Thursday night’s winner-take-all NLDS Game 5 matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants certainly lived up to the hype, and the stars were out to see it. While I didn’t see any Chicago Cubs in the stands, one notable person of interest I saw in the crowd was the game’s all-time home run leader, Barry Bonds.
He was sitting in the front row behind home plate, and was acknowledged on the center field jumbotron in the middle of the fifth inning. Bonds currently serves as a Special Advisor to the CEO in San Francisco’s front office.
Any common baseball fan knows the controversy that surrounds the name and career of Bonds. He remains at the forefront of the steroids conversation, though it has never been officially proven or confirmed he ever took steroids. Even though the likes of Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, and Ivan Rodriguez all had varied ties to performance-enhancing substances during their careers, they have all been voted in to the National Baseball Hall of Fame while Bonds is still on the outside looking in. The Giants legend has just one more attempt to get in as this upcoming go-round marks his final year of eligibility.
Even through the talks of steroid use and the negative press that has come to the doorstep, the Giants are clearly committed to stand with the man who put fans in the seats for 22 years, 15 of those in San Francisco. The world is sure that Bonds cheated to get to the top, and many people refuse to acknowledge him as the true “Home Run King,” but he remains and integrated piece and celebrated figure in Giants past, present, and future.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, as we sit here today, Sammy Sosa is still not allowed to come home to Wrigley Field. Chicago Cubs Tom Ricketts made it clear that he has no interest or intention on letting the team’s all-time home run leader “redeem himself” by returning to be a part of the Cubs organization. Ricketts said the only way he would even consider such a reunion is if Sosa were to admit to any wrong doing in his career.
I have several thoughts on this, but I’m going to leave it to two main ones. The first is this: why should Sosa have to give any explanation to Ricketts who has only owned the team or had anything to do with the organization since 2009, two years after Sosa played his last game?
The second: shouldn’t Sosa be the one to receive an apology, perhaps even a “thank you,” from the Cubs? Sosa single-handedly put the team back on the map as a competitor in the late 90s, especially in the magical summer of 1998 when he went toe-to-toe with Mark McGwire for the home run crown. He is the reason why many fans in their late twenties to early thirties care about this team at all. He did just as much for the Chicago Cubs as Bonds did for the Giants, and it was in the same vein, quite honestly.
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If Bonds can be employed, celebrated, and praised in San Francisco, Chicago should be doing the same for Sosa. Fly 21 on a foul pole and give him a seat at the table.