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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.

  • http://bullpenbrian.com/ Bullpen Brian

    Well said, Brett. I share the same felling about Sori. I hope he can find one more good year with the Cubs.

  • EQ76

    And we never hear anything negative about this guy in the clubhouse or off-field.. I keep thinking he needs to use a lighter bat though.. maybe he’ll make more contact if he quit using that telephone pole at the plate. Honestly, we need him to hit about .265 and knock out 25-28 hrs, and keep the blunders in the outfield to a minimum, if he can do that, then we’re getting the most out of him we could ask for and I’m okay with him in LF.

  • Cedlandrum

    I’ve always like fonso. He is what he is. He is a bat who will hit a bunch of homers and strikeout a ton. He never, ever was a good defensive player.

  • Chris

    I just can’t help thinking that if Soriano would change his stance… I mean for a leadoff guy trying to force some walks, the crouch makes sense, but he hasn’t really been that guy for a long time. If he opened himself up a bit more, stood upright, leveled out his swing… remember what happened when Sammy Sosa adjusted his ridiculous swing when he was 30… we can believe a lot of things about PEDs and stuff, but there is no question the guy cut his swing way down, was getting a much better look at the ball… And I recall this clearly: Sosa said he stopped trying to hit homeruns. He was already plenty strong enough; he just needed to hit the ball more times. More hits would be more homeruns for a strong guy. Makes perfect sense to me. Sori is the same in my opinion. Fix the stance, square up the ball, and start driving to the gaps and he could have 3 of the best late-career seasons see in a long time.

  • Edgar

    Why was he moved to left field? why not try to move him to 2B? Its not like he is going to block anyone there. have barney come in on close games when we have the lead or after the 7th inning.

    • EQ76

      too many errors at 2B is why he was moved. The Rangers had him at 2B and DH, I believe the Nats first put him in LF & kept him there. It really was sort of an afterthought and not a big deal since he was belting out 40hrs and stealing 40 bases, batting .280 each year. Remember when Hendry signed him, he just came off of a 46HR/41SB year.

  • jstraw

    I’m going to offer a differing view. First, let me say that the people that boo’d him at the convention should all be punched in the throat. With that out of the way, I’ll tell you that I think Sori has been frequently guilty of cutting his aging legs way too much slack in the outfield and doesn’t field his position as aggressively as I think he should. I also think there’s frustration over the contract for another reason. His contract has made him unmovable and handcuffed us to him. It’s been impossible to improve at left field because of his contract. And before anyone asks me who exactly he’s blocking I’ll answer with everyone and no one. With his contract in place, there’s no scenario over the last few years where the Cubs can even think about someone else in left. On the other hand, I’d rather have seen almost any youngster getting a shot there, once the Cubs were out of contention. He’s been an albatross. Hendry’s worst signing.

    • Edgar

      You are forgetting Bradley.

  • DowntownLBrown

    Soriano has been my favorite player since he was a Rookie with the Yankees. The guy got a horrible contract from our former moron GM Jimbo. He has always been labeled a greedy bad guy who doesn’t care. Without him we would not have won back-to-back NL Central titles.

    Ill always root for the guy, never boo him, but the contract was ridiculous.

    • Edward

      Without the former moron GM Jimbo and his contract, he would’ve never been a Cub. It’s not like the Cubs were the only team looking to sign him.

    • die hard

      if he can go out with 3 seasons averaging 15 HR and 50 RBI playing half the time, fans should be happy that it wasnt worse. Add those career ending stats to his other stats and he would have had an above avg career. Cubs right now dont have a LF who can do better from a power viewpoint. But let Campana play 3/4 of the innings and give him green light on bases. If he avg .275 with 150 hits and 50 SB with 75 runs scored, I would take that too.

  • Dave H

    I feel for the guy also. He never has gotten bad press for any off-field antics. Pretty solid guy in the community. He may have is problems but so does everyone else. I’d like to see 270-280 and 25 homers. Stick campy out there for the 7th and beyond. We have to come to terms that he is going to be out there for at least this year and next. Go get’em fonzie!

  • die hard

    Yes but Sori doesnt take perf enhancing stuff and so what you see is what you get. Sosa looked like Arnold Schwazenager from 1998-2003. Sori will do ok with more rest from platooning and pinch running. He shouldnt be in any games after 5th inning. It is what it is. Would he agree to be team rep and hitting instructor in new Latin complex to serve out last 2 years of contract. He would be Cubs’ ambassador there. This could pay huge dividends on his salary over next 10 years. If his presence could attract top prospects and his instruction improve their game this player pipeline will yield more wealth than any pipeline elsewhere including the Keystone from Canada if ever built.

    • Papi

      LaRussa did ok substituting Freese who was a defensive liability at 3B out after the 7th inning last year tapping into the offensive potential but shielding as much of the defensive lapse

  • TeddyBallGame

    I admit, fans are a little too ruthless when it comes to booing Soriano, but to an extent I think he deserves it. Between not running hard on the bases when he thinks he hit a homer, he lacks concentration. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice before EVERY at bat, Soriano stands in the on-deck circle and looks at fans and waves to them for pictures. Make of this what you want, but it’s a clear sign of not concentrating, when arguably he should be concentrating the most. Worst thing about this, towards the end of the year I noticed Castro starting to do it at as well…

    • Eric

      Concentrating the most in the on-deck circle? On what? I’d prefer he concentrate the most in the batter’s box, and in left field, preferably when the ball is in play.

  • Edgar

    I like the idea of him being an ambassador. I think we have seen how it has worked with Castro. Sori looks like the mentor type. When he retires I would not mind see him being in charged of the Dominican facility that is being built.

  • SouthernCub

    I personally like the guy, his contract sucks……..for the cubs, but i like the man.

  • OlderStyle

    Brett, thanks for writing this. The amount of undeserved slagging Alfonso has gotten from fans is ridiculous. He has his weaknesses as a player, most players do, but the booing and criticism about perceptions of his “laziness” are witch hunts perpetuated even on this excellent site.
    Hear! Hear!

  • Internet Random

    Nice one, Bert.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, chief.

  • Dante Hicks

    I can’t disagree with most of what you say Brett.

    1)You must be the first Cubs blogger to say “improvidently.” Love it.

    2) Good man? Heck ya. I know someone who has worked with his kids and he is supposed to a be great dad and kind to all worked with said kids. Love that.

    3) The legs are leaving? Or already retired in Miami Beach? I never quite could understand how after leg injuries his first two years he seemed to hold off pushing himself hard again, even after proclaiming to be ready to go all out. That and the effort on watching fly balls is tough to take.

    4) It is a sad story in some ways. Our expectations were wildly insane as was the contract. Blame the Trib, Hendry, Sori, whoever…I wish that we could have had a happier day.

    5) And the other annoyance? Amazing how he always swings at the same out pitch.

    6) Just a bummer.

  • art

    sorry, i see a very bad lazy LF’er, who doesn’t run hard on any fly ball/grounder. that’s why fans boo. nothing to do with his contract. fans always have booed bad/lazy players with small or big contracts. that’s just my opinion.

    i applaud him for his off the field work, his “very hard work before games” but, it’s what i see on the field that counts, IMO.

  • Tim

    My prediction for the year. .300BA 30HR 100RBI

    • ogyu

      Perhaps a good prediction, but for whom? Certainly not Soriano.

  • Kyle

    The problem is that with his bad legs, Soriano’s full speed looks like he’s jogging.

    • DocWimsey

      As someone with bad legs myself (with half the ACLs that I had a birth and a lot less cartilage), I can add that the bigger problem is not how fast you can run, but how well you accelerate. You can get to full speed, but it takes many more strides. Instead of exploding out of the batters box or away from your position, you initially lumber and then pick up slowly. The end product is that it takes longer to get to where you are going.

      Sori’s fielding problems are compounded by the fact that he is not a “natural” in left who knows immediately where to go when the ball when it leaves the bat. If you are watching the ball when you run, then this, too, decreases your acceleration.

  • truebluecubbie

    The charitable contributions are one of the reasons I don’t hate the guy. Is he overpaid? Yes. Is that his fault? No. Hendry dangled that contract in front of him and he would have been a fool not to take it. Hopefully he has a couple more good years or will accept a trade to an AL team who needs a DH. I would like to see nothing but success for him.

  • ferrets_bueller
  • SouthSideCubFan21

    I don’t believe in booing at all. I know these guys make millions, but I still think it can really affect their play when thats all you here when you are in a slump. I think it messed people up like Corey Patterson, Milton Bradley, and tons of relief pitchers etc…… You want to boo at a game then boo the oppossing player if thats what you like to do. Anyone booing their own team isn’t going to help break a slump or make the player better. The coach will sit the guy if he is playing that bad. Sori isn’t that bad, but we gave him a giant contract so thats why people are pissed. We were on cloud nine when we got him though, and we HAD to offer that money and length of contract to get him. Bottom line!!!!!!! Go Cubs! NO BOO’s!!!!

  • K Rock

    It’s ok to boo a guy if he is playing bad and not hustling………..Which he was doing neither at the fan convention, so it was uncalled for. I am upset he hasnt played up to his contract. Then again, the only way he could have played up to that contract was getting a WS title to the North Side

    I will be happy to see him go because he belongs as a DH in the AL, but wish him nothing but the best because he is one of the “good guys” of the league.

  • http://bleachernation.com Butch Cub

    Dog-gone-it Brett… now I feel Bad!

  • cubsin

    I still believe he’d have more success with a lighter bat, but if Jaramillo can’t persuade him to try it, I sure can’t. I never understood why the boobirds were on Soriano’s case, but gave ARam a pass.

  • Curt

    Its not sorianos fault Jim hendry gave him the bank, I’d take it and so would all the people booing him, we just have to live with the suspect def,slowing bat until jed or theo finds him a dh job he’s a good guy I think cut him a little slack at least until swings at every outside slider, I kid.

  • SouthSideCubFan21

    Sorry didn’t mean to make you feel bad Butch!!!
    Lets put it this way. I hope Adam Dunn starts off slow, and the Sox fans start booing him right away. I believe he had a tough time switching leagues, but the fans booing him definitely didn’t help his confidence. You don’t just go from how many seasons in a row hitting 40 HR to 12 HR. Let them boo him right off the start, and he will be done again.

  • spencer

    I don’t think soriano should be booed. But I do believe that fans have the right to boo players if they want to. But I don’t think soriano deserves it. Some players do.

  • JR

    I agree with jstraw and Dante — seems like a great guy but not entirely without some responsibility for the fan reaction. While consistently affable, which is nice, he has also been (mostly behind closed doors) demanding and stubborn until his performance eroded to the point that he had to go along to get along. Remember when he insisted on hitting leadoff and, until things got really bad refusing to give up the hop? And refusing a minor league assignment only to promptly blow two games on defensive snafus — and then pout publicly about the prospect of being removed for defense late in games?

    It is not entirely clear to me how someone who supposedly works so hard on the practice field can show such little effort or improvement in areas that drive the fans bonkers: defense and repeatedly striking out on low, outside pitches. To be sure, his talent is enormous and when he is in a streak he can carry the team. As for the contract, it is not his fault but nonetheless is a great boon to him while bad for the team and the fans — but it is also not entirely at the root of fan complaints, though it exacerbates those issues to be sure. It is entirely within his power to address fan concerns (rather than writing them off entirely as consequences of The Contract) by working to improve in the areas of defense and plate discipline as well as — and this would go a long way — hustling in left field and on the bases. Fans forgive a lot when they see that kind of effort. And taking a larger view I worry that the lack of effort and hustle on the field — and not paying attention on the base paths, etc. — from a team leader bleeds into the clubhouse culture and impacts young players like Castro.

    That all being said, I’d like to see him succeed, preferably on some other team, but since it seems he’s stuck here I hope he gets into a lot of hot streaks over the course of the season and works hard in those areas of the game for which his offensive prowess no longer give him cover. But whatever happens I don’t feel bad for him for two reasons: (1) given what he makes, it’s the ultimate champagne problem; and (2) he seems to have the emotional health and maturity to shrug it off. And on both of those points good for him.

    • Dante Hicks

      Amen. Excellent points!

  • Cubbies4Life

    Okay, ya’all are gonna boo ME for this, but I kinda liked it when he did his little hop while catching a ball in left field. I know, I know… Good on ya, Brett. Maybe it’s time to cut Sori some slack?

    • hardtop

      I’m going to boo you for using the word “y’all”

      boo.

      • Edward

        Take it easy on the y’all bashing. Uncalled for!

  • SouthSideCubFan21

    Oh, fans have the right to boo whoever they want, but I’m just saying what will that do? Seriously, do you think it will help any player at all to boo him. I’m not talking about booing someone who didn’t hustle once in a while or watches his homerun ball and it doesn’t leave the yard. I mean booing the guy everytime he comes to the plate.

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