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Jewish World Review June 15, 2000 / 12 Sivan, 5760

Mile Lupica

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Consumer Reports

Go for gold, George. How does Sosa help Yanks? Let us count the ways -- SAMMY SOSA is one of the star sluggers of all time. He is a star, period, at a time when there aren't as many in sports as you think.

If the Yankees don't have to trade pitching or one of their own stars to get him, they should head out to Wrigley Field on the dead run before the Cubs change their minds. Sosa is a player and personality made for New York and the Yankees and Yankee Stadium the way Reggie Jackson was. He just hits more home runs.

George Steinbrenner wants Sosa on his team tomorrow. Steinbrenner knows Sosa makes even a championship team more entertaining than it already is, knows he sells tickets, knows what everybody does, that Sammy Sosa comes out of the Dominican Republic, and that the largest Dominican population outside Santo Domingo is in Washington Heights, New York City.

Steinbrenner knows he is looking at an asset to his ever-growing sports empire that has nothing to do with his baseball payroll. Sosa is not just a star of baseball, he is a major star for this new television network for the Yankees, Nets and Devils that Steinbrenner wants to put together.

And Sosa makes the 2000 Yankees better. Not last year's Yankees. Or the Yankees of '98. This year's Yankees, who could use more pitching, but who sure can use Sosa, too.

We are talking about Sammy Sosa here. Somehow, people look around for reasons to keep him away from the Stadium and from New York when they should be calling the Stadium and telling the Yankees to make the deal today, whatever prospects they have to give up.

Could the Yankees use another starting pitcher so that Ramiro Mendoza can go back to being a spot starter and reliever? Sure. It doesn't mean they pass on someone who has hit 148 home runs in less than two and 1/2 seasons and helped light up his sport in the process. In his last 384 games, Sosa doesn't just have 148 homers, but 357 RBI as well. You do the math. Here's more: He has missed a total of three games during this run. In addition to his charm and talent, he is also a horse.

The Yankees need pitching. They also need more pop. Their record when they score four runs or more in a game is 28-8. They can win with the pitching they have if they score enough runs. You have to say that Sosa would help them score at least a few more.

Don Baylor, Sosa's manager, is the one who started crying that Sosa strikes out too much. Right. Babe Ruth didn't strike out? Mickey Mantle didn't? Reggie didn't? Come on. People at the Stadium will even pay to watch Sosa strike out, the way they did all the other giants of the place. It is why you do whatever you can within reason to get him before somebody else does.


Sure it will cost, because paying Sosa drives up the price on Derek Jeter when it is Jeter's turn to make his score. Whatever you pay Sosa, you will eventually have to pay Jeter more. You pay your best player the most, and Jeter is the Yankees' best.

My favorite part of this is that people are suddenly worrying about Steinbrenner's spending habits. No one worried when the Yankees overpaid to keep Bernie Williams, who isn't nearly the hitter Sosa is. The Yankees' payroll is right around $100 million these days. If Yankees fans thought $200 million would bring them three more World Series in the next four years, they'd be all for it.

Sosa has made it clear he wants his money when his current contract is up. Good for him. When the same thing happened with Bernie, people around here made Bernie's money grab more noble than the Crusades. If Sosa is a little more full of himself than he used to be, well, you would be, too, after hitting home runs the way he has, and helping to put the game back on its feet along with Mark McGwire.

I hear that Sosa might disrupt team chemistry. Let me get this straight: The Yankees could handle Steve Howe and Boomer Wells and Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry and were ready to bring in Albert Belle to replace Williams. But Sosa's smile is going to bring down the House That Ruth Built (when the Babe wasn't striking out, of course)? Give me a break.

Maybe the Cubs will ask for the moon and blow up the deal. Maybe they will demand that Mendoza be part of the deal, and that would blow up the deal for me, because he is still the most valuable sixth man in the sport. But if it is somebody like Ricky Ledee and top prospects for Sosa, you have to make the deal. And don't worry, Sosa can play left field at Yankee Stadium. Even Yogi Berra played left field for the Yankees once.

Really, you listen to some of the tortured logic against the Yankees getting Sosa and have to laugh. What did Sosa ever win with the Cubs? You hear that. Well, let's put Bernie in Wrigley the past few years and Sosa on the Yankees and see how differently everything works out.

McGwire isn't going anywhere. Ken Griffey didn't want to come here. Alex Rodriguez is a shortstop, and the Yankees have one of those. The Yankees haven't had a star slugger since Reggie, haven't had 50 home runs since Mantle and Maris in 1961. The Yankees are the ones who shouldn't strike out here.

JWR contributor Mike Lupica is author, most recently, of Summer of '98: When Homers Flew, Records Fell, and Baseball Reclaimed America. To comment, click here.


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