Up until the 2009 World Series, one of my most frequent Yankee related “What if…” questions was “What if the Yankees never traded Alfonso Soriano for A-Rod.” Then A-Rod finally put together an outstanding postseason that year and led my favorite team to its 27th World Championship. At the same time, Soriano had just struggled through his third straight regular season as a Cub and had been horrible in the two postseasons he played in for Chicago. So I stopped playing the “What if…” game.
Since that 2009 World Series however, A-Rod has emphatically confirmed all of his maddening insecurities that negatively impact his play and make it so hard to root for him. Soriano, on the other hand, has taken advantage of an unexpected return trip to the Bronx to remind us all of just how amazing a ballplayer he can be when he goes on one of his patented “hot streaks.” So I again find myself asking the question, “what if that trade in February of 2004 had never been made?”
If the deal never went down, worst case scenario would be that the Yanks would have failed to win that 2009 title. Rodriguez also put some monster years together during his time in pinstripes especially in ’05 and ’07 so you have to wonder if without him, New York might have missed postseason play all-together in a couple of those seasons. But Soriano’s body of work during that same period of time was not too shabby either and don’t forget the Yanks would have probably used the many extra millions they paid A-Rod to sign at least one other impact free agent. The biggest benefit of getting rid of Soriano was that it opened up the opportunity for Robbie Cano to become New York’s starting second baseman. If you remember, when Soriano was traded to the Nationals from Texas, he fought Washington’s desire to move him from second base to the outfield. Knowing how the Yanks operate, the chances are pretty good they would have dealt a young Cano to another organization because they would have kept Soriano at second.
Oh well, we will never really know the true consequences but it’s fun to surmise. Meanwhile, Soriano turns 38-years-old today and is once again being counted on to help New York win a World Series. The Yankee brain-trust had to force GM Brian Cashman to make the deal with the Cubs that brought this native Dominican back to New York in late July of the 2013 season and thank God they did. At the time the Yankee offense was sinking like the Titanic in the AL East pennant race. Soriano desperately wanted to wear the pinstripes again and willingly waived the no-trade clause in his Cubs contract to make it happen. Then he went out and put the Yankee lineup on his back and just about single-handedly kept the team in contention for fall ball up until the final few weeks of the regular season.
With the free agent signings of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, Soriano’s role in the Yankees’ 2014 plans remains unclear. They have a glut of outfielders and DH’s on their current roster. But I’m hoping he gets a chance to start somewhere in the Yankee lineup because I don’t want to ask myself any more “What if the Yankees had kept Alfonso Soriano” questions.
|1998||Did not play in major leagues (Did Not Play)|
|CHC (7 yrs)||889||3696||3403||469||898||218||13||181||526||70||245||829||.264||.317||.495||.812|
|NYY (6 yrs)||559||2393||2229||363||627||132||10||115||320||129||112||497||.281||.323||.504||.827|
|TEX (2 yrs)||301||1340||1245||179||341||75||6||64||195||48||66||246||.274||.316||.498||.814|
|WSN (1 yr)||159||728||647||119||179||41||2||46||95||41||67||160||.277||.351||.560||.911|
Though the Yankees won nothing during the 2013 season, the top five highlights include achievements by players who’ve done plenty of winning during their amazing Yankee careers:
Number 1 – The incredible “Comeback of the Year” performance by the incomparable Mariano Rivera and his emotional farewell appearance in Yankee Stadium. The Sandman returned from a torn ACL suffered in May of 2012 to save 44 games for New York in 2013 and bring his final career regular-season record saves total to an amazing 652. Ironically, Mo’s final appearance of his career was in a non-save situation, which took place against the Rays on September 26th during the Yankees final home game of the 2013 season. With New York trailing by four runs in the eighth inning, Joe Girardi brought in the greatest Closer ever, in the eighth inning and then sent fellow Core Four members Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte out to the mound an inning later, to remove Mo from his last-ever game. It was a poignant moment, as Rivera sobbed uncontrollably in Pettitte’s arms.
Number 2 – The final start of Andy Pettitte’s 18-year career. It took place in Houston on September 28th and the veteran southpaw gave up just one run and five hits in a complete game victory over the Astros. it was Pettitte’s 256th career victory and his 219th Yankee win which puts him in third place on the franchise’s all-time wins list behind Whitey Ford and Red Ruffing.
Number 3 – Robbie Cano’s last year in pinstripes. As soon as the reports that the new agents of baseball’s very best second baseman were asking the Yankees for $300 million to re-sign their client, I realized Cano’s chances of remaining in New York for the remainder of his career were diminishing with each passing game. In a year when good hitting was mostly absent from the Yankee lineup, Cano belted 27 home runs, drove in107 and averaged .314. I doubt the Yankees will ever have another second baseman with as good an all-around game as Cano’s and I will miss seeing him play for my favorite team.
Number 4 – Jeter’s “welcome back” home run. On July 28th, I’m sure I was holding my breath as Derek Jeter made his way to the Yankee Stadium batters box to face Tampa Bay southpaw, Matt Moore. The Yankee Captain’s season debut had taken place seventeen days earlier and then abruptly ended right after that game against the Royals, when a sore calf landed him back on the DL. At the time of his second return, his team was struggling to remain competitive in the AL East race and desperately needed Jeter in the lineup to do so. When he hammered Moore’s first pitch into right-center field stands, for just that brief moment, Yankee Universe’s postseason hopes went sky-high.
Number 5 – Alfonso Soriano’s return to the Yankees. In 58 games, he smashed 17 home runs and drove in 50. The guy the Yanks traded to get A-Rod a decade earlier was now back in the Bronx doing for the Yankees what the Yankees were paying A-Rod to do. It was a magnificent stretch for Soriano and I hope it continues into 2014.