Coming Soon to a Ballpark Near You
When I see Robert DeNiro in a movie these days I can hardly believe it's the same guy I saw in Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. That's sort of how it was watching Alfonso Soriano go through the motions of his injury rehab assignment in Des Moines today. As if there's any rehabbing this guy.
Granted, it wasn't much of a day for long-legged ballplayers testing tender quadriceps; chilly and overcast. But I hustled more getting the dogs walked and the lawn mowed this morning and I've got twenty years on him!
When at last he emerged from the team's clubhouse beneath the left-field suites carrying two of his magnificent clubs the pod of seekers had been long in place. He flashed them that $18 million grin and a wave before making them wait a little longer while he put himself through his pregame paces. Those consisted of a couple of lackadaisical trots in the outfield and a quick game of catch. In between he enjoyed an intermission with someone from the Round Rock retinue he seemed genuinely happy to see. Then he detoured to the wall near the I-Cub bullpen for a brief PR session with local fans.
Give him credit for manning a post in LF as well as filling the #3 hole in the lineup. He wasn't tested defensively, called upon only to retrieve a couple of singles and return them to the infield, one of which you want to - but don't - believe he would have tried to shoestring grab had the game situation been more meaningful, and beat a retreat to the wall behind him and watch a couple of homers sail over and out.
He made three trips to the plate and they resolved as follows: with two outs and nobody aboard in the bottom of the first he took a fastball for a strike before grounding out, 4-3. The crowd groaned when the ball was momentarily bobbled and Soriano, cantering at a pitcher's pace, was still out by three steps. In the bottom of the third, again with two out and the bases empty, he popped a foul out of play behind the first base dugout and then popped the next pitch to the first baseman. In the bottom of the fifth with the I-Cubs trailing 3-1 he came up with two outs and two on. He took a fastball away and then caught an 89 mph fastball from the southpaw with the 6.29 ERA on the end of the bat and flew out routinely to left. The crowd groaned again to see the fly ball struck by the big league meganame fall so pitifully short of those off the bats of anonymous minor leaguers.
And with that, having apparently gotten his groove back, he took his bats and went home. Well, he probably wishes. Today he only got as far as the home team's clubhouse. I was glad to see him call it a day inasmuch as I was underdressed in shorts and a t-shirt. By the time he was out of the shower I was sitting down to this.
Driving home I pondered what I'd ask if I could put a question to him. I decided on this: "Would you consider foregoing the remainder of your contract for the greater good of the organization?"
I bet that would get one of those grins out of him; maybe a $54 million one!