HOUSTON - JULY 19: First baseman Michael Morse #38 of the Washington Nationals misplays a ground ball hit downn the line by Michael Bourn of the Houston Astros in the eighth inning at Minute Maid Park on July 19, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
A healthy Adam LaRoche, a non-position-switched Michael Morse and prospect Chris Marrero are all viable options to play first base, but the Nationals shouldn't shut down the possibility of other outside options. Like, for example, Prince Fielder.
There are questions that we all have in life. Important questions that challenge us, force us to journey into ourselves and along the way help define who we are. Why are we here? What is our relationship with the earth? What is the Matrix? Who is Tyler Durden? Who will man first base for the Washington Nationals in 2012 and beyond?
These are the questions that concern us, but we have yet to discover the answers.
Concerning the Nationals and first base, rumors have begun to link Washington to free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder next season. Whether there is any truth to this back-fence talk or not, it has created debate between those who are for bringing some new, brutish blood and power into the lineup and some who are totally against it. Thanks to the Nationals already having Michael Morse, Adam LaRoche and a rising Chris Marrero, some are under the impression that the Nationals are no longer in need of a first base option.
Well, that is news to me.
LaRoche, Morse and Marrero are all viable options, but I can’t see why one should be totally sold on them. They each bring something to the team, but they each have something working against them that would make me hesitant to unilaterally close the job posting on Craigslist for the entire winter and let them run with it. Take LaRoche, who is currently recovering from labrum surgery, but should be ready by next season. He is a total baseball guy, classy and a tough hombre, but father time is catching up with him as he does with all ballplayers great and small. It isn’t a matter of if the team and LaRoche will part ways. It is a matter of when.
Of course, LaRoche's absence was mitigated by the stunning rise of Morse. What a magical 2011 season Morse has had, no doubt. The guy has been ripping the cover off the ball, inspiring oodles of 20+ year olds to don a t-shirt with a cheesy slogan. He is the feel good story of the season, and you might think I'm crazy for not being completely sold. But ... I’m not about to close my external first-base options based on one full season that may or may not be a fluke. If he comes roaring out of the gate like this in 2012, then we can consider the one bag position filled. Anyway, with LaRoche and his contract still on the team and Marrero in the wings, you'd think Morse will be back in left field next season, leaving first base open again.
Once one of the Nationals largest prospects, Marrero has fallen back a bit thanks to injuries and a basic improvement in the farm system in general. Still, his time is quickly arriving. The team will want to see what they have in the kid, and with a September call up imminent, we’ll know sooner than later. Given that, though, I don't need to say how foolish it would be foolish to just pencil him in at first base. Not when he is this much of an unknown.
That's the Nationals' situation. What about Fielder? There have been arguments against bringing him in. A couple of fans have suggested that Fielder doesn't fit the Nationals' new "body type," i.e. young, fast and athletic This is true: he doesn't. You could argue the Michelin Man could outrun him. But since when have the Nationals ever been totally deterred by some double cheeseburger on their players? They lived with Adam Dunn . When they needed pitching, they ignored Livan Hernandez’s twinkie keg. They didn’t mind a little extra beef in their bullpen when they signed Todd Coffey. They were all brought in for different reasons that didn’t involve having to run a 100-meter dash. Are you seriously going to sit there and tell me that Fielder’s bat would not look fantastically delicious in that Nationals' lineup, especially if you keep Morse’s bat in play in left field?
The one argument that might keep Fielder and the like out of D.C. is the business one. The Nationals spent a boatload on Jayson Werth, and already the phantom of Ryan Zimmerman’s contract extension in 2013 has started to creep back into everyone’s psyche. But when talking about money and ownership with the Lerners, there is one word that just botches the whole talking point: billionaires. Perhaps it is easy for me to say, because the money isn’t coming out of my own wallet, but they took the responsibility of owning a major league team and promising they would bring that team to glory. They need to pony up and do what they need to do to make that a reality. If I buy a Delorean with flux capacitor, you don’t think I’m not going to take that baby up to 1.21 gigawatts and 88 miles per hour? I’m just going to let it sit in the garage and admire the raccoons building a nest in it? Get out of town!
I’m not demanding the Nationals bring in Fielder, but I think they and the fans should consider all options and have nothing taken off the table. The team has money its pockets, an offense in dire need of a fix, the night is young and anything can happen. If I am making 2012 sound like a potentially epic night out at the K Street Lounge it is because I am. Natstown is in need of a fun binge and it can happen.
But only if the Nationals play their cards right.