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Temporary Like Achilles?

I just got home from a three-hour community meeting, so please excuse me if this is brief. On second thought, who am I kidding? Since this is me writing it, this post will probably not be brief. So, with your indulgence, I'll carry on.

All in all, the meeting went fine; considering the people who attend meetings like this, anything that is not bitterly contentious is considered a raving success. By that standard, it was a raving success. But the tenor and shape of the meeting reinforced something I was thinking about earlier: No matter how positive, noble, or constructive your intentions, sometimes things are out of your control.

Well, you probably don't care about this meeting; come to think of it, I'd like to relegate it to the outer beltway of my inner thoughts. But you might be interested why I was thinking of this earlier. Actually, it was this "email column" by Tom Boswell that got me thinking. The column, as most things relevant to this blog put to paper or uploaded to the 'net these days, concerns Alfonso Soriano.

Now, there's been considerable blog/message board discussion in recent weeks focused on whether the Nats should sign Soriano to a long-term deal. And there are probably good arguments on either side of the issue. However, I'm not going to address them, for two reasons.

The first reason is simple enough---maybe you shouldn't even care what I say about Soriano. I mean, my evaluation of the trade itself was off, way off. I screwed the pooch on that one. I screwed the pooch, and then I seasoned the pooch, and then I placed the pooch on a tiny little skewer, and then the skewer broke, and then the pooch fell into a toilet, and then the pooch was flushed into a sewer, and then the pooch was dumped in a river, which was really just the tributary for another river, and then the pooch steamed down that river and was plunked in the ocean, and after awhile the pooch was consumed by a whale, and then the whale swam around for awhile, and then the whale ingested a big gob of Li'l Lisa Slurry and died.

Metaphorically speaking.

But the second reason is where Boz's column comes into play: It's a one-way street, and the focus on whether the Nats should re-sign Soriano might as well be a VW Bug driving into traffic filled by Chevy Tahoes. Boz contributes one of his best efforts in quite awhile, and so I'm going to quote liberally here:

Judging by questions I get in my chats on Fridays, there's considerable confusion about the basics of the Soriano situation and whether he will remain a National after the July 31 trade deadline. In particular, some fans don't understand how so many things can be going well in the relationship between Soriano, the Nats and Washington, yet "baseball insiders" continue to operate on the assumption that Soriano is almost certain to be traded. And that, once gone, the chances are slim that he'll return.

[. . .]

Nationals fans, because they are . . . well . . . Nationals fans, tend to look at Soriano's situation from every perspective except the point of view of the player himself. Naturally, Washington fans want him to resign with the Nats. It's amazing what 23 home runs by mid-June will do to public opinion. The team's players would love to have Soriano return. Naturally. He's a model hard worker and cheerful teammate. The media would be delighted to cover such an exciting player and pleasant polite person.

[. . .]

But none of that matters. Fans can cheer Soriano and vote for him for the All-Star team in droves. The Nats can slap him on the back and sing his praises. The media can call him "a young 30" and make the case that he should be offered a deal that might eat up 15 percent of the team's entire payroll for the next five years for a leadoff hitter with no adequate defensive position.

In the end, only one factor really matters: Soriano's self-interest.

Keep in mind this last sentence is not a slight against Soriano, not in the least. I've merely snipped the rest of the column---in which Boswell justifies Soriano's self-interest in the matter---because it is immaterial why Soriano is self-interested.

The point is that Soriano is self-interested. It's his choice. He'll be a free agent, and it'll be his choice where he goes next.

There is no presumption, ethically or structurally, favoring the Nats in the imminent wooing of Alfonso Soriano. Upon becoming free, the player owes no duty to remain with his current team; because he is free, the current team possesses no ability to match the highest bidder or constrain the player's freedom in any other way.

The only relevant point---at this stage, and unless Soriano unexpectedly commits long-term within a month or so---like Boz says, the only relevant point is that Soriano will soon be free, free in a matter of months. The Nats can bid against themselves for the next six weeks, or they can bid against the rest of both major leagues in about six months. Or they can trade him while they have the chance. (And, according to John Donovan of Sports Illustrated, interest for Soriano on the trade market is hot-and-heavy.) Those choices belong to the Nats.

But the choice of where Soriano will be in subsequent years belongs solely to Soriano.

I know, I know: This point---this post---is simplistic. But it reinforces what I was experiencing earlier this evening. Sometimes, no matter how much you might want something, that thing might be beyond your control. Of course, it might still come to pass, but that's . . . well, if not by the grace of God, then by the grace of Alf.