The boos and the big contract never bothered Alfonso Soriano

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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“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.”

Former trainers also allege discrimination by Mariners

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Dr. Lorena Martin was recently terminated as the Mariners’ director of high performance. Following her ouster, she alleged that members of the Mariners’ front office and coaching staff, including GM Jerry Dipoto, manager Scott Servais, and director of player development Andy McKay, made bigoted comments against foreign-born players. While the Mariners strongly denied Martin’s accusations, MLB opened an investigation into the matter.

TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that former trainers of the Mariners, based out of the club’s complex in Boca Chica (Domonican Republic), claim the club’s treatment of Latino personnel changed once Dipoto took over as GM. Those trainers, Leonardo Santiago and Jose Valdez, did not speak specifically to Martin’s claims, but did say their experiences with Dipoto and McKay could relate with hers.

Through an interpreter over the phone, Santiago said, “It seemed like Dipoto and McKay would talk to just about everyone who was of American descent and talk to them more personally and try to be involved with them. But never with me.” When asked if it was because he was Latino, Santiago responded, “Under God and before you and in my mind and in my heart — yes. Because I am a Latino of color.”

Santiago continued, “I felt like, ‘Wow.’ They have relationships with all the Americans. They would talk with all of them, but they never came near me. Andy McKay never stopped by, even though he would stop by every other area.”

Furthermore, Santiago commented, “Before Dipoto and McKay came, everything was in order. I didn’t feel discriminated against. Everybody respected everybody from different areas. But when they came, everything changed. In the past,  the previous regimes, the general manager would come and talk with us. They would visit more often, specifically the farm director. Andy McKay never came by my office. He never said anything to me. He never looked for a way to see how I worked, to see if I was good or bad at what I did. He never found a way to talk to me, but he would talk with everybody that was American.”

Per Cotterill, the Mariners apparently found it problematic that neither Santiago nor Valdez were certified. Santiago wondered why his lack of certification was never an issue for the previous 10 years he worked for the Mariners or the previous 15 he’d worked in baseball. The Mariners were paying for his training for certification in physical therapy. He has one year remaining. Valdez also said the club was paying for him to obtain his certification.

Valdez said through an interpreter, “It felt like the relations between the American employees and Latino employees within the club, it felt like they were different. Almost like one was superior to the other.” Though Valdez declined to name specific examples, he said, “It was just [McKay’s] demeanor. He would arrive, see us and not acknowledge us. He wouldn’t want to talk or be with us. He would arrive to the staff meeting and that was it. I never exchanged words with either [McKay or Dipoto].”

To date, neither Martin nor the trainers have provided concrete evidence of the discrimination they claimed happened while working for the Mariners. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and it doesn’t mean the Mariners can’t face some kind of punishment by MLB. You may recall that MLB does not need a convinction in order to levy a punishment against players accused of domestic violence. Martin, in particular, risked a lot for what will likely amount to very little. She has burnt to a crisp her bridge with the Mariners and other organizations, even outside of baseball, will likely view her as a risky hire. She appears to be doing what she thinks is right by her and her former coworkers, which is commendable. Even for Santiago and Valdez, it would be a lot simpler and safer career-wise to stay quiet, which is why we should take these accusations seriously and give them the benefit of the doubt.