This past Sunday in Cincinnati, Alfonso Soriano once again gave Cubs fans more of a reason to boo. During the Wrigley Field Opening Day festivities the following Monday, Soriano's name drew a fairly mixed reception, with the jeers seemingly outweighing the cheers.
Soriano was asked following Monday's win if the booing takes a toll on him. As usual, the question garnered an indifferent response from Soriano.
""I live in my own world, so I don't have to listen to anything negative," Soriano said.
Admirable as it may be that Soriano understands (or at least deals with) the frustration of Cubs fans, I often wonder if he really "gets it".
In the bottom of the sixth inning of Monday's game, Soriano struck out on a pitch that bounded away from Brewers catcher Greg Zaun. As is customary in this situation, Soriano made his way towards first as Zaun retrieved the ball and fired it to first to complete the strikeout. The most compelling aspect of this minor play is the complete lack of effort or "hustle" exerted by Soriano. Rather than urgently attempt to gain first base, Soriano strolled to first as if he'd just earned a base on balls.
This sort of behavior, Mr. Soriano, is what yields a chorus of boos.
What happened to the days of players crashing into walls (or "through" the wall if you're referring to Rodney McCray)? Where has the old adage of "don't go home with a clean uniform" gone?
It is becoming rather clear that the message from fans to the Cubs is not so much based on the lack of winning, but rather the lack of effort.
In 2007, during a late September game in Arizona, former Cubs great Mark Grace, announcing for the Diamondbacks, made an observation to the Cubs lackadaisical approach to running out ground balls. During the course of that particular game, it was clearly evident that on numerous occasions, Cubs hitters (most notably Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez) jogged halfheartedly to first base on routine ground balls. As everyone is certainly aware of, the Cubs finished the 2007 season by being swept in the NL Division Series by those same Diamondbacks.
Granted, the lack of a World Series victory over more than a century factors heavily into the recent display of dissatisfaction by Cubs fans, but it's also growing more apparent that players who exert a full effort throughout nine innings are typically exempt from being the brunt of harsh fan criticism.
Many still wonder why the departure of Mark DeRosa, or more recently the departure of Reed Johnson, continue to be sore subjects to some Cubs fans. The answer is simply because they were never above crashing into a wall, recklessly diving to make difficult catches, or flopping head-first into a bag on a close play. Granted, they weren't capable of 40/40 type of numbers, but the effort they exerted day-in and day-out was never in question, and that's why they're missed.
In a city which takes pride in it's tough, blue-collar personality, it's difficult to accept a player who is unwilling to take risks and sacrifice himself for a larger purpose. This city's heroes and biggest sports legends were tough, hard-nosed players who never hesitated to take on danger. Guys like Payton, Jordan, Singletary, Hull -- each one of them gave everything they had each time they went to work. They were true "Grabowski's" -- working-class heroes representing a working-class city. It's a shame, that after more than a century of failure the Cubs just seem to be focused on becoming more and more "Hollywood".
Maybe Jim Hendry can bring in a stunt double or two...