After signing an eight year, $136 million contract with the Cubs before the 2007 season, expectations that Soriano would be the team’s dominant star were unfairly high in the subsequent few years. Soriano was solid in 2007 and 2008, though he battled injuries both years. Then, in 2009, his production fell off dramatically. Worse, the perception of his defense in left field – generally considered average with a good arm – turned dramatically sour after a stretch of what seemed like daily blunders. The hop didn’t help.
That’s when fans started booing Soriano.
They were booing his poor defense, and his poor production. But I think if you could really drill down into fans’ collective head Freud-style, you find that they were really booing Soriano’s performance relative to the expectations created by his contract. This, of course, was not Soriano’s fault. He’s a guy who, by all accounts, tries his hardest before, during, and after the game.
So, when asked about the boos raining down on cross-town big contract signee Adam Dunn, Soriano didn’t hold back.
“He’s a great player. The fans, they don’t understand when the player’s struggling, how hard it is and how he is trying,” Soriano said. “He cannot think about. He’s got to try to do the best he can to just concentrate on the game. The fans, they come to see the players do good, but sometimes they want to look at something negative and boo the guy. That’s nothing new. That’s the way it is here.”
Ouch. That’s the way it is here? That’s the way the fans are in Chicago?
“It’s the worst,” Soriano continued. “I played in New York, but the fans are worse here. But at the same time, I understand. Fans can get frustrated because they want the team to win, and they want the players to hit. At the same time, the game’s not easy.”
Knowing what we know about how hard Soriano tries, I really can’t be too upset about Soriano’s comments. Obviously I hope they are inaccurate (are Chicago fans really worse than, say, Philadelphia fans? I suspect that recent success in Philadelphia obscures the wrath of that fanbase), but I can’t blame Soriano for telling us how he feels. And he wasn’t so much complaining as responding to direct questions.
In other words, he was doing the best he could. And I’m certainly not going to boo him for it.