The television cameras were peeling away from Matt Garzas locker late Monday night when he was asked a question about Alfonso Soriano.
Garza spit out almost 200 words in 68 seconds while defending his teammate. That shows you what they think of the 136 million man inside that clubhouse.
Some 48 hours after the boos rang out at Wrigley Field, there was no doubt about this one. Soriano hammered a ball 440 feet to straightaway center on the South Side.
The Cubs exploded for a 12-3 victory over the White Sox, and Garza got the win at U.S Cellular Field. But the hyperactive pitcher would much rather talk about Soriano, whos hit all 13 of his homers since May 15, while hobbling around on a bad left knee at the age of 36.
Hes played his tail off and that doesnt get as much respect as it deserves, Garza said. Hes a guy who freaking day in and day out, no matter whats going on with him, hes asking to be in that lineup. When hes not, hes pissed. Thats something the young guys need to look to. The guys a workhorse, man.
Hes going to give it all every time out. I get pissed off when the fans treat him the way they do. Thats ridiculous. The guys doing everything he can.
I love the guy to death, so Ill back him to the end. Hes a great dude (and) I love having him in the lineup. He cares so much about what he does and takes a lot of pride in his craft, and thats a lot of respect right there. He deserves a lot more respect from the fans than what hes getting.
Sorianos eight-year contract a win one for Tribune Co. indulgence that wasnt all on former general manager Jim Hendry remains a lightning rod for a 23-42 team.
All the anger and frustration came pouring out on Saturday night, when Soriano blasted a rocket line drive at Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
Soriano stood at home plate with the bat in his hands while Middlebrooks dropped the ball and barely moved out of the box before the throw to first.
When you give somebody the amount of money they give him, fans expect him to be 28 forever, Garza said. Im sorry, but time catches up, and for this guy to still be doing what he does, thats amazing. Its outstanding.
Not a lot of guys deserve trying to keep doing what he does. Theres very few, and the few that do it, theyre well-respected, and this guy catches grief.
They need to stop seeing what they see and just look at the man himself.
For the record, Sorianos boss had no problem with that split-second reaction. Like a smooth politician, Cubs president Theo Epstein triangulated his position.
Its one of those things in baseball where its hard from the stands to see exactly what happened on a certain play, Epstein said. I like that our fans hold our players accountable, to play hard and play the game the right way. But I also think its going to be hard to sort of be on the right side of the line every time.
Our fans know, because theyve watched Sori play all year, that hes been hustling from Opening Day on, giving a great effort. So it was an unfortunate break, an unfortunate sort of natural reaction. I think if you asked our fans to grade out Soris hustle on a whole this year, he would get very high marks, as he would from us.
But theres little doubt that Epstein wouldnt mind chipping in to unload Sorianos contract, which runs through 2014 and still has more than 45 million remaining.
Soriano stretched and rode the bike to keep his body warm, again showing that he could be an intriguing designated hitter, the spot where hes batting .387 with seven homers in 23 career games.
Covered in sweat, Soriano was still wearing weightlifting gloves when he walked back toward his locker, the end of another day in the big leagues.
I feel great, Soriano said. Big win tonight for us. Im happy.