Thursday, March 24, 2011

Narrowest and Best

As a resident of the only city with two teams remaining in the NCAA tournament, I've been able to devote even less attention than normal this spring to the various Viera camp positional battles, which is to say I've scarcely followed them at all. Gleaning what little bits and pieces I deem pertinent, however, it seems that the biggest remaining issue is what to be done with centerfield, which has taken to resemble the Kia Motors commercial, except without the dope hamsters. Given the way it seems things will turn out, at least for now, maybe even more ignorance on my part is preferable.

I'm not sure how convoluted a decisional process is required to look at three options for the starting centerfielder -- Nyjer Morgan, Roger Bernadina, and Rick Ankiel -- and then decide, "Hey, let's go with Ankiel," as seems to be the call for now. (Or maybe it's an Ankiel/Jerry Hairston platoon, as if that combo sweetens the pot.) Ankiel has, I guess, made the best showing of the three so far this spring, or perhaps the least-worst is more apt. I'll withhold issuing the millionth observation about how it's silly to make big roster decisions based on small spring samples, but I will venture a comment on the related principle that spring training decisions should be, if possible, very narrow ones.

The narrow issue here is whether Morgan, the incumbent, can or cannot hold down the job. Presumably, the expectation during the offseason was that he could, given that the Nats made no big production in finding an adequate replacement. Although there were reports that it was all but certain Morgan would be dumped over the winter, he's in Viera now.

I'm not the biggest Morgan fan out there -- I'm somewhat skeptical of the defensive metrics that have rated him a demigod afield, and the praise heaped on him for his (admittedly blistering) performance for the Nats in 2009 always struck me as a tad contrived. Still, the guy can handle center and he does what he can on offense, given his limitations there.

In some ways, the path the club is taking with Morgan now is reminiscent of what happened with Endy Chavez during the spring of 2005 (a/k/a the Panera Bread Days). Endy couldn't do what management asked him to do, as Boz noted at the time, but perhaps the problem was that management was asking him to do something he couldn't do, as a somewhat less esteemed writer pondered. At any rate, the Nats jettisoned Endy -- and, to be honest, we all cheered.

But forget about Endy; we're talking about 2011. Let's say Morgan is wholly unsuited to be the starting centerfielder -- the folks in Nats management, after all, are the only people truly qualified to make that call (and, moreover, maybe they can't fit him on the roster at all). And if it's a personality thing, okay. That call requires moving on from the narrow issue, which is fine, provided that the narrow approach actually has been considered. The next issue is finding the best answer.

And this is where I get stuck. How is Rick Ankiel (or an Ankiel/Hairston platoon) the best answer? I simply don't see it. I trust the organization is being run with competence, of course, but I'm having trouble following the reasoning, other than "We're tired of Morgan, we signed this guy to an MLB contract, and we can stash Bernadina in the minors till we need him."

Seemingly having rejected the narrow approach, Morgan, the best alternative is Bernadina. He's not great -- in the same kind of sense that Morgan is not terrible -- but he showed a little bit last year. And you know he's not really a corner outfielder with the bat, so he just needs to show a little bit more, assuming he can handle center everyday. And you don't really know that until you try. Which you can't if Rick Ankiel is playing there.

Anyway, I need somebody to help me out on this.


  • You failed to address the key question.


    Love or hate them?

    By Blogger Brian, at 3/24/2011 6:47 PM  

  • The CF question mark has been a continuing theme for the Nats. Lastings Milledge, Ryan Church, etc. It's been a problem since day one and they've never seriously addressed it. Ticks me off!

    By Anonymous Sec314, at 3/24/2011 9:32 PM  

  • You really want the answer? I seem to get in trouble every time I give you the answer? Do you really want to hear the correct answer?

    Jim Riggleman.

    One might say this is the "alleged" answer. However, when one considers a better question: the case of Matt Stairs over Roger Bernadina or even Laynce Nix? The guy got hit by a hit baseball running between first and second? Is he too old to be playing in the NL or what?

    Jim Riggleman and his penchant for attempting to start and play washed up older veterans over who should be playing in AAA over players who are producing? Mike Morse hits two home runs and is removed in the 5th inning for Willie Harris. And the Nats lose the game.

    Need anyone say more?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/25/2011 3:17 AM  

  • If you cared solely about winning this year, the argument for Ankiel is a bit stronger. In a platoon his power is a big threat which is somewhat reliable. Morgan has better potential in the field and in getting on base, and Bernadina in being an overall better player - but those results are far less reliable.

    Of course why would the Nats care solely about winning this year? They wouldn't so maybe they just have 0 faith in Morgan or Bernadina to get back/better. I guess. Then you might as well put the best immediate option out there.

    By Blogger Harper, at 3/25/2011 12:24 PM  

  • How about a Nook Logan/Lastings Milledge platoon? How does that suit your fancy?

    By Anonymous phil dunn, at 3/26/2011 10:21 PM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/29/2011 4:19 PM  

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