Trading for Sizzle, Forgetting the Steak

By Tony Kornheiser
Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What kind of magic dust does Jim Bowden have in his pocket?

Despite absurd backfires in acquiring Alfonso Soriano and Brian Lawrence, Bowden continues to get contract extensions from the Nationals. And he continues to get the media to fawn over him like he's Albert Einstein and just came up with E = mc{+2}.

How's the Lawrence deal working out? Bowden didn't insist that the Nats do an MRI exam on Lawrence. (Frank Robinson said, "That's our bad.") Bowden said, "It's too expensive to do MRIs on every single transaction." It turned out to be their real bad. Because after a couple of soft tosses, Lawrence's arm gave out. So instead of giving the Nats 200 innings, he's done for the year. Nice call.

How's the Soriano trade working out? Everybody applauded when Bowden traded for Soriano. Even after Soriano publicly announced he had no intention of moving off second base and going to the outfield, nobody seemed worried because Bowden said: Hey, don't worry. We'll work it out.

Well, here's how they're working it out: They're not. Frank made up the lineup card and wrote "Soriano" in at left field the other night. And Soriano said, "No thanks, Skip." Anybody wanna play eight in the field all season?

The Nationals can put Soriano on this double secret probation list and not pay him. That might well get an angry Soriano to the outfield. But it won't keep him from bugging out of Washington the first chance he gets. And it won't stop fans from booing Soriano at every at-bat. Faced with that disaster, the Nats are probably going to have to look to trade Soriano -- and get little value for him because everybody knows they're over a barrel.

So in place of Vinny Castilla, the Nats have a no-armed pitcher. And in place of Brad Wilkerson, Terrmel Sledge and a Galarraga not named Andres they have a reluctant outfielder who'll likely wind up being traded for a bag of beans. And for this you get an extension and a round of applause? Great work if you can get it.

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