Saturday, March 25, 2006

Back to Beisbol!

A few notes I've been saving over the past few days, unleashed while I try to live draft for my brother's fantasy league.

When I wrote yesterday's (technically, earlier today's) piece about the Romona Moore story under the title "Predictable," I'd actually started out intending to write about Barry Bonds and Alfonso Soriano. But when I was done writing about grisly murders and biased news coverage, who wanted to write about baseball anymore?

The Alfonso Soriano semi-debacle was the predictable showdown of the spring, setting up prior to the WBC, simmering while Soriano was in the tourney with Team Dominican Republic, and coming to a boil after the Dominicans were eliminated by Cuba. That Soriano refused to take the field the first time his name was written into the lineup was no surprise (Soriano's story is that there were two lineup cards and some confusion, but I don't find it terribly convincing). It was also no surprise that he caved a couple of days later. His only hope was that transactional ADD-sufferer/Nationals GM Jim Bowden could make a trade that would allow him to save a bit of face after trading for a guy who's no good at second, and both unwilling and inexperienced in the outfield.

Sounds like a disaster? Ya think so, doctor?

Soriano's dilemma is one I've never heard of coming up before, and that fact surprises me. The closest I can come is various starters over the years who have groused at being sent to the bullpen. None of them (that I recall) have ever refused to pitch--although maybe a few have retired. It probably doesn't come up that much because it's a player's game now, and because I probably wouldn't want someone as my leftfielder who didn't want to be out there. Doesn't sound like a winning formula.

But while the right principle is being served here--Soriano shouldn't be able to refuse an assignment to left, particularly on a team that has an established secondbaseman like Jose Vidro--I wonder if there are any limits. What if Frank Robinson wrote in Soriano's name at catcher or pitcher, positions where a player could easily get injured if they don't know what they're doing? Should a player just say, "Yes boss," under those circumstances?

Even though those aren't the circumstances in this case, I still feel a little bit of sympathy for Soriano. Before Bowden got it in his head to acquire him, Soriano was a second baseman in a park ideally suited to his skills, where he was virtually guaranteed 30+ homers in his walk year. That's a valuable asset, no matter how bad his glove is at second. He goes from that to being an outfielder in one of the worst offensive parks in the majors. There's a word for low-OBP, 20 or so homer corner outfielders in the majors--that word is "fungible." Bowden may have cost Soriano $30 million or so. Yep, that would tick me off, too.

In other predictable news, the headline that made its way around on Thursday "Bonds Planning to Sue." Although the idea seemed to cause many folks much consternation, the analogy that kept running through my head was "Aaron Gleeman Planning Threeway with Jessica Alba and Elisha Cuthbert." It's pretty much the same deal: both are situations where the planning isn't the tough part, it's the execution that's tricky.

In Barry's case, the early word is that the execution isn't going so well. As far as I can tell, Barry's case against the writers of Game of Shadows (horrible title!) isn't that they lied about his steroid use, but that they used illegally-obtained Grand Jury testimony to do it. To Bonds's credit, this means that he wasn't trying to suppress sale of the book, but rather trying to make sure that the writers and publishers saw no profit from the book's sales.

But still, one gets the feeling that Bonds is suing more for the sake of being able to say that he sued than for any other reason. This was utterly predictable given the universal calls from reporters, upon the release of GoS's excerpts, that "If Bonds is innocent, why doesn't he sue?"

When people find out I'm a lawyer, they'll often rattle off some complex scenario, always ending with the sentence "Can I sue?" Not to be a semantic jackass, but that's the wrong question. Just about anyone can bring a law suit, for just about any reason. The question is never truly "can I sue" it's "can I win?"

I'll go out on a limb and say Barry can't win. Sometimes, winning isn't the goal. Sad, but predictably so.

Tomorrow I'm out in Montclair, New Jersey, at the Yogi Berra museum, with the crew from Baseball Prospectus. Hopefully, see you there.

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