The conversations about the Alfonso Soriano situation that have taken place recently and will take place for who knows how long would be a fascinating look at the business side of baseball.
The Cubs want to wipe the slate clean and start over, and Soriano — like a dog with a bone — wants to hang on to the position he has occupied since 2007.
Anytime Soriano messes up in left field or on the bases, fans scream for Chairman Tom Ricketts to cut him a check and make him go away. But two things are wrong with that theory: Ricketts isn't releasing a guy he still owes more than $45 million, and at this point he probably couldn't even if he tried.
Baseball's collective bargaining agreement stipulates that releases must be performance-based, and over the last month Soriano has made an argument that he — not shortstop Starlin Castro — should represent the Cubs at the All-Star Game in Kansas City, Mo.
From May 15 through Friday, Soriano was hitting .305 with 12 home runs in 105 at-bats, thanks in part to switching to a lighter bat. He has improved in left field and has such a great attitude that manager Dale Sveum said he respects him as much as any player he has been around.
"Nothing bothers me,'' Soriano said two weeks ago. "I believe in myself, and I love what I do. I understand sometimes this game is up and down. Sometimes you have a bad week, but it's a long season."
Will Soriano's ability to hit the ball out of the park interest a team like the Indians or even the Rays as the designated hitter? Probably not, but you're going to hear a lot about his market in the next six weeks.
In the meantime, we're calling him the All-City left fielder over the White Sox's Dayan Viciedo, who also has picked it up since a slow start. Viciedo's timely hitting and enthusiasm have played a role in the Sox's standing as American League Central leaders, and you certainly can argue for him over Soriano.
Along with first base, the corner outfield spots are ripe for debate. But OPS usually tells the story, and Soriano had an edge of 75 points over Viciedo (.823-.748) entering Saturday.
Here's a look at the rest of the Tribune's All-City team:
Paul Konerko: Few things in baseball are cooler than batting titles, and the scholarly veteran is positioned to battle for one this season. He was hitting .399 on May 27 — a mean feat given that he gets almost no infield hits — and at .362 is maintaining a solid edge over Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo. In terms of OPS, Hamilton and Joey Votto are the only hitters delivering more.
It's a surprise that Bryan LaHair hasn't been far behind all season. He deserves to be in the All-Star conversation, as Votto is the only National League first baseman who has hit better, and to his credit he has turned all the Anthony Rizzo talk into so much white noise. That couldn't be easy to do.
Darwin Barney: Another good debate, actually, as Gordon Beckham has done things in a bigger way for the White Sox. He makes great plays in the field and lately has begun driving the ball. But Barney is Chicago's most underrated player, possibly even by his own organization, as he has been out of the lineup seven times already. He has struggled against left-handers and hasn't been as patient as the Cubs want but overall has been a productive hitter (.728 OPS) for his position.
Beckham is fifth among major league second basemen in homers but in most other stats still is trying to get out from under hitting .153 in April.
Starlin Castro: There are plenty of reasons to criticize the kid — he can't always count to three, for instance. But every now and then you have to stop to praise him. Derek Jeter is the only regular shortstop outhitting him this year, and he's right there with Dee Gordon and Jose Reyes in stolen bases. He's 22 and on pace to get his 500th career hit in August, as he has collected them at a pace of 1.2 per game.
Alexei Ramirez, who hit 21 home runs as a rookie and won a Silver Slugger in his third season, somehow has regressed into being a good-glove, no-hit guy. A very weird development.
Robin Ventura: Seriously, will the man just put down his Sharpie and pick up a bat? At 44, he has to have more to offer than his trio of Orlando Hudson, Brent Morel and Eduardo Escobar, who entering the weekend had combined to hit .171 with one home run in 216 at-bats.
The Cubs' Ian Stewart has been very good defensively but has hovered too close to the Mendoza Line for All-City recognition.
Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski
Following Konerko's example, he's getting better in his mid-30s. He never has driven in more than 77 runs in a season but currently projects to reach 100, and he hasn't sacrificed any average in going up a gear in driving the ball. He also has given himself a chance to throw out 30 percent of base-stealers for only the second time in his career. He should be the AL starter in the All-Star Game, although you will hear arguments for Matt Wieters.
The Cubs can only hope Geovany Soto's disappearing act is attributable to the knee injury that has put him on the disabled list. He will play a lot when he's activated, but only to build a trade market. Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo make him a luxury item.
Alejandro de Aza: Like the Cubs' LaHair, De Aza is a late bloomer taking full advantage of his opportunity. The 28-year-old entered Saturday with .375 on-base percentage, fourth-best among baseball's regular leadoff hitters, and is scoring as many runs as any of them. He's solid in the field, steals bases and can pound a pitcher's mistake for extra bases. Will he hold up in September? Hard to imagine he will feel more pressure than when he was handed a big league job after years of shuttling between Triple A and the major league bench.
The Cubs have used five center fielders, with no one starting half the games.
Alex Rios: Like Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy, Rios is back from the near-dead as a player. He has continued his every-other-year pattern by raising his batting average 70 points if not quite hitting for the power that general manager Ken Williams hoped when he claimed him on waivers. He's a solid part of a good team.
David DeJesus has been excellent for the Cubs, with a lack of power the missing piece in his game. His .378 on-base percentage batting leadoff ranked third in the big leagues through Friday.
Adam Dunn, Tony Campana and Reed Johnson: Dunn is on pace to break Albert Belle's White Sox record of 49 home runs. His startling turnaround provided a huge lift out of the gate for his teammates, who were relieved to see him hit five homers in April and ecstatic when he added 11 in May. He hasn't cut down on his strikeouts — in fact, he's on pace to shatter Mark Reynolds' record of 223 in a season, with 250 within reach — but his performance pretty much illustrates how the Sox have improved to 4.8 runs per game from 4.0 a year ago.
Campana and Johnson largely have shared center field since Marlon Byrd was traded, and both have done well enough to make you wonder if they would get overexposed with more playing time. No one's more fun to watch than Campana, who made the Cubs' play of the year when he flew over the glove of Astros third baseman Matt Downs last month.
Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, Ryan Dempster, Jeff Samardzija: Dempster is the only usual suspect to crack the team this time around, and both the White Sox and Cubs have improved their rotations from a year ago. Sale's move from the bullpen has gone much better than anyone had forecast, and he survived a temporary return to the bullpen to pitch his way into consideration to start the All-Star Game. He has been Big Unitesque, dominating hitters the same way Randy Johnson did in his prime, and could be on his way to becoming one of baseball's 10 true No. 1 starters.
Peavy was great out of the gate and continues to have a renaissance season, one that could prompt the Sox to try to extend his contract, not deal him. Dempster quietly has been among the NL's ERA leaders, bouncing back from a poor 2011 to show he has shelf life remaining.
Samardzija's the biggest surprise in town, moving from the Cubs' bullpen to flash promise of being a true front-of-the-rotation piece. Like Sale, his durability and consistency will be tested as the season goes along. Somehow, Philip Humber threw a perfect game and didn't make All-City.
Addison Reed: He was the reason Williams felt he could trade Sergio Santos, and he didn't need long to show why. He got a chance to ease into the role with Hector Santiago opening the season as Santos' replacement, but he looks plenty solid with the quintessential closer combination of a mid-90s fastball and hard slider.
Nate Jones and Matt Thornton: If Jesse Crain had not spent time on the disabled list, he would be here. But Ventura has been blessed with a deep bullpen, and it revolves around Thornton. He still may be a candidate to be traded, even with the Sox at the top of the AL Central, but his steadying presence and durability remain huge assets. Thornton does seem overly dependent on a fastball at times, but it's still a good fastball — not as good as Jones', however.
Jones has hit 100 mph this season and complements that with a plus curve thrown from an unusual delivery. Like Reed, he has yet to deal with true adversity, which will provide the biggest test.
Shawn Camp, signed after the Mariners released him in spring training, and James Russell have been stalwarts for the Cubs' bullpen, which got thinner when Kerry Wood retired.
Robin Ventura: Dale Sveum grinds every night to get the most out of his overmatched Cubs team, and Ventura seems to do little more than fill out the lineup card. But Ventura and his coaching staff worked hard in spring training to set a positive tone and to correct some past deficiencies, such as the pitching staff's lack of interest in runners on base, and the results have shown in a major way.
Both Ventura and Sveum are smart baseball men who have dispositions that should help their players survive the dog days. They look like solid choices to take over for Ozzie Guillen and Mike Quade, respectively.