Alfonso Soriano is one of the most underrated Yankees of all-time, his time in pinstripes deserves a closer look to show just how special he was.
The Yankees have had hundreds of great players wear their iconic jersey. A lot of them are in the Hall of Fame, but there are also a lot that just didn’t make the cut. There is one Yankee that was especially great that people often forget about. Let us take a look back at Alfonso Soriano’s underrated Yankee career.
Alfonso Soriano’s career actually started in Japan as a member of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. He was training in their academy for Dominican players and ended up playing in their minor league system in 1996. He quickly rose to their major leagues and recorded a few at-bats in 1997. Baseball in Japan is quite different from baseball here in the United States when it comes to practice. The practices there are extremely intense and Soriano didn’t like it and wanted to get out. After a failed attempt to void his contract, Soriano was instructed to do what Hideo Nomo did to make it to the MLB. He was to retire from NPB and enter the MLB as a free agent. He was successful as he was officially declared an MLB free agent on July 13, 1998.
On September 28, 1998, Soriano signed a five-year, $3.15 million dollar contract with the New York Yankees as an infielder. In 1999, Soriano would be named to the All-Star Futures Game. Soriano would not waste the chance to show the baseball world that he was coming, as he would go on to hit two bombs en route to being named MVP of the game. Soriano would not have to wait much longer to be called up to the Majors, as he would make his MLB debut later that year. While he only played in nine games that year, he would record his first MLB hit against the Rays in the best way possible. Not only was his first MLB hit a home run, but it was a walk-off home run to win the AL East title for the Yankees. Soriano spent most of 2000 in the minors and would be called up fully in 2001.
Soriano was the starting second baseman for the Yankees on opening day in 2001. All he needed was consistent playing time to show the baseball world that he was the real deal. He would go on to have a very good rookie year. as he slashed a solid .268/.304/.432 while collecting 154 hits, 34 doubles, three triples, 18 home runs, 73 RBIs, and had 43 stolen bases. The Yankees made the playoffs and Soriano would end up finishing in third place in the rookie of the year voting. In his rookie year, Soriano would get to experience postseason baseball for the first time ever.
The Yankees would march their way to the World Series to face the Diamondbacks. The Series would go to Game Seven and in the top on the 8th, Soriano would find himself up in a 1-1 tie against Schilling. Soriano would blast the 0-2 splitter into the left-field seats to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. One of the biggest postseason home runs would sadly be swept under the rug, as the D-Backs would walk it off in the 9th. However, Soriano had more to prove and was about to go on an insane two-year run.
After a great rookie season with the Yankees, Soriano would break out and have one of the best seasons of his career. In 2002, Alfonso Soriano broke out and had an amazing season in which he slashed .300/.332/.547 with, a league-leading, 209 hits, 51 doubles, two triples, 39 home runs, 102 RBIs, and 41 stolen bases. With his 39 homers and 41 stolen bases, Soriano became only the second Yankee ever to have a 30-30 season. Similar to his rookie of the year position, Soriano would finish third in MVP voting as Miguel Tejada somehow would win it. In 2003, Soriano would have another great season. He slashed .290/.338/.525 with, 198 hits, 36 doubles, five triples, 38 home runs, 91 RBIs, and 35 stolen bases. Soriano became the first Yankee ever to record back to back 30-30 season and was one of baseball’s most exciting young players.
Soriano would not play for the Yankees for an entire 10 years, as on February 16, 2004, he was traded Texas in exchange for Alex Rodriguez. After two years with the Rangers and a year with the Nationals, Soriano would settle with the Cubs and play with them until July 26, 2013. On that date, Soriano was traded back to the Yankees for a minor leaguer. He would make his second debut with the Yankees on July 28, 2013, and received a standing ovation. Soriano would go on to give the Yankees one more lasting memory. From August 13-16, Soriano would go on a historic four-game tear driving in 18 runs on 13 hits. His second stint with the Yankees would last less than a year as on July 13, 2014, Soriano would be released by the Yankees. Soriano officially retired in November of 2014.
Alfonso Soriano is one of the most underrated Yankees of all time and one of the greatest Dominican players in recent memory. Soriano is still the last Yankee to record a 30-30 season.
(Oh, to the people that say Gardner should get his number retired. While neither Soriano nor Gardner will get their number retired, if it came down it to, Soriano deserves it more.)