Alfonso Soriano isn’t a Gold Glove caliber second baseman, nor a top-shelf outfielder, which has been his primary position during 15 years in the big leagues, but is something special with a bat in his hands.
And that’s why the New York Yankees recently acquired Soriano in a trade with Chicago. In 21 games with the Bronx Bombers, Soriano has clubbed eight home runs, driven in 26, after smashing 17 homers with 51 runs batted in for the Cubs.
What caught everyone’s eye was a four-game series against the visiting Angels when Soriano, who is batting .306, lashed four homers with 18 RBIs as New York took three of four.
This past weekend the Yankees (64-59) spent time in Boston and came away with two wins in three games, which leaves New York in fourth place, seven and a half games behind the first-place Red Sox in the American League East.
Soriano went hitless in six at-bats during Sunday’s 9-6 win, singled twice in four at-bats in Saturday’s 6-1 drubbing, and had three hits in four at-bats in Friday’s 10-3 triumph.
In the first inning on Friday, Soriano had a run-scoring single, then drilled a three-run shot in the third, and scored on Ichiro Suzuki’s hit in the ninth inning.
With a depleted lineup, Soriano, who plays left field and bats fourth, right in front of third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who has also helped the sagging offense. A-Rod was given a 211-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy, but is appealing the sentence.
At no point this season has New York rolled out its starting eight at the same time, and within the last week or so Derek Jeter, A-Rod, and Curtis Granderson all cracked the lineup. After a brief stint, Jeter was back on the shelf.
Soriano toiled in Japan until signing with the Yankees for the 1999 campaign, and played in 31 games over two seasons.
It wasn’t until 2001 when Soriano, a seven-time All-Star who is three homers shy of 400, had a break-out season when he bashed 18 homers, with 73 RBIs, stole 43 bases, batted .268, and placed third in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting.
Soriano’s swing is short and fluid, which impressed Dodgers Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax early on. “He has one of the best swings I’ve eve seen,’’ said the pitching immortal of the right-handed swinger who hails from the Dominican Republic.
In the eighth inning, Soriano’s solo blast in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against Arizona gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead, and was on track to be the hero, but the Diamondbacks rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth off closer Mariano Rivera, and Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single over Jeter and the drawn-in infield proved the game-winner.
Soriano wasn’t done as he finished with 39 homers and 102 RBIs in 2002, then added 38 home runs with 91 RBIs in 2003, before being dealt to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Rodriguez.
In an oddity, Soriano, who has a high of 46 homers with the Washington Nationals in 2006, and a best of 108 RBIs in 2012, is now A-Rod’s teammate, and each hope to prolong the Yankees’ season.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.