Thursday, December 30, 2004

Micah Bowie, C'mon Down!

I missed this while I was on break, but the Nats made ten spring training invites. The majority of the players are ones nearing the end of their careers or has-beens-who-never-quite-were.

These players are hanging on, hoping that a great performance in spring training will get them invited to head north with the major league club. Most of them won’t. And they’ll spend the year in the minors, waiting for the right injury in the majors.

There aren’t any superstars on this list Bowden signed, but there might be some useful stopgaps for a utility spot or the back of the bullpen.

Phil Hiatt, 3B, now 36 has played the last three years in the minors, hitting pretty well. He last played for the Dodgers way back in 2001 and has played in parts of fours seasons. He’s the kind of player to fill out a AAA lineup.

Jared Sandberg, 3B, is a former Devil Rays prospect (I’m not sure if that’s an oxymoron.) He’s also the most likely of these players to make it. His major league averages are just .221/.297/.406, but he’s also just 27. He has poor plate discipline, but has shown decent power for an infielder. He’d be decent insurance in case the aging Vinny Castilla breaks down.

Rick Short, 3B, is a career minor leaguer who’ll turn 32 this year. He’s put up some alright numbers in the minors, but they were all in the offense-oriented Pacific Coast League. He’ll enjoy another season in the minors this year too.

Keith Osik, C, was last seen soiling an Orioles uniform. He’ll turn 36 and, having spent parts of nine seasons in the majors, is at the end of the line. He hasn’t displayed any power or any patience at the plate since 2000, with the Pirates. With the craptacular Gary Bennett under contract as our backup catcher, Osik will probably provide some minor league depth and could be an option if there’s an injury.

Hector Carrasco, RHP, could be useful. He’s pitched in parts of nine seasons, but missed all of 2004. I can’t find any reference to an injury, but barring a sudden retirement and a change of mind, that’s the only explanation. Assuming he’s healthy, he could be useful in the back of the bullpen. He has a 4.22 ERA in over 600 innings.

Chad Durbin, RHP, is a player with a decent, but not spectacular, minor league track record who hasn’t translated any of that towards major league success. Used mostly as a starter, he has a garish 6.22 ERA in 331 innings. I suppose that there’s still time for him to put it together. I just hope it’s in Edmonton the bayou, at least until he shows he can put it together.

Seth Greisinger, RHP, is another pitcher who’s fared decently in the minors and poorly in the majors, with a 5.56 ERA. Like Durbin, he’s primarily been a starting pitcher. Unlike Durbin, he hasn’t had much success above AA ball. I hope he has a Canadian visa likes creole cooking.

Luis Pineda, RHP, looks interesting. He’s had two stints in the majors, back in 2001 and 2002 and showed little command. He struck out an impressive 8.6 batters per nine innings, but also walked 6.7 per nine. Sent down to the minors in 2003, he’s pitched only 40 or so innings over the last two years. Again, I’m assuming it was injury-related. This is the second time that Bowden has acquired him, the first was from the Tigers in the Dmitri Young swap.

Micah Bowie, LHP, is a former Braves prospect, who’s pitched parts of three seasons for three different teams, most recently, the As. Bowie missed all of last year. He definitely had “elbow strain” in 2003, probably explaining the missed year. Being a left-hander, he’ll have plenty of chances to prove that he can still throw. Like the other players, there’s little downside, but plenty of upside.

Dan Smith, RHP, last pitched in the majors with Les Expos in 2003. He only threw 3 innings in the minors because of various back and shoulder injuries. He has a career 5.23 ERA in 177 IP scattered over four seasons.

Perez Slipping Away

Today's Post story paints a negative picture. The Mets and now the Marlins are hot on Odalis' trail. It even quotes Bowden as saying that the chances of signing him are "on life support."

Our chief negotiator seems to be Jose Rijo:
"I told him he doesn't want to play in New York," Rijo said. "Even for a superstar like Pedro, that's a lot of pressure. The press is horrible on people there. I don't think he wants to go to that pressure. I think he should come and pitch every five days and have fun in a city where baseball is new."

Nationals Pastime's analysis, that I linked to yesterday, demonstrates how valuable Odalis could be to this team--and what he could mean to the other teams in the division.

He's clearly the best pitcher left on the market--hell, the only good pitcher left on the market. The article indicates that the Nats will wisely not go after anyone else on the market with a big contract if Odalis doesn't sign. But what would be really damaging is if he signs within the division over 2 or 3 million dollars--money that Bowden has frittered away with some of the signings he's made.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

It's Official!

Mayor Tony Williams signed the stadium financing bill. Barring something catastrophic, we've got our team! (Hmmm.... maybe I should go buy some insurance now, just in case)

"It's a great day in our city," Williams said. "This baseball park is good for the city. Maybe I could have done a few things differently, but I never regretted what I did. It's not good just for the psychology of the city, but it's good for the city economically. I really, really believe that."

Now, we just have to see how Marion Berry can gum up the works with needless delays. As I've said before, he and any others are going to need to be held accountable for any unnecessary construction delays and resulting cost overruns because of their politcal posturing. The stadium funding bill is done and over. No matter the merits of their argument, their side lost the debate and it's time to move on. Any increase in costs, because of their delays, will be borne by the residents of DC who they claim they're trying to protect. They must be held accountable for that.

Cost Overruns Watch--First In A Continuing Series

Yeah, I found it last night. The initial estimates for the RFK renovations was $13 million--Thanks google!

According to the initial contract, cost overruns in this phase must be paid by the city. I'm assuming this is still in play--unless something was changed by the agreement last week (Which the mayor signs today).

According to this Times article, the contract was awarded to Turner Construction Co. for $18.4 million.

I'm sure they'll claim that the reason for the overruns is because of the late start due to the council's actions over the last month. But we're barely a month into the process and we're 40% overbudget on renovations. The final pricetag is sure to go higher in the end.

As our friends in Milwaukee and Seattle can attest, cost overruns are another one of the prices you have to pay to play. Sigh.

Odalis Update

Seattle's still hot after him and according to this article, it's either the Ms or the Nats. (Especially if the Mets make a big push for Beltran)

John at Nationals Pastime has an excellent look at just how important Odalis can be. With him, we'd be near the Braves in terms of the callibre of rotation. Without him, we'd jump towards the middle of the pack.

When you factor in the potential for improvement by Ohka and Armas, there could be a lot to smile about if the offense can scratch out 4.5 to 4.75 runs a game.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Over Budget Already?

I need some help on this one. According to this article, the contract for RFK renovations has been awarded.

It's citing an $18.4 million price tag. I seem to remember that renovation costs being estimated at around $13 million. I can't find a source on that though. Has anyone seen anything?

If so, this doesn't portend good things once the real stadium gets going.

But What Size Leather Pants?

The Post profiled our Rockstar-Wannabe GM, Jim Bowden. He has a pretty mixed reputation among agents and players. The two words most used to describe him: creative and aggressive. That seems about right.

At first, this scared me:
During the day, Bowden scrambles to make deals for the Washington Nationals, for whom he is serving as the interim general manager, sitting restlessly in an office in Viera, Fla., ideas shooting through his brain one after another after another. But late at night, he rehearses breaking news broadcasts for television shows that will never air, analyzing deals -- real and fictitious -- that he may or may not make. He pays attention to tone, to facial expression, to the inflection in his voice.

But then I thought whether this was any different than someone practicing hitting a home run, or making radio calls in the shower? Probably not for someone who loves being a GM.

I’ve been willing to defend Bowden in some cases, but there have been some moves that have left me scratching my head. I still think we need to wait until spring to fairly assess all his moves, but with the way the market has been so crazy, some of his moves might not be as bad comparatively.

I'm back!

Alright, I’m back. I can finally return to my normal obsessive-level posting.

Here’s a few of the highlights I missed during my break.

Eric Fisher does a political accounting for the winners, losers and lessons of the stadium financing bill. It’s a good quick summary of what went on.

The Post talks about the ownership situation--there are at least six bidders--and the specter of Angelos that’s looming large over the process.

The gross receipts tax on businesses will be dramatically lessened, because they were able to pass a provision that extends a $12 million utility tax. Half of it will be paid by the federal government.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Feliz Navidad

Adieu! I'm headed back home for Christmas so I can get funny and confused stares when I wear my red Nats hat.

I'd point ya to the other Nats links to the right, but then you'd find out what a fraud I am and never come back.

Have a great Christmas/Festivus, etc. See ya in a week!

Ohka's Playing Hardball

In the article announcing Schneider’s signing, they reveal that the team isn’t close to a settlement with Tomo Ohka. It appears that they’ll probably have to go to arbitration.

One of the big problems with going to arbitration is that it sometimes poisons the relationship with the club. At the hearing, the player is ripped by the team, trying to assert that there’s nothing special about him, while the player’s agent makes the case for sainthood. The adversarial relationship certainly can’t be good for future negotiations.

Ohka’s a very solid pitcher, who we can probably pencil in for a sub-4.00 ERA.

On the bright side, Bowden claims that they’re making progress on the negotiations with the rest of the arbitration-eligibles: Johnson, Wilkerson and Armas.

Are They Ready For Some Football?

The Nats won’t be the only team playing in RFK. Despite playing in relative obscurity--which is a shame because they’re DC’s only good team--the DC United soccer club will be sharing the stadium. They’ve revealed how they’re going to make it work: rolled-up sod.

Large clay-backed turf will be rolled on and off the field as needed. They had considered trays of grass. I can remember they tried that in the Meadowlands for the Giants and the Metrostars and it failed miserably. The grass just couldn’t hold up in the trays--it kept ripping up.

They claim it will take two days to switch TO soccer and three to switch back to baseball.

With the lengthy road trips baseball teams take, it shouldn’t be too difficult squeezing in the thirty or so games they play.

Stadium Blah Blah Blah

--Eric Fisher talks about the monumental tasks ahead: everything from renovating RFK in the 112 remaining days to negotiations for the land the stadium will eventually be built on. It’s worth a quick read just to see the number of hurdles that need to be jumped. I’m just glad I’m not in that race.

--Cropp is getting slapped by the anti-stadium activists. They feel that she caved. (Now they know he we felt!)
"She took a courageous stand, but in the end she caved in," said Malik Z. Shabazz, national attorney for the New Black Panther Party, a militant black power group that has a strong presence in Southeast and was at the forefront of the stadium opposition. Mr. Shabazz and other ballpark opponents said the final deal supported by Mrs. Cropp was basically the same as the original deal struck by D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat.

"Despite all the maneuverings and the politics, it appears pretty clear we are right where we were in the beginning," Mr. Shabazz said. "[Mrs. Cropp] could have and should have stuck to her guns. But in the end she was under tremendous political pressure."

--Thom Loverro mentions the two tasks MLB must take up next: Angelos and new owners.
The lucrative proposal under consideration for Angelos reportedly consists of a guaranteed resale value for the Orioles in the neighborhood of $360 million, a guaranteed level of annual revenue, and most of a regional sports television network….
The payoff to Angelos will be precedent-setting, and it will be far too expensive to repeat again.

He also mentions that there have been over twenty bids to buy the team.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Battery's Back

Well, at least part of it.

In the first of what will hopefully be many pre-arbitration-hearing settlements, Brian Schneider signed a 1-year $2 million contract with the Nats.

I've talked about Schneider pretty extensively before.

Ball-Wonk had a rather unique look as well.

Adrian Fenty's 15 Minutes

I'm pretty sure the clock is just starting for him.

Stadium Proponent Über-Villain Adrian Fenty chatted on the Washington Post website today. He took a few questions, stuck to his talking points, and tried to distance himself from the stadium.

He laid out the only condition he would’ve supported funding:
I support 1) renovating RFK and having the team play there or 2) a deal similar to the MCI Arena deal where the owner of the team paid for the stadium and we paid for the infrastructure around the stadium. AF

He was asked about how strongly he’d oppose the stadium in the coming year. (Marion Berry has fired some shots across the bow indicating he’ll try and tie it up for as long as possible.) Fenty’s relatively innocuous, but not-so-soothing answer:
It would be wrong for any public official (no matter what side of this matter they are on) to avoid their responsibility to review the contracts and leases that are submitted to the Council related to the construction of the stadium, similar to any contract that must be approved by the Council.

In other words, the battle’s not completely over. The ironic thing now is that any delays that Fenty/Berry/Catania et al cause are going to directly hurt city residents. The penalties the Council and DC agreed to would result in a significant financial loss to the city.

What they must remember is that, no matter the merits of their arguments, their side lost the debate. They must be careful public stewards and not let their emotion over the issue carry over and end up harming the city’s residents. Because, if the city does have to pay penalties, that will be money that could be better used on schools, libraries and other essential city services. And, if they’re going to cause those problems, it is their feet that should be held to the fire, not those who supported and were victorious in the stadium debate.


Odalis Perez is the last solid pitcher on the free-agent market and, by all accounts, he's the main target of Seattle and the Nationals.

Reportedly, the Nats have offered $18 million over three years to him. The Mariners have offered slightly more money.

Perez is a close friend with Adrian Beltre, the Mariners newest big-ticket player, and he's been lobbying Perez to sign with the Ms.

With the Dodgers gumming up the Randy Johnson to NY trade, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Yankees get involved in the discussions. They've expressed a desire to get a left-handed pitcher in their rotation, and were openly flirting with the execrable Eric Milton earlier, so Odalis isn't out of the question. I can picture them looking at his playoff flame-outs against St. Louis and staying away, however. I can't imagine they'd get involved in the bidding, but with New York, you never know.

Odalis is a pretty extreme groundball pitcher. I'm going from memory here, but I think he threw roughly 60% groundballs. He doesn't walk may batters (roughly 2.5 per 9 innings). Perez doesn't go particularly deep into games, but with the strength of our bullpen, that shouldn't be a huge problem. He'll definitely give you 6-7 innings of quality pitching, which should be enough to win more often than not.

Joy In Mudville?

I suppose I should be happier--especially considering how depressed I was last week. But, for some reason, I'm not filled with joy. And that's kinda depressing.

I was happy with the result, but I guess all the machinations wore me out. I work in legislation, so I’m used to the proverbial sausage factory. I’ve seen the hog innards before, so that aspect wasn’t surprising. I don’t know if it was the long, drawn-out process that got to me, or if it was belief, buried very deeply inside, that this was going to work out in the end anyway.

I guess what I’m feeling is more relief than happiness.

I hope…well, I know that’ll change when I’m sitting in the sun, watching Cristian Guzman beat out the game-ending double-play grounder. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing, listening, thinking about and even writing about the games.

I lived in Baltimore for a few years and, because I was a poor college student, didn’t go to as many games as I would’ve liked--unless my Yankees were in town. I’ll have to learn some new teams, learn to watch the pitchers make outs, and learn to hate the Braves.

No matter how messily we’ve gotten to this point, the Nats are here. And I’m looking forward to it.

Lotsa Stadium Talk

Soon enough, we'll be back to on-the-field stuff. I haven't been getting my Bash-Bowden fix lately.

--Business marches on, once again. They’re deciding between 106.7 and 980 for the radio contract. (Probably the two most garbled stations in the area. It always sounds like they’re broadcasting from a laundry room). And Odalis remains on the radar.

--Boswell’s pessimistically optimistic. But he includes this nugget:
[A]ccording to one of the people most involved in researching the timeline for building the District's new ballpark, "Getting the stadium done for '08 is already out of the question. It can't be done and it won't be close. I'd put a ballpark opening in '09 at 50-50." If that pessimistic view proves true, Cropp may save the District $15 million to $30 million.
--Jerseys go on sale today when the Nationals Team Store reopens. Ball-Wonk has a preview of the Nationals Uniforms. They get his, and our, o’ffishul seal of approval.

--Mini-Plan tickets are expected to go on sale next month. Single Game tickets go on sale in February.

--The Post questions how much money Cropp is actually saving--they claim as little as $4 million.

--The Post hopes that the new stadium can heal the urban/suburban divide. Awww! Isn’t that cute?

--Senior Statesman David Broder views the new team as a tonic for what ales the bitter partisanship that has increasingly afflicted Washington since the Senators left. Awwww! Isn’t that cute? I’d argue that it’s an increase in sophisticated technology, combined with a breakdown in party identification, which has created too many safe districts that are controlled by the hyper-partisans who vote and get involved in the primary process. But, what do I know?

--Eric Weiss is ready to build statues to the hero, Linda Cropp.

--Ugh. Another in the staple-of-the-news-journalist articles, the analyze by anecdote. Apparently, it’s all about whitey (and I don’t mean Ford or Herzog). What I don’t get is his complaints about the suburbanites coming into the town to support the team. Doesn’t he realize that that’s additional revenue for the city? A pseudo commuter tax?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Linda Speaks--And It Passes!

I’m listening to the DC Council hearing now.

Cropp began by reciting her accomplishments and the list of ‘concessions’ she got from baseball--most of them amount to little, such as additional days for the use of the facility.

Then she listed the agreement they’ve reached and the conditions she’ll support the amended bill (One without the sunset provision that would’ve killed public financing.)

They’re the same things we heard this morning:
--Insurance costs split 50/50 with MLB
--No penalty for liability related to acts of God
--Liability for lack of construction reduced to just 1 rent-free year (Roughly $5 million)

She claims it’s a savings of around $193 million.

Don't tick off Carol Schwartz. She's an angry woman. She's offended that the council is taking hits because of the perception that they had backed away from a deal before--even though many of them weren't involved in the initial negotiations.

FENTY'S SUPPORTING THE AMENDMENT???? What The? The whole reason he and Catania didn't get slammed was because they were consistent. NOW they're supporting it? Ugh. Although doesn't appear that he's going to support the final bill? Weird.

Yeah... Catania clarified that he'll be supporting the amendment, but opposing the bill. I guess that makes sense. Fenty wasn't nearly as clear though.

They've approved two amendments, which include all those provisions. If all goes well, they'll soon vote on final passage.

IT PASSES! We've got our team back!

Love Me Tenders

After agreeing to an extremely reasonable 1-year $657K contract with relief pitcher TJ Tucker, the Nats tendered a contract to all their arbitration eligible players: Wilkerson, Johnson, Schneider, Ohka and Armas. All will be retained for next year.

Salary arbitration hearings typically begin in February and the teams and players usually try to reach an agreement before the hearing, because even millionaires and hundred-thousandaires don’t like it when their bosses prepare detailed powerpoint presentations on why they’re not worth what they think they are.

TJ Tucker is a very solid middle reliever. While no one is going to confuse him with Mariano Rivera, he can serve as a very effective bridge to the late innings.

With the arbitration offers to Ohka and Armas, the pitching staff is shaping up to be a strength. What it lacks in terms of an ace, it makes up in terms of the depth of quality. Each of the pitchers on the staff has the potential to be a solid number-two-type starter and there’s plenty of room for upside and growth. The bullpen has a number of quality arms as well.

My only concern is how this will affect the Odalis Perez negotiations. Perez is clearly the best pitcher still left on the market, with Seattle and the Nationals the most interested. Seattle is rumored to be offering more money, but I read something that indicated that Perez preferred the idea of playing in Washington. (Hopefully he meant the city and not the state!)

If we can add Perez to the staff, the team’ll be all set. I won’t print up the NL East Champion pennants quite yet, but the Nats won’t be an embarrassment either. I still think that if everything breaks right, they can be on the outside of Wild Card contention next year. And if everything breaks right, I’ll be a millionaire too!

Ah… Ya Gotta Have Hope!

You Gotta Know When To Hold ‘Em

Linda Cropp called baseball’s bluff and we have a team again--for now.

Signs over the weekend indicated that MLB wasn’t opposed to private financing so much as the provision in the stadium bill that would’ve yanked funding had the private financing goals not been met, despite their tough rhetoric.

With the whole deal teetering on the brink of collapse, Cropp and Mayor Williams agreed on a financing package that retains the request for 50% public financing and a reduction of the city’s risk for cost overruns and late-construction penalties ($5.3 million as opposed to $19 million).
Cropp said the proposed changes could reduce the District's potential costs for the stadium by up to $193.5 million when compared with the deal Williams struck with baseball officials in September. She said she expects a council majority to approve the new agreement.

"The final legislation that will be presented tomorrow will offer the significantly lower costs and reduced risks to the District of Columbia that many of us said we were searching for," Cropp said last night.

Reached by phone in New York, Baseball President Robert A. DuPuy said last night: "We are very hopeful that by the end of the day tomorrow, legislation will be in place consistent with the baseball stadium agreement that will enable us to return Major League Baseball to Washington.
Reading between the lines, it doesn’t appear that much has changed, other than the elimination of that sunset clause. Everyone gets to walk away like a hero, I guess. Really, the biggest change is the private parking proposal, which the city is apparently going to go forward with, but that comes outside the direct framework of the bill. I guess I’m scratching my head and asking, was this all much ado about nothing?

Regardless of how we got here, it’s good to know that we’re back on the right path. Ball Wonk has even lowered the Home Team Security Level back down to yellow (Check that site out anyway to read about Cropp’s immunity to flaxseed oil)

The Washington Times editorializes about Mayor Williams.

Thom Loverro discusses the deal and brings up something I mentioned yesterday--Catania and Fenty need to be held accountable for the schools and other problems.

Carpetbagger Sally Jenkins has apparently seen it all.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Sun'll Come Out!

Are we there yet? Looks like a deal's close.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp were
nearing an agreement tonight on the terms of a baseball stadium financing
package that they said would probably satisfy Major League Baseball by
guaranteeing construction of a future home for the Washington Nationals, aides
to the two city leaders said.

After a day of negotiations among the two politicians and baseball
officials, Cropp left the John A. Wilson Building at about 7:45 p.m., as
Williams and his aides were still working on terms of the proposed agreement on
the sixth floor.

"There's movement but we'll see," said Cropp, adding that she would return
tonight if necessary.

Play Ball! Well... Not Quite

Cropp and Williams met and the baseball bill is back on the agenda for tomorrow's hearing at 10 AM.

With baseball indicating that they weren't opposed to the private financing aspect, so much as the provision that would yank all funding if private plans couldn't be worked out, there's probably room for a compromise.

The city has received several proposals--now and before--from developers and interested parties. If Ms. Cropp can be convinced that the potential exists for private financing, perhaps she can pull the amendment's sunset provision out and call baseball's bluff.

At this point, I think that MLB is sweating. They really need DC now. The laughable Norfolk-or-bust proposal for next season isn't going anywhere. As the huge demand for season tickets demonstrated, this area CAN support a major league team.

I'm linking to this story (Thanks Google News!) just because it's funny. It's some crank's take on the much-ado-about-nothing story that the owner of the gay clubs in the stadium construction area funded some of the opposition to the stadium. It's worth a quick click, even to read the headline. It reads like something from the Onion and it helps to read it in your crotchety old man voice. :)

Back Between The Lines

Rotoworld is reporting that the Nats and Mariners are fighting it out for the last-remaining good pitcher on the market, Odalis Perez. Apparently the Nats have offered $18 million over three years. If we can get him for that price, I think we’d have a bargain--especially considering some of the crazy contracts that have been given out this year. (Of course, Bowden is responsible for a few of them himself!)

I really hope they can come to a deal. I’d imagine that the Nat’s tenuous future is going to way pretty heavily in Perez’ decision. If Seattle is offer is close, I’d imagine him going there--especially because of the signings Seattle has made so far. Combined with Oakland’s decision to take a step back this season for the better of the next few years, Seattle has a chance to make a serious run again.

Today is the non-tender deadline for arbitration-eligible players who aren’t yet free agents. The Nats had seven arbitration-eligible players. Bowden re-signed one, Joey Eischen, to a 1-year $1.04 million deal. Eischen was injured most of the year and only pitched 18 innings. When healthy, he’s a decent, but not spectacular, pitcher. (I didn’t realize this until now, but he played one season with my hometown independent league baseball team, the Adirondack Lumberjacks--it’s ok…. You don’t have to pretend to care.)

Bowden has indicated that he might non-tender one of the remaining six: Brad Wilkerson, Brian Schneider, Nick Johnson, Tony Armas, Tomo Ohka, and TJ Tucker.

Wilkerson and Schneider will obviously be offered a contract. Bowden had made some noise about non-tendering Nick Johnson, but I think it was just that: noise. Tucker is a serviceable reliever without overwhelming stats. He’ll be due for a raise, but I don’t think it would be bank-breaking.

Armas and Ohka are the interesting cases. When healthy, they’ve both put up solid numbers in the majors and are both young enough and with enough potential to have a solid breakout season.

For Armas, last season’s low 16-start total was his highest since 2001 and 2002 when he started 34 and 29 games respectively. Ohka’s been the more durable player, starting over 30 games in 2002 and 2003. Last year’s freak broken arm from a batted-ball prevented him from hitting 30 games again. Neither pitcher has an impressive win total--they’re both below .500 and both have ERAs hovering near 4.

They’ll both make more money, just because that’s the way arbitration works, but neither is going to break the bank. It wouldn’t shock me to see Bowden non-tender either of them (Probably he’d let Armas go, because of the injury history), but both still have lots of potential.

If we did manage to sign Perez, the rotation would be excellent. Perez, Livan, Ohka, and Armas are an excellent front four with plenty of room for improvement. Keeping both pitchers seems like it would be worth the risk of the additional expense.

Where’d We Come From? Where Are We Going?

Lori Montgomery has an excellent article detailing how we got to where we are in the stadium controversy. She explains how it’s a combination of bad politics and poor politicians. Somewhere, Tip O’Neil is crying.
To right the deal, he [Mayor Tony Williams] must overcome vast stores of anger and distrust accumulated between two cultures alien to one another.
Williams was expected to bridge that divide. But Williams is terrible at skid-greasing and backroom politics, some council members have said. He repeatedly has failed to sell his grandest ideas to them or their constituents -- people who want a baseball team, but not if it makes them feel as if they have been fleeced.
The stadium package should not have been a tough sell, council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said. The deal is generous to baseball but places no burden on the average taxpayer, he said. The only taxes in the deal would be paid by fans, including many suburbanites, the federal government and large businesses.
"We have a way to build the stadium that costs the District basically nothing. It works out fine. But that's all been lost in the hype and the rhetoric," said Evans, the mayor's chief ally on the council. "People are being swayed by their emotional reaction to the fact that billionaires are making more money."
From the start, baseball has inflamed those emotions. Baseball officials never have addressed District residents or lobbied the council directly, and they rarely speak openly to reporters. They declined to comment for this article.

Rather than taking his message to the public, Tony Williams appeared on the Sunday Talk Show Circuit. Well, at least on Fox’s version. Yeah, that’s sure to help influence the people, Tony. I’m sure the 15-20 people who actually watched you were thoroughly convinced. Is that show even broadcast into SE? Or even NW?

Despite the problems, DC continues to receive and consider proposals for private financing, including a parking plan, which expects to generate $100 million. Tony Kornheiser--who’s at his best when he’s not actually talking about, well, sports--skewers this one and is actually worth reading, even if the $100 million is a possibility over a period of years.

Washington Baseball Blog observes that private financing for a park isn’t necessarily a bargain for the city anyway. He argues that it’s essentially an accounting gimmick that takes as much, if not more, money away from the city.

If things do fall through, the Post looked at various scenarios for the team next year, assuming the team pulls out of RFK as well. How about a joint-tenancy with the Orioles? Think Havana Pete would be happy to take their money then?

I can’t wait for the on-the-field stuff again.

Just Make It End

There’s one final DC Council meeting tomorrow at 10. According to DC law, the esteemed Chair of the Council, a Ms. Linda Cropp (Perhaps you’ve heard of her?), would have to add the item to the agenda by 10 this morning.

The Washington Post is out with a series of polls, finding that a majority of DC residents want some private financing for the ballpark, even if it means losing the team. No doubt, this warms up Ms. Cropp’s cockles.

It’s always hard to argue with numbers, but I wonder how things would be different if the Mayor and stadium proponents had done a better job explaining the stadium vote and how the overwhelming majority of funds used to pay for the stadium are new sources of revenue that will not exist without the stadium. I went over-the-top with this line of thinking last week, but there’s not suddenly a magic bag of money. Voting against the stadium is not going to get DC General funded and the illiteracy rate isn’t going to instantly drop.

In one of my initial posts on the stadium, I mentioned that I think the mayor’s case would be strengthened--and easier to support for lots of people--if they presented the case as simply a vote for or against the merits of a team. The nebulous “economic engine” argument creates a bad taste in many mouths. Unfortunately, that, just like this has been, is prone to demagoguery. It’s easy to stand up and scream that you want better schools, better services or better libraries. It’s another thing for the proponents of those things to actually find their funding.

I hope those people the Post quotes who are outraged and demand better services ask those same questions of Fenty, Catania and Cropp, if the stadium bill doesn’t go through.

Regardless, tomorrow appears to be the day. If the bill is added to the agenda, there’s a chance to make it work.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Back To The Drawing Board?

In the latest round of the battle to determine the most evil of two lessers, Linda Cropp (AKA Cropzilla) has asked for an extension of the year-end deadline for the financing bill. Baseball, ever the stern task-master, is not amused.
"Give us a few months to finalize private financing," Cropp said at an afternoon news conference at the John A. Wilson Building. "If not, the legislation stands."

Baseball President Robert A. DuPuy, who was informed of Cropp's statement by a reporter, rejected her request.

"We are expecting the Dec. 31 commitment date to be fulfilled," DuPuy said in an interview. He added: "We are not negotiating. We made our concessions in the course of negotiations with the mayor and made some clarifications we thought would satisfy the mayor and the council."

I hate HATE defending Dupuy, but he’s right. Linda Cropp even conceded as much:
Cropp acknowledged that the list of concessions Williams presented to her Monday night met every one of those demands. But she said she wanted more, and that she gave Williams "language, amendments I had written" to take back to baseball officials. She described those amendments yesterday in vague terms, saying she wanted more "shared costs."

This is why everyone is criticizing her as opposed to Fenty, Catania et al. They were consistent in their opposition. Whereas, Cropp waffled back and forth, showing strong support one day and intense scrutiny another. Certainly politicians should be allowed to look at the issues more closely and are allowed to change their mind--if all politicians took that oversight role seriously, we’d be in great shape as a nation--but Cropp’s actions lacked any sort of basic integrity. There’s a not-so-fine line between serious deliberation and complete disingenuousness.

Despite the National’s Threat Level increasing, there were other signs of optimism.
Council members Jack Evans, Harold Brazil and Vincent B. Orange Sr. said at a separate press conference at the Wilson Building that baseball officials are not opposed to private investors contributing to the stadium project. But baseball wants the city's assurance that the stadium will be built, and Mrs. Cropp's amendment removed that guarantee by voiding the deal if private financing fails. "Mrs. Cropp came up with the private-financing deal before and she couldn't find [the financing] and the mayor couldn't find it," said Mr. Orange, Ward 5 Democrat. "What makes anybody think we're going to find it in two weeks?"

Plenty of businesses seem to be lining up with private financing proposals. (Some more hair-brained than others--scroll down for Empire Poker’s interesting plan)

The Washington Post gets Congressman Tom Davis on the record with his positive forecast.
Davis, who said that Congress should not get directly involved, said he thinks the chances are "better than 50-50" that the Washington deal will survive.
Davis said that baseball owners were not locked into a "take it or leave it" mode and ventured that the parties could probably sit down "and find 20 ways to make it work."
Davis said that the District should make the first move and that D.C. Council members would damage Washington's national business image for "this mayor, the next mayor and the next" if they did not reach an agreement.

In short, there’s still plenty of time for something to get done. Baseball, especially in the short-term, needs DC. I think there are enough billions of dollars floating around on both sides to get something done. Last Tuesday’s vote wasn’t the equivalent of draping a sheet over the corpse. The patient’s clearly on life support, but there’s still hope.

If you support the stadium bill, it certainly can’t hurt to send a short e-mail to

Even if you live outside of the District, let them know that they’d be losing the tax revenue from tickets, parking, concessions and entertainment that you’d be spending in DC, instead of Maryland or Virginia. Be polite. Be brief. Be respectful.

I’m usually wary of public financing for stadiums, but the multi-jurisdictions that would utilize this stadium may have a positive effect on the city. The studies that I’ve read have never dealt with the unique circumstances of this area, so I’m going to keep open minded. Combined with my selfishness in my desire for baseball, I’m inclined to support it. If you do too, let Cropp and the others know.

Today's Roundup

--The fans and some team officials are optimistic that a deal can get done. Only 150 people have asked for ticket refunds.
"I would bet money on it," a high-ranking club official said yesterday. "I wouldn't bet my life savings. But if I was forced to choose and bet some of my own money, I would bet that it's going to get resolved and we're going to be back up and running on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1 at the latest."

(Hmm… What’s the punishment for betting on baseball again? Or is that just betting on games? :) )
And construction on RFK continues as well. The offices haven't shut down completely. They’re just in a limbo phase.

--Tom Knott notes the hypocrisy of Cropp standing up to MLB, yet leading the charge to declare eminent domain to secure land for a sweet-heart deal with a big box store.
(Man, I really hate using hypocrisy as an argument against something. Rarely are the things cited directly comparable because of the details at the margins. You can’t always analyze things at a macro level)

--The Washington Times rolls out their hit piece on the decline of baseball in Puerto Rico, despite its long baseball tradition. I wonder how long they’ve been sitting on this--waiting for the right moment go all-in with this. It’s not a particularly devastating piece, but it does pretty effectively demonstrate that Puerto Rico is not a viable option long-term, nor probably short-term.

--Ebay’s a boon to the speculative seller. Nats merchandise is making a killing on Ebay, again demonstrating the major problem with auctions: If you’re the winner, you’re the only one stupid enough to pay that price.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

What He Said

John at Washington Baseball Blog nails it.
However, the District did agree to the deal, and they should stick to it in order to retain what little shred of integrity they have remaining. You can say, "the mayor agreed, but he didn't have the right to speak for the whole city". Sure. The Mayor looks just as bad as a CEO who negotiates a deal in good faith saying he has support of his board, and then does not. But, the Mayor was able to count to 7 votes. Linda Cropp has been the only reason that the Mayor became a liar. Her waffling, including giving the impression of support and then torpedoing the thing at the 11th hour, may make her look good in the eyes of her constituants, and even people who wrongly think that she's going to end up getting a better deal for the city, but makes the whole city look bad as a community with which to do business.

Read the entire thing. It's what I'd say if I wasn't still numb :)

Peter Angelos’ Bad Day

Most everyone is envisioning Peter Angelos sitting in his mahogany study in his red paisley smoking jacket, with a snifter of brandy swirling in small circles in his hand and a large cigar (Cuban, of course!) lodged firmly in his mouth as his large cackles of delight fill the cavernous room. I don’t.

I think he’s sobbing.

If baseball dies in baseball, Angelos loses what would have been a guaranteed cash cow. The overly-generous relocation agreement he was negotiating would have given him an automatic revenue source. Even if DC did have a negative effect on the Orioles, Angelos could laugh all the way to his money vault, ala Scrooge McDuck. Further, when Angelos decides to sell, the agreement, reports indicate, would guarantee him a certain profit level. It’s a no-lose situation for him. Plus, proposals were to include him as the majority owner of a new regional sports network. Why would he not like that deal?

At this point, I really think that his negative attitude was more of a negotiations ploy. He’s clearly a hardass negotiator, so I can’t see him conceding so easily until the ink was dry on his agreement.

Angelos isn’t laughing today. He’s fuming at what could’ve been.

Mornin' News

--Tom Knott opens both barrels:
Linda, Linda, Linda. My, my. Look what you have done. You have baseball blood on your hands. Can we talk?
Seriously. Do you have a moment on your busy docket,
loaded as it is with jettisoning the team formerly known as the Nationals and entertaining the notion of a mayoral run in 2006? You must know something the rest of us don't, which is: Killing baseball increases your political viability. Otherwise, why all the deal-breaking histrionics in the 11th hour? Why all this woman-of-the-people maneuvering that reveals Mayor Anthony A. Williams to be an emperor with no clothes?
--Dan Daly calls DC and MLB equal partners in stupidity. That about sums it up:
Linda, you don't know who you're messin' with. These are the guys who thought it would be a good idea for the Expos to play some home games in San Juan. These are the guys who let the Montreal franchise wither away, treated it like a junior member of the National League, while they took their sweet time shopping around for the club's next home. These are the guys who — whoops! — allowed their All-Star Game to end in a tie and their players to bulk up to the size of the Incredibles before they started testing for steroids.
These are the guys you're messin' with, lady — guys who
could match the District stumble for stumble, bumble for bumble. If you try to reopen stadium negotiations, try to lighten your constituents' financial load, these guys won't sit calmly, look at the balance sheet and say, "Well, yeah, I guess we did kind of stick it to you a bit. Maybe the new owners, whoever they will be, could bear a little bit of the burden, cover some of the cost overruns or something."
--Thom Loverro urges us to get out the clown suits--cause we’re havin’ a parade!

However, the clown suits being fitted for the D.C. City Council — which, led by chairman Linda Cropp, torpedoed the proposed ballpark financing that was part of Major League Baseball's agreement to relocate the Montreal Expos to the District
late Tuesday night — should be ready soon, as well as those for Mayor Anthony Williams, his staff, baseball commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig, lieutenant Bob DuPuy, crony Jerry Reinsdorf and too many others to name here.

There are enough clowns in this relocation circus to fill a fleet of Shriner cars in a parade. Hey, maybe those who led the opposition to baseball — after generations of political and business leaders in this area spent the last 33 years trying to get it back — can declare Dec. 14 a city holiday, and have a parade with those little cars. Cropp can drive the lead car, with fellow city council members David Catania and Adrian Fenty following.

--A Washington Times Op/Ed urges Mayor Tony Williams to go back to the drawing board to make this thing work.

--Some fans are idiots. Cropp has received death threats and racist e-mails and phone messages.

What A Day This Has Been! What A Rare Mood I’m In…

The sun rose. I woke up. It’s a great day for DC!

Linda Cropp has saved us from ourselves! Thanks to her true leadership and her expert stewardship of the stadium bill, DC residents find themselves $450 million richer!

That’s a lot of money! Think of what we can do with that kind of money? $450 million will build a lot of schools, will reopen DC General and even build us some new parks and recreations centers. Think of how well-stocked our libraries will be now!

We’ve got this huge bonanza of cash now, since we don’t’ have to worry about public financing of the baseball stadium. I’m so excited!

Admittedly, I’m one of those commutin’ jerks who just come in and hogs up resources, but I’m sure with that kind of windfall that they can finally fix some of those potholes on the streets? Maybe have the roads plowed within a week of snowfall? And, I know this is a stretch, but could you please make sure that when a car breaks down on 395, that it gets towed within a month--before all the vandals can strip it down to just a pile of rivets?

I hope my simple requests aren’t too much.

Hell, since it’s Christmastime, I wouldn’t even be opposed to a one-time transfer payment to all the citizens of DC. There are roughly 530,000 people in DC. Quick math tells me that every man, woman and child can expect a $850 check in their Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Festivus Stockings/Mennorahs/???/Aluminum Pole.

Think of what that could do for the children! What a great day for the District! I’m so happy to be alive!

More News Than The Human Body Was Conditioned To Withstand

--Michael Wilbon slaps the C-Word around a little bit.
But if this becomes a matter of calling baseball's bluff, I don't think the folks who want the game here are going to like the results. For the longest time baseball wanted no part of D.C., then relented, then got kneecapped. It's akin to finally agreeing to a date with somebody who has stalked you for five years, then being stood up.

--Tom Boswell rips the C-Word a good one, and notes that if the deal falls through, sources have told him, that they won't play here at all next year.

--Marc Fisher asks Bud Selig to come back to the table and to make concessions, claiming baseball really needs Washington more than they realize.

--Murray Chass looks at the team from the outside perspective. Good for DC, he thinks.

--The C-Word caught everyone off guard, especially because her demands were met:
Cropp acknowledged that the list of concessions Williams presented to her Monday night met every one of those demands. But she said she wanted more, and that she gave Williams "language, amendments I had written" to take back to baseball officials. She described those amendments yesterday in vague terms, saying she wanted more "shared costs."

--The C-Word is already hearing from the public:
"For the most part, I believe I am representing the wishes of the people of the District. I'm getting a very positive response from my actual constituency, and that's extremely good."...The most unkind group, she says, has been the sports media, which have heaped scorn on Cropp from the moment she began to raise doubts about the stadium. She won't name names, but describes sports reporters as "vicious."

"It's as if they said, 'My job depends on getting more sports into this city. If anything upsets that goal, I'll trash whoever is standing in the way.' "

--A Quick QNA session on what's next for the team and the process.

--A look at the other major contenders and their ability to take the team and quickly!

--A Look at other teams and other stadium agreements in other cities and how the DC deal compares. Inclues a special bonus Andrew Zimablist sighting!

I'll weed through them again tomorrow morning and see if I missed any particularly juicy nuggets.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Public Enemy #1

I've got the torches. Who's got the pitchforks?

"C" Is for Cookie...

Well, it appears that Linda isn't the only C-word in this town. The other ugly C-word is starting to rear it's ugly head too: contraction.

In the last collective bargaining agreement, the Players Association forfeited their right to protest contraction after the 2006 season.

All baseball would need is another team to contract. (The Marlins would be the obvious choice, given their inability to build a new stadium and with Wayne "I spawned Satan" Huizenga about to kick the team out of their current park.)

The theory is that the money they would save from shared revenues (National TV Contracts, Merchandise, etc) that would ordinarily go to those two teams would be enough of an increase in revenues to offset the money they would've made had they sold the team.

I don't want to debate the merits of contraction right now (Short answer: there aren't any). I'm tired and still pathetically wearing my red Nats hat as a sign of defiance.

Instead, I'll point you to the best words on the subject--from Doug Pappas. Without a doubt, he was the best writer on these kinds of issues and this is just one of his pieces on why contraction is such a stupid idea for the game over the long-term.

Unfortunately, the owners might just be thinking short-term, and about how fat their wallets could get.

Odalis Still In Play?

USS Mariner has a good quick and dirty summary of Perez’ qualifications. They seem to think he’ll get a contract in the $6-7 million range. If so, the Nats, need to get in on him.

They might have to backload it a little bit to get it under budget for this year, but he’s pretty clearly the best pitcher left on the market. It’s better than settling for garbage like Loaiza or Byrd.

Inside Baseball

Mark Plotkin is discussing the whole mess of the last day right now on the Washington Post. I was going to copy and paste some of the highlights, but he’s nailing just about every question out of the park.

I’d highly recommend taking a quick read through his analysis--for a great understanding of the local politics that’s stinking this whole process up.

Uniforms, What Coulda Been

Washington Baseball Blog posts a link to the uniforms. I can't access it to see what they look like. Damn cybernanny.

Supposedly, the uniform unveiling originally scheduled for today has been postponed.

Anyone else depressed now?

Oy, Linda! Oy!

In a bizarre twist in the seemingly never-ending saga, the DC council passed a radically altered stadium funding bill on a 7-6 vote. The amended bill could cause the early death of the Washington Nationals as baseball has previously hinted that major amendments to the bill might be unacceptable based upon the agreement they signed with the city earlier this year.

Linda Cropp, in a continuing show of arrogance, introduced and got passed an amendment that requires 50% of the stadium costs to be from private sources. The city has until June to finalize an agreement with these private sources, and if nothing gets done, the bill lapses.

I have no problem at all with them seeking private financing. I’ve always been weary of public financing schemes, but open-minded about this one because of the three jurisdictions involved. But, Cropp’s arrogance in trying to be the arbiter, right down the middle, is just stunning. She’s played both sides perfectly. I’m sure it’s entirely possible that she really has been struggling with these complex issues and that she really is looking out for the best thing for the city’s residents, but her manner is inexcusable. You simply cannot drop a bomb like this at 10PM the night of the stadium vote. It serves nobody, not allowing a proper look at the amendment or its implications.

In an attempt to buttress the city’s negotiating strength, she may have overplayed her hand. Yes, baseball should concede more, and yes, baseball probably doesn’t have a viable alternative, at least in the short term, but you can’t alter the agreement so radically at such a late moment in the process. Why didn’t this amendment get introduced last week? Hell, why didn’t the amendment get introduced before 10 at night?

Tom Boswell has the answer, and one that seems plausible to me. He suggests that killing the bill was her intention all along.
Instead, Cropp and her crowd want to hide their true intentions so they will not
have "They Killed Baseball" signs nailed to their political backs. But that's
what they did. And that's who they are.
Cropp doesn't want to leave
fingerprints. Instead, she wants to leave the impression that she was merely
trying to save the District money. Instead, she has now cost it a team and all
the benefits of development in Southeast that it might have ignited.

What does this mean for the future of the team? No one really knows at this point. It’s entirely possible, it won’t affect things too greatly--baseball still needs DC. But, it’s definitely altered the trust level the two sides must have for each other. All it does so, is to continue to leave uncertainty hanging over the team and its future.

I missed this in yesterday’s paper, but Marion Berry had an OpEd in opposition to the bill. Remember, he and several other stadium opponents take over the council in a few weeks. That’s another reason why it is so critical that the basic framework get down now. Because soon, the council’s going to be even less baseball friendly.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

D-Day, Take Two

Today’s the final vote on the stadium bill. If it passes, we’ve got ourselves a team! Eric Fisher thinks it’s a done deal. The Post reports that DC gained some additional concessions from MLB--mostly fluff, such as extra days to use the stadium and free tickets for kids. (What kid wouldn’t want to go to a night game in April against the Brewers?)

All indications are that Frau Cropp will vote for it. Next Step: Uniforms tomorrow!

Tony’s Take

Well, it was bound to happen. Tony Kornheiser finally discovered that Washington has a baseball team. And of course, he rails it for being boring. And he’s advocating Distinguished Senator’s doomsday scenario:

So c'mon, Jimmy, loosen up. You're going to have to do better than signing Wil
Cordero and Jeffrey Hammonds, who was the Orioles' No. 1 draft pick in, I think,
1962. These are not sexy signings, Jimbo. They are what you expect from the
dull, cheap Montreal Expos. The last thing we want to see here are the dull,
cheap Montreal Expos. Like Sting says, "It's a brand new day."
Go after
Sammy Sosa like you mean it, dude. Whaddya saying, you won't part with Terrmel
Sledge? No, Jim, we don't part with Percy Sledge. Terrmel, we throw under the

Tony’s right in his criticism of Bowden for the signings and he’s right in the extent that Bowden would’ve been better off making a play at a big player with a big salary, rather than half the players for half the cost. But, Sosa wouldn’t be the answer and seems like nothing more than an attempt by Bowden to make a little news--to stir the pot.

We appreciate you finally noticing, Tony. But next time, look through some of the trashings you’ve given Peter Angelos and the Orioles and see that the biggest names do not necessarily mean the best players.

Sometimes Articles Give Me Heartburn

The Times looks at the lineup for next year.

It assumes that Chavez is the starting centerfielder next year. I’m not entirely convinced that Wilkerson won’t be there. At least they realize that Chavez is the weak link and isn’t suited for the leadoff role. Hopefully Frank will come to the same conclusion.

In discussing Nick Johnson, it mentions that the Nats could consider non-tendering him. I hope that’s just the writer talking out of his wazoo. I can’t think of one reason why you’d do that. He’s far too valuable an asset because of his huge upside.

It also asserts that Guzman will be batting eighth. I’m not convinced of that either. I can see the team glorifying his speed and bat control and doing something stupid like batting him second.

It is interesting to see this type of article in the paper though. It doesn’t really seem like it’s informed by anything and is nothing more than the kind of speculative tripe that us Nats-bloggers have been writing for weeks.

Hometown Look At Bentz

The Juneau Empire has a local-boy-makes-good kinda story on Chad Bentz, the reliever we released earlier this week to make room for the Rule Five Draft pickups. There’s nothing incredibly exciting in the article; it’s just kind of nice to see the human side of things as he makes preparations to figure out where to go next in his career.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Get Your Signings!

Spouse Abuser/Drunk Driver Wil Cordero is a Nat to provide some of that good ol' fashioned veteran leadership. Perhaps the Wizards will be more receptive to the kinda of junk he's peddling. In the meantime, if he can come off the bench and mash a lefty or two, I guess $600K isn't too bad.

Jeffrey Hammonds signs a minor league deal with the team. He'd presumably be a platoon option with Sledge? Hammonds isn't worthy of the scorn he gets. It's not his fault that Milwaukee decided to pay him 18 times what he's worth. He's still a useful player off the bench, filling in at either corner, or in center in a pinch. He just hasn't been able to stay healthy. But when he has, he's been pretty useful--in the right role.

To free up the roster spot for the spouse abuser, they released Ron Callaway. No big loss there.

Rule Five Update

I may have said it was tomorrow and, well, I'm an idiot.. I'm a little slow with the posts, I guess.

We picked up Tyrell Godwin from the Blue Jays--a speedy outfielder who had a disappointing year in AA.

And Tony Blanco, a slug-first firstbaseman/"outfielder"

I'll have more later when I can actually look up stuff without the cyber nanny breathing down my neck.

UPDATE--Alright, I'm not doing the research tonight. Instead I'll give ya John Sickles:
Godwin is a speed-and-defense outfielder who was once one of the top prospects in college baseball at North Carolina but hasn't developed any offensive consistency as a pro. He hit .253 with a .326 OBP and .355 SLG for Double-A New Hampshire this year, with 42 stolen bases. Godwin can run and has a good glove, but he doesn't have much power and his on-base abilities are mediocre. At best, he will be similar to another TG, Tom Goodwin.

At one time a top prospect in the Boston farm system, Blanco has good power but has been dogged by frequent injuries. Poor plate discipline also hampers his development. He hit .306 with 17 homers this year in 216 at-bats for Class A Potomac but slumped to .245 (though with 12 homers) in 220 Double-A at-bats. At age 23, he still has time to develop, but better strike-zone judgment is a must.

Remember, these players have to stick on the roster for the full year. If you try to send them down, they original team can reclaim him. I can't see Blanco sticking with the team at all. Godwin has an outside chance, but the Hammonds signing today probably puts a damper on his chances. After all, it's hard to compete with a proven major league veteran. Think of the intangibles!

Bowden's Not THAT Silly, Is He?

The Post reports on Sosa to the Nats rumors. This is so bizarre to comprehend, that I don’t even wanna think about it.

On top of being old, overpaid, disappointing offensively and tainted by the hint of steroids (not that I’m accusing him, I’m just sayin’), Sosa has a contract that automatically vests his option year if he’s traded. Not only would you be on the hook for the $18 million this year, but you’d have to pay him a ridiculous amount next year as well. You might be able to make the argument if this was 1998 all over again. But, it’s not. He’s older. Declining. A Bad defender. All that on a team with outfielders up to its gills and a stubbornly low $50 million payroll? Even if the Cubs pick up a substantial portion of that contract, why do it? And if the Cubs are picking up more than half of it, wouldn’t it make sense for them to just play him and then let him walk as a free agent? Has he burned that many bridges? This thing just doesn’t pass the smell test to me.

To quote the great Bill James, “Pass.”

In case you’re looking for more insightful comments, John at Washington Baseball Blog crunches the numbers. It ain’t pretty.

Notes On Other People's Notes

The Times ran a decent Nats notebook with some tender morsels.

--They’re out of the running for Odalis Perez *Crap* and Barry Larkin *eh*.
--Wil Cordero looks like he’ll be manning the bench. If he takes any time away from Nick Johnson, other than against tough lefties, I’ll umm… I guess saying “beat him” wouldn’t be appropriate, especially in light of my criticism of him.
--Derek Lowe is a target in theory only and they’re not high on Esteban Loaiza. Hello, Devil Rays!
--They released Chad Bentz, the pitcher with the deformed right hand. He made a better human interest story than a pitcher. Lefties absolutely torched him last year.

Sorry about the crappy posting schedule lately. Damn internet filters are making things much more difficult. And I’m not one of those crazy people who’s gonna get up at 4 AM to post. Whadya want anyways? It’s free!

Rule Five Round-Up

Tomorrow is the Rule Five draft. By all accounts, Bowden’s going to take a flyer on a player--they have two open slots on their 40-man roster. Just as a refresher, anyone selected in the draft, has to stay on the team’s major league roster for the year. If the player doesn’t, he goes back to the original team, unless a trade can be worked out.

I’m not an expert on the minor leagues, by any means, but I found this list pretty useful. It gives a pretty excellent description of the top players available. One of those lefties would look really useful for some bullpen depth. Remember, Johan Santana was picked in the Rule Five Draft, so you never know what you’ll dig up.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

We Coulda Been A Contender

The Times and the Post are reporting that the Nats are big underdogs in the Odalis Perez sweepstakes. Although they're claiming their contract offer isn't big enough, they don't mention other potential suitors either. (With the Sox about to sign David Wells and the Yankees hot after Eric Milton, two big markets would probably be closed to Perez)

Both articles contain a lot of Nats-related Gammonsesque notes. I guess the beat writers are trying to justify their travel expenses.

--They may decline arbitration to Ohka or Armas. (Last year's salaries $2.3 and $2.1 MM) Given their scary injury histories, this might not be a horrible move--IF the money is put to good use. HA!

--If Perez falls through, there's interest in Colorado's Shawn Chacon or EGADS, Esteban Loaiza. Loaiza's done. He was like the Washington Senators in Damn Yankees. As far as Chacon, wait til Colorado releases him. I don't think they'll offer him arbitration. The Times mentions Paul Byrd (Blah) and Matt Clement--Finally, Someone's listening! Clement's clearly the best option left of those named: a youngish power pitcher. They have no interest in Denny Neagle. The streetwalkers of Mass Ave rejoice.

--The Nick Johnson/Alex Rios deal won't happen. JP Ricciardi hasn't been drinking the same KoolAid as Bowden.

--Bob Boone has hired as special assistant to the GM. I guess that's ok, as long as they don't let him anywhere near the field. He's a horrendous manager.

--The Courtship of Barry's Father continues. Larkin's still looking for a starter's job. And I'm looking for someone to give me a few thousand dollars. I think we have about an equal shot.

--Jose Rijo will likely be our bullpen coach. Gee, that's exciting.

MLB Is On Its Knees! Oh, Wait.

MLB and DC have agreed to some nebulous community improvements in conjunction with the stadium bill, which goes to a vote this week.
Potential benefits could include clearly delineated grants for area youth athletic fields and community centers, as well as an increase in the number of days (currently 12) the new stadium can be used by the District for non-baseball functions.

The Baseball Stadium Agreement between MLB and the District reads that the Washington team, now called the Nationals, "acknowledges a civic responsibility to promote and contribute to charitable, education and community organizations and other public works in the District." But that responsibility is not backed by any specific dollar figures, publicly troubling several council members.

David Catania is unimpressed:
"[The expected new benefits] are nothing more than window dressing," Catania said. "If they actually come up with anything substantial, I'm going to be surprised. It's just talk, and we're being slow-walked through the vote, after which I assure you the mayor will insist any changes to the deal will make us liable for compensatory damages."

I can't see baseball giving DC anything of real value. Maybe they'll let them use the stadium a few more times a year. Maybe they'll throw a few hundred K at some city parks, but I can't see them doing something like paying cost overruns. Just count the votes and let's see what happens.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Quick News Roundup

Not much on the Nats front, other than in the context of the other contracts, maybe we outta give a pass to Bowden for Guzman and Castilla. Nah! I still think there's going to be a quality player or two stuck without a team who'll sign for near minimum and put up similar numbers as one of those two players.

This article talks about the change in the market and the implications it has on the Nats--particularly in the Odalis Perez sweepstake.

This one discusses the options for the Nats open coaching positions. Yawn.

And this story focuses on the dwindling hopes of the stadium opponents. The final vote is tuesday.

Busybody IT People Stink

My workplace has decided to install Websense and it classifies blogger as a message board/chat website and I can't log in from work anymore. I'll have to figure out something to do.

He tried this same thing last year, and it lasted about three days. Hopefully this'll be the same case.

This kinda thing bothers me. I hate blanket solutions to problems. I know he had the ability to monitor usage and if it was a problem, he could've spoken to the individuals before. Now, it's a one-size solution that punishes everyone.

If it's not interfering with my work, what's the big deal?

Oh, well... enough of my boring personal life and onto boring Nats coverage! :)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Off Wing, Off Base

Eric at the excellent Off Wing Opinion fires a shot across the bow of us anti-Bowden Nats bloggers.

In an blurb pointing to an article about the role and problems of sports bloggers, Eric, quoting Bill Shaikin on Dodger Thoughts says:
Shaikin also addresses some of the limitations of arm chair GMs:
While many blogs tend to use sabermetric tools in analysis and commentary - and often make compelling points in doing so - the best bloggers understand that decisions are not made in a statistical vacuum. After the Dodgers-Marlins trade July 30, I read blogs in which DePodesta was crowned as the winner of the trade on the basis of VORP alone. But there are many other factors that even DePodesta would tell you he would consider - salaries in current and future seasons, eligibility for salary arbitration, minor league depth at various positions, the upcoming class of free agents, etc. that statistics alone do not tell the story.

That might be a lesson some baseball bloggers in D.C. might want to take heed of, as just about everyone here in Washington has been on an anti-Jim Bowden jihad for most of the past month.

From what I've read on the various Nats blogs, I haven't really seen that problem. In fact, the issues other than basic statistics, have been EXACTLY the reason why Bowden has been criticized so roundly for his signings to this point.

In a market overloaded with plenty of free agent shortstops, he went out and signed Cristian Guzman to a too-long, too-rich contract. In reading the analysis of that move, many arguments were made:
--Bowden surrendered draft picks for the signing.
--He didn't adequately consider in-house alternatives.
--The way the market would pan out as starting spots filled up and good players like Orlando Cabrera or Jose Valentin started having their options dry up.

For Vinny Castilla, similar discussions were made--including some fresh looks at the Coors field effect on his stats.

I think that Eric is seeing the passion of a fan and confusing that with the dreck that is talk radio. No, I don't think any of us Nats bloggers have developed a better mousetrap, but we're taking a look at the team with a critical eye--unlike the Tom Boswells of the world.

Those of us writing about the Nats are clearly fans and sometimes we have to take a step back to let the passion down. We're not journalists and we don't have to feign impartiality--not that I really believe that journalists don't have particular biases that they bring to a story when they write it. But, we have not been reactionary in the way someone screaming on the radio is.

Yeah, there may be some hysteria in our writing, but it's a hysteria informed because we are looking at the bigger picture.

Linda Cropp: Miracle Worker

She's still trying to squeeze blood from a stone. But she's up against the best blood-from-stone squeezer there is, Bud Selig.

She honestly thinks that she can get Selig to reopen the stadium neogtiation that DC and MLB both signed off on. Good luck, Linda. Why don't you pick up a Powerball ticket on your way home from the office too?
Cropp is seeking several alterations to the relocation pact — seen previously by many as an ironclad document — including greater legal protection for the city if construction on the stadium falls behind schedule through no fault of the District's and more community benefits from the Washington Nationals.

MLB commissioner Bud Selig last week said repeatedly, "The deal we made is a deal." But at the same time, he directed his staff to meet with District officials and discuss potential changes to the contract....

"A deal, yes, is a deal. But where there is room to clarify the agreement, amplify elements of it, I think we want to do that," Williams said yesterday. "I do not believe those ideas are mutually exclusive."

TV Or Not TV

The Times reports on the slow progress in the TV and Radio deals. And as with all things, Peter Angelos is the root of all evil.

I really hope that 980 doesn't get it. Their host's inability to talk about anything other than Redskins is frustrating. They wouldn't promote the team at all, and would probably barely know the player's names.

This year, for example, the Wizards are exceeding their typically low expectations and the Redskins are far below theirs. Yet, all you can hear is talk about Gibbs, Ramsey, and the disgusting disgrace that is their offensive line.

And if the Nats were to prove to be a disappointment, they'd either get zero coverage, or they'd get absolutely buried under the latest Redskins practice squad signings.

The team probably will need a little nurturing at first and 980 isn't very motherly.

Sayonara Val!

Val Pascucci is now a member of the Chiba Lotte Marines. I hope he likes miso soup.

Val didn't get a real shot in the major leagues and had an interesting career in the minors. A pitcher in college, he slid into the outfield in the minor leagues.

He was essentially, the second coming of Rob Deer, amassing a huge number of walks and a huge(r) number of strike outs.

He's the kind of player that teams don't normally like to take a shot with. The batting average is too low and the strikeouts too high for teams to give a shot. Combined with his apparent defensive shortcomings in the outfield, he never really had a chance.

I'm surprised that some time in need of outfielders (Texas? Arizona?) didn't take a flyer on him, at least as an option off the bench. With the Nats, he probably didn't fit in. We have plenty of outfield options as it is and he'd just be caught on the bench as a 5th outfielder at most.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

So What's Next?

Now that teams have decided to accept or reject arbitration, the ball is in the player's court to decide whether to accept or reject the team's offer. They have until December 19th to accept or reject. If they accept, they will have agreed to a one-year deal. If they decline, they can no longer sign with that team.

Frequently, if the two sides are close to a deal, the player will accept to extend the signing window.

The next key date--and this is doubly so for the Nats--is December 20. That's the day that team's have to decide to offer arbitration for their arbitration-eligible players, who haven't yet attained free-agent eligibility.

This is where the Nats have to make some decisions on players like Nick Johnson, Tony Armas, Zach Day, etc. Arbitration typically means a pretty large salary increase. With most of the Nats arbitration cases though, the player's past injuries have prevented them from putting up the monster numbers that would give them huge salary increases.

Last year, there were huge numbers of these players who were not offered arbitration and who became free agents. These players flood the market and can typically be signed relatively cheaply. There should be plenty of options for the back end of the bullpen, the last starter's spot, and for the bench. If Bowden returns to his low-budget roots, there should be some relative bargains to be had.

Prospective Pitching

With Jaret Wright signing a 3-year $21 million contract to play for the Yankees(As a brief aside, lemme put my Yankee fan cap on and say EFF YOU Cashman!--ahhhh... better now), the Expos have one less pitcher on their short list.

The good news is that Wright was one of the worst pitchers on that list. It's not that Wright is a bad pitcher, it's just that there's a lot of risk with him now. He turned a corner last year, to finally live up to some of the promise he showed as a rookie when he dominated the Yankees in the playoffs. With this team, they can't afford high-priced risks. Sometimes you lose out on someone who really has put it all together, but that's better than being stuck with a bad pitcher for a lot of money for too many years.

Two major league sources said the Nationals continue to pursue free agent Odalis Perez, late of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and have discussed left-handed reliever Steve Kline of the St. Louis Cardinals. Another major league source said Bowden has pursued a trade for Shawn Chacon of the Colorado Rockies.

Perez would be a quality singing. Kline would fill a need I don't really think we have. And Chacon, after the way he's flamed out in Colorado, could probably be had for a stale bag of peanuts.

Adios Amigos

The club officially declined arbitration on Tony Batista and Einar Diaz. They are now free to sign with any other team.

I'm pretty sure that Batista won't get the multi-year deal he's looking for and it wouldn't shock me if he ended up signing for less than the Nats offered him. Diaz will probably be a spring training invite for some team needing a backup catcher. I imagine he'll probably make the AAA All-Star game next year.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

DCist points to one of the hidden costs of the stadium--the loss of a mini gay red-light district.

Arbitration Deadline Countdown

Midnight tonight is the arbitration deadline. Teams have to decide whether to offer their free agents arbitration.

If they decline to offer arbitration, they lose all rights to negotiate with the player until May 1.

If they DO offer arbitration, they can continue to negotiate with the player until he accepts their arbitration offer, at which point they would then be bound to a one-year contract, at a salary TBD. The player can decline and still have a window of negotiation with the team.

This affects the Nats, because they have one Type A free agent, Tony Batista. Obviously, they don't have a need for Batista with Messrs Castilla and Carrol. But, if they offer arbitration, they would then receive the signing team's first round draft pick and a supplemental pick sandwiched between the first and second rounds.

I don't think they'll offer him arbitration though. If he were to accept--which given the lack of interest in him (I haven't seen anything about teams being interested)--he'd probably accept the arbitration. Then the Nats would be on the hook for his contract (probably $4-6 million?) That risk probably isn't worth the draft picks.

Gammons' Ramblings

Gammo is back with another rambling notes column. I, your intrepid host, will do the dirty work for you by diving in and pulling out the applicable Nats-related leakings from Jim Bowden.
Toronto and Washington have talked about an Alexis Rios-Nick Johnson swap...

The [Red] Sox thought they had a [Dave?] Roberts-Maicer Izturis trade done, but the Nationals found they could get Jose Guillen and moved Izturis to the Angels, who don't want to trade him...

Odalis Perez (Washington's after him hard now, but why sign early?)...

First, Gammons went to great lengths to protect his source *COUGHBOWDENCOUGH* by sprinkling them throughout his tome.

There’s actually lots of good news in here!

---Odalis Perez is a good move. He'll turn 28 next year and is coming off a great year (an ERA 27% better than average.) Some would argue that he was a little lucky last year and they're probably right. He allowed 28 homeruns while playing in one of the best pitcher's parks and his DIPS ERA--if you're into that sorta thing--was kinda high (4.24). He's a pretty extreme groundball pitcher and was definitely helped out by his all-world defense in LA--particularly on the left side of the infield.

I would tend to agree with John at Washington Baseball Blog. Unless you're going to get one of the top pitchers on the market, there's not a real upgrade available. Perez, to me, is one of those pitchers.

---On the Guillen trade, if Bowden really was considering a Izturis for Roberts trade, I'm happy that Guillen's a Nat!

--- I've highlighted my love for Nick Johnson before and argued that he should be one of the players this team builds itself around. So obviously, I'm not going to like the idea of trading him. This trade, however, is a bit different. In fact, I’m starting to like it quite a bit--so much so that I’m pretty sure Bowden didn’t come up with it on his own ;)

I'd bet Blue Jays fans would be ticked off at the deal. Along with Gabe Gross, Rios is their top offensive prospect. At age 23, he put up a very respectable .286/ .338/ .383 in the majors. Prospect Evaluator, John Sickles, has very glowing things to say about him as well.

Initially, I didn’t like the idea. I was letting my fandom interfere with my reasoning. NJ has a long and troubled injury history and Rios has superstar potential--and he'd be under the team's control (read: cheap) for quite a few more years.

If he can handle center, which this Batters Box thread indicates he can, then this could be an excellent move. Sledge in left. Rios in Center. Wilkerson at first. With one trade, you acquire a young, healthy, cheap player to patch the one gaping chasm in the lineup. Hell, sign me up!

The Cordero Mystery

MLB's Nats beat writer Bill Ladson has an article about Larkin and the Nats.

I definitely don't get as squeamish when people talk about leadership, but this has me scratching my head:
With Vinny Castilla already on the Nationals, Larkin, 40, could help Castilla fill a leadership void that was left by Wil Cordero, who left the Expos after the 2003 season.

This is the 4th or 5th time that Ladson's brought up Wil Cordero in the context of being a great leader. I suppose I could give Ladson the benefit of the doubt--he's actually with the team and has heard what the other players say about him, but c'mon. It isn't like he's the second coming of Willie Stargell in either offensive talents or leadership ability.

I wonder if we're talking about the same person. Cause the Wil Cordero I'm talking about is the one who was arrested for DUI last year when his speeding SUV flipped. Maybe it's a different Wil Cordero? You know, the one who was convicted of beating his wife with a telephone? I don't know--I'm only getting one Wil Cordero on It can't be the same person, can it?

Yes, people should be given second chances, and what kind of scumbag he is outside the locker room probably doesn't affect how the player is inside it, but why associate yourself with this kind of lowlife? And, more importantly, why praise the guy?

Cordero may be good around the other players, but true leadership extends to what happens off the field, not just what happens inside the baselines or in the clubhouse.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Baseball Prospectus On The Nats

Woohoo. We're featured again--but the first time as the Nats.

They come around a little bit on Castilla--saying he's not a completely useless player. They also have lil blurbs on Guzman and kick the stadium bill while they can.

The conclude with a question, but they only get the answer half right.
Why hasn't the Washington, D.C. media taken to whipping Bowden yet? Isn't it obvious? It's because they all spent the last two years shilling to get the team to town and now that it's there (or almost there), they are not about to start getting hyper-critical of the opening moves provided by their league-appointed GM. Hell, even the once-great Tom Boswell has turned in his long-ago tattered SABR membership card for a Bowden Bobblehead.

Yes, the shiny new toy factor is pretty big. The writers--as well as many of the readers, I would guess--don't want to hear the team being run down.

But they're also forgetting the media's infatuation with Bowden. He's always been Gammons favorite source. Can you find a Peter Gammons column that doesn't mention him? He clearly loves the rockstar aspects of being GM and the attention it gets him. He clearly loves talking with the reporters and presumably the power it gives him when he passes on information.

There's nothing the media love more than sources. He helps the media out with stories, notes columns, etc, and he receives favorable (or at least less critical) attention.

Combine those two factors, and it'll be a while, before we read something negative about him in the local papers.

Uniformly Exciting

Buried at the bottom of a boring recap of the owner's vote is a little nugget about the uniforms:
The Nationals plan to unveil their complete uniforms on Dec. 13, almost certainly by bringing one of the current players to Washington for a public appearance. Hats -- red for home, blue on the road -- are already on sale. The home jerseys will be white with "Nationals" in red letters with a blue-and-gold outline stripped across the front. The away jerseys will be gray with "Washington" in blue letters with a red-and-gold outline across the chest. Both jerseys will button down the front and have a "DC" logo on one sleeve.
That sounds plain. But plain is definitely a good thing!

The only time it's not is when you're playing Madden football and decide to dress your football team in hot pink with lime-green trim.

In a somewhat-related article, the Post details the excitement of the new team store--in a van down by the river.