Integrity Matters
June 11, 2003

Please say it ain’t Sosa

Question: (E-050)

On June 3, 2003, Chicago Cubs superstar Sammy Sosa used an illegal corked bat, and the media are having a field day. If corked bats are illegal in regular competition, why do they exist at all? Doesn’t their use in exhibitions render those exhibitions a fraud?

I believe Sosa has broken a trust with the fans. Do you agree?


It would have been wonderful for baseball if Sammy Sosa had come forward and say: “It just ain’t so!” (He would have had to communicate that the incident was not of his making and the bat did not belong to him.) Failing that, let’s hope that, as Sosa has professed, the “corked bat incident” was truly a mistake and will never happen again.

Either way, we must live in the real world. This incident is about market economics and individual greed.

The lawyers and the media definitely are having a field day asking a few of their favorite questions:

What did he know? And when did he know it?

The fans have some questions or their own:

Why would a superstar need to cheat?

Why would a high-potential Hall of Famer ever risk his reputation by even possessing an illegal piece of equipment anywhere near the field of play?

Is major League Baseball so desperate for money from fans that it looks the other way when illegal bats are used during exhibitions (home-run competitions)?

Apparently what is natural, a baseball bat and a baseball, neither of which has been juiced up, is no longer deemed adequate by certain owners and players. Baseball appears to have turned toward the “carnival atmosphere” and risks making a farce of what once called “our National Pastime.” Legitimate games, at whatever level, from amateurs on the sandlot to the professionals in big league parks, are designed to place every participant on the same fair playing field.

When greed displaces legitimate competition, cheating creeps in, and integrity has become little more than a catch phrase punctuated by the wink of the carnival barker.

If this recent Sammy Sosa “corking the bat” incident is properly addressed, then baseball will be the stronger and fans will not lose confidence in the sport, its players, the owners or the agents. Do we really need a corked bat anywhere, anytime or for any reason? If not, get rid of them, once and for all.

However, should all parties not be forthright in communicating the circumstances that lead to the event; and should appropriate evidence not be presented regarding the real problems (creating false images of players hitting baseballs incredible distances, with illegal bats), then fans will have reason to assume that fraud and deceit are alive and well – even with Major League Baseball. Confidence in the game’s integrity will suffer yet another blow. Any actions short of full disclosure will simply create another corporate scandal covered over with “cork” and empty promises about truth, honest competition and integrity in leadership.

Oh, Sammy, say it isn’t so!

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