Sosa passes physical, heads to O's

Updated: February 4, 2005, 6:25 PM ET
Associated Press

BALTIMORE -- Tapping his heart and thrusting both thumbs upward, Sammy Sosa stepped to the podium and flashed the broad smile that Chicago Cubs fans know too well.

Sosa loved his 13 years with the Cubs, yet he happily put all that behind him Wednesday upon joining the Baltimore Orioles.

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  • "I gave Chicago everything that I have. It was a beautiful experience for my wife and family," he said. "I had a great time in Chicago, but you have to move on. This is my new house, and I love it."

    Sosa joined the Orioles after commissioner Bud Selig approved the deal and the slugger passed his physical. Chicago received second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. and two minor leaguers, second baseman Mike Fontenot and right-handed pitcher Dave Crouthers.

    Sosa was peppered with questions about his final days with the team and his shaky relationship with Cubs manager Dusty Baker. Sosa insisted that, while he will take nothing but fond memories from his days with the Cubs, it was time to start anew.

    "My legacy is there, but I haven't finished yet. The best of Sammy Sosa is coming now," he said. "I wanted to finish my career there, but it didn't happen. I'm here now in Baltimore and I'm going to win the crowd."

    Baker Wants To Make Up
    Now that Sammy Sosa is officially an Oriole, Dusty Baker wants to make peace with his former slugger.

    "I'm going to talk to him. I'm going to call him," Baker told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday. "I call anybody that's traded away from the team I'm on and I talk to everyone that's traded to the team I'm on."

    Baker told the paper he wants to find out why Sosa became so upset with the Cubs manager toward the end of the 2004 season. Sosa blasted Baker for "blaming me" for the Cubs' unsuccessful stretch run.

    "I'd like to know what the problem was -- which still hasn't been said. I haven't changed my views or my bewilderment about things."

    Baker denied reports he forced Sosa out of Chicago and believes he could have worked things out with the right fielder had he remained with the Cubs.

    "I'm going to move on, but I'd like to find out what's repairable first," Baker told the Tribune. "You have to know what's wrong first.

    "I just really hope Sammy does well and I hope he's happy."

    Under terms of the addendum to Sosa's contract that he signed Wednesday, the Cubs will pay $16.15 million of the $25 million Sosa was still owed under his $72 million, four-year agreement, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.

    Baltimore is responsible for just $8.85 million of Sosa's $17 million salary this year, with the Cubs paying the rest. Because Sosa is paid on a 12-month basis and already had received $1,307,692 of his salary this year, that amount was credited to what the Cubs owe Baltimore, meaning the Orioles will receive $6,842,308 in cash from Chicago.

    As part of the trade, Chicago will pay Sosa $3.5 million in severance within 30 days. The $18 million 2006 option in his contract was eliminated, and the $4.5 million buyout was converted to a $4.5 million assignment bonus, which the Cubs must pay by March 15. He also agreed to eliminate the $19 million option for 2007 that his contract said would be added if he was traded.

    "It's a good situation for Sammy, it's a good situation for the Baltimore Orioles and it's also something we feel is in our best interests," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "Sammy has done tremendous things for this organization and the game, and we feel we should dwell on the positives that he's done for this franchise when we needed it, and when the game needed it.

    "The great things he did in a four or five-year stretch had monumental significance."

    The man nicknamed Slammin' Sammy, whose 574 home runs rank seventh on baseball's career list, endeared himself to Cubs fans when he hit 66 homers in 1998 during a duel with Mark McGwire. Sosa maintained his popularity and sweet home run swing for three years after that, but his rapport with the team and its rabid fans began to sour in 2003, when he was suspended for seven games for using a corked bat.

    After a 2004 season in which Sosa's batting average dipped to .253 and he walked out on the team before its final game, the Cubs began looking to deal the disgruntled star.

    "Sometimes in life, change is good," Hendry said. "Certainly, we wish him the best."

    Even though his bat isn't as potent as it was five years ago, the 36-year-old Sosa hit 35 homers in only 126 games last season.

    "A lot of people say my numbers are down," he said, "but I was out for almost 40 games and I hit 35 home runs. C'mon."

    Because Sosa came at a bargain price and because Hairston was merely a backup, the trade was an easy one for Baltimore to make.

    "When Sammy was on the field, he produced. He may even spend some time as the DH," Orioles vice president Mike Flanagan said. "Our goal will be to keep him healthy; when that's happened he's been a very productive player."

    The Orioles entered the offseason looking for a right-handed power hitter, and Sosa should provide some pop in the cleanup spot batting behind Miguel Tejada and ahead of Rafael Palmeiro. Tejada led the Orioles with 34 home runs -- in 162 games.

    Now Tejada, who bats third, will have ample protection behind him in the lineup from Sosa, whom manager Lee Mazzilli said will bat cleanup.

    "I'm very happy to have Sammy on my team," said Tejada, in Mexico for the Caribbean World Series.

    Chicago made an immediate move to shore up its lineup, agreeing to a one-year contract with Jeromy Burnitz that guarantees the outfielder $5 million.

    Sosa's era at Wrigley Field was over.

    "I'm hoping he will not be viewed as someone who did a lot of wrong things in his last few months on the job," Hendry said. "He was great to the fans to the fans for a lot of years, and that's how he should be viewed. When he's done, we're going to talk about 600, maybe 700 home runs, and certainly a place in Cooperstown. He did a lot of good things."


    Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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