2010 Player Preview: Geovany Soto
That's the thing about professional sports - you smoke one joint, and they call you a "potsmoker" forever...
Ah, but let's be serious here for a moment. I wore Geo Soto's ass out big time last year. I could link to all of the posts I wrote, along with all the posts from some of the other blogs, suggesting I hang myself, and bathe with a plugged-in toaster, because I DARED to speak the truth about the 2009 season. Hell, I even managed (inadvertently, I assure you) to chase away some of our own staff with my rampant and wanton negativity from last year, which stemmed in large part from the brutal sophomore season of one Geovany Soto, NL Rookie of the Year of 2008.
Seems like you can't criticize a guy without making the implicit demand to have him traded or released. I of course find this notion to be outrageously presumptuous. Geo Soto was the best catcher in the major leagues in 2008. The 2008 Cubs team was, in the regular season, the best Cubs team since at least 1969, if not the pennant winners of the 1930s. I publicly went on the air in Iowa with my choice of Geo Soto as my 2008 Cubs MVP. He is the best position player developed by the Cubs since Mark Grace, and based on the horrendous state of catching in the game these days, was a major strategic threat for us that year.
I have also mentioned being in attendance at a Cubs Caravan event that spring, when Geo was asked what the key to his resurgence in the organization was, seeings how he went from a non-factor to a AAA MVP in 2007, he quickly and resoundingly stated "conditioning". He admitted it never was a priority to him, that he knew he tended to gain weight, and once he hit the gym, his game improved dramatically.
He knew the secret, he saw its benefits, and yet, he chose to follow up his ROY season with a winter of eating, smoking, and presumably other carrying on as they do in the PR. They party down there, make no doubt. He came back fat, sluggish, sloppy behind the plate, late to react to breaking stuff at the plate. Our strategic advantage was lost, I knew why, heard it from his own mouth, and as a once and current fat guy, I also know that you just don't flip a switch and turn it back on.
The fat might seem to come overnight, but it takes months, even years of dedicated work to get rid of it. Life ain't fair sometimes to people with fat tendencies, and Geo is going to have to spend the rest of his career mindful of everything he puts in his mouth.
I agree with all of you - you have to keep the guy, and you have to play the guy. My assertion was that he needed to pay the price for his lapse in judgment, and it didn't appear he was having to face any consequences, at least publicly.
However, happily, somehow he got the message for 2010. For Geo Soto is in great shape, smacking the ball all over the yard. I expect great things from him this year. I expect he will get through the season without any conditioning-based injuries. I expect he will approach the productivity of 2008. I expect the Cubs as a whole to rise in the standings because catching still sucks, and having Geo Soto behind the plate, in great shape, is a bonus. Time will tell if he continues to approach his craft the way he has this off-season. But barring any accidental injuries, Soto should play well.
And yes, if he does, I will come out here and kiss his ass, just like all of you did last year. You have to earn my love, honey.