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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A Little Cork Releases a Lot of Whine

One cork bat has stained not one, but two baseball player’s reputations.

Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa was caught last week using a corked bat, a longtime no-no in what used to be America’s pastime.

What happened to Sammy Sosa is the result of a very common human practice: the placement of man/woman on a pedestal only to knock him/her down at a later time.

The punishment handed out by Major League Baseball was an eight game suspension, both fair and even-handed. Other players have received approximately the same number of games for similar transgressions. Sosa has called the incident a “mistake”, a freak occurrence, and apologized for what happened.

Sosa is one of the game’s great ambassadors, picking up where recent retirees Cal Ripken, Mark McGwire, and Tony Gwynn left off. He is beloved and revered by his fellow countrymen, and bright-eyed youngsters who come to the ballpark usually find Sosa entertaining and outgoing.

Yet, Sosa has had an ominous gray cloud, albeit a small one, above his head for some time. It has been whispered that the slugger uses steroids, a banned substance. He is one of a number of players who began their careers with slight body frame, only to bulk up by sometimes 40 or even 50 pounds. McGwire was thought to have possibly messed around with steroids, and Barry Bonds, the current record holder for homeruns in a season, is also heavily suspected.

The splintered bat with the cork center released a barrage of finger pointing that had been building for some time. Sosa, unfortunately, will not completely recover his former good guy status, and his feats at the plates will now be accompanied by the whispers, “he once got caught using an illegal bat, and he may be doing so now.”

What really has made the issue one of serious contention, especially in Boston, is the sideshow of Pedro Martinez and his charge of racism. Martinez has stated in no uncertain terms that the extensive coverage of Sosa’s singular misdeed stems from overt racism in the media.

What Martinez does not understand that his incendiary comments did not help his compadre, but only compounded the troubled image baseball has in the eye of the hardball public. His recurring injuries and bloated salary does not make him a sympathetic figure. Martinez insertion of his personal grievances (not winning the Cy Young Award in 2002) against the media into the argument only stoked resentment, not only in the media, but also in the fanbase. For the first four years of his career in Boston, Martinez was praised time and time again for his on-field performance, his charismatic personality, and his media savvy. His numerous charitable activities helped to enhance his good guy persona.

His reputation, however, has slowly eroded over the past two years. He now presents himself as a whiner and an ingrate. His long stints on the DL make him look fragile and wimpy. This past off-season he made considerable noise about the owners not picking up his 2004 option worth 17.5 million dollars quickly enough. Ownership eventually did pick up the option, but apparently their attempt of appeasement did not work. He has continued to complain about a variety of things and this does not win friends or supporters. His reputation continues to degrade and, like Roger Clemens, will never completely recover.

Don’t look now, but Martinez’s days in Boston may be numbered. Ownership will not pay a small fortune for Martinez’s services, and if another team offered to trade for the Dominican hurler, don’t be surprised if GM Theo Epstein pulls the trigger.