Baker finds 'closure' with Sosa
"I got hold of him and we had a short conversation. I wished him well. I did ask him, I said, 'Hey, man, I'm still bewildered about what happened and why,' and he didn't really have an answer,'' Baker said Thursday before Chicago's first workout of the spring.
"He said, 'It's in the past, good luck and God bless you.' And that was the extent of the conversation.''
Sosa left the clubhouse early during the regular-season finale and the next day criticized Baker, saying he was tired of being blamed for the Cubs' failures. He later said he was humiliated by being dropped to the sixth spot in the batting order, even though he was slumping.
The Cubs finally shipped out their disgruntled star, trading him to the Baltimore Orioles earlier this month.
"I did ask him exactly why he felt the way he felt and he didn't respond. He didn't say anything. I have closure with him,'' Baker said.
Baker figured the Cubs would start spring training with Sosa in right field and that all the problems would somehow be patched up. But that didn't happen.
Baker prides himself in his dealings with his players -- stars and non-stars alike -- and called this a new experience.
"This is the first time this has happened to me, of this magnitude, and the first time it's happened to me this way. Usually you have a pretty good idea when things are wrong and when things went wrong,'' Baker said.
"This is the first time probably in my life where I didn't have a clue what went wrong and where and why. So, like I said, I called him, but I didn't really get the answer I was looking for, but that was the answer I got. So, it's over.''
With Sosa gone, the question is who will be the central figure in the clubhouse. Kerry Wood, now the senior member with the Cubs, has been mentioned by some teammates as a leader.
Echoing many of his teammates from a day earlier, Wood said both the Cubs and Orioles were better for the trade that landed Chicago Jerry Hairston Jr. and that it was time to move on.
"Now we just have to deal with all the questions about it -- hopefully not for the rest of spring training,'' Wood said. "I don't think anybody's going to sit here and talk about an ex-teammate or try to trash an ex-teammate. Sammy was good to us for many years, and I respect him as a teammate.''
Baker got a two-paragraph mention in Jose Canseco's controversial new book, "Juiced.'' Canseco and Baker were teammates in Oakland near the end of Baker's playing career in the 1980s. "I mean that dude could party,'' Canseco wrote about Baker. He also complimented Baker as a manager. Baker hadn't read the passage but said he recalled he and Canseco did go out to a dance club once in Cleveland. "You have to go out sometimes. One thing, I know when to come home,'' Baker said. "Hank Aaron always told us, man, whatever you do, make sure you get eight hours of sleep and dedicate yourself to the game. That's not locking yourself in the room.''
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press