By Jon Gluskin

It’s easy to fool the public – you can make yourself out to be a great guy who really does care.

From 1998 – 2002, Sammy Sosa had the entire city of Chicago in the palm of his hand. After MJ, it was Sammy.

He was able to get Cubs fans to ignore his true character. He was praised when he would kiss himself and everyone he knew in front of the cameras after hitting a homerun. People were drawn to him when he would hop like a bunny rabbit on steroids after hitting a deep fly – even if it wasn’t out of the park.

He got away with playing up his Dominican accent and won over America’s hearts with, “Beisbol has been very, very good to me.”

People forgave him for his “mistake” when he used a cork bat back on June 3, 2003 during a regular-season game. Sosa claims he only uses corked bats during batting practice. Why a professional baseball player would even use a corked bat during batting practice is beyond me, but that’s a whole other issue.

Baseball fans were even able to turn the other way every time Sosa was questioned about steroids and repeatedly denied using them. You never know, maybe all Sosa ever did besides play baseball was lift weights.

But eventually, karma’s going to get you and right now, it’s attacking Sammy Sosa.

He “saved” baseball back in 1998, in the great homerun chase with Mark McGwire, but now it looks like Sosa’s career has come to an end.

Because when it comes down to it, when the Cubs and their fans aren’t even going to accept one’s crap, nobody is. And when he was traded last year, his career took a much-deserved tailspin.

In Sosa’s run with the Cubs from ’98 – ’02, he had seasons of 66, 63, 50, 64 and 49 homeruns, respectively. This is all his fans wanted from him. As long as he was hopping, people actually thought he was playing great baseball.

But if you ventured past the gaudy homerun numbers, it was clear he wasn’t playing great baseball. He was striking out a ton. His defense was lackluster. He wasn’t a team player.

Finally, when Sosa showed up just 70 minutes before the Cubs 2004 season finale and left the game early, the light bulb in the Cubs management suddenly clicked, and they realized the Cubs would not win with Sammy Sosa on their team.

Terrell Owens is vilified by fans, the media, everyone. He’s denounced as a cancer who’s detrimental to any team whose uniform he puts on.

So is Sammy Sosa. So was Sammy Sosa.

He is just another “me-first,” selfish athlete who cared more about his numbers than his team’s wins.

Granted, he served as a minor distraction in his injury-filled season with the Baltimore Orioles and didn’t do anything to get in trouble. I guess he was just content with his putrid numbers doing the talking, batting a whopping .221, with 14 homeruns and 45 RBI’s in only 102 games. At least he still managed 84 strikeouts.

There’s not one doubt in my mind that when Slammin’ Sammy’s name appears on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, he will be elected. Sosa knew how to manipulate the baseball world with his phony smile, tobacco-filled cheek and “swing-as-hard-as-I-can-and-hope-I-hit-something” attitude.

His 66 homers in ’98 will be enough to get him there, which is a shame.

But for now, Sosa is unemployed and retirement is a very realistic possibility. The man who made over $17 million last season recently turned down a one-year, non-guaranteed contract worth up to $500,000 from the Washington Nationals. This beat their previous offer to Sosa for a Minor League deal and an invite to spring training.

“I’ve seen some greats leave the game. You never want to see them leave and you’d rather see them leave on their terms and leave on top,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

Most of the time, I’d agree with Baker. Normally you hate to see an athlete fall so far from being the king of his or her sport to fighting for a job.

Sosa should get no sympathy.

“Beisbol” was very, very good to him.

He’s finally getting what he deserves.

Jon Gluskin is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]