Theo: Sori leaves with head held high

On the day he traded Alfonso Soriano to the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein repeated something he’s said often about Soriano: He was wrong about him.

“When I came here, for some reason I was under the impression he would be a negative in the clubhouse and someone who was out for himself and wouldn’t play the game hard all the time,” Epstein said in a conference call announcing the trade. “I was quickly disavowed of that notion. We asked him to work on his defense, we asked him to run the bases hard, we asked him to run balls out, we asked him to be an example for the younger players. And we asked him to always play the game hard and try to win the fans back over and be a leader in the clubhouse. And he said, ‘OK’. And he went out and he did it. It was really remarkable to watch him rehabilitate his reputation.”

Soriano was traded after six and a half sometimes tumultuous seasons with the Cubs. His defense and clutch play came into question during a time when the Cubs were challenging for long playoff runs in 2007 and 2008. But over the last couple of years he improved in the outfield and set the example for younger players that Epstein was hoping for.

“I’m glad that things ended well for him in Chicago,” Epstein said. “He left with his head very much held high. With a very well earned reputation. As an ultimate pro.

“That’s one of the reasons I felt this was the right time to move on. There may have been a time over the next 14 months when we might not have had every day at-bats for him. ... That’s always a really difficult transition for an elite player, a superstar player, in the final innings of his career. It can often muddy the waters a little bit. With him moving on now he leaves at the right time with his head held high. We can all be proud of the career he had as a Cub.”