Cubs’ Matt Garza rises to the defense of Alfonso Soriano
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org June 18, 2012 11:08PM
Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs, center, is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a home run in the fifth inning at U.S. Cellular Field Monday, June 18, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: June 19, 2012 2:53PM
The more he talked about it after the game Monday night, the more Cubs pitcher Matt Garza got riled up.
And it wasn’t about the seven starts he endured without a win before beating the White Sox on Monday, or about the home runs he gave up to A.J. Pierzynksi or Paul Konerko.
It was the verbal beating teammate Alfonso Soriano continues to take from fans and some media for perceived indifference or lack of effort — which came up again Saturday when he didn’t run on a line drive to third that was dropped.
Never mind the natural-reaction element that would apply to most hitters, or the fact he likely gets thrown out by 40 feet even if he runs.
‘‘I get pissed off when the fans treat him the way they do,’’ said Garza, echoing teammates and club personnel in even stronger language. ‘‘That’s freaking ridiculous. The guy’s doing everything he can. He’s hit 20 plus homers every season. He’s a gamer. He games up and he does things he shouldn’t be doing.
‘‘I love the guy to death. I’ll back him till the end. He’s a great dude. I love to have him out there. I love having him in the lineup, and he cares so much about what he does and takes a lot of pride in his craft, and it’s a lot of respect right there.
‘‘And he deserves a lot more respect from the fans than what he’s getting.’’
Soriano, who defended Saturday’s perceived lapse and suggested ‘‘maybe [the fans] don’t’ understand the game because it’s a line drive’’, on Monday shrugged off the boos that have come and gone, and come again, since the Cubs signed him to that eight-year, $136-million deal before the 2007 season.
Soriano, who hit the longest homer of Monday’s game, is the Cubs’ hottest run producer, with 13 homers since May 15, and at age 36 has earned raves from staff and notice from rival scouts about his improved fielding this year.
‘‘When you give somebody the amount of money they give him, fans expect him to be 28 forever,’’ Garza said. ``I’m sorry, but time catches up. And for this guy to still be doing what he does, it’s amazing. It’s outstanding. And not a lot of guys his age can keep doing what he does. And the few that do it, they’re well respected. And this guy catches grief.’’
Like Kerry Wood noted upon his retirement last month, Garza talked about the physical therapy Soriano undergoes daily just to keep playing with a balky left knee that has flared repeatedly this season.
‘‘He games up every day and he’s ready to go,’’ Garza said, adding of fans who boo him, ‘‘They need to stop seeing what they see and just look at the man himself. He’s in the lineup every day and when he’s not he’s pissed off. That tells you he’s a gamer right there. And he’s done it for plenty of years, and he’s going to keep doing it until they tell him to stop.’’