Cubs' left fielder Alfonso Soriano admitted today that his knee is only at 80%. While the Cubs seem to be putting a positive spin on this, by noting Soriano expects to be 100% by the start of the regular season, such news can only cause alarm for Cub fans.
Many fans already had strong doubts about Soriano, but knowing that his knee is only at 80% after the entire offseason is disappointing at best. A closer look at the left fielder's stats, heading into his fourth season with the club, shows already drastically declining production from the now 34 year-old ex-slugger.
In 2009 Soriano actually started more games (117) than he did in 2008 (109). However, Soriano declined in 11 offensive categories: runs, hits, doubles, homeruns, RBIs, total bases, walks, stolen bases, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and batting average. All in all, Soriano finished 2009 with 20 HR, 55 RBI, and 9 stolen bases. His OBP was a meager .303, and he slugged .423 while batting only .241.
This is not encouraging.
While Soriano is capable of some dazzling two-week hot stretches, last year never really featured one of those. Cubs fans must prepare to accept the fact that such offensive outbursts may likely be gone forever. Get used to something close to what you saw of Alfonso last year, except with a slightly more pungent odor to it.
Soriano's homerun total was his lowest since he finished with 18 in 2001 for the Yankees. During the last two seasons with the Cubs he has played fewer games than in any other season during his career, except for his first two in 1999 and 2000 when he started a combined 31 games.
The abyss is near Cub fans. We are approaching the edge. Winter grows old and spring lingers underneath. Soon it will capture your hopes and emotions once again... and you just might buy in. But then you will see the void of bad, injury-prone, frustrating and aging Cubs baseball. Soriano's knee will be floating somewhere around inside the swelling vortex, and we might just be lucky to finish at .500 again.
Hopefully everything just magically works out with health and production, like we all witnessed in 2008... until the October Dodgers rolled into town. Hopefully I'm just as crazy and wrong as I sound, and everything will be just fine.