Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Out of left field

I don't go to many Cubs games, basically one a year, but I did go last Sunday. And I witnessed the greatest individual hitting performance I've seen since Michael Brenly lit up the Quad City River Bandits last July in Peoria. Really, it was an electrifying afternoon at Wrigley Field.

I was telling my dad about Tyler Colvin. About how the kid is a late-game defensive replacement for Alfonso Soriano. About how he hit over .400 in spring training to secure his spot on the team. About how he might be a late-year replacement at left field. Soriano, he's awful, I said. That's when he hit his first two-run home run.

He added a double in the third. That's when the lady behind us yelled “CYCLE!” I think she'd been drinking. In the fifth he clubbed his second two-run home run against the second pitcher he faced, giving the Cubs a 10-3 lead. Three-for-3 with two homers, I said, I'm impressed.

In the seventh inning Soriano stepped into the box against Kevin Mulvey with the bases loaded and one out. Everyone stood, clapping, eyes fixed on home plate. Fans took their cameras out to take a picture. They chanted his name. There was actual hope invested in Soriano. People thought he was going to do something great. It was a strange feeling. (He lined out to the third baseman, but that's beside the point.)

Yes, Soriano was a bad signing. Eight years and $136 million. (That's more than Albert Pujols makes … for now.) He's not worth it. We can agree on that. But I don't want to talk about money. I want to talk about expectations. Specifically, expectations for this year. 

There weren't any. None at all. Unless you're a strong believer in Rudy Jamarillo. Most of us would have been okay if the Cubs would have cut him and taken the hit to the checkbook.

On Sunday, Soriano gave fans a glimpse of how valuable he can be. When he gets hot he can carry the offense for up to a month. He showed these spurts this first two years in Chicago. He showed nothing of the kind last year. Our expectations have been lowered. But if he can find his form at the plate on a consistent basis, he might prove some of his worth. It's the least he can do.

On Tuesday against the Pirates, Soriano went 1-for-4 with a solo home run, his fourth game in a row with a homer. He's hitting .321 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in 25 games. (He finished .241, 20 and 55 in 2009.) I'm not saying he'll maintain this pace. I'm just saying this is unexpected. And its fun to watch. 

I wonder if Aramis Ramirez has met Mr. Jamarillo.

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