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The 800 Pound Guerilla Arrives In Camp

[February 24th] -- We hoped, we prayed, that this would have taken care of itself before the start of spring training. Let me first say that I don't blame Alfonso Soriano one bit. He has once before told a new employer that he didn't want to play in the outfield. Jim Bowden traded for Soriano with the express purpose of moving him to the outfield. But he didn't ask Soriano if he was willing. Oh sure, I understand the system wouldn't allow Bowden to contact the Rangers second baseman before the trade to ask him; it would be tampering. But if you asked me the day before the trade if there was one second baseman that I knew wouldn't switch to the outfield, it would have been Soriano. It was a no-brainer.

He reported today, and was all smiles. He listened for two hours as Frank Robinson and Jim Bowden extolled him with the virtues of changing positions. Pete Rose did it. Rod Carew did it. Carl Yaztremski did it. Soriano said he was impressed. He also said it didn't matter; he wasn't changing positions. He's practicing at second base until he leaves for the WBC [the position he'll play there]. That the trade was a stupid move on Bowden's part is moot at this point. The focus needs to be not on the past but on today. The Nationals have about a month to figure all of this out.

Second base belongs to Jose Vidro. He is a former all-star who has come to spring training healthy for the first time since 2003. He has dropped weight and spent the off-season working out with a personal trainer. When the Nationals could no longer keep him out of the WBC, Vidro himself withdrew so that he could commit to the Nationals as he prepared for opening day. Vidro is a team leader and when healthy [which he seems to be], is one of the finest second baseman in the league.

There is no way the Nationals are going to trade him with a multi-year contract binding him to the club for a few more years in favor of one of the worst fielding second baseman in the "bigs" who will be "outa here" come October 1st.

Soriano has two options: move to the outfield or be moved to another club before the beginning of the regular season.

Soriano is one good season away from [at a minimum] a four year, $52 million dollar contract. If Johnny Damon is worth that kind of money, then Soriano is certainly worth as much, maybe more. By refusing to make the move, [when combined with some of the things he said the past few months], other teams might consider him a "troublemaker" and either reduce their offer or go in a different direction entirely. He's going to ultimately have to make the move or risk ending up in the same category with Gary Sheffield and Barry Bonds.

And the sad part is, he's a really nice guy. Nick Johnson, a former teammate in New York, said he was funny and kept the clubhouse loose. This blog, and many others, have eviscerated him for his "attitude." But really, what attitude? Say you agreed to work for Boeing as an engineer designing landing gear. You love tires and you enjoy your job. Then Boeing gets bought out by Airbus and they transfer you to London to work on radar systems. You hate radar. You tell them you don't want to move to London, and you don't want to work on radar.

What do you do?

If you continue to complain, you'll be branded a "troublemaker," but none of this was your doing. You were working on a hydraulic fitting one day and your world suddenly turned upside down. Soriano is facing the same situation. He was doing his job with the Rangers the best he could, and suddenly his world was turned upside down. It's one thing to be traded without your permission; it's something else altogether to be traded and then forced to switch positions.

I want him to play the outfield, but I guess I understand if he won't make the move. But in the end. I just want it all to go away.

A question was asked elsewhere about Soriano. What if he can't play the OF? What if he makes Manny Ramirez and Dave Kingman look like Willie Mays? What do the Nats do then?
You know, I never really thought about that. What if he's another Frank Howard in the field? Maybe athleticism doesn't translate to ability at all positions.

Good point!
Why would we think he'll be a better fielder in the outfield than he is at second???
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