If Rafael Soriano felt unwanted at his introductory press conference, just imagine the thoughts going through his head as he walked off the mound to a chorus of 40,000 boos during yesterday’s 3-2 loss to the White Sox.
When Soriano signed with the Yankees as a free agent back in January, there were many reasonable objections. The size and length of the contract was first and foremost. Considering his lack of leverage, it didn’t seem as if the Yankees needed to give him three years at $35 million, not to mention an opt out after the 2011 season. Money wasn’t the only issue, however. Others focused on the first round draft pick that the Yankees had to forfeit to the Rays, while another faction simply bristled at the idea that Randy Levine would involve himself in baseball operations.
Amid all of the dissent, no one ever disputed Soriano’s ability to pitch because it would have been a foolish argument. Not only was the right hander coming off a season in which he led the league in saves, but his entire career record pointed toward a dominant pitcher when healthy. Even Brian Cashman, who disavowed the signing for many of the reasons cited above, conceded that Soriano’s addition to the bullpen made the Yankees better.
Unfortunately, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan, regardless of whose plan it really was. In only 10 1/3 innings, Soriano has already allowed nine earned runs, which is only three fewer then he surrendered all last year. He has also had two very high profile meltdowns as well as one run-in (or run out) with the media. In other words, it hasn’t exactly been a smooth transition to the Bronx.
Unflattering Comparison, Soriano’s 2011 vs. 2010
Predictably, each Soriano failure has brought forth a growing number of people eager to say “I told you so”. And, for all we know, behind closed doors, Cashman may be among them. However, that sentiment is flat out wrong. After all, if Rafael Soriano had been willing to sign a one-year contract worth $6 million, every general manager would have jumped at the chance. In other words, a bad contract doesn’t mean a bad pitcher.
As mentioned, there were numerous legitimate complaints about the Soriano contract, but no one ever suggested he wouldn’t do a good job. The fact that he has now failed on numerous occasions doesn’t change the equation. Soriano’s early struggles are not the result of his contract, so trying to link the two now is disingenuous at best.
The Yankees didn’t lose last night’s game because Randy Levine meddled in baseball affairs or because Hal Steinbrenner was preoccupied with making a free agent splash. They lost because a very good relief pitcher was very bad. If that continues, Joe Girardi may need to readjust his “formula”, but in the meantime, the right hander deserves the benefit of the doubt. If his track record holds, Soriano could be the one who ends up saying “I told you so”.