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


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.

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays


Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.

“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”

But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

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Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.

After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.

Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”

Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.

The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.

“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”