Pitching Probables
Injuries: AL | NL
Minor Leagues
MLB en espanol
Message Board

News Wire
Daily Glance
Power Alley
MLB Insider

Jim Caple
Peter Gammons
Rob Neyer
John Sickels
Jayson Stark
ESPN Auctions
Friday, June 6
Updated: June 9, 5:31 PM ET
Sosa challenges suspension with immediate appeal news services

CHICAGO -- Sammy Sosa was suspended for eight games by Major League Baseball Friday for using a corked bat, and he immediately appealed the decision.

Friday, June 6
MLB got this one right.

But then, they didn't have much choice.

MLB couldn't suspend Sammy Sosa for appreciably more than eight games because the length of a suspension is determined largely by precedent. If MLB tried to suspend Sosa for more than, say, 10 games, an arbitrator would rule against the Commissioner's Office because approximately eight games has always been the length of suspension in similar cases.

MLB couldn't suspend Sosa for appreciably fewer than eight games because 1) it would break with the aforementioned precedent, and 2) it would send the wrong message to other players. If Sosa were suspended for only, say, five games, then the next time a player got busted for corking his bat, he'd just say, "Umm, errr ... that was my batting-practice bat! You know, just like Sammy."

So MLB did the reasonable thing here and we get to see Sammy Sosa against the Yankees this weekend, which means we're all winners.

  • Chat wrap: Rob Neyer
  • The appeal had to be filed before Friday's game -- the first of a three-game series against the New York Yankees -- to make Sosa available to play.

    "We support him in his appeal," Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "We have no reason to believe it was anything more than a one-time incident as he described it. We will support him and his rights that he exercises to appeal, and hopefully have his suspension reduced."

    Hendry said he doesn't know when Sosa's appeal will be heard. The commissioner's office will set the date.

    The Cubs are off Monday before going to Baltimore for a three-game series.

    Sosa's agent, Tom Reich, told's Jayson Stark that while the eight-game suspension was within range of previous suspensions for this offense, Sosa decided to appeal because they believe the penalty to be "on the high side" of that range. So they will try to get the suspension reduced by a game or two, which would bring it even with most of the other bat-tampering suspensions of the last 15 years.

    "But this is not a hostile proceeding," Reich said. "We do believe some of the treatment of Sammy has been hostile -- not just by the media, but in the court of public opinion. But this is not going to be a hostile process. It's simply an opportunity for the union and Sammy to present a fair defense. And that's all we ask."

    Reich said Sosa acknowledges that "a mistake was made, and a rule was broken," that there was "no question there was going to be a suspension" and that once a decision is made on the appeal, "everybody will abide by it."

    Reich said he hadn't been told when the appeals hearing would be held. However, it seems unlikely it would occur during the Yankees' visit to Chicago this weekend -- and it might not be scheduled until sometime in the middle, or end, of next week.

    It's likely that in Sosa's apeal, his agents and the union will attempt to contrast his behavior with the behavior of Albert Belle, who was suspended for only six days (but seven games) after having his bat confiscated in 1994. Belle's teammate, Jason Grimsley, has admitted crawling through the ceiling of Jacobs Field to the umpire's room and switching the corked bat with another bat.

    Sosa's side will certainly be pointing out that at least Sosa immediately admitted he'd broken a rule and apologized, even though he contended he'd picked up the corked bat by mistake.

    "We just want to make sure that everybody is on the same page with the evidence," Reich said, "and we want to make sure the evidence is viewed in context with previous (bat-tampering) incidents."

    A piece of cork was found just above the handle in Sosa's bat Tuesday night when it shattered after he grounded out in the first inning of the Cubs' 3-2 victory. Sosa didn't deny the corked bat was his, but he said it was a batting practice bat he had grabbed by accident.

    Hendry noted that Sosa "has been shattering bats his whole career" and no other corked bats had been found.

    "As he stated all week, he understood he made a mistake," Hendry said. "He knew there was going to be a suspension, and I think he feels it's worth the appeal to try to have it reduced. But he's in a good frame of mind.

    "I think he feels badly that he's going to be sitting out some games,"' Hendry added.

    Sosa wasn't available for comment, and Cubs officials said he will only take game-related questions after Friday afternoon's game against the Yankees. But after having the controversy hanging over them the past two days, his teammates seemed relieved to finally have a resolution.

    "He stood up and faced it, and gave his explanation," pitcher Kerry Wood said. "To me, it was an honest mistake. He stood up and admitted it, and hopefully we can move on."

    Bob Watson, baseball's vice president in charge of discipline, met with Cubs manager Dusty Baker and Hendry at Wrigley Field on Thursday, then returned to New York. Watson did not talk to Sosa.

    Asked what he thinks a fair punishment would be, Baker said he couldn't say.

    "I don't know what a fair verdict is. We were hoping it wouldn't be this long in the first place," he said. "It's out of our hands. It's in the hands of the authorities."

    Baker added that he hoped the whole thing died down quickly.

    "It probably won't for a while, but I'm hoping that it does and we can get back to baseball," he said.

    Other players who have used corked bats have been suspended for up to 10 games. The Cubs had hoped that Sosa's cooperation, as well as the fact that no cork was found in any of his 81 bats that were checked, would work in his favor.

    The Hall of Fame said Thursday that X-rays or CT scans of its five Sosa bats showed no cork or anything else that would violate baseball rules. Baseball officials didn't find anything in 76 bats confiscated from Sosa's locker after he was ejected from Tuesday night's game, either.

    "The sad part about the whole thing is that he had 70-some bats and it's like you still don't believe it. That's what's unfair," Baker said. "He was wrong with that one bat. It was a bad decision."

    Boston Red Sox ace Boston pitching ace Pedro Martinez came to his Dominican countryman's defense, saying the incident was being blown out of proportion because of racial bias by the media.

    "If it was (Mark) McGwire, it would still be a big deal, but not like this," Martinez said. "We might be Latin and minorities, but we're not dumb. We see everything that happens."

    But Hendry said he didn't see it that way -- and neither does Sosa.

    "He made a mistake. He broke the rule. Accident or not, the rule was broken. He deserves some punishment," Hendry said. "We're just hopeful his cooperation, and his respect for the game in the past, and the records he set with certainly not corked bats will hold some credence."

    Several other players have been caught or have admitted using a corked bat. But none has had the gaudy resumé of Sosa.

    In a five-year stretch from 1998-02, Sosa hit 292 home runs. He's the only player to hit 60 or more homers in three seasons, hitting 66 in 1998, 63 in 1999 and 64 in 2001.

    He's No. 17 on the career list with 505 homers. And at just 34, many believe he'll have a chance at Hank Aaron's record of 755 homers.

    Sosa insists he's never done anything illegal.

    "I feel very bad for having used that bat, but my conscience is clean," Sosa said Thursday. "I'm not a criminal nor someone who intended to deceive or take advantage of others."

    Watson spent about two hours at Wrigley, meeting with Baker, Hendry, Cubs president Andy MacPhail and clubhouse manager Tom Hellmann, then went back to New York.

    Baker said his meeting with Watson wasn't an interview so much as an explanation of what Watson was doing.

    "I called him Judge Dread. He thought it was pretty funny," Baker said. "He just wanted to let me know that they're going to try to come up with a quick decision, a fair decision. Whatever happens after that it's up to Sammy and the organization, if we want to appeal it."

    Not only is this weekend the teams' first meeting at Wrigley since the 1938 World Series, but Roger Clemens goes for his 300th career win Saturday against Wood, a fellow Texan. The games Saturday and Sunday will be broadcast nationally, with 90 percent of the country seeing the Clemens-Wood matchup on Fox.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

     More from ESPN...
    Sammy prepared to be disciplined over corked bat
    Now baseball officials have ...

    Complete coverage: Say It Ain't Sosa
    Get all the coverage and ...

    Pedro demands media fairness for Sosa
    Pedro Martinez swore up a ...

    More cheers for Sosa as Cubs rout Devil Rays
    While he waited Thursday to ...

    Bad timing: Illinois congressmen honoring Sosa
    Several Illinois congressmen ...

    Morgan: Corked-bat mistake happened to me once
    For those who were jumping to ...

    Seventy-six Sosa bats found to be clean
    An embarrassed Sammy Sosa ...

    Grace uncorks some humor at Sosa's expense
    Mark Grace brought his own ...

    Sosa gets support from Wrigley fans
    Sammy Sosa found solace at ...

    Stark: Shattered image?
    Thanks to the video age, ...

    Ratto: The big screw-up
    The Home Run Derby will never ...

    Vintage questions for Estes
    Sosa uncorked: Vintage ...

    Canseco: Media to blame for Sosa scrutiny
    Jose Canseco alleges Sammy ...

    Picking up the pieces
    A corked bat could cause ...

    Expert: Cork may reduce a hitter's power
    The boost a slugger gets from ...

    Cork controversy: Sosa ejected for corked bat
    Chicago Cubs star Sammy Sosa ...

    Cubs quick to rally around Sosa after incident
    The Chicago Cubs were quick ...

    Doctored bat infractions
    Doctored bat infractions ...

     Sammy Slammed
    Dusty Baker is waiting to see what happens with the appeal.
    Standard | Cable Modem

     Tough Out
    Roger Clemens comments on Sammy Sosa's suspension.
    Standard | Cable Modem

     ESPN Tools
    Email story
    Most sent
    Print story
    Daily email