Monday, March 19, 2007

First Base

We may look back and conclude that it was Nick Johnson's broken femur rather than any conscious personnel decision that made the 2007 Nationals unwatchable.

Driving this home now is the latest twist in the low-stakes competition for the interim first base post, which, depending on how Johnson recovers, could mean a whole season's worth of work for the lucky winner. Coming into camp, it was clear that Nats management wanted Larry Broadway to win the job. Broadway is a prospect only in the same sense that William Hung is a wildly popular recording artist: it's certainly not true now, and it may never have been true at all. He (Broadway, not Hung) has failed to impress in spring training. His .333 batting average is nothing to be ashamed of, but it's kind of cheating when you do it with nothing but singles.

So Broadway's been sent back to AAA and his spot, both on the roster in the desperate hopes of the brain trust, is occupied by Dmitri Young. Looking at this Post piece, the ghost of Jose Guillen reminds us how risky this is. Opinion of Young, as it was with Guillen, seems divided between those with experience of him (negative) and those who are dealing with him for the first time (positive), with Jim Bowden again on the sidelines assuring us that everything's going to be just fine.
Tigers left fielder Craig Monroe declined to answer a question about Young on Thursday, and another Tigers player interjected, "I think what [Monroe] is saying is, 'If you don't have anything good to say about someone, don't say anything.' "
It's worse than that, though, because Young's offenses are much more serious than Guillen's -- Jose was a hot-head who got exiled from Anaheim for locker room incidents. Young beat up his girlfriend and skipped out on his court date, among other things. Plus there's the fact that he can't play first base.
One Tigers official, informed that the Nationals plan to play Young at first, said, "Believe me, they don't want to do that." Young's last appearance there for the Tigers ended disastrously, with Young making three errors in a game July 31 at Tampa Bay. After that, Young would play only 23 more games for the Tigers -- all of them as DH.
On top of that, Young hasn't had a good enough bat to carry first base since William Hung's heyday. Put it all together, and there's a miniscule chance that this is going to work out satisfactorily.

The alternative is even worse: we haven't heard much about Travis Lee because there's nothing to say about him. He can't hit. He can maybe field. He's more suited to a job as Matt LeBlanc's stunt double than as a major league first baseman.

There is a way out of this mess. Kory Casto is one of few nice things in the Nats' farm system, and now that he's gone from third base to the outfield, he's picked up a first baseman's glove. This is the right thing to do, for a number of reasons.
  • Casto's upside is higher than that of any of the other options, including Broadway. He's already displayed impressive patience and tantalizing power, and it's not going to take much for him to be a defensive improvement over Da Meathook.
  • Casto is one of our guys. It's a lot more satisfying to root for someone who grew up in your system and is going to be around for a while. The fan appeal of the players shouldn't be the primary factor in deciding who plays, but a team that's admittedly not really trying to win should probably throw the cranks a bone every now and then.
  • In the glorious tradition of Cristian Guzman and Terrmel Sledge, Kory Casto will be a real test of who's paying attention; that name requires an almost monastic concentration not to spell wrong.

3 comments:

Chris Needham said...

I'm disappointed that the William Hung tag only brings up 4 other posts. I thought that this was THE internet resource for William Hung info?

Chris Needham said...

Oh, crap. Sorry. I thought this was a different blog.

Ummm.... how 'bout them Nats?

the nationals enquirer said...

"In the glorious tradition of Cristian Guzman and Terrmel Sledge, Kory Casto will be a real test of who's paying attention; that name requires an almost monastic concentration not to spell wrong."

Exactly -- and you know what? I even went back and double-checked your spelling of Terrmel Sledge, because the Terrmel part just never looks right when I see it.