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: