IF YOU BELIEVE everything you read - as I do - you're probably marveling at the willingness of superstar slugger Sammy Sosa to waive his right to a guaranteed $18 million in 2006 salary to make possible the deal that is about to put him in an Orioles uniform.
Players don't give back money ... and if one is stricken with temporary insanity and offers to play for less than originally guaranteed (as Alex Rodriguez tried to do to get to the Boston Red Sox a year or so ago), the Major League Baseball Players Association is there to step in and slap him across the face and bring him back to his senses.
Which could happen in this case, but all indications are that the union will allow Sosa to restructure his contract to get him out of a very unpleasant situation in Chicago, because it clearly is the best thing for everyone involved.
Sosa has worn out his welcome at Wrigley Field after years of home run heroics that should have made him one of the all-time heroes of Cubbieland. He got caught with a corked bat and got into a hissing match with manager Dusty Baker and walked out early on the last game of the 2004 season.
The Cubs were desperate to get rid of him and he apparently was desperate to leave - so desperate that he has agreed to forgo the requirement that his 2006 option kick in automatically if the Cubs trade him.
It all sounds so negative, but you don't have to look at it that way. Sosa wants out of Chicago, but he also wants into Baltimore. He reportedly pressed for a deal to the Orioles and agreed to some pretty big concessions to get here.
I can only guess, but there are a number of seemingly obvious reasons why this would be a nice place for Swinging Sammy to start anew.
Sammy just wants to be loved. The fans in Chicago had started to sour on him. So had his teammates. The fans in Baltimore are hungry for another big star. The Orioles' clubhouse is full of Latin players, including fellow Dominican star Miguel Tejada. What's not to like?
Sosa has 574 career home runs, a large share of them in cozy Wrigley Field. If he still sees himself as a 700-homer guy, then Camden Yards would be a nice place to continue that quest.
This might be a good time to jump to the American League. Sosa will play right field in Baltimore, but he's 36 years old and the designated hitter role might look pretty good in a couple of years if he sticks around.
In other words, why not Baltimore?
It's never done until it's done. The deal is contingent on Sosa and Jerry Hairston passing physical examinations, and anyone who remembers Aaron Sele and Xavier Hernandez knows that - in Baltimore - a physical is never just a formality.
Sosa is coming to Baltimore on Tuesday to be examined by the Orioles' medical staff, but there isn't much reason to think that the trade will fall through.
The Orioles, pending negotiations on a contract extension, are only committing $7 million for the 2005 season, so the club doesn't figure to be looking for an excuse to void the deal. And the Cubs want to get rid of Sosa so bad that Hairston could show up in Chicago in an iron lung and nobody would raise an eyebrow.
Though Sosa may be past his prime, the deal makes far more sense than continuing the pursuit of free-agent outfielder Magglio Ordonez, who apparently will command a huge guarantee in spite of his very uncertain physical status.
I'm not sure what amazes me more, the report Friday that the Detroit Tigers had made a five-year offer to Ordonez worth more than $50 million, or word that super-agent Scott Boras had the chutzpah to make a seven-year counteroffer.
Ordonez is a great, great talent who would be worth every penny of that if a team could be sure he's going to be healthy, but it would have been foolhardy for the Orioles to take that kind of gamble after what happened with the last free-agent superstar they lured away from the Chicago White Sox.
Fortunately, with Albert Belle, they were able to recoup most of his contract through insurance. I'm guessing the Tigers will not be so fortunate, since insurers are much more wary about covering players who are coming off serious injuries.
Final thought: The offseason isn't over until it's over either, and I believe the Orioles will make a serious attempt to pry starting pitcher Javier Vazquez away from the Arizona Diamondbacks. If they come out of the winter with both Sosa and a front-line starter, the offseason will have gone from bust to boom in record time. No joke.