Friday, July 09, 2010

It might be, it could be, it . . . isn't?

You know what I was looking forward to reading today? Anti-Yankee screeds. Those are fun: They're too rich! They're killing the sport!! They're evil!!! Love those. Started composing one in my mind, matter of fact.

But you have to hold off on actually submitting them for public consumption these days, lest you detrimentally rely on MLB Trade Rumors and the assorted Twitterati and fall victim to an early trigger. And so we have today's events -- in which, inter alia, the same guy has reported that the Yankees are "all but certain" to trade for Cliff Lee and that Yankees are not in the running for Lee's services (seriously; he means it). At least for now. Who knows about ten minutes from now, but there are lots of people out there reading the tea leaves for us.

Speaking of which, the Mariners' Triple-A affiliate scratched tonight's scheduled starting pitcher; is that a sign that the Lee trade is happening? Maybe!

We are getting dumber, you know. Of course, the human race as a whole is getting progressively smarter -- of that there can be no doubt -- but, as we become more sophisticated, we are capable of staggering idiocy. That is the only explanation for the rise of the twenty-four-hour baseball rumor industry. It used to be that we would get plenty of rumors, dumb or otherwise, during the Hot Stove season and around that trade deadline. Now we get them all the time, literally all day. Local beat reporters, national columnists, and assorted other baseball writers all dip their toes into the rumor game -- and now we have websites dedicated to mining these reports with an incredible obsession to detail. So we get things MLBTradeRumors dutifully quoting snippets of a Joel Sherman (or Buster Olney or whomever) report or, better yet, Tweet -- such that the specific (and often banal) word choice employed by the writer is now assigned significant weight, as if to suggest that something is really happening, right now.

Ooooh, the deal is "imminent." Aaaaah, the deal's hit a "snag." But wait, a deal remains "likely." Nope, there are still "big concerns." And so on. It's fun reading, and plenty of us click over to read it, but it's dumb reading.

* * * * * * *

Cliff Lee, of course, is not a National and won't be traded the Nationals. He was a former National only in the most symbolic sense, and he likely won't ever be a National. Lee's not the only starting pitcher available in the trade market. For instance, Roy Oswalt might turn out to be second prize for a team that does not end up acquiring Lee.

Remember those heady days a month or six weeks ago when the Nationals where rumored to be interested in acquiring Oswalt? That didn't happen -- 8-19 months tend to sour expectations -- but the Nats still figure to have an abundance of starting pitchers for the remainder of the season, or so Tom Boswell conveys.

Generally speaking, I think Boz sums things up pretty well: Strasburg is a rotation fixture (albeit one likely to be shut down before the end of the season); Jordan Zimmermann should be given a clean shot at establishing himself because his raw ability is surpassed only by Strasburg; Ross Detwiler heads a group of rather non-descript guys trying to establish themselves because he's a little more, well, descript than the Stammenseses and Atilani of the world; the injured vets (Marquis, Wang, Olsen) will be returning at some point; and John Lannan is floating out there in the ether somewhere. Oh, and Livan is fun.

If this seems like an overabundance of pitchers, two points must acknowledged: 1) outside of Strasburg and hopefully Zimmermann, most of these guys aren't good enough to be considered mainstays, or at least aren't good enough anymore; and 2) at least some of these guys will likely prove unreliable due to arm troubles. Still, though, Nationals Park will soon enough serve as the confluence of a whole lot of guys who want to start some ballgames.

Just throwing this out there, but here are some possible guiding principles:

a) Shut down Strasburg whenever the hell you deem it necessary, and no later;
b) Recall Lannan in September, essentially as Strasburg's replacement, to see if he's figured things out;
c) Ease Zimmermann back in, since he's shown real progress;
d) Get Detwiler back in the rotation as soon as he's ready, so the team can get another look at what they have in him;
e) Be very conservative with Wang, since he can't become a free agent until after next season and his recovery has seemed to hit some bumps;
f) Same deal with Marquis, as he has more value to the Nats next season if he can return to form;
g) If anyone offers anything close to worthwhile, trade Livan;
h) Use Stammen, Atilano, and Martin to fill in the remaining rotations spots as needed; and
i) Use Olsen as a lefty reliever once rosters expand in September.

I don't know; the last one is a throw-back to a post I noodled a couple months ago about how Olsen could follow the J.P. Howell path to success. It was never written, though, and chances are it won't ever happen.


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