MILWAUKEE Of course, Alfonso Soriano is rooting for the Heat: Im from Miami, babe.
Surrounded by teammates lounging on couches, Soriano sat on a table in the middle of the clubhouse on Tuesday night, closely watching the Boston Celtics win Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Soriano likes to yell at the TV, and sometimes its hard not to laugh when you hear his voice, calling everyone babe or papi. The Cubs were loud and in a good mood, wolfing down food after snapping an 11-game losing streak on the road.
Soriano had a big smile on his face when he returned to his locker: See how crazy it is in here when we win.
There arent many people who can begin to understand the heat LeBron James and Dwyane Wade must be feeling in the NBA playoffs.
Soriano knows what its like to play for the team that everyone loves or hates (the New York Yankees), carry the weight of the big contract (136 million) and hear the boos (from the bleachers).
Soriano dresses the part for charter flights, wearing big suits and big sunglasses. The 36-year-old outfielder has handled the spotlight well, even on a bad left knee thats heavily wrapped.
It makes just walking around the clubhouse look difficult. These days, there isnt much noise in the postgame clubhouse, and as the Cubs hang around last place, Soriano doesnt know what will happen next.
I dont want to try to think too much, Soriano said. I dont want to try to do too much. I just want to try to do my job and let the front office (do their job). They know what they have to do. My part is to play the game. I come here every day to play. I dont know what they want to do.
I dont control that situation. I control my situation just try to stay healthy and play hard every day.
Technically, Soriano has no-trade rights, but the roughly 48 million left on his contract through the end of the 2014 season seems to make that a formality.
At some point, the endgame figures to be designated hitter, and thats what Soriano will be this weekend at Target Field for three interleague games against the Minnesota Twins.
Its kind of coming at the right time, manager Dale Sveum said. Ive been playing him every day and hes that one threat in our lineup thats hit. Its just hard to give him days off at all. To his credit, he doesnt want any.
Soriano has gone off on one his hot streaks, hitting at least one home run in each of the teams last eight series. He didnt homer in his first 30 games this season, and then strung together nine in his last 21 games starting May 15. He doesnt want to sit on the bench.
When youre around him, Sveum said, youre talking about probably having as much admiration for somebody as Ive come across in my career, (just) to see how he works, on and off the field and tries to make himself a better outfielder every day.
Looking on the other side of the fence, I think a lot of people can really have the wrong perception of Soriano. Theres no doubt, but when youre here, you understand why. This year hes been running balls out as hard as he can and doing everything he possibly can to get that perception changed.
Its not always easy to watch, particularly when a balls hit into the corner and Soriano has to pump the brakes.
Everybody sees thats the biggest problem he has, Sveum said. Once he gets going, its coming to a stop, how painful that knee gets and worrying about possibly blowing out if he (does it) too quick. So thats something he just kind of manufactures and deals with himself, how to compensate.
The Cubs are looking to go younger, get more athletic and stress defense. Soriano can still provide power, and as long as he stays healthy, he appears headed toward his 11th straight season of 20 or more home runs. The front office will try to convince someone theres value in that.
Its awesome, reliever James Russell said. You look at that guy, hes been in the game for awhile and hes playing as hard as anybody. Its a big lift to see that guy just run around making plays, having fun just playing baseball.
If I were to be a guy getting 125 million, thats how you should act. It goes unnoticed by a lot of people and he gets the boos and all that from the crowd, but it doesnt even wear on him at all. Thats how you should handle yourself as a big-leaguer, and a lot of people look up to him.
LeBron, D-Wade and the Heat brought a lot of this onto themselves, trying to create an instant dynasty, and that has to wear on them.
When Tony Campana was hearing it from teammates after being knocked out of the bunting tournament in spring training, he was reminding of a saying: Sori always told me they dont boo nobodies.