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Curiouser And Curiouser

[March 20th] -- I love Chris Snelling. Every team needs a player who plays well above his talent level, one of those guys who runs through walls without any thought to his career (and seven knee operations later, it shows with Snelling). And under most circumstances, I wouldn't have a problem with him beating out Ryan Church and winning the left-field job, but this isn't "most circumstances."

It involves Ryan Church, it involves a knee that really isn't a knee anymore, and it involves a promise that needs to be kept.

Throughout Spring Training, Nationals' beat reporters have described Chris Snelling's health as "as good as it's ever going to be," meaning that while he's 100%, 100% for Chris Snelling is 70% for any other professional athlete. I've had multiple surgeries on my knees as well, and regardless of what anyone says, each surgery takes something away. You slow down. Your reflexes are reduced. Pain becomes an every-day occurrence. I'm not so sure I want my starting left-fielder to be in the mold of Alex Escobar, i.e., a guy who never met an injury he didn't like. I mean, what's the chance that a guy who hasn't been able to play everyday for five years all of a suddenly finds the magic elixer and plays 160 games? Snelling would be an excellent 4th outfielder, or he'd make a tremendous half of a platoon. Come to think of it, a Snelling/Escobar platoon would make a lot of sense in the Nationals' outfield; neither of them would play enough to run the risk of wearing down and being on the DL by July.

The other problem is "the promise." Since the early days of the Acta administration, Manny was clear: Nook Logan is the team's starting center-fielder and Ryan Church is a fixture in left.

Period.

Enter Jim Bowden, who suggested that Snelling's excellent spring play has muddled the situation in left. What did Acta say when asked about Bowden's remark? "He's still the guy .... I think."

My guess is - for a while at least - that Church's frontal lobe was going to explode.

Today, however, both general manager and manager say they are on the same page regarding Ryan Church. I hope so. I can forgive bad decisions made in good faith, but for the team to go back on their word because a player had a better spring than expected? Not a good sign. Granted, Snelling is batting .310 with an impressive 1.122 OPS. He leads the club with three homers and eleven RBI's. Big numbers, but a small sample size. Twenty-nine at-bats means nothing, especially considering the guy has a career .237 batting average in 152 at-bats. Ryan Church, on the other hand, is batting just .175 in 40 at-bats yet he has a .269 career average in 527 at-bats. Snelling has yet to hit at the major league level, Church has, and yet Bowden was suggesting that the past three years of statistics for both players were meaningless when compared to Snelling's twelve spring games.

Acta believes in giving his players confidence by not forcing them to compete while Bowden believes that publicly questioning his players motivates them. Shame on Manny if he didn't mean what he said, and shame on Bowden for playing with Church's head, especially since Ryan has showed that these type of management mind-games backfires every time.

Of course, all of this would be moot if Church would only start to hit. Why he fiddled with his batting stance this spring is beyond me; the last thing Ryan needed was another poor start to another season. That said, I've never understood, and I guess I never will, how a player's future can be determined by 30 or 40 at-bats in spring training. Every player goes through an 0-15 or a 2-25 sometime during the season. You're okay if it happens in July but screwed big-time if happens in March.

Chris Snelling has proven nothing at the major league level. Hopefully, one day he'll be an integral part of the Nationals' outfield, but there is nothing tangible in his background to suggest that at this point. Ryan Church, on the other hand, has proven that if people would just leave him alone and put him in the outfield, he will succeed. His career numbers prove it. With 527 major league at-bats (a typical full season in the major leagues), Church has a .269 average along with 33 doubles, 4 triples, 20 homers and 83 RBI's to go along with a .808 OPS.

The Nationals aren't willing to give up on that kind of production based on forty at-bats, are they?

Are they?


Comments:
Here is a vote for Snelling over Church regardless of "the promise".
Church is a head case who has a continuing confidence problem while Snelling is a self-motivated and hard-charging Aussie who loves to play baseball. Trade Church now before his value decreases any more. Nats always have Kory Casto in reserve.
 
First of all the man above doesn't know what he's talking about Church is clearly the better player of the two, his numbers prove it and if the Nats would just simply give him a chance to play everyday left field he would quite the critics. However I'm all for moving Snelling into the everyday left field spot if the Nats shift Church to CF and have Nook Logan as the 4th outfield which he rightly deserves. Another great article and I must say I have missed you Farid hopefully there will be man more to come.

-Corey
 
Wait he's hard-charging and an Aussie? I didn't know. Count me in the Snelling bandwagon!

Priority list for choosing baseball players
#1: Is he an Aussie?
#2: Is he gritty, gutty, hard-charging, red-assed, or any other such adjective?
#3: How has he done on the major league level.

Sorry for the snark but Farid gets it. Ryan has deserved an honest 2-month shot at last OF spot based on his previous major league production. 40 ABs should not change that. Add to that if Church doesn't start that immediately undermines any players ability to trust Manny Acta and this organization and you simply can't start Snelling.

If Ryan is a headcase it is in good part because of how the organization has treated him.
 
Don't get me wrong i'm a big Ryan Church fan but to say that he is a better player or even more accomplished is a bit of a stretch.
Chris has been playing Pro ball since he was 15 has eclipsed anything that Church has even come close to at the minor league level.
The reason his career batting average is as low as it is, is due to the fact that he was called up in 02 when he was only 19 & averaged 148. Also at the end of 06 had a slow september to finish the season with a 250 average.
Every Nat fan seems to love Church because he is an original starting day 05 nat who had a great first half when the nats made their run but like the nats Church has done little since. If management want that to change they should start Snelling in LF.
 
You're right, Corey -- Logan deserves to part of the team, as a 4th outfielder. And there's nothing wrong with being a 4th outfielder; many major leaguers have made a career out of that.

Logan is being set up to fail. If he fails (um, excuse me, when he fails), he's not going to become the #4 outfielder. No no, he'll be long gone, riding the same rails that pushed Endy Chavez and Brandon Watson out of town.
 
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