Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The road from here...

We were very critical of Jim Bowden last year, and justifiably so. His moves around the All Star Break were wrong-headed and merely moved the team laterally, at best. We're convinced that Bowden isn't the right guy for the job, but let's let bygones be bygones.

Let's focus on what the Nationals should be doing for the rest of this season. A playoff spot is out of the question, and acting as if the postseason is a realistic possibility will only push the team further down a rathole for the future.

What the Nats need to do this year is position the team for the future. They need to acquire young, cheap talent both in the major and minor leagues that will provide a foundation for winning for years to come.

What's gone unnoticed is that the team has actually made some quiet strides forward in this regard. The scouting department has been doing a pretty good job of finding talent, and the team has made some tentative steps toward building an effective Latin American scouting program. We anticipate that these efforts will continue, and we hope the new owner will invest even more aggressively in them.

Meanwhile, the team needs to forget about squeezing the last drip of talent out of players like Cristian Guzman and Jose Vidro. Alfonso Soriano won't be everything the team needs, but he's a lot more valuable at second than he is in left. Whatever his limitations, Ryan Church should be starting in left. With Guillen in right, the focus should be in acquiring a quality center fielder, something, we're sad to say, that the Nats lacked when Brad Wilkerson was prowling the confines of RFK. Wilkerson will no doubt put up much better numbers in hitter friendly Ameriquest Field, but, for whatever reason, he was unlikely to be productive in RFK.

With Ryan Zimmerman at third, Soriano at second, Nick Johnson at first, and Brian Schneider at catcher, the team has to focus its attention like a laser on getting a quality shortstop. Soriano may be traded this season, but if so the Nats should get something significant in return, hopefully good middle infielder. You'll notice that we're leaving Jose Vidro out of this conversation. That's because he's way past his prime, and the Nats would be wise to get whatever they can for him this season. Investing large sums of money in aging players past their prime (e.g., Vidro) or players who are just plain bad (e.g., Guzman) is a losing strategy for a team building for the future. The Pirates tried that strategy with disastrous effects, and the Nationals should do everything they can to avoid the same collision course with sanity.

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