June 03, 2003

Sosa ejected for cork in bat.:

posted by kjh to baseball at 08:02 PM - 46 comments

Let's get this out of the way early: Bad boy, Sammy! Go sit in the corner and no waggling those fingers over your head.

posted by billsaysthis at 08:13 PM on June 03, 2003

Killed his career with a swing of the bat. Stay tuned for denials, denials, denials. billsaythis, for someone who hates baseball, you sure spend a lot of time commenting around here, guy. :)

posted by jerseygirl at 08:18 PM on June 03, 2003

Time to pull out the ol' asterisk.

posted by justgary at 08:42 PM on June 03, 2003

It's funny that players still insist on corking the bat. I thought scientists had gone and killed that stupid idea. It doesn't help. In fact, it might actually HURT your chances of hitting the ball farther. So sure, give Sammy's record an asterisk. Just make sure it mentions "Deliberately Hindered Himself".

posted by grum@work at 08:54 PM on June 03, 2003

I find it hard to believe Sosa, as many bats as I've seen him break, has been using cork for any length of time without being discovered. The real question is, though why in God's name would he even think about using it? It only adds about 10-15 feet to a fly ball, hardly worth the risk considering he generally hits his homers well out of the yard. Dumb.

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:08 PM on June 03, 2003

jerseygal, take a longterm ride on the can't get a job train and see how often you comment! And I don't think my comment here was an etiquette violation, just a joke that was more or less successful depending on your sense of humor.

posted by billsaysthis at 10:19 PM on June 03, 2003

I find it hard to believe Sosa, as much as he works out, has been using steroids for any length of time without being discovered. The real question is, though why in God's name would he even think about using them? It only adds about 10-15 feet to a fly ball, hardly worth the risk considering he generally hits his homers well out of the yard. Dumb. Posted only because I believe this era deserves lots of asterisks, and this guy might be one of the offenders. Also, I can think 10 to 15 million reasons why a guy might want to add 10 to 15 feet to his fly balls.

posted by vito90 at 10:23 PM on June 03, 2003

I just saw a live ESPN interview with Sammy. He says he used a corked batting practice bat on accident. I'm glad he isn't denying knowledge of the bat, but his story seems like damage control. Between this and the controversies about steroid and supplement use in the past, he's going to be an "asterisk" forever.

posted by dusted at 10:59 PM on June 03, 2003

Too bad Sammy didn't have Grimsley on his squad.

posted by usfbull at 11:56 PM on June 03, 2003

i'm glad sosa got caught tonight. i hope it's the beginning of the end for an era of crooked baseball. i can't believe his protestations of innocence. (though i am fully aware that he is really, really sorry and just wants to apologize to all of us!) a player keeping his game straight isn't going to store corked bats anywhere near game bats--and there's no way a player who routinely uses both, as sosa admits to doing, can't tell the difference between them. reporter: 'are you telling me you can't tell the difference between a corked bat and a game bat?' sosa: 'i'm telling you i picked the wrong bat, sir.' and he's absolutely right. obviously a corked bat was the wrong call for that at-bat.

posted by kjh at 12:18 AM on June 04, 2003

Which era of crooked baseball would that be, kjh? Oh, I see, all of baseball history. :-/ As long as sports exists with rules (surely required to actually be called sport) there will be cheating. Vito touches on the cheating that really hurts though -- when athletes feel the need to abuse their bodies. Next up: cycling! As I re-read your post though, maybe you were already being sarcastic?

posted by 8ighteenAcres at 12:56 AM on June 04, 2003

My take: He ain't sorry. He's just sorry he got caught. This is a good example of why I don't bother with major league baseball. LOVE the game of baseball. Hate those whiny MLB pussies.

posted by Drood at 02:11 AM on June 04, 2003

This saddens me greatly. I've always thought of Sammy as one of the good guys. I admired his hustle, and his talent. It is discomforting to see a hero become a villian. Can he rehab his image? I don't know.....

posted by Scottymac at 03:00 AM on June 04, 2003

Whoa whoa. Can we lose the "10 - 15 feet" argument? First of all, 10 - 15 feet would turn a guy with warning track power into a home run hitter and a 25 home run guy into a 40+. Unfortunately, as grum said, no such thing happens when a bat is corked. Back when ESPN.com was really cool and new, they used to have Bill Nye the Science Guy do science of sports columns and he put that to bed. The best thing the MLB could do is stop penalizing players for it. Personally, I'd love to see a couple of Graig Nettles incidents a year with superballs spraying all over the field. This is absolutely frightening: the #1 Google result for the Bill Nye column I spoke of is a previous SpoFi comment of mine. I've gone into summer reruns. Either way, force equals mass times acceleration so the cork ain't helping. So sayeth the guy who got a 1 on the physics AP exam.

posted by yerfatma at 06:25 AM on June 04, 2003

It's the goatee, it turns sammy into EVIL bat corking, roid raging sammy.

posted by corpse at 08:17 AM on June 04, 2003

I saw Buck Showalter(hockey fan's spelling) on ESPN last night, demonstrating from start to finish how to cork a bat. I always liked to tweak my game gear, especially a lacrosse stick, and I could see this helping. And to play D.A. for a second, if there is no change in mass, how can a player feel the difference in a bat that is corked v. an uncorked bat?(the comic possibilities of this conversation are endless) On a second science geek tip, what is the difference between mass and weight (displacement v. uh, weight) Doesn't a ping-pong ball displace the same amount of water that a solid steel bearing does? Or do I have this confused? I guess I'm not sold on the scientific 'there is no difference' argument, not including the 'mental edge' I continuously heard about from Mr.Valentine on the toob. Either way, Sosa was the good guy. When Mark Macguire won the HR title that year, I knew he was doping and who knows what else, but it seemed Sammy was doing it on the natural.

posted by garfield at 09:30 AM on June 04, 2003

There is a Sammy Sosa bat sitting in the Hall OF Fame from the year he hit 62. I think it might be time to take that bat and open it up and see if anything is in it.

posted by Fluxcore at 09:36 AM on June 04, 2003

A little snippet with Adair.

posted by 8ighteenAcres at 09:51 AM on June 04, 2003

The most surreal moment in the press conference last night was when the reporter asked Dusty Baker "What can we trust?". Dusty said, "What?", and the reporter repeated slowly and clearly, "What can we trust?". What a strange moment for a baseball press conference.

posted by rabi at 09:59 AM on June 04, 2003

Sammy was no more natural than McGwire, and it's hard to argue that one guy was more of a good guy than the other. They were both good guys (though honestly, I never liked Sosa because I always sensed that he wasn't genuine, so when this happened I just sort of smiled) and in that year, exactly what baseball needed. Anyway, the andro that McGwire used is extremely similar to supplements that I would bet my life that Sosa, and others, have used. And being a workout fiend myself, I know quite a bit about that entire class of supplements (often referred to as prohormones, or even prosteroids). They have many things in common with steroids but are entirely legal and less effective than real gear. I know people that have used them to get great results. But, then again, as I've said in other MLB steroid discussions, I know that I personally have gotten greater gains without using anything but extra food. Not steroid-like muscle gains combined with fat loss at the same time, but definitely muscle gains. It's all in the diet. My close friend recently completed 1 year of documented lifting and dieting, and he, a severe ectomorph, gained 50lbs of muscle, almost no fat, and his strength in major lifts doubled and even tripled. So for guys like McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, etc, who aren't ectomorphs, to gain weight quickly, it's really not that hard, and steroids are not necessary. Sorry for that little sidebar. As far as bat corking goes, I think it's as much a placebo as anything else. I remember Bill Nye debunking it as well, I've swung corked bats, and SportsCenter just showed that the bat velocity is only 1.1 mph faster. But since I never 100% liked Sosa, and I pretty much don't like contract dispute babies (which he has been), I sure won't mind if he gets caught with other corked bats and goes down hard :) I'm interested to see what the sentence will be, and if it will be served during the Yankee series, or appealed so that he can play in that.

posted by Bernreuther at 10:03 AM on June 04, 2003

There is a change in mass/weight when a player corks his bat. That's the reason they do it. They want a lighter bat so they can swing it faster. However, whatever they might gain from increase in speed is lost due to: - integrity of the bat is compromised and creates microsized weakness in the wood, which can cause it to crack/break on contact, reducing the power of the hit - the bat is lighter, meaning any gain in "acceleration" is balanced by a loss in "mass" (for the "force = mass/acceleration" equation) - cork doesn't have the same rebound/strength property as wood As for examining his 62HR bat from 1998: he shattered MANY bats during that year and none of them turned out to have cork in them. If he was using a corked bat back then, I would assume that they would have come across evidence at that time. Do I think Sammy Sosa broke the rules? Yup. Do I think Sammy Sosa should be suspended? Yup. Do I think Sammy Sosa should be villified by the press? Yup. Do I think Sammy Sosa should have his whole career tainted by this one occurance? Nope.

posted by grum@work at 10:09 AM on June 04, 2003

garfield, for a quick snapshot of the relationship between density, mass, and displacement, check out the story of Archimedes and the Golden Crown (pdf)

posted by Samsonov14 at 10:21 AM on June 04, 2003

I was chatting with a coworker a few minutes ago about his and he opined that the reason that Sammy may have gone to a corked bat is due to his slump since he got cracked in the head by a pitch. A corked bat may be a placebo, but if it helps you get over a mental slump, then it may work. Nice comments all around, btw.

posted by Ufez Jones at 10:31 AM on June 04, 2003

Stupid, stupid, stupid. I don't think it taints his entire career, though. He'll have it rough from here on out though. I'll never call him one of my favourite ball players again, that's for sure.

posted by therev at 10:40 AM on June 04, 2003

Interesting that Adair suggests cork bats would help average rather than power, assuming they helped at all. Weight is a measure of how mass is affected by gravity, right?

posted by yerfatma at 10:47 AM on June 04, 2003

I think this incident DOES taint his whole career, simply because Sammy has thrived on that goody-goody, Mr. Besaball Been Beri-Beri Gud to Me image. Cheating is cheating, whatever the reason, and a smudge on a record is a smudge nonetheless. I've never been a huge Sosa fan, and this certainly doesn't help. As for the McGwire andro argument, I totally agree with Bern. Remember, it's not like Mark just suddenly showed up as a home-run hitter out of nowhere. He was already established before the little pill helpers arrived. I'm not condoning him taking them, but they weren't illegal in baseball or on the free market, so what was the problem? As for a lot of other folks (i.e. Bonds and Sosa) whose body type changed? Draw your own conclusions.

posted by wfrazerjr at 11:04 AM on June 04, 2003

Very good comments- I've read the Adair book, as have it seems a good portion of the SpoFi community! The corking would actually take force away from the ball, likely hitting it less far; but for the slumping slap-hitter, that extra foot of swing time might be the difference between getting a hold of one for a clean single and ending a slump, or going 0-fer and spending a good deal more time on the bench. One thing I never hear mentioned, and I wonder why: Adair goes on a good length about the properties of bats and the typical situation of not the perfectly hit ball but the imperfectly hit ball. Hickory bats, used by old-timers, are denser and heavier, and has twice the elastic modulus of ash (I don't know what the crop of Maple bats are like- I believe they're popularity is in effect due to lying somewhere in between ash and hickory on the weight/density scale). In addition, thicker handles- where the weight is negligible to most players- can increase the stiffness of the bat considerably. Both of these elements increase the effective hitting surface of the bat: the further from that "sweet spot" (of which there are two on the bat- one in the expected place in the middle of the barrel, and one just off the hands) one gets, the less efficiently the force of the ball-bat collision is distributed back into the flight of the ball. So a denser bat with a thicker handle- like was used by Babe Ruth or players in the first half of the 20th century- would be far more forgiving for mishitting a ball, almost like an aluminum bat, while slowing down the speed of the swing for all but the largest players. In fact, Adair suggests that ideal bat weight (naturally) corresponds to the weight of the player in the overall player-ball-bat interaction, and that larger players in the 250lb+ category hit an ideal 90mph fastball better with a bat well into the high 48-52oz range. The optimum weight of the bat goes down in proportion to pitch speed, but the "optimum" weight is still 37oz for that same player on a 65mph Jamie Moyer changeup. Which raises the question for me: wouldn't the Sosas benefit more from switching to a denser, even hickory, bat with a thicker handle? With their size, unlike an Ichiro or other slap-hitter, he probably wouldn't lose much if any real bat speed. There's a limit to how fast he can swing his hands with no bat, and I suspect that other than comfort and familiarity, his swing speed on a 42oz hickory bat (where a lot of the weight was still in the handle and not really slowing him down) would allow him to still clobber homeruns without losing much timing- perhaps even hitting them further when hit in the sweet spot- but also add some valuable batting average points for those badly mis-hit balls that go from easy grounders with a thing handled ash bat to grounders with eyes or even bloop singles when using the thicker, almost aluminum style bat. It's been said that the reluctance of many pitchers to pitch inside (a skill coming back in fashion) is related to the aluminum bats players use in college, where hitting that inside pitch just off the hands is still a hit when using an aluminum bat. In the majors, that pitch is an easy out with chunks of a bat sprayed over the infield. Imagine if those hitters now got to that inside pitch using a denser bat that didn't break but behaved closer to an aluminum bat... It was partially the shitty pitching, but I gotta believe the reason guys like Cobb and Hornsby and others could hit in the .380-.400+ range had to do in part with using bats that were almost like college players using aluminum. Then again, maybe I'm the one who's clueless: maybe the maple bats that are coming into vogue are exactly that- a happy medium, with greater density but the same and familiar lightness of a thin ash bat. The guy using them now, Bonds, is putting up numbers we haven't seen since the days of Ruth and Hornsby....

posted by hincandenza at 11:23 AM on June 04, 2003

Purists arguments aside, does the casual fan really care about this? I know I certainly don't, even he had been using a corked bat for most of HR run. (Which I doubt he was, he's broken plenty of bats before this).

posted by corpse at 11:36 AM on June 04, 2003

Remember, it's not like Mark just suddenly showed up as a home-run hitter out of nowhere. He was already established before the little pill helpers arrived. ... As for a lot of other folks (i.e. Bonds and Sosa) whose body type changed? One thing I can't stand about the Mark McGwire "legend" is this assumption that he was some giant man-mountain his whole career. Take a look at his rookie card: Look at those arms and legs. Now look at this image during his tenure in St. Louis: He may have hit a lot of home runs during his first few years, but to suggest that his body type didn't change (any more than Bonds' or Sosa's did) is ridiculous.

posted by grum@work at 12:00 PM on June 04, 2003

But don't get me wrong. I am a big fan of McGwire (and Sosa and Bonds). I just get tired of people bashing Sosa/Bonds and letting McGwire get off the hook for the same accusations.

posted by grum@work at 12:02 PM on June 04, 2003

I care that Sammy was caught cheating -- I don't think it taints his whole career, but it's definitely a black eye for baseball and one of its best-known players. I always loved the stories about Gaylord Perry and other pitchers of my childhood doctoring baseballs, though. Seems like we're engaging in a bit of a double standard there.

posted by rcade at 12:03 PM on June 04, 2003

Good point rcade...I was wondering when somebody might bring that up. I think doctoring a baseball is considered gamesmanship more so than outright cheating, with a long and colorful history in the game. Still cheating, of course, the difference being an astute opponent can catch it and call for umpire intervention, whereas a corked bat can't be readily identified by an observer. And corpse - it should matter to the casual fan because the integrity of the statistics requires a level playing field across generations. Obviously this can't completely occur with ballpark dimensions and training regimens, and actual rule changes over time, etc. but can be mitigated somewhat by all players playing by the same rules.

posted by vito90 at 12:19 PM on June 04, 2003

Left unsaid there, but said now, is even a casual baseball fan relies on statistics as an everyday metric. You don't have to go any further than how McGwire's assault on Maris' HR record a few years ago transfixed the entire nation, purist and casual fan alike.

posted by vito90 at 12:23 PM on June 04, 2003

i wonder what percentage of hitters in MLB can identify a corked bat. not a bat corked on their own....but give them a teammates bag of bats and pick out the corked ones. i remember seeing straw put balls 3/4 up the scoreboard at shea during bp back in his day. and ya know what? that's what i came to the ballpark to see. as i've got older i've come to expect these sorts of things. just look at an espn classic game from the 80's that are on endless repeat on teevee. there were out-of-shape players who you could tell probably never hit a weight room. i bet a good percentage of everyday players are in a weight room a couple times a week. so while i would like to see integrity in stats over time it just doesn't look like thats happening. but the truth is there are a lot more casual fans out there than stat-heads. a lot more. they want to see bonds put one halfway up the upper deck of yankee stadium. and until that changes the sosa's and bond's of the world will continue to get away with whatever they want in the name of long fly balls.

posted by oliver_crunk at 12:29 PM on June 04, 2003

that bat theory stuff is really interesting. And you do have to wonder if these guys could be swinging heavier bats. I remember back when I played through high school I thought 30oz was heavy, but now I can swing a 36oz no problem. And that's heavier than anything anyone swings now... all going light in the name of bat speed. But, I do have to wonder if that instant of reaction-start swing would suffer, even if 99% of the .5 second swing is still the same speed. Hard to say. I do know that I personally favor the thinner lighter handle with the weight near the end. It feels more like it "snaps", for lack of a better way to describe it. Grum, minor nitpick, in that body type and body size are two different things. I have photos of myself from 2-3 years ago at 5'10" 150, and photos of myself now at 5'10" 200. (Hell, I have photos of myself in January at 175 too, which seems to be my homeostasis point). My body type is still endomorphic, and was then too. I just hadn't done anything about it yet. Neither had McGwire in 87 (side note: I have that card, signed, and my mom stole it from my dorm several years back to lock it up, thinking it's some sort of national treasure. I want it back!), but once he started hitting weights the gains came quickly. Ectomorphic people can take steroids and eat 4000-5000 calories a day and still not gain a bit... my ecto friend eats 6500 calories a day (!) to maintain a 6'1" 205 frame right now. Of all of them, I'd say Sosa is the only one who I'd guess used the juice, if I had to choose one. I peg them all as prohormone users at worst, but not real steroids... Anyway, I have a hunch that this will die down in a few months, and while we won't totally forget about it, it won't stick to him like it stuck to Belle... Especially because he did handle it in a mature and respectable way, and because I do expect that they'll find that the rest of his bats are OK. Probably just looking for any mental solution to his little slump... even one fly ball that got a boost out could turn him around...

posted by Bernreuther at 01:19 PM on June 04, 2003

On ESPN this afternoon, they had 4 former major league players (Joe Morgan, Bobby Valentine, Harold Reynolds and David Justice) and all of them admitted to using corked bats in batting practice. Joe Morgan even came out and said that he even used a corked bat "accidentally" in a game once. When he realized his mistake, he switched bats later in the game. So that's 4 other players (one of them a Hall of Famer) who have, in a way, backed up Sammy's claim about having "practice-only" corked bats, and one of them even admits to making the same "mistake" that Sammy claims he did. They also cut open the bat he used to hit HR #498 and they found no cork (although they cut it incorrectly - it should have been done lengthwise down the middle instead of two cuts across the barrel). They also stated in preliminary tests that none of Sammy's other confiscated bats (quite a few of them actually) showed any sign of cork in them.

posted by grum@work at 04:24 PM on June 04, 2003

the front page link on ESPN, which I can't click because of the giant flash ad behind it obstructing the link, an obvious and predictable bug that any decent designer should spot if he knows Macs, mentioned that they tested 77 bats (that's a lot of bats!) and found no evidence of cork. That satisfies me...

posted by Bernreuther at 05:46 PM on June 04, 2003

the front page link on ESPN, which I can't click because of the giant flash ad behind it obstructing the link, an obvious and predictable bug that any decent designer should spot if he knows Macs, mentioned that they tested 77 bats (that's a lot of bats!) and found no evidence of cork. That satisfies me... That makes me think more than ever that she's guilty. He just happened to be using the 1 of 77 bats that was corked, huh?

posted by djacobs at 10:25 PM on June 04, 2003

I'm only a casual baseball fan, but this bit really jumped out at me:

Chicago's then Comiskey Park was the site of one of baseball's biggest corked bat capers in July 1994 when the bat of Belle, then with Cleveland, was confiscated. Umpires took it to their dressing room before an Indians teammate crawled across the ceiling and switched Belle's confiscated bat with one belonging to a teammate. Once the caper was discovered, the original bat was finally examined and Belle was suspended for 10 games, a penalty that was reduced to seven games.
I'd never heard of this incident before. I dug up an article on it. What a great piece of baseball lore.

posted by Succa at 11:26 PM on June 04, 2003

One way to think about it djacobs is that he only has one of those corked bats for practice because that's all he needs. The rest of the bats are game bats, but this one is strictly for warm-ups. He left it in his bat rack at the start of the game (he only has 2 or 3 at a time in the dugout...having all 77 bats in the dugout would be a ridiculous waste of space) and accidentally grabbed that one instead of a regular game bat. Or are you suggesting some Oliver-Stonesque conspriacy theory of cover-ups, hush money and shredded documents? As for the Albert Belle/Jason Grimsley thing (the player that later admitted to being the ceiling sneak), it's another sign that this whole Sosa thing will blow over. It was such a big deal back then on how it would tarnish Belle's career, but most people forgot all about it after 2 years. Same as most people don't immediately recall Roberto Alomar's spitting incident every time he comes to the plate.

posted by grum@work at 05:57 AM on June 05, 2003

I think Albert Belle did a good enough job of tarnishing his own career without the corked bat incident that people have largely forgotten about it. When I think of Belle I remember the guy who ran down a group of kids on Halloween with his car. As for Alomar, you still hear talk of that spitting incident when he's in games that John Hirschbeck is umpiring. You also hear how they have since made up and become friends. Not that that excuses what he did. One thing that no one has mentioned, though, is that while Sosa broke his bat in the first inning, the other 70+ bats were not taken from the clubhouse until the fourth inning. If anyone thought that there would be even a single corked bat in that group, they are not giving the Cubs much credit.

posted by Jugwine at 01:33 PM on June 05, 2003

anyone else think that Sosa's sitting around waiting to be suspended so he can get it over with, but MLB is taking their time so they don't lose any TV ratings with the Yankees in town? I don't mind it but it seems a little fishy since Watson's on the scene, has the facts, and Sammy has said he's waiting for his punishment. I will mind it, however, if the Yankees lose and it's Sosa's fault... he looked to be getting back on his game today....

posted by Bernreuther at 04:13 PM on June 05, 2003

I dunno, everytime I see that Gobbie Alomar, I remember.

posted by alex_reno at 12:04 AM on June 06, 2003

Same thing here, Alex ... when you make that big an ass of yourself, it's tough to live it down, and the day he retires, it will all be brought up again. Same goes for Corky.

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:34 AM on June 06, 2003

[gasoline] Yesterday Sosa hit two balls just short of the warning track. Little bit more bat speed, them balls were gone. [/gasoline]

posted by vito90 at 10:20 AM on June 06, 2003

Well, it came out. Sammy has been slapped with an 8 game suspension. Not that he'll serve any of it this weekend.

posted by Scottymac at 11:40 AM on June 06, 2003

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