Alfonso Soriano and the Washington Nationals might want to consider doing their own Abbott and Costello comedy bit on baseball. It could be titled “Who’s on second, Who’s at left field.”
The latest episode surrounding the Nationals involves their star left fielder (or second baseman, depending who you talk to) Soriano and general manager Jim Bowden. Soriano was traded to the Nationals in December for Brad Wilkerson, Termel Sledge and a minor league pitcher. The Nationals, though, already had an All-Star second baseman in Jose Vidro (though Vidro has been injury prone in the last few years) and was planning to move Soriano to the outfield.
Soriano, however, let it be known that hell would freeze over before he moved over from second base to the outfield. He reinforced his position last Tuesday when the Nationals took the field for an exhibition game against the Dodgers. Soriano was penciled in as the left fielder, but instead took his bat and glove and went home, leaving the Nationals with only eight players on the field. Manager Frank Robinson was forced to search for a replacement.
A majority of people were quick to point a finger at Soriano, labeling him as just another example of a spoiled diva athlete looking out for only himself rather than the best interests of the team.
Others are on Soriano’s side, asking why should he leave a position that he has been so successful at, and that Bowden should have known this was going to happen.
I for one believe that both Soriano and Bowden are to blame for this mess. Now a lot of you readers might interpret that as taking the easy way out, but it’s the truth and here are my reasons why.
One would ask why Soriano insisting he stay at second base, and the reason is no surprise; money. Soriano is a four-time all-star at second and he is a free agent following the 2006 season, assuming he plays at all.
Soriano feels he could make more money as a power-hitting second baseman, a rarity in baseball, rather than just another power-hitting infielder hitting bombs and running down fly balls in the outfield.
But what Soriano doesn’t realize is that the more insistent he is about staying at second, the more his reputation among owners, management and players gets damaged and his chances of landing a big-money contract will shrink by the second.
Soriano’s stance could also force his teammates to choose between him and Vidro, therefor by dividing the Nationals locker room which has already been through. Does the name, Montreal Expos ring a bell?
Soriano could also end up becoming the most vilified person in Washington, D.C. since the likes of Richard Nixon and Oliver North.
Even though Soriano, is a four-time all-star, he is not as good a player as one might think. He is a liability on defense, his .971 fielding percentage is among the worst in baseball.
The baseball term “Swing and a miss, strike three,” also applies to Soriano, as he punched out 125 times compared to just 33 walks in last season.
Now as much as Soriano is at fault for refusing to play beyond the infield dirt, Bowden also needs to collect his 50 percent of the blame.
Soriano let it be known even before the trade that he was a second baseman for life, and Bowden actually tried to get permission from the Rangers to talk to Soriano about the change, but the Rangers refused.
That should’ve been the first red-flag raised to Bowden’s face, but Bowden went through with the trade anyway, thinking that Soriano might soften his stance by the time spring training arrived. Well, spring training has come and is about to go and Soriano is no softer than he was back in December.
The Nationals are now considering putting Soriano on the “disqualified list,” meaning he would not be allowed to play or be paid at all if he doesn’t play in the outfield; considering Soriano won an arbitration case in which he was awarded $10 million in January, he might want to take that into consideration.
In other words, he could end up as baseball’s version of Terrell Owens. If Soriano, a five-year veteran who needs to complete his sixth year to be a free agent, ends up on the disqualified list, he could lose time earned for the up coming season and therefore lose his free agent status.
It’s hard to tell where all this is going to go, but one thing is for sure is that fans in the District are growing sick of the latest drama surrounding their baseball team. Considering what the fans have had to go through the last two winters, such as watching baseball and the D.C. City Council fight over who gets to pick up the tab for a new Nationals ballpark. The last thing they want is another Nationals drama playing out, especially with the season a couple of weeks away.
Also, I’m assuming Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig is not too happy to hear about this latest soap opera. It’s bad enough he’s dealing with steroids, big-market teams vs. small-market teams and competitive balance. But I’m sure he doesn’t want to hear about another “overpaid ballplayer trying to get his way.”
So simply put, lets stop the fighting and play ball.
Ivan Yeo can be reached at email@example.com.