On Sosa question, Baker still doesn't have answer

Cubs manager not sure what player's beef was

February 18, 2005|By Paul Sullivan | Paul Sullivan,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker revealed yesterday that he finally got a chance to speak to Sammy Sosa, but he didn't find out what caused their rift.

Baker hadn't spoken to Sosa since the former Cubs right fielder left the ballpark in the first inning of the team's last game of the 2004 season, then criticized Baker afterward for "blaming" the team's downfall on him. Baker decided to wait until after the trade with the Orioles was completed earlier this month to call Sosa.

"We had a short conversation," Baker said. "I wished him well. I did ask him, I said, `Hey, man, I'm still bewildered about what happened and why.' He really didn't have an answer. He said, `It's in the past. Good luck and God bless you.' That was the extent of the conversation."

Baker felt blindsided by Sosa's criticism because Sosa never told him before that he had any problem with his treatment. Up until the day of the walkout, Sosa was publicly content with Baker, even talking and joking with his manager around the batting cage before games.

Baker prides himself in his dealings with his players -- stars and non-stars alike -- and called this a new experience.

"This is the first time this happened to me, of this magnitude, and the first time it's happened to me this way. Usually you have a pretty good idea when things are wrong and when things went wrong," Baker said.

"This is the first time probably in my life where I didn't have a clue what went wrong and where and why. So, like I said, I called him, but I didn't really get the answer I was looking for, but that was the answer I got. So, it's over."

Despite not getting an answer from Sosa about the reason for the animosity, Baker maintained he now had "closure" after the phone call.

Did Sosa ever apologize? "No, not at all," Baker said. "Just `Good luck, God bless you.' That was it."

Sosa has yet to speak to general manager Jim Hendry, who granted his wish to be traded, even paying $16 million of his salary to get the deal done.

"It is time to move on," Baker said. "Sammy is in Baltimore, we're here, and this has happened to almost everybody that I know in the game. Only a few guys have remained at a place a long, long period of time.

"Only a few guys I ever saw in the game remained with their original organization -- though this wasn't his. You don't see many Cal Ripkens or Willie Stargells or Carl Yastrzemskis or guys that remain with their organization the duration of their careers."

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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