Specifically, Alfonso Soriano. It all started from a Twitter post from sports blog(ger) Souvenir City (@SouvenirCity for those of you keeping up on the Twittersphere.) that read, "Why would you ever throw Vlad or Soriano a strike? Aren't they Sammy Sosa but 8 years later? #ishouldbeanadvancescout" during the Yanks-Angels game.
It was the reference to Soriano that got me thinking, "@SouvenirCity #Cubs fans in 2002: "Remember when Sosa was a 30-30 guy?" Cubs fans in 2009: "Remember when Soriano was a 30-30 guy?" Hmmmm..."
It's like in Ace Ventura realizes Finkle is Einhorn and Einhorn is Finkle. Without that whole kissing a dude thing.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella has pined for a slugger in the middle of the order in the past and will do so again this season. However, Piniella will get his wish -- kind of -- when Soriano is placed in the sixth spot in the order once the 2010 campaign begins. In his first two seasons with the Cubs, Sori has hit 62 home runs and posted an OPS of .887. Most of that has come out of the No. 1 spot in the order. After a hot start in April, Soriano cooled considerably in the lead-off role before being bumped to the sixth spot where he looks to have found a home. He hit .268 as the team's No. 6 hitter (.214 everywhere else in the order) with a .319 BAbip (Batting Average of balls put in play) (.277 everywhere else).
Early in his career, Sosa was a top-of-the-order guy. Then he came to Chicago and was moved to the middle. Even though he hit 355 home runs from 1993 to 1998, Sosa was also a threat on the basepaths swiping 150 bags -- including a pair of 30-30 years.
But after his 66 home run season in 1998, Sosa only stole 17 bases from 1999 to 2007.
Early in his career,
See the similarities? Just a bit of selective editing and a couple of strikethroughs show that Sammy Sosa is Alfonso Soriano. This is where things get interesting for Cubs fans.
After Soriano's epic 40-40 year, he signed an eight-year, $136 million free-agent contract with the Cubs. Since signing that contract, he has only stolen 47 bases. That's only six more than he stole in the entire 2006 campaign.
Like Sosa, Soriano put up some eye-popping numbers in the power and speed departments over a six year period. Slammin' Sammy put his numbers up from ages 24 to 29. Soriano did so between ages 25-30.
And unless his legs can completely heal after season-ending surgery, Cubs fans should no longer expect Soriano to steal upward of 20 bases -- let alone the 41 he swiped in 2006. However, the much-maligned left fielder can still be a productive member of the Cubs line-up as he still has five years and $90 million remaining on his deal.
In the six seasons with the Cubs after Sosa decided he no longer felt the need to wear out the basepaths, Sammy hit 301 home runs and drove in 730 runs from 1999 to 2003 before being shipped off to Baltimore. For better or worse, Sosa transformed his game as he focused on the power part of his game as he posted OPSes of 1.002, 1.040, 1.174, .993, .911 and .849.
While it would be wrong to expect Soriano to average 50 home runs and 121 ribbies like Sosa did in the six years after he forgot the art of the stolen base, he could still find a way to earn what's left on his deal by doing his fair share of heavy lifting in the middle of the order.
The average No. 6 hitter in the National League posted a .259/.333/.423/.756 line in 2009 while averaging 19 home runs and 78 RBIs. Soriano hit 20 dingers and had 55 ribs in 117 games in 2009. A healthy 2010 could bump those numbers. Adjust Soriano's small sample size in the sixth spot over a 161 game season (via baseball-reference.com) and he hits 23 home runs and drives in 86 runs. And with a little luck at the plate and on the trainer's table, a 30-100 season for Soriano wouldn't be too far-fetched.
Despite his flaws at the dish and in the outfield, Soriano has proven to be a tireless worker in the regular season and off-season as well. After a disappointing year, nothing would make Cubs fans embrace Soriano quicker than driving in Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.
Still, it leaves the Cubs with a big hole to fill in the fifth spot of the order. And that, my friends, should be GM Jim Hendry's No. 1 priority ... along with finding a top-of-the-order guy for the big boppers to drive in. Here's hoping he doesn't sign a guy who hasn't hit more than 22 homers or driven in more than 76 runs expecting him to hit 40 and bring in 100 like he did before the 2009 season.