If a game was rained out, it was Alfonso Soriano’s fault. If you spilled beer on yourself, it was Alfonso Soriano’s fault. And if the Cubs lost, and he didn’t even play, it was still his fault.
A little extreme? Maybe. But Soriano had become a target of the fans’ rage at Wrigley Field. He was subject to intense boos each time he struck out or made an error. His Cub teammates felt the anger was unfair.
“Sori takes a lot of heat for a lot of things,” said pitcher Jeff Samardzija. “It is what it is, but there is not one guy in that locker room that has a bad thing to say about Sori.”
Perhaps, but in an age where only winning matters, a player who fails to live up to expectations deserves scrutiny whether it’s fair or not. But Soriano has been scrutinized more than anybody thanks in large to the bloated 8-year, $136 million contract he signed after the 2006 season.
Coming off a career 40-40 year in 2006, Soriano was groomed the franchise savior and counted on to lead the Cubs to what nobody in our lifetime has ever seen. Despite having solid seasons in ’07 and ’08 and helping the Cubs reach consecutive postseasons for the first time since you-know-when, his overall play did not live up to the hype.
Even worse, Soriano and the Cusbs whiffed miserably in the playoffs both times, having been swept each year. Hitting a cumulative 3-28 in both NLDS series led to fans’ criticism.
Things rapidly declined after that. In the four seasons since, the Cubs’ win total has declined each year. After winning an NL-best 97 games in ’08, they proceeded to win just 83 the next year, followed by 75, 71, and hitting rock-bottom with 61 last season.
When it became clear that it was time for the franchise to rebuild, the fans realized that they were stuck with Soriano and his albatross contract. Apparently resigned to his fate, Soriano has since been one of the most respected players in the Cubs’ clubhouse.
“Sori is a great player and we love him when he is in the lineup,” Samardzija said. “We love him when he is in the locker room, and we look forward to playing with him every day.”
If and when Soriano leaves town soon, his teammates will certainly have nothing but fond memories of him to speak of. In that case, it’s unfortunate that he’s viewed negatively by so many fans, but that’s the nature of the game today.
Fans are spoiled. They set the bar high, and the players and team must at least meet them if they want to survive. Coming up short will get you fired.
Alfonso Soriano was by all accounts a class act and one of the game’s few true role models, but his performance on the field ultimately led to the demise of his tenure with the Cubs.