Thursday, December 08, 2005

Subtraction through addition

I haven't yet commented here on the excellent job Omar Minaya has done this off-season to bring the Mets closer to the promised land of dethroning the (cough, cough, chokce, choke) Braves from atop the NL East. Though BJ Ryan was younger and arguably the better choice, his cost was prohibitive, and the Mets landed a solid closer in Bill Wagner, who will make Mets fans sweat much less than did the recently departed - from the team, not this mortal coil - Braden Looper. They then traded some magic beans in exchange for Carlos Delgado and Paul LodDuca. All that's left, it seems, is for them to offer the Marlins a Singe-A Pitcher (who some same fans will still bitch about trading because they're "mortgaging the future"), Aaron Heilman, and a case of Johnny Walker Red - okay, okay, we'll give them blue, for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Then they should be all set.

But not only have the Mets vastly improved the ballclub through these moves - and they're probably not even done yet - but the rest of the division has gotten weaker. The Marlins might be great in three or four years, but next year they might give the '62 Mets a run for their money. The Phillies are, well, the Phillies. (And not to get off too much on a Philadelphia tangent, but did anyone see that Monday Night Football game? Woof. It almost makes you feel bad for Philly fans. Almost.) Even the Braves will probably come down a notch considering that they overachieved last year.

And then there are the Nationals. I won't even get into the absolute negligence of Major League Baseball in failing to award the franchise's ownership by now, meaning the Nationals cannot truly compete in the free agency market. Nor will I discuss the bungling city council and the stadium issue. But after having lost starter Estoban Loiza and set-up man Hector Corrasco, the team deals for . . . second baseman Alfonso Soriano?

Don't get me wrong. Soriano is an excellent pickup - if this were a fantasy baseball league which - like mine - includes average but not on-base percentage, and does not punish you for strikeouts. But this being the real world, the trade makes absolutely no sense. Soriano is an awful player in almost every phase of the game save for his power numbers. But he is going from one of the most hitter friendly parks in the game to one of the worst, and we can be certain those 40 or so homers will decline to something more like 30. Not to mention that second base is one of the few positions where the Nationals are strong at - assuming Vidro comes back healthy, an admittedly questionable proposition.

At this point I can only assume that the Nats made this trade to offer relief from the oppressive DC summer heat. Considering how often Soriano whiffs, it's almost like having a human ceiling fan. Now, the Nats didn't give up an awful lot to get Soriano. Brad Wilkerson is a good, but not great player, but Soriano is almost subtraction through addition.

Most importantly, now the Mets won't be trading for Soriano. Thanks to the Nats for taking him off Omar's radar screen. Hopefully they will also sign Slammin' Sammy Sosa to truly put Mets fans at ease.


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