All afternoon, as the 4:00 p.m. trading deadline approached, I felt like an expectant father waiting outside the delivery room, wondering whether I'm getting ten fingers and ten toes, or a club foot and a pirate hook. I was THAT nervous.
By 3:50, I had visions of Jim Bowden trading Alfonso Soriano away for the starting lineup of the Kansas City Royals.
I kept waiting for my buddy Brian to call. He's all hooked into the Nationals grapevine, *he'll* hear something, I'm sure of it.
Phone rings at 3:56. I fear answering, wondering if Brian is going to tell me Nats GM Jim Bowden just gave away Soriano for that 32-year-old little leaguer and Jose Canseco (as a pitcher). Luckily, it turns out to just be a work call.
I click refresh on CNN/SI like a monkey demanding his crack pellet. SI's announced the Abreu trade (damn Yankees), and then the Maddox trade (the Dodgers are suckers). Still, nothing on Soriano.
I read John Heyman's trade rumors column for the umpteenth time.
"A great mystery still surrounds Alfonso Soriano, who's going somewhere -- we just don't know where (and no, he isn't signing an extension with the Nats -- "no chance of that,'' someone in the know said). What we do know is that the field has narrowed to three teams: Angels, Dodgers and A's."
Someone in the know told me that Heyman's someone-in-the-know was the guy who runs around in the Teddy Roosevelt costume at the RFK President's Race.
It's 4:05. The trading deadline has passed, but still no word. At my desk, it's now like NASA mission control during reentry-- all I can do is wait, and hope the Nationals haven't burned up in the atmosphere.
I get the call from Brian about 4:25-- rumor says Soriano's staying, soon to be confirmed by my 5,000th refresh of CNN/SI.
My verdict? Hmmmm.
I like Soriano. No, I *love* Soriano. He's in the prime of his career, he's played his butt off for the Nationals, and every time he hits a home run at RFK stadium, Jose Guillen strangles a toddler.
Trouble is, despite everything Soriano's said about wanting to stay in Washington, who can tell if this isn't your perfect example of a "contract year" performance? Who can tell if the day the Nats front office sign the dotted line on a contract, Soriano won't develop Christian Guzmania? He's a risk, and an expensive one at that. Personally, I would have felt more comfortable getting something for him today. Especially since that "prime" of Soriano's career correlates distressingly with Washington's inevitable rebuilding years.
Of course, Jim Bowden sells baseball players like car dealers sell lemons-- the man is all pressure, all the time, and oozes desperation. His asking price for Soriano-- roughly 87 pitchers and prospects, any combination-- was obviously too rich for the rest of the league. One wonders whether it might not have been better to ask for a little less for Soriano. Sure, that ran the risk of a disappointing trade, but let's be honest: Soriano's season this year has been "found money" for the Nationals. Unfortunately, unlike cold hard cash, Soriano's value can only go down from now when it comes to value.
Yes, I understand that if Soriano doesn't sign, the Nats get two draft picks. That is good, and definitely a consolation. Still, I'm surprised that we couldn't make a deal with the Yankees. After all, Bobby Abreu's contract is a fair chunk of change to absorb, and Cory Lidle isn't that great of a pitcher (just one on a bit of a streak). Whereas the Nats did nothing today, the division-rival Phillies gained cap room *and* four prospects from the Yankees organization. I fear that deal.
Oh well, we'll see what happens in the next few months. I'm sure that by next year Jim Bowden can find a way to give up Nick Johnson for a weekend stay at a Howard Johnson.