The situation with the Nationals and free agent Orlando Hudson reminds me of those sitcom auction scenes where someone swoops in with a dramatic last-second bid that's many times the actual value of the item, and ends up losing their shirt.
Hudson entered the free agent market looking for a $9 million payday, but so far, the bids have been well short of that. Fellow thirtyish middle infielder Orlando Cabrera - who was also on the Nationals' radar - signed with Cincinnati for $4 million. Kelly Johnson, the former everyday second baseman for Atlanta, signed with Arizona for $2.3 million.
But Hudson still waits by the phone.
There was a sketch on Saturday Night Live back in the '80's where the late Roy Scheider played a man who had won a pair of Super Bowl tickets in a contest and was trying to sell them outside the stadium on game day - for a million dollars. Jim Belushi played a fan who was trying to buy them, whose final offer was about $600,000 - but Scheider kept telling him he wanted a million.
Finally, the game gets underway, Belushi gives up and Scheider goes home, where his wife asks him if he was able to sell the tickets. "No," he told her, "no one was really interested."
Clearly, the Nationals are extremely interested in Hudson. At yesterday's NatsFest at the stadium, the attending players, from Zimmerman to Marquis to Rodriguez to Morgan to Lannan - whichever one you asked - gushed about how much he'd mean to the lineup, both offensively and defensively. GM Mike Rizzo, when asked about Hudson, said he wasn't aware that Orlando's agent had dropped the asking price.
Hudson didn't sign a contract with the Dodgers last year until February 22, and then got only $3.3 million guaranteed for one year (plus incentives). He was non-tendered after a year in which he hit .283 - roughly his career average - made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove.
He also ended up losing his job in September to ex-Nat Ronnie Belliard, who the Dodgers re-signed for $800,000. It's that part of 2009 that is likely hampering Hudson's quest for such a huge raise.
Most baseball insiders feel that Hudson will bide his time, but still end up with Washington, citing the potentially major role he'd play here as opposed to almost anywhere else.
I can't fault Rizzo for not taking Hudson's current price tag seriously, particularly since the ceiling for aging middle infielders seems to have been set at well under half that figure. We all know Hudson will play somewhere this year. Sometimes, though, it's difficult for some players to accept the inevitability of reality on the payscale.
One other note: I had a great time chatting with many of you at NatsFest. It was nice to put a face to a few of the folks who comment here, and there was no shortage of very compelling conversations about the ballclub. One gentleman stopped by with vintage reel-to-reel tapes of interviews with many Washington players from the 1960's - I hope he stays in touch, I'd love to hear them. I also heard a lot of suggestions about future NatsFests, which I'm passing along to the proper executives in the front office.