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Pouring Sugar In The Gas Tank

Normally, I am reluctant to comment too particularly about player personnel decisions made by teams other than the Washington Nationals. Two considerations undergird this policy. First, I say enough stupid things about the Nationals and feel no real need to say even stupider things about teams I don't follow; for most of us, this kind of failing can be rather conspicuous -- like, say, calling for Brendan Harris to be the team's regular leftfielder(???!!!!) going into the 2006 season. The second reason is born of simple fan self-interest: if a rival wants to do something stupid, who am I to object? The 2007 Nats need all the breaks they can get, after all.

But a policy is merely a policy, certainly not a directive carved in stone (like No. 1 all-time Nat Henry Mateo's Hall of Fame plaque will be), and policies can be evaded when it's convenient. Which leads me to this little item from our favorite cyborg-with-a-press-pass, Robothal:

Manager Charlie Manuel said Wednesday the Phillies will move Brett Myers into the bullpen, while inserting Jon Lieber into the starting rotation.

Manuel said he was comfortable using Myers in either the seventh or eighth innings and might even use the former starter to close on days when Philly's regular closer, Tom Gordon, is not available for use.

When asked if this was out of desperation, Manuel replied, "No, I think this is a way of us trying to fix our pitching staff, having the best pitching staff we can have."

I recently started watching reruns of The Sopranos every now and then, after never having watched the show (or most any recurring show, for that matter) in previous years. To be honest, I don't really know what the hell is going on. I'd like to say, "Yeah, this guy is solid, and this guy is toast, and this guy better insure his pretty little face," but what do I really know?

I feel sort of the same way with the Myers-to-the-pen move, except I'd like to add: Of course it's desperation! I'm loathe to mock Manuel too much, seeing as he's wearing a Tech hat tonight. But come on; this is a joke, right? Myers has averaged better than 200 innings pitched the last two seasons, at the rate of a 120 ERA+. I can totally see why Manuel wants to relegate that stuff to relief.

Additional, unexcerpted reasoning provides Myers has struggled in the rotation and Jon Leiber has struggled in the bullpen, so why not just pull a switcheroonie? If that's the reasoning, fine; but why not just someone other than, you know, your ace?

The record reflects Myers has a nine-plus ERA at the moment, keeping in mind his moment has consisted of three starts so far.[UPDATE: The moment's passed. I wrote that before his scoreless inning tonight.] Has Myers straight-up lost it? Not that I can see. He had a very good first start and then two poor starts in which he had gopherities, but he's struck out well more than a batter per inning pitched. Plus, Manuel obviously doesn't think Myers has lost it, since he wants that nitro zone stuff in relief.

Sorry, I think this is dumb. Maybe if you're going to wafer him (old Big Bad Baseball Annual term) straight into the closer's role -- maybe then I see it, maybe, because that happens sometimes. But even that's prospective. This is just a seventh or eighth inning flip, which seems absurdly wasteful considering the flipee is a guy who can pitch 200 innings at twenty percent better than league average.

And apparently I'm not the only one who thinks this is dumb.

* * * *

Jerome Williams floundered last night, and he lost his confidence, or he was trying to hard, or he was trying too hard and shouldn't have said he lost his confidence, or something. To be honest, I can't really tell what the beef is, other than that Williams pitched badly for the most part and was frustrated. Williams was battered up more than the Brooklyn Brawler during last night's first inning -- four straight hits to start the game, if I recall -- and the 37-pitch frame sullied what otherwise would have been a decent linescore. The aforementioned early efficiency troubles again burdened Williams, and he was again able to contribute only five innings of work. He's now averaging five-and-a-third frames per start, which isn't quite Armasian but also isn't tremendously helpful.

What is more, Williams is lacking in confidence, and notions his job is already on the line after a handful of starts probably won't help matters. To wit, Mark Zuckerman stated today:

Williams, meanwhile, has not looked especially good. And worse, he was really down on himself last night, saying he has no confidence in himself. Red flag alert! Red flag alert! If Williams doesn't turn it around his next time out, his job could be in jeopardy. Who would fill the spot? Well, there's Joel Hanrahan and Emiliano Fruto at Class AAA Columbus. There's also Levale Speigner sitting in the Nats' bullpen serving as a long man who hasn't been needed for the last week.

No joke, there's a clip that reruns on inactive XM game channels in which some writer exclaims, "Who the HELL is Levale Speigner?!" Our Washington Nationals, ladies and gentlemen. Well, obviously we know who Levale Speigner is, and all things being equal I'm comfortable with the guy pitching a time or two per week in long relief. As for Fruto, they just unwafered the guy a couple weeks ago. Don't they want to give him more than three starts before tossing him into a big league rotation? That sounds like something the Baird-era Royals would do.

Hanrahan, I'll give you. He's pitched very well so far, but I'd rather keep him in reserve as Jason Bergmann insurance. Now, that seems silly to say since Bergmann has progressed from putrid the first time out to hot but wild the second to downright impressive the third, but I'm not tremendously sanguine about Bergmann as a starter long-term.

I guess what I'm saying is, "Don't fool around with Williams." Let him work through his issues and be patient; we all know it's going to be a long season. I don't want to resort to shrillery and propagandizing, but if the team doesn't give Williams a dozen starts, I'm going to whine. He's pretty young and used to be something special. That's exactly the type of guy this team should give a full shot.