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Still, last place seemed more fun when he was around.

Soriano came into the Nationals clubhouse when he arrived at RFK yesterday afternoon to see his old friends and “make some jokes with them.” He said he took Brian Schneider and Nick Johnson to dinner when the Nationals came to Chicago earlier this year.

“They have to buy me dinner here because I bought the dinner in Chicago,” Soriano said jokingly.

Ten years ago, when Soriano was making $40,000 a year for the Hiroshima Carp, he probably wasn’t joking about picking up many checks.

Soriano has had one of the strangest careers for a star. He got his start in Japan and eventually got out of his contract there to sign with the Yankees in 1998. He became an offensive standout in New York but was considered a defensive liability at second base and prone to slumps and strikeouts. He wound up being traded to the Texas Rangers for Alex Rodriguez in 2004.

Two years later, Soriano was traded by the Rangers for Wilkerson and Sledge. He came to Washington and became public enemy No. 1 for initially refusing to move from second base to left field last spring, then became a fan favorite here with his electric season.

Then he cashed out and fit in well in Chicago — a city for which legendary columnist Mike Royko once suggested the motto be changed from “Urbs In Horto” (City in a Garden) to “Ubi Est Mea” (where’s mine?).

It wasn’t in Washington, where there was only love and respect for the game, so much of it that its fans were willing to hang on to that love and respect while the game abandoned it for 33 years. If Alfonso Soriano were paying attention last year, he would have seen that, if indeed it is as important to him as he says it is.