Jim Bowden, as Edmund Ruffin*
By mid-afternoon, the first reports were filed. Shortly thereafter, we all knew---both us and them. The headline at fellow SBN site Camden Chat, an outpost sympathetic to the Dictator from the North, was representative:
NATS STRIKE FIRST!!!
Indeed, General Bodes doth just so: he signed ex-Oriole Bernie Castro. WAR!
Perhaps I hyperbolize by a measure or two.
Outrighted on October 7, Castro was clearly not in the Orioles' plans, and he's likely to see another dose of Triple-A in '06, this time in the Pacific Coast League. O's fans should not weep, and Nats' fans should not break out in a jig. (Well, you guys can if you want; I mean, we all know Needham wants to.)
Still, the Nats were a team with some significant shortcomings, if you're recall, and three of those were:
- guys who could play the middle infield (Carlos Baerga, second baseman . . . in 2005???---it happened);
- guys who could get on base; and,
- guys who could run even sort of fast.
- plays second base;
- can get on base a little (.371 OBP at Ottawa in '05; .360 in a quick look at Baltimore, generally solid OBP in the minors, except for an awful '04 that ran him out of the Padres' organization); and,
- runs quite well (the Nats' press release bestows upon him the no-doubt Ladsonian mantle of "one of minor league baseball's premier base stealers"; sure enough, he stole 41 bags in '05 and has a career high of 79).
Good job, Bodes; you picked up for free and committed virtually nothing to a guy who can provide depth in an area that was a difficulty most of the summer. And as for the attitude, hey---according to his WayMoreSports bio, he was named the Southern League's "Best Hustler" in 2002. Yeah!
As luck would have it, Bodes picked up another middle infielder, and this one probably will stick with the big club. Damian Jackson, who turned 32 in August, is another ex-Padre and, more to the point, another middle infield bench player with some speed (15 steals in '05)and at least a passing recollection of making it on base occasionally (.335 OBP this season). Jackson's career was left for dead a year ago, coming off a campaign in which he compiled all of 30 at-bats for the Cubs and Royals. But he rebounded to a significant degree for the Padres and saw roughly half-time action for the team out of necessity. He did alright, with essentially a .700 OPS.
Jackson's not tremendously likely to better that figure, but it's in the ballpark of his career .680 mark. He strikes out a bit and he wasn't exactly impervious on defense this past season, but he's also quick and versatile. He might be our new utility infielder (see below) or---lo and behold---our poor man's Ryan Freel-type guy. (Jackson also has significant outfield experience.)
Overall, it was a nice day for Jim Bowden---nothing earth-shattering, of course, but he fired a nice shot.
I think everyone knows that Junior Spivey won't be back. But Jackson's signing might spell the end for DC's favorite back-up quarterback (okay, shortstop---though the calls for Guzman's removal made it seem like the former at times). Jamey Carroll, scrappy, fundamentally-sound, and arbitration-eligible, is due for a raise. How big would still need to be determined, but this is a team that is minding every stray penny or hundred thousand dollars. To that end, Nationals Farm Authority envisions Carroll's departure with a degree of lamentation. Nats Triple Play reminds us that Baerga is probably also gone, though with no hint of lamentation.
* It is said that the story of Ruffin firing the first shot of the Civil War is likely apocryphal; we should be undaunted, though, as Jim Bowden is nothing if not a man of legend.