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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:

  • Jason “Thundermug”

    Obnoxious Group of Red Sox Fans ( I just don’t believe it , LOL) Well tonights a new game and hopefully Soriano will give alot of those same fans something to cheer about. Go Cubs

  • DocPeterWimsey

    What really irks me about the whole conversation is that it seems that one again Cubs fans are concerning themselves with style instead of substance.  The Sox got twice as many extra base hits as the Cubs.  The Sox drew 5 walks to the Cubs 1 walk.  The Sox had twice as many PAs with runners in scoring position as the Cubs.  In short, the Cubs were damn lucky to lose by only 1 run: and the loss was not because Sori did not “hustle,” but because the Sox were substantively and substantially better than the Cubs.

    While fans worry about window dressing like “hustle” and “heart,” and ignore the things like slugging and OBP (you know, the things that actually decide games), it’s kind of tough for them to demand real improvement.

    • @cubsfantroy

      One day, I hope to be able to express in text like you do. Well said. I think it, yet when it is time to type it I draw a blank. lol

    • TC

      +100

    • Ron

      I get what you are saying and I do not fault Soriano, but I would like to point out that it is hard to cheer for slugging percentage. Fans cheer plays, not percentages.

    • mark

      OBP is exactly why players should hustle to first base. We aren’t slugging, but we have a bit of speed and some other aspects of our game that have kept us in some ballgames. We might not be able to do much about slugging this year, but there are things we can do, like hustle out plays. I don’t think it’s too much to ask a proffessional baseball player to run as hard as he can down to first base, 4 times a game. As long as they go out and play hard, then I’m ok. You can’t really fault people for not hitting more doubles or homeruns, you can however be upset that they dog it down to first base.

      I’m not mad however, I know it’s a rebuilding year, I’m excited to see where the club is going to go. a lot of things to be positive about, not too worried about sori anymore as he will not be part of our plans for the future.

  • Kevin

    It was a line drive and Sori thought it was caught, why would he run if he thought he was already out? Yes, the ball was dropped, and Sori didn’t react right away but come on, 95% of all players would have done the same thing. Show me a clip of someone lining out to an infielder who still ran it out.

  • EricR

    It was one of those plays that if it had happened on a team with a better record, it wouldn’t have mattered.

    • Hansman1982

      That’s one of those plays that it campana does the same thing noone notices

      • MichiganGoat

        Or Reed Johnson or Ryne Sandberg or Mark DeRosa

        • Cooper R

          You don’t think the fans would’ve been more pissed if it were Campana since speed and hustle is his only game?

          • MichiganGoat

            No we’d be discussioning how he sometimes everyone makes a mistake, yes we’d be critical, but we would boo and call for his head like we are for Sori.

        • GoldFinch

          That’s because none of the players you mentioned can even be compared to Soriano in terms of hustle and love of the game. Soriano only cares about his paycheck and resembelying anything close to a legit player anymore, IMO.

          • Toby

            Goldfinch, you are a complete idiot suggesting that Soriano doesn’t have any love for the game and only cares about a paycheck. If he only cared about a paycheck then why would he keep going out and play when he could have surgery on his knee and sit out for an extended period of time while getting paid. Soriano probably loves the game more than 99 percent of the guys that play. I’ll repeat myself: YOU ARE AN IDIOT.

            • MichiganGoat

              Toby, the best thing to do with someone you can’t deal with is ignore him. Calling names and attacking only makes this worse. Trust me the best thing to do with BetterJoeFinch is make your point and ignore, not worth attacking.

            • GoldFinch

              You didn’t have to repeat yourself, I can read. I’ll write that down.

          • MichiganGoat

            Um everyone (in baseball) praises his work ethic and dedication. It was the Cubs that told him to stop running as hard and stop stealing bases. To say he is only here for a paycheck is just not supported by anything others than fans that are just hating him because of the contract. I know that hard for you to see or understand and you honestly believe he is the laziest, most worthless player ever. But you not looking at this objectively and “hustle” is not a real stat just something people make up to justify these arguements.

    • Toby

      Just an observation, why don’t fans get on the players that fail to attempt at running on a drop third strike when first base is open? Isn’t that along the lines of not “hustling” and “running out a play,?” Most of the time, players just put their head down and walk back to the dugout, but that seems to be okay with fans.

      • Cooper R

        I think it’s because it’s a rarity to see someone get on from a dropped third strike but you make an excellent point.

        • Toby

          The catcher could throw the ball away. From reading some comments, anything can happen if you run out the play. I’m sick of reading some comments that rip Soriano for a play that any other player has committed much like Castro’s error of not knowing how many outs, but does anyone mention Larry Walker or Rickie Weeks?

          • Cooper R

            Completely agree, but this is not out of the ordinary. Look at what fans did to Bartman. They just have to scapegoat someone these days. I think a lot of them are at the game messing around and then they look up and see the ball on the ground and Soriano not running so they start to boo and others join in. It’s really a shame.

            • GoldFinch

              Please! You’re trying to tell me 85% of the fans were drunkin fools that “don’t understand baseball?” Really now.

              • Cooper R

                Nope not once did I call any fans “drunken fools”. I think most fans understand baseball but not this play.

                • GoldFinch

                  Now we are getting somewhere! How does Soriano come out and say “fans don’t know anything about baseball?” And Sveum backs him up? I am truly flabergasted. Shocked. Pissed!

                  • Cooper R

                    1. You are not very good at using quotes.
                    2. Go ahead and be mad, we’re all going to forget about it later. Soriano is out the door anyways.
                    3. I love that Sveum backed his player. If you don’t feel confidence from your manager it’s not easy to be confident in yourself.

              • Kyle

                For your average day at Wrigley Field, 85% seems a little high for how many are drunk and low for how many don’t understand baseball.

        • Drew7

          Probably just as rare as a linedrive hit directly at the 3B’s stomach and hits him in the glove is dropped.

  • notcubbiewubbie

    i think theo and jed should begin working on an extension for sorri.

  • Kevin

    Is it really necessarily to have concerts at Wrigley Field and screw up to grass?

    • ferrets_bueller

      They put down interlocking panels over the grass, that prevent it from being torn up.

      Also, I’d take seeing Roger Waters live at Wrigley over an entire season or two of Cubs games.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Concerts at wrigley are awesome but I agree the outfield grass looks like shit right now. But idc if the cubs make more money and that allows them to spend more to improve the team then let them have concert by all means.

  • Kevin

    Interesting, the Cubs are not allowed to play night games on Fridays & Saturdays, but it’s ok to have a concert on a Saturday night. Am I missing something here?

  • wernert

    This is only about the losing record. If Soriano was playing and contributing exactly as he is on this team but with 20 more wins, fans would be praising him for not running on and potentially hurting his knees even more.

    • Serious Cubs Fan

      I doubt people would be praising him for not running. Thats a serious over statement. But I agree there would probably be less people grumbling

  • Cub Gone Wild

    I’m on Soriano’s side. He is out producing everyone on this team in FBI and hr.

  • GoldFinch

    Soriano continues to shoot himself in the foot. Now he’s yapping that “the fans don’t understand the game.” Give me a break. And Sveum is yapping “100% of all baseball players would do the same thing.” Really Dale? What if Soriano had attempted to run and the ball got away from the first baseman?

  • Leroy K.

    I am definately on Soriano’s side. However, I understand the fan’s frustration. The fans aren’t frustrated with Soriano, that was just another hole in the ship, and it allowed the fans to take there frustration out on the whole team through that one play.

  • JK

    Kyle and Ryno, you played into my point exactly:

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

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

    I know reaching on an error does not count towards the current OBP. A questioning mind asks…why not? Why would on base percentage not include a situation in which a player reached base? The scientific analysis of baseball is a mere tool. It’s easy to get stuck in WHAT IS and not question what could be. The idea that no other player would have run out the hit to third by Soriano reeks of similar complacency. The questioning mind asks: Why would any player ever feel it’s okay to not run on a ball in play until the batter is called out? The complacent mind says, “That’s the way IT IS. I’m not thrilled by WHAT IS because WHAT IS stinks!

  • ThereWillBeCubs

    I think the style over substance comment is dead on. Soriano will never live down the expectations on his contract. It’s just sad that (some) people need to single out this one guy for the team’s lackluster performance. If I were Soriano, I’d start looking forward to that trade. Sometimes us Cub fans are utterly classless (the Victorino pelting comes to mind).

    • GoldFinch

      Why, all of a sudden is this turning into a “fan problem” with Soriano? The fact is, Soriano has brought this on himself, by the nonchalant way he plays the game! That is the problem, and his lame comment “the fans don’t understand the game” is just plain bullshit.

      • Kyle

        Because the fans don’t understand that almost every player plays the game that way. They think that what their little league coach told them applies to major-league players. They quite literally don’t understand the game.

        Dale Sveum is not afraid to call his players out when they make mistakes. Take Starlin Castro’s mistakes, for example. So when Dale Sveum tells you unequivocally that there was nothing wrong with what Soriano did, maybe you should listen to him and not your little league coach.

        • GoldFinch

          I disagree Kyle. I can’t think of one Cub that has ever played the game like Soriano. All the “sorry” jokes didn’t come about because the fans were out to get him!

          • Kyle

            That’s exactly why they came out. Confirmation bias. Once the fans decide they dislike a player (say, because he’s overpaid or for other reasons), confirmation bias kicks in.

            That’s why we are even having this conversation. I guarantee you Cubs stop running on a hundred line shots a year. The only reason we are talking about this one is because the fans started booing a guy who was already on their ish list.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

            • GoldFinch

              We’re not talking a “few” fans that have developed an opinion based on information they have read. We’re talking thousands of fans that have seen him play since becoming a Cub. I’m sorry, I don’t buy the “fans don’t understand baseball” crap he put out to the media. Every fan should take that as an insult! I know I do.

              • Kyle

                I hope the fans take it as an insult. They should. An accurate one.

                • GoldFinch

                  Just as accurate as Iraq had weapons of mass desruction?

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  This is a no-winner, Kyle.

                  • Kyle

                    True that.

                    Let’s talk about Josh Vitters’ 4-for-4. That was fun to listen to.

                    • GoldFinch

                      O.K.. My blood pressure is going down now. Good for Josh! What kind of hits?

  • JK

    Kyle,

    LOL on the picture!

  • die hard

    for what its worth, Durocher would have yanked Soriano and benched and fined him

    • Carew

      Sir that was a looong time ago. Its a different era now. Besides the Cubs are trying to showcase Soriano

    • Stinky Pete

      For what is worth, Durocher has passed. Sorry I have to be the one to tell you…

  • JK

    I agree GoldFinch,

    The man used to unnecessarily jump to catch fly balls in left field to find his rhythm. You can’t do the things he has done and expect to be respected on the field. On the shot to third, Soriano ran… after the fact…which indicates he realized he made a mental error. Sore knees don’t excuse lazy errors.

  • LEO L

    well, if we can excuse Soriano for thinking it was caught why cant we excuse the fans for thinking soriano was not “hustling”. the fact of the matter is that Soriano usually does not “hustle”. he may work hard. he may not. we have to take others word for it. but when we see him on the field he doesnt seem to give 100 percent. Yes the fans are upset that he has not lived up to his contract but it doesnt mean he cant try. I think the fans are most upset that he doesnt seem to try. whether they are right or wrong there must be reason they feel taht way an it was not jsut because of yesterdays play. The funny thing to me is that i finally see soriano trying. I didnt feel he “hustled” before. Now despite worsenign knees and aging, for the first time i see his defense improved. I think he finally is putting in a little extra work in. When you get paid as much as he does, a manger shoudlnt tell you need to get some work in on improving your defense. he should have been working on that all along.

  • JK

    To get off the Soriano bashing, I feel that way across the board with any player. I vote they establish a RUNNING CLAUSE in the “Cub Way” handbook: Any player that does not run out a ball in play will be benched and fined. (If the player is too injured to run, that is an indication that the player should not be playing.)

  • JK

    Leo,

    I wrote my comment before I read yours. I agree with what you wrote.

  • Chi-Coff

    A few observations. First, I’ll give Alfonso the benefit of the doubt that his “fans don’t understand the game” comment was out of frustration before he had a chance to cool off after the game. However, while we’re talking about understand the game, Sori and anyone else in that clubhouse should understand this: we, as fans, are paying a ridiculous amount of money, in a lousy economy, to come out and support a team that will probably set the all-time franchise record for losses. Soriano, by all accounts, works hard and is a great teammate, but the bottom line is that he has a history of stuff like this, and fans are tired of it.

    Second, from where I was sitting last night, the play looked really bad, and I was pissed. When he got booed again in the 8th during his at-bat, compassion got the better of me, and I felt really bad for the guy. I determined at that point that I’ll keep my mouth shut until I get home and see the replay, and make my judgement then. And my final judgement is, he still should have run. Would he have beat it out? No. However, contrary to what is being reported, he never took his eye off the ball. Watch the play. He hit it, immediately looked straight at 3rd, and never took his eye off the ball. He did not “put his head down and assume it was caught”. He clearly saw that it wasn’t caught because he was looking right at it. I simply can’t buy the notion that every player would have done the same thing. Shawon Dunston would have run it out. Andre Dawson, bad knees and all, would have run it out. I’m just not buying the spin coming out of that clubhouse. I’m not going to tell Dale Sveum, and 25 other guys in that clubhouse that they are wrong and I’m right. That would be stupid. I just saw it differently, and after watching the replay a dozen or so times, I stand by my original judgement.

    Having said all that, I have never been a Soriano-hater, and I’m still not today. But as one of the veterans on that team who is supposedly a great influence on the younger players like Castro, I wish he would have reacted differently, and I wish Sveum’s accountability factor involved not just the young players, but overpaid veterans too. Andre Dawson’s legs were every bit as bad as Soriano’s, and Hawk never dogged it, at the plate or in the field. Ever. I guess that’s why The Hawk is The Hawk, and Sori is Sori, and maybe it’s wrong of me to expect Soriano to play the game the way Andre did, even if Hawk made pocket change compared to Sori. I guess that ship in baseball has sailed, and that’s really too bad.

    • GoldFinch

      Very good, well thought out comment!

    • Cooper R

      You’ve obviously never played baseball before.

      • Chi-Coff

        Ah yes, the “never played the game before” argument. My personal favorite. You’re right, I never played the game beyond high school, and even at that level, I was no star. All right? You got me. Whenever and whatever level you played at, I’m sure it’s a crime against society that you have no plaque in Cooperstown, despite your name. 30 years of following the Cubs is clearly not enough to know anything. What was I thinking? Now that we have that straight, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I’m not here to argue about this, I said my piece, and now it’s open to you to state yours. But you’re not going to change my mind.

        • Cooper R

          I didn’t say that to start an argument. But I think anybody who’s played the game for a very long time can agree that this was a reaction. I wasn’t ripping you, I just firmly believe that those who have played can relate to what Soriano did.

          When you pull one down the line it’s natural to look and see if it gets through so you can start thinking extra bases. As soon as he saw it hit his mitt he stopped running as a reaction (maybe because of frustration since he smoked it). Fans really need to understand this wasn’t a lack of hustle. In his mind he wasn’t thinking, “shit I don’t feel like running or trying my best”.

    • http://It'searly Mike F

      great stuff.

      Soriano is what he is, largely a guy who was talented and has lost most of it. His legs are shot. He still has great wrists. He still is a defensive liability although McKay is a genius, and he still has no idea of the strike zone. He is a terrible guy for instincts and is really as bad an on field example as anyone could be for young players.

      I give this organization all the credit in the world for the brilliant strategy of doing anything they can to get rid of him and trying to talk him up. They will move him and it’s the right thing to do. Quite apart from all the insults and just shameful charges of racism some should ask themselves if Soriano in anyway matches the rhetoric and effort the organization is putting up here, why the hell would they be so desperate to trade him? The answer to all the critics is so simple they wouldn’t eat 45 plus million if they really believed what they are saying.

      And as to the hoopla, from a man who has taken over a 100 million of the stupid fan money, not Tom Ricketts or the Tribune is a simple apology for his ridiculous remarks and suggestions. On the contrary to some assertions fans are stupid, they aren’t alone Alonso. Just apologize and move on, you’ll take with you 45 M reasons to be happy on us.

      • GoldFinch

        Wow! Bam! You used the “S” word. Yes, that’s what Soriano did. He called the fans “Stupid” in an indirect way and Sveum stood by him! What the hell is going on?

  • AD

    Really sounds like the Dodgers are currently the most interested in Dempster. While Im not a big fan of many Dodger prospects I also find it hard to believe that deep down Dempster wants to be traded all the way to LA. Id much rather see him head out east or up north to the Tigers where the prospects have more clout and where he has the best chance of making it to the Series.

  • Ogyu

    I would just like to say that I have found this discussion of Soriano to be highly enlightening. Of course, I also enjoy driving steel spikes into my brain with a ball-peen hammer…

  • Kyle

    Interesting that you would use that as an example right after using the “everybody knows” defense for your argument.

  • duck

    I have to believe that the booing was not from true Cub fans, but instead a sizable, boisterous group of anarchists from Oregon.

  • Beer Baron

    I was at the game as was embarrassed by my fellow Cub fans. Great, he should have hustled. It wouldn’t have made the slightest difference in anything. If he sprinted out of the box, he would have been out by 5 steps instead of 10. Even Tony Campana would have been out, and for the record probably would have stopped running as soon as he thought Middlebrooks caught it, too. The only difference is Soriano’s knees aren’t going to let him start running, stop, and start again. It was an ignorant reaction by a usually more intelligent fan base and I was very embarrassed.

    And why did no one boo Reed Johnson in the 1st when he got doubled off on a line drive to 2nd? Oh that’s right, he was hustling even if it was fundamentally wrong to not let the line drive go through. But everyone loves Reed, hates Alphonso.

  • MichCubFan

    Most of the fans you hear from are just the over-reactionary ones. You see it from the crowd, on the message boards, at the bar, etc. I know that most fans probably see things in a more realistic light….but some people just need something to complain about.

  • AD

    I love all of the analyst who say that the Cubs will trade player “X” for the “right offer.” Im pretty sure that anyone of us could put together an article that says that the Cubs will deal Dempster, Garza, LaHair, etc. in the “right scenario.”

  • Kevin

    Dale’s comments did not help the situation. A polished manager would never say what he said after hearing all the boos. What ever happened to the expression “The customer is always right?”. The customer is every fan who paid good dollars to express their feelings .

    • GoldFinch

      So true.

    • MichiganGoat

      So e should have thrown Sori under the bus to appear the customer? That’s not leadership.

      • GoldFinch

        ?

    • Martin

      When the customer is stupid, he’s not right.

  • Ogyu

    Now THIS is what we have a right to expect from Soriano:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2q-ZKfcuJjw

    ;-)

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