Call 'em "The Comeback Kids", "The One-Run Wonders", "The Cardiac Kids"; doesn't matter. Call 'em whatever you want, but your first place Washington Nationals extended their 10-game winning streak yesterday with yet another 1-run victory (8 out of their last 13 wins have been by 1 run), downing the Seattle Mariners 3-2 in front of 37,170 sun-drenched fans at RFK. The win capped off an astonishingly good home stand (12-1) and their third series sweep in a row (Seattle, Oakland, and Florida all got the broom). With that, your Nationals own the best home record in the Major Leagues (24-9), thanks in no small part to the one million-plus fans who've now packed into RFK to root, root, root for the home team.
But now the Nats head West for a 9 game road trip, and so far this season the road has been anything but friendly. The Nats are an ugly 13-17 away from home. It's been an incredible run thus far, but the next two series away from home against AL West powerhouses LAAoA and Texas should give us a better idea of what this Nats team is made of. Esteban Loaiza takes the mound for the Nats against the Angels' Paul (no relation to Marlon) Byrd this evening.
On Friday, the Nats bid farewell to disgruntled starter Tomo Ohka, shipping him out to Milwaukee for second baseman Junior Spivey. You remember, of course, last Saturday, when Ohka disrespected Frank Robinson by turning his back on his manager when he came out to take the ball after Ohka got into a jam in the fourth inning against the Marlins? Well, apparently showing up your manager is a tradable offense in these parts, because that seems to be the impetus for this head-scratcher of a trade. What was GM Jim Bowden thinking? This trade makes absolutely no sense on many levels. Here are three of them:
1. Even if Tomo Ohka pulled down his pants and mooned Old Frank when he came out give him the hook, you don't trade pitching unless you're filling a glaring hole on your roster. You just don't. You can never have enough pitching, and even mediocre pitchers (like Ohka) have value. In this case, we're talking about opening up a big hole in the 5th spot in the rotation, and as inconsistent as Ohka had been all season (his 4-3 record, 3.33 ERA might be a bit misleading), now you're relying on the enigmatic Sunny Kim and or the dreadful Ryan Drese (released by Texas after going 4-6 with a 6.46 ERA in 12 games for the Rangers), who was picked up off of waivers on Friday.
2. It's not that it's a bad trade - Junior Spivey is a perfectly good player, a former All Star 2nd baseman; It's just that it's a dumb trade - You've already got an All-Star caliber 2nd baseman in Jose Vidro who will be back from the DL by after the All Star Break at worst. And now Vidro is claiming that he'll be ready to return from the combo high ankle sprain/torn tendon by the time the Nats return from their 9-game road trip. I know, I know, Spivey's 2-run homer on Sunday was the difference in the Nat's win over the Mariners, but in the long run his addition to the roster could potentially do more harm than good. Read on.
3. This isn't just a dumb move on a player-personnel level, it's dangerous, when you consider the trade's potential to upset clubhouse chemistry. Bowden seems to have forgotten the old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Sure Ohka was miserable and wanted to be traded, and for now Spivey is all smiles and happy to be here, but what happens when he's riding the bench come August? Spivey is a starter, has always been a starter. How will he react to being a role-player? And once Vidro returns, they'll have too many infielders on the roster. Who'll get shipped out? Jamey Carroll has held down the fort admirably since Vidro went down, and has done everything you could ask of a role player. Carols Baerga is good for a pinch hit or a spot start, but more importantly he's the team's $300,000-a-year cheerleader, by all accounts a great clubhouse guy as important for doling out hugs as he is for a pinch hit. But someone will have to go...
Last but not least: in case you missed it, a must-read by the Washington Post's Dave Sheinin in Friday's edition
on the long road to the Big Show by career minor leaguer Rick Short, who made finally got called up to the majors on Thursday, after 11 years of toiling in the minors. In a positively Rudy-esque moment Friday night, Short singled in his first big-league at bat against Seattle's Joel Pineiro, driving in a run. Sadly enough, Short was sent back down to AAA on Saturday to make room on the roster for Ryan Drese.