HEY ALFONSO: "D.C." DOESN'T STAND FOR "DONE COOPERATING"
[March 21st] -- It's been nearly 24 hours since Alfonso Soriano refused to take his position in left field against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The anger has subsided and the stories have abated. It's time to try understand the just what to do next.
The trade was never about Alfonso Soriano, or even Brad Wilkerson or Terrmel Sledge. It was about Jim Bowden. If you remember, Bowden was one of the finalists to replace Theo Epstein at the Red Sox' GM. He went to the Dallas winter meetings wanting to get into the headlines and then stay there. After having several small trades fall through, he thought he had completed a Ryan Church for Javier Vasquez deal, only to have the Diamondbacks pull out at literally the last minute. He began to seriously pursue Soriano only a few hours before the winter meetings were due to break up. Bowden felt he had to do "something," and with time running out, Soriano was the only "something" available.
The Nationals were coming off a very good 81-81 season, but the chances of repeating that success in 2006 were never very good. Once Esteban Loiaza and Hector Carrasco left for big free agent contracts, the team was much closer to "starting over" then they were to repeating their .500 run the season before. The minor league system was barren, and major league roster was little more than a hoge-podge of second tier starters and players finishing out their careers. The team was not a player or two away from contending. Instead of trading three potential starters for one, Bowden should have been thinking about "blowing up" the Nationals and beginning anew. It was, after all, the perfect time. With a new owner and stadium in the offing, fans would have been very willing to watch the team struggle through some growing pains while talented youngsters got some much needed 0n-the-job training. Instead, Bowden signed a bunch of stop-gap, 30 something players who can't help the Nationals win.
When the new owners name their first general manager, he's going to do what Bowden should have done last year, which is to stock the farm system and trade some talented players who won't help the Nationals win now. The team might sign a free agent or two, but unless the team's '06 record is in the bottom half of the league, they'll lose a draft pick for each player they sign, something the team can't afford to do.
As much as I'd like to see Soriano rot on the Disqualified List, perhaps the best thing to do would be to trade him for prospects. With Soriano or without, the team isn't going to contend. The stadium agreement has bought the team some goodwill with the fans, and now is the time to use it.
I have been a supporter of Jim Bowden since his arrival in Washington in October, 2004. His mistakes have been honest ones. That is, until this mess. I am afraid that whatever Bowden's decision, it will be in his best interest and not the teams. He knows that as Soriano goes, so goes his career. No other team will give him a chance based on this trade -- his only hope is to impress the new owners by what he does now.
Whatever that is, it'll be camouflaged to cover his mistakes.
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