Now that the Chicago Cubs have opened their checkbooks rrreeeeaaaallll wide, and signed Alfonso Soriano to an 8 year, $136M contract — by the way, thats $136,000,000 — some Cub fans will want to start the countdown to the World Series victory that is surely at hand.
Soriano has stats out the wazoo: homers, runs, stolen bases, you name it, he’ll post them. Good for him.
What he doesn’t have is World Series victories. Players like him never play on winning teams. I’m too lazy to do research on this, so if I’m wrong, sue me.
So once again, the Cubs go out and get somebody who won’t help them at all. Couldn’t see that coming.
This is what drives me nuts about this team, and specifically, about their front office. They constantly look for a big name offensive star with major flaws, and often find him. This despite the well-established fact that their weaknesses are fundamentals (sacrifice, anyone? how about hitting behind the runner at first?), low on-base percentage (last in the NL in ’06), defense (bottom third in the NL in ’06), and pitching (14th out of 16 in ERA, last in walks). Here are the NL 2006 stats.
Last year they wanted Furcal. Wow, he really made all the difference with the Dodgers, didn’t he? And that Sosa fella, the World Series titles just rained down on us here in Chicago during his reign. Yeah, those big bucks free agents are always bringing World Series victories to town with them. Or not.
There is no evidence that adding a 40-40 guy with so-so defense, like Soriano, will help this team win; or to make a more general point, that it ever helps any team win. World Series are not won on July afternoons by one guy hitting 3 home runs; they are won in October, with defense, pitching, depth, and execution. Getting a guy like Soriano does nothing to help any of those areas.
To win in baseball, you don’t have to be great at any number of positions, but you do have to be very good at all of them. Let’s assume Soriano goes into right field. Does he make them better at anything besides offense? And even if he does, does that improvement accomplish relatively more than the incremental improvements one could make in defense, pitching, depth, and execution for $136,000,000 over the next 8 years?
Which way is more likely to bring championships home?
Who was the MVP of the 2006 World Series? David Eckstein of the Cardinals. He’s a little guy, and doesn’t generate 40-40 numbers, but he got hits when they mattered most, he drove in and scored important runs, he made great defensive and base-running plays, and he was generally a leader that the other players could count on to deliver what was needed in any situation. He is old-school, a team guy who cares nothing for stats and just wants to beat the other team however he can pull it off. This is the kind of guy the Cubs need.
Is Soriano that guy? If so, he’s done a good job hiding it. And they won’t have much money left to find another one, nor do they develop these types of players.
Instead, Cub fans can expect to see more Soriano numbers like this: 125, 157, 130, 121, 125, 160. Those are the number of strikeouts Soriano had in the years he’s been a starter (starting in 2001). And in 2006, he had 46 home runs but only 95 RBI; since 46 of the 95 RBI were him driving himself in, that leaves only 49 other baserunners driven in all year, including all of his two-run, three-run, and grand slam home runs, walks with the bases loaded, singles with runners in scoring position, doubles with guys on first, etc. That’s only one teammate driven in every 3 games or so. Not real impressive; with 46 home runs, I’d like to see an RBI number up around 125-140.
Prove me wrong.
Until then, I remain,
And Ex-Cub Fan, Waiting for the Front Office to Get a Friggin Clue,