July 20, 2007

Better to be Terrible Than Bad

If this post comes off rambling, disjointed and incoherent then Congratulations! you're in the right place. But seriously, I have a little bit to say about a lot of topics, and haven't marshaled the energy to put together an honest-to-God comprehensive post in many moons (or, some would say, ever.) So here we go, stream o' conciousness-style:

The just completed Astros series is a useful object lesson in the wisdom of just writing off a season every decade or so in the name of building from the ground up. I'm no cheerleader for "The Plan", that job is most assuredly spoken for. Hell, there's a whole cheerleading squad shaping up. But I will say this for the front office, they were nothing but upfront with their intentions for this season and, so far as I can tell from my perch in Section 313, they've been very consistent in adhering to the program.

Would you rather be an Astros fan? Or a Pirates fan? Or (God forbid) a Philles fan. It's incredibly easy to put $60 - 80 million dollars worth of mediocrity on a major league baseball field. The Pittsburgh Pirates franchise stands as evidence that you can sustain bad low budget teams for a decade or more. (Quick, name the P-Rats All-Star representative.) The Orioles are proof positive that you can do the exact same thing for twice the money. (Who's the Os top hitting prospect? No, Matt Wieters hasn't signed yet.) So the Washington Nationals aren't a good baseball team, that's a given. Universal assent to that proposition has been sought and granted. But they're not historically terrible either. In a league with the Devil Rays, Reds, Astros and Rangers, the Nationals aren't even the most interesting bad team going. There's relatively little drama in a bad team scraping by on the verge of mediocrity.

The alternative is to be the Astros. They (and many others) thought they'd be players in the incredibly weak NL Central this season. Whoops! not so much. And that's with Carlos Lee, Roy Oswalt, cheap hit king Craig Biggio and a park where Brandon Watson hit a home run. Now they're spinning their wheels 1/2 game better than the Nats and wondering what parts to jettison come July 31st. It's much better to be in Washington, resigned to rebuilding Year One of 3 or 4, than to be in Pittsburgh, contemplating Year 9 of infinity.

Speaking of Which...

I'm beginning to come around to the don't trade Dmitri and Ronnie school of thought. Hear me out, because there are caveats aplenty. The farm system still needs all the help it can get, and then some. Even with a series of good drafts (which we don't know if we have yet) the minor leagues are so barren that our best team is probably the GCL Nationals, a team full of high schoolers and Dominican teenagers. But even with that said, there's no point in bringing in 20, 21, 22-year olds just to bring them in. Young players are inherently valuable for a number of reasons (developmental potential, club control) but they're not better just by virtue of being younger.

Young and Belliard are, right now, better than hundreds of guys in A-ball will ever be. Next season they'll still be better than hundreds if not thousands of guys in professional baseball. And they're not exactly surplus, they are the offensively superior half of the starting infield. I understand the hue and cry for prospects, and the desperate need to restock the farm system. (As an aside, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Chris Young would look pretty good in the ol' Curly W, damn you Bud Selig.) But the point is to stock the farm system with good players, not just new players.

Nobody's surrendering premium prospects for a DH/1B having a career year at the age of 33 or a 32-year old 2B/utility infielder. Dmitri's a nice player, but he's no Alfonso Soriano and we all remember how that turned out. But that's not what I'm talking about. It ought to go without saying that getting something for Young or Belliard implies getting something of value, but sometimes I think that gets washed out in the "They have to trade him" drumbeat. And though it pains me to say it, I trust Jim Bowden, Mike Rizzo and Stan Kasten to get something of value for Young and Belliard, or sit on their hands if they can't make a deal. If they go, I'll be happy and root for the youngsters. If they stay I'll be happy and root for a batting title. It's a rare no-lose proposition for a Nats fan.

A Religious Conversion of Sorts

GUZMANIA! is, by all reports, on the shelf for the season. So I've been hunting around for a new mildly unhealthy Nats-related obsession. And I believe I've settled on LANGERHANSCENDENTALISM!, hereafter abbreviated LHS! (You may have noticed that I have a penchant for latching on to players at the nadir of their season or career. It's called getting in on the ground floor.)

I can't really explain my interest in the Nats sometime centerfielder except to say that Langerhans is the embodiment of American Transcendentalism. His talent is not empirically verifiable. It does not lend itself to averages, percentages or the cold logic of hits, runs and RBIs. His value must be experienced first hand. The flat out running catch, the serendipitous 3-run dinger, the incredulous backward K.

Rumor has it that Manny will finish out the season with an Escobar-Church-Kearns outfield. On the plus side this should put an end to the heretical Nook Logan movement. In the minus column it will consign LHS! to the dreaded role of 4th OF/defensive sub. We all know Langerhans can fulfill this role. But it's a dreadful waste of his God-given talents. LHS! is the ballhawk that Logan and Brandon Watson were rumored to be. And you must admit the guy has a knack for multi-RBI homers. So come to RFK and watch LHS! in action. If you squint, the Anacostia looks almost like Walden Pond.

4 comments:

Harper said...

I thought I was growing to hate Langerhans...

The Nationals Enquirer said...

LANGERHANSCENDENTALISM! That has a nice ring to it. And with Escobar's latest setback you'll be able to enjoy LHS for a few more weeks, anyway...

Nate said...

Harper: I had you pegged as a filthy Watsonite from Day One. Day One, my friend.

TNE: Behold, the first of three miracles necessary for sainthood: the injuring of Alex Escobar. Granted, on the scale of the miraculous that's like feeding the multitudes by opening a Long John Silver franchise, but still...

Harper said...

Does the Pope like Watson? I'm supposed to do everyhting he says.

Unfortunately, in regards to CF, I was born a Church-handler and I'll die a Church-handler.