Though it is unusually early to make such a proclamation, the time is right to announce that the American League Comeback Player of the Year is none other than Sammy Sosa.
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Does Sammy's swing look familiar?
Some people say it was his intense offseason workout regimen. I don't buy it. Others say it was his myriad cage sessions with Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. I don't buy that, either.
I know the key to Sosa's turnaround, and it is quite obvious: Berlitz.
Just compare and contrast the stats. The last time we paid serious attention to Sosa, he was in Washington, D.C., awkwardly testifying before the House Government Reform Committee. Sosa struggled with the basics of the game. His verbs were misplaced. His nouns fluttered and spun. He was 1-for-15 in complete sentences, 2-for-200 on adjectives. Hell, the man who'd spent most of his adult life in America needed an interpreter.
Here, take a listen:
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.: "Mr. Sosa, have you ever used steroids?"
Sosa: "Me understand no."
Cummings: "Have you ever used steroids?"
Sosa: "My dog eat yes in Wednesday no thank you Greg sandpaper."
Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.: "Mr. Sosa, do you believe steroids are a problem in baseball?"
Sosa: "In eggs or feet?"
Sanders: "Excuse me?"
Sanders: "I don't understand."
Sanders: "If what?
Sosa: "Baseball been very, very good to me."
Sanders: "Mr. Sosa, are you dodging the question?"
Sosa: "Pam Dawber."
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Not Sammy's finest moment.
Sosa: "Bat I like to yes do in game. Sammy hit ball far good."
Davis: "Mr. Sosa, you are useless."
Sosa: "Don Osmond me good friend love him pants."
Davis: "I enjoy the music of Donny Osmond, too. Especially 'Soul Survivor.' But that's not the issue here."
Sosa: "Crust on fish."
Fast-forward to last week, when Sosa met with a handful of reporters in front of his locker at the Rangers' spring training facility in Surprise, Ariz. With suspiciously large muscles and an ear-to-ear smile, Sosa seemed happy and at ease. In his left hand he held a tin of Skoal. In his right, a copy of Thomas Bulfinch's "The Age of Fable." The media wasted little time
Bob Nightengale, USA Today: "Sammy, do you expect big things this season?"
Sosa: "Well, young Robert, that is an intriguing question. When you use the word 'big,' I presume you are referring to gravity or importance. And because I consider it vital to answer such a query with the greatest of depth, I'll refer you to Pages 415-416 of the Dickens classic "Great Expectations." It is here where Dickens writes, and I quote: 'For now my repugnance to him had all melted away, and in the hunted wounded shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor, and who had felt affectionately, gratefully, and generously towards me with great constancy through a series of years.' Such nooks of wisdom surmise my inner thoughts wonderfully."
Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated: "Sammy, have you made any adjustments to your stance?"
Sosa: "Quite impressive of you to notice, dear Stephen. Before I answer, however, I must point to your press pass and delve into the basis of your name's spelling. Too few post-W.F. Albright Homo sapiens are aware that Stephen, accent on the 'PH,' derives from the New Testament, where Stephen was a man of firsts. He was one of the first seven Christian deacons, and he is generally regarded as the initial Christian martyr. And yes, my stance has been altered quite substantially. After weighing the gravitational pull of the sun against the mounting impact of global warming, I concluded that increased thrust off the rear foot would result in greater impact. Again, wonderful of you to have noticed."
Joel Sherman, New York Post: "Sammy, many people have said the Rangers can't compete in the "
Sosa: "Please allow me to interject. Though I willingly admit the men surrounding me are perhaps not of the caliber of, say, the New York Highlanders of the early 20th century, it was Lou Criger, that organization's lead catcher in the Lord's year of 1910, who inspired myriad athletic participants with a call to action, not words. Shall we inevitably crash in the wreckage of defeat? Perhaps. But I assure you, fine gentlemen, the Rangers of Arlington, Texas, will fight with the vigor of General Charles Ferdinand Latrille de Lorencez in the Battle of Puebla. A lesser effort will be deemed unacceptable."
Dan Bickley, Arizona Republic: "Sammy, I must ask. Have you ever used performance-enhancing drugs?"
Sosa: "Might you repeat the inquiry? My cranial lobe was pondering nutritional options."
Bickley: "Have you ever used performance-enhancing drugs?"
Sosa: "Me like baseball much yes."
Jeff Pearlman is a former Sports Illustrated senior writer and the author of "Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero", now available in paperback. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.