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LOOKING IN ON FORMER NATIONALS

[March 17th] -- I'm returning (for a day at least) from my self-imposed exile; I can only go so many days without blogging before withdrawals set in.

So, how are all the former Nationals doing so far this spring? Remember, the sample size is still relatively small, but I think we can begin to get an idea as to how their new teams are beginning to see them.

And for the most part, they're making Jim Bowden look stupid.

The Mariners must be feeling mighty happy about now. In two separate transactions, they acquired Jose Vidro and Jose Guillen and gave up Chris Snelling and Emiliano Fruto. Fruto was sent to the minor league camp a couple of days ago while Chris Snelling is solidifying his position as the team's fourth outfielder (depending, of course, on Alex Escobar's health). Vidro and Guillen, on the other hand, are tearing up the Cactus league. Vidro, not having to worry about the wear-and-tear on his knees any more, is batting .353 with 7 RBI's. Guillen - healthy for the first time in more than a year - is hitting .316-1-3 with a solid .952 OPS.

It appears that Bowden made two big mistakes here. I said it appears that he made two big mistakes. Vidro always starts the year off gang-busters before inertia, and gravity, and father time, take their toll. He'll certainly end up having a good enough year, say .285-12-80, but those aren't very good numbers when you consider the cost of his contract and the fact that he can no longer play defense. And a healthy Guillen will probably hit .285-25-100, but is that type of production worth the devastation he'll wreak in the clubhouse? I say no.

I'm very happy that the Jose's are where they are, and in five years, both Jose's will be out of major league baseball while Chris Snelling will be 30 and Emilano Fruto 27.

Perhaps the most surprising spring stats belong to Ramon Ortiz. In 12 innings, the diminutive right-hander has given up just 8 hits and 1 walk while striking out 10. He has a near perfect 0.75 ERA. I'm sure Twins' fans are thinking now that Ramon Ortiz has worked out the kinks in his game and that they'll ride their newly found stud to the playoffs.

Not a chance. There is a reason that Ramon Ortiz has a career 4.85 ERA and is playing with his fourth team in four years. He's just not very good. All he's done thus far is guarantee his place in the Twins' starting rotation. That said, I seriously doubt he'll still be there come the all-star break. Teams like the Twins, teams who contend for a playoff spot year in and year out, can't afford someone like Ortiz in the rotation. I can't predict when it will happen, but trust me, it will happen. He'll be in the bullpen before the end of the year.

Another bad pitcher doing well this spring in Tony Armas Jr. The Pirates' gamble seems to paying off, at least initially. Armas is 1-0 with an ERA of 2.00 so far this spring. Of all the Nationals' pitchers, Armas is the one who gave me the most heartburn. He looked at times almost afraid to throw the ball. Of course, when he finally did, it became obvious why he was afraid: he knew he couldn't get anybody out. I'm very happy he's gone.

Marlon Byrd is doing well with the Rangers, hitting .367-1-8 with a .929 OPS. Good for him. He certainly has the talent to be an everyday major leaguer. Perhaps he'll follow Endy Chavez' lead and turn his career around. That said, I'm very happy with Snelling as our fourth outfielder instead of Byrd.

Royce Clayton is hitting .174-0-3, .425 OPS with the Blue Jays. I think his tank is finally empty. Matt LeCroy (still one of my favorite players) is batting .241 with a .663 OPS with the Twins, which is probably not enough to make the team. Brandon Watson is at .231, .390 OPS with the Tigers. Pedro Astacio, Ryan Drese and Zach Day are nowhere to be found, at least for now.

No doubt, some former Nationals are doing pretty well so far this spring, but please, Tony Armas, Ramon Ortiz and Marlon Byrd aren't going to continue to play at their current level. In the short term, the Nationals will miss most of these players, but in the long term, they are going to be a much better team.


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