Thursday, March 23, 2006

The smartest thing Alfonso Soriano has ever done

If you haven't heard, overhyped, poor-fielding second baseman Alfonso Soriano has finally ended his long stalemate with Your Nation's Nationals* and decided to throw on the big outfielders glove and head to left field, where he will undoubtedly become an overhyped, poor-fielding left fielder.

After repeatedly saying he would not play outfield, asking for a trade, and not taking the field on Monday when he was penciled in at left field, Soriano decided on Wednesday that he just loves the game and wants to play wherever. Coincidentally, Alfonso came back in touch with his unbridled passion for the sport not too long after the Nats front office threatened to put him on the disqualified list for breaching his contract, which would have not only meant no money for Soriano this season, but also would have kept his contract on pause so that he'd remain Nationals property for another year.

When Nationals GM Jim Bowden traded center fielder and all-around stud Brad Wilkerson and outfielder Terrmel Sledge to the Texas Rangers for Soriano, Nats fans were (wrongfully) worked into a frenzy about the so-called "first big name" to come to the team, ignoring the facts that A) Wilkerson has had a great start to his career except for last year when he was hurt, B) Wilkerson would already be a "big name" if he hadn't spent his first four years playing for the Expos where he was doomed to only be seen by the 14 French Canadian baseball fans in existence and the occasional canuck who wandered into Le Stade Olympique** thinking it was a really big hockey rink, C) Soriano's numbers were inflated by playing in a park the size of a matchbox while Wilky's were deflated by playing in the canyon that is RFK, and D) the Nationals brilliant front office made the trade knowing that Soriano has resisted moves to the outfield in the past.

But ignoring why it was so stupid to make the trade in the first place, there are several reasons why Soriano yielding to management and making the move to left field was the right decision for him:

1. He's a bad fielder. In fact, he has the worst fielding percentage for any second baseman over the last 50 years (minimum 650 games). But I'm not pointing that out to say he has no right to claim second base as his position (although that's also true). No, I'm pointing it out to show that he's going to suck in the outfield also, and that's exactly what he wants. Hell, even if he's got some innate ability to track line drives and make amazing leaping catches at the wall, he shouldn't do it! He should tank! Why? Because the more he sucks, the less likely it is he's going to be asked to play the outfield when he goes elsewhere after this year when his contract runs out.

2. Starting 2B Jose Vidro is always hurt. Alfy can say he's fine playing left field all season and all that B.S., but he's got to be thinking that 20 or 30 games into the season when Vidro makes his first trip to the DL, he's going to be right back at second base where he wants to be.

3. Soriano is going to have a terrible year at the plate. I mean monumentally bad. I'm not a psychic or anything, but it doesn't take a magic eight ball to foresee that a guy who relies solely on his power and who isn't very prolific at getting on base (.309 on-base percentage last year) is going to have a rough time switching from one of the top few home run hitters parks in the Majors to the absolute worst park for the longball. And if there's anything baseball reporters love to do, it's blame batting slumps on fielding factors. The switch to left field is Soriano's Get Out of Jail Free card for the atrocious year he was going to have in RFK regardless of what part of the stadium he's standing in to play defense.

4. He's bitched about it long enough. We get the point, Alf. You hate everything about the outfield. Jose Guillen keeps getting mad and saying things that make you laugh and distract you from fielding. Ryan Church keeps telling you that everyone is going to Hell,*** and you can't possibly be expectedd to field pop flies from a fiery pit miles below the surface of the earth. So now that everyone knows you don't want to do it, you can go out and do a crappy job at it and no one can really blame you, right? Awesome.

So there you have it. Switching to the outfield -- specifically after bitching about it and refusing to do it for a while -- is the smartest thing Alfonso Soriano has ever done. It gives him a free pass to completely slack off all year and absolves him of all responsibility to perform on the job, and that's what life is all about.

And now, since Jose Guillen should be quoted in all things related to the Nationals, here's the part of this Nationals post that I will affectionately refer to as "Tell 'em, Jose!":
"You make $10 million, and you're going to say, 'No,' when you know what's coming? ... Come on. What do you think? That's a lot of money, man. I didn't see him leaving all that money on the table and moving on and not playing, just go and sit at home for a year." --Jose Guillen, 3/21/2006 (From The Washington Post.)

*At Washington Capitals hockey games at the Verizon Center, the team is introduced over the PA as they come onto the ice as "Your Nation's Capitals." Why? Well, here's a geography lesson: Washington, D.C., is the nation's capital, presumably the nation you live in if you're attending games at the Verizon Center. Hence, Your Nation's Capitals.
**Olympic Stadium, genius.
***Last season, this quote from Ryan Church in The Washington Post caused a bit of uproar, especially in the Jewish community (Jon is former team chapel leader Jon Moeller, and Church's ex-girlfriend is Jewish): "I said, like, Jewish people, they don't believe in Jesus. Does that mean they're doomed? Jon nodded, like, that's what it meant. My ex-girlfriend! I was like, man, if they only knew. Other religions don't know any better. It's up to us to spread the word." Like, word to J.C. and stuff. Like, the Holy Trinity, man. Like.

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