|10-10-2002, 12:43 PM||#1|
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Not only white men can't jump....
hey guys -- thought this article was interesting with so many people discussing a possible move to the outfield for Soriano. I'm posting it in its entirety because most people would never see it -- if you read the fine print, it comes by email to NY Times Baseball Report members -- that's also why there's no link.
ON THE BEAT: Soriano Shouldn't Jump to the Outfield
By JACK CURRY
Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano were throwing a ball back and forth from a distance of 150 feet along the first base foul line at Yankee Stadium. It was a couple of hours before Game 2 of the division series between the Yankees and the Anaheim Angels last week, which, oddly enough, would wind up being the final game played in the Bronx in 2002.
I had to ask Jeter some questions about his postseason heroics, so I ambled over to him and began a conversation. As I tossed Jeter some questions, I watched him toss a ball that sailed several inches over Soriano's head. It seemed catchable, but Soriano never bothered to jump. He let the ball soar over his head into right field.
"What was that?" I asked Jeter, surprised that Soriano was so lackadaisical.
"He can't jump," Jeter answered.
I thought Jeter was joking. Soriano is a tremendous athlete. I have seen him leap two feet in the air to catch sizzling line drives. Surely, Jeter was teasing when he hinted that Soriano's vertical leap was the equivalent of two Manhattan phone books. But Jeter continued the insinuations about Soriano's supposed liability.
"Watch this," said Jeter, as he tossed another ball about a foot over Soriano's head.
Again, Soriano stayed anchored to the dirt.
"He can't judge it," said Jeter, discussing Soriano's problem playfully.
"Then," I asked, "why did the Yankees think he could play the outfield two springs ago?"
"I don't know," said Jeter, walking toward the batting cage with a smile.
I stored that discussion in my mind, telling myself to recall it the next time Soriano had to pursue a tricky pop-up. It did not take long. Three days later, Soriano dashed into center to try to catch Darin Erstads's shallow fly ball, and he looked as lost as when Jeter tossed a few balls over his head. Soriano circled like a punt returner on a cold, windy day at Lambeau Field, lunged for it and missed.
To be fair, center fielder Bernie Williams should have called Soriano off on the bloop, which helped fuel the Angels during a devastating eight-run inning. It is Williams's job as the center fielder to take charge of the play and make sure he is heard. Williams's sluggish approach exposed Soriano's problem.
But, still, that play was revealing. It came at an inopportune time and clearly showed that Soriano, who had an amazing season, is still learning how to handle second base. Soriano has spoiled the Yankees with his maturation, but he is basically learning the intricacies of second on the fly. He has only played there two seasons and, at times, he will still look lost.
Once the Yankees stumbled, there were numerous theories about how they could improve themselves in 2003. Some people suggested that the Yankees should move Soriano to the outfield, making it sound as routine as switching from a pair of white sliding shorts to gray. But switching Soriano would be an irrational move.
With Soriano starting at second, the Yankees have an offensive advantage at that spot over every opponent. Yes, Soriano needs to get better at the position. But what kind of message would the Yankees be sending to the sensitive Soriano if they jettisoned a player who said "I love second" to the outfield? Not a positive one.
Getting Soriano to corral stray pop-ups and play second base with more fluidity will be a lot easier than both asking him to learn his second new position in three years and also finding another second baseman. Soriano can spend spring training improving his defense, and he is such a superb athlete that he will get much better. By next April, he might even surprise Jeter. He might jump for those pregame tosses. He might even jump over two phone books.
Jack Curry is a national baseball writer for The Times. He writes "On the Beat" exclusively for The New York Times on the Web. If you have questions or comments for him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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b-ball or luna...
Last edited by b-ball-lunachik : 10-10-2002 at 01:00 PM.
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