1/28/2005 - Sosa traded to the Orioles
After 13 years with the Chicago Cubs, Sammy Sosa is traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Jerry Hairston Jr. and a pair of minor leaguers. For most of his time with the Cubs, Sosa was a one-man wrecking crew; in 2001, Sosa hit 64 home runs (one-third of his team's collective output) and drove in 160 runs. The runner-up in Cubs RBI's that year was Ricky Gutierrez, who had only 66 RBI. Sammy hit for 60 home runs three times in four years, knocked 574 homers over the fence, and was arguably the most popular player in the game.
That being said, the ride ended poorly for Sosa and the Cubs. When umpires found that he had used a corked bat during a game in 2003, loyalty towards him started to fade. In 2003 and 2004, the Cubs stopped being a one-man team. Derrek Lee, Moises Alou, Nomar Garciapara, and Aramis Ramirez gave Chicago a potent lineup and a stellar pitching rotation with Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano, Greg Maddux and Matt Clement. Expectations were high, and Sosa did not live up to them. In 2004, Sammy batted just .253 and had only 80 RBI (feeble by his standards).
The fans began to turn on him. His custom sprint to right field was met with boos instead of cheers, and he was heckled whenever he faltered at the plate. Sosa's spot in the batting order dropped from third to sixth, and no one seemed to argue. The friendly confines of Wrigley Field weren't so friendly now that the Cubs were expected to win, something Steve Bartman and Dusty Baker had learned as well.
The final straw occurred in the last game of the '04 season. Sosa was not playing in the season finale (the Cubs had been eliminated by that point) and decided to leave the stadium 15 minutes after the start of the game. Sosa was fined $87,400 (or one day's pay) for not sticking it out. When Baker criticized Sosa, Sammy -- who was furious at his drop in the lineup and disgruntled at his treatment by the fans -- blasted Baker for blaming him "for all the failures of this club."
From there, the Cubs began shopping the superstar from team to team. Not many clubs were interested in him: he was 36 years old with a $17 million salary and appeared to be on the decline. Chicago eventually settled with the Baltimore Orioles. The Cubs got almost nothing in return and had to pay almost two-thirds of his contract in order to make the deal a reality. They just wanted him gone.
Sosa would spend one season with O's and by all accounts it was a disaster. Sosa batted an atrocious .221 and finished with 14 homers and 45 RBI. Even worse, he was called before a Congressional hearing on steroid use and failed to convince the public that he was clean. The Orioles led the AL East for most of the first half of the year, then imploded after the All-Star break. Baltimore lost 16 of 18 games at one point and spiraled into a fourth place finish.
In 2006, no team was willing to give Sosa the huge contract he was looking for. Sammy took the year off and returned to the Texas Rangers, his first team, in 2007. Sosa had a much better campaign and even hit his 600th career home run. But the Sosa who captured the hearts of millions of Americans died in Chicago, and with the allegations of steroid use, so did much of his Hall of Fame credentials.
In 2009, the New York Times reported that Sosa tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.