David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
Alex Rodriguez wanted to play Friday night for the Yankees. Instead, it was Alfonso Soriano who showed up in the Bronx, and everyone seemed much happier as a result.
Despite Rodriguez calling in Thursday to his new BFF at WFAN -- Mike and the A-Rod? -- to lobby for his return, Brian Cashman preferred to close the deal for Soriano, who immediately was put in the cleanup spot against the Rays.
"It was a great day for me," Soriano said, even after he went 0-for-5 in a not-so-great 10-6 Yankees loss. "To get a chance to put this uniform on again."
Cashman's glaring need for a righthanded power bat compelled the GM to bring Soriano back. Entering yesterday, the Yankees were dead last in the majors against lefthanders with a .341 slugging percentage, and their .647 OPS ranked 28th overall.
Rodriguez, if healthy, could be one solution. And he still might help, depending on how his sticky PED entanglements work themselves out. But Soriano is a feel-good fit, the Anti-Rod, and has only 11 fewer homers than Rodriguez (302 to 291) since the two were swapped for each other in 2004.
The trade also allowed Cashman to momentarily crack the window on this suffocating Rodriguez drama, to escape the "extra noise," as he called it. "By far, he is the best available bat to date," he said of Soriano. "One that I could certainly get my hands wrapped around."
As opposed to A-Rod, a player whom Cashman likes to keep at arm's length -- and is planning to do so until some point next month. By bringing in Soriano at a relatively minimal cost -- reportedly $7 million of the $24.5 million he is owed through next season -- Cashman is hoping this low-maintenance option can delay the aggravation of having to stomach the diva.
One can only imagine what the Stadium would have been like last night if Rodriguez had been allowed to bully his way back early from the most contentious Grade 1 quadriceps strain in baseball history. As it was, Rodriguez was the No. 1 topic of discussion -- with Soriano taking a back seat -- and the Yankees are losing the appetite for it.
"I think we all kind of want to get it behind us," said Mark Teixeira, who had A-Rod questions creep into a conversation about the rehab for his wrist.
Cashman also is eager to move on, or at least forward. With Soriano being a former Yankee and someone accustomed to the whole experience, the GM didn't have to concern himself with his transition back to the Bronx. And with the trade completed only a few hours before last night's first pitch, Soriano just had time to squeeze in batting practice.
"He certainly provides some thunder from the right side that we are lacking," Cashman said. "And yeah, he is a good guy. If he wasn't that way, I wouldn't be looking at him at all."
That last part from the GM stood out. In discussing Soriano, Cashman took off on a tangent about the "big heart" of this depleted Yankees roster and how the focus of putting together a team has shifted in recent years. It almost sounded as if he were lamenting the signing of one person in particular.
"We used to be attracted to all types of players and all types of personalities," Cashman said. "If they could play, that's all that mattered. But I do think -- with the evolution of social media and the explosion of the Internet -- that having high-character guys that work hard, get along with everybody and have talent to boot clearly is important."
Cashman didn't bring up Twitter specifically. But Soriano doesn't tweet, unlike someone else we know.