"I got hold of him and we had a short conversation. I wished
him well. I did ask him, I said, 'Hey, man, I'm still bewildered
about what happened and why,' and he didn't really have an
answer,'' Baker said Thursday before Chicago's first workout of the
"He said, 'It's in the past, good luck and God bless you.' And
that was the extent of the conversation.''
Sosa left the clubhouse early during the regular-season finale
and the next day criticized Baker, saying he was tired of being
blamed for the Cubs' failures. He later said he was humiliated by
being dropped to the sixth spot in the batting order, even though
he was slumping.
The Cubs finally shipped out their disgruntled star, trading him
to the Baltimore Orioles earlier this month.
"I did ask him exactly why he felt the way he felt and he
didn't respond. He didn't say anything. I have closure with him,''
Baker figured the Cubs would start spring training with Sosa in
right field and that all the problems would somehow be patched up.
But that didn't happen.
Baker prides himself in his dealings with his players -- stars
and non-stars alike -- and called this a new experience.
"This is the first time this has happened to me, of this
magnitude, and the first time it's happened to me this way. Usually
you have a pretty good idea when things are wrong and when things
went wrong,'' Baker said.
"This is the first time probably in my life where I didn't have
a clue what went wrong and where and why. So, like I said, I called
him, but I didn't really get the answer I was looking for, but that
was the answer I got. So, it's over.''
With Sosa gone, the question is who will be the central figure
in the clubhouse. Kerry Wood, now the senior member with the Cubs,
has been mentioned by some teammates as a leader.
Echoing many of his teammates from a day earlier, Wood said both
the Cubs and Orioles were better for the trade that landed Chicago
Jerry Hairston Jr. and that it was time to move on.
"Now we just have to deal with all the questions about it --
hopefully not for the rest of spring training,'' Wood said. "I
don't think anybody's going to sit here and talk about an
ex-teammate or try to trash an ex-teammate. Sammy was good to us
for many years, and I respect him as a teammate.''
Baker got a two-paragraph mention in Jose Canseco's
controversial new book, "Juiced.'' Canseco and Baker were
teammates in Oakland near the end of Baker's playing career in the
1980s. "I mean that dude could party,'' Canseco wrote about Baker.
He also complimented Baker as a manager. Baker hadn't read the
passage but said he recalled he and Canseco did go out to a dance
club once in Cleveland. "You have to go out sometimes. One thing,
I know when to come home,'' Baker said. "Hank Aaron always told
us, man, whatever you do, make sure you get eight hours of sleep
and dedicate yourself to the game. That's not locking yourself in