The Nationals acquired Soriano from the Texas Rangers for outfielders Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge and minor league pitcher Armando Galarraga during baseball’s Winter Meetings in December 2005. It was a surprising move since Washington still did not have an owner and most They expected general manager Jim Bowden to use his limited resources to start pitching.
Soriano, who was a month shy of his 30th birthday and eligible for free agency after the 2006 season, hit .268 with 36 home runs and 104 RBI for the Rangers in 2005. The former Yankees shortstop prospect had played most of his major league career at second base, but with Jose Vidro entrenched at that position in Washington, the Nationals planned to move Soriano to an outfielder. That was new to him.
“I’ll play second base,” Soriano told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I don’t think they want me to play the outfield. I think if they traded for me it was to play second base. Obviously I’m in control. Of course I won’t play in the outfield.”
“We don’t always get it [to play] “Sometimes we have exactly the positions we want,” said Bowden, who later claimed the Rangers denied him permission to speak to Soriano before the trade was leaked to the media. “But you do what’s best for the organization to win. There will be unhappy people, but our job is to win.”
“What will he do? Sit it out?” a Nationals official said.
Assuming he played, Soriano was looking to bolster an offense that ranked last in the majors in runs scored, home runs and countless other categories in 2005, when the Nationals finished their inaugural season 81-81.
Robo-Umps went to Class AAA. The Nationals’ views on this were mixed.
A week before pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, Bowden downplayed reports that Soriano was unhappy.
“We had good conversations with Alfonso,” he said. “He knows exactly the position of the team. He knows we want it [Jose] Vidro is expected to play second base when healthy and we would like him to move to the outfield. We will continue to have a dialogue.”
“It’s going to get ugly,” a source close to Soriano told The Post about the ongoing rift between the player and the Nationals, “because I’m telling you he’s not going to play.”
“You have three weeks to fix it,” Soriano said before leaving the Nationals camp in Viera, Florida, to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic in early March.
When Soriano returned, Nationals manager Frank Robinson put him in the lineup in left field for a spring training game on March 20. Soriano did not enter the field. Bowden said the Nationals believed Soriano’s refusal to play his assigned position was a violation of his $10 million contract and threatened to file a request to be placed on the disqualified list with the commissioner’s office, which he did would have refused payment. Soriano made his spring training debut the next day in left field.
“I love this game,” Soriano said after going 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. “That’s why I changed my mind.”
“Jupiter aligned with Mars here Wednesday afternoon,” wrote the Post’s Thomas Boswell. “Harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust reigned in abundance. No more falsehoods or taunts. Dude, it was stranger than an acid flashback to Age of Aquarius.
In a 3-2 opening day loss to the New York Mets at Citi Field, Soriano went 2-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base. He was thrown out at home trying to score the winning run in the eighth inning with a double by Ryan Zimmerman.
Soriano was benched in the sixth inning for failing to execute a pop-up in a 9-5 win.
“It’s the way he plays,” Robinson said after putting Soriano’s name back in the lineup the following night. “But I don’t want the game to be played like that. For me, anyone who plays this game and isn’t injured can give 100 percent.”
Soriano hit his first home run of the season, a two-run shot off Roy Oswalt in a 12-8 win over the Astros.
At the Orioles birdbath, “spirits are always as high as ever”
After a rain delay of 2 hours and 18 minutes, Soriano hit three home runs in a 7-3 win over Atlanta, becoming the first national player with multiple home runs in a game.
“I always had the feeling that I was a national player,” said Soriano afterwards. “I feel like I’m part of this group.”
Soriano finished April with seven home runs and five stolen bases. Washington was 8-17.
Soriano recorded his first of eight games with two stolen bases in a 5-0 loss to the Cubs. He finished the day with 12 home runs and eight steals for the season.
Soriano drove in all three runs for the Nationals in a 3-2 victory over the Phillies with his 19th home run. His 12 home runs in May broke the franchise record set by Montreal Expos slugger Henry Rodriguez in 1996.
“I like stealing bases better,” Soriano said after hitting two home runs, including a grand slam, to increase his season total to 21 in an 8-4 win at Milwaukee. “I’ve never seen myself as much of a home run hitter.”
Soriano hit two home runs in a 9-1 win over the Marlins, giving him 26 points for the year.
As the trade deadline approached, Soriano, named to the All-Star team for the fifth time, expressed interest in remaining in Washington.
“I feel very comfortable here, better than I expected,” he said. “I feel a lot better. I don’t want to leave. I want to stay here and build something from this group we have here.”
A Soriano trade seemed likely after the Nationals acquired outfielder Austin Kearns in an eight-player deal with the Reds.
“If I had to give a percentage right now,” one AL executive told The Post, “I would say 100 percent.”
Soriano’s teammates decorated his locker with streamers and cheered as he entered the visitors’ clubhouse in San Francisco after the trade deadline passed without a deal.
“I’m happy because the rumors are already gone,” said Soriano, who finished the day with 32 home runs and 27 stolen bases. “Now it’s easier for me to concentrate and play every day.”
“We felt like the best deal we could do was not a deal for this franchise,” Bowden said. “We think Alfonso is one of the best players in baseball. It’s a player who wants to stay in DC and not be traded. He wants to stay here long-term.”
Bowden later said the two best offers he received for Soriano were backup Mark Lowe and starter Kevin Slowey.
A day after hitting his 39th home run and stealing his 30th base, Soriano hit his 40th home run, tying a career high. In 2002, his second full season with the Yankees, Soriano narrowly missed joining the 40-40 club, finishing the year with 39 home runs and 41 stolen bases.
With the Nationals trailing 13-9 in the ninth inning at Coors Field, Soriano, who stole his 39th base early in the game, stole second. Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta pumped toward second base but, with two outs and a runner on third base, elected not to throw. The official scorer judged the play to be one of defensive indifference.
“You give me a base, so I take it,” Soriano said after Washington fell to 61-82. “Unless [a steal]I think I had a lot of chances to get to 40:40.”
Soriano hit a single to left in his first at-bat and stole second base without a throw from Brewers catcher Mike Rivera, who couldn’t get a handle on Dave Bush’s outside fastball. Soriano called a batboy to retrieve the base for him as the 24,252 spectators at RFK Stadium gave him a standing ovation.
“I see the fans screaming and when I’m safe I say to myself, ‘I did it.’ “I’m so happy,” Soriano said afterwards.
“I knew he was capable of hitting between 35 and 40 home runs,” Robinson said. “The 45 was a bonus, especially in this stadium, and the 40 stolen bases he ran earlier in the year was a pleasant surprise, how aggressive he was and how successful he was.” And then they just started to pile up, and you wanted to see him do the 40-40 thing.”
With his 40th double, Soriano became the first member of the 40-40-40 club.
In the Nationals’ season finale at RFK Stadium, Robinson replaced Soriano after jogging to left field early in the fourth inning, allowing the soon-to-be free agent to receive a heartfelt farewell from the crowd. He finished the season with a .277 batting average, 46 home runs, 95 RBI and 41 stolen bases. He made 11 errors but led the league with 22 outfield assists.
“I’m not worried [free agency and contract negotiations] right now,” said Soriano, who finished sixth in National League MVP voting after Washington finished its campaign 71-91. “That was the last game here for Frank. I don’t think about what’s happening to me.”
Three weeks after requesting free agency, Soriano signed an eight-year, $136 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.
“We wish Alfonso nothing but success and congratulate him on his contract,” Bowden said. “We just didn’t feel like it was in the best interest of the team to play for so many years and for so much money. We felt those dollars could be put to better use in other ways.”
In his first spring training with Chicago, Soriano reflected on his only season in DC
“It was both a very difficult and a happy year,” Soriano said in February 2007. “It was happy because of the numbers I put up, but difficult because of all the problems I had.” [had] in spring training and the team ended up in last place.”
Soriano hit 33 home runs with 70 RBI and 19 stolen bases in his first season with the Cubs. He never stole more than 19 bases or hit more than 34 home runs and retired after the 2014 season.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2023/09/22/alfonso-soriano-40-40-club-mlb-ronald-acuna/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_homepage As the MLB’s 40-40 club grows, consider Alfonso Soriano of the Nationals