I was going to hold off a few days on this, but in light of the twin stories by Rocket Bill and Dave Shenin (Why is it that every news outlet turns into Pravda during Spring Training?) I feel the time is right to kick off "Guzmania 2006: Reuse the Goooz!" my official campaign on behalf of much maligned SS Cristian "Mendoza Line" Guzman.
Now I know I'm opening myself up to endless mockery from the Natosphere, who regard Cristian as a cross between Stalin and Pokey Reese. And I'm not for a second trying to justify Goooz's 4-yr/$16M contract (though honestly, that's not his fault... if P.T. Bowden offered you $4M a year, you'd take it, wouldn't you?) But I've never believed that Guzman deserved to be the whipping boy for everything that's wrong with the Nats front office and coaching staff.
When The Federalist ran his Guzman Prognatstication I submitted a line of .276/.315/.390 for the year, which is less than mediocre but represents a massive improvement over his 2005 line of .219/.260/.314. In retrospect, I was too conservative. If I'm going to go back in the tank for Goooz, I may as well go in the deep end. Here's my revised, offical, Guzmania 2006 prediction:
This is more than an exercise in blind faith. I think Cristian losing weight will help. I think vision correction surgery will help (Want to argue that seeing the ball better won't make anyone a better hitter?) I doubt being "pushed" by Royce Clayton will make any difference at all... and why aren't Royce and Damian Jackson even on the depth chart at shortstop? But most of all, I think replacing Tom McCraw with a real live hitting coach will help.
Last year Guzman struggled at the plate and got advice from McCraw, Barry Larkin, Frank Robinson, Miss Cleo, Robert Redford (he's a Natural) and Bill Ladson. It obviously didn't help, but I think replacing that Greek Chorus with Mitchell Paige will pay immediate dividends. Everyone concedes that Guzman will improve on last year's numbers, the law of averages says it's all but inevitable, but I'm going out on a limb and predicting that Goooz betters his career averages this season, and produces gap-to-gap line drive hits tailor-made for RFK.
Gentlemen (and Ladies), start your mockery!