Happy Thanksgiving! Regularly Scheduled Articles Will Resume Monday, December 1
July 8, 2005
Losing Cabrera isn't good, but it also isn't deadly to a team that's well ahead of the field in the AL West. He hasn't had a good season, and is looking very much like the biggest non-Cristian Guzman mistake signing from among last season's shortstop crop in the free agency pool. At least his fielding stats have been tasty enough, but with Maicer Izturis hitting well enough to hold a job, the Angels aren't so badly off as far as giving Cabrera what looks to be only a two-week vacation. The rotation isn't particularly groundball dependent, so they might not even notice if there's a significant problem in the field during that time.
Signed RHP John Stephens to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Ottawa. [7/2]
Like Jeff Fiorentino before him, Penn did nothing to inspire continuing confidence in that tools-minded notion that a kid with a full belt can fix your problems. The interesting development is that the Orioles are going with a four-man rotation in the aftermath of his demotion, preferring to get experimental instead of pressing James Baldwin into action. Don't get too excited about this development: the last slot in the rotation still belongs to Erik Bedard, and he's only a couple of weeks away from returning. Throw in the All-Star Break and an off day, and there was only one date between Penn's demotion and July 18th that a starter might make a start on short rest, and Rodrigo Lopez was crushed in that game (on Tuesday the 5th, for the curious). I'd bet dollars to donuts that the four-man rotation lasts only until the 18th, making it a pretty hollow challenge to conventional wisdom.
In other news, losing Gil is no loss; not only has Sal Fasano successfully rehabilitated his membership in the Player's International Brotherhood of Backup Backstops (you can call him Mr. PIBBB), but Whiteside has shown enough to make for a nice enough apprentice after hitting .263/.311/.415 in his first introduction to Triple-A pitching at Ottawa this season. Where Gil still might have an advantage is that Fasano's not the strong-armed catcher of his youth, but with enough contenders looking for catching help, if Whiteside looks adequate enough in his trial by fire before Javy Lopez's return by or just after the All-Star Break.
Okay, some of this might seem grim, so let's look at the bright side: nobody's pretending that Mantei can fill in as the closer during Foulke's absence. Ideally, the surgery and the month to six weeks away will bring back Foulke's velocity and capacity to dominate, but in his absence, you can understand why the Sox are willing to bandy about making Curt Schilling a closer. But Foulke has simply been the most notable failure in a pen full of poor performance. Mantei hasn't pitched effectively, and doesn't have his elbow to blame, beyond its post-surgical limitations after so many surgeries. Alan Embree has been dreadful, and John Halama about as un-utile as a utility pitcher can get, reduced to merely mopping up. I wouldn't invest a lot of faith in thinking that Gonzalez, DiNardo, and Cassidy are solutions to this problem, although Gonzalez's continuing success at Pawtucket (2.61 ERA, 1.1 WHIP, and 62 strikeouts in 69 IP) does make me think he's ready to help some team somewhere. I'm just not that confident that it will be in Boston's bullpen, not when there's a title to be defended, not when the transmogrification of Red Sox Nation from hair-shirt-wearing self-anointed martyrs to grasping New Jersey-ish "what have you done for me lately" fandom seems to be near completion.
Finally, you might wonder about the decision to demote Vazquez, but since news of the Sox's trade forAlex Cora just came sizzling across the wire, I think a longer review of how well the Dave Roberts trade seems to have worked out for Boston seems appropriate. In terms of talent alone, at first glance it seems a pale imitation of Nomargate, with defensive considerations coming to the fore, but at least it's shorn of the melodrama and mutual recriminations.
Placed LHP Damaso Marte on the 15-day DL (inflamed trapezius), retroactive to 6/27; recalled LHP Kevin Walker from Charlotte; claimed LHP Ryan Wing off of waivers from the Rangers and assigned him to Winston-Salem (A-ball). [6/30]
Much of this is temporary. Marte should be back after the break, so I wouldn't worry too much about how many times Walker blows it in a situational role. There's no need for a fifth starter going into the final weekend, so McCarthy's back in Charlotte to keep pitching while the Sox see if 'El Duque' is ready to return to the rotation next weekend. The one move that might last is Jenks' callup. Not only has he surpassed expectations by being ready to pitch far ahead of schedule after last year's elbow surgery, he's thrived as a reliever in Birmingham, allowing only 35 hits in 41 innings (only one of them a homerun), while striking out 48 and walking 20. Keep in mind, Birmingham is a nice place to pitch, but he seems to have kept the velocity that made him a prospect in the first place. If he thrives in the early going, it isn't hard to see how Ozzie Guillen might take a shine to him and stick with a twelve-man staff at points, even with everyone else in the pen pitching well.
It isn't every day that you lose the guy who might be your best-performing reliever and possibly get better, but that may well be the case here. Betancourt's been outstanding this season (although Matt Miller has been slightly more valuable in terms of VORP), but Cabrera might be the sort of talent that pushes situational assets like Miller into the sixth inning of games. A former starter, Cabrera's become a monster in relief in Buffalo, threshing the opposition like a McCormick Reaper with so much corn, allowing only 33 hits and nine walks in 45.1 IP, while striking out 62. Mixing in a big forkball with mid-90s heat, he's going to be tough in a way some of the classic power pitchers of the '80s were tough, and at 23, he's got a lot to look forward to. In the near term, he might have the staying power to be the long reliever this team lacks, but it won't be long before he's propelled into a high-leverage role closer to the end of ballgames. The real question is whether the Tribe will scramble to move a guy like Bobby Howry at the deadline, or if they'll demote Cabrera because he's optionable.
Recalled RHP Justin Verlander from Erie (Double-A); designated INF-L Jason Smith for assignment. [7/4]
Optioned RHP Justin Verlander to Erie (Double-A); purchased the contract of INF-R Kevin Hooper from Toledo; outrighted OF-R Alexis Gomez to Toledo. [7/5]
So here it is, the Tiggers finally get their star slugger back in the lineup, they paste him into the right field slot, hoping his knee can take it, and they get… well, a good week's worth of slugging to start off with, so more power to them. Plopping him into a lineup that already has Carlos Guillen back and Chris Shelton thriving could help the Tigers clamber up into the top of the American League in offense. The bragging right for weakest bat in the lineup now that Guillen, Shelton, Ordonez, and Polanco are in it belongs to Nook Logan, and he's been appropriately buried in the ninth slot, not to mention he's here to do as Chet Lemon did back in the days when Lemon had to range well beyond both gaps, in no small part because Larry Herndon and Kirk Gibson were simply expected not to hurt themselves while casting shadows in their respective corners. Since Ordonez can only stump around in right, and Rondell White seems perpetually sore, having Logan fulfill the flycatcher's role makes sense; ideally, it'll work out better for him than it did for Milt Cuyler.
Meanwhile, the schedule demanded a one-start call-up, so Detroit elected to give Verlander his initial test against Cleveland on Monday. He wasn't awful or good, embarrassing or excellent, giving up four runs in 5.1 IP. If he's been dominating at A-ball in this, his debut season, keep in mind that after coming out of Old Dominion in last year's draft, he's a product of a top college program, and he's supposed to pitch well at A-ball; he doesn't have much more than two weeks of experience at Double-A. However, he's looking much closer than we initially anticipated in BP2005, and if he's in the rotation to stay by September, I wouldn't be surprised.
I guess when you're the Royals and you're living down giving up too soon on Calvin Pickering and Eli Marrero, Royals fans can at least thank their lucky stars that Huber didn't get waived accidentally. Sweeney is that doomed figure, the best player on a bad team, with the challenge for Allard Baird being whether he can sort out if there's an offer to be found, or if he's stuck with a fragile, occasionally useful, but still very pale white elephant. Which, if you know something about Ganesh, might be the right note to strike when you're trying to make a deal.
Placed INF-B Glenn Williams on the 15-day DL (dislocated shoulder). [6/29]
Activated 2B-R Brent Abernathy from the 15-day DL. [7/1]
Recalled RHP Scott Baker from Rochester; optioned 2B-R Brent Abernathy to Rochester; placed 3B/2B-R Michael Cuddyer on the 15-day DL (bruised hand), retroactive to 6/30; activated 2B/SS-B Nick Punto from the 15-day DL. [7/2]
If this is Friday, today's starting second baseman must be Nick Punto, right? The infield is a ruin, but at least it isn't a ruin that involves much Luis Rivas. If there's good news, it's that Luis Rodriguez is getting to play, and that might mean something when Cuddyer's ready to be reactivated sometime after the break, because as things stand now, the Twins are choking on more Juan Castro than the Surgeon General recommends for consenting adults: do not operate heavy machinery with Juan Castro; watching too much Juan Castro has led to birth defects in mice; check your state's legal limits on Juan Castro.
Once Cuddyer returns, we might see an infield that has him at third, Rodriguez at second, and maybe, eventually, Jason Bartlett back at short. It might involve runs scored and defense being played well and three-hour ballgames and all that good stuff, instead of a few too many fast innings in their bottom halves during homestands. That's bad for beer sales and your ability to contend, and what else matters more than that?
As for Baker's brief fill-in for Brad Radke, it was a nicely-played gig, but it won't be a repeater, not yet. With even Joe Mays resembling a useful starter, the rotation doesn't have an opening for one of its best prospects.
Designated RHP Paul Quantrill and LHP Mike Stanton for assignment; recalled OF-L Bubba Crosby from Columbus; purchased the contract of LHP Wayne Franklin from Columbus; traded RHP Paul Quantrill to the Padres for LHP Darrell May, RHP Tim Redding and cash. [6/29]
I suppose that I spoke far too soon, enough so that I don't think dredging up Marx's observation that history repeats itself is particularly timely. Now that the Yankees are well into this '80s Revisited leitmotiv, complete with Jaret Wright in the Ed Whitson role, Tony Womack as Dave Collins, Hideki Matsui as Jerry Mumphrey, what questions are left? Who gets to be Bob Shirley? Dale Berra? I figure Redding can do a nifty Andy Hawkins impression if everything goes his way, but I wouldn't bet on that any more than I'd expect May or Franklin to be the new Ray Fontenot. I guess it's a New York thing at any rate; between The Producers, Wicked, and Spamalot, it isn't like Broadway's cranking out any original artifacts. Sports, kulcha, if it's second-hand, at least it's familiar, and because it's New York, you can always pretend that makes it better somehow.
Apres moi, le deluge. Okay, maybe Bret Boone's not the to-the-manor-born type that a scion of the Boone clan might be. Perhaps ego is something that skips a generation. Perhaps Bob got the ego gene for all Boone for all time. But there's a difference here, not to be confused with the end of the Jack Perconte era. Boone was the prodigal son, the star second baseman prematurely run off by the perpetually colicky Lou Piniella, and returning to become an improbable late-in-life star up in Coffeeville.
So what does a post-Boone infield look like? Beyond whatever hope that might come from what the move might mean for a Spiezio-free future, more basically, it should mean that Lopez gets to be the everyday second baseman. He's got a lot to learn about plate discipline or playing second base, like a young Boone, but also like a young Boone, he might provide some out of the ordinary power for a second baseman. It certainly can't hurt to find out.
Placed RHP Doug Waechter on the 15-day DL (finger), retroactive to 6/29; placed INF-R Alex Gonzalez on the 15-day DL (strained neck), retroactive to 6/26; released OF-L Chris Singleton; purchased the contract of LHP Joe Beimel from Durham; recalled OF-L Joey Gathright from Durham. [7/3]
Purchased the contract of 2B-L Fernando Cortez from Durham. [7/4]
I guess the happy little thing to take note of in the usual Devil Fishy morass is that Gathright is finally up and playing center field. No, he's probably not a solution, although he might inspire a wave of Jason Tyner nostalgia among some of the old-timers over in Section 214. But it's better to see if Gathright can do a convincing Juan Pierre impression than rediscover that Singleton cannot. Heck, that speed shows up to the ballpark every day, and if it spends most of its time motoring home from the batter's box without that pesky bother of getting on base first, that's for you, me, and the scoreboard operator to know.
Far less exciting are the arrivals of Beimel and Cortez, conqueror of Mexico. I don't expect the Conquistador to burn boats or seize an everyday job, or even get chiles out of the hot chocolate, but he makes a nice 'speedy guy who bats lefty' alternative to an infield that now has Jorge Cantu, Nick Green, and Julio Lugo playing the infield every day now that Gonzalez is out of the way. All three do bat right-handed, after all, while Cortez… does not. In his repeat engagement as a Biscuit, Cortez was hitting .345/.387/.435, which was enough to get him to Durham for a .278/.301/.367 line in three weeks. Overall, he'd swiped 21 bases in 24 attempts, so he's obviously gotten down to Sears to fill up most of that Julio Cruz commemorative tools belt. It's not all bad, but if the 'speed-'n-D' mantra is supposed to work for the Mantas, it's just another, busier-looking way to spin their wheels. Flap their flippers. Whatever.
Optioned LHP C.J. Wilson to Frisco (Double-A); recalled INF-R Marshall McDougall from Oklahoma. [7/6]
Recalled LHP Michael Gosling from Tucson; optioned RHP Brandon Medders to Tucson. [7/2]
Shaking up a bucket o' snakes is supposed to be something only thrill-seekers do, but the way Arizona's pen has performed, you can sort of understand the motivation behind constantly re-jiggering the pen in search of something useful. It's a bit strange to see Medders shipped out, since he hadn't particularly struggled, but guys like Brian Bruney, Greg Aquino, and even Gosling are all touted pitching suspects with live arms, so they're the ones who get the benefit of the doubt over organizational soldiers like Medders or Mike Koplove. If you ask me, it's sort of the expensive way to get yourself consideration for a really choice fruit basket from Kevin Towers this winter, but I've never pretended to understand Joe Garagiola Jr.'s motivations or rationalizations. Consider this the twinkie defense of roster management, a symptom of something wrong when it comes to identifying and addressing a larger problem.
Placed OF-R Brian Jordan on the 15-day DL (knee inflammation); purchased the contract of OF-B Jeff Francouer from Mississippi (Double-A). [7/6]
Don't get all bent out of shape, the Braves didn't lose a key player, they just lost the other half of last winter's ersatz outfielders. At least where Mondesi was completely useless, Jordan was doing some small good works as a platoon partner, but injury-prone light halves of a platoon-the guys who just see lefties on those occasions that you face them-are relatively replaceable. I'm not so enthusiastic about hauling up Francouer right now this instant, however. Despite his promise as a 21 year-old at Double-A, he was only hitting .265/.314/.474. Deposited into what might only be a part-time role in right field--splitting time with Ryan Langerhans--won't be easy for him as far as making adjustments, and given his lack of dominance at Double-A, he doesn't seem ready to simply take the job from Langerhans either. In the other corner, Kelly Johnson is earning his keep, so the Braves may only have one outfield position in question, one where an obvious solution suggests itself once Chipper Jones comes off of the DL. Wilson Betemit doesn't simply look like a guy who should be playing every day at third, he's also a heck of a fun hitter to have in the eighth slot. I know, having someone who can slug this well that low seems odd, but Betemit is becoming that sort of bad-ball hitter that made George Bell so dangerous, and that's sort of a fun wrinkle to add to a lineup in front of the pitcher's slot.
I sort of discussed Woody's return last week, so there's not much to add. I'm still struck by Borowski's fall from grace, as he went from purported savior to another piece of roster offal discarded by the Baker-y. It's been a season's worth of frantically nominated new heroes in the bullpen, and I don't think anyone should expect that to stop anytime soon. Dusty's reputation as a cogent, thinking professional was listing pretty heavily after last season; this season's frenetic roster jiggering and inability to pick from among and stick with anyone drawn from the organization's talented collection of pitching defies rational explanation.
Signed RHP Jason Standridge to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Louisville. [7/1]
Outrighted RHP Ricky Stone to Louisville; signed RHP Jimmy Serrano to a minor league contract and assigned him to Louisville. [7/3]
Recalled RHP Elizardo Ramirez from Louisville. [7/4]
It's not a major issue, not when it won't affect their place in the standings, but the Rockies haven't figured out what they want to do with their rotation now that Chacon is back. They haven't committed to moving Byung-Hyun Kim out of the rotation, and moving Chacon to the pen was one of last year's disasters, so that ought to be off of the table. While rumors continue to follow Joe Kennedy around, they're smart enough not to just give him up, instead preferring to find the best possible deal. Less promising on this front is the claim that the Rockies don't want to be perceived as dumping salary, but what's the point of worrying about that? Taking a crappy player making big money as an evener in a package? What would that be, the Reverse Curse of Mike Lansing? The season ticket holders aren't going to be placated by a move where face gets saved because money still gets spent; the best move the Rockies can make is deal for prospects of a caliber sufficient to inspire some small measure of optimism. In the meantime, as far as the rotation is concerned, Jamey Wright hasn't been anything special, but he hasn't been the worst filler on a team that, at its best, is defined by its capacity to fill a roster and a schedule. Bumping him to the pen for a few weeks might be the safest course.
Color me impressed. For the curious, that comes in a variant of sage, one of my favorites because of its double meaning (and, no, I do not mean the spice). But in this case, it's better still because of the wisdom the Fish are showing in moving Al Leiter to the pen. It might not be a lasting solution; no rotation that has to count on the sensitivities of Beckett's fingertips can be written in with ink. But by going with the club's best five starters now, they've shown the courage to focus on results and move the winter's big free agent pickup out of the rotation. Between Beckett, or counting on continued goodness from "Scuffy" Moehler, and having to worry about whether or not Scott Olsen will stick, it's not a bad thing to have a guy like Leiter around to plug in later on.
Whether or not Willingham's injury cost him a shot at any real playing time will be one of those unanswerable questions for the time being. As young players ranging from Jon Nunnally to Aguila can attest, the man can lose interest in even his avowed favorites pretty quickly. When in doubt, it's good to be Lenny Harris, roster bobo.
Released LHP John Franco outright. [7/6]
Given the perceived shortage of pitching, the pernicious addiction to situational typecasting, and the ready respect afforded to the ex-famous, I'll hold off on writing an obit for Generalissimo Franco just yet. It isn't like Gallo is going to fill the Astros' need for a situational lefty, having failed in the role in years past. Astacio's callup simply covered for a double-header, and doesn't reflect a willingness to shake up the rotation and bounce Wandy Rodriguez just yet.
Placed SS-B Cesar Izturis on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 7/1. [7/5]
What's left? The starting outfield is on the DL, and even if Milton Bradley will be back shortly, Drew won't be, even with the happy prognosis that he could be playing in September. Now that Izturis is down, the Dodgers are also missing the left side of their infield, and not even seeing Antonio Perez suddenly come into his own fixes that. Guys like Jason Repko, Cody Ross, or Mexican import Oscar Robles were never supposed to become important. As things stand now, they don't have people who can really play center or short, let alone an overlapping set of hitters that Jim Tracy can effectively platoon to compensate for so many injuries. The lineup has been reduced to survivors, the walking wounded, and rumors of a righteous slugger from a far-away place who will solve all their problems. And no, the way things are going, I don't expect the Dodgers' season to wind up any better than Baudolino did.
So what can the Dodgers count on? Ricky Ledee should be active this weekend, and maybe Izturis will be back soon after the All-Star Break. Maybe Bradley and Jose Valentin will be back by month's end. Maybe they'll still be in the race by then, by that time when they actually have a real lineup again. But given the breadth of the team's needs and the relative paucity of tantalizing prospects to use as bait, the knowledge that the Padres are so very reachable has to be galling. Can they stay close on the strength of the rotation, Jeff Kent, and the various spare parts? They're going to have to.
Activated 3B-L Russell Branyan from the 15-day DL; optioned 1B-L Prince Fielder to Nashville. [7/4]
Hallelujah! The Three True Outcomes demigod is back, and may his feats be strong, patient, or breezy. Having him back boosts the offense all on its own, but it also allows the team to push Bill Hall back into sharing time at short as opposed to starting and third, and also makes Wes Helms a reserve or trade bait, and it makes for a stronger Brew Crew in the short term. The downside of all this is that I'm beginning to wonder if the Brewers really know what they want to do with J.J. Hardy. Hall is only 25 himself, so it isn't like he's some recrudescent remain of Ernie Riles, back from the scrapheap. If he can handle short, and so far, his fielding stats at short seem to say that he can, he might just as easily be the defensive half of a middle infield combo that might need a sound defender to compensate for Rickie Weeks' limitations. That was supposed to be Hardy's gig, but if Hall's up for it, Hardy might be better employed besting the Mendoza line in Nashville. If Hall sizzles while Hardy regains some of his former prospect luster, either way, Doug Melvin has a shortstop with a bit of pop he can peddle.
Fielder showed power, and he's probably about as ready as he needs to be; if the Brewers wanted to flip back to their original league, they wouldn't even have a problem. However, even that would take some doing on Bud's playground, and since he's gotten out of the feudal lordship business to stick with his czar gig, he might not even feel the need to do any favors for a franchise and a fan base that learned to rue the day he hijacked the Pilots and made them Brewers. In the meantime, Cecil's little friend will have to wait for some sort of deal that makes Lyle Overbay a local hero somewhere else. (Come to think of it, Bud Selig always will have a Dishonest John sort of air about him, won't he?)
They couldn't work up the nerve to play Cliff Floyd at first, and they weren't going to dabble in playing former infielder Diaz there at the major league level, so off he goes to get a quick refresher course at the position down at Norfolk. He's played there before, back when the Mets couldn't sort out if he might stick at second or even third, so it shouldn't take too long to get him ready in time to be recalled after the Break. In the meantime, Cairo might win the second base job for himself, since neither Jose Reyes nor Kaz Matsui have done squat in terms of earning any job security.
It's been a grim season for famous first basemen. Jeff Bagwell, Todd Helton, Rafael Palmeiro, Sean Casey, even Doug Mientkiewicz, they've all taken a tumble. But as deeply as any of them, Thome's fallen. Recriminations over Thome's elbow have hit depths you would have normally expected Larry Bowa to help plumb. The Phillies aren't even through Year Three of the deal that looked bad at the time it was signed, they didn't get into the playoffs in their new park's inaugural season, and the master plan, like all of Ed Wade's new "Now I've fixed the bullpen!" schemes, is in tatters. At best this is, again, Howard's opportunity to shine. He was slugging .690 in Scranton, so you have to think that there really isn't anything left for him to do in the International League. Thome remains untradeable because of his contract and its length, and nobody thinks Howard can stick in left, so at best, Howard will get to play his way into being part of a package that fixes the pen, the team, and perhaps even Ed Wade's nagging problems and the ongoing failure to address them.
As stated last week, Duke's here for the fifth slot in Oliver Perez's absence, but since he's pitched two nifty games, he might get to stick around for a bit more than that. As is, he seems more likely to hold onto the job than Ian Snell or Ryan Vogelsong would have done, and since Perez is out for the rest of the month, it would look like the job will be his for the duration, what with the trade deadline coming up. Opportunities for the other guys will crop up should Dave Littlefield manage to move Mark Redman and/or Josh Fogg.
Acquired RHP Paul Quantrill from the Yankees in exchange for LHP Darrell May, RHP Tim Redding and cash considerations; activated 2B/OF-R Eric Young from the 60-day DL; recalled RHP Brian Falkenborg from Portland. [7/2]
Optioned OF-L Paul McAnulty to Mobile (Double-A). [7/3]
What was the point of adding a Bloody Quantrill to a bullpen in need of no special help? I suppose it's a trash exchange sort of favor, where Quantrill's availability, once advertised, became an opportunity for the Pads to unload some of their spare staff filler. This is a pen already gifted with groundball pitchers, so whatever it is that Quantrill is supposed to add that's different, beyond not fooling people at home plate, sort of beggars description. Perhaps it's a case of doing the Yankees a favor, and perhaps it's one where it kept Quantrill from becoming a Dodger. I wouldn't have worried.
I'm happy to see Hawkins back, and hope he shows the Giants something. It won't save their season, but at least it would be something. What I'll instead focus on here is the question of my obvious distaste for Linden, which some readers have asked about. How could I dislike a guy hitting .328/.451/.686, I'm asked. For me, it's pretty simple: at 25 and as a former college star from LSU, he's not particularly young. This is his third full year at Fresno, a hitter's park in a hitter's league, and this is the first season in which he's hitting. Is he killing the PCL? Yes, but being there isn't a new experience. Admittedly, it would be more fun to see if he's worth something than sticking with Marquis Grissom or really seeing if Alex Sanchez is the item of curiosity that could kill a pounce-worth of cats. But I'm not about to get really fired up about a Fresno-inflated organizational soldier, and I'd recommend you do likewise.
Optioned UT-R Rick Short to New Orleans; activated 2B-B Jose Vidro from the 15-day DL. [7/5]
Some of this is sad, but predictable, but it comes with that bittersweet realization that this team could contend, and then Johnson has to go back and remind us that his bloodlines include a great-great-great grandfather who was a particularly delicate Prussian royal bric-a-brac commissioned by Frederick the Great to commemorate his bloody-minded ruthlessness. Sadly, porcelain apparently isn't a recessive allele, so generations of brittle Johnsons gave us our current iteration, as superb a specimen of snap-crackling goodness as the game can boast since perhaps Joe Hauser himself. Nats fans should count their blessings to have gotten as much as a complete half-season, and while Johnson is supposed to be back shortly after the All-Star Break, you can forgive people for not holding a collective breath.
Equally embittering is the loss of Church. In conjunction with losing Johnson, the lineup now features an awful lot of Carlos Baerga and Wil Cordero at first, leavened by letting Marlon Byrd take on an everyday role in the outfield. Byrd hasn't capitalized on his opportunity, and the Willos Baerdero platoon can't, so these aren't good breaks for the offense. You might wonder about moving Brad Wilkerson to first to get another outfielder into the lineup, but Terrmel Sledge is already on the DL, Cepicky's swing is merely pretty while generally producing shallow liners and droll outs, and we don't have Jeffrey Hammonds or Endy Chavez to kick around any more. Happily, Church might be ready to play this weekend, but it highlights the organization's persistent depth problem.
The good news that Vidro's back is all well and good, since it does mean that the Nats get a key bat back while losing two. Having him here does leave unanswered the question of why it was so absolutely necessary to have Junior Spivey around, especially when he didn't get around to hitting the way some people, inside and outside of the organization, pretended he would. I suppose the Nats could always consider playing Spivey at first, but again, Spivey's played all of three games at positions that weren't second, and none at first base. Still makes a nice pinch-hitter against lefties, better than Cordero these days.