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Months ago, I tried something like this, and it was well-received. So I'll go to the well again. I'm giving myself a straight-up hour---just thoughts, no links. If you want the links, you know where to go; the positions on the matters addressed below are more than likely presented more substantively there and with, shall we say, a more rigorous ideal of argumentative consistency.

A reality hit me today for the first time. I have detected bits and pieces of this before, but it's never hit me squarely prior to today. And it is simply this:

I am an outsider.

I don't mean this in the sense that I have a blog; I'm well aware of that, and in a sense I'm quite thankful. I'm a fan, and the guys who cover the team---Ladson, Svrluga, Sheinin, Wright, Zuckerman, as well as columnists like Bozwell and Loverro---generally make that a fine experience. They enhance the experience. I'm not one for the "Move over, MSM!" rhetoric. I'm not one for it at all. In large part, I have material to post on this blog on a nightly somewhat irregular basis because these folks do their jobs well. They make being a fan, an outsider, fun.

I mean "outsider" in a different sense. I'll be blunt: I don't live in DC. I don't live in NoVa. I don't live in Montgomery or P.G. Counties. We don't have METRO here. We don't have Don & Mike here; we don't have Don & Mike's frequent absences, either. We don't have Kathleen Matthews here (although our cable has plenty of her husband). Unless it's a nice summer night, we don't get DC radio. Here, you'll see a taxi cab once an hour, at most---and, though I work downtown, I'm not even stretching that much when I look out my office window.

I live in Richmond, not DC. I represent a secondary market, not the market. I'm a Nats fan by choice, not by any sort of city or regional pride or happenstance of it being the local big league team. Heck, our minor league team is affiliated with a team in the Nats' division, a team I shouldn't like very much. I live 100 miles away; I try to come up when I can, but when I can isn't all that often. It's certainly not enough, or predictable enough, to justify any kind of season ticket package.

When I was a kid, I went to DC more times than I can remember---loved it. When I went to college, I went to GW---loved it. When I graduated, I loved and worked in the city---loved it. But I haven't formally lived and worked in DC since, if memory serves, December 29, 2000.

Frankly, I'm an outsider.

Unless we're talking about cold, emotionless analysis, everything I write has to be viewed through this prism, this reality, that I support you, but I am not you. Many of you have season tickets. You shell out money to watch a team play. Presumably, you anticipate having some seats in the new stadium, but your money for this season is in a certain sense filed under "this year's team." You'll go to those games---twenty, forty, eighty-one if you're a die-hard or a glutton for punishment---and you'll want to be entertained. You'll want to be satisfied. You'll want to avoid uncomfortability or tedium. Unless life is Borat, you blanche at the former; unless life is C-Span Radio, you tire of the latter. You'll want not to feel like you're wasting your time.

Sure, you might believe in "The Plan," but you might not see the reason in unblinking fealty to it or to its rhetoric. If a rotation undergirded by names such as Tim Redding, Mike O'Connor, Beltran Perez, and Joel Hanrahan seems unsavory in theory, you can certainly anticipate the dread of coming to the park and wondering how on earth one of those guys is going to end a four-game winning streak when Manny Acta is calling for the ball in the top of the second. You might envision a lifeless ballpark, mostly dead in spirit except for the unforeseen rally that tastes fine for the moment but is forgotten just as quickly. You fear lacking fan companionship, as you visualize the barren upper decks; or, if you're one of those people who prefers an empty park because you want open space and to be free of idiots, you'll still feel, deep down, that this isn't right, there's no reason for the casual fan to come.

And, with probably six or eight or ten exceptions, I'll be watching or listening from afar, thinking Man, this pitching stinks. Sure wouldn't want to be sitting through that! But I won't be there, and it won't be my money, time, or travel invested in the experience.

When the discussion turns to the Lernastens' cheapness and/or forward-thinking vision, what am I? A fan? Yes; but something less than that, too. Then a well-wisher? Maybe that's all I am. I'm not spending my time here quibbling over a definition of what I am; I've certainly written enough in this space to bore half our planet's population twice-over. Instead, I'll just say I'm an outsider.

An outsider.

Just remember that. Read what I write with that in mind. You know who you are, and I know who I am. Chances are, we're quite different. Let's celebrate our differences and all that, but I want to be clear that what I write must be viewed through an outsider's prism.

* * * *

What do I, as an outsider, think? Well, I think my perceptional goal posts have been consistently shifting this offseason, and I'm not sure how to adapt. Specifically, I've gone from anticipating:

  • forward-thinking free agent pitcher signings, to
  • place-setting free agent pitcher signings, to
  • apparently no free agent pitcher signings.
I'm not exactly what to think about this progression. What with the demand for Padilla, Lilly, and Meche, any "forward-thinking" signing is going to carry a heavy commitment; not going to happen, and given these rates, it probably shouldn't. I've said pretty consistently this team, in order to be even watchable next season, needs some sort of veteran pitcher or two added who can stay healthy and pitch innings. Eat the innings. Create at least a little cohesiveness in the rotation. Lessen the burden placed on the young guys, cheap guys, and pieces of crap. You've read it before---here and other places. If it meant Ramon Ortiz, it meant Ramon Ortiz; at least the guy can pitch 190 innings, of whatever quality.

Now it appears not even that kind of thing is going to happen. Reportedly, Jamey Wright and Bruce Chen are out of the price range. Bruce Chen! Given last year's performance, it's a wonder he'd even still be in the league. (Which is another reason not to sign him, but no matter.) And, while I still think things are going to be insufferable without any semblance of reliable innings guy, I find myself not caring too much. Maybe I'm just becoming desensitized by the front office's apparent frugality.

Yes, that's it: I've come to accept a certain level of cheapness by now, and I've lost my sensitivity concerning the subject. I was discussing this topic with someone else earlier; my thought was it was either uncanny or troubling that the Lernastens have reduced the discussion to whether Jamey Wright is a must-have or not.

I think we can all suspect what will happen: Redding, Perez, O'Connor, Colby Lewis . . . most of these guys are going to tank. Others---including perhaps, and heaven forbid, John Patterson---are going to get injured. Without an Ortiz (or whomever), it's entirely possible no one will be on hand to stabilize the rotation (to the extent a guy like him can). You dip into the second-line guys, and then the third. And then it's the kitchen sink, all over again. Brutal.

But why do I find myself not caring all that much? Is it because, in reality, Ramon Ortiz stinks, Jamey Wright stinks, everyone of that quality will a) stink and b) be ridiculously overpriced on this market, so what's the point anyway? Or is it because I'm resigned that nothing will develop anyway? (It's the Winter Meetings week, feast days of the Hot Stove League, after all! I remember this time last season: I woke up, got ready for work, and then discovered Whoa, Alfonso Soriano is a National. Wild! I was kind of in awe at first; obviously, I should have stuck to that, rather than over-thinking it!)

Or is it because, quite simply, I'm an outsider and can conceive rooting for these guys, no matter how pathetic, without the obligation of actually witnessing them? I don't know, but I'm beginning to believe it's this last option.

Whoops, my hour's up. Perhaps it was more than an hour or perhaps a little less; this Panthers-Eagles game is pretty timeless.