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Two-Headed Monster In The Offing?

[February 3rd] - Last night, I reported that the signing of Royce Clayton could be as "significant" a signing as the Nationals made this off season. It wasn't long before I began to feel the sting of a rolled up newspaper whacking me on the nose with the words, "Bad writer!," "Bad writer!" ringing in my ears. Perhaps I deserved it. Perhaps not. Only time will tell.

I stand by the significance of the signing, but not in the way you might think. In 1962, after having lost both the 1960 presidential election and the 1962 California govenor's race, Richard Nixon said good-bye to the press, ending with the famous phrase, "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore." Well, say what you want about Cristian Guzman, but it seemed that as the Nationals' continued their slide down the standings last season, he became the scapegoat for all things National. A bad outing by Ryan Drese was blamed on Cristian Guzman. An untimely strikeout by Nick Johnson was blamed on Cristian Guzman. Ryan Church's shoulder injury was the fault of Cristian Guzman. When my wife got angry becuase I missed three weeks of church, even I blamed Cristian Guzman. By the end of the season, Guzman became the team's "whipping boy," easily blamed for all that ailed the team. With the addition of Royce Clayton, however, that ability to "blame Guzman" has been nullified. If Cristian plays so poorly that he's to be blamed for the team's woes, then he won't be playing at all; rather, Royce Clayton will be in the starting lineup. And it just won't be as much fun to blame Clayton.

I wonder if Frank Robinson or Jim Bowden has considered the possibility of platooning the two players at short. Clayton batted .270 for the season, but .296 against lefties. His OBP of .361 and SLG of .388 is far better against left-handers. Guzman hit only .219 for the year, but .242 against right-handers (to be fair, Guzman's average against righties the past four seasons is .289). His .276 OBP and .299 SLG, while still dismal, is nonetheless 80 points, and 52 points higher respectively than against lefties. By platooning, both players can claim to be a starter, and each will bring the best part of their game to the plate each day. Both players can be solid defensively as well.

Spring training is going to be so much fun. Too many players; not enough positions. Will shortstop become the next second base? Will Royce Clayton refuse to play the outfield and join forces with Alfonso Soriano and not come out of the bathroom in protest? Will Frank Robinson not allow Clayton's hair into the clubhouse? These, and other questions will begin to be answered in just about two weeks.

How fun. How fun indeed.


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