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Let us praise Alfonso Soriano on the occasion of his 2000th career hit

Aug 12, 2013, 9:44 AM EDT

New York Yankees' Soriano follows through on solo home run off of Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Verlander during fourth inning of their MLB American League baseball game in New York

Alfonso Soriano notched his 2000th career hit yesterday, and he did it in grand fashion: a home run.  His first career hit, by the way, was also a home run. If he got hit by a bus tomorrow that’d be a pretty spiffy set of bookends. Of course it would pale to how horrified we’d all be if Soriano was hit by a bus so let’s just forget I said that.

My takeaway from Alfonso Soriano‘s 2000th? He’s been a pretty good player over the course of his career. That’s likely to be taken as a loaded comment by many of you, but it underscores why I felt like I should make it.

So much of what we talk about with players is laden with baggage about contracts and history and relative comparisons. If a guy gets a big contract that he probably didn’t fully justify, we tend to talk about them as failures, even if they’re still fine and useful players. If someone is good but not great — especially if we thought early on that they might be great one day — we also tend to cast their accomplishments in a negative light. We also tend to compare one player to a better player from time to time and take the negative, albeit factual assessment (Player X is not as good as Player Y) as a criticism as Player X when it’s really not.

Soriano has probably had all three of these things working against him over the course of his career. He started out so amazingly, people had expectations of a Hall of Fame career that hasn’t occurred. He reminded many of astounding players like Clemente or Vlad Guerrero so those comps were made and, like almost every single ballplayer who has ever played, he wasn’t quite to that level. Finally he did get overpaid, even if it wasn’t his fault at all and even if his salary has no bearing on the actual quality of play he has provided to his employers, even if does have bearing on the bang-for-the-buck.

None of which is to say that Soriano is some fantastic, elite guy. But he’s been durable. He’s hit nearly 400 homers. He has over 1,000 RBI. He’s got 2,000 hits. He’s been a great teammate and is renowned as a hard worker who prepares himself like a true professional. At times he has been excellent, the rest of the time he’s been an above average major leaguer. And that stuff tends to get lost with him because so much more focus is placed on his contract or our expectations or his perceived potential at one time.

  1. ditto65 - Aug 12, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    But Cano is a better second baseman

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:06 AM

      After noticing how many 2Bs the Yankees have had during his time with the team, a reporter asked Jeter who the most athletic of the bunch had been. Jeter said it was Soriano. Easily.

      • RickyB - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:23 AM

        Has Jeter been paired with more second basemen or was Willie Randolph paired with more shortstops as a Yankee? Legit question. Yankee shortstops were pretty brutal for much of Randolph’s career with the Yanks.

      • Uncle Charlie - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:30 AM

        Chuck knob launch. Love auto correct.

  2. windycity0301 - Aug 12, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    It was that huge contract that set huge, almost unachievable, expectations in Chicago. We fans expected big things for the $18MM a year. For a long time, it seemed liked the Cubs were overpaying for underperformance. However, according to all reports he was an amazing teammate. And according to those in the know, with all of the young Cubs coming up, he turned into a great mentor. Frankly, his best years were the last couple. He worked extremely hard on his fielding and his bat came around. Many of us fans were actually sad to see him go at the end and hope he has a great finish to a solid career!

    • Detroit Michael - Aug 12, 2013 at 12:09 PM

      Soriano’s best season according to b-refWAR was the year with the Nationals, right before he signed the big contract with the Cubs. Nice timing from Soriano’s perspective to get the big paydate.

  3. southofheaven81 - Aug 12, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    Congrats to a solid player who has continued to play as such.

  4. turdfurgerson68 - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    Its not Alfonso’s fault that the Cubs were stupid enough to overpay him big time.

    He’s a decent player; his contract doesn’t diminish that.

  5. stex52 - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    Nice comment, Craig, thanks. After weeks of steroid bashing by all sides. Just a little tribute to a solid player that people probably undervalue. Very refreshing.

  6. jerze2387 - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    Great article. I always thought he was over criticized due to0 the contract, and this article just made me look up his numbers on baseball reference…162 game avg of 34 hrs for his career (!!!), 174 hits, .272 career average (for a power hitter is actually pretty decent), and the reports of him being a good teammate, its been a nice career for him

  7. danindelray - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    About the best thing you can say about Soriano is that durability factor, without which he would not achieve what Craig thinks is worth celebrating: stat accumulation.

    Shitty defender, terrible OBP, and guaranteed one-year eligibility on the HoF ballot. Other than that, you know, nice little career. Certainly better than a lot of other one-and-done guys.

    • thinkfirstthenspeak - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:34 AM

      I think you can say some better things than that. You could say he had a heck of a bat. He hit a lot of extra base hits and lead the league twice. You could say he was fast.

      But probably the best thing you could say is he joins Chuck Klein, Honus Wagner, and Ty Cobb as the only players to lead the league in SB and extra base hits in the same year.

      He’s not a Hall of Famer, but he’s better than just a stat accumulator.

    • Uncle Charlie - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:40 AM

      Hmm, he’s got a pisitive career fielding war and walks about as much as Cano 5.9%
      to 6.1%. And Cano has a negative career WAR total. Just sayin’

      • Kevin S. - Aug 12, 2013 at 8:35 PM

        Uh, what? Cano has 35 fWAR for his career and 42 rWAR. If you meant dWAR, he’s positive for his career by both DRS and TZ(L). UZR has him negative, but his negative career totals come entirely from his first two seasons and almost entirely from his first season.

    • bolweevils2 - Aug 12, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      Just for the sake of discussion, Baseball Reference in 2012 had Soriano rated as 5 runs above average in total zone fielding runs. That ranked 17th best out of 234 LF rated (Albeit many with only a few innings in left. If you look at the rate of runs saved per 1200 innings, Soriano was 89th out of 234. Still very respectable.)

      In 2011, he ranked 12 in runs saved, and 74th in runs saved per 1200 innings.

      Everyone agrees he’s abysmal in left, and yet the stats don’t seem to hate him. On the same Baseball Reference page though, Soriano doesn’t look nearly as good in Baseball Info Solutions Defensive Runs Saved at -11 runs.

      Maybe all that means is fielding ratings still aren’t very good.

      • anxovies - Aug 12, 2013 at 2:24 PM

        “Everyone agrees he’s abysmal in left…” Actually, he has made himself into a very good left fielder. He had some initial reluctance in moving to the outfield but people in Chicago talk about how hard he has worked to transform himself into a good outfielder.

    • sportsfan18 - Aug 12, 2013 at 1:28 PM

      danindelray

      While he is not a hall of fame player, his career has been OK.

      He’s currently at 392 HR’s so hitting 400 plus HR’s isn’t bad.

      He currently has 459 career doubles. Hitting 500 doubles in one’s career isn’t easy to do (though I know he isn’t there yet, but he’ll come close to this figure).

      His career batting average is going down but he is currently a .272 hitter. Not great, but decent and certainly not bad.

      His OBP is a bit below the average OBP for his career, but his Slugging % is still over .500% for his career which balances his low OBP.

      His OPS+ is 112 and league average is 100.

      Guys who have a “nice little career” as you said he did don’t hit over 400 HR’s, 500 doubles, hit .270, slug .500%.

      They don’t receive MVP votes in 5 different seasons either or become a an all star player for 7 consecutive seasons.

      They also don’t earn 4 Silver Slugger awards either.

      Again, he is not a hall of fame player but you were very wrong to say he’s only had a “nice little career”.

      I’ll sign up any day for 400 plus HR’s, 500 doubles, 7 all star games and on and on…

      • ezthinking - Aug 12, 2013 at 2:20 PM

        People that have had a “nice little career” that began their MLB careers in earnest in 200 -2001 like Soriano are Nick Punto and Juan Uribe. Those guys that are still playing, both with the Dodgers, have the following career stats:

        Punto – .248/.326/.324 .650
        Uribe – .251/.298/.417 .715

        Nice little career guy?
        Soriano – .272/.321/.502 .823

        If your standard in Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. Soriano sucked. More tellingly, if that is your standard, you don’t know shit about baseball.

        Try to enjoy the game. If not, go watch football and live on the blogs so you can comment on how many bars players get to have on their helmet.

  8. natslady - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    When he was a Nat Soriano was amazing! Incredible bright spot. 41 stolen bases. 135 OPS+. Hated to see him go. But the Nats could not pay him when they had NO pitching, a lousy bullpen, and no one to play except Ryan Zimmerman. And he was already 30 in 2006, with the Nats not going to be a decent team for at least 3-4 years. I don’t know what the Cubs were thinking. He had some good years for them, but to what avail?

    • jerze2387 - Aug 12, 2013 at 10:57 AM

      because the Cubs, since 2006, have had NO pitching, a lousy bullpen, and no one to play except uhhh……damn. Well, at least the Nats had Ryan Zimmerman.

      • Uncle Charlie - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:44 AM

        I guess I’m the only one who experienced 2007 & 2008. But I’ll give you 2009-2013, absolutely terrible.

      • jerze2387 - Aug 12, 2013 at 12:22 PM

        @Uncle Charlie True..ill concede tyhe Arram/DLee 2007 and 2008 cubs. But outside those 2, they started Jacque Jones and ryan theriot, so i guess im a bit skewed by that

    • cubfan531 - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:48 AM

      In one of his last moves before jumping ship for the Blackhawks, then-team president John McDonough added the last two years onto Sori’s contract. Jim Hendry had a 6 year deal all ready to go

      • cubfan531 - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:50 AM

        Didn’t mean to hit enter there. Think Firefox just freaked out a bit. Anyway, Hendry had the 6 year contract ready to go, got on a plane from LA to Chicago, and turned his phone off for the plane ride. When he got off, he saw the deal had two more years at $18 million a year at the end.

        It was part of an attempt to rebuild via free agency. And, yeah, the Cubs made two playoff appearances, with a total of zero wins, and managed to put off their rebuild for about four years.

  9. cohnjusack - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    The worst member of the 2000 hit club?

    According to WAR, it’s Doc Cramer. Despite 2700 career hits, he mustered just 8.6 WAR over the course of his career. He managed a league average OPS just 3 times, with a career 87 OPS+. He had no power, didn’t draw walks, couldn’t steal bases, wasn’t a good fielder…he just hit a long of singles in a time when a lot of people hit for high averages (he only ranked in the top 10 in BA twice).

  10. cur68 - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Fonzy had a nice career. A better one than Mike Young’s, in fact. He got paid a touch under 50 mil more than Young and hit way better than him for it without the drama. In fact he got paid about the same as Torii Hunter and no drama. I don’t think Fonzy’s quite worth what he got paid, and isn’t quite as good as Hunter’s been, but he’s not too far off.

    • dirtyharry1971 - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:36 AM

      thanks for pointing out the abvious once again

      • cur68 - Aug 12, 2013 at 11:40 AM

        You’re welcome, ‘harry. Abvious (sic) is my middle name. For you, I’ll do it again:

        “dirtyharry1971 is a poo flinging chimp”. See that? Now THAT’S abvious (sic)!

      • jerze2387 - Aug 12, 2013 at 12:24 PM

        anybody else read Dirtyharry’s comments in clint eastwoods “get off my lawn” voice from gran torino? just me?

    • bolweevils2 - Aug 12, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      Why are you bringing up Edgardo Alfonzo’s career?

      • cur68 - Aug 12, 2013 at 1:36 PM

        I’d for gotten about that guy. Thanks. He also had a nice career and even had a cup of coffee with My Boys, the Toronto Beaver Smugglers, in 2006.

  11. tfilarski - Aug 12, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    Too bad he lost his legs so badly and on a team who’s manager didn’t have running in his vocabulary. He would have been great to be a member of the 400/400 club!

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