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The criticism intensified when Soriano lost a ball in the sun against Pittsburgh in late May, allowing the Pirates to tie it with two outs in the ninth and win in extra innings. TV analyst Bob Brenly, who managed Arizona to a World Series title, said then that Soriano shouldn't be called a superstar since his defense is shaky.
Besides the questions about his fielding, there were calls to drop Soriano from the leadoff spot because of his impatience at the plate and questions about his other top asset -- his legs. The strained calf was the latest in a string of injuries that included a strained right quadriceps last season that put him on the disabled list for the first time in his career.
Piniella started using defensive replacements as the season wore on but kept Soriano at the top of the order. The fact that the Cubs were 69-36 when he led off and 28-28 in the other games seemed to back up that decision, even if he's no longer as active on the bases and rarely walks.
He had 19 steals for the second straight year after swiping 41 bases for Washington in 2006 and managed just 43 walks with 103 strikeouts.
"He's dangerous," Torre said. "He's really dangerous because he's so unpredictable on where to pitch him. ... He beat us (in) a ballgame here earlier this year. I think the ball was about three inches off the ground, and off the plate outside, and he pulled it down the left field line. So he's very difficult to try to pitch around."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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