#2: 2005 – RF Sammy Sosa (60.7) to the Baltimore Orioles for 2B Mike Fontenot (4.1), UT Jerry Hairston (1.7), and RHP Dave Crouthers (minors)
"“The whole persona of him smiling, well, he turned into a pretty big piece of crap.” “If you create a Frankenstein monster, you can’t be real surprised if he eats the village.”"
Reuschel, Jenkins, Williams, Santo … you’d have to hire a very good P.I. to uncover a Cubs fan that has much bad to say about any of those guys. Not so for Sammy Sosa, who hopped aboard Icarus Airlines without reading the fine print. Those quotes above are from this long 2005 ESPN piece on the rise and (mostly) fall of Sammy Sosa.
The identity of the Cub who smashed Sosa’s infamous boombox on the last day of the 2004 season remains a secret: Ryan Dempster probably knows, but he’s not saying. What isn’t a secret is that by 2004 many people throughout the Cubs organization were beginning to conclude that Sosa’s costs exceeded his benefits. The very length of the ESPN story speaks to the volume of adverse information numerous Cubs sources were willing – indeed eager – to unload.
That said, Sosa was a very productive player. Baseball players are paid to produce wins, and Sosa produced 60, a Hall of Fame-ish total. There’s a good chance his plaque would be in there now, and that the ESPN piece never would have been written, if not for the PED scandal. Sosa never admitted using them; the only public evidence linking him to PEDs is one leaked test result from 2003. Whatever one thinks of Sosa, hammering him while ignoring the forces that made him possible seems short-sighted at best. However, even if he didn’t use, Sosa still did plenty to author his own demise; it isn’t hard to see why the franchise treats him like a cat treats a bath.
Given the unfavorable context in which the trade took place, the Cubs’ return wasn’t that bad. Both Fontenot and Hairston would provide some help to the roster, though each was generally overmatched as a lineup regular. Crouthers – a promising young arm – would never reach The Show, done in by the yips. There are regions of the distant universe that we understand better than regions of the human mind. Credit to Crouthers for being open about his struggles; the worst thing about anxiety is thinking it happens to no one else.
#1: 1973 – 3B Ron Santo (71.9) to the Chicago White Sox for RHP Steve Stone (4.5), LHP Ken Frailing (2.0), C Steve Swisher (0.2), and LHP Jim Kremmel (0.0)
Don’t you miss the good old days of baseball labor strife? (Oh … right.) Anyway, as the result of the 1972 players’ strike, MLB agreed to the 10-5 rule, which allows players who have been in the majors for ten years and at least five with the same team to veto a proposed trade. Santo was the first player to invoke the rule, vetoing a trade to the Angels and thus denying thousands of Chicago area kids the opportunity to buy Andy Hassler jerseys.
Santo wanted to stay in Chicago, so he travelled down I-94 to Old Comiskey in exchange for the swag listed above. It was a sad end to an outstanding career. Santo slashed .221/.293/.299, leading him to suffer his only negative WAR season. The Cubs got three solid seasons (and a future broadcasting gig) from Steve Stone, whose best years still lay ahead of him in Baltimore. And nominative determinists out there (you know who you are) can’t help but love Steve Swisher, who struck out a healthy seven percent more than the league during his career.