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Confessions of a one-track mind

I'm trying to think of something to write about tonight, and all I can think of is Alfonso Soriano. The Nats win tonight, and all I can think of is Alfonso Soriano, despite the fact that his name appears nowhere in the Nats.com gamer. Alfonso Soriano has been everywhere of late---at the plate, on the field, in trade talks, and on my mind.

As great as he has been thus far, it's getting a little repetitive. It's time to douse a bit of "Margaret Thatcher on a cold day" on all this Soriano-related stuff.

So I'm going to spend a post on a direct contrast to Soriano's '06 greatness, and that's Daryle Ward---specifically, his 2003 season.

Why?

Well, truthfully, I'm out of good ideas, and the "Stan the Plan" series I started a couple weeks ago consume more time than I've been able to allot of late; chalk it up to a "blogging rut," if you wish. Also, Ward's presence on a major league roster (and not just anyone's, but the Nats' roster) is a testament to second chances---and, perhaps, it is apropos, given the second chance of sorts this franchise has received.

If we should all be so lucky.

In 2003, Ward hit .183. That was his batting average. I state this explicitly, because it is hardly distinguishable from his slugging average, which was .193. How is that possible? You tell me. How can a guy who is (listed at) 6'2" and 230 pounds produce one extra-base hit, a lone two-bagger, in 109 at-bats? Talk about a wretched cold streak.

* * * *

Ward's lone season with the Los Angeles Dodgers started innocently enough. On April 1, in his team's second game, Ward pinch-hit and remained in the game at first base. He went 0-for-1 with a walk, a strikeout, and a run scored. That game served as one of the highlights of Ward's campaign. He collected his next hit on April 13---two actually, along with two runs batted in. (Okay, that was the singular highlight of his season.) For April, he hit .216/.256/.216 and actually tossed in a three-game hitting streak from April 25-27.

He also had hits on April 17 and 19; May 1, 10, 11, and 24; June 17 (two), 21 (two again!), and 22; and July 2 and 18. And that was it; those were all twenty of his hits. He lasted on the roster until late July.

Not surprisingly, Ward produced not one split stat that season he'd feel comfortable repeating in public---except perhaps his batting average in the clean-up spot, which was a perfect 1.000. In one at-bat.

* * * *

Here's my favorite factoid about Ward's 2003 season: By Bill James' RC/27 measure ("runs created per twenty-seven outs"), which estimates how many runs a lineup of nine of the same individual would score in a game, a lineup of nine 2003 Daryle Wards would have scored 1.15 runs per game. By comparison, a team of nine 2005 Cristian Guzmans would have scored more than twice that figure per game. Chew on that one.

And yet, Ward received another shot the following season, albeit with the disaster zone that is the Pittsburgh franchise. Ward comported himself rather well, though, fitting the profile that he had established prior to 2003 (a low-average, second-rate power threat), and revived his career. He duplicated the performance with the Pirates in '05, though not as well, and landed this season with the Nats.

Thus far, Ward has been just fine in his limited opportunities, mainly doing what the team asks of him (.525 slugging percentage in 43 at-bats). I imagine he would not have received his second chance in 2004, or what is something of a third chance this season (he signed a minor league deal with the Nats and was one of the last players to make the team out of spring training), without the help of his big league lineage; his father, Gary Ward, was an outfielder of some note in the 1980s, twice making the American League all-star team. But that's fine---if you've been named it, you might as well claim it, right?

And, if you've had a year like Daryle Ward had in 2003, you had better use every advantage you can to make people forget it, including the family name.