Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 4, 2003

Christmas, or at least Father's Day, came early this year for Rick Reilly, with the discovery that his antagonist, Sammy Sosa, was caught with a corked bat. Call me cynical in my old age, but I'm just not that scandalized. Does Sosa deserve punishment? Yes. Break the rules, get caught, you have to be punished. But people have used corked bats before, and gotten away with it for a long time - the ones we know of (who eventually got caught somehow) include Albert Belle and Graig Nettles, and Bill James noted some evidence in the last Historical Abstract to suggest that Babe Ruth corked his bat. Everybody's talking about 300-game winners, but we know that Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton defaced the baseball, and other 300-game winners may have as well, including Nolan Ryan. Certainly, Whitey Ford did.

What's more interesting to me is this: a team that wants to give Sosa a hard time in the future can relentlessly check his bats. If they don't, it may be due to an unspoken rule about harassing adversaries -- but it could also suggest that there's more than a few managers out there who don't want their own top slugger's bat checked.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:45 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

How can you just dismiss this with a simple comment of, "Yes. Break the rules, get caught, you have to be punished." This incident calls into question all his other accomplishments. And it will follow him around for the rest of his life. To say that Babe Ruth and Nolan Ryan may have cheated when there is no concrete evidence to suggest they did is ridiculous. And then use that suggestion to imply that what Sammy did is no big deal is unfortunate.

Posted by: Mike at June 4, 2003 9:38 AM

I'm no scientist - does anyone know how corking a bat actually makes you hit a baseball farther? Sosa is huge these days so I hardly think he needs a corked bat to hit home runs. Of course, those are the rules and he should know better than to break them. If he was wilfully cheating, it seems like a stupid risk to have taken.

Personally, I view cases of steroid use as more serious than bat-corking because of the bad example that can be set, but both are bad and tarnish the integrity of the game and an individual's accomplishments.

Posted by: The Mad Hibernian at June 4, 2003 11:30 AM

Why not just check all the bats when players go up to hit? How hard can it be to detect corked bats and other illegalities, especially with today's technology.

And it shouldn't be that hard to keep the pitchers honest, either.

Posted by: Bruce Rheinstein at June 4, 2003 1:25 PM

Maybe I'm just jaded . . . I'm certainly not suggesting that Sosa doesn't have a serious suspension coming. But I just have a little trouble declaring that everything Sosa has been revealed as a fraud, particularly when we know some hitters have done the same and when it's highly likely that others have gotten away with it.

Posted by: The Crank at June 4, 2003 8:19 PM

ordinarily i'm a rules absolutist but i don't know what to think about this. it is bad, and he has to be hit hard if baseball's going to take this seriously.

other serious questions seem to linger though, raising competing issues: is sosa being held to a higher standard because of his excellence? is a higher standard appropriate? part of baseball seems to accept a kind of nostalgic throwback sentimental attitude about cheating ("Yeah, we threw the spitter back in the day" etc.) what impact if any does this attitude have on what we do with sammy?

the baltimore sun has an interesting link to other loaded bat incidents -- i had forgotten the graig nettles superball one. quite the spectacle there, the catcher running around after super balls,0,523171.story?coll=bal-sports-headlines

Posted by: Flem Snopes at June 5, 2003 11:01 AM

hey miffed hibernian dude -- here's your explanation for the physics of cork (scroll down a bit):

Posted by: Flem Snopes at June 5, 2003 11:16 AM
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