I don’t dislike Alfonso Soriano.
I’ve actually defended the guy’s effort for years now after hearing repeatedly that, behind the scenes, he was the hardest worker on the team. He comes off as a pleasant enough guy, one who cares about winning and losing, and one who tries very hard to improve every day.
So, when I heard him booed on occasion over the past three years – or worse, at the Cubs Convention this year – it made me a little sad.
Reading his take on the situation, and reading what he does off the field, made me a little more sad. From Cubs.com:
Alfonso Soriano heard the boos from fans when he was introduced during opening ceremonies at the Cubs Convention. He just flashed his megawatt smile. He’s heard the jeers at Wrigley Field when he misplays a ball.
He knows why. The 2012 season is the sixth year of his eight-year, $136 million deal with the Cubs, and Soriano says the money is all that fans see.
“They don’t see me as a baseball player,” Soriano said. “They see me as the contract. They don’t see my heart, nothing like that. That’s what it is. I know I have a big heart.”
His teammates know that, and they understand that with the mega deal comes higher expectations ….
“Once you get that contract, it happens,” Byrd said. “‘Sori’ is used to the boos and it doesn’t bother him. It’s all worth it when he gets those cheers, and that’s what he loves. When he hits that big home run and goes to the outfield and the entire left field is applauding him and bowing to him, that’s what he loves. Boos come with the big market. He played in New York, he knows what that’s about.”
This offseason, Soriano heard lots of cheers. Because of his generousity, more than 80 kids in the small municipality of Quisqueya in the Dominican Republic go to school. They get three meals a day. They are cared for.
The article goes on from there to detail Soriano’s many, many off-the-field efforts to help kids, abused women, young athletes, and more.
Soriano is what he is: an aging slugger on the back-end of an improvidently large contract. His legs are leaving him, his defensive ability is evaporating, and his large bat is getting a tick slower every month. None of that is his “fault.” None of it earns him a single boo. Indeed, the only thing he’s ever done that is marginally boo-able is staring when he hits fly balls, and hopping a little when he catches them.
At this point, he’s not going to be traded any time soon, and he’s going to be the Cubs’ primary left fielder to start the 2012 season. So, all we can do is cheer for him. Who knows? It might help just a little bit.
He’s clearly a good guy – that’s a part of “what he is,” too, you know. And I like rooting for guys like that, even if, ultimately, I’m ready to see the Cubs move on. So, I’ll cheer hard for Soriano while he’s here. And, when he moves on, I’ll be happy about that, too.