Tribune All-City team
There are some surprises on squad among Sox and Cubs players having interesting seasons
White Sox manager Robin Ventura holds the BP Cup as players and coaches pose for photographs following the sweep at Wrigley. (Jose M Osorio / Tribune Photo / June 16, 2012)
The conversations about the Alfonso Soriano situation that have taken place recently and will take place for who knows how long would be a fascinating look at the business side of baseball.
Unfortunately, there's no way Cubs President Theo Epstein is giving Michael Lewis or anyone else a look behind the curtain. He doesn't operate that way. So all we can do is speculate about the ongoing dilemma.
The Cubs want to wipe the slate clean and start over, and Soriano — like a dog with a bone — wants to hang on to the position he has occupied since 2007.
Anytime Soriano messes up in left field or on the bases, fans scream for Chairman Tom Ricketts to cut him a check and make him go away. But two things are wrong with that theory: Ricketts isn't releasing a guy he still owes more than $45 million, and at this point he probably couldn't even if he tried.
Baseball's collective bargaining agreement stipulates that releases must be performance-based, and over the last month Soriano has made an argument that he — not shortstop Starlin Castro — should represent the Cubs at the All-Star Game in Kansas City, Mo.
From May 15 through Friday, Soriano was hitting .305 with 12 home runs in 105 at-bats, thanks in part to switching to a lighter bat. He has improved in left field and has such a great attitude that manager Dale Sveum said he respects him as much as any player he has been around.
"Nothing bothers me,'' Soriano said two weeks ago. "I believe in myself, and I love what I do. I understand sometimes this game is up and down. Sometimes you have a bad week, but it's a long season."
Will Soriano's ability to hit the ball out of the park interest a team like the Indians or even the Rays as the designated hitter? Probably not, but you're going to hear a lot about his market in the next six weeks.
In the meantime, we're calling him the All-City left fielder over the White Sox's Dayan Viciedo, who also has picked it up since a slow start. Viciedo's timely hitting and enthusiasm have played a role in the Sox's standing as American League Central leaders, and you certainly can argue for him over Soriano.
Along with first base, the corner outfield spots are ripe for debate. But OPS usually tells the story, and Soriano had an edge of 75 points over Viciedo (.823-.748) entering Saturday.
Here's a look at the rest of the Tribune's All-City team:
Paul Konerko: Few things in baseball are cooler than batting titles, and the scholarly veteran is positioned to battle for one this season. He was hitting .399 on May 27 — a mean feat given that he gets almost no infield hits — and at .362 is maintaining a solid edge over Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo. In terms of OPS, Hamilton and Joey Votto are the only hitters delivering more.
It's a surprise that Bryan LaHair hasn't been far behind all season. He deserves to be in the All-Star conversation, as Votto is the only National League first baseman who has hit better, and to his credit he has turned all the Anthony Rizzo talk into so much white noise. That couldn't be easy to do.
Darwin Barney: Another good debate, actually, as Gordon Beckham has done things in a bigger way for the White Sox. He makes great plays in the field and lately has begun driving the ball. But Barney is Chicago's most underrated player, possibly even by his own organization, as he has been out of the lineup seven times already. He has struggled against left-handers and hasn't been as patient as the Cubs want but overall has been a productive hitter (.728 OPS) for his position.
Beckham is fifth among major league second basemen in homers but in most other stats still is trying to get out from under hitting .153 in April.