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There's . . . too . . . many . . . of them

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As many of you know, I'm a pretty big Star Wars enthusiast---much more the classic trilogy than the new ones, but no one's keeping score. In case you actually are keeping score, though, I'd rate myself a Level III Star Wars Dork. In other words, I'm pretty knowledgeable about the movies, have dabbled in some of the other stuff, and of course have many, many lines of dialogue memorized. Then again, I have nowhere near the . . . um, interest . . . in the Galaxy Far, Far Away that this guy does. Take that for what it's worth.

But you're not reading this for an awkward apologia concerning how I still love a space opera franchise. Are you? Probably not. But while I'm here I'll note that one of my specialities might generally be called Really Dead X-Wing Pilots. If you're familiar with the movies---especially A New Hope (f/k/a just plain Star Wars) and Return of the Jedi---and let's be honest, chances are that you are, since many of us share common demographics---then you're probably familiar with some of this dialogue:

"Almost there . . . almost there."

"Negative, negative. Just impacted on the surface."

"I got a problem here . . . Eject! . . . I can hold it . . . Eject! . . . Blaaaah---"

And, of course, Red Leader's Oscar-worthy last words:

"Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!!!"

Those lines are all from A New Hope, of course. Of all the dead X-Wing pilots in Return of the Jedi (and there aren't as many on-screen, as the space battle is more epic than personal), there's this one dude in particular who stands out. I don't know his name, at least not for sure. Some sources say Arvel Crynyd; some sources say J'ef Hsu. Given the actor was Asian-American, I guess the presumption would be tilted to the latter. But I don't really know. And if anything should be heartening about this post, it should be that.

I do vividly recall his last words, though. How couldn't I? The line is simple enough and hokey enough to be worth of Star Wars: "There's too many of them." But the actor's delivery is . . . I don't even know. Was it intended to serve as a warning to fellow pilots? Was it frantic? Resigned? Determined? Scared?

It's none of those, really. It's just stilted. Really, really stilted---and thus quite memorable:

     There's . . . too . . . many . . . of them!              Indeed, there were.

The thought occurs to me now that maybe the guy wasn't flying an X-Wing; however, I can't say for sure. Like I said, only a Level III Dork.

__

This all relates to the Nats, of course.

Today, Barry's Boys added a spare tire, in Matthew Lecroy, who signed a one year, $850,000 deal; guaranteed money, it would appear. Additionally, Jim Bowden extended a contract offer to Sammy Sosa. While most of us are rooting that Sosa will be stupid enough to reject the offer, let's presume he signs. Add him to Lecroy, and that's two more guys.

It's no probing insight to notice that the Washington Nationals have a lot of players at their disposal---pitchers and position players alike. Do you recall when Marlon Byrd's Escalade was stolen from the RFK Stadium parking lot? In return, the insurance company must've given him a friggin' clown car, I tells ya. My not-entirely-sardonic theory is that Bodes is trying to sneak in a thirty-man roster while Bud Selig's distracted with---well, with whatever Selig is doing when he's not selecting an owner for the Nats.

These are just the prospective position players with at least articulable claims to a big league roster spot:

  • Brian Schneider (catcher; big league contract)
  • Nick Johnson (first; big league contract)
  • Jose Vidro (second; big league contract)
  • Cristian Guzman (vortex of suck; big league contract)
  • Ryan Zimmerman (third; options---though who's gonna option this guy?)
  • Marlon Anderson (first/second/pinch-hitter; big league contract)
  • Robert Fick (first/nominal catcher; big league contract)
  • Damian Jackson (everywhere; big league contract)
  • Matthew Lecroy (first/nominal catcher; big league contract)
  • Royce Clayton (shortstop interloper; minor league contract)
  • Jamey Carroll (utility/fundamental soundness/chastity; non-guaranteed contract)
  • Brendan Harris (second/third; options)
  • Wiki Gonzalez (representative backup catcher who can actually catch; minor league contract)
Am I forgetting anyone? I might be; that's thirteen guys. Of them, eight have guaranteed contracts, one is a thoroughly un-optionable prospective star, one more is a favorite of the manager, another is the Guzman motivator, and yet another is your regular old defense-first backup catcher. (Maybe this one can actually play defense!) The thirteenth guy, Harris, is one of approximately two possible backup third basemen.

Wait. I forgot the outfielders. I can't believe I forgot the outfielders. Here:

  • Jose Guillen (right; big league contract)
  • Brandon Watson (center; options)
  • Ryan Church (whipping boy/sacred cow; options)
  • Alfonso Sorino (who the hell knows?/(mega-expensive) big league contract)
  • Marlon Byrd (left/center; options?)
  • Michael Tucker (veteranness; minor league contract)
  • Sammy Sosa (washed up; who knows?)
That's seven more guys---a bit more manageable, I suppose.

Wait. Remember when I asked whether I forgot anyone in the infield? Why didn't you tell me that I had forgotten Daryle Ward (first; minor league contract)? Because I straight-up forgot him.

Okay, that's twenty-one. Lucky, indeed---we can still fit these guys on a roster.

Wait. Pitchers. Knew that sounded too good to be true:

  • Livan Hernandez (starter; big league contract)
  • John Patterson (starter; team control)
  • Brian Lawrence (starter; big league contract)
  • Ramon Ortiz (starter; big league contract)
  • Ryan Drese (starter; big league contract)
  • Tony Armas, Jr. (starter; big league contract)
  • Joey Eischen (lefty short guy; big league contract)
  • Mike Stanton (LOOGY; big league contract)
  • Gary Majewski (middle relief; options)
  • Luis Ayala (set-up; team control)
  • Jon Rauch (swing; no options)
  • Travis Hughes (middle/long; no clue)
  • Jason Bergmann (middle/long; options)
  • Chad Cordero (closer; team control)
  • Felix Rodriguez (set-up; minor league contract)
That's fifteen pitchers, which brings us to thirty-five guys with at least an articulable claim to a roster spot. [EDIT: Okay, 15 + 21 = 36. But I'm not editing the rest of the post.] It also doesn't include a host of other guys on the organizational Big Board who could have a claim on a roster spot at some point, or who have meaningful big league experience:
  • Kevin Orie (third base)
  • Bernie Castro (second)
  • Alex Escoar (operating room)
  • Darrell Rasner (starter prospect)
  • Bill Bray (lefty relief prospect)
  • T.J. Tucker (recuperating reliever)
  • Joe Horgan (exiled LOOGY)
  • Ed Yarnall (spare LOOGY)
  • Anastacio Martinez (reliever)
  • Mike Defelice (backup catcher/WB Cordero All-Star)
  • Alberto Castillo (a/k/a Henry Blanco)
  • Andrew Good (starting pitcher)
  • Larry Broadway (apparent first baseman of future)
  • Tony Blanco (full year's big league experience!)
  • Henry Mateo (oh, my arm!)
And that's not even counting your typical long-shot candidates, who sometimes impress enough to make the team out of spring training and stick around for a few weeks:
  • George Lombard (toolsy outfielder)
  • Ty Godwin (toolsy outfielder)
  • Josh Karp (perpetual pitching prospect)
  • Micah Bowie (lefty arm)
  • Ian Desmond (fanboy pin-up model)
  • Danny Rueckel (greatest pitcher ever)
Add twenty-two more guys to the total. What is this, Nebraska football?

Alright, alright---cross off these latter two classes of players. Their claims to a roster spot are not nearly as strong, and they're sort of confusing things. I'm just sayin'; there's a lot of guys here.

But let's get back to the original thirty-five. Thirty-five! As my man would say---and you knew this was coming:

There's . . . too . . . many . . . of them!

See? Star Wars is still relevant, people!

Back to the Nats, let's try to do this methodically. Start with the pitching:

ELEVEN- OR TWELVE-MAN STAFF?

This is the first question. Knock off the guys no one has heard of or really cares about (Hughes, Bergmann, Rauch---optioned, and he's gone), and we're down to twelve. Do you get down to eleven from there? Only if you save some coin by cutting Felix Rodriguez prior to Opening Day, or if you let go one of the Drese/Ortiz/Armas trilogy of back-end rotational depth.

Neither scenario strikes me as tremendously likely, though the possibility exists that maybe Drese and/or Armas won't be ready for the start of the season. Furthermore, though I'd be intrigued by an Armas-to-the-pen experiment, that's not likely---and, between Majewski/Rodriguez/Ayala, there's not a lot of righty middle relief innings remaining.

But we must acknowledge the possibility of a twelve-man staff.

TRADES?

Fill in the blanks here, people. Vidro? Soriano? On a lesser note, Byrd maybe? Church? Carroll? (He'd probably just be waived.)

Beltway Boys has presaged a Nick Johnson trade for a week or two now; I'd consider the thought unlikely (or at least undesirable), but I'd have to admit the circumstantial evidence of that design is mounting. Indeed, Ward/Lecroy could platoon at first, I suppose.

BACK-UP CATCHER?

A fascinating choice to make, as Capitol Punishment points out: a defense-first backup like Gonzalez (or Defelice or Castillo; I don't intend to double-count these largely interchangeable goons), or some sort of patchwork Fick/Lecroy combination.

SOSA?

No clue.

With Lecroy in the fold, you can't even justify this by dreaming Sosa would condescend to accept a righty bench bat role.

I guess it makes sense if Guillen's not ready to go or if Soriano continues his intransigence, but we all know one marginally hot spring and it's at least a half-season's worth of development lost for Byrd and Church. Lucky Watson would actually play everyday at New Orleans.

ORDER THE HIT ON WHOM?

Nationals Enquirer observes that DC now has "more utility infielders per capita than any other city in the majors." It's true.

As you might anticipate, this whole thing is entirely untenable. To review, the following bench guys (and only bench guys) signed guaranteed contracts:

  • Jackson
  • Anderson
  • Fick
  • Lecroy
These are all new additions, and not one of them is primarily an outfielder (the first two can play the outfield). Add in the necessary outfield reserves and (perhaps) a separate back-up catcher, and the numbers become nearly impossible.

And we're not even done, because there are a number of non-guaranteed bench types who figure to be viewed by either the manager or general manager as important:

  • Tucker
  • Carroll
  • Clayton
  • Ward
To put the sheer volume of players Bowden signed this winter in perspective, consider this: Bodes signed FOUR lefty bench bats (first Anderson, then Fick, then Tucker, then Ward). Four. Then he got around to signing a righty one today, in Lecroy. In addition to Anderson, he's signed two additional back-up/utility infielders (Jackson, Clayton), to add to the one that he already had (Carroll).

Let's bring it all back home, as Dylan would say. To use Brian's phrase, what is "The road to fourteen"? (Assuming an eleven-man staff . . . )

Starters (no particular order):

  1. Schneider
  2. Johnson
  3. Vidro*
  4. Guzman
  5. Zimmerman
  6. Guillen
  7. Soriano*
  8. One of Church/Byrd/Watson (if not optioned)
* Assuming . . .

Bench

  1. Jackson (utility)
  2. Anderson (pinch-hitter extraordinaire)
  3. Fick (first/catcher)
  4. Lecroy (first/catcher)
  5. One of Church/Byrd/Watson (let's just option Watson now)
  6. Carroll? Ward? Clayton? Gonzalez?
Whoops. Forgot about Sosa.

Whoops. Forgot about Tucker.

Well, I could go around in circles like Kwame Brown during a D.C. Council vote, but I won't waste (any more of) your time.

Let's just say it will be interesting to see what Jim Bowden plans on doing, if indeed there's any plan here at all.