- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Alfonso Soriano — the greatest Washington National of all time — has announced he lost his love for baseball and is retiring.

“I’ve lost the love and passion to play the game,” Soriano reportedly said in a radio interview this week in his native Dominican Republic. “Right now, my family is the most important thing.”


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Now he can go back to the multi-million-dollar Florida mansion he bought earlier this year — the 7,800-square-foot Mediterranean mansion, gated and guarded by lion statues — and spend more time with his family.

You know, the home he bought from Washington Redskins president and general manager Bruce Allen.



Yes, under the category of small world — no, make that the small bizarre world — of Washington sports, Soriano paid $2.7 million for the mansion owned by Allen, who was the general manager for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2004-08.

Allen and his wife, Kiersten, bought the home in 2004 for $2.72 million and listed it for sale in January at $2.99 million, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He wound up selling it for the same price he paid for it 10 years earlier, the Times reported.

It’s quite the palace.

Located in what the Times described as “Tampa’s ritzy Avila country club,” the mansion has seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a library and billiards room, “endless closets” and a 4,000-bottle wine room the size of a small apartment, the sales listing showed.

That’s a lot of Thunderbird.

Outside the home, the “estate” has a four-car garage, a putting green with a sand trap, and a pool deck with gazebos, a fountain hot tub and a pond with a small babbling waterfall, the Times reported.

No goal posts?

Hopefully, Soriano can find the happiness he seeks in Bruce Allen’s old home that he could no longer find in baseball. He’s big on being happy.

Soriano wasn’t happy when he was traded from the Texas Rangers to the Nationals for Brad Wilkerson, Terrmel Sledge and Armando Galarrage on Dec. 8, 2005, following the Nationals’ inaugural season in Washington.

He wasn’t happy because the Nationals wanted Soriano — a second baseman for much of the first five years of his major league career — to play left field, setting off a memorable, Redskins-like controversy that got national attention.

Soriano refused to play left field. There were press conferences, and national debates, and a $10 million player who refused to take the field in spring training.

It turned into a baseball version of the Middle East peace talks, with closed-door meetings to try to convince Soriano not to embarrass the Nationals.

“‘We had a great discussion this morning,” Nationals general manager and franchise gravedigger Jim Bowden, who engineered the trade, told reporters about their first negotiating session to convince a $10 million player to play. “I think all of us know where each of us are coming from, which is important.

“I think we had an opportunity to look each other in the eye and go through the issues of the club, the issues where Alfonso is coming from. We have a lot of respect for Alfonso, as a player and as a person, and where he is coming from. He understands [our] situation and where we are coming from. That’s all you can do from there.”

It even reduced the great Frank Robinson to telling reporters, “We understand where he is coming from. He understands where we are coming from, and we’ll go from there.”

From there, after playing second base in the World Baseball Classic during the spring training break for the tournament, Soriano returned to Viera and was finally faced with having to take left field for a game.

He refused.

He took fielding drills at second base, though he was penciled in to play left field, and when the game started, Soriano refused to go in. Robinson had to change the lineup, and Soriano left Space Coast Stadium after the second inning.

Eventually, Soriano would relent, and for that he should forever thank Bowden. The trade and forcing Soriano to play left field made him enough money to buy dozens of Bruce Allen mansions.

He would go on have the greatest season any Washington National ever had — and one of the greatest seasons in the history of the relocated Montreal Expos franchise. Batting leadoff, Soriano slugged a team-record 46 home runs. He set a club record with 89 extra base hits. He became just the fourth player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases, and the firt one to hit 40 home runs, 40 doubles and 40 steals, finishing the season with 41 doubles and 41 steals — the greatest single-season performance in a Nationals uniform

That turned into a seven-year, $136 million contract the following season from the Chicago Cubs — playing left field. That also led to two compensatory draft choices for Washington, one of which turned into Jordan Zimmermann.

Now, after 16 major league seasons and $158 million in career earnings, Soriano, at the age of 38, can retire to Bruce Allen’s Tampa mansion — and maybe even replace the putting green with a second base.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com

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