So now that it’s almost, but really officially over, we get to focus on all the things Alfonso Soriano’s departure signifies, and all that it doesn’t.
It’s a complicated legacy, that’s for sure. If that’s even what you call it. On the one side, Soriano was beloved by his teammates, and his manager labeled him one of the best professionals he’s ever worked with. Sori played hurt, worked on his defensive game to actually become just about a serviceable left fielder if far from a good one. He cared. He was a mentor to some of the younger players. And though he got caught a couple times strutting after homers that weren’t, you can’t say he was a dog in any fashion. Hell, he leads the Cubs in steals even though he’s old and has no legs anymore. He didn’t flinch when the Cubs fans turned on him from time to time, which can’t be said about a lot of players. He got it, he knew the drill. He was accessible, and he didn’t blame others when things went wrong (except for Marmol that one time but who disagreed with that?). Maybe most importantly, in 2007 and 2008, there were month-long stretches where Soriano was the team. He carried them like Atlas.
On the other side, there were questions about his nocturnal habits. The numbers during day games kind of backed that up. There was buzz that he took Felix Pie and Starlin Castro along for some of those marathon revelry sessions. He couldn’t hit good pitching. He got hurt a lot in his first few years here. He went missing in the playoffs, though he’s not alone in that. His defense at times was abhorrent, and his instincts at times could drive you nuts.
Mostly, Soriano will be defined by something completely out of his control. After all, he didn’t put a gun to Jim Hendry’s head and make him offer that contract. It’s not fair to judge a player by what he’s paid, because the job pays what it pays. But fans do, and Soriano couldn’t escape that.
Mostly, Soriano will represent the great failure of the Hendry-era Cubs. He represents the expensive team that couldn’t win a single playoff game. He’s the last remains of the best Cubs team in at least 25 years and their great flame out. Was it all on him? No, of course not. But he is one of the torch bearers of that.
For me, I’ll miss him. There was no more exciting player when he got hot. He came to play every day. Yeah, he was limited, and he was anathema to the way the Cubs want to play the game now. But there’s a reason all his teammates are so sorry to see him go, and that can’t be ignored.
The most exciting thing about it though is that the Cubs think enough of Junior Lake, or Javier Baez or whoever else is behind him, that they felt the need to open up space for them to play full-time to see what they can do. This is the first move of its kind. All the other trades have been cashing in on chips. Soriano doesn’t get you that. It’s not about financial relief, because the Cubs are paying a majority of the salary. It’s about the rebuild getting to a point where some kid or kids have to play at the highest level now. That’s progress.
Fare thee well Sori. You did a lot, but I can’t help but feel that it wasn’t enough. Even if it wasn’t your fault.