Friday, February 05, 2010
A Leap Of Faith
Getting back into town safely in anticipation of beating the latest blizzard to hit the Washington, D.C. area, there was this sense of relief knowing Our Washington Nationals weren't already snowed over themselves--under a few extra million dollars--for an overpriced veteran middle infielder for 2010 and beyond. The expected and, some have stated, needed signing of Orlando Hudson has brewed its very own storm around these parts for months now. Baseball Fans in the Nation's Capital gridlocked over what Our General Manager Mike Rizzo should do to further improve Washington's infield defense.
Is Ian Desmond an answer at shortstop? Can Cristian Guzman move to second base? Should Washington make a trade or sign a free agent?
Questions asked, challenged and cross-examined since virtually the final game of the 2009 season. There have been many a thoughts on the subject.
Really though--would Orlando Hudson, or any other veteran for this matter, help Our Washington Nationals in 2010?
Yeah, you bet. And Hudson would probably be a very good teammate as well.
But would O-Dog have been a big difference maker in the standings? Would the former Gold Glove winner be a final piece to the puzzle for Washington's first run at a division title--a few years down the line?
No, probably not. Neither will veteran second baseman Adam Kennedy, signed today in place of Hudson.
Both Orlando and Adam are stop gaps, players picked up to allow management to bide time and continue looking for those key pieces really needed to improve a ball club. The bigger steps up. I don't remember exactly which press conference we attended where he said this statement, but I vividly recall Mike Rizzo responding in answer to the possibility of Washington possibly trading for The Florida Marlins Dan Uggla: (paraphrasing here) "You need to realize sometimes that the guy you really want for that position just isn't out there this off-season. And in the meantime, you make due with what you got."
Which is exactly what Rizzo seems to be doing for 2010 when it comes to middle infield for the home side at Nationals Park--building a competitive team for the short-term with what's available without throwing away excess or long-term salary dollars now saved for the future.
Now the question is: will Adam Kennedy just be handed the job at 2nd Base and "The Guz" at shortstop? The media reports say yeah, and together, they will probably be adequate.
But you can't just sit down Ian Desmond and not give him the proper chance to win a starting role. There is no way--at 25 years of age--Ian Desmond should stay down at AAA Syracuse to gain more experience--if he really can play Major League Baseball. That would make no sense. Why is Ian in our system if you don't give him the opportunity, seemingly, warranted? There comes a time when every young player must step up to the plate and find out whether they belong in The Big Leagues, or not. And there comes a time when any franchise must make that final decision to move forward with any player, or just cut bait.
A Leap Of Faith Season is upon us for Ian Desmond. He can no longer look behind himself, because he's going to see Cristian Guzman and Adam Kennedy breathing down his neck taking all his wanted playing time away. And he can't look ahead of himself and wonder what could be? Desmond is going to be challenged by two veteran Major League Players in 2010 and he's going to have to respond in a positive manner.
2010 is his chance.
No question, Ian can range to his right and left fielding grounders for some distance. He can hum a baseball across the infield with the best of them. He's very acrobatic and even has a little punch in his bat. What Ian Desmond needs to do, beginning in three weeks time, is leap well ahead of both "The Guz" and Adam Kennedy in the competition. And in doing so--earn the faith of Mike Rizzo and the Baseball Operations Staff of Our Washington Nationals.
The $5 million dollars or so Orlando Hudson wanted to play in Washington, D.C. would not have been worth doling out, if Adam Kennedy sports similar statistical numbers and Our Franchise has a younger player of complementary, if not better skills, waiting in the wings. Why not give our very own players--like Ian Desmond--that deserved shot needed to make or break them as Major Leaguers?
That's A Leap Of Faith we are willing to take in 2010. Hopefully, Our Washington Nationals too.
And besides: the even younger and some would say more talented, Danny Espinosa, is coming up fast behind even Desmond--making an in-house upgrade at shortstop almost a certainty by 2012--or maybe 2011--whether or not Ian responds to this season's challenge.
PS--Be safe out there during this latest blizzard. I never thought Washington, D.C. would have the feel of Denver, Colorado during the winter months. Quite a remarkable series of snow storms.