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NATS CONTINUE TO SLIP-SLIDE AWAY....

[May 20th] -- So, tonight was the night. This was to be the end of the beginning, the beginning of the next part of the Nationals' story in Washington. The new ownership group was approved yesterday, and the arch-rival Baltimore Orioles were playing a regular season game in RFK Stadium for the first time since the Nixon Administration. Scalpers were supposed to have been lined up in front of the stadium, selling tickets for twice their face value. Orioles and Nationals' fans were scheduled to pummel each other in the parking lots.

Instead, 30,000 mostly disinterested fans showed up.

I'm not sure what was worse; the fact that game one of the Beltway Series was played on Friday and no one seemed to notice, or the fact that, save Alfonso Soriano's single-swing heroics, Washington would have been shut out for the third time in four games. For now, we have to look beyond wins and losses. We have to pluck from the manure pile something that doesn't smell too bad.

And that's tough these days.

Mike O'Connor is continuing to show that the Nats should make his spot in the starting rotation permanent, at least until the end of the season. Once John Patterson returns from his stint on the DL, the Nats will have a pretty solid top-of-the-rotation with Patterson, O'Connor and Tony Armas Jr. Jon Rauch could be a good one as well, perhaps just a notch below Patterson. Add one of the many intriguing minor league arms to that group and the pitching problem will be close to being settled.

Every home run hit by Alfonso Soriano this month ups his trade value. No way he's still with the team anywhere close to the treading deadline. By trading Soriano, Livan Hernandez, Jose Vidro, Jose Guillen and Chad Cordero, the Nats could stock their barren farm system with a dozen prospects, a third of them of the can't-miss variety, with another two out out of the remaining eight kids succeeding in the bigs as well. So, why trade five stars (or near stars) today for five future stars (or near stars) tomorrow? Because the other six guys, while not studs, will flesh out the depth chart with quality players. They could be five more Ryan Church's, or five more Jon Rauch's. The difference between a first place and a last place team is who they trot in from the bench (with the exception of the Yankees and Red Sox, of course).

For now, all we can do is hope that the trade-bait keeps playing well enough to bring some prospects sometime soon.


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