Sosa, Baylor End War of Words

Thursday, June 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) — With the game long over, the Chicago Cubs clubhouse almost empty and a cup of beer in his hand, Sammy Sosa walked into manager Don Baylor's office.

There was no yelling, no screaming, no swearing. Just talking and, after 15 minutes, a hug.

``We both can go home and sleep tonight,'' Sosa said afterward. ``There will be no more problems. We agreed man-to-man, one-to-one, like father like son, we had to put an end to this.''

``This'' is a drama that consumed the Cubs for the last two days and threatened to disrupt an already struggling team. Sosa, unhappy about what he perceived as negative comments about his playing by Baylor, lashed out at the manager in the media.

Baylor said after Wednesday's 9-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks that the two would sit down and talk, and Sosa went to his office about an hour later.

``I wouldn't say we apologized,'' Sosa said. ``But we agreed we said some things to the press we shouldn't have. But right now everything is smooth.''

The firestorm started over a column in Sunday's Chicago Tribune titled, ``Swapping Sosa would kick-start Cubs rebuilding.'' In the article, a Cubs source identified as someone ``other than Baylor'' criticized Sosa's defensive abilities, saying, ``Sammy might drive in 150 runs, but he might let in 45.''

That didn't sit well with Sosa, still unhappy with what he considered disrespectful public remarks by Baylor. The day after Baylor was hired last fall, he said Sosa needed to become a ``more complete player.''

``I deserve more respect,'' Sosa said before Wednesday's game and his meeting with Baylor.

``If you have a problem with me, I don't want the fans to read about it in the paper. If they read that, the fans will turn against me. I've worked hard to try to make people happy. And I don't want that relationship with my friends ruined.''

Regardless of who said what, Baylor is trying to make Sosa a better player, particularly defensively. While Sosa has hit 60-plus homers the last two seasons, he's not exactly a Gold Glover in right field.

He's had three errors in the last four days, including one Wednesday that led to a Diamondbacks run.

``The thing you have to ask is this: Is (Baylor) criticizing Sammy because he doesn't like him? No, it's not that,'' said Eric Young, the Cubs second baseman.

Young should know, since he took his share of public criticism from Baylor in their four-plus years together in Colorado. It angered him at the time, but it also served its purpose.

``I got mad, but when I looked at my baseball card I realized that when I was mad, I performed,'' said Young, who had two .300-plus seasons in Colorado.

``You would read (criticism) in the paper, and then if you were man enough you would go and talk to him about it and understand his point of view,'' Young said. ``I realized that when he was doing that to me, I had my best years.''

It might have been a coincidence, but Sosa hit his 18th home run of the season Wednesday. When he returned to the dugout, Baylor gave him a congratulatory fist bump.

``These two guys are professionals,'' Cubs general manager Ed Lynch said. ``I don't think there are any fundamental problems with their relationship.

``They get frustrated at times. Sammy is a competitor. Don is a competitor. ``I'm really not concerned about it,'' Lynch added. ``When grown men are around each other seven days a week and you're struggling, sometimes you get frustrated and things come to the surface.''