Does Alfonso Soriano have Hall of Fame numbers?
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org July 11, 2013 10:30PM
San Fransico Giants v Chicago Cubs
IN ELITE COMPANY
Alfonso Soriano is close to joining the 400-home-run/300-stolen-base club. Two members are in the Hall of Fame, while the other two have been tainted by steroid scandals.
400 HR, 300 SB
Barry Bonds 762 514
Willie Mays 660 338
Alex Rodriguez 647 318
Andre Dawson 438 314
Alfonso Soriano 387 280
1988 Jose Canseco 42-40
1996 Barry Bonds 42-40
1998 Alex Rodriguez 42-46
2006 Alfonso Soriano 46-41
Updated: July 12, 2013 1:26PM
One day during spring training last year, a trash-talking Tony Campana was razzed and booed by Cubs teammates during a competition, but he took it with a big smile.
“Like Sori always says, ‘They don’t boo nobodies,’ ” Campana said.
Sori should know. Few players have experienced the extremes of Cubs fans longer than $136 million outfielder Alfonso Soriano.
But for all the boos, injuries and slumps in 6½ up-and-down seasons with the team, could Soriano pull off what Sammy Sosa almost surely never will?
The ship has sailed on the championship he signed up for, but as he enters what could be the final weeks of his Cubs career, Soriano is closing in on achievements that — believe it or not — look worthy of consideration for the Hall of Fame.
“You have to take notice. You have to look at him,” said Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who saw a lot of Soriano in his prime in the American League. “He’s definitely persevered through some tough times, and he’s had some great years. And there’s no doubt the numbers he’s approaching, if he keeps going, are certainly going to make him a candidate.”
With 13 more home runs and 20 more steals, Soriano will become only the fifth player in major-league history with 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases. The only two eligible players on that list — Willie Mays and Andre Dawson — are in the Hall.
He’s one of only four players with 40 homers and 40 steals in a season. He has seven All-Star selections. And he said if he feels as good as he does this year when his contract is up next year, he’ll keep playing, regardless of how steep his pay cut is.
“If I get consideration, it’s fine,” he said. “If not, it’s fine, too. I enjoy the time that I’m in the big leagues. I’m not trying to be a Hall of Famer. For me, it’s more important to be a champion and not be a Hall of Famer.”
At first glance, it’s hard to imagine Soriano getting the 75 percent of the vote needed from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to get within earshot of election.
But the two-week run he’s on now — 18-for-45 (.375), eight homers, 17 RBI, 1.385 OPS and five steals in six tries through Wednesday — is a reminder of how dominating he can be, even at 37
“There’s no reason to think he’s not a Hall of Famer,” teammate Darwin Barney said. “He’s definitely one of a kind. How many 40-40 guys are there? There aren’t very many.”
Which brings up the wild card in the equation.
The other 40-40 guys —Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez — have been linked to steroids, the big eliminator of otherwise Hall-worthy players.
The lithe Soriano is one of the few home-run hitters of his generation to largely avoid suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs, despite playing in markets — New York, Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago — with high-profile cases of reputed and convicted users.
And as many writers seek so-called “clean” candidates to support, Soriano could get a second look from at least a segment of the voters.
“It’s pretty obvious that he’s done it the right way,” Barney said. “He’s been skinny his whole life. You know there’s no crazy stuff going on there.”
For good reason, Soriano said.
“My mom and my grandfather always told me, don’t do nothing wrong because if you do something wrong, we’ll find out,” he said. “So I always kept that with me. So I try to never do anything wrong because I got the feeling that if I do something wrong, they won’t [approve].”
He said the attitude was strengthened in his early days with the Yankees, when he was around veterans such as Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill.
“We’d go to dinner, we’d hang out, we’d play with each other, and I never heard anybody talking about steroids,” he said. “So hanging out with those guys helped me a lot, too.
“I just worry about my talent and what God gives to me. A lot of people use steroids and put up good numbers. What I have, that’s what I want to see on the field.”