Sunday, March 19, 2006

Deconstructing Soriano

Dave Sheinin has a lengthy, but excellent piece on Alfonso Soriano and the trade. With the Domincan run in the WBC over, Soriano comes into camp this week, and the manure'll be hitting the ol' fan. Sheinin gets several sources to discuss the Nationals thinking (or to be precise, Bowden's) at the time.
Before the Nationals would give their final approval to the deal, Vice President-General Manager Jim Bowden phoned the suite of his Texas counterparts with one final request: Would the Rangers grant Bowden permission to speak to Soriano first, so that the Nationals could gauge his willingness to move to left field?

The Rangers, who had the power to grant or deny permission because Soriano was still under their control, said no....

We certainly looked at [the Rangers' denial of permission] as a factor," Bowden said recently. "We took it [to mean that] if we talked to the player . . . [the Rangers felt] that the player would say no [to changing positions] and the deal would be killed."

However, as late afternoon turned to evening on Dec. 7, Bowden told the rest of the Nationals' contingent that he wanted to go ahead with the trade.

Bowden, known for both his aggressive pursuit of trades and his love of the spotlight, knew the Soriano deal would make a huge splash in Washington, where the Nationals lacked a big-time player, and around the game. After some brief discussion in the Nationals' suite, the decision was made to make the trade, even without Soriano's blessing.....

In some parts of the Nationals organization, the Dec. 7 trade for Soriano is viewed as a mistake....

Bowden and the rest of the Nationals' contingent were aware of rumors that Soriano had resisted overtures about moving to the outfield at times earlier in his career. But Bowden felt the Nationals would be able to convince him to accept it in the interest of doing what's best for the team.

"We understood there was a risk that he might refuse to play the outfield," Bowden said. "But Frank had told us a story about when [in 1959 while Robinson was playing for the Cincinnati Reds] he had to change positions. . . . And we also said, 'You know, there's still questions on Vidro's knee.' And when we weighed all the information, we thought it was in our best interests to take the risk and try to convince [Soriano] to play the outfield."

Robinson, who was in the Nationals' suite and participated in discussions as the trade was being considered, declined to answer questions about those discussions. One person who participated in the dialogue regarding the proposed trade said Robinson gave the trade his blessing. Another said Robinson liked the trade on its surface, but expressed concern over making the deal without speaking to Soriano first.

At one point, according to a person with firsthand knowledge of the internal discussions, Bowden told Robinson, "You can handle it."

That's typical Bowden. Every last bit of it.

Gotta make a splash! Hey, Frank, it's your problem now!

Bowden does some small things very well, but too often he's a starfecker. It's as if having one or two superstars (and Soriano's status as anything but a roto-superstar is debatable) can reflect on his greatness. Their mere presence elevates him. Look at me! I'm cool, too!

I really hope the Lerners dump him on his leather-panted ass.

  • UPDATE: T(h)om Loverro takes a few swings at Bowden in his column:
    It doesn't matter how many hot dogs Bowden shares with Mark Lerner or whoever owns the Nationals or how many players he signs to contract extensions. If the Soriano trade makes him look foolish [IF???] , Bowden will be done in Washington -- and perhaps in baseball. Bowden's contract extension made him general manager for the rest of the 2006 season, but he could be out before that if this deal winds up a failure....

    The trade seemed to border on irresponsible when Bowden did not get assurances from Soriano that playing the outfield, while leaving him unhappy, would not be a deal-breaker.

    Loverro goes on to make the case that Soriano is probably more valuable as an outfielder (because of his crappy 2B defense). That's a debatable point, but Loverro takes it waaaay too far, saying that he'd probably be the second best outfielder in the league, behind Andruw Jones. Ummm... I think Jose Guillen is a better outfielder than Soriano! Without thinking too hard, Brian Giles, Ken Griffey, Lance Berkman, Adam Dunn, Jim Edmonds, Bobby Abreu, etc. all have better cases than Soriano. (You don't really need me to break out the stats in a table, do you? Yes? Do it yourself!)

    Loverro further goes on to argue that trading him is going to be hard, but in making the argument, he resorts to hyperbole by noting the difficulties the Rangers had in trading him:
    The Rangers traded Soriano -- a player who averaged 35 home runs, 97 RBI and 31 stolen bases the past four years -- for Brad Wilkerson and a minor league pitcher. Wilkerson hit just 11 home runs and drove in 57 runs last year and is another damaged platoon outfielder at best. Did the Rangers get value for Soriano?

    Damaged platoon outfielder!?!? Yes, he was hurt last year, but he's not a platoon outfielder, no matter how many times he strikes out (I know certain readers of this blog won't accept that). Just a rhetorical excess, I suppose. That'd be like me saying that Loverro is the single worst columnist at a metro daily when I was making an argument about how great Boswell is. You can praise one without distorting the other.


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