It’s no secret that Alfonso Soriano is struggling. After an atrocious 2009 season, the Chicago Cubs outfielder – and highest paid position player – entered 2010 with a surgically-repaired knee, and a renewed desire to perform.

So far, so bad.

Soriano has not hit, and worse, he looks like his defense has deteriorated even further – and it was pretty bad to begin with. And now, Soriano is in serious danger of becoming the most expensive bench player in Cubs history.

“When you’re not scoring runs, you better put your best defense on the field — that I can tell you,” Piniella said after Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. “You can’t afford to give up runs when you’re not scoring.”

An error by Alfonso Soriano in the Reds’ seventh led to a run. Soriano apparently tracked Jonny Gomes’ fly ball, but then took his eyes away. The ball dropped, and he was charged with an error.

The Reds baserunners seemed confused. Did Soriano catch it? Was it foul? Whatever, the bases were loaded and starter Tom Gorzelanny was pulled. Pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo gently smacked the ball past Sean Marshall for an infield hit, and Scott Rolen scored from third to tie the game.

Piniella couldn’t tell what happened because Soriano disappeared from view. How close was Soriano to the wall?

“I took a couple steps then hit the grass, and as soon as I hit the grass, I thought I had two more steps,” Soriano said. “I took little steps, because I didn’t want to hit the wall. You know, full speed into the wall can be very dangerous.”

Rookie Tyler Colvin was inserted into left after the eighth inning. He may need to start. What else can Piniella do?

“We’ll see what happens,” Piniella said. “I’m going to go home, think about it. It’s nice to be going home tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the home opener, and hopefully, we’ll start swinging the bats and put some runs on the board and win with more frequency.”

Obviously, the Cubs have to play the best players, regardless of contract. But it’s very hard to sit a guy who has, including this year, five years and $18 million per season left on his contract.

Still, when a guy can’t make routine catches in the outfield, and is offering absolutely nothing at the plate, how can you justify playing him every day? Collectively, let’s hope he’s simply still recovering from the knee issues, and just needs more time to get back to 100%.

And as an aside: Alfonso, that is the worst, most pathetic excuse I’ve ever heard for a drop. You were nowhere near the wall on the fly ball you dropped. Yes, you were near the wall on the FOUL ball that you missed earlier in the game (and looked like a gigantic pansy), so I suppose I can buy the excuse on that one. But the fly ball? Dude, that’s ridiculous.

  • jstraw

    I like Lou’s strategy. Winning with more frequency could work. No…I’m serious. It could be just the thing. I think he should try that…just as an experiment, mind you. We can always reevaluate.

  • nickpip

    The thing that troubles me the most about this post is that the word “close” is in the headline. Soriano needs to be benched now. Colvin needs to be playing today and the rest of the season so he can get the MLB experience he needs. Benching Soriano would be the wake up call he needs to either get better — or just be wildly rich and forgettable.

  • BT

    It’s only been a week. Everyone has a bad week. That being said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an outfielder miss this many routine fly balls. Maybe Adam Dunn, but I don’t think he’s done it with this frequency. I mean, it just doesn’t happen to anyone else. Does it?

  • xolager

    Oh god, five more years of this… and you have to assume it’s going to get worse each year, right?

  • Hawkboy64

    I’m srry Alfonso but ur pathetic def is only exceeded by yr offense and if we really want to won it’s time fr u to ride the bench r go to triple a to work on both (4 more yrs of this guy) plz mr rickets make him go away 2

  • Kevin G

    He wouldnt be surprised if he is benched. Lou and Hendry need to win this year, or I am betting its the Ax for both of them.

  • Kevin G

    I wonder if we eat about 70% of his contract if we could trade him to An American. We may not get as much for him as we once could, But I think we could get him waive is no trade if he get benched. He doesnt like to sit the bench at all.

  • brian

    I think its time to create a “Release Soriano Fund”. If every Cubs fan donated some money, perhaps what they would spend on one game (decrease demand, decrease price), maybe there could be enough money to give to Mr. Ricketts so he could just release Soriano and no longer deal with him. Not to sure about the legalities of it, or even if MLB would allow something like that, but I can’t stand watching this guy in Cubbie blue.

    • Ace

      Ha, classic.

  • KB

    Many teams have eaten massive contracts. If we have to eat this one, so be it.
    Besides, I agree with the poster who suggested a trade. You might say, “Alf has the most untradeable contract in the history of the game!” Yeah, it’s atrocious.

    But the most untradeable contract ever was Mike Hampton’s, and HE GOT TRADED!
    So it can be done.

    At this point, I’d take a serviceable set-up man for him.

    • Ace

      Soriano has a Jim Hendry special (a full no-trade clause), so that’s an additional hurdle.

      • KB

        If he rides the pine long enough, he’ll be begging to go someplace else. And it’s not like he’s being warmly embraced by Chicago fans or anything.

    • wax_eagle

      Maybe if the cubs put him on waivers towards the deadline Kenny Williams will claim him…worked last year for the Jays.

      • Ace

        We can dream, right? How has that Rios moved played out for them, anyway?