My most enduring memory of Tony Womack isn't a happy one, but it is tinged with a certain grudging respect. Matt Morris -- and keep in mind that here we're talking about pre-stoner beard/underrated ace/my favorite player Matt Morris as opposed to the hairy, crappy version that you kids today are used to -- lost his shot at some kind of minor immortality when Tony Womack won the 2001 Division Series for the Diamondbacks with a single in the last half of the last inning of the last game. Maybe you remember it. If you knew me personally at the time, maybe you remember me swearing and crying and drinking until the hurt was gone.
I relate this story to illustrate the real danger of this move: Tony Womack is kind of famous; more famous, at any rate, than anyone he's competing with, and that makes minor league contract the Nats gave him dangerous. He's a three-time stolen base champion, a playoff hero, Time's 2006 Person of the Year, and a veteran presence, and those are the kinds of things lousy managers fall for when they're filling out the lineup card. Womack is here as a trial for Manny Acta, the second in what will no doubt be a long string of them.
Remember Jeffrey Hammonds? His resume was similar to Womack's: hoary, veteran presence, Time's 2006 Person of the Year. In 2005 he was a National, and he couldn't do anything. He never could pitch, so I guess it's not right to hold that against him, but he couldn't hit or run or field anymore either, and that's fair game. Yet Frank Robinson played him, even started him. Why? Well, Frank hated (hates, probably) Ryan Church like he's a Japanese pitcher. Plus, you know, you can't let veterans sit on the bench and not play. It's not fair to them.
Frank failed the Temptation of the Awful Veteran, leaving his final record in the Manager's Challenge at 2-117, the 2 being his handling of Jose Guillen and the Brendan Donnelly Incident, which Angels fans are still crying about to this day (cf. Jim Edmonds). Acta is so far 0-1, having taken the easy but wrong path in the Temptation of the Fast but Terrible Centerfielder. He perhaps deserves some slack here, though; it can't be easy for a new hire to resist the organizational pressure that has for years been strangling Ryan Church's career like an anaconda. This, though, is the real test. There is no excuse for playing Tony Womack.
And that's the only interesting thing about the Womack situation. Worst case: he plays all the time, sucks, and the Nats lose 101 games instead of 100. It's at least as likely that he won't even make the team and become another long-forgotten Spring Training footnote like Jared Sandberg or George Arias. But it will be an indication of whether Acta's merely a 500 grand-a-year stopgap or a guy who deserves to be running the team when all those investments in the farm system pay off.
In other Frank news, he got himself a job. So can we stop crying about this now? Do you feel better now that we can be sure he won't be selling matchsticks on a street corner to pay for his Lakers tickets? I mean really.
Programming Note: Man, do I feel pretentious for having a programming note. For all the people who care, I might as well be working on my Nobel Prize acceptance speech (it starts and ends with the word "Rickey"). Anyway, in case you're wondering, yes of course my return to blogging was inspired by Ray Smuckles' return to advice-giving. My plan is to post weekly, on Wednesday or Thursday. So expect things to be excessively long and slightly out of date. For an example, see above, starting with "My most enduring memory" and ending right about here.