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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Baseball Musings: Crunch Time for Soriano

It's the middle of the WBC final game, but I saw this on the ESPN ticker and couldn't help but comment on it (via David Pinto's Baseball Musings):

The Nationals are off Tuesday, then travel to play the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter on Wednesday. If Soriano refuses to play in that game and again at home against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday, the Nationals will take action.

"We told him if we get to Thursday, and he refuses to play left field, we told him at that point we will request that the commissioner's office place him on the disqualified list, at that time - no pay, no service time," Bowden said.

"If he refuses to play and goes home, and the commissioner's office accepts our request to place him on the disqualified list, then at that point, if he were to sit out this year, he would not be a free agent, he would stay our property because his service time would stay the same."

How absurd. I'm sorry, but if you're in the employ of a major league team you play the position you are asked to play. Sure, you can voice your displeasure to your manager and your general manager...heck you can even complain to the media, though I think that's bad form. But you do what you're told. Ballplayers are paid a lot of money and are given a whole host of other privileges. In return, you're expected to show up, play hard every day, and do what you're told.

And I have to say, it's also another example in a long line of cases that demonstrate that Jim Bowden is a terrible person to have in the front office. He occasionally comes up with a good move, but his ability to interact with the players and staff is miserable. A true leader of an organization would have been able to solve this problem behind closed doors, not in this apparent media stunt that we're seeing right now. -j


  1. Sorry, JinAz, but I completely disagree about players playing the position they are told. If I'm he premier second baseman in the league, I wouldn't take too well to some arrogant GM telling me that I'm "going to play left field" with no discussion whatsoever.

  2. Problem is, Soriano is a poor, poor defensive 2B. The Fielding Bible puts his plus/minus from last year at -22 (i.e., 22 less plays than expected; third-worst in MLB) and he also ranks near the bottom in turning the DP. Jin can tell you more about fielding stats than I can, but I can't imagine that the other metrics show that he's much better.

    I do sympathize with arbitration players (even the really rich ones like Soriano) being told where to play. It's not like he chose the Nats. If my employer reassigned me to some thing I didn't care for, I'd at least have the option of seeking employment elsewhere.

    Still, at the end of the day you've got to be a pretty arrogant guy to tell Frank Robinson to take a hike. Bowden is of course a different story.


    Jin, I must say you've done some prodigious blogging today ... keep it up!

  3. Soriano is a dreadful 2B in all the metrics I've seen. BP had him at -21 runs in 152 games last year, though he was only listed at -8 runs in 140 games the year before. David Gassko's range was even tougher on him, putting him at -27.4 runs/year, which was worse than anyone else by more than 10 runs. Yikes.

    That said, to me it doesn't even matter. I think a player certainly has a right to speak up to the manager or general manager, and maybe even complain to the media about this sort of thing (Aurilia anyone?). I certainly can sympathize with Soriano's situation. But when all is said and done, baseball is not a democracy, nor is it like any other job. It's feudalism. They have anti-trust legislation for a reason. Unless you work some statement about your position into your contract, you ultimately have to do what your bosses say. Don't like it? You can not play baseball. The better option is to make the best of it for this year and have a good season. Then, you get to go into free agency and make sure that whoever you sign with puts a statement into the contract requiring that you get to play 2B unless you say otherwise.

    This is not to say that Bowden has handled this situation well--like most situations involving tact or human decency, he's created a disaster here. This should have been confronted in a very respectful way months ago when Soriano was acquired. A bit of diplomacy and a lot of ego stroking could have avoided this whole situation. Instead we have a complete mess. -j

    P.S. Thanks to you both for reading and posting. This is the first reader vs. reader discussion on this new blog! :)