I grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. That means for a long time, I was a Baltimore Orioles fan. It was a pretty abusive relationship, but I got out safe. (I really like my new family, by the way. They’re not as rich, but they’ve never neglected me, and we’re moving into a nice, new house soon. I don’t think of them as my adoptive team anymore though — I call them Mom and Dad, no problem.) My group of friends came over from O’s to Nats one by one. I wasn’t first to switch teams on a permanent basis, and I’m not last. There are a still a couple of Baltimore apologists among us, calling us traitors and bandwagon jumpers. That last one really hurts, because I didn’t know it was such bandwagon move to root for a team that was predicted by some to lose 120 games. These are the sad things that Orioles fans think: “You’re moving to greener pastures to root for the worst team in history!”
This offseason, rumors are that the Nationals are going to step up their payroll into the $65 to $70 million dollar range and make a run at being competitive in the next two to three years. While Jim Bowden has been reluctant to pay for big free agents in the past, the Nats are going to have a little money to throw around with the new stadium income, and will likely start this offseason with one big move.
The front office can use whatever method they want to evaluate the best players we could get, but I have my own metric with which to measure value: which player will make Orioles fans living in and around D.C. the most likely to finally switch favorite teams.
Torii Hunter, CF
He’s the number one, and it’s not close. He’s got a personality, he can hit, and I don’t know if you knew this, but apparently he’s got a pretty sick glove out there. He’s said he wants to play here, because he’s aware of what he could do for baseball in a city with a predominantly black population. Socially-conscious, Gold Glove center fielders who express interest in your city before talks can open do not come often.
Also, he’s good friends with Dmitri Young, and any friend of SteakGrowsOn is a friend of mine. And since I brought it up: Hey, Dugout! You were the funniest thing that ever happened to baseball-related sports blogging! The next time you move, leave a forwarding address. I shouldn’t have to go to a search engine to find out where you post your chats!
Anyway, with Dmitri likely moving back to left field, we’re going to need a Gold Glove in center to cover the ground that big boy won’t get to. If we get Big Game Hunter, he might push the record for most Web Gems in a season. Apologies to Torry Holt, but you’re sharing “Big Game” now. Big Game Hunter just sounds better, and is a very underrated bar video game.
Andruw Jones, CF
A couple years younger than Torii Hunter, but comes with the baggage of batting .222-26-94 in a contract year. Rumors were rumbling that Bowden wouldn’t sign a guy that Schuerholz passed on in some sort of buddy-buddy move, but with Schuerholz gone, it might open the door for talks. Could he be had at a discount from the $13.5M he earned last year? Common knowledge says he’ll bounce back, but .222 should not earn anyone an 8-digit salary. I don’t think Andruw Jones will hit that low again, and should bounce back to 35 homeruns in 2008. That sort of pop would give instant credibility to the Nationals lineup, and a little protection for Zimmerman and Kearns.
Tom Glavine, SP
We have one friend who kind of rooted for the Orioles, but swore that the Braves were his real team his whole life, so this is really just for him. Think of him more as a coach who would take the mound 30 times a year, and the move starts to make a little more sense. Orioles can have Mazonne, we’ll take his products.
Kris Benson, SP
Kosuke Fukudome, RF
I can’t blame any of you who responded, “Who?!” I would have been counted among those people until pretty recently. The two people who clamored over trying to draft Dice-K in our 2007 fantasy league are two of the Orioles fanboys. Because of that, a guy who had never thrown a pitch in the majors went 3rd round. These two knuckleheads would come to the Nats in a heartbeat if we signed a completely unknown factor with nothing but potential. This is never going to happen, as the only thing less efficient than paying for a free agent is paying a posting fee to try to sign a free agent.
Aaron Rowand, CF
Yes, another center fielder! What can I say, we need one. He can hit just fine, but his face into the wall play is what sticks with me. How cool was that? No concern for life or limb, he just went back and made the catch. Does this look like a baseball player you want on your team? Do you want a pretty face in centerfield, or do you want a mean mug who’ll go into the iron to make a catch? I thought so. I’ll go to war with Rowand on my side. People are touting the centerfield abilities of homegrown rookie Justin Maxwell (from Olney, MD, and played for the Terrapins), but I just don’t see him at the same level as these free agents. Maxwell can definitely play for us, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that he’s not winning any Orioles fans over to the right side of the Beltway. The common theme in the grading system seems to be defensive center fielders with stick, and I guess that just speaks to my group of friends: We love the glove.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
This is so low on the list that I would rethink the organization’s commitment to us fans. His crippling salary would leave no chance to spend more than the league minimum to field the other 24 men on the roster. He would replace fan favorite and 2006 rookie of the year Ryan Zimmerman. Ryan’s numbers might be replaceable (especially with an MVP), but people respect homegrown talent. At Thanksgiving, I’m way more impressed with my grandma’s apple pie (even if it is a little gooey) than the one my aunt bought on the drive over, and I think baseball fans are the same way.
Yes, that’s just a computer rendering of what it might look like, but you can see the real progress here. Let’s not lie, RFK was kind of a dump. Bad food, bad angles, and no architectural personality to speak of. (True story: On a trip to St. Louis I got so drunk in old Busch I thought I was in D.C.) New stadium will pull some of these people over just because of amenities and convenience. Camden Yards is gorgeous. It just sucks that it becomes Fenway South in those games against the Red Sox, when that place should be drawing a faithful crowd nightly. Nationals Park will boast the biggest HD screen in the country, wide walkways, nice restaurants, and an intimate baseball environment. Every seat can see the entire field! Hell, the Phillies don’t even have that. I just have one question: Is it April yet?