Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Defending Soriano

I'm loath to do this, because i really can't stand what the miserable SOB is doing, but I can also sort of see where he's coming from -- even if I don't completely agree with it.

Soriano is being asked to move to an unfamiliar position in an unfamiliar league on an unfamiliar team. And he's balking at it. While his refusal is certainly precedent setting, is it completely unrealistic?

If the Nationals had moved Brad Wilkerson to second base, he likely would have complained, and we would have sided with Wilkerson, most likely. If the Nationals wanted Soriano to catch or to pitch, we'd likely agree with him, too. Is asking him to move from second to left materially different? While left field is an easier position than second, it's still a completely different position -- one he doesn't know, and one he doesn't have much of a desire to play. Where's the line between asking him to move to left and catcher? Is it because of the difficulty of the new position? Would it change if Soriano were a Gold Glover?

I have answers to most of those questions, but I'm not confident that they'd be right -- especially from a legal/arbitration sense.

While it's easy to say he should just move, and to compare the situation to you being transferred to another position at work, it doesn't really work that way. Because of the CBA and his lack of service time, Soriano has very little control over his work environment. Soriano last had input into his career in 1998. He can't just up and quit if he didn't like the department he was transferred to like you or I could. Bowden even said the uncomfortable truth: "He would still be our property." Needless to say, the connotation of that last word isn't helping anything.

And that's Soriano's problem. That's the same problem he had when he was in Japan. When he signed a contract with the Carp as a teenager, he went to their training academy. When he blossomed and showed promise he had a chance to play in Japan, but was miserable. He also saw dollar signs, and the restrictive Japanese system gives players even less control over their contracts than MLB's does. As a result, he found a loophole. He simply retired from Japanese baseball. In doing so, he sat out an entire season, and was officially free from the Japanese League's reserve clause. He then declared himself a free agent, and set sail for America, where the Yankees swooped in and made him a millionaire.

Seeing any parallels?

And, if I had to bet, I think that that same sort of scenario is going to play out here. Even if Soriano sits on the DQ list and doesn't accrue service time this year, are the Nats really going to go to salary arbitration with him next year? It's likely that they'd non-tender him, making him a free agent one way or another. You're not going to tender a $10 million contract out of spite! Soriano's showed a willigness to sit out a year. Why would this season be any different, especially with as little respect that Jim Bowden has shown him (not saying that he deserves respect, but I suspect we'd feel differently if we were Alf!)

There has to be a middle ground in there somewhere, but with the stunts that have been played so far, I think the bridges may have been napalmed back into the stoneage.

Admit it though.... there's a part of you that hopes he's still around just so that you can boo, right?

  • Needless to say, other Nats bloggers have their say:
    --Nats Blog says that Soriano's a jerk and that Bowden's a laughingstock
    --Federal Baseball says it's a tale of lust.
    --Oleanders thinks Soriano's a jerk, but that Bowden's ultimately at fault.
    --Nasty Nats wants to get rid of Soriano.
    --Curly W brings the bitterness and the swears!
    --Triple Play hates Soriano for making him side with Bowden.
    --Beltway Boys reluctantly supports Bowden's actions.
    --Just A Nats Fan has a first-hand account from a reader about how it actually played out at the game last night.

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