Kap: Boos for Soriano about more than just one line drive

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Kap: Boos for Soriano about more than just one line drive

Saturday night the Cubs played host to the Boston Red Sox on national TV and looked for their second straight win over after Ryan Dempster's shutout on Friday afternoon. However, the big story that came out of Saturday's game was not the fact that the Cubs lost 4-3, but that Alfonso Soriano drew the ire of the 40,000 fans in attendance after he failed to run out a ball that he lined to Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

First, full disclosure from me is necessary. I have been one of Soriano's harshest critics since he signed a ridiculous eight-year contract with the Cubs in November of 2006. He has often not run as hard as he should have out of the batter's box stopping several times to admire balls that he thought were sure home runs only to break into a full sprint when the ball hit the wall.

However, Saturday evening was not one of those situations. Soriano ripped a line drive right at Middlebrooks and it appeared he was going to make a play on the shot. Soriano never left the box and Middlebrooks muffed the catch, drawing attention to Soriano when he was still standing in the batter's box as Middlebrooks recovered and threw across the diamond to retire the Cubs' left fielder. Fans went wild and consistently booed Soriano for the remainder of the evening when he came to bat and when he took the field.

However, it is obvious that their anger was much more about their intense dislike of Soriano's contract and the reputation that he has made since arriving in the Windy City six seasons ago. No one says a word when other stars don't run balls out whether it is former Cubs star Derrek Lee or White Sox star Paul Konerko, who don't exactly bust their tail down the line when they hit a ball that appears to be a routine out.

Current Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair told me in a recent interview that Soriano is the best teammate that he has ever had at any level of baseball.

"Sori is a great teammate and a tremendous leader in our clubhouse," LaHair said. "The fans don't see what he goes through just to be able to play everyday. His knees are obviously bothering him and he shows up everyday and wants to be in the lineup. Everyone in our clubhouse loves Sori."

Outfielder Tony Campana said the same thing when we spoke last week: "Sori is a great teammate and I see what he goes through physically everyday to be able to play and I have all the respect in the world for him."

So after watching the play and hearing the fans I am not as outraged as they are. However, while Soriano shouldn't be ripped for what happened on Saturday night, he has to understand that perception usually becomes reality. For far too long he has had moments where he didn't play the game the right way and combined with his huge contract and his underwhelming performance over the life of the deal, it puts him in the crosshairs of the fans anger. Add in his less than stellar performances in the 2007 and 2008 playoffs when the Cubs had designs on their first World Series in over 100 years and the fans look at him as the poster boy for all that has gone wrong over the past several seasons.

Was he 100 percent out of line on Saturday night at Wrigley Field? I have come to learn that players today unfortunately do not play the game the way Pete Rose did. I don't like it but I have come to accept some of it. For Alfonso Soriano, Saturday night's continuing chorus of boos was not about that one play. It was about his contract, the Cubs failures since he arrived amid tremendous fanfare, and the perception that he helped to create.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.