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|Mark Jim Caple's words -- Cubs fans will miss Sammy Sosa.|
Instead, Cubs management handed the media videotape of Sosa leaving the park early, publicly humiliating their best player as a liar. Whether it was their intention or not, that move helped turn fans against the player primarily responsible for attendance increasing more than 10,000 per game and for the Cubs reaching the playoffs as often in the past seven years as they had in the previous 50. Sosa nearly carried them into the World Series in 2003, but by the next winter, fans turned against him so completely that they booed soundly whenever his highlights played during the Cubs Convention. Part of the Sosa backlash is due to the extraordinary expectations Chicago fans had entering last season. They came so close to finally reaching the World Series in 2003 and felt so good entering last April that when the Cubs failed to even reach the postseason, someone had to bear the responsibility for their disappointment. Today's Cubs fans are more demanding than their predecessors -- if Banks played today, they would boo him for only wanting to play two, not three -- and 97 years is long enough between championships. They want to win now.
That's understandable, but I'm sorry. I know Sosa could be a pain in the butt and he put himself above the team. But the reason the Cubs didn't win last year was not because he played his boombox too loud. Chicago will learn this the way it usually does -- the hard way. On the Cubs' website, 61 percent of fans said the team is better with Hairston and Jeromy Burnitz. They're kidding themselves. Burnitz is a good player, but not only is his average home run total over the past eight years lower than Sosa's "terrible" 2004 mark, he's only six months younger than Sammy. Oh, well. However the Cubs fare this year, Sarge will continue to root for his favorite team ... and for Sosa as well. Always looking at the bright side, he says "This gives me a reason to look at the Orioles' boxscore each morning." Sarge is a great and loyal Cubs fan. Too bad there aren't more like him. Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes,'' is a humorous look at the Yankees and goes on sale in March. It can be pre-ordered now at most bookstores and book websites..