For years Cubs fans have been very vocal concerning their feelings about Alfonso Soriano, especially the past few years. In the past he has been called lazy by Cubs fans who felt he just wasn’t trying – in the field or at the plate. But he was playing with two bum knees and never complained about them. In fact, the past two years, he has played better, which made the New York Yankees take notice. Yesterday Soriano was taken out of the Cubs lineup in Arizona as a deal with the Yankees was being finalized. The deal was finalized this afternoon.
Soriano, who started his career with the Yankees, was signed by the Cubs in 2006, after losing 96 games that year. His deal was worth approximately $136 million over eight years. Rumor has it that the deal then general manager Jim Hendry thought he had made to help make the Cubs contenders in the division, worth just over $100 million over six years, was sweetened by then Cubs President John McDonough to $136 million over eight years as Hendry was flying back from GM meetings.
It was after 2008 that the love affair with Soriano waned. Some fans correctly pointed out that if the Cubs had made it to the World Series either one of those years, the complaints would not have been voiced as loudly as they were.
Soriano proved to be quite streaky, which infuriated some fans, but by all accounts, he was a good clubhouse guy who worked hard, even through pain. By his own accounts he never dissed the fans when they booed him for not being the superstar they expected and he never disrespected the team or his teammates. It is said that he helped younger players, like Starlin Castro, learn how to focus on the game. Teammates, like Julio Borbon, will remember his worth ethic and his clubhouse leadership, calling him a “class act.”
There are many young Cubs fans who will always remember Soriano’s “gifts” of throwing them a baseball after his warm-ups between innings, sometimes aided by one or two of the left field bleacher regulars.
There are also many adult fans that will have fond memories of Soriano’s years in Chicago. As bleedcubbieblue.com’s Al Yellon put it:
“I salute Alfonso Soriano. He’s always been a good teammate, always been friendly to Cubs fans and always walked around Wrigley Field with a smile on his face. Many of my friends in the left field bleachers will miss him greatly. His tenure in Chicago has been at time wonderful, at times not, but he always carried himself with class and dignity. Baseball needs more players with with attitude. Yankee fans will surely welcome his return; they already know him, and he’s certainly matured into a quiet leader over the decade since he last called Yankee Stadium, — the old version of that park anyway – home.”
Season ticket holder John Nolan has watched Soriano through his years with the Cubs. “Early on you’d watch him hit and be frustrated at the bad at-bats and marvel at the hot streaks. Lost, as in without a clue in the outfield, save for a surprisingly accurate arm, especially given the release point. Later, you heard about the work he put in to rehab his legs, to the point he was both stealing bases and running the bases effectively this year. Clubhouse leader? Never would have believed it. It’s time for him to move on, and it feels odd to say it, but he’ll be missed. You can’t help but wish him well.”
So, what do the Cubs get in return for Soriano?
“The Cubs have received in return Corey Black, a 21-year-old right-hander currently throwing in the /Florida State League,” said Yellon. “He’s reported to have a 97-99 mph fastball and has impressed opponents in the FSL this year. He probably profiles as a reliever at the MLB level, yet another guy the Cubs have acquired for depth in the system.”
According to a Cubs press release, Soriano, 37, is ranked 11th on the Cubs’ all-time home run list with 181 home runs in his almost seven years with the Cubs. He ranks seventh among active players with 389 home runs, the most by any active outfielder, and is 11 hits shy of 2,000 career hits.
It’s easy to see that Soriano, despite the albatross of a contract that angered fans the past few years, will be missed by many.