Call it schadenfreude

Schadenfreude is defined as pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. I can’t help but think that there are more than a few Nationals’ fans who’ve experienced a little schadenfreude over the struggles of pitcher Aaron Crow this year in the Kansas City farm system.

In case you’ve forgotten, Crow was the Nats’ first round pick in the 2008 draft. His representatives, the Hendricks’ brothers of Houston, used a negotiating tactic that eventually blew up in their collective faces.

According to multiple sources, the Brothers Hendricks wouldn’t even entertain an offer until the final 48 hours prior to the deadline. They began by asking for $9 million, and by the 11th hour, had come down 50%, to $4.5 million. The Nationals’ final offer was $3.5 million - $400,000 more than the Orioles had signed their top pick, lefty Brian Matusz, for. Crow would have been the highest paid pitcher in the entire draft, but no, it was either $4.5 million or they’d take their boy and play for the Ft. Worth Cats of the independent American Association.

The Nationals called their bluff, and Crow headed for the Lone Star State.

Some fans cried foul, insisting the Nats were cheap, and during the embarrassment that was the 2008 season, owed the fans to spend whatever it took to sign Crow. For a short while it had the makings of a PR nightmare, with national baseball columnists jumping on the bash-the-Nats bandwagon.

Shortly thereafter, however, when some of the details of the negotiations started to leak out, the tide started to turn. The compensatory pick for not signing Crow turned into Drew Storen, and Crow dropped down to the 12th pick overall. He signed with the Royals for a $2 million guarantee, with $1.5 million in incentives; less guaranteed money than Washington had offered.

Storen’s in the big leagues, and has been pretty productive since his call-up. Crow was given the ambitious assignment to Double-A ball out of spring training, and the results weren’t what he’d hoped for: a 5.66 ERA in 22 starts. Sent to Class A this month, he’s at 5.65 through two starts, so he’s nothing if not consistent. His issues thus far are getting left-handed hitters out, and his propensity to allow bases on balls. He’s racked up 102 strikeouts in more than 133 innings, but has walked 61.

There’s no way of knowing whether or not he would’ve done any better had he signed with Washington, but nonetheless, not signing him has turned out pretty well for the Nats. His year off - he rarely actually pitched in a game at Ft. Worth - didn’t do him any good, financially or otherwise.

For those of you into schadenfreude - or you’re just interested in seeing Aaron up close and personal - he’s scheduled to pitch at Frederick next week and the following week at Potomac in Carolina League action.