In a 9/20/08 article entitled, "Milledge may be placed in corner for '09", by Washington Post sports writer Chico Harlan, DC GM Jim Bowden was said to have told fans gathered at an ESPN Zone Q&A, that Washington would, "...explore a position change in the outfield 'to upgrade our defense,'" this offseason, with the plan being, Mr. Harlan wrote at the time, to relocate Lastings Milledge to a corner spot in the Nationals' outfield, and have Elijah Dukes take over in center with, presumably, since he was under contract, Austin Kearns in right...
Later, on 10/2/08, MLB.com's Bill Ladson reported on the DC outfield situation in an article entitled, "Nationals see reason for optimism in '09", and the wording of the GM's plans seemed to change slightly, as Mr. Ladson wrote:
"The outfield of Dukes, Milledge and Kearns may change, according to general manager Jim Bowden, who wants better defense out there."
...On Wednesday, 11/11/08, with the acquisition of Josh Willingham (and pitcher Scott Olsen) from the Marlins, the DC GM made good on his promise of change in a way that guarantees still more change to come for the Nationals' outfield...According to MLB.com's Bill Ladson in an article about the Washington Nationals' new players entitled, "Newest Nationals welcomed to team", Willingham will be in left, not at first as many have speculated. The DC GM recognizes that Willingham can catch and play first, "...but Bowden said that the team sees him as an outfielder," (and so), "The GM didn't rule out trading one of the outfielders," currently on the roster...The line on Willingham Mr. Ladson is paraphrasing is found in Washington Post writer Tracee Hamilton's report from today's introductory press conference**, in a "Nationals Journal" post entitled, "Update: Remarks from the Presser"), which quotes Mr. Bowden directly, stating:
"GM Jim Bowden: 'We acquired him as an outfielder, not a first baseman.'"
No ambiguity there...Which would lead one to believe what, exactly? That either Lastings Milledge or Austin Kearns is on the way out? That the Nationals have found someone interested in Elijah Dukes? Just how is DC GM Trader Jim Bowden going to work his way out of this one...
...Willingham is up for arbitration and due a raise* this season. Wily Mo Pena excercised his $2 million/1 year option to remain with the team. Austin Kearns is due to make $8 million this season with a $10 million club option for 2010, which can be bought out for $1 million. The Nationals just acquired Milledge and Dukes with great fanfare last winter? They can't be thinking of moving either of them already, can they? Well, they did just acquire and then trade Emilio Bonifacio to bring back Willingham and Olsen...and there is still the threat of Adam Dunn's acquisition looming, which could bring further changes to the lineup...(ed. note - "A tangent?...What if the starting lineup ends up...Willingham, LF, Dukes, CF, Milledge, RF, Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Cristian Guzman, SS, Anderson Hernandez, 2B, Dunn at 1B and Jesus Flores, C? Can that (hypothetical) lineup compete? Will DC actually pursue Dunn? Is Johnson at first with one of the prospects backing up acceptable if Dunn turns DC down? No, right? They need a quality bat along with Johnson or in place of Johnson? Well, there are outfielders to spare now...")
...Josh Willingham's take on his position with the Nationals? According to Washington Post writer Marc Carig, in an article entitled, "Nats' Shopping List Get a Little Shorter", Mr. Willingham told the assembled press at today's introductory conference:
"'We'll see what happens when spring training comes, but that's what I see myself doing, hitting in the middle lineup and playing every day,' Willingham said. 'I'm a left fielder as far as I know.'"
Alright? What's next, DC GM Jim Bowden?
(ed. note - "* = The reason the Marlins made the deal, according to most reports, is that both of the Nationals' new players are up for arbitration and due raises from their Florida-standard $405 K deals, with Willingham recovering from a back injury but still managing to hit 21 doubles, 5 triples and 15 HR's while collecting 51 RBI's in 102 games last season, (which would have left him 1st on the Nationals in HR's, 4th in doubles, tied for 1st with Guzman's 5 triples, and tied for 4th with Zimmerman in RBI's), and Olsen finishing his '08 campaign (8-11) with a 4.20 ERA and 133 K's in 33 starts, (which would have left Olsen 2nd in wins, 2nd in ERA and 1st overall in K's if he'd done it for DC).
(ed. note - ** = for a full transcript of yesterday's press conference, check out Dave from Bottomfeeder Baseball's FANPOST entitled, "Full Transcipt of Today's Press Conference.")