Tag: Alfonso Soriano

Travis d'Arnaud Getty

Travis d’Arnaud cleared for baseball activities


Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud landed on the 7-day concussion disabled list last week after he was hit in the head by Yankees designated hitter/outfielder Alfonso Soriano, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports the young catcher has now been cleared for baseball activities.

D’Arnaud suffered from “a lot of headaches,” as well as sensitivity to light and sound and difficulty sleeping after the concussion, but he felt symptom-free for the first time on Wednesday. He has been cleared to participate running, throwing, and hitting in the cage, but Mets manager Terry Collins said he’d like to see him go on a brief minor league rehab assignment before being activated. He’d still have to get the OK from doctors to return to game action.

D’Arnaud was a key piece of the deal that sent R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays, but he has yet to enjoy sustained success so far in the majors. The 25-year-old owns a .199/.280/.289 batting line through 226 plate appearances.

The boos and the big contract never bothered Alfonso Soriano

Alfonso Soriano

They don’t boo nobodies.

That’s what Alfonso Soriano once told Tony Campana, who used that line after talking so much trash and getting eliminated from Dale Sveum’s 2012 bunting tournament.

It summed up Soriano’s swagger, the way he interacted with teammates, walking around the clubhouse saying, “Another day in The Show, babe.”

Soriano admitted it was weird playing right field for the New York Yankees at Wrigley Field – as the highest-paid player and biggest name the Cubs have on their books this season. He got polite applause during his first at-bat, and some boos in the ninth inning of a 6-1 loss, as the crowd of 38,753 had thinned out on a rainy night.

Soriano became the symbol of “Win One for The Tower” when he signed a $136 million megadeal after a last-place finish in 2006. The next time the Cubs go for it – maybe sometime before 2020 – they better hope that player checks as many boxes as Soriano.

[MORE: Welcome to Derek Jeter Night]

“When I played here, I think the fans focused on the contract and not the player,” Soriano said, surrounded by reporters in the visiting dugout. “I just play every day, with pain in my knee, and try to make the team better. They don’t realize because they don’t see that.

“They see the contract. They don’t see who I am, how I play. It’s a little different now. But the most important thing is the players, the coaches, the front office, they know how hard I work to get better.”

Soriano had already done one media session in a cramped corner of the visiting clubhouse. Ichiro Suzuki walked into the middle of that one, waiting to get to his locker, sunglasses perched on the top of his head and a green tote bag slung over his shoulder.

The stars blend in with the Yankees, a franchise that can absorb decline years, import new free agents and keep extending that window to contend. It slammed shut for the Cubs after winning two division titles during Soriano’s first two seasons on the North Side – and forming the leveraged partnership between Sam Zell’s Tribune Co. and the Ricketts family that turned this into a small-market team.

“When the team’s doing bad, and you’re the face of the team, for any reason they start booing. I know that,” Soriano said.

[ALSO: Girardi loves stability of Yankees]

After approving the trade to New York last July, his old teammates erupted when they watched Soriano hit his first home run at the new Yankee Stadium. All the way across the country, they yelled at the TV and cheered inside the visiting clubhouse at San Francisco’s AT&T Park.

Jeff Samardzija – now the longest-tenured player in a Cubs uniform – once called Soriano “the epitome of bravado and machismo.”

Cubs reliever James Russell remembered the time Randy Wells asked Soriano if he had change for a hundred. Soriano responded: “Hundreds are change, babe.”

“He’s one of the cooler personalities you’ll meet in baseball,” Russell said. “It was just a pleasure to play with him. I wish we could have kept him around a little longer. He’s a good veteran leader to have in the clubhouse and on the field. I wish nothing but the best for him. I’m happy to see him back where he started.

“He has a fun way of going about things and it was cool to be around. It kind of opens your eyes to the big-league lifestyle and what you could make out of this game. And once you get there, how to act and kind of carry yourself.

[MORE: Yankees get a look at Hammel, Samardzija before trade season]

“He’d get his boos in Wrigley. I don’t see how you can boo a guy like that, but a lot of people don’t know him the way that a lot of the guys in the locker room know him.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi already knew the scouting report: “Very professional. Loved in the clubhouse. Comes to play every day. Gives you everything he’s got. I’ve never met a person who’s said a bad thing about Alfonso Soriano.”

Soriano drives fancy cars, wears flashy jewelry and enjoys flipping his bat and hopping out of the batter’s box. But he’s also a grinder, willing himself to play almost 2,000 games in the big leagues and hit more than 400 career home runs. He reinvented himself as a pretty good outfielder and says he feels like he could play maybe two more years.

After going 0-for-4 on Tuesday night, Soriano will be back at Wrigley Field on Wednesday morning.

“I wish they can win soon, because it’s a great city, good ballpark, good fans. They need it,” Soriano said. “That’s what I signed up for – to win here – because it’s a great organization and great fans. It didn’t happen. But I hope in the future they have the opportunity to win.”

Theo vs. Evil Empire: How the Cubs move on from the Tanaka fallout

theo epstein getty

The urban legend had Theo Epstein destroying a hotel room after he found out Jose Contreras decided on the New York Yankees.

The youngest GM in baseball history had been on the job for almost a month when the big Cuban pitcher established residency in Nicaragua just before Christmas 2002. Hoping to freeze out everyone else, Epstein and Boston Red Sox international scouting director Louie Eljaua hatched the plan to rent out all the rooms in the small hotel in Managua.

That’s where Contreras and his agent, Jaime Torres, posted up for the meetings. Together, they smoked cigars and drank booze, selling the idea of winning at Fenway Park, how they would help him adapt to life in the United States, making it seem like a sure thing.

[RELATED – Cubs excited to welcome Yankees back to Wrigley Field]

Until, of course, Contreras wound up taking more money from the Yankees, grabbing a four-year, $32 million deal. That led Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, Epstein’s mentor/nemesis, to tell The New York Times: “The Evil Empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America.”

“I didn’t trash the room,” Epstein said. “The story was that I picked up a chair and threw it through a window or something. I didn’t. I slammed a door, which didn’t break. That was it.”

Now 40 years old, with two World Series rings and a president’s title, Epstein has thought of the Contreras pursuit while rebuilding the Cubs, trying to channel all the frustrations and stay focused on the big picture.

“It’s more about process and living to fight another day,” Epstein said. “Even if you think you lose, you win sometimes. You think you’ve won, you’ve lost.”

“We don’t know (bleep)”

Masahiro Tanaka is who the Cubs thought he would be when they made a six-year, $120 million offer last winter – someone with the stuff, guts and intelligence to be a frontline pitcher in the big leagues. They just didn’t think he’d be doing it in their pinstripes.

Tanaka is unbeaten in his last 42 regular-season starts and will face the National League’s worst team on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. At 6-0 with a 2.17 ERA – and 66 strikeouts against seven walks through 58 innings – Tanaka will be in the Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and All-Star starter conversations.

[MORE – After rocky start, Travis Wood turns the corner]

Epstein’s front office expected a big-market team like the Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers to push the bidding to a place that could cripple a payroll limited by ownership’s leveraged partnership, as well as the uncertainties surrounding the Wrigley Field renovations and the next TV deals.

That final bid didn’t even include the $20 million release fee for Tanaka’s Japanese club, and it didn’t come close to the seven-year, $155 million megadeal the Yankees gave their new ace.

The Cubs did beat the Yankees for $30 million Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler with the help of Eljaua, who got hired by the Jim Hendry administration and stayed on as a key presence for the franchise in Latin America.

But mostly it’s been one disappointment after another at Clark and Addison. There was a point where the Cubs thought they were going to sign Soler and Yoenis Cespedes, until the Oakland A’s offered $36 million over four years instead of six.

The Cubs were played by Anibal Sanchez, who got $80 million guaranteed from the Detroit Tigers and led the American League in ERA last season.

[MORE – Edwin Jackson’s dominant effort spoils Matt Garza’s return]

The Cubs were blown away in the Hyun-Jin Ryu bidding, with the Dodgers getting the South Korean right-hander who recently turned 27 and has gone 17-10 with a 3.00 ERA through his first 37 starts.

Driven by rumors and Chicago media leaks, even last year’s manager search had a runner-up feeling, with Joe Girardi staying in The Bronx and Yankees GM Brian Cashman saying: “I never felt he was leaving us.”

In Year 3 of the full-scale rebuild, the Cubs are looking for silver linings.

“(Matt) Garza blacks out a 96 mph fastball to Matt Holliday in the summer of 2012 in St. Louis,” Epstein said. “We think we’re going to clean up in a trade for him. We might be able to get Mike Olt. And then an inning later, he walks off the mound holding his elbow and we get nothing.

“We thought we lost. It turns out we won, because a year later, (Garza) pitched great for five weeks and we were able to trade him for C.J. Edwards, Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez.”

[RELATED – Wrigley return doesn’t end Matt Garza’s frustration]

So is this the older, wiser Theo?

“I was still pissed,” Epstein said. “But it’s just the more experiences you have, you realize you never know in this game. We had an organizational credo at the Red Sox when I first started, which we would always bring up from time to time: ‘We don’t know (bleep).’

“Basically, as a reminder that when you think you have the game figured out, look closer, because you don’t. There are so many arbitrary aspects to this game, so much luck involved. If you’re on a roll, you’re making good decisions, you think you have something figured out, you probably just got a little bit lucky and karma will get you.”

Keeping the “powder dry”

Epstein left Boston thinking he’d be running another superpower, the Evil Empire of the Midwest.

The Cubs are 15-27 and heading toward another summer sell-off and another last-place finish. All the talk is about the draft and the farm system, questioning why Javier Baez is struggling at Triple-A Iowa and wondering why Kris Bryant hasn’t been promoted from Double-A Tennessee, without realizing the irony.

Tanaka, who’s only 25 years old, would have changed the conversation and given some credibility to the franchise’s business/baseball plans.

Where would the Yankees be without Tanaka? Injuries have shredded the rotation, but they’re still a first-place team, 7-1 on the days he pitches and 16-19 when he doesn’t.

After losing the Tanaka sweepstakes, the Cubs kept most of their “powder dry,” signing Jason Hammel (4-2, 3.06 ERA) to a one-year deal, hoping he can keep boosting his trade value with another strong start on Tuesday against Alfonso Soriano, Derek Jeter and the Bronx Bombers.

After seeing what pre-DL Jose Abreu had done on the South Side, Cubs fans hope the game-changing moves are still out there. After all, Contreras (78-67, 4.57 ERA) never lived up to the enormous expectations, lasting parts of two seasons in New York before getting traded to the White Sox (and helping them win the 2005 World Series).

[RELATED – Can any Cubs prospect match what Jose Abreu has done?]

“‘We don’t know (bleep)’ is a way to remind yourself – and remind everyone around you – that there is way more we don’t know about the game than what we do know about the game,” Epstein said. “All you can really do is set a vision, hire great people, make sure your processes are really sound and keep trying to get better each day and let things fall where they may. That’s as true now as it was then.”

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

Mike Trout walkoff

Angels 6, Rays 5: Mike Trout’s walkoff caps a four-run ninth inning rally. The homer came off  Brad Boxberger, but even if he lit the match, Grant Balfour spread the kerosene by walking two batters and giving up an RBI single just before Trout’s three-run bomb.

Twins 4, Red Sox 3: Another walkoff. This time the hit was delivered by Aaron Hicks. A day after his own team ripped him in the media. I guess in between Wednesday and Thursday Hick, to paraphrase Ron Gardenhire, studied the game a little more, studied the pitchers a little bit more, did drills and everything, threw his talent out on the field and said, “I can do this.”

Brewers 4, Pirates 3: Oh, another walkoff. Here it was Khris Davis, who delivered a two-run single off  Mark Melancon. when the Brewers were down 3-2. The Brewers have won four of five and still have a five-game lead in the Central. I keep saying to myself “the Cardinals will close that gap in time” — and I still believe that — but it would help their cause of the Brewers started to lose. A pity for St. Louis that Milwaukee doesn’t seem to want to cooperate with all that.

Reds 5, Padres 0; Padres 6, Reds 1: Johnny Cueto is gonna petition the league office to have all of his starts move to the afternoon because he’s lights-out during day games. Well, he’s pretty amazing during all games, but his day game performances has been pretty incredible over the years. Even before yesterday’s gem he had a 2.53 ERA in daytime starts compared to 3.94 at night. On the 2014 season he’s now down to a 1.25 ERA and has three complete games. He had only six in his whole career before this season.

Blue Jays 4, Indians 2: Two homers for Edwin Encarnacion. At this point I’d insert that “Nacho Libre” video but the short version with just the chorus of that song and no preroll ads seems to have been taken off YouTube. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to call NBC to have them buy me that movie. A craftsman has to have tools at his disposal.

Cardinals 5, Cubs 3: Well, the Cardinals are at least trying to do their part. Playing the Cubs helps as they’ve lost nine of eleven. Here Michael Wacha pitched seven solid innings and [altogether now] helped his own cause by driving in two runs.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk‘s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $45,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Friday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $7,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on FridayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Orioles 2, Royals 1: Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer in the fourth for all of the runs Baltimore needed. He’s on pace for 50 homers and 145 RBI. Someone alert Buster Olney that he needs to write a column telling everyone it’s OK to think Cruz is juiced.

Yankees 1, Mets 0: Alfonso Soriano had an RBI double for the only scoring in this one. The real show here: rookie reliever Dellin Betances coming into the game for the Yankees in the middle of the game and striking out six Mets in a row. He picked up the win too, and I now predict the New York media will anoint him the Yankees’ savior.

Giants 6, Marlins 4: A Buster Posey RBI double came in a three-run fifth inning that put the Giants ahead for good and helped Matt Cain get his first win of the year. Cain wasn’t fantastic — he gave up a couple of homers early — but he did give San Francisco eight innings.

Travis d’Arnaud goes on seven-day concussion disabled list

Travis d'Arnaud Getty

Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud has been placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list after being struck on the head by Alfonso Soriano’s backswing Tuesday night.

d’Arnaud actually stayed in the game, but had a headache afterward and then underwent further testing. As manager Terry Collins summarized the situation yesterday: “We’re very, very cautious and he is not feeling 100 percent.”

Triple-A catcher Juan Centeno got the call-up to replace d’Arnaud on the roster and will back up Anthony Recker.

d’Arnaud was off to a poor start before the injury, hitting just .196 in 31 games after batting .202 in 31 games during his big-league debut last season.