Thursday, March 31, 2005

AL Outlook

With apologies to Gregg Easterbrook and the Score Bard, here's my attempt at using the most abused form of internet art to project records. The NL will follow tomorrow.


  • Yankees (99-63)
    They spend more money
    than any other team can.
    So why Womack then?

  • Red Sox (97-65)
    Wow, what an offense!
    Top to bottom they mash balls!
    Will pitching hold up?

  • Orioles (85-77)
    Look out, they could be
    the surprise of the league soon,
    if pitchers throw strikes.

  • Blue Jays (73-89)
    They were Sabr stars.
    As losses mount, statheads claim
    JP is a pimp.

  • Devil Rays (68-94)
    Will they ever win?
    Or are they stuck rebuilding
    for yet one more year?


  • Twins (90-72)
    Santana’s change-up
    cuts through the air so slowly.
    Batters swing and fail.

  • Indians (84-78)
    Youth is on their side.
    Sadly, so is Juan Gon’s bat
    and the stinky pen.

  • White Sox (76-86)
    Ozzie’s crazy bunts
    will keep this team from scoring.
    Put THAT on the board.

  • Detroit (73-89)
    They improved a lot.
    And now they made big signings
    that will be for naught.

  • Royals (58-104)
    What a shame, this team.
    Where have you gone, Bob Hamelin?
    Fans just turn their eyes.


  • Angels(89-73)
    Wow, the former Nat
    crushes every pitch he sees!
    Should eek out pennant.

  • Athletics (85-77)
    Big three are now one,
    but Beane has reloaded them.
    Youth shall rule, one day.

  • Mariners (84-78)
    Ichiro wraps hits.
    On Adrian and Richie,
    Nintendo spent dough.

  • Rangers (73-89)
    Come watch the Home Runs
    fly out of Ameriquest.
    Alas, by both teams.

TV Or Not TV. That Was The Question

Enter the tastefully, if not unoriginallly named Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN). The deal hasn't been signed, but both the Post and Times are reporting it's imminent.

Eric Fisher says that the network:
likely would be under the majority control of the Orioles and act as the primary TV home of both clubs. The network also would oversee the distribution of both teams' games through cable and satellite carriers and strike deals with local, over-the-air TV stations like the Nationals' impending agreement with WDCA and WTTG.

The Nationals would receive a rights fee from the regional sports network in the tentative pact, estimated at $20Â million to $30Â million a year, forming the team's second-largest single revenue source. An equity stake also is being pegged to go to the Nationals.

I don't like the idea of Angelos having much control over the Nationals broadcasting, but if the Nationals really are partners in this and can reap some of the revenues from the station outside the rights to air games, it might not be a horrible deal.

Despite the apparent agreement, there's still a major problem: how are local cable stations going to clear space for the new channel by the time the season starts?

I was reminded, and the Post mentioned, of Minnesota's attempt last year to do the same thing. Their team-owned Victory Sports Network went to hell quickly, because no cable outlets cleared space at the rates VSN wanted to charge. VSN lasted a month, before they folded and sold their rights to the local Fox Sports affiliate. But, in the meantime, Twins fans were prevented from seeing their team's games.

Here, something similar has the potential of happening. Right now, Comcast SportsNet runs the Orioles, and has their contract through 2007. How eager is Comcast going to be to clear space for a channel that's taking rights away from them and, in effect, killing their own channel?

Comcast doesn't have the history of that that Jim Dolan and Cablevision do in NY, where anytime they lose rights to another station or network, that station or network doesn't get aired, mysteriously. (Today's a good example of his kind of thuggery)

I don't think that Comcast will resort to that, but it is a potential problem for this year, and for coming years.

In the meantime, there's always the radio!


HOK Sport, designer of 72 of the 30 major league stadiums will get their crack at one more, ours.

They've had some gems (Full list here), but they've also had a dud or two(Comerica sticks out in my mind). They're a safe choice -- especially with the 2008 deadline looming -- and their experience should be a big asset.

I'll reserve judgement til we see a design. The only thing I worry about is that the HOK style is almost becoming a cliche. Spare me the green seats, and I'll be happy.

(I think HOK also has a policy of no support columns, meaning their upper decks are typically further away from the field than some of the older stadiums. That might be a problem for those who have tickets in the upper deck at RFK, which, in places, looms right on top of the field.)

The other important ballpark news is that DC CEO Natwar Gandhi issued the final cost estimate for the ballpark. And in a definite Capt. Louis Renault moment, it's shockingly $46MM higher, and falls juuuuust under the cap set by the Council. (Had it gone over, the financing legislation required a new site to be selected.)
Mayoral spokesman Chris Bender called Gandhi's study a "worst-case scenario" by a "very conservative CFO." In several areas, Bender noted, Gandhi included contingency money that might not have to be spent.

"People should not look at the numbers and assume that's it. We're going to find ways to stay under these numbers," Bender said. "If we can, we'll come in even further under, but even with everything factored in, we're still under the cap. The council set forth a bar, and we did exactly what the council asked us to do."

It's a conservative estimate, huh? Anyone want to bet that the conservative estimate gets blown away by the eventual price? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Now begins the long legal wrangling over eminent domain. That's always my favorite part of the building process. I'm sure you'll grow to love it too!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Mightily Erudite

The most erudite of the Nats bloggers, Mr. Wonk, has a preview of the upcoming season in Sports Fan Magazine.

Check it out for his usual refreshingly-wonky take.

Part Man, Part Horse

Easy, big fella!
Right-hander Livan Hernandez started for the Nationals. He pitched eight innings and gave up one run on six hits, striking out six and walking none. Hernandez also helped himself with the bat by driving in two runs.

Mid-season Cy Young form!

Fouled-Off Bunts: Grecian Formula Edition

The V-E Day euphoria's starting to wear off finally! So here's everything else that I missed today while I was jigging around the office.

  • No deal. Yet.
    "It's very, very close to the finish line," said one source familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    C'mon Mr. Fisher! By now, you should know you can't trust Jim Williams!

  • Even without the Is crossed and the Ts dotted, they have the contigency over-the-air broadcasting plan in place:
    More than 70 Washington Nationals games would be broadcast this season on two Fox-owned television stations, WTTG-5 (the Fox affiliate) and WDCA-20 (the UPN affiliate), sources said. The sources indicated that some games will be shown on WTTG and the rest on WDCA

    I'll reserve my snarky comments about how they call anything with a reporter on scene 'breaking news' for another time. (Did you know that what I just did is called a paralipsis? Neither did I!)

  • Jim Bowden ends his guest columnist stint at Floriday Today with a look at the reasoning behind the Endy Chavez demotion, Barry Bonds, and his future as an NCAA prognositcator.

  • The Army is looking at a sponsorship deal with RFK (the stadium, not the former attorney general). There are a few jokes there. I trust in your creativity to make them yourself.

  • The Lompoc Record takes a look at hometown hero, Ryan Church, on the news of his promotion to the majors. I'm such a sucker for these local newspapers!

  • I'll point out this DCist blurb not so much for self-congratulations, but just to point out the oddity of our predicted standings. Check out the predicted records for the first few blogs listed here. We all did this independently. That's kinda weird!

  • The last word on Endy Chavez, for now. This Baseball Primer thread highlights something I didn't communicate in what I hacked out on the keyboard yesterday, but is something that's really important.

    The problem isn't that Endy Chavez failed as a lead-off hitter. It's that the team asked him to be a lead-off hitter despite every possible scrap of evidence indicating that he couldn't be one. Good teams look at what a player CAN do, and they find a role for him that uses him to his strength. Bad teams focus on what the player CAN'T do and they try and mold and adapt that player to the skills they want.

    Endy Chavez should not have been asked to be a lead-off hitter. He was doomed to fail. That's not so much a failure of Endy as a player, but of the Nationals. Talking with another blogger, he pointed out, rightly, that Earl Weaver would have found the perfect role for Endy. And that definitely would not involved an 8 next to his name on the scorecard every day.

More V-E Day Celebrations

When Tom Boswell has been on this spring, he's been as good as he was when he earned the reputation he's been living off of the last few years. And he's definitely on today.

Read it, and you can see the passion he has for the team. And understand his, and the team's, frustration with Endy Chavez. I don't want to excerpt it, because it really builds and makes the case. Print it out and read it at lunch or something. (I won't tell your boss!)

St. Barry of Svrluga's piece from yesterday has been expanded and sums up why it's a good move with a quote from Jim Bowden:
"His offense has not been good enough to win baseball games," Bowden said of Chavez. "We gave up some defense in this decision, but we have got to be able to score more runs than what we've been scoring."

St. Barry cuts to the heart of the matter in his blog, where he can actually be more casual and give his opinion. He contends that the reaction to yesterday's move shows that DC IS a baseball town (DAMN RIGHT!) and he doesn't hold back:
Forget that almost no one in the Washington area has ever seen this guy play in person. Forget that people sipping lattes in Seattle have no idea who we're talking about. Forget that Chavez is a sub-mediocre player who probably belongs in the minors. Washington is a baseball town because a baseball story -- not one about city council squabbles or television rights -- carried the day.

He later shares a cringe-worthy anecdote, DOH!
Idiot move of the day: I sat down to talk to Brian Schneider this morning, grabbing the locker stall next to his, which was empty except for a few hangers. "Jeez, whose locker was this?" I asked. "Chavez," he said.

Mort errr... Mark Zuckerman gets the opinion of the Kentucky Masher:
"It surprised a lot of people," Wilkerson said. "It surprised me. I hate to see it happen, but [Bowden's] correct in saying that. Endy knows what he needs to do; he just needs to start doing it. If he starts to draw walks and gets on base, he'd be a great fit for this ballclub. But until that happens, I think we have to go with the best team possible."

Amen, Brad. Amen!

The Eureka Moment

It's official. I'm hooked. They've captured me and I'm powerless to stop it.

Last night, when I got the news about Endy Chavez, it filled me with the kind of happiness and satisfaction you feel when your team does something good.

We haven't seen any games, well meaningful ones, at least. And we haven't seen any game-winning hits, or complete game shutouts. But yesterday was the same kind of feeling.

When I got the news, I had to run and tell someone. Because you're crazy enough to be reading someone's ramblings about a team we haven't seen, I know you know the feeling. Something good happens to your team, they make a big trade or an amazing play in the field, and you have to share your elation with someone. Whoever. It doesn't matter. Maybe it's your friend. Maybe it's your girlfriend. (Or, if you're still living at home (and I'm looking in your direction), your mom!)

It's that burning desire to share what you've just seen. It almost hurts to keep it inside.

But, you don't get that feeling when the Royals make a great play. You don't get that feeling when the Rockies make a big trade. You only get that feeling when it's your team -- the team you're pulling for.

Last night, I had that feeling. For the first time with the Nationals.

It took me a while to recognize it for what it is. But, I'm glad. They're my team now.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

V-E Day!

I checked my email and got what I've been waiting months for in an email from The Inquirer. It's not the email from him, but the news that... You might want to sit for this!

Inning-Endy Chavez has been optioned to New Orleans!

I know I shouldn't take joy in someone else's misery, but Halle-freakin'-lujia!

I started blogging back in October, primarily as a way of getting to know the team. When I did my initial Meet The Nats Series, it was pretty apparent that Endy Chavez was the lynchpin of the team's suckiness:
When the Royals, Tigers and Mets all give up on you, you probably shouldn’t be playing center field. But, in the case of the Nationals, you give Endy Chavez two full seasons of proving you can’t hit or field.

Chavez might not be a bad fielder, but his bat did all the talking this spring. And it said, "I stink." All spring, the club has been focused on him, telling him how important it is for him to work the count and get on base. And what have the results been? a .212 batting average with a disgustingly-bad .257 on-base percentage. They told him to focus on his patience and he produced two walks. Not good.

They gave him every chance to win the job. Frank Robinson coddled him early in the spring with no luck. Frobby played hardball late in the spring with no luck. Finally, the team couldn't ignore the lack of results on the field; "We felt like he wasn't doing the job he needed to do," Robinson said.

A week ago, I had a hunch that this was coming down the pike. The statements that the team was making about Endy indicated that patience was short.

I'm sure he's a nice person, but the team simply had to do this. Endy's not old, but he ain't young either. And nothing he's done in his career, either in the majors or the minors, indicate that he's worthy of a starting outfield position in the major leagues. He'll be best-served if he can morph into a Dave Roberts style career -- late inning defensive replacement/ pinch runner.

In his place, St. Barry of Svrluga says that Ryan Church will head north and man centerfield. Good for the Holy One! Church, not to be confused with the Star Wars artist, has done nothing but bash minor league pitching.

AAA .346 .430 .622 98
AA .276 .325 .462 170
A .291 .395 .515 250

Not bad for the guy Baseball America says is our team's best defensive outfielder! He won't be Jim Edmonds or even Bernie Williams. But, if he can play steady, solid defense and hit something reasonable, say .275/ .330/ .430, he'll go a LOOOONG way towards propelling this team to .500 or higher. I feel pretty confident, just eyeballing the numbers, in saying that he's worth at least two more wins than Endy Chavez.

It's a great day for the Nationals. They've looked at past performance, assessed current scouting reports and come to the right conclusion. I've bashed Jim Bowden a lot here, but he's made the right decision -- A decision that boosts the Nats on the field.
Oh, and check out the Inquirer's little tap dance over Endy's grave!

Distinguished Senators has a much more charitable look at the move. And he reminds us that he's already nicknamed Ryan Church. Now, how 'bout that time machine, Bodes?

Pssst! A Glimpse At The Mascot

OK, so it's not the real mascot, but it might work.

Via DCist comes local PR Hound/Activist/Schmuck Adam Eidinger, whom you may remember from getting his ass pounded by an old man, is being backed by the local leftist/anarchists/children to become the National's mascot, the Colonist.

Sadly, the PR hound has 20 tickets to opening day, and he and his group plan on protesting by flashing signs saying 'Strike 4 DC Statehood' after every strikeout. Gee, that'll be sure to sway Congress.

I can just see Orrin Hatch and Tom DeLay, their hearts four sizes too small, wolfing down hotdogs looking up into the upper deck and seeing those signs and changing, just like the Grinch did when confronted by Cindy Lou Who.

I can also see about 20 Nationals fans who were shut out of the game because these idiots think that this is an effecitive form of protest. Thankfully, they're not near my section -- they're in 438. (Can you imagine the abuse they'd take if this was Yankee Stadium?)

Enjoy your protests. But know that they're ineffective, and are denying some people who genuinely care about the game a chance to attend something that's really important to them.

Update--I win the Major Dumas award for the second time this week. As Jeff, in comments points out, their protest is for the exhibition game, not the home opener. I guess that's better in that they're not screwing fans out of seast (I'm assuming the exhibition game will have plenty of empty seats) But, at the same time, who really gives a rat's ass about a protest at an exhibition game?

Capitol Punishment -- We may not be accurate, but at least we have a pleasing color scheme!

I Suggest The Absence Of A Quorum

We knew that injury was going to play a role in who headed north, especially given the track record of some of these players!

Vinny Castilla will be ramping up efforts to get back on the field after hyper-extending his left knee a week or so ago.

Jim Bowden has indicated that if it’s not better, the Señor Statesman could begin the year on the disabled list. If that happens, Tony Blanco definitely makes the club, and it gives Carlos Baerga a chance to make it as well. Incidentally, Frank Robinson has said that Jamey Carroll will get the first crack at the starting job, should our mile-high friend stay gimpy.

One catch with keeping Baerga around is that he’s currently on a minor-league contract, meaning he’s not on the 40-man roster. The Nationals only have 38 currently (Francis Beltran is on the 60-day DL, so he doesn’t count against the total), so that won’t represent a problem. But, if they make trades, the roster limits may come into play. As a major league veteran, Baerga would reserve the right to refuse to be assigned to the minors. Hopefully, he’d go willingly, just like our good friend Jeffrey Hammonds, and be an option should disaster strike.

The other important roster decision involves Tony Armas’ groin. He’s tweaked it enough, that they’re shutting him down for a few weeks and putting him on the 15-day DL. Rest helps a weary groin!

As a result, one more of the pitchers gets to hang around, and one of the lucky losers gets a chance to start once or twice, maybe.

Livan, Loaiza, Ohka, Day are locks to start the opening four games, but not in that order, says St. Barry.

Chad Cordero, Luis Ayala, Antonio Osuna, Joey Eischen and TJ Tucker are probably locks as well -- the last two primarily because they can’t be sent to the minors without risk of losing them.

Jon Patterson, who’s also out of options, makes it and slides into the not-really-needed fifth starters spot. He might pick up a start or two before Armas is back.

That leaves one spot. The contenders? Joe Horgan, Gary Majewski, and Jon Rauch. They all have options, so the Nationals aren’t at risk of losing one. Majewski’s just a pedestrian reliever -- nothing to get too excited over. He’ll enjoy New Orleans. Ideally, they’d stick with Rauch, especially given his performance last year, but he won’t get any starts up here. Down in Louisiana, he’ll be a contender for PCL pitcher of the year. I’d put my money on Joe Horgan, primarily for one reason: he’s left-handed.

Frank Robinson has mentioned the need for a second lefty many times this spring. He contends that teams can stack their lineups with lefties because the Nats don’t have any lefty starters. Although I think that bullpen specialization is the bane of baseball, strategically this might make sense, especially because Horgan was so effective last year.

But, we’ll see what happens when he’s facing Carlos Delgado with two on in the 7th inning of a tie game!

When Armas is ready to come off the DL, Horgan will probably escape the axe too, because the team will be ready to jump up to 12 pitchers. I wish they wouldn’t, but that’s the way they play the game now. Oh well. Meanwhile, Rauch will be rooting for another injury or two, waiting to reunite Los Dos Juans.

Other roster notes…

Ian Desmond will be enjoying A-Savannah this summer, at least for the start.

The Nats acquired Carlos Torres from the Sox as the PTBNL for Alejandro Machado. Carlos hit 253/ .368/ .466 in the Gulf Coast League last year. Not great, not horrible. Sadly, he’s probably already one of our top prospects!

A Thug In A $10,000 Suit Is Still A Thug

I'm not quite there yet, but I'm getting pretty close to invoking Godwin's Law when it comes to our slimeball lawyer friend to the north, Peter "C. Montgomery" Angelos.

In fact, given the news today that there's a chance that the opening game won't be on TV, I think we definitely need to ramp up our villainizing rhetoric! Well, Mr. Angelos, your Waterloo is coming! (Wait, that's probably not harsh enough.) Mr. Angelos, your ummm. Well, I got nuttin'. You're an evil man.*

Sadly, there aren't any new developments. We're essentially stuck in neutral. He says he owns us. We say he doesn't. On and on it goes. Angelos is using whatever leverage he has to maximum effect, but it doesn't appear likely to get him anywhere, because I can't see MLB budging on the territorial ownership issue.

It's been reported that many other owners are getting fed up with the protracted pace of these negotiations. Of course, they're not disinterested parties, because every dollar that drains into Angelos's wallet will come from the sale price of the team, and ultimately their wallets as well. If they're able to put some internal pressure on Bud Selig, maybe he'll grow the spine he left in Milwaukee 40 years ago and use some advice he learned from that modern-day sage, Doug LLewellyn, "Don't take the law into your own hands; you take them to court."

If the pressure from his brethren and the Commisar isn't enough, he's got the Voice of God in the guise of the editorial page weighing in against him; he's in trouble! Even one of His apostles chips in!

And, as always, the Voice of God is the voice of reason.
Mr. Angelos has threatened to sue unless he gets his way. Evidently hoping to avoid the drawn-out, bare-knuckled litigation for which he is notorious, baseball officials have kept negotiations alive. But the talks have gone on for six months, and time's up. The season starts next week, and Washington's baseball-starved fans want to tune in. Lawyers say Mr. Angelos's legal position is weak. It's time for Major League Baseball to fix a sensible broadcasting deal for the Nationals -- whether or not Mr. Angelos will play ball.

It's time to play ball indeed!

*attn: Angelos's pitbull libel attorneys...
The above is umm... satire? Yeah, that's it! Satire!

Monday, March 28, 2005

HR Huff-nstuf

Read this and weep?
Earlier this week, Tampa Bay turned down the Washington Nationals' offer of TERRMEL SLEDGE and NICK JOHNSON for AUBREY HUFF, mainly because Rays manager LOU PINIELLA is begging management not to deal Huff. But if they can get offense somewhere else, such as JAY GIBBONS from Baltimore or an outfielder from the Mets in exchange for Baez or other relievers, Huff could become more available. Huff appeals to both Atlanta and Texas, which are looking for outfield (and in Texas' case, DH) bats. Those two teams are possible destinations for available Cincinnati outfielder WILY MO PENA, though the Reds also have been talking about a Pena deal with the Devil Rays, too. And it's possible that the Reds, in spite of their glut of outfielders, will hesitate before moving Pena. After all, it's hard to count on KEN GRIFFEY JR. being healthy for an entire season.

First, how does one copyedit that without resorting to taking notes. It makes my head hurt.

Or maybe it's the trade idea that's making my head hurt. I'm not sure. Terrmel Sledge AND Nick Johnson for Aubrey "Big Girl" Huff. Hmmm.

On the plus side you're getting Aubrey Huff. And that's not bad. He's on the right side of 30 and will come cheaply -- $4.75MM and $6.75 MM over the next two years. Huff had a down year last year, but still mashed .297/ .360/ .493 with 29 home runs. The previous year, he crushed 34 homers with 47 doubles, while batting .311. He doesn't walk much, nor does he strike out a ton for someone with as much power as he has.

He played about half his games at 3B last year, which is more a reflection on the Stink Rays' needs than his actual abilities at the position. He's been jerked around the field a lot, but here, he'd settle into his natural position, first base.

On the downside, you're trading Terrmel Sledge AND Nick Johnson! Sledge, despite not having much experience is not especially young (This will be his age-28 season.) And, truth be told, he's not especially good. He's useful in a pinch, and won't hurt the team, but he's not an all-star-type player like Huff is. (And Huff's a legitimate All-Star, not one of those Rickey Bones, Doug Jones Affirmative Action kinda all-stars)

Trading NJ is what really makes me unsure about this deal. Nick's value is at a nadir. His long track record of injury, combined with only moderate effectiveness when he has been healthy means he's lost much of the luster he had four years ago. If he stays healthy and puts up the kind of numbers he's capable of putting up, then he'll have a lot more value at the trading deadline or in the offseason. But, it's not like he'd be traded for chaff in thise case.

Given all the competition for Huff's services contained in that densly-packed paragraph, there's a pretty good chances that this speculation is for naught.

But, I like the idea of this trade. Huff's young, would instantly become our best hitter, and will come cheaply for the next year or so. He's living up to the kind of potential that Nick Johnson has. We'd be taking the sure thing over the potential.

Plus, that would enable the Nats to use JJ Davis and Alex Escobar as the fourth and fifth outfielders instead of the fifth and sixth, as they're penciled in now. It's an efficient use of the depth of this club.

The more I think about this, the more I like it!

Everything You've Always Wanted To Know About Broadcasters* But Were Afraid To Ask

Via the always-invaluable Yurasko, come the tales of three men and the love they share. A burning passion so deep that they've devoted their lives to it.

Mark Fisher titillates us with a tale of Charlie Slowes and Dave Shea and how they and their families are adapting to the sudden changes in their life when a new love came to town. And Harry Jaffe arouses our interest with the smoldering story of Barry Svrluga, a man so singularly focused, he's willing to spend nights away from his wife to be with other men.

All three men, their lives intertwined with a common love, will fill our days and nights during this long, hot summer where they will teach us to love nine men with a passion that will last our entire lives.

Read their tales. Learn about them. Learn from them. Grow to love them. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Scorin' At Home, Even If You're Alone

A few weeks ago I asked if any of you had any scorebook recommendations. I didn't find any I liked 100%, so I made my own.

If you're pathetic, like me, and would like a copy, email me: needham22301[at]yahoo[dawt]com

It has space for 11 innings, and each batting slot includes space for 3 players. I threw an extra batting slot in the bottom, just in case anything wacky happens. I also included boxes for tracking pitches and space for 6 pitchers. But, I'll send you the Excel sheet, so you can make any changes you'd like.

There Went Peter Cottontail

If you're like me, and who'd admit that anyway, you can't think of a better way of celebrating the ressurection of our Lord and Savior than by ripping your groin. Tony Armas, demonstrating that he's in the holiday spirit, at least partially, decided he'd participate too. Although he didn't fully rip it, he tweaked it enough to have to be removed from a game against the Mets.

Neither Armas, nor the Patron Saint of Nats, St. Barry, think there's much to it -- it was more of a precautionary move. Yet, nothing good can come from it.

First, Armas hasn't pitched deep into a game yet this spring. The article notes that the deepest he's gone is 3.2 innings. Given that he would have, at most, one more pitching outing this spring, it would have been beneficial to stretch that arm out and work out his endurance a little more.

Second, this is the first incident this year of a trend that's prevented Armas from living up to the high expectations on his gimpy shoulder when he was traded for Pedro J. Martinez. He can't stay healthy. Last year, he got nailed in the leg by a line drive, had a sore biceps (I think it's still with an s for singular?). The year before that he had his shoulder rebuilt.

In the last two seasons, he's combined for just 103 innings over 21 starts. Do the math, and you can see that he's not very durable even when 'healthy' enough to start.

But, he has youth and potential on his side. His 2001 season, when he was just 23, was an excellent season, and is probably the up-side of what we can expect. That year, he threw 196.2 innings and struck out 176 batters. His won-loss record stunk (9-14), but that was much more a product of the miserable team he was pitching for than the 4.03 ERA he put up. (League average was 4.65 that year.) He walked too many batters, 91, but it was a very solid season overall, and one he could reproduce if he stays healthy.

The other reason why the Nationals need to stay healthy and produce: he's trade bait.

He'll be a free agent at the end of the year, and still relatively young. Scouts still glow about his 'stuff' and his potential. In other words, there'll probably be a market for his pitching, which might preclude the still-small market Nationals from making a serious push if his salary jumps up to the $7-8MM range.

And, if we're realistic, the Nats likely won't be in the heat of the pennant race, though we can hope damnit, and can sell him off without crushing the team's chances. If he's healthy, most of the contending teams could use him, and they could easily slot him in the third spot in their playoff rotations. He could be a difference maker and could command a premium price.

With the weakness of this club's farm system, any deal which gives us prospects is a good one!

So on behalf of those Nationals fans who will still be rooting for the team long after you've left, Tony, please stay healthy and remember... Easter's over. You don't need to rip your groin anymore!

Friday, March 25, 2005

76 Things You Probably Don't Know About Tony Blanco

Since his chances of breaking camp with the Nationals has dramatically improve (mainly through attrition), we'll take a look at our Dominican friend.

1. His middle name is Hemisphere.
2. He started off as a prospect in Boston's Organization.
3. He was part of Theo Epstein's first trade as a GM.
4. He was traded for Todd Walker.
5. In his first season as a professional, he hit .277/ .356/ .462 in 67 games.
6. Blanco was only 17 at the time.
7. The next year, he crushed the Gulf Coast League, batting .384.
8. He had 13 home runs and 13 doubles in just 52 games too, which added up to a .668 slugging average.
9. He allegedly weighs 176 pounds.
10. I guess it's possible.
11. John Sickles rates him as the Nationals 6th best prospect.
12. He also grades him a C-level prospect.
13. I don't know which is sadder; that a rule five pickup is our 6th best prospect, or that our 6th best prospect is only graded a C.
14. Blanco bats right-handed.
15. He throws righty too.
16. In 2000, the Red Sox promoted him to A-ball for 9 games.
17. He didn't fare as well.
18. He only hit .143.
19. He piled up 12 strikeouts in just 28 at-bats.
20. That would begin to be a recurring theme in his career.
21. He played his entire 2001 season in Augusta.
22. I don't think he wore a green jacket.
23. He made some adjustments and had a solid year. Especially for a 19-year old.
24. He crushed 17 home runs and mashed 23 doubles.
25. Those are huge power numbers for someone so young. Power usually manifests itself in doubles at the lower levels.
26. He did strike out 78 times.
27. But, it came in 370 at bats.
28. He was also battling a sore shoulder at the time.
29. In 2003, he injured his elbow, limiting him to just 69 games.
30. That was his fourth season in A-ball.
31. He had to repeat, because he stunk up the park in 2002.
32. Presumably, he was still feeling the effects of the shoulder surgery that ended his 2001 season early.
33. In that ill-fated 2002 season, he played just 65 games.
34. He batted just .221/ .250/ .365.
35. Even Endy Chavez could do that.
36. Even worse, he struck out 70 times in just 244 at bats.
37. He walked just 6!? (six) times!
38. Even Endy Chavez could do that.
39. Strike zone judgement is obviously not his strength.
40. Strike outs by batters are overrated by batters on the major league level.
41. In the minors, though, they're much more important.
42. High Ks and Low BBs, such as what he has, indicate he has little control over the strike zone.
43. It means he's probably easy to fool.
44. He hits all those homeruns because he has tremendous power and can mash mistakes and the fastballs he catches up to.
45. Scouting reports said he had a hard time identifying the breaking ball.
46. Don't scouting reports always say that?
47. The scouting reports also say that he opens up to the pitch way too early, because he's always trying to pull pitches.
48. That explains why he can't hit the breaking ball!
49. He started his career with the Sox as a third baseman.
50. He had so-so range.
51. When they say a minor leaguer has so-so range, it means he stinks.
52. He has a cannon for an arm.
53. Because of his shoulder surgery, and because of the later elbow injury, he's played a lot of first base too.
54. When the Reds acquired him from the Red Sox, they started him out in single-A Potomac.
55. That's when the elbow flared up.
56. He mostly played first base for them.
57. His 2003 season was decent, but he still wasn't able to get back to where he was when he first tried A-ball.
58. He hit 10 home runs and 17 doubles.
59. Amazingly, he was still only 21.
60. He finally put it together in 2004.
61. He started out with Potomac and mashed the hell out of the ball.
62. He reversed his power numbers from the year before, hitting 17 home runs and 10 doubles.
63. He did all that in 7 fewer games and 25 fewer at bats.
64. He also batted .306/ .403/ .588.
65. He struck out 66 times.
66. But he also walked 27 times.
67. The Reds began experimenting with him in the outfield.
68. Tim Naehring, former MLB player, now the Reds minor league coordinator says, "The keys for Tony are staying healthy, finding a position where he's comfortable and pitch recognition."
69. He added, "He needs to be more consistent, especially with offspeed stuff."
70. Blanco batted .318 this spring.
71. He hasn't yet hit a homer.
72. His defense hasn't improved.
73. He struck out seven times.
74. But, he also walked five.
75. His on-base percentage is an impressive .448.
76. Unless Bowden works out a trade with Cincinnati, he's probably only on the team for a week or two. If Bowden can't work out a trade, he's headed back to Cinci.

He's got great power potential, but because of injuries and poor plate discipline, he's never really put it together. He may be a useful major league hitter at some point. It's just that that point isn't here yet. The best thing for him would be to go back down to AA and mash the hell out of the pitchers down there and work on controlling the strike zone.

Leaving him on the major league roster hurts his development, especially because he won't play much, and it hurts the Nationals, because they'll essentially be playing one man short.

To This We've Come

Jim Bowden's roster problems are miraculously disappearing. Alex Escobar is 'injured', allowing him to start the year on the Disabled List with a tweaked quad, which frees up one of the much-coveted roster spots.

So, that means your opening day outfielders: Inning-Endy Chavez, Brad "Kentucky Mash" Wilkerson, and Jose Guillen. Terrmel Sledge and his toxic bat, along with JJ Davis will be riding the pine.

The Nats released Keith Osik (no great loss, although they only have 2 catchers on the 40-man roster, which could create some more roster problems should one get injured.) Gary Bennett (profiled here) will serve as Brian Schneider's backup.

On the infield, you've got the four regulars. Wil "Alleged Wife Beater" Cordero and Jamey Carroll are the primary back-ups. The final spot comes down to Carlos Baerga and Tony Blanco. Talk about a rough choice!

Baerga's a shell of what he once was offensively. Defensively he wasn't good when he was 10 years younger. He's also signed to a minor league contract, so if he agrees, he could easily be shipped to New Orleans.

Blanco, who was taken in the Rule 5 draft, would have to be returned to Cincinnati if he doesn't make the team. (The two teams could also work out a deal to allow the Nationals to keep him, such as what they did with Tyrell Godwin and the Blue Jays.)

Because of the lack of roster flexibility, I'd say that Blanco has a decent chance of staying around. I'll have a more detailed look at him later today. Short version: he's got potential, but 1. he's not ready. 2. he's a DH.

Regardless of what happens, nothing Bowden has done now has really answered any of the questions; it's just moved the due date back. Pretty soon Escobar is going to have to come off the DL, and the Nationals are going to need one more pitcher. When that happens, they'll need to find two roster spots pretty quickly. But, as it usually does, injury and ineffectiveness will rear their ugly heads, giving the Nationals another possible answer.

Bowden indicates that no trades are imminent. (Which typically means, someone's getting traded!) But, Atlanta seems inclined to keep Wilson Betamit, meaning we're stuck with the hand we've been dealt.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Last Word On The Steroid Hearings

Despite sitting about 2 blocks from where the hearings were held, I avoided them like the plague, at least in person. (I watched the entire freakin' thing.)

I was thumbing through my New Yorker and found this recap of the hearing. It's probably the only thing that I've read that accurately portrays the tone and tenor of the interminable hearing.

Don't worry, it's short!

Fouled-Off Bunts: Slow News Day Edition

I've got nuttin'. (Well, not much, at least.)

  • The Sun reports that Orioles tickets are 12% off the pace. What an improvement since yesterday, when they were off by 17%. If the pace keeps up, they'll have sold out the season by the end of the week!

  • Speaking of tickets, the Baltimore Business Journal picks up where the Post left off regarding ticket brokers in the DC-Bal region. I'm linking only so I can take a gratuitous shot:
    Don Grove, senior director of fan and ticket services for the Orioles, said the practice of ticket brokers jacking up prices does not bode well for baseball because some fans confuse tickets sold by the team with those sold by brokers. Grove says the Orioles have received calls from fans wondering why they bought a bleacher seat for $55, thinking they had purchsed it from the Orioles. The Orioles sell bleacher seats for $15.

    Must be from Dundalk.

  • Here's a look at the players on the roster bubble.

  • I'm assuming this'll be in the Post Magazine this weekend, based on the length. It's a long history of Washington baseball, or at least as much as anyone around here seems to care about: post-1970. Just a warning... if you, like me, are conditioned to gag at phrases such as, "THE MONEY END OF BASEBALL USED TO BE SO SIMPLE," you might want to stay away.

  • Just four days after Buzzard Sunday, Mike Hinckley is reporting an injured wing. The injury is to the same shoulder that slowed him a bit last year. As for now, he's being held out of all throwing workouts. Hopefully, it's not too serious.

    I'd imagine that'll put a damper on the Wily Mo Pena chances for now.

  • The Nats held PA Announcer tryouts yesterday. I'm just wondering where I can send the tape of me singing the National Anthem.

  • Here's the biggest reason why the Nationals shouldn't give anything of value up for Atlanta's Wilson Betemit: They might be forced to put him on waivers.

  • The Nationals held a lottery for opening day tickets yesterday. Neither I, nor any of my friends such CM Needham, Christopher Needham or C. Michael Needham won. Damn.

    I'll be there anyway. Waaaay up in the nosebleeds. I'll bring plenty of kleenex and a glove, in case anyone hits a 525 foot homerun.

    (Looking at the rotation, ¡Livan! should get the opening night start.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Fouled-Off Bunts: Major Dumas Edition

  • Call me Major Dumas. As I noted in a correction to a previous post, Jo(h)n Rauch (un de Los Dos Juans) is not out of options. His 2003 season should not count as an option year. As such, he's got one left. (See my comments and the comments of the always-helpful Inquirer for the details)

    What that means, is he's probably headed to New Orleans to enjoy the gumbo with Jeffrey Hammonds. I smell a PCL championship!

  • Nationals Pastime details the bullpen. I was going to write something on it, but he's taken care of it. And he'll do it in about 400 fewer words than me.

    The related WaPo article, full of Barry goodness.

  • The Inquirer looks at Josh Labandeira, who, when healthy, might be a 'useful' backup infielder.

  • Whadya do when your bid to scam the city out of future stadium-related revenue fails? Why, you whine to Cropzilla! God forbid they should reject your scheme on the merits (or lack thereof). Politics stinks sometimes. (Actually, working in it, I'm confident in saying that's all the time!)

  • Frank Robinson wants to hang around for a while. Wait a minute, big guy! Try not sleeping in the dugout this year first, ok?

  • Ticket brokers love the Nats. (Especially their home opener.) Just wait til mid-August when the humidity's high, the city goes on vacation and the team's 15 games out!

  • The mascot's set! Yeah! They're just waiting for Kid's Opening Day! I've got my tickets already! See ya in section 402!

    Free Youppi!


With a little less than two weeks until Jon Lieber lobs the first pitch towards our new team, it appears that the stalemate with Peter Angelos is nearing an end.

Jim Williams, who apparently is in tight with the Comcast people, says:
Comcast SportsNet, the Orioles and the Nationals will be partners in a newly-formed regional cable sports network. Baring any last-minute hang-ups the deal will be signed within the next 24 hours and thus complete over six months of deal-making between Major League Baseball and Peter Angelos. (We know that last-minute hang-ups are commonplace in this deal)

CSN, the Orioles and the Nationals will work together to sell ads and on a variety of marketing projects. This will also allow both the Nationals and O's to share the region and thus both teams can be seen throughout the CSN area.

It should also make life much easier for fans since CSN will use existing channels to distribute the games.

If Williams is right and Angelos has ceded his claim of exclusivity, and is willing to work as partners with the Nationals (presumably while reaping a lion's share of the new network's revenue), it’s probably a good thing -- as long as Angelos isn’t getting toooo fat off the Nationals backs.

I’m not one of those people who want to see the death of the Orioles, just the banishment of their owner. And hemming them in to a market consisting of Baltimore, Harrisburg and Frederick, would do extensive harm. There are generations of Oriole fans extending down into the Carolinas and it simply wouldn’t be fair to them, or even those Oriole fans here in DC, to just go away. Sharing the market is the easy answer.

And besides, for you and me, it means more baseball on TV. And that’s always a good thing. If you love the game, you’ll even suffer through the internal-hemorrhage-inducing Cubs announcers as they call a meaningless game against the Brewers.

I was lucky. Growing up in upstate NY, I had my pick of Mets, Yankees and Red Sox games. Unfortunately, they all pretty much stunk! But, you could always flip around and find an interesting game, or an interesting pitching match-up. When the Cardinals are blowing out our fair team, won’t it be kind of nice to be able to flip over and watch the Yankees pound the Orioles?

Williams also says that Angelos will get all the revenue protections he asked for (A guaranteed $350MM sale price and revenue guarantees each year.) The Post explains that they're settling on a $30MM figure for lost stadium revenues. It's unclear if that's a yearly figure, or how long a period of time the indemnification would last.

The Orioles are claiming that ticket sales are down 17% from a year ago. Considering how many consecutive losing seasons they've had, and how, until recently, Steve Kline was their only notable addition, they were destined to decline in attendance, even without the presence of the Nationals. (A 17% decline puts them just a smidge behind their 2003 attendance level, and until last year, their attendance had been in decline every year since 1997.)

Hopefully Jim Williams is right. The best thing for both these teams is to get this mess out of the way and to march forward. With a truly equitable relationship, these separate but linked markets can support two teams.

The time for posturing is over. Now, it's time for some results.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Other Side of Wily Mo

Jim Bowden is hot for Wily Mo Pena. The Zach Day rumors persist, although USA Today reported that Mike Hinckley could be shipped over, instead.

If it's just Day, I'm lukewarm about the deal, although I'm definitely overvaluing Zach Day. Other than HRs, his peripheral numbers (K and BB rate) aren't anything that scream out long-term success. Because of that, he's the kind of player who's dramatically affected by his defense. If the infielders are getting to the many grounders he induces, he looks great. If they're missing them, he turns into a pumpkin.

Distinguished Senators likes the Day deal. So does Nationals Pastime.

Our Cheese Coney-loving friends at Red Reporter don't seem that enthused about a Day/Pena trade either. But, if we throw in The Southpaw Assassin, Mike Hinckley, they love it. (And I can't blame them for that!)

While we can never be sure what Jim Bowden is going to do, I feel pretty comfortable saying that he won't give up Day AND Hinckley for Pena. And I definitely wouldn't give up Hinckley straight-up for Pena either. Why? Just read why the Red Reporter is salivating at the prospect (I think that's a pun?):
If acquired, Mike Hinckley would probably immediately become the Reds best pitching prospect, or close to it. He's 6'3 and lefthanded, and he's put up terrific numbers in the minors. Last year he was only 21 years old and yet he dominated at the AA level, posting a 2.87 ERA while striking out 7.7 batters every nine innings and walking just 2.2. He's exactly the kind of pitcher the Reds should be trying to acquire for Pena

The Reds have had scouts poking around the ashes of our minor league system. Sift through enough carbon, and maybe they'll find a diamond.

Hinckely's extra important to this team. He's one of the few upper-level prospects this team has -- one of the few who's going to be old and experienced enough to be useful when the team plans to contend when the new stadium opens up.

Hopefully the INTERIM GM realizes this. And hopefully he won't be mortgaging the future for an upgrade that still won't win us the World Series this year. I wouldn't be thrilled with, but I'd accept Day for Pena. (Even if we threw in a few low-level prospects). But, to me, the only way we should trade Hinckley is if he's being used to acquire the final piece to a World Series callibre team. And the 95 losses they had last year mean there's a long way to go before the Nationals are at that level.

Slowly Focusing On What We've Learned Today

With about two weeks left, things are starting to take shape with the end of the roster, and some of those questions I asked at the beginning of spring training, are being answered.

What've we learned?

  1. It's increasingly likely that Zach Day is headed north as the team's fifth starter. Given his performance over the last two years, he'll more than capably fill that role.

  2. Day in the rotation means that Los Dos Juans (Jon Rauch and John Patterson), barring a trade, start the year in the bullpen as two of the tallest long relievers in the game.

    Both players are out of options (SEE UPDATE BELOW), meaning they would have to pass through waivers to be assigned to the minors. And, that ain't happening. If the Mets were willing to give up anything more substantial than a 25-year old A-ball pitcher for Kaz Ishii, Rauch and Patterson stand no chance of clearing waivers. Patterson's recent hip problems, which apparently are minor, may allow them to disable him to start the season. He could come up after the 15th, which is the earliest they would need to move to a 12-man pitching staff.

  3. Inning-Endy Chavez sucks. Wait, scratch that. We already knew that. But, he's doing a great job of confirming that. In 23 execrable atbats, he's hitting .174 and slugging .174. Well, what's his on-base percentage, you might ask, since that's what everyone, Frank Robinson on down, has been focusing on? Well *sheepishly* I have no idea, because MLB inexplicably doesn't include walks!? on their spring training stats site. I know he doesn't have more than 3 or 4 though, because Barry's been good about noting them. Regardless, he's failed in what he attempted to do.

    And, unfortunately, we still don't know what the end result is. Is Endy starting on opening day? *shudder* If he does, can he play himself out of a job by the time the Home Opener rolls around? PLEASE!

  4. The outfield reserves are finally taking shape.

    4A. The Nationals shipped Aaron Wideman an 11th round pick in the 2003 draft to Toronto for the rights to retain Tyrell Godwin, whom they acquired via the Rule 5 draft. This trade allows the Nats to send Godwin to the minors. They now permanently own his rights, well for as long as any team owns any player's rights, that is.

    Wideman put up some impressive numbers in the minors: 81 innings, 1.91 ERA, 75 Ks, 20 BBs and just 1 HR allowed. Oh, and he's left handed. But, he's really young. And hasn't pitched above A-ball.

    I wouldn't have done it, but then, we knew that Jim Bowden was jonesing. Godwin doesn't add anything that isn't readily available in any number of minor trades. And it's not like this team needs outfielders! Now, if Godwin could play shortstop.... (Most of our friends to the north at Batters Box are excited about the deal)

    4B. Jeffrey Hammonds has agreed to go to the minors. I hope he enjoys the alligator gumbo. mmm!

    4C. Alex Escobar has done nothing to distinguish himself this spring. By all accounts, no one's particular impressed by his approach, nor his mediocre results. (.133/ ???/ .203) He, like the pitchers, is out of options, meaning he comes north or they lose him. He's had some injury problems over the last few weeks. If they persist, they could start him out on the DL, but that would only serve in delaying the tough roster decisions.

    4D. JJ Davis, who's alse out of options has apparently played his way onto the team. A .435/ ???/ .783 line tends to do that. The various projection systems love him, in part because of the .631 slugging average he put up in AAA last year. So far, his minor league perforance hasn't translated into major league results. We'll see if that changes this year.

    4E. Ryan Church hasn't been heard from a whole lot, hitting .258/ ???/ .484. His minor league performance shows he deserves a spot. He's just caugh in the roster crunch and he possesses something most players on this team lack: options. He'll be alongside Jeffrey Hammonds, backing up all the balls he misplays in the outfield.

    4F. Terrmel "Toxic Bat" Sledge deserves to play. He had a strong start to spring, but has faded recently, and is down to .250/ ???/ .357. He'll be the 4th outfielder.

    Ideally, Frank Robinson would talk to his old manager and pick up some tips on how to construct an offensive/defensive platoon. I'm not holding my breath though.

  5. The team still needs a back-up infielder. Jamey Carroll is it, so far. Wil Cordero, when not allegedly beating his wife, can only fill in at first and in the outfield. American-turned-Japanese import George Arias has already been sent to the minors, and Henry Mateo (the Endy Chavez of the infield) was disabled.

    That leaves Carlos Baerga. *shudder* Carlos is a lot of things, but a middle infielder ain't one of them, despite his previous life. Bowden's been sniffing around the underbelly of the league: Pokey Reese (apparently SEA thinks he's untradable, just like Bowden used to!) and Wilson Betemit, for example.

    Something will shake out before too long.

As it was at the beginning, Endy Chavez remains the biggest question.

I'm gonna make a wild guess here. Bowden is not afraid to make big moves late in spring training and, just so that I can claim later what an amazing genius I am later, I'll say that Endy's not on the team on April 4. Whether they trade him or cut him, I don't know. But he's failed in most every task they've set out for him.

Dumping him allows them to keep Escobar and Davis easily as the 4th and 5th outfielders. The team is downgraded defensively, but the huge offensive upgrade (500 ABs of Endy v. 500 ABs from Sledge/Escobar/Davis) will likely more than make up for it. And if it doesn't happen, I'll have about the same accuracy rate as Peter Gammons! ;)

UPDATE: Im a dolt. Rauch does have one year of options left, which means that he's likely headed to New Orleans to start the year. See the comments here for an explanation.

I'm On The DL

I hate springtime in DC. I don't know if it's too early for it, but it feels like my allergies are kicking in. I'm usually a walking headache for about two or three weeks. That's what happens when you live in a swamp, I guess.

This is the key story today. Angelos and MLB are close. And the magic number is $25 MM for TV rights. I'm guessing that would pretty easily put us in the top third for TV revenues.

The other magic number is $100 MM. That's what they're expected to generate in local revenue. I haven't read it closely enough, but I don't think that that includes TV revenue. So, it'll go higher. What that means, is when we finally get ownership that cares about winning, there's enough revenue to bump the payroll to a reasonable level.

Zach Day looked good yesterday, and the team's looking at Atlanta IF, Wilson Betimit. I guess a Band-Aid'll work, even though we could use a tourniquet.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Whadya Want For Free?

DCRTV found a column in the Washington Examiner, which has thusfar eluded me. So I'll steal DCRTV's blurb.
DC Examiner sports media columnist Jim Williams reports that Kenny Albert and Bill Sample are being mentioned as the local TV play-by-play team for the Nationals. When a local TV deal is finalized. We're still waiting. Albert has DC media ties - he was the sports director of WTOP and the voice of Capitals (hockey) radio. Other Nats TV team possibilities include Mel Proctor, Dave Sims, Brian McRae, Rob Dibble, and even maybe Greg Gumbel. Williams adds that there is still no word about which local TV station will land the team, but there could be a split package, with some games on Channels 5 and 20, or Channels 50 and 66. Comcast SportsNet still looks like the likely local cable TV outlet

I've said it before, but if Rob Dibble is involved with this team in any way, shape, form, etc, I'm forsaking this team. I won't go to the dark side, but I'll return to my happiness as a denizen of the evil empire. My ears are starting to bleed just thinking about it.

Wow. I didn't realize how harsh I was last time his name came up!

The Examiner's website is a mess. It's chaotically 'organized' and stories don't 1) appear on the website 2)appear where they should appear.

But, it is good for some unintentional comedy -- the best kind of comedy! Check out the photo and the caption on this for an example.

Fouled-Off Bunts -- Weekend Roundup

For your reading leisure.
  • I'm sure you've seen this, but the field is taking shape and looking beautiful.

  • Jose Vidro had an MRI on his hyperextended elbow. It came out clear and he got right back on the field. Hopefully it's nothing that'll return.

  • Vinny Castilla injured his knee in a game the other night. The MRI showed nothing major, but he'll be out for a few more days. (sadly)

    Ball-Wonk, as you've probably already seen, has an exclusive look at Vinny's MRI results.

  • The Star Tribune looks at one of their former own, Cristian Guzman. The blurb is most notable for the Jim Bowden out-of-context quote-o-the-day: (I do love me some hyphens)
    "If you don't have a shortstop, your pitching staff isn't going to be any good."

    He's right though. Without one, there are a lot of groundballs rolling into right field.

  • Brian Schneider credits family and Annapolis for his success.

  • Livan Hernandez, excuse me ¡Livan! is damn good, pitching another dominant spring outing.

    Save some for the real season, big boy!

  • The Post discovers the guy who was making those Nationals Brand Flak Jacket posters.

Get Him Into Detox

Jim Bowden's nervous. He's tapping his foot up and down. The right side of his face is twitching. He has the sweats and wakes up at night. It's not pretty. It's been at least a month since he's pulled off a trade. He doesn't have the will power to go cold turkey like that. And, when a junkie gets antsy, you never know what he could do.

Unfortunately, the other teams know this. And they're desperate to take advantage of him!
"I can't predict," the Nationals' general manager said. "I'm not smart enough. But we know we have roster problems, and we know we have depth. Other teams like our outfielders. The phones don't stop ringing. We'll see."

Those guys smell blood in the water!

We know that he's jonesing for Wily Mo Pena. And we know that the name Mike Hinckley came up at least once. But, it seems like Cinci would settle for Zach Day. We also know that Zach hasn't had the best of springs and that, even before his mediocre spring, the team was talking about moving him to the bullpen. We've also learned that Jon Rauch and John Patterson (Though his not-too-serious hip injury may have hurt his chances of supplanting Day) have had better springs than Zach.

Given all that, it's interesting to see Bowden working the Post over:
He said Saturday he is reluctant to part with any of the Nationals' apparent plethora of pitching. Bowden said he believes that Zach Day will hold onto the fifth spot in the starting rotation -- "It's never changed in my mind," he said -- and that fellow right-handers John Patterson and Jon Rauch will be badly needed in Washington this summer.

"No, no, no," he said when asked if the group of potential starters is deep enough to make a trade. "You don't get enough starting pitching. You're going to have injuries. Certainly, the fact that Rauch and Patterson are number six and seven on our depth chart right now is very important. They'll both be used. They'll both be needed."

What we don't know, is whether this is his sincere belief, or whether this is him posturing for the Reds, letting them know that if they really do want Day, that they're going to have to impress him. Sincerity or posturing?

Unless Austin Kearns is on the table, I would hope that it's sincerity. His point that all those starters will be needed is right. Los Dos Juans will be excellent injury insurance or Esteban-Loaiza-returning-to-suckitude insurance. Down the road, it would even allow Bowden to ship Tony Armas off to a contender for a young impact hitter or two.

Bowden's been patient to this point. And I think that that's the best course of action now, too. Pena would be an upgrade over Endy Chavez, but at what cost? If you gave up Day, the pitching staff is weakened. If you gave up Hinckley, one of the few viable prospects we have, then the future is weakened.

Sometimes, as Don Rumsfeld would say, you've gotta work with the team you've been given, not the team you would like.

UPDATE-- Nationals Pastime has a look at the Pena-Day trade and is much more enthused than I am.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Fouled-Off Bunts

It's the end of the week. Time to empty the ol' junk drawer with all the piddlin' little crap that I'm ashamed to admit I've actually read.

  • Apparently the Nats weren't too interested in yesterday's steroid-induced Dog and Pony Show.
    One player with just a towel wrapped around his midsection, seemed glued to the television listening intently to the commentary and queries that can somehow be rolled into one by politicians.

    He glared at the screen as former baseball player Jim Bunning - none of those watching had any idea about Bunning's historical career that included a no-hitter in each league - somehow spun his opinions into declaratory questions.

    The player, getting visibly angrier with each of Bunning's accusatory remarks, finally vented his frustrations by growling, "Why the hell don't you worry about the war as much as you worry about baseball? Why don't you spend as much of your time trying to fix the war as you are trying to fix baseball?"

    His passion went unquestioned by his teammates. He may know more people involved in the war than players who use steroids.

    Who is it? What's your guess? (We know it has to be a batter. Because of the rain, the pitchers were sent home.) I'm guessing.... Wilkerson? I'm sure Virginia Ragland would chime in if she could!

  • Endy Chavez, Gary Bennett, and Ryan Church believe in the power of Lucky Charms. Except, in this case, they're not talking about the magically delicious kind.
    It's spring training time in Florida, and Washington Nationals' center fielder Endy Chavez has two lucky charms dangling around his neck.

    The thumb-sized medallions depict Jesus and Mary, outlined in gold, and they are never removed.

    "It's my way of having him present all of the time," says Chavez, 27. "It makes me feel comfortable, and I think it brings me luck."

    When outfielder Ryan Church has a great game, he attributes it to his lucky gold coin, a gift from friend Doris Howell, who died of cancer 10 years ago.

    "She gave me that coin, and I've had it ever since," says Church, 26. "I carry it when I'm traveling and keep it in a safe place when I'm playing games." ...

    Some charms are articles of clothing, as is the case for Nationals' catcher Gary Bennett. Lucky shirts, wristbands and socks are worn repeatedly when he's on a winning streak. One loss, however, and the socks are tossed.

    "My lucky charms rotate," says Bennett, 32.

    Because if it involved batting streaks, he'd be sockless in no time! (Or would it mean he'd never wear socks? I dunno. Is that an existential question?)

  • Here's a picture of beautiful downtown(?) Vierra. It looks like the town has their priorities in order!

  • Even if the stations'll be jammed, passengers who take Metro to the game will be safe.
    The city's new baseball team also propelled action yesterday, as officials approved $1.2 million in the current budget to add service at the Stadium-Armory Station for the 40 home games the Washington Nationals will play during this fiscal year, through June 30. Board members also approved $2.5 million for next fiscal year, which includes roughly half the 2005 and 2006 baseball seasons.

    Metro officials anticipate recouping all those expenses through revenue from increased use.

  • As we could've anticipated weeks ago, the Nats made a few roster moves, sending down Sun-Woo Kim, Larry Broadway, Danny Reuckel, and some other stiffs. Additionally, Henry Mateo and Claudio Vargas were put on the 15-day DL. (Doing it this early, allows them to come back earlier in the season, without missing as many games.)

Grimace To Havana Pete: Screw Off

Fresh off his appearance as Grimace at yesterday's steroid hearings (Actually, he kinda looked like he was doing his taxes while receiving a prostate exam.), Major League Baseball's Tool-In-Chief Bob DuPuy took the time to tell Peter "Pig-Bay" Angelos to screw himself:
The Nationals games will be on TV, without question," DuPuy said. "That I am not worried about."

The always-excellent Eric Fisher indicates that that's probably a sign that something's imminent -- that a deal is on the horizon, or at least close enough that they can make this pronouncement.

The key aspect to me:
Industry sources said MLB executives believe they are under no real or legal obligation to placate Angelos, who is also being offered annual guarantees to his local revenues and future resale value for the Orioles

Take it or leave it, Petey. If you don't like the already overly-generous terms you're being offered enjoy marginilization with your increasingly-dwindling-because-of-your-incompetence fan base.

Center-ipital Force

I know, I know. Blah Blah Blah Endy Chavez Stinks Blah Blah. You've read it before. Too many times. But, there are some new developments.

First, Alex Escobar, the Great Hope, is broken again. (Second Item)
Outfielder Alex Escobar is nursing an injured quadriceps, an ailment that jeopardizes his chances of making the club. . . .

Escobar said he has felt sore since his quad flared up four days ago.

Robinson said he would keep Escobar, once one of baseball's top prospects, the duration of spring training but that his chances of making the club are not good because of the injury. Escobar is batting .083 in 12 plate appearances this spring.

"If this was the last week coming up, it wouldn't do him any good if he did get healthy in time because he's not going to make the club in a week," Robinson said. "But there are a few days to play with right now, and I think he has time to try and win a spot on this ballclub."

"It's always bad not to be playing, especially in the situation that I'm in right now. ... You're not going to make the team being hurt," Escobar said. "It's something that is bothering me and I didn't want it to get to the point where it was going to be more painful or cost me more time off the field."

I guess that's to be expected. He hasn't really stayed consistently healthy throughout his career. And now, he's getting caught in a numbers crunch. If he doesn't make the team, which with JJ Davis' hot hitting (.444 average with an .889 slugging percentage), is increasingly unlikely, I hope Jim Bowden can get something for him from another club. (Although that's unlikely too.)

There's a chance that he could pass through waivers unclaimed, but given the potential the guy has, that would surprise me. So, unless something dramatic happens in the next two weeks, it's “thanks for playing, Alex!”

The other possibility that keeps coming up is one of Trader Jim's old friends, Wily Mo Pena. Pena, who's just 23(?!) was originally signed by the Yankees and had a clause in the contract that forced him to the majors before he was ready. Pena put up a solid .259/ .316/ .527 line in 336 AtBats last year. He also plays a sensational centerfield (He'll finally start to get some notice this year, I bet.)

That's the bright side. Wily has a dark side. In those 336 at-bats, he struck out 108 times and walked just 22 times -- an atrocious ratio. I'm a firm believer that strikeouts are not innately bad and that players shouldn't be criticized for striking out as much, because it's not really worse than any other out. But, Wily is an extreme case. And, when you combine it with his walk total, it shows that he has pretty piss-poor plate discipline.

Youth is certainly on his side. But, because he's had so much major league experience at a young age, and because he has that wonky contract, I'm not sure how much more service time he needs before becoming a free agent. I'd assume that the Reds control him for at least two more years, but that's also when arbitration kicks in -- and no matter his stats, he'll get a hefty raise.

Another knock against him is how the Nationals would acquire him. One rumor I read involved Mike Hinckley. At least that's what I think it was, because my eyes started to bleed. Short of acquiring Johan Santana, there are not many players we should be giving up Hinckley for. John Sickles recently had him as the third-best LHP prospect in the game. And, although I don't think he'll be a superstar, he looks like he can have a solid major league career.

Trading him would only make sense if we were in a win now mode. We're clearly not. Instead, Hinckley should be able to enjoy his time in beautiful downtown Harrisburg.

What's clear, as I said the other day, is that the team is at the end of the line with Endy Chavez. They're doing everything they can to find an alternative.

I'd be willing to put up with Brad Wilkerson's defense in center, if it meant more playing time for Terrmel "Toxic Bat" Sledge. Just making that one change gives the lineup some much-needed depth and would propel the Nationals closer towards the league-average offense they're going to need to be in the hunt for a playoff spot.

They've got some time to come up with an answer. And they're clearly looking. It's just will they find an optimal one; one that doesn't cost this team any more of its 'prospects?'

The Rain In Vierra Falls Mainly On The... Umm... Tierra?

More rain for the Nats yesterday, and another game washed out. The Post and Times are all over your rain delay coverage.

That makes three rainouts in the last week or so, and it's starting to create problems for some of the hitters and pitchers. Tony Armas loses a start, which will be made up, partially, from an outing against minor leaguers. And Jose Vidro and Wil Cordero still haven't taken many hacks against live pitching.

Why can't they just do a simulated game in the batting cages with live hitters versus live pitchers? I know it wouldn't be a perfect substitute, but if they both approached it with a seriousness, there certainly could be some value in it.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Blogger's Evil -- Castilla Stinks

Damnit, I had a whole entry about Vinny Castilla. I forgot to copy it over to Word before hitting post and blogger ate it. Where else are you gonna go to tie DDT and Rachel Carson into Coors Field and Vinny Castilla's sea-level suckiness? Or, more importantly, why would you want to?

Here's the quick summary...

--Castilla stinks this spring, hitting just .105 and slugging .105

--It's probably just a sample size thing, but if it's not, Brendan Harris is a more-than-acceptable alternative and all we'd be out is $6.2 million, which is a lot, but isn't gonna kill the team.

--My patented CRAP system projects him for a .235/ .295/ .420 line, with 22 homeruns, 73 RBI and 432 outs -- 16 whole games worth! What's your guess?

Coors Field's Secret

WaPo's headline writers may have given us a huge clue today to what Coors Field's Secret is, in an article explaining Vinny Castilla's sea-level stinkiness so far this spring: "A Silent Spring for Castilla"

It's DDT! If he thinks it's bad in Florida, wait until he's playing at a ballpark on the banks of the Anacostia. The team's trainers better load up on Benadryl now!

Flying under the radar, because we've been so focused on Endy Chavez, Zach Day, and Carlos Baerga, Vinny has returned to his sea-level ways; he's batting like a pitcher (or this guy).

Before squibbing a hit yesterday, he was batting .105. Even worse, yes there's a downside to this, he was slugging .105. (I probably should have used scare quotes around 'slugging'.)

I hope that this is just a case of a small sample size -- anybody can hit anything in just a few at-bats. But, if it's not, and this is a sign that Castilla's reverting to sea-level form, or that his alreadly-long career has careened off that cliff, it won't mean the season's over.

Brendan Harris *yay!* or Carlos Baerga *shudder* could step in and fill the void. Harris definitely and Baerga possibly could put up numbers that would compare reasonably towards the stats Castilla's projected to produce. Both would be a downgrade defensively, but there are certainly bigger problems to worry about on this team.

The only harm that would come is the $6.2 million 2-year contract. That's a lot of money for you or me, but it's not a crippling loss if they had to eat it, even with a team with a limited budget such as this.

But, that's all worst case scenario. My patented CRAP system has him down for a .235/ .295/ .425 season, with 22 home runs 73 RBI and 432 outs made (16 whole games worth!) What's your prediction?

The News Equivalent Of Wearing The Same Outfit

Check out the Post and Times headlines: "Day Has a Pretty Good Night" and "Day has quite a night" respectively.

The Times wins this one pretty easily. It's more succinct, plus they get bonus points for the rhyming scheme. Good job, Editors!

And, while I'm passing out gold stars, Good job Zach Day! With John Patterson's mediocre outing the other day, the five innings of one-run ball you pitched against Los Bravos puts his foot right back in the door of the fifth starter's job.
More impressive than Day's final pitching line, though, was the manner in which he went right after Atlanta's hitters. After frequently falling behind in the count and struggling with mechanics in a disastrous start against the St. Louis Cardinals last week, Day was ahead of nearly every man he faced last night.

"A big step in the right direction," Robinson said. "He can work from that. That was a good outing for him. That's what you're looking for: getting the ball over the plate and challenging hitters."

If I was a betting man, I'd say that Day's probably still headed to the bullpen, and that Jo(h)n Rauch will crack the rotation. That's mostly because the team has already broached the subject of Day starting in the bullpen and because of Rauch's solid pitching this spring, and his dominant stretch at the end of last year.

Regardless, having too many starters is never a problem.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Fouled-Off Bunts

Alright, there’s a bunch of good stuff today, but not necessarily anything I feel like ranting on. Especially because Blogger has been ticking me off all morning.

  • Jo(h)n Patterson got knocked around a little bit in last night’s split squad game: Three-plus innings, seven hits and five runs. This might be the opening that Zach Day, who pitches today, needs to solidify himself ahead of Patterson on the depth chart. Still looming ahead of him is the imposing figure of Jon Rauch.

  • What do you do when you get demoted to Harrisburg? Go to Disneyworld! (Last paragraph, but start from the top if you want to read about the wonder that is ¡Livan!)

  • Antonio Osuna, who will quietly be one of Jim Bowden’s best off-season acquisitions, has a not-so quiet band, complete with an accordion -- an underrated musical instrument, if there ever was one. (See also: flugelhorn)

    When he’s been healthy, he’s been an excellent middle reliever. Here’s hoping his family’s illnesses are behind him, he gets himself into ‘shape’ quickly, and that his elbow doesn’t explode again this year.

  • They’re screwing around with Nick Johnson’s batting stance. Hopefully, this isn’t just mindless tinkering. And hopefully it won’t lead to more hand injuries. Lord knows he’s had enough of those.

  • Phil Wood has his latest pablum on the connections this team has with Ted Williams’ first Washington go-around in 1969. I still fail to see why anyone would be nostalgic for the late ‘60s/ early ‘70s teams. They were bad teams, with bad players, and a horrible owner, in ugly uniforms. What’s likeable about them? Give me Ed Yost and Goose Goslin any day! (Just because you've gotta like players with nicknames like "The Walking Man" and "Goose" right?)

  • Here’s the lastest WaPo-approved Angelos hate-fest. Here are the key ‘grafs

    At least two bidders, who would not allow their names to be used for fear it could hurt their chances to buy the team, said they would have grave concerns if the Nationals' television rights were controlled by Angelos. One bidder said that if the Nationals were locked into an Orioles-controlled network and forced to negotiate with Angelos every few years on new terms, it could reduce the sale price of the Washington team.

    But if the Nationals are allowed to own part of a regional sports network, it enhances the value of the team in a sale. Baseball is hoping the Nationals will fetch at least $350 million, which will be divided equally among the league's other owners.

    "Until you know what the television deal is, it is impossible to value the team because the media rights are the bedrock of the value of the franchise," said investment banker Sal Galatioto, president of Galatioto Sports Partners. "Until you know what your [television] rights payment is going to be, until you know what share of the regional sports network, if any, you are going to get, it is impossible to value the franchise."

    I haven’t weighed in on any of this lately, because I’ve been too busy making fun of Inning-Endy Chavez. But, I suspect none of you who’ve been reading me for more than two days know where I’d stand anyway.

  • Jim Bowden has Illinois over Duke in the finals, along with Louisville and North Carolina. I’ve got Illinois over UNC, along with Wake Forest and Kentucky. I nailed all the Final Four teams last year in my work pool. But, I lost by one point because I didn’t have UConn winning. Damn Huskies. /narcissism

Ouch! Mi Rodilla Y Codo!

Jose Vidro missed another game yesterday with a wonky (Not a scientific term) elbow. It doesn’t appear to be a big deal, but he’s had very few at-bats this spring, because he’s been resting his surgically repaired knee. It may be a little while before he can get his timing down.

But, this hits on a larger issue. For whatever reason, second basemen have proven to be the least durable of the position players. There are hundreds of second basemen who’ve fallen off the cliff offensively or missed significant amounts of time due to injury after turning 30, which Vidro’s about to hit. His similar batter’s list includes players like Mike Lansing, Whitey Kurowski and Gil McDougald who put up solid numbers as 25-year olds, but were done by the time they turned 30.

Vidro’s a better hitter than any of them were, so even if he slips, he’ll still be useful. But the trend with second basemen is an ominous one, especially with his contract. He might be an expensive oft-injured pine-rider by the end.

DC Council's Learning Curve

Wait... Maybe private financing schemes might not be such a good idea?
Council members said they are concerned that both plans amount to the private companies' giving the city money upfront in exchange for greater revenue in the long term. In both cases, the city would be better served funding the stadium itself and keeping control of those revenue streams, members said.

For example, under the Gates Group's plan, the city could get a $100 million upfront payment in exchange for $10.6 million per year for 30 years. That amounts to paying back the Gates Group at an interest rate of more than 7 percent. Council members said the city could get a far lower rate by going to Wall Street and issuing bonds, which is what administration officials recommended originally.

"It's always cheaper for the city to borrow money on its own," said council member Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6)

Other than as a sop to the public, private financing doesn't really make sense. You're getting up-front money at a higher price down the road. Yes, there's slightly less risk, but the decrease in long-term revenue probably is too steep a price to pay.

The good news, is that the ballpark legislation only required the city to get bids. It doesn't mandate that the city take up any of the offers.
As the ballpark legislation currently stands, the mayor must recommend one or both of the ratified bids to the council within 15 days for formal approval. Bobb and Williams will conduct a secondary review of the Gates Group and Deutsche Bank bids to mirror Gandhi, within the next week. It is possible Williams and the council will agree to not move forward on either bid.

If the city knows what it's doing, inaction is exactly what they'll do.