Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Reviewapalooza

Our friends at Beyond the Box Score continue their season-in-review feature by looking at our fair team. I always enjoy reading the 'outsider' perspective, that is someone who doesn't track the team closely. They might notice things or have observations that are different than those of someone who's dying with each successive loss.

Unfortunately, most of the review focuses on the two key Soriano decisions -- making the initial trade and not trading him at the deadline -- so there's not much new to add. What's interesting though, is the perceptions -- inaccurate ones -- that linger, especially about the decision to not trade Soriano in July.

As far as the Soriano/Wilkerson trade, he capsulizes it this way, "At the moment though, the trade appears to be somewhat of a bust, although it's tough to second guess it considering Soriano's past performances, not to mention what his future may hold."

Appears to be somewhat? Even Brad Wilkerson's mother knows that the trade was a steal.

it's tough to second guess. Well, sure, there were mitigating circumstances, such as Brad Wilkerson's injury, but to second guess, don't you have to admit that your first guess was wrong? I was more pro-trade than most, and even I didn't think that it was a great one. It's not hard to admit that we were wrong, and that Bowden got a steal, even if the one year of Soriano (plus picks) didn't push the team towards a pennant. But that doesn't make Soriano valueless -- the typical stathead rightly points out that, in the context of the MVP award, we shouldn't hold a player's crappy teammates against him.

BBTN moves on to the July non-trade and really lets Bowden have it. He cites two mistakes that Bowden made. Both of them, at least, appear to be based on faulty or mis-reported assumptions.

[Bowden] failed to negotiate a significant trade of Soriano for prospects, even though there were numerous near-deals reported. This is the problem. Most of the reported deals were hooey. There were two reasonable packages floated out at the end, Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar from the Angels or Scott Baker and Jason Kubel from the Twins.

The first deal was reported by mlb radio, and no other outlet had it. If it were offered, it was a reasonable package, but one that's defensible in turning down. The second one is one reported by Baseball Prospectus, and it's one that one of their authors, Joe Sheehan used to rip Bowden, and which BBTN cites:
Let me simplify this choice: Bowden decided that he'd rather have Alfonso Soriano from ages 31-34 than Jason Kubel from 25-28, Scott Baker from 25-28...and $35 million! Unless Soriano is suddenly going to morph into Albert Pujols--hell, even if he is--you have to pull the trigger on this trade. The gap in production for the cost is far too great. You can make this deal and then use the money on Jason Schmidt and think seriously about the 2007 wild card.

Even that's not really the choice. There's nothing stopping Bowden from trading two months of performance that do nothing but hurt his team's draft position next year and maybe drive some small amount of money into the team's coffers, then chasing Soriano this winter! You're betting the small chance that he'll sign with his new team before hitting the market, but you're getting back two pre-arb players, one who bats third and the other who could be your #2 starter right now.

That's good analysis. It really is. There's one problem. It's not clear that that deal was actually reported. I can't find a link refuting it, but I did write about that at the time, which means I picked it up from somewhere. My word against theirs, sure, but the point its hard to hang someone for hearsay.

Dodger Thoughts, in preparation for the offseason, has an interesting post that applies in this situation, as well. He cautions people to beware the rumor mill -- that leaks and rumors are just part of the game, and just because you heard something, it doesn't mean it's so. (And that's certainly true for my refutation of the Baker/Kubel thing as well)

But if you're going to assert that "Bowden had some deals that you would have to be out of your mind to turn down in exchange for Soriano" then there's a little extra burden of proof on you. I followed it closer than most, and I certainly didn't hear nor read of many that were jaw-dropping.

There are decent arguments that Bowden made a mistake in not trading Soriano, but pointing to speculated deals isn't one of them. And BBTN's conclusion about the consequences if they do re-sign Soriano is very valid.

I didn't write this to rip the writer. I typically enjoy his work, and he usually finds an interesting wrinkle to the CW. But what's interesting to me, and what it demonstrates, is how hard it is to be a generalist in a world with so many specialists.

Most people who read that are going to agree with it -- hell, I agree with most of his conclusions -- but unless you're paying carefull day-to-day attention to all things Nats, it's easy to miss some facts, or to come to see things differently.

I'm drawing a parallel here with the perceptions of Frank Robinson, that tired 'big picture/little picture' analogy I keep using. I guess that that's what this year has taught me, or at least rammed home. When the same thing is observed from a distance and up close, it may look completely differently. Are both right? Can you have too much information and be too close to a subject, bogged down in the minutia?

Most important, I guess is knowind and understading when and where to apply a big picture of little picture approach and how to weigh the two. With Frank's managing, I knew which approach to favor. With Soriano's non-trade? I'm not as sure.

(sorry for the pointless ramblings!)

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