SORIANO SAYS ..... "PLAY BALL!"
[March 22nd] -- After 105 days of hell, Alfonso Soriano has decided to play left field after all. In a simple statement made through a team spokesman, Soriano has said he is now "on board" with the idea of playing in the outfield.
I guess it's okay to forget the past three months of obstinance, arrogance and conceit on his part. We're just one big, happy family as of 11:00 AM Eastern Standard Time, March 22nd.
Now that Soriano has decided to play left field for the Nationals for the entire season (and that is a big assumption), we have to consider how his decision affects the rest of the team. For the past three months, Ryan Church, Marlon Byrd and Brandon Watson have been waiting for Soriano to decide his future, and now they are unsure of theirs. Ryan Church was a starting outfielder last year, and Watson and Byrd could be starting outfielders this year.
Church and Byrd both have the potential to hit .280-20-80 in a full season, and Watson, at least so far, has the potential to be a top-of-the-lineup guy with 30+ stolen bases. Now, three guys with "starting lineup" talent have to fight for a single spot. Chances are, unless he gets hit by a bus, that Watson will win the center field job, leaving Church and Byrd to fight for the fourth spot in the outfield.
Does this make sense?
The Washington Nationals will likely finish 4th in the division, 5th if the Marlins' kiddie-corps matures early. The team has a new stadium, will soon have a new owner, and should begin to build for the future. The team's fan base will forgive a few years of woeful play as long as the team is building a solid foundation. But how is Alfonso Soriano helping? There is ZERO chance he'll be around next year. He'll only be keeping warm a starting spot that will likely go to either Church or Byrd next year. Wouldn't it make more sense to give them the opportunity to play every day now, making them better players in 2007? As it stands, one of them will likely be packaged in a trade for pitching before the season starts. Because the team needs Watson (or at least Robinson thinks the team needs him), and because Byrd has no trade value (remember, we got him for Endy Chavez straight up), Ryan Chuch will probably be sent packing. A few years ago, the club sent a guy very similar to Church to the Indians in the Bartolo Colon trade. He was a guy, like Church, with a little power, a little speed and with a decent glove. In 2005, Grady Sizemore batted .289-22-81 with 22 stolen bases.
The Nats don't have a single player left on the roster from that deal. Those are the type of numbers that Church will produce if given a chance. Sadly, it'll probably happen with another team.
My hope is that once Soriano has shown even a modicum of ability in left, Bowden will trade him for prospects and begin that process of rebuilding this franchise. It's weird; it's really weird. Now that we have Soriano, now that he's been forced into playing the outfield, I don't want him on the team.
No matter how well he plays, he'll never be accepted by the Nationals' fans. He's a one-year wonder just biding his time, keeping our guys from playing every day. With Soriano, the team won't win 81 games. Without him, they still won't.
So why pay a guy $10 million to not make a difference?
Links to this post: