Joel Sherman has the news:
After his first meltdown as a Yankee, which led to a 5-4 Minnesota triumph in 10 innings last night, Soriano vanished. He never came to his locker. A flustered Yankees media relations official conceded Soriano probably dressed quickly and departed, leaving others to explain his ineffectiveness.
This would not be quite as big a deal if Soriano’s reputation were closer to pristine. But in previous stops in Atlanta and Tampa Bay, he was known for being prickly, reclusive, determined not to be used in any way, but how he thought fit. Last year he expected, for example, to be deployed only for a full inning in save situations.
There were members of the Rays who felt, for example, that Soriano did not invest fully when asked to pitch the ninth inning of a 3-1 deficit of Game 3 of last year’s Division Series against the Rangers. That was an elimination game.
Thus, when his attention and fastball seem off, there is natural wonder if Soriano does not think 4-0 in the eighth inning is worth his full attention. That would have been among the questions asked had he handled last night with professionalism. Instead, he fled, leaving uncertainty if this was a singular poor effort for a talented pitcher or a bad omen for a bad actor.
I hate this kind of story, in that I think a lot of it is just the media putting themselves in the middle of things. While they will tell you that this sort of thing matters to teammates and that this is a clubhouse issue, the players likely care because they know the media will turn this into a controversy. They will be forced to answer for Soriano’s absence and address the topic of his personality, something that I am sure they have absolutely no interest in doing. So this creates an odd paradox, whereby reporters claim to care because the players care, but the players care because they know the reporters will care and harass them about the issue.
That said, regardless of whether Soriano leaving early should be a story, the fact of the matter is that in New York, something like that will always be made into a story. Once we accept that reality, it is pretty clear that Soriano made a mistake by leaving the ballpark before speaking with the media. He made things more difficult for his teammates, when all he had to do was sit at his locker and answer questions for a few minutes. I cannot imagine that someone like Russell Martin was pleased that he had to sit there and take questions about whether Soriano was trying to pitch well in last night’s outing.
Furthermore, he opened himself up for criticism in the media, which will impact how he is perceived by the fanbase. Take a look at the excerpt above, in which Sherman takes a hatchet to Rafael and suggests that he deliberately phoned his performance in last night because he was unhappy with being used in a low leverage situation. Ignoring the rank unprofessionalism that comes with taking the liberty to assume in print that a player was not trying because he deigned to not answer your questions and was not around to deny the allegations, this is the kind of criticism that Soriano can expect from the media if he refuses to be accountable after poor performances. While we can quibble over whether any of this really matters, the issue is that Soriano’s teammates and those shaping public opinion think it does, and he needs to act accordingly.