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Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano calls Chicago fans toughest on slumping stars

Adam Dunn returning dugout after striking out second inning has been target for White Sox fans. His productihasn’t matched his

Adam Dunn, returning to the dugout after striking out in the second inning, has been a target for White Sox fans. His production hasn’t matched his power-hitting resume. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 29, 2011 12:26AM

Every time he steps to the plate, the boos start. Every time he swings and misses, they get louder. And every time he misses the third one, the fans unleash their disgust in a deafening chorus — 20,000, 30,000 strong.

Never in three previous career stops has he endured anything like this — an All-Star, 40-homer slugger and one of the most popular players in every clubhouse he has occupied.

Obviously, it’s Adam Dunn.

But it’s also Alfonso Soriano, four years ago in the same city, just eight miles to the north.

“It’s very sad for him,” said Soriano, the Cubs’ left fielder, and perhaps the only other player at U.S. Cellular Field this week who knows first-hand what Dunn is going through as he slumps into his first season in Chicago.

“He’s a great player. The fans, they don’t understand when the player’s struggling, how hard it is and how he is trying,’’ Soriano said. “He cannot think about. He’s got to try to do the best he can to just concentrate on the game.’’

Like Soriano four years ago, Dunn is experiencing the constant wrath of home fans for the first time in his career — and it’s no accident, says Soriano.

“The fans, they come to see the players do good, but sometimes they want to look at something negative and boo the guy,’’ he said. “That’s nothing new. That’s the way it is here.”

Worse than other cities?

“It’s the worst,” said Soriano, who has seen several teammates also booed at Wrigley in his 4œ seasons in Chicago. “I played in New York, but the fans are worse here. But at the same time, I understand. Fans can get frustrated because they want the team to win, and they want the players to hit. At the same time, the game’s not easy.’’

Soriano, a 40-homer, 40-steal player for Washington the year before the Cubs signed him to that eight-year, $136 million contract, endured the double-whammy of megabucks expectations and a homerless first April with the Cubs. Then he suffered a bad quadriceps injury and never was the same runner.

Dunn, whose 350-plus homers and four-year, $56 million contract made him the same kind of target, is mired in his deepest slump to open a season — passing the 90-strikeout mark already Tuesday night.

Dunn has said the answer to the relentless booing is to start hitting again. But the right attitude doesn’t make the most unwelcome home-crowd reception of his career any easier to take.

“It has to get to you after a while. It’s hard not to think about it and just play,’’ said teammate A.J. Pierzynski, who has been a fan target himself at times — albeit, usually from the other side. “Everywhere you turn and everywhere you go, there’s talk about being bad.”

“It’s sad,” Soriano said. “[Dunn’s] a good player and a good guy. We are human. We can’t have every year be a great year.’’

But as Pierzynski said: “That’s the life that we lead, and it’s what we have to deal with, and we have to find a way just to get a win.’’

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