Yesterday, I said that the Nats bench sucked. Looking at it right now I don't think I was objectively wrong. Alex Cora (35) cannot hit. Jerry Hairston (35 in late May) cannot hit. Pudge (39) cannot hit. Stairs is useful only against righties and is 98 years old. Laynce Nix (30) ... well I like Nix.
All of these guys are acceptable fielders which makes them somewhat useful, but in a "last guy on the bench" sort of way. The Nats bench is filled with "last guys".
Thinking about it a bit more though, I wondered if I was looking at this the right way. Really, what I should be asking is if the Nats bench subjectively sucked. In other words - does everyone else's bench suck too? Let's review the NL East to see how they compare
Scott Hairston (31 late May)
Willie Harris (33 late June)
Ching-lung Hu (27)
Daniel Murphy (26)
Mike Nikeas (28)
Slightly younger than the Nats, maaaybe slightly better. Hairston has some pop and if the Mets are lucky Hu might have one decent season in him. Harris is useful but probably aging out. Murphy is filler. Nikeas is not even that.
Matt Young (28)
Eric Hinske (33 till August)
Brooks Conrad (31)
Brandon Hicks (25)
David Ross (34)
I like the mix in this group. David Ross is a very nice backup catcher. Hinske is basically Stairs. The rest are probably AAAA guys but with some nice traits. Young can take a walk. Conrad has nice power (though is a dud in the field). Hicks is probably overmatched but at 25 you might get lucky and he plays the role of MI on the bench that can field. Plus - no former Nats!
Scott Cousins (26)
Emilio Bonaficio (26 in a couple weeks)
Greg Dobbs (33 in July)
Wes Helms (35 in early May)
Brett Hayes (27)
This is a terrible bench. Hayes is there because someone has to back-up at catcher. Dobbs and Helms would fit right in with the Nats bench - old and can't hit. OK to be fair Helms was good vs lefties last year - but given his age and stats over the past 3 years I'm not keen on him repeating that. Bonaficio is young but is terrible, I suppose he could pinch run (12 SB, 0 CS last year) but you don't keep a guy on the bench to pinch run when the rest is this bad. Cousins was a legit prospect but hasn't been able to put it all together. He's ok, a nice 4th OF.
John Mayberry Jr (27)
Ross Gload (35 yesterday - Happy Birthday Ross!)
Michael Martinez (28)
Pete Orr (32 in June)
Brian Schneider (34)
A more typical bench. JMJ is the failing prospect getting one last shot. I don't think he'll make it but I do think he's a very decent righty bat off the bench versus lefties. Ross Gload is the lefty pinch hitter, but this is the rare team that doesn't need that guy. Schneider is the token "old back-up catcher with inflated defensive reputation" but he's still capable behind the plate, unlike a lot of these guys. Martinez is a catch-all that used to be in the Nats system - generally a no-hit decent field type. Pete Orr is scrappy veteran. I don't like it, but it seems standard.
What did we learn other than back-up catchers are terrible? (Pudge would probably be 2nd best in the division if he got the playing time of a back-up) Is the Nats bench THAT bad subjectively?
I'll hold off on any strong decision, since one would have to go through all the teams to be sure, but looking at the rest of the NL East I would say no - the Nats bench is not THAT bad subjectively. Both the Mets and Marlins have benches that are nearly as bad. Make no mistake it's still a terrible bench, probably worst in the NL East but getting good players on your bench is pretty hard. You either have to overpay for vets or have a stacked minor league system that forces up some decent young talent. A lot of teams probably stick one or two decent players there and suck it up with the rest.
I guess what I'm saying is that the make-up of the bench, while horrible, doesn't constitute more than a minor failing by the management in my mind. A good bench is a rarity. Even title contenders role with mediocre ones. It's a shame the Nats didn't go with younger guys, or guys with a single great skill, but for a team like the Nats there are bigger things to worry about.
In other news - Espinosa is leadoff now, Desmond 7th. I think this can work out as long as Ramos stays decently hot. If Desmond is going to be a free swinger regardless of the situation, might as well put him in a spot where (1) he still might see decent pitches & (2) no one will really care if he makes that out.