Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fire In The Belly

The Front-Runner for this year's Churchie in honor of the player most likely to lead to drastically differing viewpoints is [drumroll] Felipe Lopez!

So now Felipe Lopez doesn't want to go to the bench.
"Being on the bench? No. [Heck] [ed: "Hell" is too strong for Nats.com!?] no," Lopez said. "I feel good out there. The numbers are not showing it, but I'm hitting the ball hard. I'm playing great defense. I feel good. I would like to stay here, but I would not be happy on the bench."

It wasn't more than three minutes that those stories got posted that I got an email from a friend kvetching about Mr. Lopez. And some of the blog/msg board comments show that my friend's opinion isn't unusual.

I'll admit. I'm in the bag for Lopez... as much as someone can be in the bag for someone who could suck a baseball through a straw. I won't excuse his performance. And I won't pretend that he's not a bit of a headstrong headcase. But there's a lot about him that we simply don't know and that we can't glean through the TV just because he's not smiling. He played lousy defense when he was hitting well, and he played lousy defense last year. He doesn't play lousy defense because of attitude problems; he plays lousy defense because he's a lousy defender.

One of the complaints about him is that he didn't show passion last year. Fair enough. Well, he's showing passion here, right?

"But he hasn't earned it," you chirp! You're right. He's hit just .200 this spring.

But fer crissakes! How many times have I told you to ignore spring training stats? They mean almost nothing! Even for bums coming off terrible seasons.

Willie Harris is batting .179. Nick Johnson is at .214. Wily Mo Pena was at 226. Kearns is at .236. And all of those guys are coming north.

Jason Dubois hit .545! Why isn't he coming north? Why wasn't he even in the conversation?

Because spring training stats don't matter!

I really wish this article weren't behind the pay wall. But you can get enough of a feel for what it is by just what you can see. With as few ABs as these players get in spring (against uneven competition, and while working on different things), you might as well throw a dart up there than use the numbers. (Or perhaps you thought that Brian Schneider was going to hit .357 all last year).

Anyway, by all accounts, he's worked hard this spring, even if the results haven't been there. I haven't seen one complaint about his attitude or how hard he's been working this spring. Of course none of the beat writers saw fit to let us know that he hadn't been playing second base at all, so who the hell [heck] knows?

I don't mind a little attitude in my players. I don't mind when my players want to play, to not settle for being on the bench. Sure, it makes him look spoiled and petty, especially compared to Ronnie Belliard, who'll do anything asked. But Ronnie Belliard is closer to the end of his career than Lopez is, and Belliard doesn't have to go too many springs back (read: 1) to remember when he was begging for a job, hat in hand, even though he was coming off a World Series win with the Cardinals.

Sure, it'd be nice if Lopez was hitting .400 like Belliard is, and I don't think that Manny Acta should hand him the job just because.

But Lopez has the higher upside. He's apparently played hard, and done what's asked of him. He just hasn't had results in a short stretch of time.

So why would starting him be an affront to all that's right with America?

If he's still hitting .200 after 100 ABs, then cut the bum. But there's a pretty good chance that he won't be. Just as there's a pretty good chance that Nick Johnson won't be hitting .214 when Memorial Day rolls around.

12 Comments:

  • I think someone needs to give Flop the most valuable advice I've ever been given. Turn that frown upside down.

    By Anonymous Gus, at 3/18/2008 11:37 PM  

  • and I don't think that Manny Acta should hand him the job just because.

    But you do think that. The just because is that Felipe has more "upside" in your view. I'm beginning to think upside is what people cite when they can't make a plausible claim that the player in question has actually outplayed his competition.

    So Lopez doesn't have much to show for it but he's hustled and played the game the right way and hasn't whined about his million dollar raise? Oh, well then write his name in the lineup card in ink. Are we assuming that Guzman and Belliard haven't hustled, haven't been good sports about their trials and tribulations and only by a fluke just happened to outperform Felipe for the past year and a half running? Spare me.

    Three guys for two jobs, the best two should play. You want to make a case for Lopez using any metric out there, go ahead. But if we're gung-ho for upside then you need to tell Austin Kearns that Elijah Dukes is taking his job, dawg. After all, Eli is nothing but pure, concentrated upside.

    By Blogger Nate, at 3/19/2008 12:46 AM  

  • No, I'm saying that failing any evidence that he hasn't done what they've asked of him off the field, then they should put the best 8 players in the field.

    I won't argue that Belliard outplayed him last year. But that's not the question. Who gives the Nats the greatest chance of winning this year? Is it the 33-year old league average second baseman (not a bad thing, for sure), or the 28 year old guy who's still trying to live up to the potential?

    I know your answer to the question. I just think it's a different answer.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/19/2008 8:36 AM  

  • When I first read this post I thought that you were exhibiting signs of spending too much time in the sun, but then I hopped over to the hardball times and they say the same thing!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/19/2008 9:00 AM  

  • The player that gives the Nats the best chance to win is clearly Ronnie B. over Lopez. I have no idea what you are seeing. On second thought my guess is you ARE NOT WATCHING, but rather just looking at stats, take a look at the games instead of the box score. Lopez gives the team none of the intangibles and Ronnie is all about what you can not see in a box score. This was clear last year and from the 4 games I have watched this spring it is still clear. Lopez still slides 20 feet in front of second base and never runs through first even on his “quality AB’s: He still makes the first out of an inning at 3rd and he still has limited range. He is not going to help this team after this year so why hurt this team now.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/19/2008 10:51 AM  

  • Ah, yes. Those 4 full spring training games you saw are enough to fairly evaluate him.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/19/2008 10:53 AM  

  • Yes any number of games watched is better than looking longingly at 2005 stats from Cincy. There were reasons that do not show in a box score why Reds and TOR wanted to get rid of him. Now Nats want to trade him....do you see a trend?
    Players like him become more trouble then their long lost potential justifies. Reds wanted Royce Clayton rather than Lopez.....tells you something about what makes a good SS and it is not Lopez "skill set".

    Acta will not say it but he clearly would love to trade him and be done with it...that is why he has been playing SS over second base in hopes that he could attract trade offers. Per Barry, Scouts, not me are afraid of his "bad attitude", which you can not see in a box score can you?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/19/2008 11:13 AM  

  • BURN!

    By Anonymous Michael Kelso, at 3/19/2008 2:51 PM  

  • Anonymous: Speaking of Intangibles--You have no idea what Manny is or isn't thinking.
    You have no idea how much what you call "attitude" affects performance, one way or another; plenty of good players have been miserable SOBs to be around. Granted it does get into trade value, but I don't see what the Nationals can do about that.
    -CE

    "Acta will not say it but he clearly would love to trade him and be done with it ... that is why he has been playing SS over second base in hopes that he could attract trade offers. Per Barry, Scouts, not me are afraid of his 'bad attitude', which you can not see in a box score can you?"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/19/2008 9:09 PM  

  • You are right, George Hendrick, Dave Kingman and others from my day on the field had attitude problems...they also produced. Lopez does not....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/20/2008 7:54 AM  

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