Rewind the clock to 1998, the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire. Even considering The Tribune, The Sears Tower, Billygoat Tavern, Steppenwolf Theater, Michael or Da Bears, Sammy Sosa was just about the biggest, most meaningful brand in Chicago.
And it continued on—from 1998 through 2002 Sammy hit 292 homers while batting .306 with a .649 slugging percentage. He is the only player in history with three 60+ home run seasons. And, he had a great personality—the fans loved him.
Fast forward to today: News of Sammy's trade to Baltimore. Fans interviewed on TV saying they're happy to see him go. The Cubs are paying a big chunk of his $17 million salary next year—for him to play on another team.
Things started to tail off in 2003 when Sammy was caught with a corked bat and suspended for 8 games, after which his performance suffered. This past season he missed a month with back problems caused—embarrassingly—by sneezing. (By then he'd lost the sympathy of the fans, and the sneezes became a joke.) Then he walked out of the clubhouse and left the ballpark before the last game of the season started, because he was unhappy that he was dropped to a lower position in the batting order.
Beyond baseball, what's the lesson here? If the Brand Called Sammy can go from hero to persona non grata, just think what can happen to your company if you stop performing ... or get caught corking your bat!