When a baseball player signs a historically bad contract, he ceases to be judged by his play on the field. Instead he is judged against his contract. There seems to be something unfair about that. Alfonso Soriano, like Zito on the Giants, will always be looked at with skepticism. He is ridiculed and derided for the fact that he cannot earn his pay. Is that really fair? The Cubs, who gave Soriano that contract, should be the ones ridiculed. They are the ones that gave him all that money. Because if you take away the money, Soriano has not been that bad a player for the Cubs.
It is not like Alfonso Soriano rolled up in a ball and quit playing. To date, the Cubs have paid him $97 million. And according to Fangraphs, Soriano has been worth $84.3 million for his time with the team. That's not terrible. Average that out over six seasons with the Cubs and that is an average playing value of $16.05 million a season. How would we perceive Soriano if he did not make that kind of money? We would perceive him totally different.
First, we all know that Soriano has holes in his game. He will never be the prettiest outfielder. And that was after he was a pretty disastrous second baseman. He has not had a Hall of Fame career. But he has had a nice career. His career wOBA is .351--not Hall of Fame material, but productive nonetheless. His career triple slash line is: .273/.323/.505. He has 836 career extra base hits including 372 homers. He has scored more than a thousand runs and driven in more than a thousand runs.
In his prime, he reached the 30/30 mark in homers and stolen bases four times. He has 270 career stolen bases with a 78% success rate. He is 103 hits away from 2,000. That is not a bad career. That is a pretty good career.
And how come a guy like Soriano is not given the benefit of the doubt when he was underpaid for several years before he struck it rich? Soriano has built a playing value (again, according to Fangraphs) of $147 million in his career and he has been paid $121+ million. In the grand scheme of things, he has earned his keep.
There is an inherent unfairness that Soriano will always be judged for his contract. It seems petty. This has been stated many times in this space, but bears repeating one more time: Which of us would not put a pen to such a contract? Which of us has ever said to our bosses, "No, really, Joe, you are overpaying me. Stop it already." None of us.
What a player makes is the team's problem and purview. The team either takes a gamble or a calculated risk. Sometimes the team loses. The Cubs lost this one. That has nothing to do with Soriano. Their decision should not make Soriano a scorned and ridiculed player. Separate the player from his contract. And when you do that, Alfonso Soriano has given baseball more good moments than bad ones.