CHICAGO – As hard as new manager Dale Sveum and his coaching staff tried to assuage Cubs fans’ concerns about players’ effort on the field, they could not escape the hot button topic over the weekend at the Cubs Convention.
The questions and complaints from fans predominately surrounded the Cubs’ lack of hustle both defensively and on the base paths.
Sveum assured those fans attending a panel to introduce the new staff that under his watch, failing to give your best effort would not be accepted regardless of the player’s salary.
“All you can do is trust us that it’s not going to happen,” first base coach Dave McKay chimed in.
One Cubs player in particular drew the fans’ ire.
The at times lackadaisical Alfonso Soriano and his nearly unmovable contract, three-years and $54 million remaining, specifically came under scrutiny.
During Friday’s opening ceremonies, Soriano received a tepid reception and was the only Cub to hear boos.
Soriano is no stranger to the calls for him to leave the North Side.
He’s handled the constant trade speculation before, however, as the 36-year-old has been dealt twice during his career.
Despite the animosity he faces, Soriano was upbeat and relaxed at the convention.
“I don’t want to pay attention to the rumors because there’s always a rumor so I just want to keep my mind clear and focus on what I want to do in 2012,” Soriano said.
Soriano, who has spent five of his 13 big league seasons with the Cubs, becomes one of the longest tenured Cubs after the departure of Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez and Sean Marshall. The Cubs’ left fielder wasn’t surprised by Zambrano’s trade to the Miami Marlins.
“I’m happy for him and I’m happy for the team because everybody knows Carlos Zambrano,” Soriano said. “He’s a great pitcher but sometimes he did not control himself.
“I’m happy for the Cubs because they have a great pitcher in [Chris Volstad] and the clubhouse will be more relaxed.”
For as much scrutiny Soriano endures, especially for his defense, he put together some of his best offensive numbers last season. Soriano’s 26 home runs were his most since 2008. His 88 RBIs were his best since recording 95 with the Washington Nationals in 2006.
With the departure of Ramirez and first baseman Carlos Pena from the heart of the Cubs’ lineup, Soriano should have a chance to better those numbers in the middle of the Cubs’ lineup while trying to improve his .244 batting average.
While his spot in the batting order was an area of contention last season, Soriano maintains it doesn’t matter where Sveum puts him.
“I just want to be comfortable in the lineup,” Soriano said. “I want to do the best I can to help the team to win.”
An overhaul of the organization has excited Cubs fans.
Count Soriano as a supporter too.
“There’s nothing wrong about bringing in the young guys because they have a lot of talent.” Soriano said. “Everyone who is new on the team is more than welcomed and I hope they can play 100 percent and help the team.”