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Rafael Soriano and the New York adjustment

Good column by Anthony Rieber on Rafael Soriano, who took the loss last night as the Yankees dropped their second straight game to the White Sox.

Although how about Brent Lillibridge? Wow! If not for his defensive excellence, Soriano's performance wouldn't have been as glaring.

That's sort of the point with Soriano right now, though. It seems right that he wouldn't get bailed out by Lillbridge. That, on Monday night, Paul Konerko would hit a dinky little pop-up that Derek Jeter couldn't reach and at which Soriano would point with the "Somebody catch that!" order.

The New York/Boston/Philadelphia adjustment - the places largely recognized as the toughest to play, because of the fan intensity and media scrutiny - can be overplayed sometimes. CC Sabathia, after a career in low-wattage Cleveland and Milwaukee, never seemed particularly fazed by it. Jason Bay went from Pittsburgh to Boston and didn't blink. Johnny Damon traveled from Kansas City to Oakland to Boston to the Bronx and succeded everywhere.

But that difficulty can be very real. We've seen it too often for it not to be real: Ed Whitson. Bobby Bonilla. Kenny Rogers. Carl Pavano. All struggled to deal with the increased attention.

Soriano shouldn't join that list yet. It's too early in the season. But it's worth noting he came into the season with some obvious red flags:

1) He was coming off a career-best 2010 that was going to be difficult to match, no matter where he went.

2) Brian Cashman told the world that he wasn't in favor of the Soriano signing, increasing the focus on Soriano. Should Cashman have made this public? Should he have lied to us and told us he was fully on board? Maybe, but we still would've been reporting the truth, anyway. Cashman's track record is vast enough that, by this point, we know there's no way he would've authorized this sort of signing.

3) Soriano is a tough, high-maintenance personality. The whole baseball world knows it. So it isn't shocking that he says he's finding it a challenge to switch from closer to ninth-inning set-up guy.

Looking at recent history, at the guys mentioned above, what's the key to surviving and overcoming this bad start? (Pardon me for a moment while I put on my amateur psychologist's hat. OK, good to go.) It seems to me it's to avoid self-pity, to not get swallowed up in the New York thing and lament that you're being booed. It's simply to focus on doing your job better.

Soriano is a really good pitcher. Maybe it's just a matter of the odds evening out. But it's not a stretch to say he'll be challenged mentally in a different way to work through this. With his every move being documented and questioned, and with fans ready to pounce.

That's what baseball life is like in New York. It's why many players love it. It's also why some players, despite great accomplishments elsewhere, depart as failures.

 

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