Sammy Sosa became larger than life with the Cubs, ushering in a new generation of baseball fans while reinvigorating those dismayed by the 1994 MLB strike. The 1998 home run race captivated the world, but by 2004 Sosa was a scrutinized figure on the North Side and his divorce from the Cubs was imminent.
Controversy hit Sosa in 2003, when one of his bats was found to be corked. His production declined in 2004 (for his standard, at least) and he later abandoned his teammates on the final game of the season.
That incident was the straw that broke the camel's back - the Cubs fined Sosa $87,500 for leaving that game shortly after first pitch - and the club turned their attention towards trading the former superstar.
The Cubs shipped Sosa to the Orioles in 2005, receiving utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr., second baseman Mike Fontenot and pitcher Dave Crouthers in return. They even took on $10 million of Sosa's $17 million 2005 salary to make the move happen.
Sosa struggled in 2005, posting his worst slash line since 1991 with 14 home runs in 102 games - both his worst since 1992. Baltimore released him in the offseason, and while the Nationals offered him a non-guaranteed $500K deal, Sosa's agent Dan Katz said in February 2006 "it's more than likely we have seen him in a uniform for the last time."
After sitting out in 2006, Sosa returned in 2007, signing a minor-league deal with the Rangers - the franchise that originally signed him in 1985. He hit 21 homers as a 38-year-old, eclipsing the 600-mark for his career. Funny enough, No. 600 came against the Cubs and starter Jason Marquis, who donned Sosa's former No. 21 jersey.
2007 was the last season of Sosa's career. He considered a 2009 comeback that never came to fruition. That June, he told ESPN he planned to retire and would "calmly wait for [his] induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame."
Two weeks later, the New York Times reported Sosa tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, which he denied taking in a statement read by his lawyer at a 2005 Congressional hearing.
Sosa hasn't been elected to the Hall of Fame and received just 13.9 percent of the 2020 vote. He also has never admitted to taking PEDs and despite his accomplishments has been estranged from the Cubs for 16 years. Chairman Tom Ricketts has discussed Sosa's status with the team since taking over ownership in 2009, stating numerous times the Cubs want some honesty from Sosa. The word "apologize" has even been used.
Earlier this week, Sosa told David Kaplan in a radio interview he believes he'll return to Chicago one day and "time heals everything." He said he's in no rush and expects things to change at some point.
Based on how things stand right now, that change lies in Sosa's hands.
How Sammy Sosa's career unfolded after Cubs moved on from him in 2005 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago