Alfonso Soriano is one of the few remaining players who remembers what it was like in 2008, when the Cubs won 97 games and turned every day at Wrigley Field into a huge block party.
Now, of course, that might as well be ancient history, as far away as 1908, because there are people thinking that the big-market Cubs are incapable of competing until 2015.
Theo Epstein has promised to avoid the huge spending spree the Cubs made after a last-place finish in 2006, while the Tribune Co. positioned the team for a sale. The new Cubs president has also distanced himself from some of the bad contracts on the Red Sox payroll, highlighting Bostons homegrown core.
While the Cubs wait for the future, Soriano tries to get his aching knees ready, puts in extra work on his defense and never turns down optional hitting.
But as these two last-place teams came together on Saturday night in front a national television audience, there was another flashpoint in a game the Red Sox hung on to win 4-3.
There were two runners on and two outs in the sixth inning when Soriano hit a rocket line drive at Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who appeared to have secured it in his glove. Soriano stood at home plate with the bat in his hands before Middlebrooks dropped the ball and threw to first.
That set off a very loud chorus of boos from the 40,766 fans inside Wrigley Field and an equally strong and opposite reaction from those inside the clubhouse.
They dont understand the game, Soriano said. Its a line drive. Theres nothing you can do about it. If its groundball and I dont run, they can do whatever they want. But a hard line drive, right off the glove? I dont know what they want.
When Dale Sveum took this job last fall, outsiders expected a showdown between the new manager and the aging star with an eight-year, 136 million contract.
But Sveum quickly recognized Sorianos energy and warmth and the 36-year-old slugger is tied for the team lead in homers (12) and no Cub has driven in more runs (41). Sveum had no problem with Sorianos split-second reaction.
Thats one of those things where 100 percent of every player in the history of baseball would do the same thing, Sveum said. Youre mad because you just crushed the ball and the guy should have caught (it) and you take your eye off it.
Obviously, that contract comes into play sometimes with that kind of reaction, but the fact of the matter is everybody in this clubhouse knows how hard Sori works and how hard hes played this year.
Jeff Samardzija who took the loss after giving up three runs in 5.1 innings spoke for everyone in the room.
Anybody that hits that ball does the same thing, Samardzija said. Alfonso Soriano is one of the best teammates you can ever have. He plays the game the right way. Every day, he prepares to play.
Anything Alfonso does when hes playing with me in my lineup, I got no problems with. I hope hes in there every day when I pitch.
Sori takes a lot of heat for a lot of things (but) theres not a guy in that locker room that has anything bad to say about him. Hes a great player and we love him in the lineup and we love him in the locker room.
You heard the boos again after Soriano struck out to end the eighth inning and cap an 0-for-4 night. The Cubs are 22-43 and there are going to be more ugly moments like this.
Soriano still had his weightlifting gloves on when he walked into the postgame clubhouse and walked straight to his locker and answered questions from the media. He understands that this is the way it works with Cubs fans.
They always come to the game waiting for something negative or something positive, Soriano said. They come here to root for something, good or bad. Its nothing that bothers me. Im just going to keep doing my job and working hard to get better.