On Soriano and ARod


Alfonso Soriano retired last week, in between reports that Alex Rodriguez admitted to the feds he was using PEDs while denying it to the public and MLB, and that he negotiated a $900,000 deal to silence his cousin.

Even when exiting, Soriano couldn’t outplay ARod. It was ARod whose acquisition separated Soriano from the Yankees, and ARod whose 2013 injury and 2014 suspension opened a spot for his return. Soriano hit 17 homers in 58 games as a Yankee in 2013 and if one Yankee fan said the team never should have traded him for ARod, 1,803 of them did, or one for every one of Soriano’s career strikeouts.

It was selective nostalgia, if understandable. Soriano might have been beloved in his 2013 return, but he hit six homers in 2014 and was released. He went from the beloved pet coming home to a stray no one wanted.

Soriano hit 412 career homers, but fanned 3.6 times for every walk and was a bad defensive player before we even had the metrics to tell us so. No one needed UZR to move Soriano off second base. He bottomed out with Texas in 2005 (-2.2 defensive WAR), the Rangers traded him and the Nationals made him an outfielder.

Soriano spent a year in Washington, which was long enough to have a lasting impact. When Soriano left to sign with the Cubs as a free agent, the Nationals used one of their two compensation picks, No. 67, on pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (they used the other, No. 31, on Josh Smoker, who burned down slowly, never getting above Class A, which wasn’t as bad as the Cubs using the No. 3 pick on Josh Vitters instead of, maybe, Madison Bumgarner at No. 10).

Soriano spent a good part of the second half of his career with the Cubs, where he fit right in. He was a better player in July than October. For all of ARod’s postseason struggles, he was Reggie Jackson compared to Soriano. ARod’s .833 postseason OPS is 109 points less than his .942 in the regular season, but Soriano’s .562 OPS was 257 points below his career .819.

For the Cubs, Soriano was especially bad, going 3-for-28 without an extra-base hit in two divisional series. For the Yankees, Soriano was better (.232 with four four homers), but he was deprived of his greatest moment. It was Soriano’s whose Game 7 homer in the 2001 Series gave the Yankees the lead they blew in the ninth. It came in typical Soriano fashion — on an 0-2 splitter that was probably out of the strike zone off a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher (Curt Schilling).

But a generation from now, more people will remember ARod flirting with fans than Soriano’s almost Series-winning homer. Soriano might have swung and missed a lot in the postseason but at least he never did so with women in the stands after being removed from an ALCS game.

Which brings us back to ARod, who though six months older than Soriano, carries on as the younger player bows out. Rodriguez has 654 career home runs and could have been the sport’s all-time leader (his career WAR is 116; his Yankees WAR of 52.5 is nearly double Soriano’s career 27.2, though the latter does lose 11.6 of his to defense). But apparently he aspires more to be Tony Montana, the fictional hood of his native Miami.

Published reports said ARod paid $900,000 to his cousin, Yuri Sucart, to silence him; if true, never before has so much hush money bought so little hush. That might have something to do with Sucart being charged while ARod reportedly agreed to talk.

Carmen Sucart called ARod “the devil,” which isn’t as bad as what a lot of Yankees fans call him. Except Carmen, Yuri’s wife, is family, and who can blame her? ARod allegedly urinated on her house’s wall during one visit. Unlike Soriano, apparently he isn’t housebroken. Or maybe he was toughening the walls: Moises Alou once said he urinated on his hands to toughen them, which made the high fives after his 332 career home runs uncomfortable.

There may have been hypocrisy in ARod’s reported admission of PED use but no surprise. Innocent clients may plead guilty but not when they stand to lose $25 million. Or when they have the representation he did, which is somewhat above replacement level. His lawyer wasn’t the David Lough of the legal field. ARod’s acceptance of his season-long suspension was, like flight in a criminal case or Pete Rose accepting his banishment, evidence of guilt

Thirteen players were suspended in the Biogenesis scandal, all of them tainted. Nelson Cruz hit 40 homers and won forgiveness. The Cardinals needed a shortstop and granted Jhonny Peralta absolution. Even Ryan Braun, who beat one suspension on a loophole, apologized, hit 19 homers and won back some goodwill.

You have to wonder if ARod ever will, or can.

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