Monday, January 31, 2005

Cork? What Cork?

So, the Sosa saga stops as he's soon swinging for the Os. (Yeah, I'm trying to be too cute.)

I read reaction from about 1,000 different places on this over the weekend. And I cannot understand why anyone would think this is a bad deal for the Orioles. (Yeah, I thought Sosa to the Nats would've been a bad deal, but that was under different terms.)

First, what'd the Os give up? Hairston--an excellent defensive second baseman, who knocks the hell out of left-handed pitching, but stays as healthy as Nick Johnson. They're also giving up Mike Fontenot, a left-handed second basemen, and Dave Crouthers, a right-handed pitcher. While both are on the top-10 list of Orioles prospects, that's more of a commentary of the state of their system. They both have potential, but no one will ever mistake them for hall-of-famers.

How much are the Orioles paying? I've read about 15 different accounts. For the sake of argument, I'll say $12 million dollars. And the key is that it's a one-year commitment. Sosa waved his contract option as part of the deal. He'll be a free agent at the end of the year.

What are the Orioles getting? They're getting an aging slugger who's clearly on the downside of his career. But, this is a guy who, despite being injured for a few weeks and despite having a rapid decline in his stats over the last few years, still hit .253/ .332/ .517.

Everyone has focused on the decline and the crazy salary he's earning this year. We're getting hung up on stuff that's not that important for next year. The Orioles aren't paying him $25 million. They're paying half that. And the despite his rapid decline, he was still a very good offensive performer last year (when he was healthy). Yes, there's a chance he could completely fall off the cliff, but isn't there also a chance that if he's healthy physically and mentally, with the change in scenery, that he can reverse the decline? I don't expect him to go bonkers and hit like he did back in 1998, but is a .260/ .350/ .530 line unreasonable?

Remember, they haven't committed to him beyond next year. If he flops, all they'll lose is cash, which was just burning a hole in their pocket anyway. (And you know damn well that the money was not going to go towards scouting and development--and it's debatable what the marginal improvement would be anyway.) If he succeeds, he propels the team further and further above .500.

The trade wasn't made in a vacuum. Off Wing Opinion links to two blogs that analyze it as if it were. One focuses on the value of Sosa and says he's overpaid for his performance. Well, duh. And the other says it's a waste because he only adds three wins to the Orioles projections, which still places them third.

I've got a stack of Bill James books on my bookshelf and I love reading about statistics. But these are two examples of what happens when that's all you focus on. As Bill James once analogized in one his abstracts: they can't see the forest for the trees.

The Orioles needed to do something. They've been getting killed for their ineffective attempts to sign players this off-season and, when faced with increased competition from DC, they do need to be aware of what's going on to the south. If they continued to let the public perception fester that this was a cheap franchise that wouldn't do what it takes to win, it would be detrimental to this year's box office--and probably long-term as well. They needed to make a move to energize the fans and to assure them that the Orioles want to stay competitive.

That's why Sosa's salary is irrelevant. You’re not paying the player for performance. You’re paying him based on his value to the franchise, which includes off-the-field ability. So, even if he’s worth just $5 million (which seems slightly low to me anyway), he’s most definitely worth the $12 million in advertising, marketing and operations revenue. I’m sure there’s a factory in the third world churning out orange Sosa jerseys right now.

As far as the claim that it’s a bad signing because it’s only going to get the Orioles to 84 or 85 wins… Huh? Is 84 wins a failure? You don’t think there’s a difference between finishing under .500 and finishing over? What if the Orioles get lucky and exceed their Pythagorean win total? What if Randy Johnson gets hurt? Could the Orioles win 92 games and sneak past the Yankees? Definitely. Is it likely? Nope, but ya never know. And that’s what’s great about baseball.

They haven’t done them yet this year, but check out Diamond-Mind’s seasonal projections from past years. They’re typically the most accurate forecasting system. They run 1,000 seasons or so and just about every team makes the playoffs, even the dregs. All it takes is for one team to play over its head and some others to play below expectations. Flukes can happen. (Just ask the 2003 KC Royals.)

That’s why it’s important for the Orioles to try to maximize their wins, especially when they’re doing it at little risk. They didn’t give up anything of true long-term use to the franchise, just some cash for one year. And we know that cash is something that’s not in short supply with Peter Angelos.

John Attends So We Don't Have To

Nationals Pastime is back with the second part of his recap of the SABR meeting. This time, he focuses on USA Today's Paul White.

It's a good read, with lots of good info, including White's thumbnail scouting report of our pitching staff, Minaya's reign of terror, and screwy ownership.

It's worth the 5 minutes it'll take you to read it.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

All The News That's Fit To Blog

--DCRTV reports that current Wizards broadcaster Dave Johnson and WTOP's Shawn Anderson are being "looked at" for the broadcasting job. I don't know exactly what "being looked at" means, but I hope it isn't meant in the way Dayn Perry would do it.

I've heard the Wizards broadcasts a few times--not intentionally, honest!--and nothing I've makes any sorta impression one way or another. Which is just a roundabout way of saying, I've got nuttin'.

--Eric Fisher looks at the 35 companies looking to design the new ballpark and the instructions they were given. Their designs are due February 15 and the winning bid will be announced at the end of the month.
The proposal document specifies a desire for a stadium that is "timeless, unique in the nation's capital and its waterfront setting, and representative of 21st-century architectural ideals," Mr. Lew said. Buttressing that is a requirement for each bidder to have experience with "projects of similar national or international significance in urban environments."

But Mr. Lew was quick to say that does not mean the stadium will be a staid, formal facility mirroring many of the city's federal office buildings.

"We're not suggesting that this just look like something along the Mall," he said. "What we're after is a truly fresh approach."

Also critical to the design project is a strong linkage to the forthcoming Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, a massive redevelopment in which the ballpark will play a central role. District officials, through a relocation contract with Major League Baseball, have targeted the new stadium's completion for March 1, 2008.

--Thom Loverro gets a few good quotes from Wilkerson and Schneider while they're in town. It's mostly about how they're looking forward to playing in a city that hasn't had the life sucked out of it and their optimism for the upcoming season.

--The Post notes the difficulties RFK's shared tenants, DC United, are going to have with the changeover from a baseball to soccer field/pitch.
United Coach Peter Nowak said he's not concerned about the new playing surface.

"Nothing changes -- it's still [75] yards wide, [110] yards long with 22 players, a referee, same atmosphere, same ball," he said. "We're not going to change anything. No excuses. It's our job to play the game."

Good answer.

While Strollin' Through The Blogs One Day...

It was a busy weekend for Washington Baseball.

John, at Nationals Pastime recounts his trip to the SABR meeting and Kevin Uhlich's presentation. He touches on stadium progress, the ticketing process and the plans for the upcoming year.

Ball-Wonk links to a post from someone who attended the Health and Fitness Expo to meet the Ex-Expos, Bluegrass Brad Wilkerson and Brian Schneider. According to Ball-Wonk, there was a hobbit there as well.

Nationals Inquirer continues his Nat-O-The-Day series. Today, he's focusing on Cristian Guzman, but mostly on the continuing conundrum that is his defense. He builds on my theory that the Metrodome turf might have been the cause of his poor defensive numbers. The Inquirer looks at the evidence.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Adub: Man Of Action!

While we blather, Adub works.

Why Buy Tickets When You Can Own The Team?

Off Wing points to a mysterious website, Citizens for Washington Baseball. The group is soliciting people who would be interested in pooling their money to buy the team.

While Eric focuses on the sketchiness of the proposal--and looking at the website, it's certainly pretty sketchy--there's another reason not to bother. It's against Major League Rules.

First, MLB has a rule about the number of partners who can be in the ownership group, at least in the way most people would expect this group's business arangement to work. (This arose a few years ago, when the website sprung up asking for people to donate to buy the Expos.) In forming the corporation, MLB requires that there be several large investors to maintain a majority of the shares of the club. It's not enough to have 1 million people chip in $5 each. They would need a small core group to put up a majority of the money. Even when the Cleveland Indians sold shares of stock, the Jacobs family retained control of the voting shares. I can't find a citation for it, but a similar proposal sprung up for a team a few years ago and MLB dismissed it pretty casually.

And, since MLB isn't bound to necessarily give the team to the highest bidder (Such as with the Red Sox), MLB wouldn't be inclined to support this kind of move anyway.

Some have proposed full public ownership of the team, such as the situation is with the Green Bay Packers. MLB has a rule against this as well.

It's a nice idea. And it's fun to dream about chipping your $100 in and calling yourself an owner, but it's not going to happen, no matter how hard we wish.

Joy In Evansville

The Nats agreed to one-year contracts with Jamey Carroll, Michael Hinckley and Darrel Rasner.

Carroll was excellent off the bench last year, hitting .289/ .378/ .372 while filling in at every infield position. While on the downside of his career at age 31, he can still be useful as a spot starter.

Hickley is pretty much universally regarded as our top pitching prospect. He had a superb year in AA Harrisburg last year, with a 2.87 ERA and 7.7 K/9. He has an outside shot to make the team this year from the bullpen, although his chances went down with the Esteban Loaiza signing. I see no real point in rushing him. I’d let him get his feet wet in AAA, and if things break well, see what he can do after the All-Star break.

Rasner was the Nats’ second-round pick in the 2002 draft. He has decent, but not spectacular numbers in the minors. He’d definitely be a long shot to make the team this year. That site doesn’t have any 2004 number for him, which is strange. I can’t find any reference to any injuries either. Anyone know what’s going on?

The Nevada Appeal (That’s a weird name) has a profile on him and what he thinks his chances are. He’s probably headed back to Harrisburg to start the year.

Bowden Boils Over

I told ya he couldn't stand not being in the papers! It was eerily quiet for too long! Bowden sat down with Floriday Today and gave them enough grist for two articles. One on him, naturally. And one on Sosa.

Starting with Sosa, Bowden doesn't seem too optimistic.
"The ingredients, at least on the surface, don't appear to be there for a deal," Bowden said. "But in life, you never know."

The biggest obstacle to a deal between the teams is money.

Since the Nationals are right around the $50 million payroll Major League Baseball has set for the upcoming season, the Cubs would have to pay nearly $40 million just to get rid of the player who is a member of the 500-home run club.

Also, Bowden said he won't give up a top prospect or highly regarded young player to get Sosa, especially since he traded for right fielder Jose Guillen in November.

But then you can see his eyes light up when he fantasizes about Sosa in a W hat.
"Certainly we'd have interest in Sammy Sosa because even for just one year if you put him in the middle of the lineup with Guillen and (Brad) Wilkerson and (Vinny) Castilla you're going to score runs," Bowden said. "And you're going to get Guillen and Wilkerson better pitches to hit."

As long as he keeps his fantasies to himself, we'll be ok.

As for the profile, it's similar to the one the Washington Post did a few months ago. It's a good read about his background, how he got his start in baseball arguing about Mike Easler, and his love of broadcasting.

It's sometimes good to see that the people we constantly rail on are human beings too. And that they have hopes and dreams and wishes, just as we do. We just don't have the ability to hand out four-year contracts to medicore shortstops.

Round 'Em Up. Move 'Em In

--A day later, the Post weighs in on the broadcast negotiations. Nothing new on that front, but it does weigh in with some more names of prospective owners.

--Today's Barry Larkin is leaning towards retirement article.

--The Nats signed George Arias to a minor league contract, whom many newspaper headlines are referring to as a "Japanese League Star." Yeah, just like Hideki Irabu. Arias, a charter member of the Hudson Falls Battlin' Sloths in the Edward T. Death Roto League, hasn't played in the majors since 1999. He's played just over a full season's worth of games with a .237/ .278/ .371. He's Vinny Castilla minus Coors Field.

If he hits well in Spring Training, he has a chance to come north as Castilla's backup. Once again, Jamey Carroll weeps.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Potpourri for $100, Alex

I was gonna post something yesterday about how we haven't heard anything from Trader Jim in a few weeks. We were way overdue. Apparently, he's decided to take a job in the Marlins PR Department.
"With this transaction, the Marlins have the firepower to win the division, the league and the World Series," Washington Nationals GM Jim Bowden said regarding Tuesday's $52M deal for free agent Carlos Delgado.
Hopefully, it's just because it wasn't a long-distance call for the reporter. I don't think we can stand another eruption of Mt. Bowden. Especially with this story floating, floating, floating out there. Still.

With Delagdo gone, all the big Free Agents have been signed. Sosa's really the only big name floating out there. You know Jim wants a piece of it. Can he contain himself? Can we cut his phone lines? Can we see if he really does want a job in the Marlins PR office?

--The play-by-play guy for the Nashville Predators has thrown his hat into the ring for the Nats broadcasting job. (The Predators are an NHL team, not an Arena Football Team) (Oh, and the NHL is a hockey league.)

I've never heard the guy. So I can't really comment on him.

But, if that's all it takes, I'll throw my hat in the ring too! I've always been told I have a great speaking voice. And I have great diction too! Sure, I'll listen if the Nats call.


John at Nationals Pastime takes his always-invaluable look at the numbers. This time, with Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA forecast.

As we've been harping on all year, our pitching rotation looks solid. John says their number indicate we've got the third-best rotation in the East, but that adjustments for new players coming and old players going could bump us up solidly into the number two position.

As we've also been harping on all year, hitting is our weakness. The Nats are scraping the barrel offensively. With Castilla, Guzman, Chavez and the pitcher, there are a few too many easy outs for the pitcher. The Terrible Trio will have to work a little harder to avoid making as many outs this year.

John rightfully points out that these are probably only useful projections for the beginning of the year. Injuries, performance varation, trades, etc all will have a huge impact on the season.

There's a list of about 10 things that would need to go right for us to make the playoffs. I'm not counting on many of them. But there's no reason why this team couldn't play .500 baseball (yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm pretending that we don't need to score runs!) And considering everything they've been through, that would be a pretty damn good success.

How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

Ok, Maybe they are trying. They're doing the exact opposite of what the Orioles are doing--the kind of creative and aggressive thinking that they should be pursuing instead of rolling up into a ball and crying for mommy.

That's the difference between the management styles of Dan Snyder and Peter Angelos, I guess.

The Redskins, along with a number of other football teams, are forming a group, the Gridiron Stadium Network, to promote and book concerts and other events at their mostly unused stadiums.

With RFK set to be occupied for most of the summer and the prospects of a shiny new stadium on the beautiful stinky waters of the Anacostia, this is a good time for the Redskins to strike out on their own and grab their claim of the market.

The Orioles seem afraid or averse to these kinds of moves. Right now, it just appears they're content to sit back, see what baseball offers. And, if it doesn't appease their sensibilities, to sue the bejeesus out of them, hoping the court delivers another victory for Pete's wallet.

Despite their differences on this sorta thing, we can't forget that Pete and Snyder share one thing in common: a stunning inability to put their business acumen to use to put a winning team on the field.

Which Flavor Kool-Aid Is Boswell's Favorite?

Ol' Tommy's column today is brutal. Just brutal. I think the 1985 Tom Boswell would hang his head in shame at the thought of producing this sorta drivel.

It features the usual Boswell saws:
1. Seething at Angelos/Cheap Shots
2. Blinding Optimism at the Nats Chances
3. Manipulation of Statistics to Bolster his Argument
4. A Woe Is Us, We're a Poor Little Team Doing So Much With So Little Attitude. (That should probably be hyphenated!)

He's correct in his general point, that the Orioles should be focusing more on putting a winning team on the field than whining. (Actually, on some of the signings, the Orioles probably made the right decision to not bid higher.)

But, that's an argument he can make without resorting to some of the distortions he makes in his column.

I like reading his columns for the passion and the energy that clearly shines in his words. But, when you get past the glossy finish, there isn't a lot of subtance to the arguments he's using.

UPDATE--Nationals Inquirer eviscerates the column more eloquently than I did. Plus, he noted an error so blindingly obvious, I can't believe I missed it. Of course, if the lead columnist and all the copy editors of a major newspaper missed, don't blame me! :)

UPDATE PART 2--Even more people are popping up blogging about Boswell.

Static Radio

There's no movement on the radio broadcast front. In fact, things appear to be worse.

The two sides drew up a memorandum of understanding two weeks ago in which WTEM (AM-980) would have served as the team's flagship station and Clear Channel would have provided the club extensive promotion over its seven other area stations.

But according to industry sources, the document was never signed; upon review, Clear Channel lawyers found several key elements missing in the proposed revenue-sharing accord.

Executives for the Nationals and Clear Channel, who declined to comment last night, are slated to meet this morning in an attempt to resurrect the deal. But the Nationals also have resumed negotiations with Infinity Broadcasting, with whom the team conducted preliminary talks about a radio deal late last year.

The article also mentions that they're going to resume talks with Infinity Broadcasting.

Has Mark Sterne figured out who Brad Wilkerson is yet?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Feet To The Fire

One of the few remaining stadium proponents who wasn't removed from office in the purge on election day, Sharon Ambrose now faces some stiff opposition: a movement for her recall.

Apparently, the activists only need around 5,000 signatures on the petition. I don't think that that'd be toooo hard to get. It's a shame that the threshold is that low.

I don't know about her politics, but I think there's something screwy with a system that forces a politician to have to deal with something like that with so few signatures needed. It certainly can't make for good politics.

The Beat Writers Must Be On Vacation

I realize there's not much of a beat, but it's been a dreadfully slow week for Nats-related news. With all the big signings done, there's just a lot of fiddling at the margins. (Something Bowden loves to do, unfortunately.)

The Post has a brief story on a number of people who are upset with their season ticket assignments.

About 5,300 people had requested a total 17,830 season tickets for the upcoming season, and more than 10,000 of those requests were for seats in the infield box section, which cost $40 per ticket, per game. But there are only 5,000 seats for the 10,000 requests. So thousands of fans had to be pushed back to the infield box terrace and infield box baseline sections, both of which are in the lower deck but are farther from the field.

The most prized locations are the 900 diamond box seats behind home plate. Those tickets are $90 per game and were the first to sell out.

John, at Nationals Pastime concurs!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A Numerical Diversion

When is a number not a statistic? Plenty of the time.

Daniel Okrent, the Public Editor of the New York Times (And probably more famous to baseball fans as the creator of rotisserie baseball and the author of Nine Innings) writes an excellent column about how valueless many of the numbers you see in the media are. Although he saves his sharpest jabs for the news divisions, it has direct implications with the quality of sports writing we read.

He writes that the numbers used in print often aren’t important to the story, or are included without any sort of context of frame of reference.

Number fumbling arises, I believe, not from mendacity but from laziness, carelessness or lack of comprehension. I'll put myself in the latter category (as some readers no doubt will as well, after they've read through my representation of the numbers that follow). Most of the journalists I know who enter the profession comfortable with numbers write about sports, where debate about the meaning of statistics is a daily competition, or economics, a field in which interpretation of numbers will no more likely produce inarguable results than will finger painting.

So it is left to the rest of us who write for the paper to stumble through numbers, scatter them on the page and hope that readers understand. Does it matter if many of these figures are meaningless symbols serving the interests of the parties that issue them? Take a variety of reports on some recent lawsuits: A man is suing the city for $20 million arising from charges, eventually dismissed, brought against him for kidnapping and sexual abuse [story]. The mother of the football player Derrick Thomas, who died in 2000, is suing General Motors for $75 million [story]. Villagers on an Indonesian island are suing Newmont Mining Corporation for $543 million [story]. Not one of these numbers is grounded in anything more substantial than the imagination of a plaintiff's lawyer, but each is given the authority of print.

No different, really, was Wednesday's assertion that Bernard J. Ebbers, if convicted of all charges in the MCI-WorldCom accounting scandal, "could be sentenced to as much as 85 years," a formulation that bears no relationship to any conceivable outcome yet serves the prosecutor's public case very nicely [story].

He goes on to cite the use of real versus nominal dollars, which are notoriously abused by the film industry, as one example where newspapers are more than willing to regurgitate the studio’s latest press releases, instead of applying critical thinking to what the numbers mean--or in this case, don’t mean.

In a supplementary posting, he uses batting average as an example of another misused number.

All three of these imprecise and generally unhelpful numbers [batting average, the unemployment rate and the Dow Jones Average] has, through overuse and under-explanation, become part of the language, but none means what it purports to mean. Even writers who know better will at times resort to them when they’re too hurried, too lazy or too weary to search for alternatives or to pause for elaboration.

A few weeks ago, David Leonhardt – who moonlights from his usual gig as an economics reporter to write a biweekly column on sports statistics – sought to establish that outfielder Carlos Beltran hadn’t had such a great season last year, and clinched his case by noting that Beltran’s batting average of .267 was “good for 118th place in baseball.”

No journalist I know understands numbers as well as David does, no one has taught me more about them, and few, I'm happy to say, are as good-natured as he is. That’s why I don’t think he’ll mind if I point out that in July, just six months before he used it to evaluate Beltran, Leonhardt described batting average as “a flawed measure of performance.”

Such is the persistent power of a bad number – it can bring the best of us to our knees.

What is the cause though? Is it just laziness? In some cases, I’m sure it is. But is it also ignorance? I think that that’s a pretty huge factor too, especially in sports writing. It seems like there are many writers who are quick to write off anything more advanced than average and RBI and many who flaunt their ignorance as a badge of honor. (Probably, in part, because of the overbearing attitude and pomposity of many in the stathead community.)

Some writers seem to get it better than others. It’s not enough to know that Vinny Castilla hit 35 home runs last year. It’s not enough to know that Cristian Guzman fielded .983 last year. You need to know context (Coors Field and a range factor right around league average, respectively) to give those stats any sort of meaning.

By not providing context, the writer is doing a disservice to his reader. Without a critical (which does not have to mean negative) look at the numbers and stats, they’re doing nothing more than publishing a public relations piece.

Everyone knows that words mean things, although the same word can mean greatly different things depending on the words surrounding it and the way in which it’s used. Numbers are no different. And what Okrent is saying, is that writers need to be just as careful with how they shape their numbers within a story as how they would shape their words.

That’s just as true if you’re covering the Nats, as it is if you’re covering an Appropriations bill.

It's Hard To Update When Blogger Won't Let You In

Sometimes computer suck.

Not that there's anything going on anyway.

There's slow progress being made on the ownership situation. The prominent name in that group is Theodore Lerner, who's made his name in commercial development in this area.

And Dick Heller has a mundane, column-inch-filling article about his rising excitement for the Nats. (Mundane and column-inch-filling? Sounds like my writing!)

Monday, January 24, 2005

Two Hours Of Pushin' Brooms...

Wondered why you haven't heard anything about the resume you sent in for one of the Nats jobs? Maybe that's because they've received over 15,000 resumes.

Or maybe you're not desparate enough:
Less than 48 hours after [Tony Tavares] arrived in town in October, he picked up the phone in his hotel suite, despite being in the middle of a meeting, and began to listen to a wannabe employee. "If you're interested in a job with me," he said hastily, "e-mail me at . . . " and he provided his address. He has had people arrive, unannounced, at his Georgetown office, looking for work. He has taken a few meetings with particularly persistent people, only to wish he hadn't....

Take Sendar. He wrote a letter to Tavares in November, wistfully recalling his days growing up as a New York baseball fan, back when he annually attended the World Series. "My fascination with baseball has continued unabated," he wrote. "My knowledge of baseball history is near-encyclopedic." He said he had "harbored the desire to work in sports management" for years, and that he would offer help in legal and administrative matters for free.

With people like you offering their services, it's a wonder that everyone isn't working for free.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Who's Sellin'?

Want premium tickets to a Nats game? Try Stub Hub or Ebay then. They're sold out.

"This has obviously been a very hot ticket, and the highest-price stuff right near home plate has been the most popular," said Kevin Uhlich, Nationals chief operating officer. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to give everybody their first choices in the diamond boxes [$90 a game] or infield boxes [$40] and had to give some people their second choice. But we have a seating chart, and it's moving forward."

In other news... February 4, looks to be the day for 20- and 40- game plans. Single game tickets will probably be sold in March. Get 'em while they're hot.

Angelos Talks Some Sense

He finally realizes that it's the silly contracts that are hampering the Orioles, not the Nats.

Left unsaid is that Bowden's given out his share of silly contracts.

I guess [the uncertainty] does hurt," Angelos said. "But I think it's blown out of proportion. I think the real story is that some of the demands coming from these players are absolutely outrageous. Baseball was on the right track until this recent spate of agreements."...

In the words of one team official after the winter meetings, they've experienced "sticker shock."

I Guess He's At Acceptance

Barry Larkin is close to joining the front office.

Bowden, general manager of the Washington Nationals - the former Montreal Expos - has expressed interest in hiring Larkin for a front-office job.

''What Barry communicated to me is that he would like to come to work with the Nationals,'' Bowden said. ''He would like to come and work because, in his words, of his relationship with me, Bob Boone and Jose Rijo.''

Boone, a former Reds manager, and Rijo, a former Reds pitcher, already are on board as special assistants to Bowden.

With the burgeoning collection of Reds, can Pete Rose be far behind?

Friday, January 21, 2005

'Cause I Know You're On Pins And Needles

Barry Larkin's agent says Barry's retiring.

Meanwhile, in Evansville, IN, Jamey "Don't Call Me Wil" Carroll is smiling. Oh, and this guy too.

Does anyone know which stage of the grieving process Barry's in now? I'm losing track now.

Never Trust What A Pitcher Says

The Post takes a basic look at park effects at RFK and concludes that it's probably going to be pretty neutral. Their analysis isn't quite umm.. analytical.

They start out by interviewing two players.

"It's neither," said former Washington Senators pitcher Jim Hannan. "It's fair."...

"If you look at your multi-purpose stadiums, they're all kind of nondescript," said Frank Howard, the Senators' power-hitting outfielder from 1965 to 1971. "It's not like Fenway Park, with the left field wall. It's not like the Polo Grounds, with that deep center field. It's not like Yankee Stadium, with the graveyard out there. It was a dual-purpose stadium, and it was fair. I thought the ball didn't carry very well at night -- it was a better park to hit in during the day -- but that's about it."

So, it's a fair park because it's symmetrical? I suppose it's fair in that a symmetrical park isn't going to noticeably favor righties over lefties, but does that mean it's fair?

From all accounts, RFK was a slight pitcher's park. Baseball-Reference's numbers back this up too. Of course, Jim Hannan, a pretty mediocre pitcher, is going to think it's fair, especially given the run environment in the '60s. As for Frank Howard, he spent the first half of his career, playing in Dodgers Stadium--the most extreme pitcher's park in the game, in the stingiest run-scoring environment in the game's history. I'm sure that RFK was a paradise for him.

The dimensions for the park are probably average. But, if it played as a slight pitcher's park in the '60s, given the increased numbers of hitter's parks in the League (Coors Field, Minute Maid Park, etc) then wouldn't it stand to reason that RFK would be even more pitcher-friendly now? It's not being compared to the Astrodome anymore.

The article does note that they Senators scored a virtually equal number of runs per game at home and on the road: 3.61 versus 3.63. But, it doesn't mention the rates at which the other teams scored against the Senators pitchers. That is just as important, when determining park factor, as the team's batting.

It's a good attempt by the Post, but running anecdotes from old players isn't quite going to cut it.

Roundin' Third, Headed Towards More Links

Alright... I was outta commission for a day. Doesn't look like I missed a whole helluva lot. But I have some catching up to do.

--Bowden signed the under-rated Antonio Osuna to a one-year $800,000 contract. If he can stay healthy, which is a pretty big if with him, he can really shine in our bullpen. Nationals Pastime looks at the numbers and gives him a thumbs up. Unfortunately, they released Sunny Kim to make room for him. Kim, while never going to be a superstar, isn't completely useless. Although, now that I actually look at his numbers, I may want to change that assesment ;)

--The Nats adjusted their schedule slightly to accomodate an ESPN Sunday Night game and a few more Fox games. *Yawn* They also finalized plans for an April 3 exhibition against the Mets. *Double Yawn*

--Ticketmaster sucks.

--Distinguished Senators has a look at Cristian Guzman and deconstructs the latest PR puff-piece from the Nats website.

--Yesterday's lesson: Inaugural Balls are surprisingly lame.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

It's Imminent

Blogger ate my post last night. It's the first I've lost. I guess I was overdue. Anyway, here's the Cliff's Notes version.

Loaiza's signing a 1-year $3 million contract. The bright side is that it's one year. The down side is that he doesn't really add much to the team--they've already got mediocre starters--some who might actually have a bright future.

Despite being a two-time All-Star, he actually kinda stinks. He has a career ERA of 4.70. The League ERA during his career has been 4.62. In only three of his ten seasons has he been above league average in ERA.

Hopefully, he'll be used as a swing man, filling in for starters depending on injury. He was much more effective last year out of the bullpen, in part because of a tired arm. I'm sure that's not how they're going to use him though.

As a one-year deal it could be worse. It's just silly to expect anything more than a 4.50 ERA from him. He had one magical season, but that was so out-of-line with the rest of his career, it's as big a fluke as Brady Anderson's 1996.

That's the Cliff's Notes Version??!?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

One More Down. None to Go.

Well, that was fast. Tomo Ohka and the Nats avoided an arbitration hearing when he signed a $2.75 million one-year contract. The pitching staff is mostly set, it appears.

Hopefully, the inevitible Loaiza signing won't pollute it too much.

And hopefully Ohka will rebound from his broken arm to continue to grow and put up the kind of numbers that'll make him too expensive to re-sign next year!

It's Minor Leage Tuesday!

The Post discovers that we have a minor league system and has a good story on its current state and how it got there. (Thanks Omar and MLB!)

They also have a little feature on the top-10 prospects with brief capsules about the players on the list.

Meanwhile, the Times looked at the changes the team made to the coaches/instructors at the minor league level.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Defending Jose Guillen

Distinguished Senators links to a profile of our shiny new outfield acquisition, the troubled Jose Guillen.

Ryan takes him to task for something he said:
Our rightfielder discusses the incident that got him suspended from Los Angeles of Anaheim last year:
He thought I threw my helmet at him, but that's where the batboy sits and it didn't even come close (to Scioscia).
Oh, it was all just a big misunderstanding! He didn't throw his helmet at the manager, he threw it at the batboy! Don't worry, Jose. All is forgiven. Prick.

I saw the same criticism at Baseball Primer too. I think it's a misreading.

The helmet throwing happened because Guillen, who was just hit by a pitch, was removed for a pinch-runner. Guillen got angry, and tossed his helmet in the direction of Scioscia. It's entirely possible, especially given the tenses used, if not probably, that the bat boy was out doing bat-related things at the time. He didn't say he threw it at the batboy. Just towards the area where he would have been sitting had he not been doing his job.

At least I'm hoping that that's what happens. I can't imagine Guillen trying to elicit sympathy by saying he was throwing it at a kid, not a manager. I would hope! But given his track record, ya never know!

Broadcasting News. Wait, Isn't That A Movie?

The Post has some speculation on what the television options are.

One option appears to be the creation of a regional sports network partnership between baseball and either Fox SportsNet or Comcast SportsNet, and which could also include the Orioles, under which all three entities -- the Nationals, the Orioles and the broadcaster -- would share profits and ownership.

The second option, according to sources, would be the more conventional approach of selling the Nationals' broadcast rights for a set fee to either Comcast or Fox....

A third option, which sources said is not likely, calls for baseball to form its own Washington regional sports network. Sources said baseball would rather partner with a broadcaster or cable company in order to spread the risk....

Before a television deal can be struck, baseball will have to determine the Nationals' television territory and how close to Baltimore that territory will extend, according to sources. Baseball grants certain geographic regions around teams as "exclusive" broadcast rights for that team only, while outer regions are often termed "shared." Angelos and baseball appear to disagree on how far the Orioles' exclusive area extends.

For example, the league doesn't want New York Yankees games regularly televised in Philadelphia, where it could hurt the Phillies. Nor does it allow the Boston Red Sox to consider New York City part of its exclusive region. But there are certain parts of Connecticut where the broadcasting overlaps and both Red Sox as well as Yankees and New York Mets games are available.

Angelos has emphasized to MLB that the cable TV rights he would be obliged to share with the Nationals have been his team's property, which came with the purchase of the franchise in 1993 for $173 million.

Baseball maintains it never gave such a guarantee, according to sources.

Also, thanks to DCRTV, Clear Channel has begun looking for sales execs for Washington Nationals broadcasts. I'd say that that's a good sign that they're close to announcing a deal! ;)

Mitchell Page's Second Chance

Mitchell Page, who was fired as hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, was hired by the Nats are their minor league roving hitting instructor.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a nice profile of him. Page fought a sometimes-losing battle with alcoholism that indirectly led to his firing. He sought treatment after the season and has been sober for three months.

Page attends 10 support meetings a week and hopes his experience can somehow help others who might have postponed seeking treatment. When he put together a five-page presentation as part of his interview with the Nationals, Page devoted the first to explaining his disease, its treatment and its maintenance. He now reaches for a cappuccino instead of a six-pack and says he has made amends with those he may have hurt during his spiral.

"The program helps you to really pinpoint what actions you take," he said. "The only thing I did was lose my job because of drinking. I never beat my boy. I educated him. I only damaged myself personally. I can live with that."

Good luck to him. I don't know how much of the Cardinal's success can be attributed to him--it's not like he was working with a AAA team--but hopefully this is an opportunity for him to get back on his feet and find another job in the majors, whether that's with us, or not.

Two More Down. One To Go

Nick Johnson and Tony Armas signed 1-year contracts ($1.45 and $2.26 million respectively). Both avoid arbitration, leaving Tomo Ohka as our one remaining arbitration-eligible player. From all accounts, that one's not getting settled either. They'll have to have an arbitration hearing.

It's good that we got so many of the signings out of the way. Arbitration hearings just result in bad feelings and resentment on all sides and can create some long-term animosity. Just imagine how you'd feel if your boss prepared a powerpoint presentation about how lousy a player you were and how you aren't worth what you think you are. You wouldn't be too eager to renew your contract the next time around either.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Ball-Wonk's Open Letter

Ball-Wonk has an open letter to Esteban Loaiza, which details the perils of accepting Bowden's contract offers.

And he introduces the newest 527 Advocacy Group: Nats Fans for Truth.

At least they'd have lots of footage of him looking shell-shocked on the mound for use in their ads.

Havana Pete Update

Eric Fisher has today's news: No new news.
The birth of the Washington Nationals already has been a source of frustration for Angelos, most clearly noted by his solo opposition to the relocation in an owners' vote last month. But the lagging talks have reached a critical stage because without a signed agreement with the Orioles, MLB is unable to sell the Nationals or establish long-term local TV distribution for the club.

The two sides have talked for weeks about an unprecedented package of benefits for Angelos that include guarantees to the Orioles' annual local revenue, future resale value for the franchise and a majority stake in a new regional sports network. But divisions remain on several fundamental areas, including how long the benefits will last and measures to ensure competitive impetus for the Orioles.

Interesting. That's the first time I've seen that last part referenced. And, for me, that would be the key trigger in any deal I'd want MLB to sign. If Jim Beattie is so willing to throw out the Nats-Are-Ruining-Everything card so early in the process, you gotta wonder about how far they'd go if the guarantees in the deal provided them little incentive to try to win.

They'd already have excuses about the Nats and the big, bad Yankees/Sox as reasons why they couldn't compete. Baltimore's press corps would be eager to lap that right up.

In a related story, the Orioles are pretending to compete in the Carlos Delgado sweepstakes. It's looking like the Marlins have the edge so far.

Baltimore has not yet scheduled a meeting with Delgado and has not submitted a second offer for the free agent since a three-year, $30 million initial bid made prior to the winter meetings in mid-December.

On Sunday, Beattie said that the lack of an agreement with Major League Baseball to compensate the Orioles for the presence of the Washington Nationals has hindered Baltimore's pursuit of free agents. Delgado is seeking a deal of $14 million to $17 million a year, demands that have floored Baltimore officials.

That's the market, Jim. If you want premium talent, sometimes you gotta overpay. If you don't want to overpay, don't whine and blame it on the Nats. And it'd be very delightful if the low-revenue Florida Marlins outbid you too. Then you couldn't whine about the haves and have-nots either. Well, you shouldn't. But I know we'll be hearing more of it coming out of the warehouse anyway.

Mornin' News Round-Up

--Let the litigatin' begin! A company on the site of the stadium, is suing DC, contending they weren't approving building permits to allow them to maintain their property in an effort to keep costs low when the city tries to buy the land.

--Keith Bodie (who?) has been named manager of Harrisburg, our AA affiliate.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Better News on the Sosa Front

Bill Ladson has the scoop and it looks like Sosa's not going to be coming. His source, let's call him JB, says they won't give up prospects for him and they won't take him unless the Cubs pay him. If they're expecting the Cubs to pay the entire salary, JB is a bit wacky. I'm sure the Nats would have to chip in some money.

The other good note from the story:
Meanwhile, the Nationals are trying to sign right-hander Esteban Loaiza to a one-year deal. The Nationals have $6 million to spend, but are not willing to spend that kind of money on Loazia.


Off The Record, On The QT, And Very Hush-Hush

Tony Tavares has made the big time: The Post's Reliable Source.

Unfortunately, it's for nothing exciting. C'mon Richard Leiby, we want some real dirt!

Washington Nationals President Tony Tavares dined Monday night with one of the town's biggest baseball fans: President Bush. Tavares was joined at the White House by Omar Minaya, general manager of the New York Mets, who worked in the Texas Rangers organization when Bush owned that team. "He's really into baseball, and it was just terrific," Tavares told The Post's Barry Svrluga. "Whether you're for him or against him, he was as good in a small group as you can be."

Sammy, No! No!

The Sosa to the Nats rumors, just like the Larkin to the Nats rumors are alive. Again. Ugh.

From the context of the article, it appears that Bowden was the one who initiated contact.

What's always been the major deal-killer in this is that Sosa has a clause in his contract kicking in an ungodly $18 million option if he's traded. There's a new wrinkle though:
While Sosa's contract with the Cubs guarantees an $18million salary if he is traded, that figure can be negotiated. Agent Adam Katz is believed to have told clubs that Sosa would not play for less than $10 million in 2006.

I find that hard to believe. Either the terms are in the contract or they're not. If they are, you can't negotiate salary down, without adding a benefit (see: Rodriguez, Alex and Sox, Red).

One possible benefit would be extending his contract--and would probably be the most likely possibility. That's not palatable either. Sosa's old, and if last season's stats weren't a fluke, on a significant downspin in his career.

So he's a bad idea because: 1. He's expensive. 2. He's declining. 3. You'd have to extend his contract an additional year and 4. We don't need any more freakin' outfielders!

I hope this is a case of Jimbo just trying to get his name in the headlines. Sosa would handicap this franchise for years--far more so than the few million being frittered away on the left side of our infield.

No News Is Good News?

No news on the Loaiza front. Maybe the buddhist prayers I said were a factor.

In today's blast from the past article, Bowden has rekindled his love affair with Barry Larkin.

Now, Larkin seems to be on the fence (again) about playing next year. Apparently, when he first turned down the Nats, he had expectations of a starter's job somewhere. With that not likely, he's deciding whether he wants to play or not. That seems more like a face-saving move than anything. I'm sure he'll soon decide that his love of the game will allow him to settle for a part-time role. Blah blah blah.

There's also a reference to Wil Cordero as a team leader. It's been a few weeks. We were about due. I wish there was a longer statute of limitations on wife-beating before one could become a leader. Hell, one 20-years-past drunk driving offense almost cost Bush the Presidency four years ago. Shouldn't the stigma of wife-beating result in something more than a little praise from the Post?

(Distinguished Senators has Dayn Perry. I've got Wil Cordero!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Cameron Wants Out

Mike Cameron has requested a trade from the Mets. I'm not sure how many teams will be in the market for a centerfielder. And, although he'd be a good fit, I'm not sure he fits into the Nats' budget--the article claims he gets $14 million over the next two years.

I imagine something like Nick Johnson, Tomo Ohka and Endy Chavez could be doable. Whether we should do it is a completely different matter.

RFK Update

The Times has an update on the goings-on in RFK. It has several interesting nuggets.
Workers tore up the grass soccer field that had been in use through the stadium's last event: D.C. United's Nov. 6 MLS playoff victory over New England. They dug an extra 20 inches into the ground and rebuilt the field's soil base. A new drainage system will be installed in coming weeks, and new sod is due to be installed next month. When finished, the rebuilt field will still sit about 10 inches below its predecessor...

the sports commission is hurriedly conferring with Nationals sales executives to map out exact seat locations for the more than 16,000 season tickets purchased so far, no easy feat considering entire sections are still moving around. But notices recently were sent out to account holders promising precise seat locations by Jan. 21 and asking for payment on season tickets by Feb. 4....

On the field, workers must install a backstop, two foul poles and the 8-foot outfield fence. Two bullpens must be constructed beyond the fence in right-center field. Final dimensions must be measured, though they're not expected to differ much from RFK's original ones (330 feet down the lines, 385 in the power alleys, 410 to center field).

Given the less-than-onerous home run dimensions and RFK's intimate feel, engineers working on the stadium project the refurbished ballpark as a hitter's haven.

I don't care if it feel intimate, those dimensions aren't overly-large, but they're not indicitave of a bandbox either. RFK played as a pitcher's park before, given the number of hitter's parks that have come into the league, it'll probably continue to play like a pitcher's park.

WTEM and the Nats

Well, it looks like it's going to be SportsTalk 980 for the Nats Broadcasts. I have mixed feelings.

There's no one on that station who knows the first thing about baseball. They're probably not going to be able to casually dismiss the topic, like they do when they bring up the Caps or the Wizards.

Second, the station's signal has a lot of interference for some people. I know that sometimes at night, I get a loud electronic humming constantly, mixed with occasional blender-like static sounds--and I live in Alexandria. It's not like I'm in Indian Head.

According to the Times, they won't receive up-front rights fees, but a portion of the advertising sales. I don't know enough about the finances of broadcasting, but when the Orioles struck a similar deal several years ago, it was looked down upon.

I wonder if they'll turn it into a constant in-game commercial, much like the current Yankee broadcasts: "This two-strike pitch is brought to you by..." I can hope not. The constant in-game commercials really break up the relaxing flow of having the game on the radio. But, the quality of the broadcast really takes a backseat to the profits they can generate, so long as the listeners keep tuning in.

The Bright Side of Loaiza

[A]n industry source said it was unlikely the Nationals would offer more than a one-year contract. Loaiza is seeking a two-year deal.

"That, ultimately, is what's going to get our attention," said agent John Boggs. "I don't think Washington is going to be in position to go there, but it still could be a good fit -- even for one year."

Anything more than one year is absolutely silly. From the article, it appears that Texas is our only competition. Bowden is notorious for hoarding crappy arms, and this would sync with his MO.

If he can keep it to one year, it might not be the worst option. They could plug him in as a swingman and, if injuries pop up, he could fill in. Unfortunately, I'm sure they'd throw him right into the rotation.

Like I said the other day, depth is not our problem. We've got a number of quality arms. Quality of the arms at the front of our rotation is the problem. And no one is going to confuse Loaiza with Pedro, or even Matt Clement.

The article also mentions Shawn Chacon as a trade possibility. Chacon's been battered in Coors Field and bombed as their closer last year. A change of scenery could definitely do him so good, but I don't think the Nats are in any position to be dealing prospects to add players to fix a need they don't have.

The article mentions Brian Lawrence as a possibility. I was intrigued until I actually looked up his stats. He has a career 3.91 ERA versus a 3.94 League ERA. (And he's gotten worse compared to the league each year as well.) He's a pretty extreme groundball pitcher, but has been really prone to the gopher ball, despite playing in a pretty extreme pitcher's park. As with Chacon, he's probably not worth giving up prospects for.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Dan Szymborski has released his ZIPS projections for next year. I’d ordinarily play a few seasons of Diamond-Mind with them, but he only released them in version 9 and it’s not compatible with my old version. Oh well.

I won’t get into how he calculates them. That’s for you to find out.

Here are the projections for the Nats:

Schneider: .245/ .317/ .372
Johnson .268/ .388/ .431
Vidro .303/ .381/ .445
Guzman .269/ .305/ .373
Castilla .237 /.292 /.402
Sledge .288 /.363 /.454
Chavez .283/ .330/ .376
Wilkerson .263/ .380/ .457
Guillen .297/ .352/ .499

Those look reasonably in-line with what they should be. Wilkerson’s slugging might be a little low, but remember, they’re moving from a decent hitter’s park (especially when you factor in the games in Hiram Bithorn) to what will probably be a very Shea-like park, in more ways than one. (Actually, I think that Dan used Shea as the model for the park effects on these projections.)

Other random projections of note:

Juan Rivera: .304/ .357/ .466
Ryan Church: .278/ .347/ .451
Wil Cordero: .255/ .333/ .395
Gary Bennett: .226/ .290/ .305
Maicer Izturis: .286/ .357/ .369 If he hits that, it’d be stunning.
Larry Broadway: .240/ .320/ .388
Brendan Harris: .267/ .329/ .416
JJ Davis: .265/ .325/ .500??? Is that a Tee-ball projection?

And, just for the hell of it:
Mike Cameron: .244/ .336/ .449

Union Station and the First Amendment

Passed without comment. Other than to say, maybe the quasi-public reason is why I can't get lunch there for under $7?

Told Ya He Was Lyin'

After losing out on Odalis Perez, Jim Bowden says that he's not going to blow any money on another pitcher. But what does he do? He offers Shawn "5.84 ERA" Estes a 2-year $6-7 million contract. Yes, it's Coors-inflated, but he put up similar numbers the year before in Chicago as well.

Ugh. It just itches and burns when you don't do anything, doesn't it, Jim?

And now, as if that wasn't bad enough, today's Post carries horrid news for any Nats fan, Esteban Loaiza:
Bowden's talks with Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, were all but dormant as the Nationals pursued Perez, who proved too expensive, signing with the Dodgers for three years and $24 million. Boggs said yesterday that Washington is one of four teams -- two in the American League -- still interested in Loaiza, who began 2004 with the Chicago White Sox but was traded to the New York Yankees in midseason. Loaiza, 33, went 10-7 with a 5.70 ERA in 183 innings between the teams.

Loaiza, despite being a two-time All-Star, can be charitably described as mediocre. He had one excellent season two years ago, where a new cutter propelled him to a second-place finish in Cy Young voting. Other than that, there's been nothing in his career to distinguish him from any other fourth starter.

What bothers me is a lack of recognition about what this team's needs are. They don't need pitching depth. We've got third and fourth starters coming out our wazoo. The Nats need front-line pitching, not innings.

But, the continued interest in Loaiza makes me wonder if something is up with Ohka or Armas, our arbitration-eligibles. With grumblings over the Mets apparent interest in Nick Johnson, I wonder if there is something to Distinguished Senators' Mike Cameron proposal.

Cameron would definitely fill a need and the Nats could bring up Larry Broadway to platoon with Wil Cordero at first. That'd be a defensive improvement--although Cameron isn't quite what he once was--and probably pretty close to a wash offensively.

The only catch is Cameron's salary. I'm pretty sure he's making around $8 million this year and next. While that's probably about what he's worth, that's also probably a little above our budget--especially as our arbitration-eligibles continue to get expensive.

Uh-oh. Two straigh Gleeman-length entries. I gotta get under control.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Beattie-Eyed Weasel

I wanted to hit on this earlier today, but damn work gets in the way sometimes.

Jim Beattie is a moron. But he's Peter Angelos' kind of moron.

Sez Beatie:
Beattie conceded that the Montreal Expos' move to Washington, the possible effect on the Orioles' revenue and the undetermined compensation to majority owner Peter Angelos have complicated the team's winter maneuverings.

"We can't just go out there without some sort of sense of where we are, what we can do," he said. "There are certain things we have to comply with. It has slowed us down. It has had an effect. We would be in a much better situation if we had an agreement with MLB right now. It's put us a little behind the eight-ball with respect to what we've been able to do."
Yeah, behind the eight ball. That's why your team is stuck in neutral. First, you're lying, trying to cover your ass. Second, even if you weren't lying, that's probably more damning of your capabilities as leader of that team.

To this point, the Orioles have only signed reliever Steve Kline and infielder, Chris Gomez, whom they incidentally lost in the Rule V draft, because they apparently don't understand roster rules. Thankfully for them, the Phillies shipped him right back to Baltimore after extracting some cash for him.

According to various reports, they've targeted several free agents this year: Carl Pavano, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran and probably some others that I've missed. While I haven't heard any dollar values being exchanged, it doesn't appear that the Orioles were on the short list for any of those players, although Delgado's still a distinct possibility. Why? Because the Orioles, probably correctly, haven't wanted to pay the going rate. The Yankees and Mets have both probably overpaid for Pavano and Beltran respectively. Even if Washington weren't in the picture, the Orioles still wouldn't have been in the final running. Washington was not a factor in this at all, and it's just an attempt to run down the team, and to score a few cheap points with sympathetic and parochial Baltimore sportswriters.

There have been plenty of other pitchers on the market too, Perez, Clement, etc. I haven't heard the Orioles name connected with any of those, even though those pitchers signed for less than Pavano. Wade Miller, who many regard as one of the steals of the offseason, didn't even appear to get a sniff from the Orioles. Why? If they're interested in pitching, there were plenty of options other than Pavano, yet he's the only one they went after. When they didn't sign him, did they just fold up the tent? If they were willing to commit money to him, why not to other free agents? They certainly weren't getting outbid by the Nats.

Now, let's take him at his word. Let's say the uncertainty of the Washington Nationals IS having an impact on their budgetary strategy. Well, you know what, Jim? You should clean out everyone in the front office, and maybe you better resign as well. For how long has this saga been playing out? It's not like the Nats just showed up on your doorstep overnight! This has been talked about for the better part of a decade. Your boss has been crusading against this for a long time and has even commissioned studies researching the impact upon the fan base--all much more pessimistic than any other study.

You mean to tell me that no one in your front office, or that you haven't direceted anyone to research the economic impact of the Nats? That's never occurred to you before? I'm sure some kinda report has crossed your desk a few times. I'd find it amazing if you didn't know the worst-case scenario--and I'm sure you knew all that before you committed huge dollars to Tejada and Lopez last season.

This is going to be the beginning of what should be a pretty ugly fight. It's pretty sad that the Orioles are resorting to loser-talk already, making excuses for their lack of inaction. If their young pitching continues to improve, the Orioles can have a decent season. No, they probably won't compete with the Yankees or the Sox, but anything north of .500 has got to be success.

Instead, Beattie is lowering the bar, and trying to convince the fans that any failures of the team aren't because of bad front-office leadership, bad planning, or the player's failings. It's all because of that evil-MLB and those yuppiefied, latte-sipping, pork-barreling lobbyists to the south. Yeah, that's it, Jim.

The Washington Nationals are not the reason you haven't signed any impact free agents. A narrow, all-eggs-in-one-basket approach and a lack of desire to overpay in an inflated market are the reason. And unless you were in the market for weak-hitting shortstops or old-as-hell third baseman, the Nats had nothing to do with that.

Rewriting History

The Times has an article on what the plans are for dealing with team records and history.

Apparently, it'll be a mixture of the Expos history with Washington's past. They'll keep two separate lists. One for Expos/Nats feats. The other for Washington's franchise, in effect, stealing from the Rangers and the Twins.
The article notes that the Baltimore Ravens do a similar thing, borrowing some stuff from the Colts franchise.

I'm just glad that they're not going to completely abandon the link to the Expos. Despite the mess of the last few years, that's a franchise that had a lot of solid players and a number of strong teams. Players like Tim Wallach, Tim Raines, Rusty Staub and even what Gary Carter did early in his career, should not be forgotten.

Hopefully we will, as in most things, contrast this with how the Orioles do things. You wouldn't know that they were once the St. Louis Browns--hell, you wouldn't know they were from Baltimore by their jersey either!

We should embrace the team's past, and not just the city's.

Free Youppi!

Buried at the end of this article, is a little nugget about our furry friend to the north.
The Nationals also will leave behind a big, orange ball of fur in Canada.
Youppi, the Expos' mascot, will not be prowling the stands at RFK Stadium next
season. But he is, at least, expected to be gainfully employed.

"Youppi will live on in Quebec," Mr. Delorme said. "A
local corporation will end up with his rights."

I was holding out hope that they'd export him as a token of friendship with our sometimes-french-speaking friends. Oh well.

I guess we're doomed to have one of those god-awful NBA-esque mascots.

Was Bowden Lying?

Although it appears we’ve dodged the bullet, the AZ Republic notes that the Nats offered a contract to Shawn Estes. Yeah, that Shawn Estes. Bowden supposedly said that he wouldn’t be spending the $5 or $6 million they’ve got left on pitching. Hopefully, he said that after he made an offer to the guy. Unless… he’s going to trade one of the arbitration-eligible pitchers.

Overbudget Already

The Post has a profile of Allen Lew, the man who’s overseeing stadium construction for the District.

I link to it, only because it’s the first public admission I’ve seen that admits that the stadium’s already overbudget. RFK renovations were initially supposed to cost $13 million, but that’s already shot up to $18.5 million because of ‘overtime’ costs. $5.5 million in overtime? Sign me up! (Actually, I thought Bush was supposed to have killed overtime as we know it ;) )

42% over budget and we’re barely two months into the process. Great.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Angelos Pacification Continues

Bob DuPuy and Havana Peter Angelos met yesterday, in their continuining negotiations to make Angelos richer and richer.

Neither side had any comment, but it's a pretty good sign that they're meeting face-to-face.

In the Post, Tom Boswell, in a seemingly continuing series, shows his disgust for Angelos. He compares him unfavorably to George Steinbrenner.

Boswell is making an argument I've made before--that the terms of the pacification deal that have floated around are so generous, that there's no real incentive to work hard to put a winning team on the field.
The Orioles know the unwritten rules of how to acquire, or "just miss" the available winter talent. And now they are missing it all, just when they appear to be a couple of pitchers shy of a winning team.


A better question might be, "Why not?"

As part of its mend-the-fences efforts, baseball has offered Angelos a guaranteed minimum sale price for his franchise far into the future....

The final terms of a cease-fire between baseball and Angelos have not been reached. But, at the least, Angelos knows that a "floor" has been put under the value of his team. No matter how bad it is, he knows he can sell it for a fancy price.

If you were guaranteed a fixed price for your house for the next 10 years, would you paint it? Would you spend money on new shutters? Or add a porch?

Is Angelos going to run the Orioles as a modest-payroll team that's a cash cow? Then sell when the profits are exhausted?

Read the whole thing. He makes some excellent points. And besides, it's always fun to read something written in anger!

Wilkie's Back

DC's second favorite Wilkie has avoided arbitration, having signed a one-year $3.05 million contract. (Or here, depending on your ideological preferences!)

Both articles indicate interest in signing him to a long-term deal, but point out that he's not a free agent until 2008. Also, Bowden indicated that that would be a more appropriate decision when the new ownership group kicks in.

There are three arbitration-elgible players left" Nick Johnson, Tomo Ohka, and Tony Armas. From the tone of the article, it doesn't appear too likely that anything's going to happen soon. All three, barring trades, will be on the team next year. It's just their salary that's to be determined.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Broadcasting News?

Copied from the invaluable DCRTV website:

Nats To JFK? TEM? - 1/6 - DCRTV has been reporting rumblings that Infinity talker WJFK-FM and Clear Channel sports talker WTEM are the top candidates to land the radio rights to DC's new baseball team, the Nationals. Now, Thursday's DC Post gives us this confusing little ditty: "The club is also working to finalize a radio broadcasting deal with Clear Channel Communications. The deal, which could be announced within the next few days, would likely make the team's flagship station WJFK, which also broadcasts Washington Redskins games." DCRTV must point out, though, that Clear Channel does not own WJFK. In related news, DCRTV hears that the local broadcast TV rights for the Nats could likely end up with Fox, via Channel 5/WTTG or Channel 20/WDCA. Stay tuned.....

Mornin' News

It's a busy day at work, no thanks to the House leadership. Damn them for screwing up my year! So just a quick round-up. Thankfully, there's nothing exciting.

They named some more coaches and assigned some front office people.

One of those appointed is Don Buford. Thankfully, his is an on-the-field job--first base coach. Buford was a disaster as the Orioles director of minor league operations.

The only other Nats-related story I could find, not that I searched too hard, is just an update on the local contracts being used to renovate RFK. It seems that the company awarded the overall contract subcontracted parts to a local affiliate that it owns to circumvent the requirement for a local company involvement. Typical.

(Is that any different than Wayne Huizenga or Anheuser Busch setting up separate companies to suck the stadium profits dry, while their respective teams cry poverty?)

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

It's Awards Season

With the new year beginning, Distinguished Senators passed out his year-end awards.

Here are my picks:

The Capitol Steps Award for Lamest "Funny" D.C. Team Name:
I was at a meeting with Majority Whip Roy Blunt right after the team was awarded, and he led off with a series of suggested names. Everyone at the table laughed that "I better laugh because this guy has a lot of power" kinda chuckle. (It's not that dissimilar from the hearty laughs most priests get at their lame jokes. At any rate, Washington Exposes was on his list, so I'll give it to him, instead of Pinto.

The Ron Santo Award for Unthinking Homerism.
I agree with Ryan. When I read the category, I instantly thought of the winning quote by Tom Boswell, If this is what Bowden does on a shoestring, who will this crazy guy grab if he ever actually knows what his budget is?"

It reads like a TV promo: Catch the zany hijinks and madcap antics tonight, on Matlock!

The rest of Ryan's picks are great as well. Check it out. And if ya hurry up, there's bonus Will Carrol bashing. Man, that guy takes a lot of abuse.

Prospect Bonanza

I take a few days off and everyone takes my material! That's not fair. :)

Nationals pasttime links to a Baseball America chat session on the 'prospects' in the Nats' system.

He also does a quick and dirty analysis of their top-10 list. He's got the goods on what BA's reports say.

Mike Hinckley, LHP is our top prospect and stands a good chance of coming up sometime this year. There's a logjam for the last spot in the rotation and Hinckley is probably a longshot to make it. More time at AAA wouldn't hurt. If they needed an extra arm, he'd fill the swingman role nicely.

Larry Broadway is Nick Johnson insurance. With the continued trade talks surrounding NJ and his arbitration pricetag sure to rise, Broadway becomes more important. He showed decent power potential, but had an injury that slowed him down this year. A September callup is likely.

Ryan Church, OF, is another in the long list of potential OFers. Given the number of them already on our major league roster, I can't really see him breaking through, barring a mammoth spring. With unexepected injuries and poor performance sure to happen to someone on our team, I'm sure he'll get a few chances this year.

Brendan Harris, 3B, is the only other meaningful prospect who can expect to see playing time this year. He's got a pretty decent track record in the minors. If the right players get injured, he'll have a shot to prove himself and realize some of his potential.

Spring Training, Ho Hum

The Nats are out with their spring training schedule.

I've always found myself unable to get excited about the actual Spring Training games, other than to know that baseball's in the air. I wouldn't watch rehearsals for a Broadway musical, especially when it's all the understudies rehearsing.

I'm sure I'll be a little more excited as the time draws closer, but for now, it gets a big yawn from me.

Apparently, we play in Space Coast Stadium. Am I the only one that pictures some 1950s-era "stadium of the future?"

Flirting with Odalis

Odalis Perez will not be a National next year. The bright side of it is that he’s outside our division, having re-signed with the LA Dodgers, on a 3-year $24 million contract.

In the end, it came down to money.

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Bowden received permission from club president Tony Tavares to slightly increase his original offer of three years, $18 million but not by enough to lure Perez to Washington.

"We played up to the point where we couldn't afford it, and then after that, we had to bow out," Bowden said. "I think he would have been a very good signing for us. But at the end of the day, we really couldn't afford to sign him within our payroll structure."
I wonder if Bowden regrets frittering away all of that money. A few million bucks saved on Guzman and Castilla could’ve added up to a shiny new Perez.

The other bright spot was the claim that the Nats won’t go after any of the chaff remaining on the pitching market. Broken-down has-beens, such as Aaron Sele and Esteban Loaiza are about all that’s left. We’re better off burying the extra money in a clay jar under the parking lot than wasting it on them. (Hell, use the extra money and start negotiations on a long-term deal with Wilkerson.)

The rotation is not great, but it’s very good. And it’s relatively young age and experience combine to give it the potential to break out. Nationals Pastime had an earlier look at our rotation, and how Odalis would’ve fit into it.

Monday, January 03, 2005

This Is Why People Hate Economists

Ike Brannon, writing in the Times, floats an idea to fund the stadium using nothing but personal seat licenses. While, I like the creativity and the idea of letting those who actually use and support the team be the ones to foot the bill, the idea of PSLs has always ticked me off. It’s a case of the team extracting money for nothing while the loveable chumps in the seats more than willing to ante up.

He gives a decent rationale for PSLs though--an argument I hadn’t heard before: it’s the team’s way of recouping some of the profit they’re going to lose because of scalping. I’d be willing to entertain that argument, I suppose. But, I’d love to hear the team say it.

A year or two ago, the NY Mets, like many other teams have done, went to a tiered pricing schedule, where games at premium times or against premium opponents were priced higher and games against the Brewers were cheaper. They were slaughtered by the NY Press as being greedy and arrogant by sportswriters who probably have never got into a game without their press passes.

I don’t think a team would be able to ever go to a total free-market solution, with auctions for tickets or something similar, but some sort of sophisticated pricing schedule, such as that tiered system is doable and probably makes sense for a lot of teams. The team that figures out how to make it work will definitely benefit from the increased ticket revenue.

New Year, New Challenges

The new year has brought a new DC Council--one that’s much less favorable to baseball and one wanting to make its mark. The Washington Times reported on what the three new stadium opponents on the council could do to derail the process--everything from screwing up the sale of bonds to delaying construction contracts. They could even go so far as to vote to repeal the entire funding legislation, although it is not believed that they would have enough votes to override Tony Williams’ inevitable veto.

I’m sure the opponents will do their best to challenge it, but it’s time to move. I’ll be interested to see what the council is going to do to improve schools and libraries, since that seems to universally be a priority. I’ll be waiting a while, I suspect.