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Can Rafael Soriano hack it? We'll find out soon enough

Why so serious? Rafael Soriano perpetually looks like someone just shot his dog. This may or may not be part of the problem.
Why so serious? Rafael Soriano perpetually looks like someone just shot his dog. This may or may not be part of the problem.

It's probably unfair to think of Mel Hall when I see Rafael Soriano, but I really can't help it.

Hall, a top run-producer for some awful early 90s Yankees teams, was known as a malcontent who was eventually shipped out of town when the Buck Showalter/"Stick" Michael regime took hold.

Despite his decent production (he had back-to-back 80-RBI seasons in '91 and '92), Hall was a selfish player with a mean streak, particularly toward a shy rookie by the name of Bernabe Williams, who was driven to tears by the outfielder's insults.

"You can afford to have one asshole if you surround him with 24 good guys," Showalter once said, summing up one of his 43,000 roster philosophies. "But if you have more than that, then the assholes are going to befriend those who might be good guys, and pretty soon it's a problem."

(Buck Showalter, everybody!)

Of course, it's not entirely fair to put Hall and Soriano on the same island of misfit toys. Soriano lies in bed at night thinking if he made a mistake coming to New York. Hall lies in a prison cot pondering whether it was wise to have sex with a 12-year-old girl.

But during the non-statutory rape phase of his life, Hall exuded the same whiff of negative energy we see from Soriano now. Watching the reliever scowl and sulk on the mound Tuesday night was maddening — as if throwing a batting-practice fastball to Paul Konerko was somehow home-plate umpire Greg Gibson's fault.

Soriano's numbers speak for themselves. He has a 7.84 ERA. He's allowed eight walks and nine earned runs through 11 appearances. He's had exactly one 1-2-3 inning. The bridge to Mariano has become the bridge to nowhere.

And then there's the attitude. Deadly serious, dour even. Soriano may be the anti-Swichalicious. To his credit, Soriano faced the music on Tuesday, a step in the right direction after his famous blow-off of reporters following a poor April 5 performance against the Twins.

The over-arching question, of course, is this: Does Soriano have the necessary mental makeup to survive here?

No one's ever going to feel sorry for the Yankees when it comes to free agency, and they shouldn't. New York has such wealth in its piggy bank that the system is basically rigged to allow the franchise to remain successful.

In NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's recent op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, many of his comments about the perceived dangers of the labor battle seemed to be thinly-veiled potshots at what baseball has allowed to happen with financially-mighty teams like the Yankees.

That said, the Yankees do have to deal with a variable most teams don't, that being the risk of an incoming free agent not having the personality to handle the market and expectations brought upon by salary. What makes it doubly dangerous for Brian Cashman and Co. is that you don't find out until after a guaranteed check has been cut.

It'd be unfair to file Soriano into the "can't-hack-it-in-NY" category after one month. But it might not be a bad idea to walk over to the file cabinet and open up a nice space between Rogers, Kenny and Weaver, Jeff, either. You know, just in case.

"It’s not been easy for me," Soriano said after the game. "I’ve tried to figure out how to do the same that I did last year. I’ve been struggling right now, but I’ll take it, forget all that tonight, come back tomorrow and find out."

Let's hope so, 35 million times over.

Dan Hanzus is a writer for Pinstripe Alley. He can be reached at or on Twitter @danhanzus.

Update: Rob Neyer and Ed Valentine on Soriano.