Josh Lile is a history major at the University of Texas. I’ve brought him aboard as MLBTR’s Rangers correspondent. For his first post, Josh weighs in on Sammy Sosa and the consequences of giving him a roster spot.
Sammy Sosa beat out an infield single in today’s game vs. the Cubs. Let me repeat that. Sammy Sosa beat out an infield single. The main point of contention behind Sosa coming to camp is Sammy turning into Juan Gonzalez part deux. Juan Gonzalez, in the minds and hearts of Rangers fans, is remembered as a guy who half-heartedly played the field, walked out infield contact, and barely put any effort into anything. The same reputation was earned in Texas by Alfonso Soriano. Somehow Sammy has been humbled by his year off, and he appears to be hungry enough to make some magic this year.
Sammy, after today’s game vs the Cubs, is hitting .500 in Spring Training games with two homers. His main competition is 26 year-old Jason Botts, a monster who dropped a .980 OPS in AAA Oklahoma last year. The outfield and DH spots are virtually set with Frank Catalanotto, Nelson Cruz, Brad Wilkerson, and Kenny Lofton as the other four.
The last spot will come down to Sosa and Botts. Coming into today Botts was hitting .400, so he isn’t playing himself out of the lineup. So if you have a 38 year-old coming off a year off after steroid rumors, or a 26 year old masher, who do you choose? Personally I think you have to go with Botts or risk him developing into Travis Hafner with another team. However, Ron Washington seems to be drinking the Sosa Kool-Aid. Ron had this to say in Tom Singer’s article on at MLB.com: "People say he can’t do this or can’t do that, but he hasn’t showed me any of that. He can do anything. It’s his reward for working so hard."
So the question is this: which Sammy shows up if he makes the Opening Day roster? Do we get the slacker Sammy that will do his Juan Gonzalez impersonation, or do we get the hard-working Sammy who will come in and endear himself to Rangers fans? Since 2001 when John Hart blew $100 million on old corner infielders and relievers, the Rangers PR department has failed miserably and alienated many fans. If the hard-working Sammy shows up there is almost no chance Ron Washington keeps him off the roster, and the fans may start to come back.