Given the occasion, this seems to be the right time to announce a very important conclusion I came to some time ago: Chris Snelling is now my favorite National.
It's been hard for me since ¡Livan! was traded. I weighed all the possibilities, and I came up with nothing. Ryan Zimmerman's the obvious choice, but he's going to be everyone's favorite player for the next ten years, destined to be wildly overrated by everyone within a fifty mile radius. It's the same thing that turned me against Cal Ripken. As good as Zimmerman is and will be, he's not a very interesting story. Great baseball player kicks ass in college, kicks ass in the minors, kicks ass in the majors. I can't relate to that, and it doesn't lend itself to insights on the human condition, which is what we're all after when we watch baseball. Right?
Nick Johnson is a marvelous, efficient player, but he's as exciting as watching George F. Will watch Ben Stein watch paint dry. So forget that.
John Patterson kind of lost me with the whole "Call me Big Nasty! Everyone call me Big Nasty!" thing, and my near-clinical pessimism makes me suspect that he's never going to be very good for very long.
All other candidates -- including Chad Cordero -- are out because they're either likely to be gone too soon or unlikely to be in the majors this year. Absence does not make my fickle heart grow fonder.
So what was it about Livan Hernandez that made me such a fan? It came down to three factors: ¡Livan! is unique; my team screwed over another team to get him; and he required my advocacy. I hope we remember what it was that made ¡Livan! so unusual: his girth, his Cuban raftiness, his much much better-looking half-brother, his hitting ability, his uncertain age, and his lackadaisical pitching style. This was before my time as a fan, but he was acquired for pretty close to nothing as far as talent goes (Jim Brower and Matt Blank in case you're curious), so ha ha take that Giants. And finally, ¡Livan! was criminally underrated for most of his Expos/Nationals tenure. Despite being completely awesome in 2003, even better in 2004, and still really good in 2005, he didn't receive even one Cy Young vote over that span. Naturally, this brought out my pronounced activist streak, and I spilled far too many words trying to convince the world of his radness. Like here (special guest stars in that post: a Replacements reference, a long-defunct blog, Will Carroll being well over 100% wrong about something, Yuda).
Chris Snelling, despite lacking in physical size, fits quite neatly into the ¡Livan!-shaped hole in my fandom. Uniqueness? Well, he's Australian, which, though not unique, is at least out of the ordinary. Given the endless catastrophe's of Snelling's career, you'd hope he has someone to offer him the spiritual guidence he needs to keep going at it. And he does: Yoda.
The Yoda thing. Well, many people have asked me this and it's hard to explain to a person why I write the name of an ugly looking green guy in my autograph. I do it not because of what he looks like. It started back when I watched Star Wars every day for about 5 years, all through my high school years. I do it because it's my focal point. To me a focal point is something to get your mind off worrying about your technique. When I'm feeling down or unconfident I go back to what he said to Luke Skywalker on planet Endor just when Luke is about to fight Darth Vader in 'Return of the Jedi'. He says, 'Try not, do or do not, there is no try'.How's that for unique?
And that kind of quirkiness is one reason Mariners fans were so sorry to lose Snelling. The main reason, though, is that a suddenly and unexpectedly cutthroat Jim Bowden plundered the Mariners to get him. Hell, I would have given up Jose Vidro just for the three-fourths of his salary Seattle sent over. To get that plus my new favorite player plus a pitcher who has a pretty good chance to replace Livan at least lardwise . . . well, that's one for the ages.
As for advocacy, the recent turn of events detailed in the articles I mentioned up top make mine much less essential as well as putting me in a difficult position. Thanks to Manny Acta's and Jim Bowden's stubborness about letting Nook Logan play every day, my favorite player is competing with my sacred cow, Ryan Church. I can hold out hope that Logan takes his proper seat on the bench before too much damage is done, leaving us with our correct Snelling-Church-Kearns alignment. But until then, Snelling should be the starter, if only because he can probably lift a bunch of rocks with his mind while balancing on one arm.