The Nationals started spring training with two of the worst center fielders in 2010 fighting for the starting position. Now that Nyjer Morgan has been traded for little more than a bucket of balls, Washington is left with just one bad center fielder. That’s what leaves me most unsatisfied with the move. The premeditated feel of Morgan’s unceremonious move out of Washington makes me wonder why the Nats didn’t try harder to fill the glaring hole in the middle of the outfield in the offseason. Unless, of course, the team thinks that’s what it did by picking up Rick Ankiel. Given the glowing nature in which team officials talk about Ankiel’s arm and power, this seems to be the case.
I’m not going to apologize for Morgan’s atrocious season last year, which some called one of 2010’s worst. His .319 on-base percentage isn’t acceptable for a leadoff hitter, and getting caught stealing a third of the time far outweighs the benefits of the 34 bases he actually did steal. I think he did get unfairly labeled a clubhouse distraction, but as a fan, I’ll admit I’m far removed from what actually goes on out of my view. I do find it ironic that the words “addition by subtraction” came up when those were the same circumstances that brought Morgan to D.C. in exchange for Lastings Milledge. I hope he puts it together for the Brewers, as he’s still one of my favorite players. I’m going to miss his energy, and most of all, the sound bites.
What pains me is that instead of watching a mediocre player that I still find entertaining manning centerfield this year, I get to watch another mediocre player who is much more nondescript. Now I know his 240 plate appearances last year are a small sample size, but do the Nats realize that Ankiel’s slugging percentage was .389? That’s almost 50 points worse than Coco Crisp, who last time I checked isn’t known for his power. And 2009 was more of the same. Ankiel’s slugging percentage was .387. I’d be much more willing to bet the Ankiel of 2011 will have power numbers more like the past two years than when he hammered 25 homers in 2008. Yes, his arm is better than Morgan’s. It’s hard not to be. His range is most certainly worse, so let’s call fielding a wash between the two. I don’t have that much of a problem with the Nats getting rid of a below average player like Morgan, but I do have a problem with them passing Ankiel off as a significant upgrade.
I don’t have delusions of the Nationals being a playoff team this year, it’s just going to be less enjoyable to watch for me as a Nyjer Morgan fan.