked bat incident in 2003, for instance. But that bat was just used to put on shows during BP, right?

But when your team is winning, as the Cubs did a lot on their way to the NLCS, people tend to overlook the little victimless crimes. Likewise, the surge in Sosa's power numbers overshadowed the growth of his chest, arms, and head (both figuratively and literally) over his dozen years with the Cubs.

After averaging 55 long balls per season over the prior 6 years, 2004 saw Sammy hit only (only!) 35 homers. He also struggled through an infamous back injury brought on by a violent sneeze. The end of his Cubs career came when he walked out on the team during the last game of that season. While some fans, Radio Raheem among them, were sad to see him go, most bid good riddance when Sosa was sent to the Baltimore Orioles prior to the 2005 season.

So when he went before Congress to testify about the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, it was as an Oriole and not a Cub. Sosa didn't get the chance to berate anyone and have his quoted words replaced with "[expletive]" though, as his grasp of the English language had escaped him to the extent that his lawyer provided a statement on his behalf.

So Sammy slugged for Baltimore and then sat out a year before eventually ending his career with the Texas Rangers, for whom he hit his 600th career home run. Ironically enough, that hit came against the Cubs. And though some delusional Cubs fans were still clamoring for his return to Chicago in 2008 and again in '09, it was not to be.

Slammin' Sammy ended his career with the same team that had ensured Alex Rodriguez a life of enmity six years earlier. And as if signing a deal for a quarter-billion dollars wasn't enough to draw the ire of pretty much everyone in America, he was acquired by the New York Yankees in 2004. The size of New York's fanbase relative to the Rangers' probably meant that fewer people now hated him, but the fire in those who did only burned brighter.

So while Sosa has brought his share of shame to the Chicago Cubs, it's not as if did a lot of PR damage as a member of the team. The steroid witch hunt, er, investigation, was only just starting after Sammy was blown out of the Windy City. And besides, the Cubs have done enough to bring dishonor upon themselves; one former player is nothing to worry about.

But the New York Yankees are still employing Alex Rodriguez. Despite the arbitrary 211-game suspension MLB handed down, he was able to appeal and suit up for the Bronx Bombers in 2013. And now that A-Rod and his legal team appear intent on taking their little circus to the big top, he's going to continue to be a big thorn in the Yankees' side.

Of course, no one is happier about all of this than the Boston Red Sox, who were close to trading for Rodriguez before the Yankees did. Instead, they get to sip champagne (just not in the clubhouse) in celebration of another World Series title without the hangover of a federal case. But, hey, at least the Yankees got Alfonso Soriano back!

In dealing Soriano to the Yanks, the Cubs agreed to pay nearly $18 of what he's still owed. They paid $15 to make Carlos Zambrano go away in 2012. They even duped the Mariners into giving them $9 million and the man who ate Carols Silva in exchange for Milton Bradley. Getting rid of those players was like furniture store holding a scratch-and-dent clearance sale; despite some cosmetic flaws, they still had value. But the Cubs were willing to take a bath in order to cleanse the payroll.

The Yankees, on the other hand, were either unwilling or unable to unload A-Rod after his 2009 admission to steroid use, which was prompted by a Sports Illustrated article by Selena Roberts. At that point, he was only two years into a 10-year, $275 million contract extension and was still considered a preeminent talent.

But A-Rod hasn't played more than 138 games since 2007 and has only averaged 111 games per season over that span. Of his 654 career home runs, only 136 have come in the past 6 seasons -- that's $1.35 million per homer. At this point, Rodriguez isn't just a banged-up bedroom suite; selling him off would like trying to move a bedbug-riddled mattress on Craigslist.

Because the Cubs were able to ship Sosa away, they now have the luxury of ignoring his awkward attempts at reconciliation and his disturbing face-bleaching saga. But while Sosa only looks like a vampire, A-Rod is doing everything he can to suck the Yankees dry. And neither he nor the $100 million or so he is owed will be going anywhere unless Brian Cashman turns into Van Helsing.

They might not be putting up many wins lately, but when it comes to distancing themselves from problem players, the Cubs are the gold standard. Regardless of how this all shakes out, A-Rod's going to need to do some work to rehabilitate his public image. To that end, I would highly recommend Pinterest.

After all, it worked for Sosa.

Evan Altman is a freelance sportswriter with a wealth of trivial pop culture knowledge. He is a self-loathing Chicago Cubs apologist whose love for the team was cultivated by watching or listening to games on WGN every summer afternoon as a child.

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