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Stepping out of line

Soriano had no right to refuse his position change

Posted: Wednesday March 22, 2006 4:59PM; Updated: Wednesday March 22, 2006 5:19PM

I've always gone into eye-rolling mode whenever someone starts in about how much better things were in the old days, when men were men and music lyrics were neither indecipherable nor obscene. But as I get older I find myself longing for the old days -- perhaps even the days before I existed -- with increasing frequency. To hear the old-timers tell it, back when they were my age, if a ballplayer refused to play where the manager told him to play, he'd find himself on the business end of a good whuppin' from his beer-fueled teammates.

Well, they could have used a whuppin' or two in the nation's capitol recently. Alfonso Soriano had, as I'm sure you've heard by now, refused to play left field, insisting instead on playing second base. Never mind that he's a terrible second baseman and that the Nats already have a pretty good one (and a much better fielder) in Jose Vidro.

Now, let's get this out of the way right now: GM Jim Bowden isn't without fault. He should have cleared up any confusion about who was expected to play where before he traded for Soriano. But that still doesn't excuse Soriano's me-first behavior, which is made all the more appalling by the fact that he's a remarkably overrated player. (Did you see him in the WBC? Have you looked at his numbers? His OBP last year was .309. He's a good hitter, nothing more.)

Soriano's petulance put the Nats in a tough position. They've invested a lot of money in him (he's making $10 million -- about one sixth of the team's payroll), so clearly, telling him to go sit in the corner until he's done pouting wasn't the most viable option. What could be a pretty good team could suffer. Which makes the reaction of his teammates so perplexing. Jose Guillen had this to say a couple hours after Soriano refused to take the field, leaving his teammates standing around looking like idiots: "That's up to the people upstairs and Soriano. I think everybody's a grown-up man here. I just hope for the best for the team and those guys, and that they can fix the situation. But that's pretty much not my business."

How is it not Guillen's business? Guillen is -- or should be -- in the business of winning baseball games. And Soriano is a major impediment. But Guillen was content to confer "grown-up" status upon Soriano and let him go on his way. Which is ridiculous. I feel bad for manager Frank Robinson, not only because he's been handed this horrible situation that isn't of his making but because none of his other players took a swing at Soriano.