Alfonso Soriano’s improvement in left field this year wasn’t easy to see early on. Slowed by a knee injury (and residual knee problems), Soriano looked like the guy we’d come to expect out there: slow to react, no range, weak routes, and poor decision-making.

But then something happened. It took a while to overcome the narrative we’ve all been so used to, but Soriano started playing … well. Of course, we later learned that he would have been playing well all along if he’d been healthy. Thanks to offseason coaching, and in-season work, primarily with Dave McKay, Soriano’s defense in left looked passable. Heck, he arguably rocketed past “passable,” and reached “solid.” He makes very few mistakes, and, although he still doesn’t have great range, he takes good routes and seems to get a good read on the ball right off the bat.

Dave McKay must be a genius! Well, maybe. But it turns out he’s also simply the first coach to actually work with Soriano on outfield defense. From Sahadev Sharma:

His improvements defensively have also contributed in making this one of Soriano’s better all-around seasons with the Cubs. Soriano admitted that this year was the first time he’s ever gotten instruction on how to play the outfield. First base coach Dave McKay routinely coaches all the outfielders on how to play defense.

That revelation is all the more surprising considering that Soriano moved from second base to left field in spring training of 2006, his only season with the Washington Nationals. Soriano said that the only ‘coaching’ he got at that time and prior to this season was shagging fly balls during batting practice.

Holy. Crap.

Certainly the Cubs were entitled to some belief that Soriano knew what he was doing out there when he came to the team in 2007 after spending what looked like a decent defensive year in left field for the Nationals. But just as certainly, the Cubs had to have noticed his weaknesses out there in the FIVE YEARS he spent in the organization before the 2012 season. Not once did they think, “hey, maybe we should coach this guy up a little bit”? Unbelievable.

That Soriano received no individual coaching in the outfield is as much an indictment of Lou Piniella and Mike Quade as it is a compliment of Dale Sveum and Dave McKay.

To think what might have been if Soriano had been this caliber of outfielder at age 32, let alone now at age 36.

  • Luke D

    Holy mother balls.

    The Old Regime, let me tell you…they had no clue. None whatsoever.

    • EQ76

      the old regime couldn’t get a clue during the clue mating season in a field full of horny clues if you smeared your body with clue musk and did the clue mating dance

      • lukers63

        Awesome……just the visual

  • Cubbie Blues

    This actually (let’s phrase this nicely), makes me irate. To think we were in contention a couple of years during this span and he received no/zip/zilch/notta instruction/coaching? That is completely inexcusable. To be fair though, Soriano has to bear some of the guilt as well. He should have had the fortitude to walk up to a coach and say “hey help me out a bit here would ya?”

  • Kev

    Makes. Too. Much. Sense. Brain. About. To. Explode…

  • Andrewmoore4isu

    Gold glove?

    • Brett

      Probably would have had one by now …

  • OCCubFan

    I echo Brett:

    Holy. Crap.


    • CubFan Paul

      Me too. This can’t be true. No way

  • MichCubFan

    The Hendry run cubs were a mess all around. To hear this doesn’t surprise me at all. And i know this is something that you blame on the manager and the coaches, but as a GM you need to be on top of this kind of thing. This is just another example of how sloppily run this team has been.

  • Curt

    How is this possible, Jim hendry, Lou pinella, was anyone at all steering this ship even the titanic had a captain not a good one but it still had one, how much else didn’t they do, myb not coach up, Corey Patterson, Felix pie, who knows how many more, good grief, I’m sure it will take quite awhile to change that mentality.

    • Cubbie Blues

      It might not take as long as you think with all the turnover that’s taken place.

  • JoeyCollins

    I’ve tried to excuse some of the inadequacies of the previous front office by acknowledgeing the lack of funding (for coaches, front office, and draft picks), but this is inexcusable. Considering the size of Sori’s contract he should have had his own coach to help guarantee the investment, not let him flounder alone in left hoping he would figure it out. I’ve not been as hard on Sori as a lot of people i know but i hearby take back every negative word i have ever said about him.

  • Rice Cube

    A year or so ago ESPN Chicago had a blurb about how Mike Quade used to run Soriano into the brick wall to help him get used to it. That’s about the extent of the pre-McKay coaching, it seems.

    • Brett

      Sounds like it. Terrifying.

      I actually really hope someone gets a quote from Quade and Lou on this.

      • Karena

        Quade is on some boat, fishing somewhere

      • MoneyBoy

        Actually Brett it would surprise me if Sharma didn’t make an effort to *get* a quote from either … and was rebuffed. Although I suppose if he had he would have mentioned it (if the ‘Mother Ship’ would allow him to. Dude seems like way too good a writer not to do such an obvious thing as that!

    • Cubbie Blues

      Exactly how did that go down?
      Quade: Hey Sori, I have an outfielders drill for you.
      Soriano: Oh, yeah? sounds great I really need the help.
      Quade: I want you to start about 20 feet from the wall and run towards it while looking back into the air. I’ll let you know when you get close to the wall.
      Soriano: OK, just give me enough time to slow down.
      Quade: No problem.
      {Soriano goes back back back thud}
      Soriano: What the #&@$ was that?
      Quade: See it doesn’t hurt as bad as you thought does it?
      Soriano: @#$@ you.
      Quade: OK, let’s do it again. This time I’ll let you know. I promise Sori.
      Soriano: Well OK, but don’t pull that crap again.
      {Soriano goes back back back thud}
      Soriano: That’s @#!$’in it. I’m done.

      • Rice Cube

        That’s about what I was imagining. Nice.

      • BluBlud

        This made me laugh harder then I needed to. Co-workers looking at me.

        • Southern Cub

          same here, hilarious

      • MoneyBoy

        Blues … Dude … THIS!! Absolutely fabulous!!! ^5s all around!! Well played sir!

  • Rice Cube

    “We decided we were going to do some wall work and I ran him into the damn thing and he hurt his wrist,” Quade said. “You’re a young outfield coach for Lou [Piniella] and you’re going, ‘Oh man, I’m looking for work.’ He might miss a week and I might miss the rest of the year or years.”

    • Cubbie Blues

      And HE got the managers job.

    • AB

      This sounds like something out of the bad news bears.

  • Dougy D

    Passable now, yes. Solid now, no.

    • Brett

      Maybe we have different definitions and actually think the same thing. To me, “passable” = below average, but you can put up with it for the bat. “Solid” = average, or slightly above average.

      Given the whole body of defensive work this year, I think it’s pretty easy to call Soriano that kind of solid.

      • Drew7

        For a LF’er, his defense has absolutely been what I’d deem “solid”.

      • Dougy D

        I’m with you there, Brett. I was thinking that he has been an average left fielder with the glove this year, which is awesome compared to normal. When I think solid, I think above average.

        That is pretty sad about the lack of coaching. Isn’t that what coaches are for? Hell, even any decent little league coach would know that they had to work with the kids that didn’t know what they are doing more than the kids that did know what they are doing.

        I’m definitely not a Soriano fan, and of course think that he is overpaid, but I appreciate that he actually came to earn his money this year. It’s nice when you can see a whole-hearted effort from him. He looked like a professional out there this year.

  • Karena

    I’m gobsmacked to the nth degree

  • Sully

    That is unforgivable. Are you kidding me?

  • rbreeze

    I’m not surprised to hear this. Hendry and the Trib company got the guy for his bat. Until this year the Cubs last real outfield instruction may have come from Jimmy Piersall!!! That was eons ago. Maybe this is why we have the Cub factor. When Cubs get traded elsewhere, why is it that they always seem to play better with another team. Maybe they get the proper coaching? What a concept that is!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ralph

    Who is your source for this info? This is unbelievable!

    • hansman1982

      it’s a tippy-tip-top double-secret source.

      Or…the man himself – Soriano.

  • baseballet

    So bizarre! It’s giving me goosebumps this is so weird.

  • MI6

    Seems amazing (so much so that I wonder if it is really true, or an exaggeration of a truth, say ‘no effective coaching’). But as a ‘non-baseball person’, having never really played the game, I have always wondered about the extent to which baseball players, coaches, managers actually talked to one another about what to do, expect, etc. There have been years that it seemed as though each person was in their own little zone, and the only communication came through the manager talking to the press. Those of you who know much more about this: shed a little light on communication in baseball!

  • art

    this is as much Soriano’s fault as the previous Cub management. he should have asked for advice/help from manager, coaches, to teammates. he should have watched and copied others. in practice there are guys who would rather play defense than take batting practice. i’m not a Soriano fan but, i will admit he has improved his D, gold glove, no way. he still back peddles on balls over his head, poor range, doesn’t run balls out, and 36.

    as for the wall drill, lol. he has said many times he is afraid of the walls, afraid of getting hurt, so i don’t believe that story. JMO.

  • cubchymyst

    I can’t believe that there was not coaching going on for the outfield. Even as professionals there is constantly things that can be improved upon in practice. That statement makes it sounds like outfield practice was basically you stand over there and I’m going to hit some balls in your direction, do your best to catch it.

  • JR

    If you take what Soriano says for face value, it does look ridiculous no one coached him up over the previous 5 years. But isn’t Soriano the same dude who says he was 2 yrs older than he actually was when he signed with the Cubs?? I have a hard time believing this..

  • Aisle 424

    • Aisle 424


      • Brett

        Magnificent reference.

  • Kearnage

    hey all,
    first time poster here. this is exciting! I have been reading this site for almost a year now and I love it. Good job Brett. I love all the information.

    I guess I do not even believe this for a second. He is saying that throughout his major league career he never received instruction on where to position himself and what cut-off man to throw it to? Lou was long in the tooth and totally old school with his approach to baseball (obviously to a fault but I love the grumpy old sob.) I believe that Lou’s spring training regiment included: where to go with the ball and the basics of fielding the position.

    Sori was never happy about the switch to the outfield. He was very disgruntled when the Nationals moved him there and probable would have signed with a team that planned to move him back to 2nd if he could have found a team willing to do that. Also, he would have been an idiot to turn down the contract the Cubs gave him to play the outfield. I am guessing, that Sori was not real susceptible to coaching in his early days as a Cub and was not receptive to the coaching. He wanted to focus on hitting and, hey, that’s what he was getting paid to do. As he gets older and the offense has deteriorated (especially before this year) his defense had become unbearable to watch and he heard about it (the man was booed at the cubs convention for God’s sake). I think that he heard the outcry and finally he is able to receive coaching instruction. I also think that Dale McKay is also a great coach who is comfortable working with aging stars and so it was a good match.

    He may not remember coaching before this year but I have to believe that is more of a product of not being willing to receive it. You can lead a horse to water.

    • Brett

      I tend to think his explicit words were something of an exaggeration. But clearly something is dramatically different – even more than we thought – on the coaching side this year.

      (And welcome to the comments.)

  • FFP


  • someday…2015?

    As I was reading this I couldn’t help to get a little upset. How as a MAJOR LEAGUE baseball team do you not work with a guy who clearly needs it? Especially if he’s getting paid so much! A picture of Lou Pinella, Quade, and Hendry are now officially next to the word idiots in the dictionary.

  • Dustin S

    I think this mainly goes back to the Pinella years when the inmates were kind of running the asylum. It fits in with all of the other Zambrano + company madness. I could swear I even remember an interview with Lou from a few years back (while coaching the Cubs), when he said that he shouldn’t have to teach those kind of fundamentals in the bigs. A point to a degree, but not when a player has moved positions from what he started as like Soriano did. Plus the Cubs fundamentals have been a weak point for many years, so now we know why they didn’t improve. Quade obviously didn’t help much either.

    Poor Sveum must have thought he walked onto the Titanic when he started talking to players and found these things out earlier this year. Goes to show what a good job he’s done with what little he was given.

  • Aisle 424

    To defend Lou a little, he probably assumed a good amount of coaching on fundamentals had been done in the minors on most of these guys because he came from organizations where that was true. Granted, in Soriano’s case, there needs to be some coaching up, but maybe conversations went like this:

    Lou: Soriano still looks brutal out there. Have you been working with him?
    Quade: Oh yeah, Pinny, I have. He’s just not a good outfielder.
    Lou: *sigh* Well, maybe we can try…… GOD DAMN IT, MILTON, WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM NOW?!!! Holy hell, it’s always something with that guy. Just keep working with Sori, huh?
    Quade: You got it, Pinny.

    • Brett


      You forgot a little of the blocking for the first Lou dialog – I’d insert [Wakes up].

      • MoneyBoy

        Brett … this is some of the funniest stuff of the year from your commenters!!!

    • Eric

      You might be somewhat right, but it’s still no excuse. If you ask me I like this NEW proactive coaching staff. One that works their butts off and assumes nothing. I think it really does make a difference between the way the Cubs of old played, and the way the new Cubs will be playing from now on. Smarter, more aggressive, less lazy.

  • donnie kessinger

    Coaching has certainly paid dividends, but after getting booed and bashed in the off-season for his sub-par performances, perhaps he gave a little more this year. He has long been lauded as such a hard worker, I have to wonder what the heck he has been working on in previous years. With that said, my hat is off to Sori – he really came to play this year!

  • rich

    Dougy D. you’re absolutely correct at best it’s passable ! Hopefully it’s can make it a little easier to move him , if the jerk does’nt veto the trade to a pennant contending team .

  • scorardpaul

    I have a real hard time believing he hasn’t been coached. I just don’t buy it. I am quite sure that he was coached in Japan. I think it was probably more of a situation like I often have with my wife. She is always saying ” I told you about it last week”, and I always say “you never told me about this”. I just have a hard time hearing what she says on many ocassions. Funny thing is, I hear other people very well??

    • Eric

      I think the difference is he was coached half assed before. But with a smart hard working caring coach like Mckay comes in and REALLY does the proper drills and knows how to actually “teach”. Huge difference.

    • Brett

      Not for nothing, but Soriano was talking about outfield coaching; his time in the outfield came long after his time in Japan.

  • RoughRiider

    I have to wonder if it was a case of him not getting OF coaching or not accepting OF coaching.

    • Drew7

      So he’s just gonna accept it now, at 36?

      Maybe, but it doesn’t really matter. Soriano has put himself in a position to darn-near fulfill his contract – something that wasn’t even in the conversation a year ago.