WASHINGTON -- Alfonso Soriano only spent one season in D.C., a pit stop during the infancy of the Nationals’ franchise in 2006 that turned into one of the most productive seasons of his 16-year Major League career and still stands as one of the most memorable individual seasons in team history.
Soriano is the most recent player to join the exclusive 40-40 club -- despite Ronald Acuña Jr.’s near-miss in 2019 (41 homers, 37 steals) -- after he swatted 46 homers and swiped 41 bases in 159 games for the Nationals, making him just the fourth player ever to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bags in a season. The others on that list: Alex Rodriguez (42 homers and 46 steals in 1998), Barry Bonds (42 homers and 40 steals in '96) and Jose Canseco (42 homers and 40 steals in '88).
“There's a lot of players that can play this game,” Soriano told MLB.com at the time. “That's an amazing number. I'm proud of myself that I did 40-40 this year."
All three of those players who reached 40-40 had Hall of Fame-caliber careers, although Bonds and Canesco currently stand outside Cooperstown for their connections to performance-enhancing drugs and Rodriguez will become eligible in 2022. But for one season at least, Soriano stood among them, which is why he was among the players on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot that was revealed Monday.
While one season does not make a player a Hall of Famer and Soriano is certainly going to fall shy of the 75 percent of ballots he would need to gain induction by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, that does not mean his career isn’t worth appreciating, especially his only season in Washington.
After arriving onto the scene as a young second baseman with the Yankees and instantly becoming a vital member of their postseason success, including a pair of American League pennants, Soriano was traded to the Nationals after the 2005 season for the final year of his contract. Manager Frank Robinson wanted Soriano to play the outfield for the first time in his career, but the young slugger initially balked at the idea and refused to take the field. Eventually, he relented and grew to enjoy left field, the position at which he has played the most innings in his career. Soriano even led all outfielders with 22 assists during the ‘06 season.
Soriano had a case for one of the best all-around seasons of his era with 40 homers, 40 stolen bases, 40 doubles and 20 outfield assists -- numbers no player has duplicated. He was worth 6.1 Wins Above Replacement, as measured by Baseball-Reference, so more than 20 percent of his career 28.2 WAR was accrued in that single season in D.C.
Soriano did not stay in Washington, rejecting the Nationals’ attempts to re-sign him before being rewarded with an eight-year, $136 million deal from the Cubs before the 2007 season, a deal earned by the strength of his fantastic season in D.C.
Dunn makes first appearance on ballot
For two seasons in Washington from 2009-10, slugger Adam Dunn left his mark with big home runs and steady offensive production for a Nationals team finding its way.
Dunn slugged 38 homers in each of his two seasons in D.C. with at least 100 RBIs as well, adding to a Hall of Fame case that will rest on 462 career home runs. His two seasons with the Nats were perhaps his most productive stretch, at least offensively. In 317 games, he hit .264/.378/.533 with a .910 OPS while belting 76 homers.