Bungler of baseballs, foiler of fandom, assassin of avidity

SELECTED NATS PLAYER FAN SATISFACTION RATING
Alfonso Soriano 97.2
Ryan Zimmerman 92.5
Chad Cordero 88.7
Jon Rauch 73.6
Ramon Ortiz 42.4
Pedro Astacio 33.3
Saul Rivera 8.9
Chris Schroder 0.0
Damian Jackson Negative, like, infinity

Let me preface this post by solemnly declaring that I possess no personal grudge against Damian Jackson. This declaration should come as some comfort, insofar as I have never met the man and probably never will. So rest assured that I don't, you know, have a life-size picture of Jackson affixed to a cardboard frame that I don't chop up with a samurai sword. I mean, I don't even have a samurai sword.

I kid, I kid. The frame isn't made out of cardboard.

Anyway, I cannot recall ever more strongly disliking a player who played on a team that I liked. No one even comes close to Damian Jackson. There was B.J. Surhoff; I recall holding a strong dislike toward him. But I don't really know how genuine that dislike was---I found the praise that the Orioles' announcers heaped on him more annoying. And I'm not even certain I liked, say, the 1999 O's. I guess I did, or at least I certainly hope I did. I spent enough time following them.

But Jackson is something different. His continued presence on the Nats' roster offends me in a peculiar sense. There is no real meritocracy in baseball (hence nothing approaching a sort of "meritocracy myth"), so it shouldn't surprise me that a 33 year-old, 12-year veteran continues to be employed primarily because he's a 33 year-old, 12-year veteran . . . but it kind of does. And it kind of offends me.

Today, Jackson made three errors within a two-inning span. He purportedly took responsibility for his poor play, but I seriously doubt it's so simple with this guy. It's always something. Six or so weeks ago, as I recall, it was that he was playing every day---and consequently was tired. Today, it was because Jackson hadn't played in so long that it took him awhile to get up to "game speed". In between, it was because of a tender esophagus. Whatever.

It's not that Jackson is unlikeable, although he might be. His reported behavior this season has been---to be charitable about it---rather bizarre. He got in a shouting match with a fan near the Nats' dugout. He was fined---or maybe not fined---for repeatedly leaving the clubhouse before reporters could ask him questions. It was junk like that which led Thom Loverro of the Times to ponder whether Frank Robinson was managing a baseball team or teaching a kindergarten class. And that was before Jackson reportedly tossed a chair across the Nats' locker room.

But, like I said, it's not just that Jackson comes across as unlikeable. It's that he's done little but screw up this entire year (save a fluke three-homers-in-five-games spurt from May 18-23), and somehow, some way, the guy is still employed. Why? Because he's already been paid for? Because he's a "proven veteran"? Because he's "versatile"?

I don't really know---and I'm the type of baseball fan whose heart flutters at the sight of speedy, verstatile utility types. Freel, Figgins . . . if only a team could employ a dozen of those guys.

I guess it comes down to the feeling that if he were just some random youngster trying to forge a career, he wouldn't receive a second look after today. He'd be sent off on the first bus to New Orleans. Which is where Damian Jackson should be headed, if not for the fact that he's insulated from such a fate.

And, for whatever reason, that rubs me the wrong way.

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