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Fa Sosa Ti Do

I know that Cubs Nation has been waiting on the edges of their seats, waiting to hear what I'll have to say about the Sosa trade, which should be finalized sometime soon, if it hasn't been already. On the one hand, I agree with Phil Rogers, who calls it an "unceremonious dump job" over at ESPN. And for once I wish I were paying for ESPN Insider so that I could read Rob Neyer's take on it. My own sense of things is that it's deceptive to cite stats like Rogers does:

Can they really be better without Sosa, who averaged 41 homers and 97 RBI over the last three years -- not bad numbers for a guy in decline.

Well, yes and no. Those are Sosa's 3-year numbers, but they don't really get at the trends of Sosa's career, and this is where Neyer is gold. Check Sammy's walks: from 96 to 01, he drew more bases on balls each year than the year previous. He dropped a little in 02, okay, but plummeted in the last two years. His pitch selection at the plate has peaked, period. Until 98, he was stealing around 20 bases a season, and had 3 seasons with more than 30. In the last four years combined, 2 stolen bases. 35 homers is a comedown, yes, but he's had two other seasons with 36; the big number there is that last year, he batted in 40 less runs than those other two seasons. It was pretty clear that he was getting better pitches to hit when the bases were empty--he got a rep for hitting the 1-run homer. His OPS and his average with runners in scoring position have dropped for four straight seasons.

So, yeah, it's the end of an era. It was bad enough for him to walk during the final game and then lie about it, but that was symptomatic of a one-man-band sort of selfishness that's been going on since before the NLCS. When you hit your 30's, your talent starts to fade. Guys like Bonds and Gwynn made up for it with skill--Sammy hasn't. He no longer has the bat speed to stand as far off the plate as he does and hit the outside pitches and/or sinkers. I'll miss him, but I won't miss watching him strike out with men on base--and last season, it felt like that happened a lot more than it was supposed to.

I hope hope hope that Sammy will go to Baltimore, work with a hitting coach, and both relearn the strike zone and how to hit for contact. If he can reverse some of these trends, he'll be a contributor for several more years yet. But it won't happen if he doesn't stop resting on talent. And it won't break my heart if he doesn't, not like it would if he were still in a Cubs jersey...


Ya, thought about you when I heard this on ESPN. Not surprised you are taking the cerebral route. I don't follow basketball as much as b-ball, but your analysis makes sense. I think Baltimore is desperate for some named people to come in so they can compete with DC for fans.

Yeah, I've heard that too. Another of the analyses that I heard that made a lot of sense was the superstar-leader angle. Sammy was a superstar at a time when the game needed them, and at a time when that was the only thing the Cubs had going for them. In the last couple of years, though, they've needed him to be a leader, and he hasn't been. The perfect analogy from basketball is Michael Jordan, who started winning championships at almost precisely the moment that he realized it was better to score 30 a night and win than to score 50 in a loss. Baseball's similar inasmuch as there are "me" stats (like HR) and "we" stats (like RBI and BB, or even SB)...

Because of you, Collin, I walked around work all day singing the Sol Feg scale with the word "Sosa" in it.... my old music major training came right back in.

Thank you, seriously, very much...

My pleasure, Dylan!

It popped into my head for two reasons: 1. Say it ain't Sosa has been beaten to death on ESPN. 2. Just the other day I was listening to "I Saw Cinnamon" by Dressy Bessy:

I saw cinnamon, rockin down the road
he had his arms full of melody, fa so la ti do

From those two reasons, you can pretty much infer my entire titling process: don't copy stuff from *well-known* sources.


Nothing better than the ole "obscure song lyric" titling method.