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[March 17th] -- Time is getting short. Alfonso Soriano's Dominican team will end it's season this Saturday, Monday if they reach the finals. According to the Washington Post, players have 72 hours to report to their spring training camps. Alfonso Soriano will be back in Viera no later than Thursday, and team officials still pretend that they haven't given the situation a second thought since he left.

Don't believe it for a second.

Had this been a "normal" spring, had the team been sharp and attentive, had the team played reasonably well, and had Soriano been a "cog" in the Dominican machine, all sides might be a little more amenable to a compromise then they were the day Soriano left Viera. But none of that happened; heck, none of that came close to happening. Because the Nationals lost so many players to the WBC, reserves were starting games and minor leaguers were playing as reserves. The Nationals have compiled a 4-13 record, second worst among baseball's 30 teams. And it's not just that they lost, it's how they lost that has maddened manager Frank Robinson enough to have two closed door meetings this spring. At one point, the Nationals had made18 errors in 6 games. Players given a chance to play because of the loss of the WBC players seemed lethargic and unconcerned as to their status. This year, just as last year, the relief pitchers have been outstanding, the starters slightly better than average, and the offense has been terrible.

And What of Soriano and the WBC? Well, the Dominican manager gave up on him. After going hitless in his 11 at bats and committing an error at second base that helped Puerto Rico beat the Dominicans, Soriano was benched in favor of Detroit's Placido Polanco. A Spanish-only website I came across suggested that Soriano will be limited to pinch-hitting duties for the remainder of the classic.

So, an angry player will return home to find a disgruntled manager upset that so much of his team is still unsettled.

Two of the three outfield positions are up for grabs, all three if you assume that Jose Guillen won't be ready for opening day. The Nationals don't have a backup catcher yet, and no one really knows the status of Cristian Guzman. Pedro Astacio and Ramon Ortiz are getting pummeled, and Brian Lawrence is out for the year. In fact, one of the few constants that makes Robinson happy is Jose Vidro's progress. He's healthy and fit, and Robinson said last week that he "is ready to be a second baseman again."

And trust me, that won't make Alfonso Soriano happy.

Ryan Church proved last year that he is very capable of starting in the outfield for the Nationals this season. Marlon Byrd is continuing to prove this spring that last September was no fluke, and that he too is quite capable of being a starter for the Nats as well. If Soriano continues to refuse a move to the outfield, a Church - Byrd - Guillen outfield would be "serviceable" at the worst, and surprising at best. Church was on the way to a .300-20-80 season when injuries slowed him down, and Byrd, according to Jim Bowden over the winter, is now capable of hitting .300 with 20-25 home runs. Nothing he's done this spring has convinced anyone otherwise.

Soriano will not play second base for the Nationals this year. The Nationals have the makings of a very good outfield with the players who want to play the outfield for Washington. Church and Byrd are under team control for several years to come, as Guillen will be once his extention is ready for signing. Do the Nationals really want to break up that kind of long-term security for a guy who has already said that he's going to be back in the American League next year?

I'm thinking that Mr. Soriano is screwed.

Frank Robinson isn't in the mood to placate a prima dona (albeit a nice, soft spoken one). Unless Soriano is shaken by his benching in favor of Polanco, and that perhaps, just perhaps, it's in his own best interest to learn the outfield, that he will be quickly shown the door. My guess is that Bowden has a couple of trades in place, just waiting only for Soriano's answer to the big question next Thursday. I doubt the Nationals will try to persuade Soriano should he says no. I think they might even be looking forward to "moving him" and putting the whole Soriano situation behind them.

Well, not "they" and "them." I should say "he." Unless Jim Bowden makes this mess work for the Nationals, he'll never be retained by the new ownership. And he knows that better than anyone else. It's "saving face" time for Bowden. Let's see how he does.

Trade him for some starting pitching..I mean he is good with the bat and we need some good pitching..alot
We just lost Ayalla for the year...
WHY IS OUR TEAM FALLING APART???? Guzman, Lawrence and now Ayala!!!!
WHYYYY???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? Atleast we have Watkins..he is doing preatty good!
My friend, that is the million dollar question. There is no question that the Nationals have had to deal with more injuries than any other team over the past 14 months.
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