With potentially chronic quad and hamstring difficulties, Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano must face the reality that at 32 his days as a leadoff hitter are over. All that remains now is for the Cubs to find Soriano's replacement, and for GM Jim Hendry and manager Lou Piniella to flip a coin to see who breaks the news to him.
An ideal replacement -- allowing Soriano to move to the No. 5 spot in the batting order -- would be Orioles second base standout Brian Roberts, 30, a baserunning whiz who parlayed his .377 OBP into 50 stolen bases last year, as compared to Soriano's .337 OBP and 19 bags, most of which were stolen in the earlier part of the season before leg injuries slowed him down.
The problem seems to be that the Orioles have asked for outfielder Felix Pie in return, and Piniella is widely believed to have refused to give up Pie. Starting pitcher Rich Hill has been mentioned as an alternative, and the Orioles certainly ought to go for that. But would the Cubs really be that stupid?