Cubs

If healthy, Soriano believes he will keep producing

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If healthy, Soriano believes he will keep producing

Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010
8:14 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

WASHINGTON Alfonso Soriano is 34 years old in a game that is emphasizing youth, with a contract that runs through 2014, a 136 million investment leftover from a different economic climate and ownership structure.

For Soriano, the calculus is simple: If the Cubs play well, hell be cheered. If not, he gets booed. Fifty-fifty, he likes to say nothing personal, just the way it is at Wrigley Field.

Soriano also clings to this basic idea: If he is healthy, he will produce. He is 11-plus months removed from the arthroscopic knee surgery that ended his 2009 season after 117 games.

Occasionally the left knee feels weak, but the Cubs outfielder has experienced no significant pain this year. And on Wednesday night in Washington he played his 118th game no one on the current roster outside of Marlon Byrd has appeared in more.

Soriano noticed how Byrd races across center field with maximum effort and thought: I can do that, too. Hes also been energized by 20-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro, a fellow native of the Dominican Republic he has mentored.

The night before Soriano took his time enjoying the flight of his three-run homer into the left-field seats at Nationals Park. It marked the ninth consecutive season he has hit at least 20 home runs. Among active players, only Alex Rodriguez (15 seasons), Albert Pujols (10), Adam Dunn (nine) and David Ortiz (nine) have been that consistent with their power numbers.

If Soriano continues to take care of his body, he thinks he can finish out his contract by putting together four more seasons of 20-plus homers.

No, I dont feel older, he said. I think Im in better shape this year than the last couple years.

The waiting area of the managers office inside the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park has a framed Soriano jersey and photo. It commemorates his 40-40 season in Washington, the one he used to sign an eight-year deal with the Cubs in November 2006.

Soriano clearly isnt the same player anymore. He led National League outfielders in assists with 19 in 2007, but has six so far this season, a total that still keeps him among the leaders in that category.

Before taking over as manager for Lou Piniella, Mike Quades responsibilities included working with the outfielders and Soriano in particular.

Look, given where his legs are now, Quade said, compared to where they (were) when he became a Cub, theres a huge difference. And so the ground he can or cant cover has changed quite a bit.

The arm is fine, but his ability to close on balls and do things that allowed him to throw people out that first year (has) changed. But hes taken it upon himself and he deserves a huge tip of the hat here because I think hes done a much better job this year.

In April, it looked like Piniella might be forced to turn Soriano into a six- or seven-inning player, one who would almost always require a defensive replacement late in close games.

Instead, hes hit with the third group during batting practice, so he can take balls off the bat from the first group. Then he tracks balls off the fungo bat of coach Ivan DeJesus during the second round.

You just got to work and theres no magical thing, Quade said. Hes made a commitment to it.

Soriano is absurdly wealthy, but he still maintains a child-like enthusiasm for the game. He would like to be in the lineup every day from April through October, but concedes that is no longer a reality.

I want to, he said, but to be honest, nobody can play 162 games in Chicago. There are too many day games. The body doesnt have time to recover.

The Cubs have absorbed several shocks to the system this month. Soriano took out his earrings, folded his arms across his chest and stood in a clubhouse that bears little resemblance to the one he first walked into.

Its not easy, man, he said. Its not easy to play the game. And when those things happen around the team, it makes it more difficult (after) Lou announced his retirement and all those trades. (I) hope the last five, six weeks left of the season we can play more relaxed, because its nothing new now. Well stay together (and) finish strong.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Ricketts: 'Nothing's changed' on Sammy Sosa's status with Cubs

Ricketts: 'Nothing's changed' on Sammy Sosa's status with Cubs

It's Cubs Convention week, so naturally, we have a Sammy Sosa update.

It's a question that comes up every year at this time — will Slammin' Sammy ever be welcomed back to the organization either for the fan convention or at Wrigley Field during the season?

David Kaplan posed that query to Tom Ricketts Thursday morning on ESPN 1000 and the Cubs chairman said his stance has not changed on Sosa:

"At the moment, the answer is no, nothing's changed," Ricketts said. "Like I've said in the past, everyone loved Sammy as a player — one of the greatest players in the history of baseball. But he played through a pretty awkward era. We owe all the guys that played in that era a lot of understanding. 

"There were a lot of PEDs being used by a lot of players — I mean, there's a sealed, federal investigation that has over 100 players that tested positive. I don't want to judge those guys in a way that's too harsh. But on the other hand, I think they owe us a little bit of honesty. I think we need to think that through. I don't know where it goes from here, but there's ntohing new on that front."

That falls in line with the same thing Ricketts has been saying for years at the Cubs — the need for Sosa to provide some "honesty" and the word "apologize" has been thrown out at various points in the past, as well.

At the 2018 Cubs Convention, Ricketts said, "I just think we need to put everything on the table and move forward."
 
Sosa turned 50 in November and 2018 also represented the 20-year anniversary of his historic home run race with Mark McGwire. But the embattled former Cubs slugger has not been involved with the team or accessible to fans since he left the organization on bad terms after the 2004 season. 

Kaplan spoke with Sosa for NBC Sports Chicago last April and the icon said he doesn't need a job with the Cubs and just wants to be welcomed back by the franchise.

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Tom Ricketts explains why team plans to keep Addison Russell

Tom Ricketts explains why team plans to keep Addison Russell

Cubs co-owner Tom Ricketts was doing media rounds this morning, and stopped by ESPN 1000 to talk shop with our own David Kaplan. 

The two talked Cubs Convention, payroll, season expectations and much more. One of the most noteworthy bytes, though, was Ricketts' response when asked about disgraced shortstop Addison Russell. 

Russell, who's been accused of domestic violence, is currently serving a 40-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Polic. In a lengthy blog post, Melisa Reidy -- Russell's ex-wife -- detailed a history of physical and psychological abuse while in a relationship with him

When Kaplan asked about the reasoning behind keeping Russell on the team, here's what Ricketts had to say: 

"Yeah well in this situation and in these situations, there’s no one size fits all answer and there’s certainly no easy answer. In our case, we talked to domestic violence experts, we talked to Addison multiple times, we got as much information as we could on the situation. The fact is, we have a choice to make. The choice is you can let the player move on and let it be his problem or you can try to let the team be part of helping him deal with what he has to deal with."

"In our case, after all our conversations with the outside experts and Addison himself, we decided the better thing for the player and his family was to help him ride it out and hopefully he can do what he has to do to improve and to make sure these situations never happen again. In a lot of ways in this situation it’d be easier to just let him go, let him see what happens and fight his battle alone, but we think he’s committed to avoiding [anything close to] these situations and we kind of feel like it’s the better answer for everyone involved to not just wash our hands of it but to see if we can’t help Addison get through this and become a better person and someone who avoids getting himself in situations and doing things we all find reprehensible." 

The Ricketts won't have their usual Q-and-A session at Cubs Convention this weekend, so this is probably all anyone will get from Ricketts on the subject.