Thursday, May 28, 2009

You're Killing Me Alfonso!

The Cubs are in the midst of a brutal 2-9 stretch that has taken them from the top of the NL Central down to 4th place with just a .500 record.  Pretty much anything you can think of has gone wrong for the Cubbies during this period: we're talking injuries, slumps, flared tempers, impatience, and even broken Gatorade coolers (yes indeed...I mean how are the Cubs supposed to refresh themselves when the Gatorade machine is getting smacked with a baseball bat by an enraged Carlos Zambrano?).   When the pitching was lights out, the hitting was non-existent and finally when the bats came alive, the strong pitching faded.  Look...this stretch isn't the end of the world.  In fact, if the Cubs are destined to have a bad streak like this, they might as well get it done now as opposed to later.  But there are still a few things that need to change ASAP if the Cubs are to shake this slump.  

For me, it all starts with Alfonso Soriano.  Let's get real here.  When you're leadoff hitter is 4-of-32 in his last 8 games with 12 strikeouts...there is a lot left to be desired.  It's not just the lacking numbers either.  It's the way he does it, the effort he puts forth, and the situations in which he fails.  There have been several occasions where the bottom of the order has done a good job to get on base and Soriano will come up and wave at 3 breaking balls in the dirt to end the inning.  There is a lack of discipline and concentration emanating from Soriano's mindset and it's really starting to kill me.  It can be seen in the field, too.  If Soriano is hitting, its usually pretty easy to forget his fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants fielding style.  He takes poor angles to get to fly balls, his arm isn't what it has been in the past, and he gives the fans a heart attack every time he hops in the air to grab routine fly balls.  

Now I understand that every player is going to go through stretches where they just don't get it done for one reason or another.  But as I said, the way Soriano does it is what gets me.  I wouldn't say that it looks like he doesn't care, but he seems to be playing without thinking how much his actions impact the team's success.   If I'm Lou Piniella, I may consider pulling the plug on Soriano's leadoff least for a bit.  As nice as the occasional leadoff HR is, I'm sick and tired of starting innings with 1 out.  A leadoff hitter needs a higher On Base Percentage, and certainly far better plate discipline.  Try a guy like Ryan Theriot, who puts the bat on the ball and works the count a little bit.  And who knows, Soriano could respond well to a different spot in the order.  

I'm not saying that Soriano isn't going to bounce back.  He's too good of a player not to.  But if we're paying him $136M over 8 years, I sure would like a little more consistency and a whole lot less wasted at-bats.  I don't like when big-name athletes play like they are entitled.  To me, the real stars in professional sports play everyday as if they need to prove something, and right now Alfonso Soriano is playing like he's won something.  Well...sorry 'Fonso, you haven't won a championship in Chicago and you definitely aren't winning my approval right now.  Let's just hope he realizes how important his effort, leadership, and god-given abilities are to this team before it's too late.             

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