MLB Player Profile: The Cubs OF Alfonso Soriano
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Sunday, January.06, 2013
Alfonso Soriano: Misunderstood, Good, But Never A Fit
Alex Kantecki (Guest Baseball Writer and Cubs Correspondent): Follow @Akantecki
It’s no secret Alfonso Soriano isn’t the most liked player among Cubs fans. Following the 2006 season when then general manager Jim Hendry signed the Outfielder to the largest contract in team history ($136 Million over eight years), fans dreaming of a World Series title pinned their hopes on the unconventional Leadoff hitter that hit 46 HR and stole 41 bases with the Washington Nationals the year before. Soriano did his part and helped lead the Cubs to two straight National League Central titles in 2007 and 2008, but the Cubs were swept away in the Division Series both years. Like his teammates, Soriano struggled to do much of anything in the postseason, collecting three hits in 29 Plate Appearances and failing to score or drive in a single run in six games.
Alfonso Soriano 2012 Highlights – Parental Guidance Is Advised
The Cubs failed to make the postseason the next three seasons and Soriano was at the forefront of the franchise’s latest underachieving teams. His power went down, his strikeouts went up, he lost his speed and the boos from Wrigley Field’s faithful became a deafening everyday occurrence. Of course, there was also Soriano’s defense. From 2009 to 2011, he led all left fielders in errors each season and had the major’s lowest fielding percentage at the position all three years, making his decreasing production at the plate even harder to stomach. Whether it was his offensive decline, his defensive shortcomings, his perceived lack of hustle, his actual lack of hustle or the way he timed his catches in the outfield with a goofy hop, Soriano quickly became an easy target for fans looking for a scapegoat on the field.
Some of the disdain for Soriano wore off in 2012, as he statistically became one of the league’s better defenders in Left Field and rediscovered his power stroke, smacking 32 HRs with 108 RBI. It was Soriano’s highest Home Run total since 2007 – his first year on the Cubs – and his highest RBI total ever. Despite his resurgence, the team lost 101 games and only a 107-Loss Houston Astros team stood between the Cubs and the absolute bottom of the Major League cellar.
Soriano had a good start to 2012 hitting .265/.323/.469 with 15 HRs and 48 RBI before the All-Star Break, but he really came on strong in the Second Half, Slugging .532 with 17 HRs, 18 Doubles and 60 RBI in 27 less At-Bats – showing signs of the old Soriano who once averaged 37 HRs a season from 2002 to 2006 while with the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and Nationals. By season’s end, Soriano hit .262/.322/.499, leading the Cubs in HRs, Doubles, RBI, Slugging Percentage and OPS.
Because of his bounce back campaign and the Cubs willingness to part ways with the highly priced and aging left fielder, Soriano was discussed in multiple trade talks before and after the non-waiver trade deadline. But with a full no-trade clause, Soriano reportedly nixed two potential deals that could have sent him out of Chicago. One would have sent him to the Pittsburgh Pirates (link here), a team and fan base desperate for a winner. The other would have sent him to the San Francisco Giants (link here), the eventual World Series winner.
In 2013, Soriano is expected be the Cubs starting Left Fielder if team president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer are unable to find a trade partner for the soon-to-be 37-Year Old. Soriano still has two years and $36 Million left on his contract, with the Cubs reportedly willing to eat as much as $26 Million to facilitate a trade link here. Soriano would ideally be a better fit in the American League with the Designated Hitter as an option, but it’s anyone’s guess whether or not the Cubs will be able to find a landing spot for him and whether or not Soriano will waive his full No-Trade clause to go.
Fairly or unfairly, Soriano has become the latest main attraction in the Cubs’ 104 years-and-counting production of futility. Soriano once made seven consecutive All-Star teams from 2002 to 2008, he’s one of four players – along with Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Jose Canseco – to hit 40 HRs and steal 40 bases in a season, he holds the Major League Record with 13 Leadoff HRs in one season (in 2003) and he’s won two World Series (both with the Yankees – he only played regular season games in 1999 and 200o and not the Post Season) in his 14-Year Career. At the end of this current contract, he will also have amassed 157 Million Dollars in Player Salary.
After a successful 2012, Soriano may have won back some of the fans he lost over the previous three seasons, but his Cubs legacy will forever be as yet another player who couldn’t help end the team’s World Series drought. A successful 2012 only put more pressure on Soriano to do it again in 2013 – and for the Cubs to get a respectable return for a player the New York Daily News once proclaimed as the second coming of Rickey Henderson.
Since 2010, the Cubs have seen veteran leaders like Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Kerry Wood leave the team, leaving Soriano as the defacto leader of a franchise that hasn’t been led to a World Series title since 1908. At his age, he’s no longer capable of doing that. And, as far as his Cubs career goes, he never was.
I hope it doesn’t come to this, but my sense is the Cubs will sooner or later reach a point of no return with Soriano and really push for him to leave Chicago, similar to what happened with Ryan Dempster in 2012. And that was a complete mess. With a full No-Trade clause, Soriano obviously has the final say, but it’s in the best interest of both parties to go their separate ways, sooner rather than later.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of www.mlbreports.com and their partners.***
A big thank-you goes out to our Cubs Correspondent Alex Kantecki. Alex is a Cubs fan to a fault. Sadly, his most memorable Cubs’ moment was watching the Cubs infamous 2003 postseason collapse while on a cruise somewhere in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. But because he’s a loyal fan, he didn’t jump ship. Alex has a degree in journalism (yay!), covered prep sports at the Northwest Herald and currently writes for faketeams.com, SB Nation’s fantasy sports blog. He lives north of Chicago, but hates ketchup on hot dogs nonetheless. Follow Alex on Twitter Follow @Akantecki
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Posted on January 6, 2013, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged 40/40 Club, @alexkantecki on twitter, alex kantecki, alex rodriguez, alfonso soriano, aramis ramirez, barry bonds, chicago, chicago cubs, derrek lee, houston astros, jed hoyer, Jim Hendry, jose canseco, kerry wood, MLB ALL-Star, National League Central, new york yankees, NLDS 2007, NLDS 2008, pittsburgh pirates, rickey henderson, ryan dempster, san francisco giants, SB Nation, Silver Slugger Award, texas rangers, theo epstein, washington nationals, world series, wrigley field. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.