The Cubs Way: Benching Soler sends another message

The Cubs Way: Benching Soler sends another message

April 29, 2013, 9:15 pm
Share This Post
Before Jorge Soler left big-league camp in late March, Alfonso Soriano told him that he still had to work hard every day, forget about his bank account and set an example for the kids in the minors. That’s how the $136 million man rolls. 

The Cubs just made an example of Soler for failing to hustle. By Monday, the message could be heard throughout the entire organization, creating more negative headlines for the $30 million Cuban defector. 

Class-A manager Dave Keller benched Soler on Sunday for not running hard the night before. This came less than three weeks after the Florida State League suspended Soler five games for instigating a bench-clearing incident in which he grabbed a bat and had to be restrained until teammates and coaches defused the situation.

This is “The Cubs Way,” and it should grab the attention of all those prospects fighting to make it to Wrigley Field.

“Our managers are encouraged to bench players who are giving less than 100 percent effort,” team president Theo Epstein said in a statement, “whether that’s failure to hustle down the first-base line or failure to properly prepare for a game. It’s our responsibility to make sure every player in the organization demonstrates preparation, hustle and effort every day with no exceptions.

“Playing time is still the best way to get a player’s attention. These actions are intended to remain in-house. Many players have been benched for this reason already this year and have responded immediately with proper effort. Soler is not alone, and, in fact, he has shown a real interest in learning to play the game the right way.”
Keller--a well-regarded instructor who has spent almost three decades coaching in the minor leagues--apparently had a problem with two at-bats and told The Daytona Beach News-Journal:  

“Within the philosophy and the work ethic that we are trying to create in this organization--and that we are trying to get our players to understand--work ethic, energy, determination, playing hard and running hard is part of the whole program.

“When you don’t do that, then you don’t get to play. That’s something that has really been emphasized over the last two years.”

This is the top-down message Dale Sveum preached from his very first press conference at Wrigley Field in November 2011. The new manager threw red meat to Cubs fans, promising that his team wouldn’t play like “dogs” and would compete every day like it was Game 7 of the World Series.  

Sveum recently called out his players, implicitly threatening that All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro and franchise first baseman Anthony Rizzo could get benched or sent to Triple-A Iowa.

“You say something, you get a grip on it and then you don’t see it again,” Sveum said. “You just let people know that you’re held accountable for everything and everybody’s the same – no matter how much money you make.

“You just don’t let it fester. You have to take care of it. Otherwise, you lose the players that are busting their butts.”

Soler--who’s hitting .276 with two homers and seven RBI through 15 games at Daytona--made a favorable impression on the front office and coaching staff during spring training and came across as quiet and introverted. He’s also 21 years old, adjusting to a completely different culture, with the pressure to become a cornerstone outfielder at Clark and Addison. 

“We have about 125 minor-league players,” Sveum said. “I’m sure he’s not the only one that hasn't run a ball out. These things get a little escalated because of who he is and what just happened a few weeks ago.

“You’re just trying to hold everybody accountable and let them know it’s not acceptable.”