Former Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano has retired. Soriano said that he "lost the love and passion to play the game" and that he wanted to spend more time with his family. Soriano had not played since being released by the Yankees in July.
Soriano started his career in Japan and played nine games for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp before exploiting a loophole (since closed) of "retiring" from baseball to get out of his contract in Japan. The Yankees quickly signed him as a free agent.
After getting cups of coffee with the Yankees in 1999 and 2000, Soriano established himself as the starting second baseman for the Yankees in 2001, where he stayed for three more years. He was traded to Texas in the Alex Rodriguez deal, where he spent two seasons, With free agency approaching, the Rangers traded Soriano to Washington, who moved him to left field. After famously originally refusing to play left, Soriano eventually agreed to the move and was named to his fifth straight All-Star Game with the Nationals.
This, of course, is where the Cubs come in. Then-Cubs GM Jim Hendry made a huge splash after the 2006 season, signing Soriano to an eight-year, $136 million deal. The new-look Cubs made the postseason in 2007 and 2008, and Soriano was an all-star in both seasons, making it seven straight appearances. But that was the last of the all-star seasons for Soriano, who missed a chunk of the 2009 season with injuries and was never quite the same again.
The Wrigley faithful had a love/hate relationship with Soriano. While he continued to hit home runs and had a flair for getting dramatic, game-winning hits, he also was pilloried for his fielding and especially for the "hop" he took when making a catch. Soriano would also occasionally completely misplay an easy fly ball into a double or more.
When the Lou Piniella era in Chicago ran down and the Cubs devolved into mediocrity, Soriano stayed positive. He became an elder statesman and a team leader in the clubhouse. He took young players like Starlin Castro under his wing. And of course, he had that infectious smile. While there was a lot that one could criticize about Soriano's game at the end of this time in Chicago, it was hard to say anything bad about Fonzie as a person. He was classy until the end. Eventually, he accepted a trade back to the Yankees in 2013 where he finished out his career.
The eight-year deal that Soriano signed before the 2007 season expired at the end of this season. Instead of seeking a new deal (which probably would have had to be a minor league deal), Soriano retired.
Soriano finished his career with a .270 batting average and 412 home runs along with 289 steals. He's 50th on the all-time home run list. He hit 181 of those home runs with the Cubs.
So thanks for the memories, Fonzie, and I hope you have a happy retirement.