It looks like the mayor will get his way. The AP reports that Anthony Williams has the seven votes he needs to pass the stadium bill tomorrow. In case you feel the urge to show your support for the plan, the Washington Baseball Club has the info for you. Love it or hate it, Williams' plan is the only one that gets us baseball.
Now we can talk about the team, which I steadfastly refuse to call the Nationals before it's official (more on that later). The most interesting rumors come from Peter Gammons.
Jim Bowden had nothing to lose in taking the Washington GM job. He has assurances that he will have some money to build interest, and other GMs know he will be creative and active in seeing what's out there for Vidro, Nick Johnson, and others. Don't be surprised if Bowden takes Jose Guillen off Anaheim's hands . . .One of these at a time:
- I fully expect people to be up in arms if Jose Vidro is traded. He was always the other awesome player no one knew about because he played in Montreal, and with the departure of Vlad, he became the face of the franchise. He is without question a fine player, good for at least a 110 OPS+ every year. However, he's about to be 30, he has bad knees (perhaps the reason Baseball Prospectus has him as a distinctly below-average second baseman), and he makes a cool $9 million a year. The question you have to ask yourself with a guy like this is "Is he going to be any good the next time we are?" In Vidro's case, the answer is no. We must also consider that Vidro could fetch some good stuff. It seems like everyone needs a 2B, including contenders like the Yankees, Cards, Astros, and Angels. If Bowden sees a chance to add a couple of young, quality, near-major league-ready players and clear millions off the payroll, he should jump at it. But I worry because I've seen nothing to make me trust Bowden to get value for Vidro or to spend the freed-up money wisely.
- Trading Nick Johnson would be the height of foolishness, and I'm not just saying that because Johnson is a sabermetric darling. Johnson's situation is the opposite of Vidro's. Vidro's value is very high right now: he's a got a good reputation, both on the field and off, years of solid production behind him, and he plays a premium position. Johnson has a well-deserved reputation as injury-prone potential guy at a position where it's easy to find a guy who can pop 30 homers for you (just ask the Mariners). Johnson certainly does have potential - he led the 2003 Yankees in OBP, but of course played only 96 games. My strategy would be to give Johnson every opportunity to excel, and then trade him as soon as he puts in at least 140 games in a season. I don't think he's ever going to be healthy for more than a year at a time, but there's no reason to get rid of him when he'll get little in return.
- I discussed Jose Guillen before, and nothing has changed. Capitol Punishment points out that we already have Juan Rivera, who's just like Guillen but cheaper, younger, better-behaved, and possibly better. So what would be the point?
Finally, some real frivolity. I'm a little late on this one, so bear with me. On Thursday, Will Carroll let on that a source told him MLB would be selecting "Grays" as the new name for the Expos. Shockingly, it turned out that Carroll may have been speaking authoritatively when he didn't have all the facts. Shortly after Carroll's Jimmy Olsen-quality scoop, the Washington Times reported that MLB would in fact be selecting "Nationals." Then the Post chipped in, saying that Selig like "Senators," but the Mayor prefers "Nationals." Regardless, the new owners would be allowed to change the name when the team moves into their new ballpark. Carroll responded, sticking by his story and changing the news-breaking post to some drivel about "It," a mysteriously capitalized and undefined pronoun, having a "strong possibility of not passing the new council." Carroll is apparently not aware that there isn't a new council until January, and the financing bill ("It"?) is trying to pass through the old council. Then he shut down his blog.
I've made it clear that I don't like "Nationals," but I may as well explain why. It's remarkably uninspiring - is "Nationals" anyone's first choice? It doesn't mean anything. It's an adjective rather than a noun, making it comparable to "Metropolitans," which is a terrible name for anything other than an a cappella vocal group. Defenders point out that "Senators," the correct choice, is inextricably linked to DC's losing past. Fine, but you can't reject "Senators" for that reason and then choose "Nationals," which is just as traditional. And why are we trying to escape that past? It may not all be pleasant history, but it is our history. If you don't like it, go ahead and name them the Xtreme or something else with no local resonance. A very good case can be made for "Grays" because it has advantages "Senators" doesn't have. "Nationals" does not - it's nothing but the poor man's "Senators." As for the mayor's input, I respect the things Williams has done as much as anyone, but the baseball team should not be a vehicle for him to take a political cheapshot. Stick to the license plates.
It's not decided yet, and there's still time to influence this decision. "Senators" has won poll after poll, however, so it's not clear that MLB is going to listen. I'm still willing to try, even if they don't care. Anyone know how to contact Selig or Tavares?