by Ryan Smith
When it come to the the Cubs, hope springs eternal from the pen of sportswriter Ted Cox. His profile of Joe Maddon, published yesterday, hints that perhaps the Cubs' iconoclastic new manager is the guy who can help Chicago's most fruitless franchise finally win a championship.
I really want to believe in Maddon—but then again the Lovable Losers have had many a great white hope move through the ranks in the 107 years since the team's last World Series championship. One of them was Geovany Soto, the subject of Cox's June 2008 Reader cover story “Rookie of the Century.”
Remember Soto? He slugged his way to a deserving National League Rookie of the Year award for the north siders a few months after Cox wrote the piece, but quickly declined afterwards. His next season embodied the sophomore slump—he posted a disappointing .218 average and 47 RBIs, and made headlines for testing positive for marijuana at the World Baseball Classic.
Soto rebounded somewhat during the 2010 season but has struggled to stay healthy and productive since; turns out that the guy Cox described as having "the face of a telenovela star" also has a body of glass. The Cubs traded Soto for a bag of peanuts (some no-name reliever from the Texas Rangers) in 2012 and his play further declined while a member of the Rangers and, later, the Oakland A's.
This season Soto is back in Chicago, but south of the river backing up Tyler Flowers on the White Sox. Now 32, he's shown small glimpses of the player that once made sportswriters like Cox salivate—last week, he broke a car windshield with a massive home run over the Green Monster in Fenway Park. But it's almost a sad reminder of what could have been. Go ahead and include Soto on the long list of would-be saviors for the Cubs (Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, et cetera) who produced more smoke than fire.
Let's hope Maddon's young guns fare better in the long run.