Geovany Soto says he has something to prove this year. I feel he’s had something to prove ever since flopping after his terrific rookie season in 2008.
That was already five years ago, and the only thing Soto’s proven since is that he’s an incomplete, inconsistent player. Occasionally we might see a glimpse of ‘rookie Geo’, but mostly Soto’s progressively struggled through his prime years. Good year, bad year…meh.
Who knows what Soto’s really trying to prove this season. That he can be a starter again, that more fringe seasons are left in the tank, or that he can live up to the expectations that followed him since winning the Rookie of the Year Award?
“I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain and I want to prove to myself and prove to the Texas Rangers that I am an All-Star caliber catcher and helps us reach the World Series.”
-Soto on ESPNDallas.com
Sometimes I feel the game came too easily for Soto upon his arrival with the Cubs in late 2007, a season in which he quickly earned the trust of Sweet Lou, so much so that he started Game 2 of the NLDS vs. Arizona. Then came his fabulous rookie campaign:
-First rookie backstop ever selected to start the All-Star Game.
-Hit two 3-R HRs against Milwaukee in one game.
-Inside-the-park HR at Houston.
-A 7 RBI game against Pittsburgh.
-Caught Carlos Zambrano’s no-hitter vs. Houston (in Milwaukee of course).
-Won the Pedrin Zorrilla Award (given to the most outstanding Puerto Rican player in the Major Leagues).
-Won the Rookie of the Year Award in a landslide.
-Finished 13th in the MVP voting.
The big leagues must have felt like easy money for Soto. He not only made the Show but he also made a name for himself, and worse, there was zero competition standing in his way for the starting job the next season.
Maybe it was the lack of competition that led Soto to show up at spring training overweight and out of shape in 2009? Had human nature won the best of him? Was Soto content letting the 2008 season do his talking for him, perhaps thinking there was nothing else to prove?
I didn’t think so, at least not right away. Sure, I’d concede Soto was showing some immaturity, but there’s no reason he wouldn’t bounce back, right? Well, wrong.
Soto, it seemed, just couldn’t get out of his own way. Soon thereafter he made the decision to skip working out with the Cubs in favor of joining team Puerto Rico for the World Baseball Classic–a decision that wouldn’t have made such a stink if he had actually been playing. Instead, Soto was used sparingly, sitting behind Yadier Molina and Ivan Rodriguez.
By the end of spring training Soto was suffering from a sore right shoulder, an injury that would noticeably limit his throwing ability in the early part of the season. And by the end of April Soto was hitting .109/.268/.130. Perhaps a coincidence, but Soto’s perceived lack of baseball activity in the spring combined with his wretched start to the season appeared to go hand-in-hand.
But the real kicker came in June when MLB announced Soto had tested positive for marijuana during the WBC. Not normally a story worthy of overreaction–a ballplayer smoking it up in his mid 20s–but now something was becoming clear despite Soto’s foggy judgment–he was nowhere close to being fully committed to baseball.
Of course the 2009 season was a total drag for Soto–a flop-job in the wake of all the awards from the year prior. Granted, he briefly restored faith the following offseason by shedding a ton of weight and showing up to camp in tip-top shape, but it didn’t last.
Soto stayed inconsistent throughout his Cubs career fluctuating between good and bad seasons. He never came close to the player many Cubs fans, including myself, thought he would be following his rookie season.
“I can do it [improve offensively], but I think in the past I haven’t worked on my swing in the off-season the way I should have,” said Soto to Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald.
What Soto thinks he should’ve been doing is unknown. It may mean he should’ve been working on different hitting exercises, or maybe it’s code for he simply wasn’t working at all during the offseason.
It wouldn’t be fair to accuse him of the later without knowing for certain, but it’s hard not to wonder if Soto cheated himself and the Cubs of reaching his once sky-high potential?
I doubt Soto will prove anything this season given his past performance. And unfortunately, whatever Soto is looking to prove, whether it be to fans, to baseball, or to himself…it all should have happened years ago.