Volume 92, Issue 44
Friday, November 20, 1998
Sosa's leadership pays off
The value of Sammy Sosa was determined yesterday and for once a dollar sign was not attached. Instead, he was voted by baseball writers as the most valuable player in the National League and for damn good reason.
He led the Chicago Cubs to their first post season appearance since 1989. He knocked home more of his teammates than anyone else in baseball, with 158 runs batted in. He even displayed a personal side as a humanitarian after Hurricane Georges ravaged his native Dominican Republic. Oh yeah, he even found the time to knock out 66 home runs in the greatest home run race in baseball history.
Slammin' Sammy did it all in 1998 and was justly rewarded for the value he brought to his team. This award is not like the Cy Young which goes to the most dominating pitcher. Instead, this honour is presented to the individual who added the most value to a team.
Sosa has played for the Cubs since he was traded in 1990 across town from the White Sox for George Bell the only other Dominican to win the MVP award. He has always been a good player, making the all-star team on occasion, but never a dominant force like he was this past campaign.
The Cubs were mediocre never a real playoff threat. So make no mistake about it, it was not a coincidence that when Sosa exploded, so did his ball club. Sosa was an inspiration and leader in Chicago and the team responded.
Some may argue Mark McGwire deserved the honour more. And on the surface, that argument may hold a little water. He did hit four more dingers and capture a record which will doubtfully ever be broken. He also proved to be a patient hitter with 162 walks a new National League record.
Unfortunately for Mr. McGwire, the argument fades quickly. Big Mac was unable to boost the Cardinals anywhere close to the wild card playoff berth. On paper, the Cardinals are much better than the Cubs, which makes the work done by Sosa all the more impressive. The Cardinals found themselves in third place in the National League Central division at the end of the season.
McGwire may have been the greatest athlete in baseball this season, but was no where close to the most valuable.
It takes a special type of person to handle the national pressure to hit another home run and still lay down a perfect bunt to move a runner during September in the middle of a playoff race. For Sosa, winning came before belting a ball 400 feet.
Even in the media spotlight, day after day, he stayed modest, insisting they pay more attention to Big Mac. It seemed even Sosa was cheering McGwire on.
That is exactly what a MVP should be and the Baseball Writers' Association of America agreed on Thursday. Sosa got 30 of 32 first-place votes and 438 points in balloting. McGwire trailed far behind with 272 points.
The only two individuals to vote for McGwire were a pair of journalists from St. Louis. The threat of being driven out of town if they voted for Sosa may have been their only reason for going against the rest of the country's viewpoint.
Even St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa agreed Sosa was the man.
After a season of bringing back fans the league lost years ago, baseball has earned the fortune of another event which reflects well on the league. With this award, it shows individuals will be honoured for more than statistics. The MVP is bestowed on the athlete for character, drive, ambition, leadership and game day statistics. Sosa was all of that and more.
Sorry Mr. McGwire, but maybe you spent a little too much time getting a tan from the spotlight and not enough time taking a leadership role in St. Louis.
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