According to Sports Illustrated's website, 76 of Sammy Sosa's personal bats were taken by baseball officials in order to be examined after the events on the 3rd of June, 2003. Sammy Sosa's explanation of events is that he, mistakingly, grabbed the bat he uses at practice to please the thousands of fans just waiting to watch him hit a home run. This is understandable, as the majority of any professional baseball players bats are similiar, in order to share wear evenly. The bats that were taken from him were X-rayed for foreign substances.

"The bats were clean and had no foreign substances in them. That is consistent with Sammy's explanation of the incident last night."
- Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office.

The media hype generated by this story is unsurprising. As a society, individuals who excel are lifted up to unimaginable status, and at the same time, unimaginable standards. We tend to forget that they are normal humans as well, and make mistakes. Take bicyclist Lance Armstrong. After battling near-fatal cancer, he rebounded and proceeded to win four back-to-back wins at the Tour de France. Yet, everytime his name is mentioned, whispers of illegal substance enhancements are heard. Why is it so hard to just let a person remain great, without the very people who put him there trying to constantly bring him down?

By using a corked bat, Sammy Sosa cheated. He deserves to have his image tarnished. He deserves to be suspended. He deserves to have every single one of his 505 home runs (to date) called into question.

Why is cheating at sports so bad? Well, let's think about this for a moment. Every year millions of fans pay billions of dollars to watch sporting events on the assumption that there is a level playing field for both teams, the outcome of each game is not predetermined, and all players are following the rules. When a player cheats, willfully breaks the rules, or otherwise compromises the integrity of the game, he or she is defrauding the fans who pay his salary and give him all his fame and fortune in the first place. Biting the hand that feeds you is a pretty despicable thing to do. Not to mention the damage that is done to the faith of the fans who idolize you if you are caught.

Some of the arguments people have been making about this incident astound me...

Sammy didn't cheat. It was an accident. Sammy said so. The bats were X-rayed.

Please. Either Sammy is a cheater, or he is really, really dumb. If you knew you had a corked bat, and you knew that bats can break, and you knew that getting caught with a broken bat could tarnish your reputation, and you knew that cheating was wrong, wouldn't you make damned sure to kept your illegal bat separate from your normal bats?

And why does Sammy have an illegal bat in the first place? He claims he uses it for batting practice. Well, corked bats are hard to get. They take a few hours to make, or a good amount of money to pay someone else to make. Sammy got one just for batting practice? And he bothered to sand it down so it wouldn't be detected? Even if all this were true, he's still defrauding the fans who pay to come see him take his hacks in BP. Why not just drop the pretense and bring it on with a metal bat?

As for the X-Rays of Sammy's other bats that found no cork, I would ask you, would there ever be a reason to have two corked bats? The only reason to have extra bats is that bats break, but if you break your corked bat, you certainly aren't going to have any use for your other one sitting back in the clubhouse after your ejection and later, suspension.

Sammy Sosa is only getting so much attention because he is really famous. If someone else cheated, no one would care.

Well, yeah. With fame comes a lot of responsibility and scrutiny. This is a fact of life. Sammy better get used to having his actions scrutinized more carefully then those of Joe the gas station attendant. But even with this fact in mind, this argument is simply not true. The last player who was caught with a corked bat was Wilton Guerrero a 21-year-old second baseman struggling to crack the Dodgers starting lineup - a nobody - but he got almost as much attention back in 1997 as Sosa is getting now. I remember. It was all the same stuff - the discussion of Greg Nettles (who put superballs in his bat), the "shocked" reaction of players and coaches, the endlessly-replayed highlight on SportsCenter of Wilt looking like a fool scrambling to try to collect all the pieces of his bat before anyone noticed. Announcers still called him "Corky" years later.

And even if famous players get more negative attention for cheating than no-namers, the deserve it. Their ability to damage the faith of the fans and the reputation of the game is correspondingly greater. And I would argue that if anything we should pay more attention to lesser-known cheaters, not less attention to famous cheaters.

Gaylord Perry (or whoever else) cheated and he is in the Hall of Fame.

Wow, your moral relativism is so enlightening. Now I know that if one person cheats, we should all cheat! And if even one person cheats and gets away with it, we should all cheat and let everyone get away with it! In fact, we should let Sammy off the hook right now. Go ahead Sam, cheat all you want! In fact, why have any rules at all?

Honestly, the moral relativism of this age is depressing...the idea that anything goes if it doesn't "hurt anybody." Did Sammy's corked bat hurt anybody? No, right? Well it certainly didn't shed any blood or cause any bruises, but think about it...

Was a kid's faith shattered? Was the image of a nation's cherished pastime diminished even a bit? And if by chance Sammy had hit a home run, let's say, perhaps a game winning shot, could a team's chances at the postseason have been lessened? Could a rookie's stats have been affected, perhaps hurting his career?

Not easy questions.

Sammy obviously didn't use a corked bat for many of his home runs, and even if he did hit some with a corker, he was probably strong enough to have hit them anyway with a normal bat. Which goes to show how stupid it is to have a corked bat in the first place, but more importantly, is completely beside the point. Trust is a fragile precious thing, that has to be constantly earned and once lost, is almost impossible to win back completely. The same concept applies to morality. If you lie even once, you are a liar. If you steal even once, you are a thief. If you murder even once, you are still a murderer. And if Sammy Sosa held a corked bat in his hands for even one pitch, he is a cheater.

Yes, "everyone makes mistakes," and yes, "forgiveness is divine," and Sammy Sosa should be forgiven in time...IF he earns it by regaining our trust. But until then he is a cheater, and should be punished accordingly with a reasonable suspension and the fullest extent of our disdain and criticism.

At the expense of this node becoming really tiring, I'll add two cents. As an avid baseball fan, one who watches the game and the corresponding highlights show every night... I have a hard time caring about any of this crap.

Corking a baseball bat is indeed cheating, but it's cheating in the same way that sneaking money back to the bank in Monopoly is cheating. No, not taking money from the bank in Monopoly. See, that would be a smart way to cheat, and one that would give you a competitive advantage. Corking a bat is a stupid way to cheat, because it doesn't really give you any sort of competitive advantage.

Oh, sure, baseball players will tell you that corking a bat is helpful, but these are the same folks that won't step on the foul line during the game, and have to adjust their wristbands a set number of times before each pitch, because otherwise, it's bad luck. The myth that corking a bat helps hit home runs is a lot like the myth that the kid from The Wonder Years became Marilyn Manson... there's no reason why it couldn't be true, until someone actually proves otherwise. Which it has been, both by the Louisville Slugger Company, and in the book The Physics Of Baseball, which, as an aside, is full of great facts but suffers from being poorly written and printed on cheap paper.

It's safe to assume that Sammy Sosa is just a dumb cheater. And whether he was using a corked bat for none or all of his home runs doesn't really matter... you don't hit 585-foot tape-measure home runs with a corked bat if you're the kind of guy with warning track power otherwise. A corked bat would help a guy like David Eckstein, or, say, Wilton Guerrero, who relies on bat speed to shoot the ball into gaps. That's not the kind of hitter Sammy Sosa is. Otherwise, his career average might be a little higher than .278 and he'd probably strike out a lot less.

Now... to dispel some of the untruths above. It is not difficult to obtain a corked bat. I have made one myself, albeit not a very good one. One of the players on my team has one this year (which he is not allowed to use), and it's almost indistinguishable from a regular wooden bat. A few years ago some of my players popped the plastic cap off an Easton and hammered two tennis balls into the barrel. I've probably seen half a dozen corked bats in ten years of coaching. And... oh yeah... I coach junior high school kids. If they can make or buy a corked bat, I can't imagine it being that tough for a major leaguer.

The write-up above would also lead you to believe that there's no reason to cork more than one bat. Why then would Albert Belle cork all of his bats? Simple. Bats wear out without shattering all over the field of play. Bats crack and splinter, and handles break off. If you leave a bat lying around it will gain an ounce weight from the dust and dirt it sits in. Moisture will add weight to a bat, too. You break bats in BP. All of these are reasons why you would cork more than one bat.

The main thing that disturbs me about all of this is that some folks have the idea that Sammy Sosa somehow tarnished the "integrity of the game". That's a word that gets thrown out a lot whenever folks talk about baseball. The integrity of the game. He damaged the integrity of the game. As if somehow baseball still has this majestic Field Of Dreams quality to it that puts it above every other sport... and that knowing that one guy used cork is somehow worse for the game than thinking that half the players use steroids and amphetamines.

Pete Rose once paid a visit to his son's minor league clubhouse, where he was quoted as saying that if you had to make the choice between doing drugs and gambling, you should do drugs, because Major League Baseball will give you another chance. Now Pete Rose says a lot of things that he shouldn't, and perhaps this was another one, but Pete Rose was absolutely right. Rose is banned from baseball "for life" for placing bets on the game. He damaged the integrity of the game. But in the meantime, Major League Baseball doesn't give a shit what people do "outside the lines".

Steve Howe was a cocaine addict suspended and reinstated five times by Major League Baseball. Orlando Cepeda was convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to prison. Ty Cobb climbed into the stands during a game and physically assaulted a man in a wheelchair. He also later admitted to killing a man. Oh yeah, Cobb and Cepeda are in the Hall Of Fame, and now Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated is asking baseball writers to reconsider thinking of Sosa as a Hall Of Famer.

And one last thing, as we await Sosa's suspension. Which is worse, do you think.... getting caught playing baseball with an illegally modified bat... or hitting your wife in the head repeatedly with a telephone? Personally, I'd have to go with number two.

Major League Baseball disagrees.

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