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[July 15th] -- The Nationals pulled out their lotto-ticket Friday night and scratched away the ticket's dull gray covering. They found below 0-7, an error, nine left on base, an error, and a mishandled flyball.

The Reds pulled out their lotto-ticket Friday night and scratched away the ticket's dull gray covering. The found a hit, an RBI and a run and two hits given up in 2/3 rds of an inning.

Overall, the Nats' lost their dollar and the Reds won back fifty cents. Not much of a return on an eight-player trade.

From Washington's perspective, Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez looked tired, uncomfortable and bewildered -- perhaps even a bit upset. They had less than 24 hours to report to Pittsburgh and put on a Nationals' uniform. They looked as if they were unready to play baseball. Although Felipe Lopez said he wasn't surprised by the trade (it's a business .... blah blah), Austin Kearns was devastated. He and fellow outfielder Adam Dunn had been roomates since their early days in the Reds' organization and are the best of friends. Compound that with the fact that the players were traded from a team with both their new owner and new stadium in place as well as an excellent chance to win the wild-card, and it's understandable why neither player seems particularly interested in becoming part of the body-politic that is Washington D.C.

Royce Clayton, Billy Bray and Gary Majewski, on the other hand, are elated to be leaving Washington for the pennant race in Cincinnati. The players boarded a "puddle jumper" for the trip to Cincinnati, arriving shortly before the team took the field at the Great America Ballpark. Clayton said he was "delighted" about the trade. "A big part of the reason I'm still playing is chasing that dream of playing in the World Series," Clayton said. "Hopefully, I'll be that piece that fits into this puzzle that has already been built here and help win a championship." I'm happy for the three of them. They gave the Nationals their very best.

The more I think about the trade, the more I am of the opinion that, while the Nationals certainly got more talent than it gave up, it wasn't a "steal" for Washington. A steal is when one team is inherently better than the other after the trade. Certainly, the Nationals are much better than they were, but so are the Reds. Unlike Washington, Cincinnati has a fairly deep minor league system and can replace Kearns with enough quality that his bat won't be missed. Having watched Felipe Lopez play one game, it's obvious that Royce Clayton was just as capable of going 0-4 with an error. Sure, Clayton doesn't have Lopez' range but he is more sure-handed with his throws and will give up fewers unearned runs that will Lopez. With a stronger bullpen (especially with the addition of Seattle's Eddie Guardado), Cincinnati is a stronger team than it was 48 hours ago.

And so are the Nationals. Ergo, the trade was good for both teams, and not a steal for the Nationals as it was initially described.

Short term, the troika of Majewski, Bray and Clayton are much happier than are Kearns and Lopez. Long term, however, the newest Nationals will be the happiest. Because of Cincinnati's mid-market status, they will always have payroll and player retention problems to deal with. If Stan Kasten and Jim Bowden "do it right," the Nationals will have more money, meaning more chances for success in October.

Here's hoping, anyway.

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