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Tale of two Cubbies

Most Cubs fans were happy to see Alfonso Soriano go on Friday, when he was officially traded to the Yankees. His numbers equal some of the better players to wear Cubbie blue, but he'll never hold the same stature as an Andre Dawson in fans' eyes.
Most Cubs fans were happy to see Alfonso Soriano go on Friday, when he was officially traded to the Yankees. His numbers equal some of the better players to wear Cubbie blue, but he'll never hold the same stature as an Andre Dawson in fans' eyes.

Cubs fans smiled wide when news of Alfonso Soriano's trade to the Yankees was finalized on Friday.

Soriano was the poster child for everything wrong with the previous Cubs administration ran by General Manager Jim Hendry.

In 2007, Hendry outbid himself, taking a blank check from the Tribune Company, and signed Soriano to an 8-year, $136 million contract. It was the most expensive contract in Cubs' history, and it was for a player that most experts agreed didn't have a position on a National League club.

It was a bad deal, signed with the hopes that Soriano's shortcomings would be masked by a massive amount of home runs and a solid club around him.

For 2 years, the plan sort of worked. The Cubs were arguably the best team in the NL. They just didn't perform in the playoffs, getting swept out both years.

Soriano, batting leadoff despite no longer having the legs for it and never possessing the bat patience to set the table, was exposed against top-notch pitching. He went 3-for-29 in the two series against the Diamondbacks and Dodgers.

After being eliminated by the Dodgers, the window closed for that batch of Cubs, and fans looked to left field where Soriano was penciled-in for the next 6 years.

Was he hated? I don't think there was that level of disdain. Outside of a reputation for liking the night life, he never got into trouble. He produced at steady pace, carrying the team for months at a time here or there, and his teammates seemed to love him.

Fans disliked his contract, which was more of Hendry's fault then his. They disliked his defense, which was, at times, comical. The were indifferent for him as a person.

He wasn't loved.

You know who was loved? Andre Dawson.

The difference? When Dawson became a free agent at the end of the 1986 season, Cubs GM Dallas Green didn't want him.

Dawson, and his aching knees, wanted off the Olympic Stadium turf in Montreal so bad that he provided the Cubs a blank check and begged them to sign him for whatever they wanted. Green gave him a $500,000 deal with $250,000 more available if he made the All-Star team, started the All-Star game, and was named NL MVP.

He did all three in 1987. The Cubs, however, finished in last place.

Dawson's numbers declined after that. While his powerful arm remained in right field, he was slowed immensely by those bad knees.

And like Soriano, when the Cubs made the playoffs in 1989, Dawson wasn't good. He went 2-for-19 with three RBIs in five games against the Giants.

The numbers show that Dawson's and Soriano's time on the North Side are remarkably similar.

Soriano played in 889 games, Dawson 867. Soriano had 898 hits, Dawson 929.

Soriano hit 181 home runs, Dawson 174.

Dawson was more productive by hitting 21 points higher and driving in 60 more runs. But, Soriano lost RBI opportunities batting leadoff for three-plus seasons.

The other noticeable difference is strikeouts. Soriano struck out 829 times, Dawson only 453. That's a product of the times. Soriano developed in the steroid era when players were encouraged to swing for the fences all the time. The theory being that a three-run homer late in the game made up for a couple strikeouts earlier. Dawson was taught to shorten his swing to make contact when in a pitcher's count.

Like all Cubs players over the last 100 years, they both suffered through a lot of losing. Soriano was a part of two division-winning teams. Dawson was on one division-winning team, which happened to be the only team with a winning record in his 6-year tenure.

So, while the numbers are close, the end result of no World Series titles is the same.

Yet, Dawson will always have a warm spot in Cubs' fans hearts.

Soriano will not.

Blame it on the money. Blame it on the length of years.

But, is it fair, that we blame it on the player?

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