The story of the relationship between the San Francisco Giants and Barry Bonds was meant for a Sunday afternoon on the Hallmark channel. There were early highs, an ugly breakup and now a happy ending to boot.
It’s a script Sammy Sosa should’ve been reading from the beginning.
Sosa isn’t embraced by the Cubs. His existence is only acknowledged reluctantly, and there’s no sign the two sides will ever come together, even if “ever” is a really long time.
Both sides are to blame, and both sides have gone about things completely different than Bonds and the Giants. It didn’t have to be this, a situation that seems beyond reconcilable differences.
Bonds’ presence was still acknowledged, at least, in San Francisco. Plaques surround AT&T Park in San Francisco, placed in the landing spots of monumental home runs. He was still visible in public; Sosa was not. The Cubs should’ve made a more concerted effort to welcome Sosa back. A picture on the wall, something. Sosa should’ve humbled himself long ago, much as Bonds seemingly has.
Bonds and Sosa put themselves in these positions. It’s not the Giants’ fault Bonds was indicted or the Cubs’ fault that Sosa was accused of using steroids. It’s not the Cubs’ fault Sosa walked out and wore on teammates. Sosa never gave the Cubs a reason for a reunion when all it might’ve taken was saying “I’m sorry” and nothing more.
The differences begin with the ending. Bonds was an All-Star in his final season, hitting 28 home runs at 42 years old in 2007. Sosa walked out on his teammates in the final game of the season, lied about it and missed a ceremonial smashing of his infamous boom box in the clubhouse. He had a forgettable season with the Baltimore Orioles before finishing his career with 21 home runs for the Texas Rangers in 2007.
Home runs and steroid accusations are where Sosa and Bonds are primarily connected. Sosa is the only player to hit 60-plus home runs in three seasons; Bonds is the only player to hit more home runs in a career than Hank Aaron and owns the single-season record. Sosa was named in The Mitchell Report for supposedly failing a test for PEDs; Bonds was indicted for perjury regarding steroids, although the charges were later dropped.
Bonds is just as proud as Sosa, but Sosa hasn’t found a way to swallow his pride. Bonds kept his relationship cordial while maintaining distance far enough that the past had passed and the two sides could move on. Sosa only stayed close enough to keep his name relevant rather than fade into the forgotten.
With Bonds, his comments came with no strings attached. With Sosa, there always seems to be an underlying sentiment.
The truth is, statue or not, retired jersey or not, Sosa will never be forgotten in Chicago. His numbers might come with an asterisk, but the memories he created in Wrigley Field for a lot of Cubs fans don’t. The Cubs know that, so they can let fans remember what they want without interjecting themselves into the situation, one way or the other.
A new regime in Chicago presented the perfect time for the Cubs and Sosa to reconcile. It didn’t happen, and Sosa can’t stay out of his own way. His latest comments to Chuck Wasserstrom in which Sosa compared himself to Jesus Christ only further increases the gap between the two sides.
Meanwhile, Bonds moved on, refusing to hold onto glory or a grudge. He accepted his career for what it was, left the rest to be determined by everyone else and lived his life. Every time Sosa talks, he can’t help but remind everyone about the home runs he once hit. On the contrary, Bonds made the most of his time away and is coming back into open arms.
“The timing is just right,” Bonds told reporters on Wednesday. “Sometimes you need to get away from the game as a player and regroup. You need time to mature yourself and realize what’s best for you. I’ve been away for quite some time and had the opportunity to coach for the Marlins, and I really feel this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
The timing isn’t right for Sosa. At this point, it feels like it never will be.
By Tommy Stokke