Sosa going on DL creates as little noise as his bat

August 29, 2005|By David Steele

IT'S LATE August, Sammy Sosa is on the disabled list for the second time, and he may or may not be seen or heard from much the rest of the way.

If that had been known back in February, when the Orioles traded for Sosa, a mob would have shown up at the warehouse with torches and pitchforks. Today, it's about 268th on the list of the Orioles' biggest worries and 397th on their list of biggest disappointments.

And your average fan can't spare enough anger from all the other targets to spend on the continued, gradual disappearance of the franchise's marquee offseason acquisition. Particularly if your average fan was at Camden Yards yesterday, sitting in the sticky air watching some stinky baseball.

Sosa's back on the DL? OK, that's not very good news - but did he get pulled over on the way home from the ballpark? No? Good. Is Congress investigating him? Thank goodness. So that wasn't him walking in that run, right?

No, because he needed to rest and treat his foot, Sosa wasn't even at the ballpark to help or hurt matters.

Orioles fans ought to be grateful for days when the absolute worst news is that the projected cleanup hitter, the centerpiece of the "O The Power" ad campaign, will be out for two weeks. The way this year is going, just average, ordinary bad news is welcomed heartily.

This is destined to be a forgettable season all around for Sosa and the Orioles, a marriage that won't even last long enough or be contentious enough to warrant a divorce. An annulment is more in order; just have it erased, as if it never happened.

It's hard to imagine Sosa arguing against it. Even if he comes back in two weeks and by some miracle of rejuvenation regains the stroke he has been seeking, this season will do nothing more than create the sort of messy, out-of-place last lines of a career-stat summary that Hall of Famers sometimes get.

In Sosa's most recent game, Thursday against the Angels, he batted seventh for the fifth time this season and went 0-for-3. Overall, he stands at .221 with 14 homers and 45 RBIs. Since his first DL stint in May, he has hit .208, including 5-for-his-past-50. By the time he's eligible to return from this DL stay, he will have started fewer than half of the Orioles' games at the position he was supposed to have solidified, right field.

That's hideous.

If this sounds like a eulogy for Sosa's Orioles career, well, it's hard not to write it, even with five weeks to go. If it sounds like a eulogy for his career, period ... you saw it here first.

Yet if and when he does go, how worked up can anyone get over it? At this moment, nobody knows who the general manager is going to be next season. Unfortunately for Sam Perlozzo, the same goes for the manager position. It could be a complete organizational purge, from the front office to every corner of the clubhouse, except where Miguel Tejada dresses.

God only knows where Sidney Ponson will be. Is Sosa's situation any less of a crushing blow to victory-starved (or at least respectability-starved) fans than is Ponson's? Not even the local organizers of the Sammy Haters Club can point a finger at him in light of everything else going on.

At worst, you can say Sosa didn't help matters. To his credit, you can add he went out of his way not to make things worse. Before yesterday's debacle against the A's, Perlozzo talked about how Sosa was optimistic about coming back when his toe was healed and how he accepted the idea that putting him back on the DL was the best for all concerned. "Was Sosa depressed or frustrated?" the manager was asked.

"Not really. I've never seen him down," Perlozzo said. "He's a competitor."

The injury, though, makes Perlozzo's life a little easier, because he doesn't have to play lineup games to keep Sosa playing, the way his predecessor, Lee Mazzilli, had to. In the field, at DH, up in the order, down in the order, nothing worked. Yesterday, David Newhan made his fourth start in right in the past 2 1/2 weeks, the fourth Oriole besides Sosa to play out there and maybe not the last.

Newhan made a nice catch, muffed another, uncorked a throw to home that temporarily saved a run and hit a homer. If Sosa had done that two or three times every week, he would have had a decent year.

Then again, neither Newhan, Sosa nor Frank Robinson in his prime could have done anything to negate the effects of the epic late-inning meltdown yesterday.

It was a wretched day at Camden Yards, and the news about Sosa was a minor footnote. That is his year in Baltimore in a nutshell.

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