Sunday, August 30, 2009

Time for Fans to Make a Hard Choice

For most of the season the Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano has been struggling at the plate. We've known for some time that Soriano has been playing with a bad knee, and it got bad enough this week that the Cubs made him get a MRI which revealed some inflammation but no structural damage. 

What it really did was offer us a really good reason why the Cubs highest paid position player has looked like a confused minor leaguer for most of the season. It also presents fans with an interesting dilemma when it comes to injured players. We all often criticize them when they don't play with injuries and call them soft, yet now that we have a guy toughing it out and playing everyday he gets knocked too. 

So what do we as fans want? Do we want players who get the big money deals to play through the pain even if they aren't able to play well, or would we rather them sit out when they don't think they can go?

Either way I think Soriano deserves some praise for gutting it out this season. He hasn't been very good at the plate for a number of stretches and that certainly has been one of the main reasons the Cubs haven't been as good as we thought. Still Soriano put pressure on himself to carry the team when Aramis went out. He didn't want to go on the DL with a seemingly mild knee problem when the team was already missing one star player.

It turned out the Soriano did need some DL time, and that is something the Cubs needed to take care of a long time ago. Some rest over the All-Star break got his knee feeling better and he was able to put together a .995 OPS in July because of that. Going on the DL in June probably fixes most of these problems. For whatever reason Cubs management didn't address this problem then, and it ballooned out of control.

Soriano will probably get a cortisone shot early this week and return to the lineup full time next weekend. Any chance the Cubs have of making the playoffs sits on that injured knee or Soriano. It would take a September 2007 like effort from Soriano (1.108 OPS) for the Cubs to even think about making it.

So next time a player tweaks a hamstring or strains an oblique, think about the ramifications of them playing hurt. We can't call players soft and then get mad at them for not playing well while they are inured.  

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