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updated: 4/21/2013 11:28 PM

Kasper: Soriano a good example for all Cubs

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  • Left fielder Alfonso Soriano is the one player who has figured out how to handle playing for the Cubs, says Len Kasper.

      Left fielder Alfonso Soriano is the one player who has figured out how to handle playing for the Cubs, says Len Kasper.
    Associated Press

 
 

I've always been fascinated by how guys handle the spotlight here in Chicago.

Being a Cub is unlike anything most players have ever experienced. The World Series drought and the uniqueness of Wrigley Field add their own layers of pressure and circumstances that other places simply can't replicate.

The first thing a new Cub needs to know is that everything that happens here is a huge deal. Everything. There is a curiosity factor that is only matched in this sport by the coverage of the Yankees and the Red Sox.

It certainly is never boring, no matter how the team is playing.

You need to have thick skin and a short memory to thrive in this environment. I've seen guys get buried in a matter of weeks by a slow start and impatient fans who are unafraid to boo the home team if things aren't going well.

The flip side is that those same fans will stand and cheer the same players if something positive happens. It's all about production.

The one guy who has figured out how to perfectly handle playing here is Alfonso Soriano. He works hard, plays hurt, doesn't make excuses, accepts the boos and cheers like they're simply part of the deal and is beloved in the clubhouse.

He comes to work every day with the same demeanor -- happy-go-lucky, always in the mood to have a chat with a reporter and is never rushed.

Mind you, it hasn't always gone smoothly. While he put up huge numbers early on, his defense and overall effort were lightning rods at various points. To his credit, he evolved his game over the years.

Knowing him the way I do, my inkling is that there have been times when his "lack of hustle" actually was him protecting an injury (his legs have had chronic issues for years), but Alfonso has never been concerned about having to defend himself.

People will think what they think, so why spend any time fretting about it?

It might seem ironic that I would point to him as the ideal Cub considering most observers have agreed from Day One that he has been overpaid.

But here's the thing: He didn't force the team to hand him all that money and all those years. It was offered.

And what if the 2008 Cubs hadn't squandered their chances by having three bad days in October? What if they had rolled through the playoffs and won the World Series? Would anyone have ever cared again about Soriano being overpaid?

The reality is, he has been responsible for the team's fortunes over the years only as much as one player can be (which is not as much as you think, good or bad).

And if we look at his numbers, he has had one bad year, a few decent seasons and two excellent years, which coincided with the back-to-back division titles in 2007 and 2008.

Yes, he struggled in both postseasons, but he was far from the only one to scuffle.

Look, he's far from a perfect player. He's a high-strikeout, low-walk, streaky power hitter. And defensively, at his best, he's a really good left fielder, which isn't the most critical position on the diamond.

But his teammates love him, and he is unfazed by all the craziness that surrounds this team on a daily basis.

And therein lies the secret to being a good Cub -- stay steady, level out the highs and lows and laugh off and dismiss the peripheral stuff that has no bearing on your on-field performance.

If the biggest criticism we can level at him is that he likes it here so much that he didn't want to be traded last year, he's doing just fine.

•Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @LenKasper and check out his [URL]blog entries;http://wgntv.com/news/stories/len-and-jds-cubs-baseball-blog/[URL] with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com. To post comments or questions for Len, click on the comment link with his column at dailyherald.com.[/URL]

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