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Yesterday, Alfonso Soriano rocketed a liner right at Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who appeared to catch the ball. In fact, he bobbled the liner just after having it in his glove, and ultimately dropped the ball. Soriano, believing Middlebrooks had caught, or was certain to catch, the ball, didn’t run to first, and was easily thrown out after Middlebrooks corralled the ball.

The boos were intense.

And they continued long after the half inning, and after Soriano had assumed his usual position in front of the left field bleachers. The Wrigley faithful were unkind, as they have often been to Soriano, in particular, since he joined the team on an eight-year, $136 million contract five and a half seasons ago.

Soriano, to his credit, has always put on a smile, and shrugged off the cascade of criticisms he’s faced over the years, targeting his declining production, his spotty defense, his home-plate-stare-down routine, and a perceived laziness. He continues to work hard behind the scenes, play through pain, mentor young players, exemplify what it means to be a good teammate, and try to play the best he can.

But yesterday, none of that mattered. And, after the game, Soriano lost his cool.

“It’s unfair because it’s a hard line drive into the third baseman’s glove,” Soriano said to reporters after the game. “I’m happy my teammates and my manager and the coaches support me. They know I’m working hard to be a better player and be a better teammate.”

When asked why the fans don’t seem to know that, Soriano soured.

“I don’t think they understand the game,” Soriano said. “It’s a line drive, nothing you can do about it. If it’s a ground ball, they can do whatever they want [if I didn’t run]. I don’t know what [the fans] want.”

Soriano’s manager very much had his player’s back.

“That’s one of those things where 100 percent of every player in the history of baseball would do the same thing,” Dale Sveum said. “I know I did it a lot a lot of times in my career. You hit a ball that hard and hit it right at somebody and you think it’s in the glove and you put your head down and unfortunately, it gets away from him.

“The fact of the matter is everybody in this clubhouse knows how hard Sori works and how hard he’s played this year, and the balls he’s run out and the work he puts in to be a better outfielder. No matter what those legs feel like every day, he’s gone out there every day if it’s optional hitting. There’s not a guy in that clubhouse who wouldn’t give the shirt off their back for him.”

At the game, you can understand why some fans might not have immediately seen the play as easily excusable – without the benefit of replay, on a bang-bang play, all that many saw was a hard hit ball toward the third baseman, who controlled the ball, and threw to first while Soriano essentially stood and watched.

Here’s a video of the play for those who missed it live. Was Soriano’s reaction appropriate? I tend to agree with Soriano and Sveum that this is how just about anyone would react on that particular play:

  • Njriv

    I don’t blame him at all.

  • Kyle

    Not that he wasn’t already the heavy favorite for the position, but we officially have our 2012 Scapegoat To Run Out Of Town.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The thing that annoys me most about folks who rip Soriano is that there are perfectly GOOD reasons to want to dump him/trade him/move on. But his effort, attitude, whatever are not among those reasons.

      • Jon

        You run everything out. Pretty sure Theo said that was the “Cubs Way” somewhere in a conversation. He deserved to be booed.

        • JasonB

          Why are we still obsessing about this? His freaking manager has his back on this issue. Do fans really think they know more about this situation than a guy whos been in the majors in some capacity for 25 years and who was widely considered a very hard working player during his tenure?

        • Drew7

          Its about time to put the Little League coaches Handbook away with this issue. He hit a damn line-drive right at the 3rd baseman. I was sitting halfway down the 3B-line, and it looked like Middlebrooks had it for what seemed like an eternity – 99.9% of the time in the ML’s if Soriano sprints to 1st there he looks like and is playing like an idiot.

          You want our most productive RH hitter blowing out a hamstring to appease a fan-base searching for a scapegoat, that’s your right, but there’s a difference between productively playing hard (aggressive BR, umm….etc) and *hustling* just to be out by 3 steps instead of 4.

          Here’s the biggest problem: Those spitting all this nonsense about *playing the right way* and throwing Soriano under the bus despite a .795 OPS just love when Tony Campana and his .625 OPS start in CF.

          • MichiganGoat

            I can’t understand why this is still an issue with everyone. The Sori hate runs deep I guess, let it go folks this was not a big deal. I blame McCarver & Buck – now that’s a valid hate to have.

            • Sweetjamesjones

              “I blame McCarver & Buck – now that’s a valid hate to have.”

              Indeed.

  • @cubsfantroy

    I still see nothing wrong with what he did. A lot of players have done the same thing and would have done the same thing.

  • Stinky Pete

    I see this as an excuse for the fans who have chosen to hate Soriano to seethe. I was not at the game, but I wonder how much we are talking about it if the meatballs on Fox don’t blow it up on national TV.
    Just think about that. If you are hating Soriano right now, you are agreeing with Buck and McCarver (Shiver.)

    • http://worldseriesdreaming.com/ Rice Cube

      I had them on mute. Ha haaaa…

    • Toby

      and kept driving the point when Pedroia grounded out noting he “was running hard” to first. I saw nothing wrong with what Soriano did. The play happens often year after year. It’s not like Soriano’s knees allow him to start running back up. Has anyone seen what Sean Casey did a few years ago? He started running back to the dugout and got thrown out by the LF.

  • http://worldseriesdreaming.com/ Rice Cube

    Soriano is, unfortunately, a very convenient scapegoat for everything wrong with the Cubs this game and this season. That was a very unlucky play and he wouldn’t have made it to first safely anyway even if he had ran. If you have a stopwatch, I’d try timing it. The ball gets to Middlebrooks in a fraction of a second and if it were an arrow instead of a baseball Middlebrooks would’ve been dead. Soriano probably saw it and was like “FUCK” and then by the time his brain registered “Oh shit, he dropped it” it was too late. As you saw on the replay, it seemed that David Ortiz also thought it was a lineout and was late getting to the bag. This should be a non-issue, but because it’s Soriano, it’s a war crime.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Any other player on the Cubs, and the reaction is probably closer to “damn that sucks for the Cubs” than “boooooooo.”

      • MichiganGoat

        Yup

  • jstraw

    You guys have got to be kidding me. I don’t boo, I facepalm. Every play is a potential defensive error. You fucking run. I despise McCarver but he said it EXACTLY right. You don’t call yourself out.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      I have never seen a big league player run out that player. Everybody, from little league to MLB to beer league has the same reaction on that.

      • art

        sorry Doc, i don’t agree. if someone is going to give an opinion, do it honestly. someone said he would have been out easily anyway. we don’t know that. it could have been an overthrow at first. and where does it say that all the players on both teams say they would have done the same thing? where does it say in the ML rule book that the runner doesn’t have to run on a line drive. just cause some guys don’t run doesn’t make it right. i don’t care about his contract, i don’t hate him, it’s the way you/he plays the game.

        don’t take anything for granted, run everything out. that’s what Dale preached in ST, what all kids learn from little league up. you can’t assume the fielder will catch the ball, you can’t assume he’ll make a perfect throw to first when being rushed, so you run until you see the ump call you out. I’ve seen the replay many times, he should have run. most, repeat most every teammate i played with and against ran everything out, that’s my honest opinion. now everyone come over for BBQ, yes even the guys who don’t run out line drives.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          I wrote easily.  You then proceed a bunch of highly improbable (i.e., not easy) ways in which he could be safe.  If you are going to given an opinion, do not use false premises: you then have given a belief instead.

        • Hansman1982

          Yes please Soriano sprint out a routine play so the you need knee surgery July 1. While I want guys to hustle out every play it is interesting that the guys who do that seem to fade as the year goes on.

  • Stu

    Fans pay good money to see a product on the field. They are the customers and if they don’t like a guy making $18M not running everything out, they have a right to voice it.

    Is there some sort of baseball political correctness where we need permission to express an opinion by the baseball elites? Are they really that disconnected from the people that enable them to play a game for a living?

    There might be a day when all that is taken for granted doesn’t exist anymore.

    • Kyle

      Of course they have the right to express the opinion.

      Just like I have the right to express the opinion that their opinion is stupid and comes from an inferior understanding of life and baseball.

      • Alex K

        Thank u! Seriously, anybody else remember he’s got a bum knee? Hypothetically, he could have blew out that knew sprinting out of the box to first base… Towards a definite out… Or continue to play safe and try to get to the place where the 2013 cubs fans are happy about him in another uniform, not getting paid 18 mil for the dl.

    • fivetoolmike

      No, you certainly don’t need anyone’s permission to express any sort of opinion. It’s ok to admit that you’re wrong or being unfair, though, when confronted with evidence; that doesn’t have anything to do with “political correctness.”

  • Kris

    I like Soriano alot. But, I was there and was just sick when he didn’t run. … that would have set up a bases loaded situation when they were down 4-0. He should have run. I don’t doubt his hard work, but it’s these moments that show why the Cubs keep losing – the coach isn’t forcing anyone to make things happen. Love the Cubs. Dislike the coaching.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      No it would not have: he would have been out by plenty had he run. Coaching has nothing to do with this: all the players on both teams agreed that they would have stopped, too, out of pure frustration.

    • Billy

      There was no chance he could have beat that out, maybe even in his younger days. That was a rocket shot right at the 3rd basemen. You have an unrealistic view of the game. Sori plays his ass off and doesn’t deserve to be booed because he thought a guy caught a ball.

    • Stinky Pete

      What exactly would have set up a bases loaded situation? If he sprints, like folks are suggesting he should have, he is still OUT. Soriano said the only problems his knees give him are STARTING and stopping. He would have been out in a closer play and might still be running trying to slow down.

      • Hansman1982

        Maybe campana beats that out but 99.9% of the time that is an out.

  • Stinky Pete

    I think you are confused. Of course every fan has the “right” to boo. No one ever said they didn’t. We’re just commenting on how silly it is to boo.

  • Chad C

    If he puts his head down and sprints, the fans would have booed because he didn’t look up and pay attention to the play. He didn’t ask for leg problems, I’m sure he would rather still be a 40/40 guy. Leave Soriano alone, he is the least of the Cubs worries.

  • Carew

    Man fans need to give Soriano a break. I understand this, just not deserving of this much hatred.
    The Cubs Convention booing is the one that got me. That was horrible. I honestly was ashamed of being a fan at that moment.

    • Toby

      Carew, I agree, the Cubs Convention was a low as far as being a fan of the team. And still Soriano goes out and still smiles. I’m a big supporter of Soriano, mostly because he’s a good player that still has that kid smile day in and day out, but partly because of how he’s treated by a majority of the fans who find some reason to boo him. After last night, I am a much bigger supporter of him. Soriano is playing his best ball in some time, is playing hurt, finally let go of using the tree trunk of a bat, but, yet, fans will find reason to boo him. I thought Cub fans were the most forgiving, but I don’t think no matter what Soriano does will never forgive anything the man does.

      • Carew

        You and I have the exact same thought processes Mr. Toby. All that you said, I was prepared to mention. Im glad there’s a bigger Soriano supporter

  • Mysterious4th

    I don’t blame him a bit! Sure he has not always ran them out when he should have but in the majors that’s almost a 100% sure bet to catch so why risk further injury to his legs when it’s not worth it? Especially when he is playing thru pain and he’s playing pretty good at this point!

  • Papa Bear

    When i learned the game of baseball it was drilled in my head you run out every ball, and heck I was not making 136 million dollars

    • Kyle

      At about the same age, I was taught to write everything in pencil and never pen.

      Lots of things we’re taught at that age don’t apply to adults in professional situations.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      I don’t care what you were taught.  If you smashed a liner into an opposing players mitt in a key situation and did not stand and scream in frustration, then you clearly did not care about the game and are not someone I wanted on my team.

    • Njriv

      Usually when you hit a line drive that hard usually the ball is already caught at the end of your follow-through or maybe you might have enough time to lean towards first and maybe take a step toward first. If the ball was caught initially, Soriano would have barley gotten a step toward first. I have never seen someone hit a ball as hard as Soriano did and have enough time to start running before the opposing player caught the ball.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        You see it many times every season where the guy basically never leaves the box.  The announcers will often say something along the lines of “he was out before he left the batters box” and the ex-player will (if he’s a former position player) then give you an anecdote involving one of the times that he did that, and usually point out that 5 bloops dropping in never makes up for one of those.

        • Stinky Pete

          1970 WS Bench ripped the ball so hard to third and Robinson threw him out, on a groundball, mind you, that Bench never got out of the batters box. Wonder if we had Twitter and FB and internets back then if Bench would have been torn up.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            No, it would have been written up as how much respect Bench and other Reds had for Robinson!  Indeed, I do remember them joking that if they hit the ball to 3rd, then they’d just run straight back to the dugout….  (Robinson made at least 3 truly sick plays in that series that caught the public’s eye: but the Reds talked about how he numerous tough chances look routine.)

    • Stinky Pete

      Were you taught to keep running after it was caught?

  • RoughRiider

    What Soriano did is the same as anyone who has played the game has done. I personally have never booed a player. (umpire calls are another matter) this was totally wrong. I suppose that it’s the accumulated pent up frustration of some of the fans. He wouldn’t have beaten it out even if he had run.

  • Stu

    Kyle,

    Inferior understanding of life and baseball? Really?

    Now what is it that I don’t understand? That I am not lemming like you that needs to get permission to express an opinion that goes contrary to what you are being told to think?

    All fans want is the players to give 100% effort, all of the time. We pay their salaries. Or do you need some instruction as to where the money comes from to pay them.

    • Pat

      That’s a generalization. In many cases, I do not want a player going all out when it is unlikely to produce a positive result. A recent example would be Aramis Ramirez. For some reason fans loved to scream about the 1-2 times a year he was out rather than safe at first by not sprinting down the line when it appeared he would be out but there was a misplay. But the truth is that given his occasional leg problems two additional singles would never have a positive enough value to outweigh the 2-4 weeks or more additional time he would have spent on the DL by sprinting out of the box 150 times.

  • James Karl

    Wow! I think Soriano’s conduct – not running when the third basemen never looked sure of catching the ball – and Soriano/Sveum’s comments are all indicative of the team’s pathetic record.

    There is no excuse for not running on that play and if Sveum didn’t run that out as a player, then he shouldn’t be managing. I couldn’t care less how much work Soriano might do behind the scenes. I’m sure there are a lot of dads out there working just as hard who don’t get paid in a year what Soriano got paid in the inning in which he epitomized the Cubs problems.

    I’ve read some posts that baseball players know that you don’t run that out. That’s b.s. in my mind. The fact of the matter is and always will be…you’re not out until the umpire calls you out. And if you are not out, then you’d better be running after you hit the ball.

    Soriano’s worth as an asset goes down when he’s making headlines for not running out a ball. On that play, he makes himself look bad. His manager looks bad for supporting behavior that has no upside and only downside. For every player that doesn’t run that out, he is making a decision that has no upside for the team.

    Maybe Soriano should spend less time working so hard behind the scenes and work harder during the game.

    Soriano’s comments “I don’t know what the fans want” suggest major naiveté. I attended a Sunday game against the Giants in which Soriano let a runner score from first base because he threw the ball to second base instead of hitting the cutoff man. That’s bonehead baseball. He let a ball go over his head to end Wood’s no hitter that should have been caught. He’s making physical AND mental mistakes and the fans are tired of it.

    I understand that Theo and company are concentrating on developing the system from within. I look forward to seeing how the young players develop. However, I am disappointed in the lack of accountability on the major league level. I’ve heard it mentioned many a time that Soriano is a good influence to the young players. I highly doubt Soriano’s mental and physical errors are a good influence on players like Castro who also makes those similar mistakes. I think Sveum is kidding himself if he thinks Soriano is a good influence. Again…who cares if Soriano works hard behind the scenes. What is he doing when the game is on the line? What is Starlin Castro doing when he stops in the middle of a steal because he has a brain fart? It’s embarrassing and there has to be accountability for it to stop.

  • Spoda17

    I am never a fan of booing anyone for any reason. Sori doesn’t deseve it, and I used to think Cubs fans were smarter than this. We normally are very classy, but not this time. Shame on you fans that booed Soriano.

  • Dustin S

    When watching a game on tv you miss alot of the small things that you get to see at a live game like seeing players moving around the field between innings, running back to the dugout after plays, etc. When I was at the Padres series a few weeks back I definitely noticed how bad Soriano’s knee is hurting him. He’s practically dragging it behind him. Alot of players would happily go on the DL and collect their check, either on their own or being convinced by their agent to protect future value. He’s been playing through it to help the team because a DL stint would officially park him in the untradeable category. Soriano has busted his behind this year improving his defense and without his 12 hr and 41 rbi this team would probably be 5+ more losses back. He should have run it out, but if it was anyone else with that type of line drive right at 3B it wouldn’t have even been noticed. Castro forgetting how many outs there were in an inning is more of a gaffe to me.

    Most of this crtiticism of Soriano comes from the uber-casual fans that mistakenly think trading Soriano will somehow solve this team’s short-term problems or save this year. For me the interesting thing will be seeing who the next target of Tribune/Rosenbloom articles will be in August when the team is losing even more and the easy targets like Soriano, etc. are gone.

  • Pat

    Nobody runs that play out. Not when the ball is in the glove before the first step is even made. Not Ryno, St DeRosa, or insert other “plays the game the right way” player.

  • Cheryl

    I just watched the video. There’s no way he could have beaten that play out.

  • djriz

    Be careful when questioning someone’s integrity. It’s just not fair to Soriano. He has worked hard his whole Cub’s career, maybe not giving us the production we would have liked, and deserves better.

  • Kevin

    This whole thing is being blown way out of proportion. Sori was out regardless if he ran or not. No way he runs to 1st base with those knees to beat out the throw. The true underlying issue is Sori’s contract, 8 years @ $17M per season for a total of $136M. Hendry overpaid and fan are unhappy.

  • Patrick W.

    The booing was totally unfair but I think that about almost all booing. I see last night’s booing as being akin to a manager getting thrown out of a game on purpose.

  • James Karl

    Dustin S

    If Soriano is playing through pain, I see why you think that is commendable. Your point regarding being at a game versus watching it on tv has merit as well. I was at the game where Soriano threw to second base after a hit…while the runner originally on first scored! Little Leaguers know to hit the cutoff man! That is a mental mistake that has NOTHING to do with his hobbling legs. Not running when the umpire has not called you out is a mental error also. Soriano stated that he could see the fans getting upset if it was a ground ball. That’s pretty whacked. It’s okay to be mad that he didn’t run out a ground ball, but it’s not okay to be mad he didn’t run out a “non-catch”? Is there really a need or legitimacy to categorize balls in play worth running? Wow! Until the umpire says you’re out…you’re not out….and you run! Again. Accountability.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Sori should have at least jogged and shown some sort of effort. Its not the biggest deal in the world but when you have a HUGE contract you owe it to the fans in the stand that are paying some of the highest ticket prices in the league to watch the trash baseball that is on the field. Its just the principle of effort that cubs fans want to see. It doesn’t matter from a PR move how hard you work off the field. Its what you do on the field that people see that will be the judging factor and that made him look awful. I don’t if Dale Sveum did it in his career because he wasn’t getting paid $180 million!! Its sad because he doesn’t deserve all the criticism he’s getting but its just truly frustrating to watch him not jog at least. Its just a frustrating season and people are tired of watching losing baseball

  • bogey dog

    what if he did run and pull a hammy in the process? then fans would be on him for running out a ball he was going to be easily thrown out on, dude cant win with some people. the ridiculous contract is always going to make people resentful,

    • Serious Cubs Fan

      There would be no difference. People would be pissed. They would just say, “Hear we go again with injuries.” People would just be pissed because then he couldn’t be traded. I just want to get rid of the guy. Resign Marlon Bryd to be a veteran presence in the club house. Trade soriano. Have bryd take over Left field, Campana in center, Dejesus trade him if you get good value, if not leave him in Right. Trade Lahair while he has some sort of value for a high upside prospect, Bring Rizzo up, Play Geo Soto for the rest of the games till trade deadline(Hope he goes on a decent run and then trade him for high upside guy), have castillo and clevenger slit time at catcher. then trade dempster and Garza for good prospects. If you get a good decent deal for Maholm trade him for high upside guy or hold onto him hope he ups his trade value for next years trade deadline and deal him for more. Then bring up Rodrigo Lopez and put Randy wells in the rotation to just be fillers, and also trade shawn camp if you get a good deal for him. Also trade Reed Johnson if you can get a high upside lottery ticket player because he’s not goin to be here next year. Strip this team down. Get what you can for players that wont be here or arent in the long term plan. Max your trade value for all players. Just keep fillers at the major league level for this season. Don’t bring up any prospects besides for Rizzo. Get extra year of control on Brett jackson, leave him down in the minors till he proves himself to be able to lower strikeout and hit consistently. Bringing them up next year at this time. Let them develop down there not here. Don’t let there arbitration clock start. Give up on this year completely and make sure we get that #1 overall draft pick next year. This year is over guys

  • JK

    Good points, Serious Cubs Fan.

    In general, I think it might be helpful to separate Soriano the person from Soriano the highly-paid baseball player.

    Soriano is NOT paid to be buddies with the coaches and players. He’s not paid to be a nice man (and being a nice man seems to be what he is). He’s not paid to work hard behind the scenes. He’s paid to perform on the field. And if he’s hobbling, he needs to use his brain more. Making excuses for not running out a ball in play is pathetic on any level.

    Last I checked, OBP was pretty important. Third baseman make errors. Who cares if people think Soriano would have been thrown out!!! OBP includes reaching base on an error. A player CANNOT reach first base on an error if he doesn’t run! To assume the third baseman would make a correct throw after bobbling a ball (AND with a runner RUNNING to first) is to assume that there is no need to run on any ball that is not an apparent hit. Why run out that lazy fly to the right fielder…he’ll catch it…see? He caught it. No need to run. RIDICULOUS!

    • Kyle

      Among the several things you are wrong about, reached on errors do not count toward OBP.

    • Ryno

      JK….. If you think that reaching on an error actually counts towards OBP, then stay off the message boards until you learn the game.

  • TC

    I was at the game last night (surrounded by a particularly obnoxious group of red sox fans), and I booed him loudly, probably because I was so pissed at the squandered rally and the bad luck on a screaming liner.

    After I’d calmed down a bit, I felt really bad about it. Not a player in baseball runs that out. By the time he could have even taken a step the ball had hit Middlebrooks’ mitt

  • CubFanBob

    I was at the game last night but at the far opposite end of third base. What I saw, following the ball, was a shot to the 3rd baseman. Wasnt sure if it was a line drive or grounder but I had my eye’s on Middlebrooks the whole time. As he was juggling the ball I thought if nothing else there is going to be a close play at 1st base but when I turn to see the runner Sori was just standing there not even running.

    Again remember most of the fans at the game do not have access to replay.

  • cdncubfan

    i understand why the fans are pissed off. i’d run it out. anything can happen in baseball. if there’s an error at first base, soriano either gets thrown out at first, makes it to first or gets to second. only one of those outcomes would have been acceptable. therefore…RUN OUT THE PLAY.

    i don’t want to lynch the guy but i don’t want to hear any of this “oh, so and so would have done the same.” or “he works so hard!” bs if there’s even a 1% chance that the outcome could have been soriano reaching base.

    if the ball is in play, there are zero reasons to not run hard to the base.

    • Kyle

      Soriano has a knee hanging together by a very thin thread. The Cubs are desperately trying to trade Soriano for anything they can.

      It is very, very much against the Cubs’ interest to have Soriano running when he doesn’t need to, chasing a 1% chance at an ROE on a nearly certain out.

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