Year away from baseball doesn't improve Sosa's timing

Commentary

March 09, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- In the wake of the latest revelations in baseball's performance-enhancement scandal comes the news that Sammy Sosa already has hit two home runs in his comeback bid with the Texas Rangers.

Could that possibly be the same Swingin' Sammy who looked so old during his 2005 season with the Orioles that I had run out of AARP jokes by the All-Star break?

The answer is, unfortunately, yes. Sosa took a year off and dropped largely out of sight, only to re-emerge looking re-energized during another major surge of steroid-related suspicion. It's entirely possible that he simply has been revitalized by a year out of the game, but if he's looking for the benefit of the doubt, he couldn't have returned at a more inopportune time.

He really can't win. If he makes a successful comeback and sails past 600 home runs, everyone is going to think he was tucked away somewhere juicing up. If he falls on his face, he's going to be just another washed-up ballplayer who didn't know when to quit.

Personally, I hope he hits 40 this year. It'll make for an interesting chapter in the Mitchell report.

Lessons of history

The Los Angeles Angels have left open the possibility of disciplining outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. after his name reportedly showed up on a customer list from one of the pharmacies accused of selling human growth hormone (hGH) over the Internet. But the Angels are one team that ought to know better than to attempt any independent action against a member of the players union for drug-related misbehavior.

The Angels already tried that when Tony Phillips was caught in a drug bust during the 1997 season. The team was owned by Disney at the time and the image-conscious entertainment company wanted to suspend him with pay and send him to rehabilitation. But the Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance and Major League Baseball sided with the union in rebuking the Angels for stepping outside the confines of the collectively bargained drug policy.

Something similar could likely happen in this case, since Matthews is alleged to have ordered hGH before it was on the list of substances banned under baseball's collectively bargained steroid policy. Word on the street is that Major League Baseball would likely side with the Angels this time if the team tries to find a way out of Matthews' new $50 million contract, but the chances of success are slim.

Fun while it lasts

The Orioles have not lost since the opening game of the exhibition season, and that came on a walk-off home run by Florida Marlins first baseman Jason Wood. Pretty encouraging, huh?

Yes and no.

Obviously, everybody wants to win every game, but preseason victories are preseason victories. Lots of teams come back from difficult seasons to play well the next spring and then fall flat when the lights come on.

I'm not saying that will happen to the Orioles, who have every reason to be thrilled with the spring performance of their three young starters, but it's way too soon to inflate the expectations surrounding this team. Better to remain realistic and allow them to surprise you if they step up ahead of schedule.

No fun at all

I'm still trying to get yesterday's ugly Maryland loss out of my head. Maybe if the Terps had forced just a few more ill-advised passes into multiple coverage in the paint, the Miami Hurricanes might have gotten tired of stealing the ball.

Counterintuitive reaction: The Terps will be well-rested - and far from overconfident - when March Madness begins next week.

Time to go

I'll miss Jamal Lewis, but the Ravens won't. The time had come to rebuild their running game, and Willis McGahee was the best option available to accomplish that. He didn't come cheap (three draft choices and a proposed contract that could end up being worth $40 million, according to ESPN), but he gives the Ravens a more elusive power back than Lewis has been the past couple of seasons.

No one is discounting the contribution that Lewis made to the franchise. He is the team's all-time rushing leader and will always be remembered as a key member of the Super Bowl championship team.

Headline hilarity

This week's funny headline from SportsPickle.com, the Maryland-based sports and satire site: "Kevin Durant Hints He May Return to Texas Next Year And Buy It."

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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