Sammy Sosa and his apologists want you to believe that on June 3, amid a horrible slump, he took a lighter-than-usual bat to the plate not knowing that it was corked, and on the one occasion that he used the bat in a game it happened to crack in half. "Hogwash," Athletics pitcher Tim Hudson says. Hall of Famer Jim Palmer says that Sosa should take a lie detector test. Sosa's defenders pointed to the 76 bats found to be corkless (irrelevant to this event), the fact that he did not panic when the bat broke (as opposed to what, stuffing the parts down his shirt?), his quick explanation (Cubs G.M. Jim Hendry, in a vertigo-inducing spin, praised Sosa for his "honesty") and claims by physicists that cork's effect on distance is negligible. Says Hudson, "It makes a bat lighter. Guys are using it to get to a ball quicker, maybe not all the time but when they think they need it. Forget how far the ball goes."
A corked bat has no business near a big league bat rack. It was a dishonest mistake. That is all we can be sure of. Connecting that at bat to five, 50 or 500 others is pure speculation. So is swallowing whole his story.
Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners both said they never heard of corking bats in Japan. "If it did happen and someone was caught," Suzuki said, "there would be much shame." It is no different Stateside.
When the Padres played host to the Tigers in interleague play last week, San Diego general manager Kevin Towers told Detroit first-year manager Alan Trammell (left), "I've got to admit it—I'm scoreboard watching. I'm watching you guys." Said Trammell, "I'm watching you."
The two clubs were battling to avoid the worst record in baseball (at week's end San Diego was 19-45, Detroit was 16-44), not to mention the 1962 Mets, whose 120 losses are the most alltime. The good news for the Padres is that infielder Phil Nevin is expected back in August from a dislocated left shoulder, an injury thought to be season-ending. The bad news is that closer Trevor Hoffman won't make it back at all this season from right-shoulder surgery. As for Detroit, there isn't much hope.
BETTER WITH AGE
Two years ago, at 38, Jamie Moyer (below) of the Mariners became the oldest first-time 20-game winner. Now Moyer (10-2) is in line to be a first-time All-Star at 40 and might even surpass Warren Spahn by nearly six months as the oldest pitcher ever to start an All-Star Game. After breaking his left kneecap in 2000, Moyer quit running except for a few sprints to loosen before a start. As a result, he says, his body stays fresher. Here are the active pitchers who have won the most games without being named to an All-Star team:
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]