2019 Chicago Cubs Have Alarming Number of Similarities to 2004

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(Editor’s note: this originally ran on the eve of the final home series vs. St. Louis, but we’re re-publishing it here and now as sadly, the prophecy has come true.

“History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes,” as Mark Twain is often reputed to have said. While the final chapter is yet to be written, the story of the current Chicago Cubs greatly mirrors the narrative of the 2004 vintage.

Hopefully, for all those involved the ending is different i.e. better this time around, but as it stands now, the tale of these two seasons reflect one another; even on a more significant off-the-field dimension.

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Sosa’s Corked Bat Goes Unsold at Auction

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Do remember where you were in on June 3, 2003 when the Chicago Cubs hosted the Tampa Bay Rays, and their superlative slugger turned persona non grata Sammy Sosa got caught, red-handed, using a corked bat?

I do, as I was in the bleachers that night and since Wrigley Field hasn’t really upgraded their multimedia amenities in several decades, no one there had any clue as to what just happened. I recall numerous people around me in the stands calling and texting those watching the game on television to find out exactly what had just transpired.

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Is Sammy Sosa Hall of Fame worthy?

Sammy Sosa: Then and now

By Jake McCormick

Sammy Sosa and Brett Favre have more in common than you think. Both road drugs through their highest peaks of success, and enjoyed unanimous admiration by their respective leagues and fans while building themselves into living legends. But in the words of Harvey Dent, they lived long enough to see themselves become the villain.

Everyone knows of the neverending Days of Favre’s Lives episodes carried on by ESPN. Sosa’s career went from hoppin’ happy to corked frustration almost overnight.

Injuries, steroid allegations and declining production turned an icon into someone who had convinced himself that there actually is an “i” in team (another Favre trait, incidentally). After two years denying that no MLB team had a spot for a rapidly aging player that only hit home runs or struck out (currently see: David Ortiz), Sosa will officially retire and “calmly wait for (his) induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame.” Can anyone really be that confident when they won’t answer questions about their success?

Sosa and McGwire in 1998In 1998, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire single-handedly resurrected nation-wide interest in baseball. It would be hard to say that every game of a 162-game season was as consistently popular as 16 NFL games, but that year came closer than ever because let’s face it – everybody digs the long ball. Now Sosa and McGwire are retired with statistics, as Sosa puts it, worthy of the Hall of Fame.

But both players have seen tarnished legacies result from allegations of steroid abuse that will affect voters. In his first year on the ballot, McGwire acquired as many votes needed for his cause as Ralph Nader did in the 2004 election. This begs the question: is Sammy Sosa a Hall of Famer? Based on precedent, I would argue that Sosa is crazier than Darren Daulton if he thinks he deserves a spot in baseball’s Vatican City.

Dave ChappelleMcGwire’s Dave Chappelle-like Fifth Amendment performance in front of Congress has been used as a strong case against his credibility, which ultimately affects his karma within the baseball universe. But what did Sammy Sosa’s testimony look like? We don’t know because he apparently couldn’t understand English enough to answer Congress’ questions. If my memory serves me correctly, he had no problem answering English-speaking reporters in 1998 or at any other point in his career. This should be scrutinized as much as McGwire’s waffling, yet somehow it takes a back seat.

Throughout the past four years, one man has a perfect bJose Cansecoatting average pointing out baseball’s steroid abusers: Jose Canseco. Canseco is the Nostradamus of baseball and has accused McGwire, Manny Ramirez, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, and surprise! Sammy Sosa of steroid use. If he’s been on the money with the most famous users, why would Sosa be any different? If McGwire and Rafael Palmerio have/will been denied entry while posting virtually identical numbers to Sosa’s, the precedent has been set that any negative association with the steroid era means Pete Rose has company down the street in Cooperstown.

During his announcement that he was going to make an announcement (you read that right), Sosa refused to discuss anything pertaining to his possible steroid use and said it would not hurt what he has done on the diamond. Considering Sosa’s legacy at this point is 1998 and juice, and he’s so confident in his chances for the Hall of Fame, it would only make sense to answer any questions about his past if he has nothing to hide and believes his body of work will trump any other concern. But Sosa continues to brush any mention of steroid use off, which only keeps suspicions and rumors swirling.

The next 15 to 20 years-worth of Baseball Hall of Fame inductees and candidates will undoubtedly be entertaining. Sosa still has five years before this topic is brought up seriously again, and a lot can happen in that time period. However, baseball prides itself in being a relevant piece of American society through some of the country’s darkest times in the past 100 years. If Sammy Sosa is allowed entry, then anyone Hall of Fame-worthy mentioned in the same breath as steroids should be given a plaque as well.

The Political Steroid Era

By Paul M. Banks

If there’s anything children of this age have had plenty of experience with, it’s cheating. When today’s youth seek role models, the National Pastime is certainly one place not to look. And our leaders in government aren’t much better.

With the recent admission of steroid guilt by Major League baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez, we now have an unholy trinity of the game’s best overall position player joining the era’s best hitter (Barry Bonds) and best pitcher (Roger Clemens), all being disgraced.

In terms of governance, here’s the special group I had ruling over me in 2008. On the Federal level: George W. Bush, state: Rod Blagojevich, congressional district: Rahm Emanuel (the dirt and grime on his record will be unveiled someday when they dissect the amazing rate of return he acquired on his investments), and the Chicago politics of the Daley machine on the city level.

The “Steroid Era” really took off in 1998 with the summer of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, but 2001 was probably the most unbelievably awful year possible as Bush, our worst ever president, took office, and Bonds ushered in a new low with his 73* homeruns.

George W. Bush=Barry Bonds
Gotta start at the top with the biggest most powerful players in each game, both of these trust fund babies were born with a lot of the blue chips they held during the heights of their careers. And the chip each one has on his shoulder is partially because each spoiled little boy has defined his actions in adulthood by trying to escape his father’s achievements. The fact that neither one has any actual grasp on the difference between right and wrong causes a treacherous trickle down crisis of confidence.

Eliot Spitzer=Alex Rodriguez

Both high profile New York figures were once rising stars and potential redeemers of the crooked game. Before his involvement with a high-priced prostitution ring became public, Spitzer was talked about as a future Presidential candidate. Before his past steroid use became public knowledge, A Roid was prospectively the man who would make the career home run record untainted again.

Rod Blagojevich=Jason Giambi
A significant player in the fixed game, but history will likely remember each of them as the guy whose cheating was the most painfully obvious of all.

Roland Burris=Jeremy Giambi
Neither really had any authentic power, and both will be remembered more for whom they were close to than what they actually did, if they’re remembered at all.

Donald Rumsfeld=Sammy Sosa
We never heard of either of these guys until the absolute peak of egregiously immoral corruption began. Rumsfeld was the architect of a war that yielded nothing good for anyone except a handful of defense contractors. Sosa was the co-captain of 1998’s “Summer of Steroid Love.” Both are great for ridiculously bad sound bites.
Rumsfeld: “stuff happens,” “there are known unknowns and known unknowns, known knowns” “you go to war with the army you have, not the war you want”
Sosa: “baseball been berry berry good to me.” “I’m a gladiator, it’s hard to stop me.”

Dick Cheney=Rafael Palmeiro Everything Palmeiro did in life will now be a distant afterthought to his emphatic statement, “I have never used steroids- EVER!” a year or so before he tested positive. Cheney likewise had no problem lying straight to your face even though the truth is right in front of you- “we’ll be greeted as liberators,” “the revenue we generate from the oil will pay for the war.” But his most bizarre lie was in the 2004 Vice Presidential debate, when he told John Edwards, “I’ve never seen you before,” despite video existing of him speaking with Edwards on more than one occasion. Sure, I can’t remember everyone I’ve met in my life, but I would hope that if I were Vice President, I could recall meeting the guy who was trying to take my job!

Tom Delay=Mark McGwire We haven’t heard much from either of these guys lately, but let’s not forget how much juice they once had, how much faith the American people once had in both of them…and how greatly they violated that trust!

Patrick Fitzgerald=George Mitchell Somebody needs to prosecute the biggest cheaters of the day. And their massive task requires more help.

2004 Bush voters=Bud Selig
We need a proper nickname for the steroid era of politics, and we also need to remind the enablers that they have a few drops of blood on their hands for the past decade.

Mainstream media=ESPN Maybe this is redundant, but in both cases…so much for the idea of “the 4th Estate” providing a check on power. During the home run chases and the run-up to war, both acted as public relations flaks for the people that should have been under scrutiny.

Condoleeza Rice=Roger Clemens
Neither of these individuals should take up high stakes poker because each one has an obvious and anxious tell that has been on display before Congress. Whenever Rice lied to congressional committees, you saw her face glaze over into a frozen and emotionless state. When Clemens was on Capitol Hill, you saw him nervously lick his lips every time he strayed from the truth.

Pre-invasion Anti-war left=Jose Canseco
It’s hard to find a governmental whistleblower to match Canseco, because so far our politicians haven’t been justly disgraced and punished for their crime. Those “nuts” and “hippies” on the left who shut down roadways all across the country as they protested the start of the Iraq war actually had it right all along. If only we had listened to the fringe. Remember the attacks on Canseco’s credibility? The “opportunistic book seller” had the goods on everyone back in ’05.

Cubs Off-Season Exchange

By David K. and Paul Schmidt

(DK) The wheel certainly doesn’t need to be re-invented.  But after the embarrassment of a second straight three-and-out in the post-season, some sort of shake-up needed to be made with the Cubs roster.  GM Jim Hendry has kept the core of the club in tact, but has been fairly active in adding other pieces to the puzzle.

Perhaps the biggest transaction for the Cubs this off-season is the one Hendry didn’t make.  During the winter meetings, it seemed like all but a done deal that Padres ace Jake Peavy would end up calling Wrigley Field home.  Instead, Hendry passed stating that San Diego’s asking price was too expensive.  I can’t help but think that Hendry still believes he has a shot at landing Peavy.  By trading Mark DeRosa and Felix Pie for five young pitchers and then dealing one of those young arms and Ronny Cedeno for Aaron Heilman, it seems like Hendry is still trying to load up on enough young ammunition to pull the trigger on a deal for Peavy.  Even ESPN’s Buster Olney believes the door is still open between the two teams.  So let me ask you this, what do you think the chances are that Peavy will be donning a ‘C’ on his hat by the start of Spring Training?

(PS)  It certainly seems as though a deal will get done, although I fear it will be sooner than later.  The latest Jim Hendry trade to go through is a little baffling to me, as I don’t know that I see the logic of ever giving up anyone for a pitcher (Aaron Heilman) with a career ERA as a starter of 5.96.  But hey, we have more Golden Domers, and that’s gotta be good, right?

The Peavy trade though is going to happen.  I think that, in the long run, the Cubs will still be the frontrunners, but I don’t believe a deal is going to happen until much later in the season, most likely around the All Star Break or later. The Pads have to cut salary and Peavy makes up 25 percent of their salary this season (an astronomical figure, really), and that will only get worse in the later years of the contract.

Do the Cubs need Peavy?  I think that’s a resounding yes, with the questions surrounding the fifth starter in the rotation, whether Ryan Dempster can repeat his ’08 effort, and if Rich Harden’s arm is eventually going to detach at the shoulder mid-pitch.  Hopefully, Hendry will see sooner rather than later that right now we have the power in the trade talks.  IF there’s a big injury or underperformance from the rotation, power shifts to the Pads and we’d have to give up more.

I think that I’m curious how much rope Jim Hendry is going to have this season.  He’s made a lot of moves that are very easy to question and second guess, which is interesting given how solid he has been over the last several seasons. With new ownership set to take over, how long of a rope will Hendry have this coming season?

(DK) I do think the Cubs need Peavy to contend for a World Series.  I am not sold on rewarding Dempster with 4 years, $52 million after his first year as a full-time starting pitcher in five seasons.  He is a great clubhouse guy and was as valuable a player for the Cubs in ’08 as anyone on the team, but I fear that he hit his peak last year and in two or three years, that signing will come back to bite Hendry in the butt.  And let’s pray that Harden’s arm doesn’t go Dave Dravecky on us.  I am sure Sweet Lou will be smart again in protecting him and limiting his innings throughout the season.

As for Hendry’s leash, I think he did a good job this off-season of cutting back on the spending.  He jettisoned about $15 million in unloading Jason Marquis and DeRosa, and saved another five or six mil by letting Kerry Wood walk and instead acquiring Kevin Gregg from the Marlins.  So hopefully the new management realizes his smarts with those matters and that the Cubs are a never-ending source of income and lets Hendry pursue a player with the salary of Peavy.

On the other hand, Hendry did give Milton Bradley $30 million over three years.  I know the Cubs were desperate to land a left-handed bat for the middle of the line-up, but now we’e counting on a guy who spent most of last year DH’ing (just 20 games played in the outfield) to come and play 130 games in right field.  I thought the circus days of a right fielder patrolling Wrigley Field was over when Sammy Sosa, Jeromy Burnitz, and Cliff Floyd left.  Plus, there is that whole crazy factor with Bradley.  I would not want to be a Gatorade cooler in the Cubs dug-out with both Bradley and Carlos Zambrano pacing back and forth for 162 games…

(PS) – Let me be the first to say that I love Bradley’s fire.  Most of his outbursts aren’t directed at teammates. Rather, they are directed at people questioning his heart, desire or talent, and I’m ok with that.  He had a really, really tough childhood, and it’s amazing he’s even alive, let alone a Major League Baseball player.  Obviously, your concerns about his health and…”ability” to field are exactly the same as mine.

Whether or not you’re right on Kerry Wood remains to be seen, though he did say he’d come back and play for whatever Hendry thought was fair.  I don’t know why you wouldn’t bring him back for another season, especially since it seemed what he wanted to do.

Kevin Gregg isn’t a good pitcher and no kind of answer to any possible bullpen problem…obviously, I’m not real high on that acquisition. I’m also not sure why giving away Jason Marquis for a below average reliever when Marquis had been nothing below an average starter and could hit the ball and pinch run – an underrated part of his game- was supposed to be a good plan.

I also think that our roster as a whole got a lot less flexible after DeRosa left. I said at the time that sometimes players are more valuable to you than they are to other people – and this was back when they were looking to send him to San Diego for Peavy, so what they actually got for him was disappointing.

Point being, I think that Hendry might be in more jeopardy than people think.