40-40 definitely in Soriano's sights
With a strong finish, Alfonso Soriano could put his stamp on one of the better offensive seasons in history.
MIAMI -- As he approaches an unprecedented mark brought on by his speed and power, Alfonso Soriano is trying to stay on an even keel in the last year of his contract.
With 5½ weeks remaining in the season Soriano, who has 41 home runs and 30 steals, is trying to become the fourth 40-40 man in major league history.
And if he were to heat up during the last month of the season, the Washington Nationals' left fielder could reach the previously unheard of 50-40 (50 HR, 40 SB). "For me it would be special just to get to 40-40, but 50-40, my God, that would be crazy," Soriano told ESPNdeportes.com.
"A lot of people are aware of what I'm doing my family talks about nothing else."
Soriano recently reached the 30-30 mark for the fourth time in his career, only one behind the record, shared by the father-son tandem of Bobby and Barry Bonds.
Soriano and Vladimir Guerrero were one home run short of 40-40 in 2002, when both hit 39 home runs and stole 40 bases.
In 2004, Carlos Beltran finished with 38 homers and 42 steals with Kansas City and Houston.
In fact, no 50 home-run hitter has ever had as many as 30 steals. Larry Walker came the closest to the feat, with 49 home runs and 33 steals in 1997. On the other side, only two players with at least 50 steals in a season have hit 30 home runs: Eric Davis (50 steals and 37 HR in 1987) and Barry Bonds (52 stolen bases and 33 round trippers in 1990).
Soriano, hitting .289 with 75 extra base hits, 96 runs scored and 82 RBI (following play Wednesday), is pleased with what he has accomplished this year, with the exception of the Nationals' disappointing season as a team. But nothing makes him happier than his progress on defense in left field.
"After playing second base my whole career in the big leagues, playing in left has been a huge challenge, and I'm proud of what I've done," said Soriano, who leads the majors with 19 outfield assists. "The only thing that makes me sad is that we haven't given our fans more victories."
Soriano, 30, will be a free agent after this season, and although he says he will give Washington the first option to negotiate a new contract, he won't necessarily give the Nationals a hometown discount.
"I like the team and the city. I'd like to be a leader on this team for many years, but they have to decide if they want to keep me around," he said. "A discount? I really don't know. First let's see how the negotiations go and what they offer. If Washington can't sign me, I'll give someone else a chance."
For the Nationals, playing in their second season in the nation's capital after moving from Montreal, keeping Soriano could come at too high a price. Although no amount has been expressed by his agent yet, it seems clear based on his numbers that he could command more than $15 million per season.
"Peace of mind and patience, that's what's most important to me," said Soriano. "I want to finish this year strong, then focus on the future."
Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.
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