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bitter - SWEET!

[July 26th] -- Two of the Nationals' best players said their good-byes at RFK Stadium on Thursday afternoon.

Throughout the team's sweep of the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants, the wins and the game's drama have taken a back seat to what is going on behind the scenes in Jim Bowden's office and on Jim Bowden's blackberry. When will Alfonso Soriano be traded? Where will Livan Hernandez go?

And when will it happen?

The Nationals, as constructed, are a pretty good team. We all know, however, that the team is just days, perhaps hours away from being sliced and diced by baseball's version of the veg-o-matic. Where once stood Dr. Evil will soon be "Mini Me." The "good" will soon be replaced by both the "bad" and the "ugly." It's going to be hard to watch. So let us enjoy the good while we can.

The good: Once again, young Ryan Zimmerman showed that he is one of the best third baseman in the National League today. Zimmerman walked and hit a long home run off the back wall in left-center field. His batting average is back above .290, and, more importantly, his on-base percentage is .357, excellent for a rookie. He may develop into a power hitting third baseman like Chipper Jones, or he may develop into a high average third baseman like Wade Boggs. If the planets align just "so," he might develop into both.

Alfonso Soriano, in what must have been his last at-bat as a National at RFK, homered in his first at bat for the 30th time in his career. Of course, I don't know anything that you don't, and this is pure conjecture, but I'm afraid that Soriano's high-water mark in terms of value returned in a trade passed over the weekend. Until now, it was the suitors who were frantic that they were going to be out-bid, now it's Bowden who is worried that if he doesn't "adjust" his asking price, he might be forced to trade his star player for a couple of nobodies and a suitcase full of cash, or worse still, keep him in Washington for the rest of the season. Bowden had better pull the trigger in the next 48 hours or run the risk of having Nationals' fans think the Kearns-Lopez trade was more the ineptness of the other team's GM rather than any brilliance on Bowden's part (Bowden and "brilliance" in the same sentence? When's the last time that happened?)

Livan Hernandez did exactly what he had to do to continue to whet the appetites of baseball's pennant contenders. Over his last three outings, Livan has averaged 6+ innings, allowing three runs and six hits while striking out four. Other general manager's will now forget all the flotsom and jetsom floating around from earlier this year and concentrate on the fact that Livan has proven that he is capable of keeping any team in any game against any pitcher. That's all they needed to know. The Nationals are now assured of a solid prospect, maybe two for Hernandez. That helps greatly since Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro, both injured and both now past their prime, will bring us nothing this year.

What a wonderful home-stand this was. Six games played, six games won. The team broke their consecutive 30,000 + attendance mark at five this afternoon, but only by less than 300. The team now heads to Los Angeles to play the Dodgers, owners of one of the worst post-all star game records in the National League. Who knows, the winning streak might continue. More than likely, however, the Nationals will begin to look like a minor league team as it begins to lose player after player, night after night. Once the trades are all finished, they might be a minor league team. But it has to happen, and I understand the motives for the moves. That said, this is a good team, and could have been a great one with another pitcher or two.

Sadly, we'll never know.

Nats Notes: Former Nats' president Tony Taveres has been sued for allegedly slapping a former employee. Nice ... Austin Kearns got three hits in Thursday's game and is now batting .271 ... Micah Bowie pitched a ho-hum 1-2-3 8th inning and lowered his ERA to 1.35 ... Ryan Church went hitless for the first time since returning to the lineup last weekend ... Felipe Lopez stole his 26th base of the season.

Fox Sports Lists Nats - Angels As Trade that "Has To Happen"

As if you wanted to read more about Alfonso Soriano. Foxsports.com has an article that lists trades that need to happen. Number four is Alfonso Soriano to the Los Angeles Angels:

4. Alfonso Soriano To The Angels

"If recent rumors are any guide, Nats outfielder Alfonso Soriano may soon be on his way to the White Sox. However, Chicago (who ranks first in the AL in runs scored but only ninth in bullpen ERA) instead needs to be focusing on bringing in a Roberto Hernandez or similarly skilled middleman. The offense is fine.

Alfonso Soriano has recently stated that he'd prefer to stay in Washington. As for the Angels, despite a number of injuries, disappointing performances and tactical missteps, they're only a game out in the eminently winnable AL West. If the Halos are to make strides, then they'll need to improve the lineup. Presently, they rank 11th in the 14-team AL in runs scored and 12th in slugging percentage. In specific terms, they need power.

In left field, they've got organizational stalwart Garret Anderson. Anderson has a productive history, and he's as likeable and intelligent a player as there is in the game today. However, Anderson (2006 batting line: .259 AVG/.305 OBP/.398 SLG) has been all kinds of awful this season at the plate, and in the field he's no longer the defender he once was. If the Angels are to take the West, they need to make the difficult call and bench Anderson in favor of someone who can hit. Someone who can hit, thy name is Alfonso Soriano.

Soriano is slugging .594 on the year and ranks second in the NL with 31 bombs despite playing half his games in pitcher-friendly RFK. That's power and lots of it. Soriano, who has the Yankees, Tigers, White Sox, Dodgers and others in the derby for his services, will probably cost quite a bit on trade market. However, the Angels have a rich farm system and can assemble the necessary package without parting with top talents like Brandon Wood and Howie Kendrick. Soriano's a better fit in Anaheim than he is on the South Side of Chicago."

I still think that Soriano is going to end up in the AL Central, with the White Sox, Tigers, perhaps even the Twins now that they are hot-hot-hot.

Soriano may end up staying with the Nats the rest of the season. It is becoming more and more obvious that GMs aren't willing to give up decent prospects, especially for a two month rental. Yankee GM Cashman, who is refusing to trade top prospect Philip Hughes, is setting the tone. We may have to be satisfied with a couple of draft choices for Soriano. Meanwhile, Livan pitched just well enough against the Giants to draw some interest. He will be easier to trade since he is primarily a salary dump and pitching is in such great demand.
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