When Jorge Soler got his sliding legs entangled with a second baseman in Daytona, followed by vehement words, no big deal.
When they stood and got in each other’s faces, separated eventually by teammates? Well, it happens.
But after plenty of time to theoretically cool down, Soler took a bat and charged across the diamond to the opposing dugout.
It’s safe to say that this qualifies as a giant, waving red flag.
The Cubs need to get on this, quickly and authoritatively.
Anger issues can keep a ballplayer from reaching his potential. You don’t have to look very far to find the perfect example.
Forget Carlos Zambrano’s innumerable off-the-field misdeeds. Put aside the obvious manifestations of his uncontrolled temper: dugout tantrums, Gatorade machine destruction, Derek Lee confrontations and showing up his manager or teammates.
Think about Big Z on the field. How many times can you recall a small mistake on his part leading to a succession of larger ones? How many errors behind him ended up feeding a disastrous inning? Time and again, Zambrano failed to control himself and stay on plan.
The Cubs under general manager Jim Hendry didn’t deal with their would-be ace in a modern, adult way until it was too late for him to take them seriously.
That’s the key with Soler right now; he needs to know that 1) this is a problem that has hampered many before him.
And 2) his organization will not take it lightly simply because he is talented and well paid.
Do the opposite; value him so much that you get him some therapeutic, professional help.
Cubs boss Theo Epstein said, “We need to get ahead of it ... and make sure we give him a framework to channel his emotions a little bit more appropriately on the field.”
Let’s hope Epstein’s smart, analytical nature extends to mental health, and that the organization stays vigilant. Soler has an opportunity to thrive and grow from this teachable moment.
The real Rios emerges:
The best player on the 2012 White Sox has begun 2013 even better.
Alex Rios has never been this comfortable.
In Toronto, where the expectations for a young player of his talent were always enormous, he never quite performed to them. He slumped in the second half of most seasons there, leading to increased pressure every spring.
Once here, with the weight of the (accidental?) waiver claim and renewed scrutiny, Rios floundered worse than ever.
He and former White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker struggled to work together, as Rios, a notorious tinkerer, looked mechanically chaotic. Defensively, he hated playing center field, openly longing for right. He played lost, in every phase.
And, former Sox manager Ozzie Guillen’s leadership style was a terrible fit for a sensitive man.
The 2012 season was a breakthrough. Rios benefitted from Guillen’s removal as much as anyone. Exhale.
And, Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto helped Rios be the hitter he wanted to be. Manto told Fangraphs last season that “it was an evolution of discussions on what he wanted to do with the ball. He wanted to drive the ball to all fields, get on top of some breaking balls, and on top of some fastballs. Being spread out didn’t allow him to do that. As we talked, he moved himself and stood up taller. Now he sees a lot differently and isn’t missing a whole lot of pitches.”
In familiar right field, Rios’ defensive instincts have clicked back in. A guy who looked like he got a late jump on everything in center is seemingly headed to the right spot on every flyball.
It’s a smart move by Sox manager Robin Ventura to pencil Rios into the 3 hole from Opening Day, and Paul Konerko wisely accepted hitting fifth against right-handed starting pitchers.
Right now, don’t move Alex Rios one inch from where he is.
Ÿ Matt Spiegel co-hosts “The McNeil & Spiegel Show” 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.