Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Ode to Stevey

As is old news by now, Esteban Loaiza became the latest National to find a home elsewhere, signing with Oakland for 3 years at just over $21 million. Despite the fact that this development is the best thing for both Loaiza and the Nationals, I can't help but feel the slightest bit of regret and disappointment.

I have this weird complex when it comes to the sports teams I love. I get oddly attached to the players that I've come to know as part of the team. When Matt Nokes was traded away from the Tigers in 1990, I couldn't fathom that my favorite catcher would be playing for the Yankees. This was even harder for my favorite collegiate teams, since players tend to graduate or declare for the professional draft. Perhaps it's not all that weird of a complex, but it's definitely impractical in a sports world of free agency and early declarations for the professional draft.

I'll miss "Steve-Lo" -- as some of us un-PC types called him on occasion. He was reliable and efficient, despite never being all that spectacular. On a team that didn't have much margin for error, he was a valuable resource.

And besides, the guy drove a bitchin' car. On a handful of occasions when I parked myself by the players lot searching for autographs, Esteban drove out and stopped his car to sign. He had a customized Mercedes E320. On the tail, the '3' and the '0' were removed and replaced with 'L' and '1' to form EL 21. Very sweet ride.

As already documented by a myriad of Nats bloggers more diligent than I, this is probably a good situation for the Nats and Loaiza. Steve-Lo wasn't worth 3 years and $21 million to the Nats. We offered him 2 years and $8 million, a far cry from what he wanted. But he got it from Oakland, so more power to him.

According to Harper at OMG, it was the three year contract that Stevey wanted. If we would have been able to sign him for 3 years and $12 million then like Harper, I think it's a no-brainer to sign him. But like Harper says, I doubt that would have been possible. Nine million dollars is an awful lot of dough to leave on the table.

I don't even mention the fact the lack of a Nats owner hamstrung us from the beginning. Is 3 years at $21 million a good value for a pitcher like Loaiza? Maybe, maybe not. But who knows if a proper owner with a proper budget would have been able to reach a deal with Loaiza.

Other bloggers have criticized Tom Boswell's column about this issue. Loaiza is no gigantic loss to be sure, but what are the alternatives? Jason Johnson? Ick. Brett Tomko? Uh, no thanks. Loaiza is no world-beater, but by all accounts he liked Washington and would have liked to stay. If we had an owner, we might have been able to keep him.

But it's of no matter now. Esteban is an Oakland Athletic, and Mrs. Rocket's disbelief at him getting picked off will have to remain a fond memory. Esteban contributed a lot to the great inaugural season we experienced. I'll miss him. And his funky male pattern baldness.


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