Distinguished Senators, the Washington Nationals Blog That Is Great

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

La Pared, Da Meat Hook

I'm late in getting to the Ron Belliard signing, but I can only echo the prevailing reaction: approval followed by puzzlement. Belliard's a solid player, not old, not injured, and coming off a year in which he won a World Series ring and pocketed four million bucks. He just signed on to ride the bench for the worst team in baseball, all for a massive pay cut. He's going through some legal problems at the moment, but it doesn't sound serious enough to warrant this kind of downgrade. I don't know how they did it. Maybe Jim Bowden's personal charm.

Belliard doesn't even have to be as good as he is to be better than Cristian Guzman. At this point, our best lineup would feature Felipe Lopez at short, Belliard at second, and Guzman on the DL. There are other factors, though. Guzman is our second highest-paid player. He's the biggest free agent signing in Washington Nationals history. He needs to play in order to bail Bodes out of looking utterly incompetent, and he will until it becomes achingly clear that he's too bad to be out there every day or until Apollo, god of medicine and sudden death in men, steps in and takes care of this for us.

I don't root for anyone -- even Mets -- to get injured, but if Guzman's shoulder isn't all better, it solves some problems. Lopez is switching from short to second to clear room for him, and there's no guarantee that it's going to go smoothly. With Bellliard in the lineup, the number of automatic outs is reduced from three (Logan, Guzman, pitcher) to two. Less than that, actually, given that our starters aren't likely to last long enough to get an at-bat most games.

But if Guzman is fine, as his MRI indicates, he can at least serve as a reminder of what Bowden is capable of. If you ever feel yourself getting a little too happy about the guy, the $4 million worth of chubby, .200-hitting suck standing in the infield will bring you back down to earth.

Dmitri Young also signed up, and this is a less sure thing. Young doesn't bring anything with him but his bat, and that was in a steep decline when the Tigers cut him last year. Dmitri was dealing with some very serious personal problems, and the Nats are hoping for two things: that his problems are behind him, and that his performance will rebound as a result.

If Young regains form, he'll go a long way to filling the Nick Johnson-sized hole in the lineup, and he'd certainly be an asset on the bench or the trading block afterwards. But beyond any benefit to a baseball team, I'll mainly be rooting for Dmitri to put his life back together.


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