Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Assembling The Pieces

Although the offseason is just beginning, it's important to assess where we are, and what the team's needs are. Let's take a look at the roster, and see where the holes are, and, more importantly, how much we have to plug them.

Livan Hernandez -- $8 MM
John Patterson -- $350K (MAY be Aribitration Eligible as a Super-2)
Brian Lawrence -- $3.2 MM (Salary actually higher, but SD is paying the rest)
Ryan Drese -- $1.75 MM
TOTAL: $13.3 MM + TBD pitcher

Chad Cordero -- $350K
Luis Ayala -- $1MM?? (Arbitration Eligible)
Gary Majewski -- $350K
Jon Rauch -- $350K
Carrasco (or veteran) -- $1 MM??
Minor Leaguer (Bergmann? Hughes?)-- $350K
TOTAL: $3.4 MM

Brian Schneider -- $3 MM (Arbitration Eligible, Made $2 MM)
Backup -- $1 MM (Bennett made $750K)

Nick Johnson -- $2.5 MM (Arbitration Eligible, Made $1.45 MM)
Jose Vidro -- $7 MM
Cristian Guzman -- $4.2 MM
Ryan Zimmerman -- $350K
TOTAL: $14.05 MM

Jose Guillen -- $4 MM
Brad Wilkerson -- $5 MM (Arbitration Eligible, Made $3.05 MM)
Ryan Church -- $350K
TOTAL: $9.35 MM

Damian Jackson -- $700 K
Marlon Anderson -- $900 K
Marlon Byrd -- $400 K (MAY be Arbitration-Eligible)
Terrmel Sledge -- $350K
TOTAL: $2.35 MM

$46.45 MM for 24 slots.

If the team is content with 11 pitchers, they'd presumably take an extra infielder like Brendan Harris for the league minimum.

Last season the team wound up with a payroll of around $55 MM. There's no indication that they'll go higher than that this season, which would leave the team about $8.5 MM to play with. Obviously, the arbitration numbers I posted were guestimates. I tried to do it on the high side, but arbitration is a wacky process.

Vidro's contract really sticks out. As does Wilkerson's (give the production he put out last season). There's a lot of interest in Wilkerson, and if there was a way that Bowden could get someone to take Vidro along with Wilkerson, the $12 MM or so would greatly help the team's payroll flexibility. (Now is there someone willing to take on that much money? PLEASE?)

Hypothetically, they could throw some cash in that package with Vidro, sign Encarnacion (you know Bodes wants to), re-sign Junior Spivey, and have enough cash left over to bring in Burnett. But that'd require a lot of willing dance partners.

Regardless, $8 Million should be enough to buy a Matt Morris or a Paul Byrd. It might even be enough for AJ Burnett on a back-loaded deal.

What would you do with the money?

Owning Up To A Mess

While I was enjoying the delights of a Minnesota winter, a mini firestorm broke out. I'm still trying to wrap my head around a lot of it; trying to separate the facts from the puffery.

This we know:
--In an article buried on Thanksgiving, the DC SEC admitted that they made the ballpark estimates without knowing where the stadium would be located, or what a potential design would be.

--The ballpark itself was budgeted for $244 million. It's over $300 now. And it's only at $300 because they've scaled back the design. They're taking out some offices, removing some plazas, but not touching the two tiers of pleasure palace luxury boxes that will raise the upper deck to nose-bleed-inducing heights.

--They have removed $55 million in the overall budget that was to be used for infrastructre improvements, including road improvements and changes to the Metro station to increase its capacity.

--Despite Mark Tuohey's incorrectly interpreted assertions, MLB has NOT agreed to pay $20 million towards the construction of the stadium. Jack Evans, today, says that that would be unfair of the city to ask for that contribution at this time.

Even if MLB contributed the $20 million, it would be a zero-sum game. The $20 million was intended for VIP Parking adjacent to the stadium. It's currently not in the plans, but if MLB pays the fee, they'll add it in, increasing the stadium costs. Regardless, the city will still need to come up with the same amount overall for construction costs.

--MLB is still refusing to guarantee $24 million in rent payments, in case the stadium is unusuable because of natural disaster or terrorist attack. The city claims it needs this to secure favorable interest rates on the bonds it will issue to pay for the stadium.

--The DC Council is claiming (and seems to have won the argument) that they have a right to approve or reject the lease. It's been reported that five council members are inclined to support the lease and five oppose it. The lease will need seven votes, and the final language of it will ultimately determine its future.


In trying to process this and figure out where it's headed, I keep scratching my head. I don't really know where it's headed, nor do most people.

But I had a moment of clarity from a thread at the Ballpark Guys forum (a rare event, indeed). On a thread about the lease deal, one of their posters, Brian, claims that the stadium agreement is a toothless document. And looking at it, his argument makes a lot of sense:
Yes, under the BSA, if the City proceeds under the BSA, it must build the ballpark without any MLB contribution.

However, what if DC says: "Sorry, MLB, we just aren't willing to live with this deal anymore. If you want a ballpark, you're going to have to negotiate a new deal."

Under the BSA, MLB would have a right to terminate the agreement and move the team. Fair enough.

But what other rights would MLB have? Section 7.07 (c) of the BSA provides that DC must reimburse the team for lost revenues if the ballpark doesn't open in 2008. However, that provision further states: "provided, however, that: (i) if the Team exercises the termination right under Section 8.03, the Team waives the right to recover from the Commission compensatory damages in respect of any period after the termination date."

Furthermore, the BSA states: "Except as set forth in Section 7.07(c) (and without derogation of the parties' rights in respect of a breach or default under another Article that is also a breach or default under Article VII), there shall be no recovery for damages resulting from any breach or default under Article VII." Keep in mind that DC's obligation to execute the lease by 12/31/05 is pursuant to Article VII.

In other words, MLB would have a choice. Keep the team in DC and sue DC for compensatory damages for any lost revenues beginning in 2008, or move the team. However, there would appear to be no other claim for damages available under to the BSA.

So in reality, MLB would do one of two things: either move the team, or renogiate the deal. They aren't going to proceed forward for years without terminating just so they can start accruing compensatory damages 3+ years from now from lost suite/club seat revenue.

So, remind me, other than losing the team, what does DC really have to lose by playing hardball right now and demanding a renogiation?

And if a majority of the current Council believes this is a bad deal, other than some supposed "credibility" issue, why shouldn't they refuse to approve the lease just so they can kill it?

Read through the rest of his posts on that thread, as he further explains his theory.

On the surface it makes a lot of sense. I just wonder how the threat of arbitration, which MLB has threatened, would affect this. Unfortunately, my pea-sized brain can't figure that one out.

It's pretty damn good theater of the absurd though!

Finally....The National Disgrace is finally meeting with more of the potential ownership groups. I'm glad he's had time to schedule them.

Rich Beyond Our Wildest Dreams

I'm trying to sort through all the off-the-field happenings that I missed while on my sojurn. As I was weeding through, one thing struck me.

They're claiming that after taxes, the Nationals made a $10 million profit. While it's an improvement on the $80 million loss they suffered in Montreal over the last few years, doesn't this seem a tad low?

Interestingly, at mid-season, the team was expected to make a $20 million profit. Now that the stadium negotiations are heating up, that number is halved? Hmmm... When that report came out, I blogged about it, and said that even $20 million seemed low when you factored in the increase in media and ticket revenue.

Granted, I don't have access to the numbers, but I'd suspect that Mr. Heath hasn't seen everything there is to see either. He's being leaked info from a team source (who's an employee of MLB, and who has an interest in seeing the stadium proceed.) If the profit were higher, wouldn't that have an impact on the lease negotiations, in that it would probably embolden the anti-stadium activists to ask MLB to chip in more money?

Just sayin'....

Wilkerson Rumor O' The Day

It's fifth-hand from another website, but it's indicitive of the interest level in the star of the Nationals' greatest commercial, Brad Wilkerson.
It appears that Nationals GM Jim Bowden has asked Barry Larkin what he thinks of Cubs SS/2B Ronny Cedeno and for Barry's help with Cedeno's defense if he's acquired. The Nationals' front office has a covert concern that Jose Vidro is done for his career, and Cedeno would be an ideal safety net at 2B. Plus, the team wasn't exactly thrilled with Cristian Guzman's horrific season in '05.

A source close to me says that I think that that would make me cry.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

One More Loaiza Thought...

Another reason why losing him might not be such a bad thing is that we get the A's draft pick. As a type-B free agent, Loaiza earns us a first-round draft pick, woohoo!

Much of the draft is a crapshoot, but first rounders have such a great value in comparison to later rounds that losing one for a mediocre free agent is usually inexcusable. But gaining one for losing a mediocre free agent? That's sweetness!

Hector Carrasco and Preston Wilson are both type Bs. The team would likely offer arbitration to Carrasco, so if he signs elswhere, we'd gain that team's pick as well. Wilson is slightly different. The team is probably not going to offer arbitration. Because of that, the Nationals won't pick up a pick when he signs elsewhere (unless he signs before the arbitration deadline, which is HIGHLY unlikely to happen.)

Joey Eischen is a Type-C free agent, and a loon. As such, if we offer arbitration (which would make sense), we'd get a sandwich pick between the second and third round. It ain't much, but in this system, that's probably enough to make the player a top-5 prospect!

Random Thoughts Of A Person Trying To Catch Up

I go away for a week, and all hell breaks loose. Well, not quite. But considering the dearth of Nats news over the last few weeks, the last few days have been quite the flurry.

  • Esteban Loaiza has signed for three years and $21 million with the Oakland A's. Boswell's column leads with (and the radio squacked consistently) that the loss of Loaiza is the worst thing to happen to Washington since Hoover turned the bayonettes on a few thousand American citizens.

    Rhetorical crassness aside, it's a good thing, and a sign that the Nationals front office is functioning pretty well. The team evaluated Loaiza, made an offer that was reasonable, even if it wasn't truly competive. When the bidding escalated beyond a point that they were willing to pay, they stopped bidding, and walked away. With a new owner in place, it would have been far too tempting to overpay to retain Loaiza.

    3/$21 is far too much for the Nationals to pay for Loaiza. $7 million (assuming that we could even get him for that amount) would be about 14% of the team's payroll -- on a guy who's a third starter. But the signing makes a lot of sense for the A's. Considering how close they are to contention, and that they need a sure thing in their rotation, it's a pretty good signing. They'll get 180 innings of league average pitching. And as Kris Benson showed last year, that's worth quite a bit of money on the open market.

  • Now what? Right now, the rotation is Livan, JPat, ?, ?, Lawrence. Drese and Rauch are competing for that 5th spot, but the Nationals are still in need of a solid innings-eating kind of pitcher -- the kind of guy who'll do what Loaiza did: 170+ innings, and 12-14 wins.

    Last month I had looked at the most attractive starter options. Paul Byrd, Matt Morris, et al are still hanging out there -- even as the Nationals claim to still be in contention for AJ Burnett. Byrd, incidentally, has been offered a two-year deal by our friends enemies to the north.

    The underappreciated Todd Jacobson says the team has been in contact with Burnett, Millwood, Morris, Washburn, and Weaver. That'd be a pretty nice rotation!

  • The stadium debate has been heating up. Just one thought... Is a stadium in SE necessary for development? It seems to me like plenty of buildings are already being constructed there, and many of them were in the works even before the city committed to that area.

    If the stadium isn't necessary for development there, wouldn't it make sense to put it someplace that makes more economical sense, and one that would cost taxpayers less?

    Just throwin' that one out there....

  • How is it that Northwest Airlines knows when you have a 180-minute window to make your Thanksgiving dinner reservations, and accordingly delays your flight by 185 minutes after you've paid $500 to fly to Minnefarkingsota? Bud's not the only national disgrace.

  • Thursday, November 24, 2005

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Sometimes I'm thankful for Tom Boswell. When he's writing as a fan (as he is in today's column), he can be excellent. It's when he delves into analysis with his Nationals Foam Finger clunkily pounding the keyboard that his stuff gets tiresome. He repeats his notion that the Lerners, especially if they do pull off the partnership with Stan Kasten, are the favorites for the team. And the rest of the column is a pleas to just get the job done.

    Amen to that!

    I'm off for a few days (as I suspect most of you are anyway!) Hope you had/have a great Thanksgiving, and I'll be back after the weekend. If you're jonesing for Nats info, check out the blogs. District, WWN, and the BPG forum are great for the news. The other blogs are great for the analysis. Maybe you'll like some of them -- Lord knows not all of their entries are 4,000 word treatises!

    Wednesday, November 23, 2005

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Red Wednesday Edition

    Fireworks on Monday! The DC Council is having a hearing on the stadium, specifically focusing on the recent reports of cost overrruns. The DC CFO is expected to tell the council that the city cannot afford to go over the budgeted amount, and still expect to receive a favorable interest rate on the ballpark bonds. The money would have to come from some other source. (Can you hear Selig chortling?)

    Jack Evans, who is chairing the hearing, floats the idea of a more traditional structure as a cost-saving device. Good bye steel and glass? Hello red brick? Could be.

    Meanwhile, the city has decided (probably for procedural reasons) to allow the holdouts in the ballpark area to stay there til February. They were supposed to leave by the end of the year. Based on the legal defenses they're throwing up, they might as well move tomorrow.

  • Friend to his precious team sources, Bill Ladson has a more in-depth look at Jose Guillen's surgery.
    "I have to spend a month without moving my shoulder," Guillen said. "I believe there was more damage than what was [originally diagnosed]."

    In retrospect, Guillen said he should have taken time off during the season in order to allow the shoulder to heal.

    "I cannot be playing like this anymore, because it really cost me a lot. I was playing in a lot of pain during the second half. I have to be smart enough next time. I have to look out for my future and my career," Guillen said. "There was no way I could shut it down [in the second half], because we were fighting for a playoff spot. Jose Guillen is all about winning, not about anything else."

    I won't make the obvious Jose Guillen is about popping up in the clutch joke; that wouldn't be fair. I'll just wonder what Boswell thinks about his manly man now?

  • The other news from Rocket Bill's article? According to Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, A.J. Burnett's agent, Darek Braunecker, has conveyed to Bowden that the Nationals will be somewhere near the top of the list of teams for which Burnett is interested in playing.

    Rocket Bill (or possibly a team source) forgot the asterisk:
    * provided they are near the top of the list of teams that will pay Burnett the most money over the most years. Pravda, baby! Gotta Love It!

  • Friend to bloggers, T(h)om Loverro, writes a column with words, but manages to say zippo. Does anyone see a point or a message in there?

  • Although this doesn't apply to the Nationals (sadly), friend to humanity, Jason Stark looks at a wrinkle in the CBA -- namely that teams like the Mets can spend, spend, spend their way to oblivion without having to worry about the luxury tax this season.

  • Our friends at the New Orleans Zephyrs are looking forward to next season, and thankful for what could have been.

  • Bud Selig is a National Disgrace.

  • Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    RFK Is A Monster

    News Flash: RFK is an extreme pitcher's park. Shocking, I know. Using a little-known (at least to me) tool at, I tried to get a feeling for how much of a factor it was.

    I started by looking at each player's hitting chart (linked below). I looked at each batter's fly-outs, doubles and triples, to get an idea of how the park affected their stats. For each, I looked at where the ball landed. If it landed on the warning track in the power alleys, it's got a good chance of being a home run in a more neutral park. Dead center and down the lines are pretty fair in this park, so balls to the warning track there don't count.

    A bit of caution, though. Not all doubles and triples are created equally. Some are high fly balls that skip off the wall. Some are low lasers that hit and bounce. Without going in ball by ball, there's no way of knowing which is which. It's a rough estimate, but could be interesting. I also checked foul outs. RFK had a lot of foul territory, and I noted foul outs to the warning track near the dugouts -- where the distance is deepest.

    Sorted by most home ABs:

    Brad Wilkerson: He hit four fly ball outs to the warning track in right, hit four doubles that could've been homers, and one triple, for a max total of 9 home runs lost. He had one close foul out.

    Jose Guillen: We might owe Jose an apology. Three fly-outs to right, two to left, and four (maybe five) doubles, for a total potential of 9 lost homers. He fouled out twelve (12!!) times, but only one was close.

    Vinny Castilla: (His flyouts show that he's really not a pull hitter, despite his reputation). He has one flyout to right, one to left, and conservatively six doubles lost, for a total of 8 potential homers. He only fouled out 5 times, and three of those were close. (I must've seen every one then!)

    Cristian Guzman: (Heed the warning in my preface about the way the balls were hit!) He had one fly-out to left and two to right, and picks up two doubles and two triples, for a total of 7 potential homers. I know that one of the triples and doubles are legit (I was at both games and thought he had them) but his atrociousness really makes me wonder about the validity of the rest. Still, there were a few times when he did destroy balls.

    Nick Johnson: He lost one to right (close call) and two to left. Conservatively, two of his doubles could've been out, but as many as five, giving him a total of five homers lost. He also had one close foul-out.

    Brian Schneider: He had one long out to right, and one to left. He chipped in one triple and two doubles, for a grand total of five potential losses.

    Ryan Church: The park wasn't his problem this season, with just two close doubles, but three close foul-outs.

    Jamey Carroll: Ha! If you want to see something depressing, look at his fly-ball chart. He wishes he had Dave Magadan's power.

    Jose Vidro: He wouldn't gain any homers from fly-outs, but two doubles and one triple were close.

    Preston Wilson: He'd pick up a fly to right, one triple, and one double. Chip in one foul-out, if you're feeling realllly generous.

    Marlon Byrd: He'd pick up two, maybe three fly-outs to left, and two doubles, and a triple. Five isn't a bad total for a part-time player!
    That's by no means definitive, but it is a starting point, and should be factored in when evaluating our hitters. The Nationals hit just 46 homers at RFK. There are 56 potential homers just on this list. Even if only 1/3 of them are valid, that's tacking on 50% more homers, and God knows how many runs.

    Of course, it'd also be important to play the same game with the hits and outs allowed by our pitchers. Flyballers like Chad Cordero, John Patterson, and Luis Ayala were saved multiple times by catches at the track.

    Just moving the fences in to the intended dimensions (which would be about where the warning track begins now) would have a pretty dramatic effect on the team's batters. I'm not smart enough to know whether the team would be helped or hurt by that, but I really hope that someone in the Nats front office is looking at that issue. Tony Tavares has said that they're not planning on moving the fences, even to the intended dimensions. I hope that that's out of a plan, and not because of thriftiness.

    As always, I'm not holding my breath.

    Monday, November 21, 2005

    Fouled-Off Bunts: One If By Land; Two If By Sea Edition

    Jim Bowden continued his whirlwind tour of New England, interviewing with Les Sox for a second time, where they probably grilled him about the wisdom of investing $1 million on a pinch-hitter when the team only has three pitchers.
    • Colin Powell has turned up the high-powered heat on the DC Council. He's been slapping some backs for the Malek/Zients group, of which he's an investor. Accordingly, Mayor Williams reendorsed that group. Can you hear the uppity snorts coming from Park Avenue?

      The same article reports that Franklin Haney, who greatly raised his profile with his announcement that he'd pay for cost overruns, is supposedly sweet-talking Stan Kasten, who has already be courted by the Lerner family. Haney's offer would certainly be more attractive now, but he's clearly a long shot for the role. (I've read on the BPG message board that Malek's groups has floated the idea of paying for cost overruns, but I can't find confirmation of that anywhere. Have any of you seen that?)

    • The saga of Los Dos Joses continues.

      Guillen had his surgery today: "There was a lot of damage," Guillen said by telephone. "I'm pretty dizzy, but I think everything will be fine." If you're interested in his injury, it's a SLAP lesion.

      Vidro has passed on surgery. H e received another injection in the knee, which was plagued by tendinitis last season, and will begin another batch of rehab in a week or two. This needs to be watched closely. His legs/knees/entire lower body have been breaking down for about three seasons. Is rehab going to be enough?

    • Bill Ladson returns with another mailbag, this one containing actual useful information!

      Ryan Drese's rehab is going well, and he should be ready for spring training. To beat the horse that I thoroughly gutted during the season, his arm angle was his problem last year. As his arm hurt more, his arm dropped lower, negating the action on his sinker, leading to lots of BP-quality pitches. I'm optimistic that he'll be a viable fifth starter next season -- and it wouldn't shock me to see him put up solid numbers.

    • One of the sub-categories of the burgeoning cottage industry of Nats-blogging is Marlon-blogging. Pro Marlon: Banks, Beltway. Anti: Senators, Federals, OMG!, Curly W, TP, Wonk

    • Basesless Speculation of the day: With Boston apparently having pitching coming out their gills now, it'd be easier to trade one of those spare arms for Wilkerson, eh, Bodes?

    • Les Carpenter chats at 1 on Tuesday. Get your questions in -- he only gets to six an hour.

    • Movie Pick O' The Week: Anatomy of a Murder. Excellent and fast-paced (despite its length) court room thriller starring Jimmy Stewart as a lawyer trying to get his mojo back, and who cheats and grandstands his way through a trial, using every trick in the book. It wonderfully questions the legal system, notably whether it's better to let a guilty man go free, and how victims, especially women, frequently have to defend themselves from crimes committed upon them. The acting is excellent -- one of Stewart's best performances. (And I'm not just saying that because of the humor/squirm factor of him uttering "panties" and "sperm.")

    Bowden's Smokescreen

    One idea that Bowden has been floating over the last few weeks, and that's gain traction on one of the message boards is the idea that with his recent signings of Jackson and Anderson, Bowden is free to use the team's depth at infield to make some trades. Namely, he could trade Jamey Carroll or Junior Spivey. Well, hypothetically he could, but it's also hypothetical that he could sign AJ Burnett and Brian Giles. Neither scenario is likely.

    Jamey Carroll, despite being a pretty good (and chaste) guy, is a dime a dozen utility infielder. He plays all the positions passably, but has little power. He does get on base really well, and is useful as someone's legs late in a game, but he's not really bringing anything to the table that a large number of other professional ballplayers aren't.

    Why would a team trade for him when they could just pick someone like him up off the waver wire?

    Junior Spivey is a much more useful player. He can hit a little bit -- showing decent power -- but his low average, and the strikeouts grate on some people's nerves.

    There's a big catch with him, though. It's his salary. This season, he made somewhere around $2.5 million (he had some bonuses I don't feel like figuring out). He's arbitration-eligible, meaning his salary will only go up. Figure something in the $3-$4 million range.

    If you're a team that's interested in Junior Spivey, are you interested in him at that price? Probably not. And more importantly, you know that there's NO WAY that the Washington Nationals would bring him back at that price. When the deadline for tendering contracts comes up next month, Junior Spivey would likely be cut by the Nationals. They simply couldn't afford his contract for next season. When that happens, any team could sign him without giving the Nats a wooden nickel.

    Jamey Carroll could be in the same boat. He's arbitration-eligible, and stands to make something like $750K, if not more. The Nationals are unlikely to keep him around at that price, and would likely set him free.

    So, yes, the Nationals control their contracts. And the team could trade them. But there are two teams necessary for a trade. With Spivey and Carroll, Bowden is left to slowdance with himself.

    Cost Overruns Watch, Part III

    Well, we've got the front runner for least surprising news item of the day now. The Washington Post reveals that the stadium costs are soaring, and that it's already well over budget.

    Actual construction costs of the stadium have risen $93 million to $337. As a result, the city has had to start trimming back small, unimportant things like repairing roads or upgrading the Metro station to handle the large crowds.

    Fat cat lobbyists, rest easy! Your precious pleasure dome isn't being sacrificed! You're still getting 78 luxury boxes stacked neatly in two rows to raise the riff-raff in the upper deck further away from your important business meetings (even though the Stadium Agreement asked for just 74). And you're still getting your 3,000 club seats, so you can lay back in your leather chairs having young black kids from the ghetto give you all the hotdogs you can jam into your gullet for a few bucks an hour. Oh yeah, the stadium agreement only called for 2,000 of those, too, but there are some things you just can't cut. (I suppose that the gold-lined bidet flowing with tears from area school children will be an unfortunate casualty though)

    Rest easy, though, the team is making some drastic cuts (other than key infrastructure!), they're not going to build two team stores, and will cut back on some office space. (I guess Frank won't be getting the deluxe napping room)

    Why did the team choose to cut where it cut? Because they know (or assume) that the city will pick up the tab for the roads and the rails. They've shuffled the money they were going to spend there and applied it towards the leather upholstery of the club level.

    Remember late last year when we laughed at the city's floated idea of not really upgrading the Metro in the area in a half-cocked idea to delay things so badly that people would choose to linger and spend money in the ballpark area? Seems like that's closer to reality.

    If the city didn't have much of an incentive to hold out for all $180 million of rent payments ($6 million a year for 30 years), this should be enough.

    Sunday, November 20, 2005

    A Marlon Latte, Extra Foam

    Now that I've had a time to delve into the stats, I'm ready to reconsider my snap judgement of the Marlon Anderson signing. And after reconsidering it, I'm standing by what I said. A few points.

    1) Marlon Anderson is not a bad player; he's quite useful to an NL team. He has appeared to show talent as a pinch-hitter. (Although Bill "Lapdog" Ladson's assessment of him as a "Pinch-hitter extraordinaire" seems a bit much!)

    2) He can play several positions, but it's important to point out that he's not especially adept at them. At second, he's passable -- a good stop-gap. But he's not really a true utility infielder. He's played nearly 5,000 defensive innings in his career. And how many of them were played at shortstop or third base? I'll give you a hint -- it's equal to the number of home runs that Jamey Carroll hit last year.

    He can't replace Guzman, and he probably doesn't have the arm to fill in at third if Zimmerman were to move over to short. He's simply insurance for Jose Vidro's and Nick Johnson's inevitable injuries.

    3) Nationals pinch-hitters stunk on ice last year. (Stats here) Tony Blanco was second on the team in PH ABs. That's pathetic.

    Much of that was probably a result of Terrmel Sledge's injury. He would've been available to PH, or would have left an extra outfielder back as top PHer. Much of that also was a fact of Ryan Church's injury. He had several big pinch hits early in the season, including the game-winner against the Marlins that vaulted the Nationals into first place. But after he banged into that wall, he was doomed to wander into the desert for forty days or so, only to regain his form in the final weekend of the season.

    4) Here's one that shocked me: Several Nationals batters have been solid PHers for their careers; they just slumped last year. If pinch-hitting is a talent (and I think there might be something to that, isn't their total career a better sample than the 20 or so ABs they had last year?)

    Carlos Baerga: .292/ .365/ .405
    Marlon Byrd: .321/ .355/ .500
    Jamey Carroll: .346/ .414/ .365

    They're far from perfect (and I realize that Baerga's not likely to repeat those numbers, since most of those are from when he was young and non-penguin-like.), but they're not as bad as they were last season.

    Marlon Anderson, to compare: .308/ .365/ .479
    That's excellent. It's hard to argue with that.

    Much of that could be sample-size issues. I like Ball-Wonk's approach. He's discovered a valuable hitter already on our team, who had amazing production in 83 ABs, while flying under the radar!


    How much is a pinch-hitter worth though? Is $1 million on a team with just a $50 million payroll a bit much for someone who's only going to PH 50-70 times?

    Yes, he's good at what he does, but he's also not young. And he's not cheap. And there are some pasable (but probably not as good) alternatives in-house. Since he's not much of a defensive player, what's wrong with paying Brendan Harris the league minimum, and giving him a crack? (He even had one of the team's PH homers!) What's wrong with trying to bring Jamey Carroll back, who's almost certainly to be non-tendered now? He doesn't have Anderson's power, but he gets on base, and can play anywhere on the IF in a pinch, unlike Anderson.

    Now $1 million isn't going to kill the team, but given the team's needs, especially on the pitching side, wouldn't that money be better spent trying to bring Hector Carrasco back? Aren't the 60 innings of relief he'd provide more important than the 50 ABs of PHing? I'm not sure, but it seems like the difference between 60 innings of Carrasco compared to 60 innings of Darrel Rasner are greater than 70 ABs of Anderson compared to Jamey Carroll.

    The Nationals are like a low-paid office worker. That Starbucks venti latte sure sounds awfully tasty in the morning, but when you're bringing home only $24K a year, can you really afford the $4.50? Is the coffee that much better (and more importantly the caffeine buzz) than the $1 cup from the gas station, or even the free cup of swill from the break room?

    Marlon Anderson is the venti latte. If you're one of those fat-cat lobbyists, that latte is pretty damn tasty, and it barely makes a dent in your wallet.

    But when you're the Nationals and you go for that venti latte every day, when it comes time to make a major purchase like a car or a house (or an outfielder or starting pitcher), you've gotta scrimp, and you wind up living in Waldorf or driving an (GASP!) American car.

    I don't know about you, but I'd prefer to drive my Acura and drink the free swill.

    Friday, November 18, 2005

    Throw The Marlon Back

    Just when Jim Bowden was starting to develop some good will with a string of pretty good moves, he squanders a good chunk of it. With a tight budget and infielders (Jackson, Castro, Carroll, Spivey, Harris, etc) coming out the wazzoo, he signs Marlon Anderson to a TWO YEAR DEAL. Supposedly it's for $1.85 million, but I haven't seen the details yet, but that seems plausibly high. (And unconcsiously high for this team considering our needs!)

    Marlon's not a horrible player. But he's not much of a defender. He's nominally a second baseman, but he's seen more time at first, left, and right over the last few years. He's not a shortstop. And he's never played third. (I would imagine that he just doesn't have the arm for it -- he's a left-handed batter, but a right-handed thrower)

    Marlon had a decent, but below average, season for a second baseman last year, hitting .264/ .316/ .391 for an OPS+ of 86. His career OPS+ is 81, so that's about as good as he gets. He doesn't walk much. He doesn't strike out much. He doesn't hit for much power -- it appears that he had more leg doubles when he was younger.

    But he's ours.

    If the move was made in isolation, I could live with it (but grumble a little). But when you have a bunch of alternatives floating around the system, it doesn't make sense. What can Anderson do that Damian Jackson can't?

    It does mean that Junior Spivey, Carlos Baerga and Jamey Carroll won't return next season. (probably on Carroll). Brendan Harris, who's been hitting the snot out of the ball now has even less of a chance of surviving to next year as well.

    I just don't understand what his plan is? That's Bowden's problem. It's fine if he's hoarding non-roster invitees. But when he's doling out guaranteed contracts to players, I just have to scratch my head.

    Well, welcome Marlon. Just try not to take toooo much playing time away from Nick Johnson, ok?

    DuPuy's Still A Sack Of Crap

    He may be a sack of crap, but in at least one case, he's not lying.

    Curly W uncovers a quote from DuPuy on the stadium negotiations and wonders whether he's lying:
    "We believe the demands of the city vary from what was agreed to in the stadium agreement...there are creative solutions to almost every problem, and hopefully either in dealing directly with lending institutions or dealing with the city we'll be able to come up with some creative solutions. I'm hopeful this can be resolved next week."

    Curly W inquires:
    This is a very interesting statement. I've heard mention a few times during the past week that DC has changed the terms of the stadium agreement from last year. Is this true? I really wonder what the substance of that original agreement was. If DC explicitly agreed not to seek guaranteed rent from MLB, then DuPuy is right to claim that the city is changing the deal. However, if the rent provisions were left out of that original agreement entirely, then the District is right to seek the guarantee because Wall Street set unanticipated requirements for the bond financing.

    Unfortunately, DuPuy is right. From the DC Stadium agreement (page 18, large PDF):
    The team's obligation to pay rent and operating expenses shall be a general unsecured obligation for so long as the Team is in compliance with the MLB Debt Service Rule. In the event te Team shall violate the MLB Debt Service Rule and shall fail to cure the violation within 60 days after written notice from the Commission demanding that the violation be remedied, the Team shall provide the Commission with reasonable collateral (consistent with the market for Major League Baseball Club financing) to secure the Team's obligation to pay rent.

    Now I'm not sure whether the Debt Service Rule would apply in this case. The rule holds that teams cannot have debt that exceeds ten times their operating cash flow. However, if a team has a new stadium (and it's unclear whether this applies to all teams or just teams building stadiums on their own) the amount can jump up to 15 times their operating cash flow.

    Either way, there are too many unknowns in terms of the financing side of it to determine this, so we'll have to take DuPuy's word and conclude that the Nationals wouldn't be in violation of the rule -- and consequently, would NOT have to secure the rent payments like DC wants.

    By the letter of the law, DuPuy is right. MLB and the city had already negotiated this provision, and now the city wants to change it (for good reason.)

    The question becomes, how could they let this happen in the first place? Did the city not think the process through (which is a possibility because the ballpark legislation they crafted last year didn't include the provision either, and only came to light once they investigated the bond procedure). And why didn't MLB realize that this could be a problem.

    What does this all mean? Well, if MLB doesn't back down (and technically, I don't think they'd have to at this point, even if I think they should), then DC will just have to pay a higher interest rate on the bonds, costing the taxpayers even more money. But at least the new owners won't potentially be on the hook for a few extra million dollars of rent, huh?

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Actual News Edition

    Lotsa yummy stuff. I'll be brief.
    • Jim Bowden gets a second chance to make a first impression with Boston, as he's made the cut to round two of the interview process, joining fellow disgraced GM Jim Beattie.
    • The Post and Times discover that the Nats met with AJ Burnett. Personally, I prefer the Federalist's account much better (especially his picture from behind the restaurant).

      What I find interesting about that is that both papers are a day late from Bill Ladson's originally story, which was posted late Wednesday night, after yesterday's papers had already been put to bed, in effect, giving Ladson a 24-hour scoop. Is that just his intrepid reporting, or was that intentional by those "team sources" that Ladson loves so much?

      And not to hammer our beloved beat writers too much, why don't they have "team sources"? There's very little news coming out of the RFK Trailer Park. Does that mean that no one's talking? There isn't a plan? They don't speak with the right people? Why is it that the only information we get is shared by both papers using the exact same quotes (presumably from a conference call or press conference)?
    • Disgraced former owner Jeff Smulyan has at least one supporter on the DC Council, strangely a supporter who just recently allied himself with Linda Cropp.
    • To Juan, or not to Juan? That is the question answered by the newest Nats-blogger on the Banks of the Anacostia. Short answer? No Juan, Bradley! The Methuselah of Nats-bloggers disagrees. I'd lean more towards Methuselah. (If only because of Milton Bradley's scary Nick-Johnson-approved injury history. Check out his games played)
    • The TP points out Brendan Harris' continued role as Mr. November, this time with a game-winning homer against Nicaragua in Olympic qualifying.
    • Just an FYI. The Commisar is a National Disgrace. (But you already knew that)

    Just Build It Already

    While the Dec 31 deadline for stadium financing ticks closer, the Washington Post has a look at the stadium design, spewing out a few more details of our precious precious.
    The stadium, which will be along the Anacostia River in near Southeast, features an exterior wall largely made of glass and broken up by limestone portals... Aspects of the design create a translucent quality, offering fans inside views of the surrounding neighborhood and teasing those outside with glimpses of game activities....

    [T]he ballpark will open to the northeast and afford views of the Capitol -- but only from a limited number of upper-deck seats and the press box.

    It provides 78 luxury boxes in two stacked rows and 3,000 club seats between first base and third base, affording high-paying patrons prime views. Some of the club seats and a restaurant would be in the lower deck behind home plate.

    Beyond the outfield, architects have placed another restaurant and a public walkway, designed to be open to the public even on days when there are no games.

    Two cantilevered ramps leading to the upper decks contain viewing platforms from which fans can pause to take in sweeping scenes of the city -- the federal monuments to the north and the Anacostia River to the south.

    Outside the stadium, a slender, angled building for offices, probably for the team, juts from the stadium from behind the home plate stands. Two large aboveground parking garages are situated to the north of the stadium.

    Jack Evans seems to be the lone dissenter. He's quoted as saying that it looks like an office building, and that he much prefers the traditional brick exterior.

    Just a thought.... does anyone care what the outside of the stadium looks like? Don't we really mostly care about the view inside the stadium and the panorama it provides?

    The designs should be made public in the next few weeks. Then we'll get our crack at ripping it.

    Everybody's Hugging

    Cue the Barry White music, and listen to the sweet sounds as two become one.

    The ownership groups of the Lerners and Stan Kasten are courting each other, ready to jump into Bud's back seat, creating a union that would be pretty sweet to Nats fans' ears.

    Although the article quotes a cowardly baseball source as saying that it wouldn't automatically make them the lead group, their public display of affection is the kind of thing that Selig likes to see. (It's the voyeur in him.)

    It helps that they're Selig's vision of beauty, too: One has a strong, central presence with very deep pockets (call him the sugar daddy). The other has years of wordly experience, and knows how the game is played. Even I'd have to say that that's a pretty good looking couple.

    Thomas Heath's article has a rundown of Kasten's many accomplishments, and the Post looked at the Lerner family (plus a bonus Wolf Blitzer picture) earlier this month.

    If Selig does pick the happy couple (and he does so soon), it'll definitely set off joyous explosions in houses all throughout the DC area

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Fee For Me And Fee For You

    The DC Fiscal Policy Institute has an economic analysis of the stadium financing plan, specifically the ballpark fee being charged to businesses to pay for the stadium. Recently, it has been proposed that the proceeds from the private financing plan that the city is working out with Deutsche Bank be used to reduce the ballpark fee. Their analysis concludes that that plan ends up shifting the costs of the park from the businesses to the little guy, at a cost of $60 million.

    I'm not sure I agree with them, but it's an interesting, if not confusing argument. Lemme try and bastardize it for you.

    --The stadium is going to cost the same regardless of the private financing.

    --They claim that the city will collect $44 million in annual payments, but that repayment will only cost $34 million.

    --If that extra money is used to pay down the bonds at a faster rate, instead of being rebated to businesses, it would only take 19 years to pay off the 30-year bonds.

    --If they rebate the money to the businesses, it would take 25 years to pay off the bonds, and $60 million of that (in net present dollars) would have to come from sources other than the businesses.

    --Left unsaid is that women and children (oh, and minorities) would be hardest hit.

    It's an interesting non-demagogic take. Just throwin' it out there....

    I've argued before that private financing doesn't actually DO anything. This sort of proves that point.

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Everybody Loves Brad Edition

    Brad Wilkerson is a popular man, as there've been a lot of people searching for info about him. The latest info is from Their Mariners site has a scouting report of him, and nebulously floats (citing 'sources') that the Mariners are very interested in him. Our friends at OMG! looked at Wilkerson vis Encarnacion and vis Milton Bradley (whom the Nationals have denied having interest).
    • The Nationals have met with AJ Burnett and his team. Apparently he's looking for a five-year deal. While he's on the verge of being a dominant pitcher, I can't see the team having the resources to pay him as much for as long as he'd like. (And even if we had owners, I'm not sure that he'd be the smartest buy.) I looked at Burnett and the other starters on the market a week ago.

    • On the Bowden to Boston front, Jim Beattie was asked back for a second interview. Bowden, as of yet, hasn't been asked back.

    • DC-area resident Tim Kurk-Jian brings the sorry state of ownership to the masses with an ESPN column. It's probably nothing new to any of us, but I'm sure it's enlightening to many who aren't familiar with the particulars of this seedy affair.

    • Barry Svrluga's book is available for pre-orders at Amazon. What an ungainly title. (Note to Barry's publisher: Feel free to use that on the dust jacket)

    • The Washington Examiner's editorial page tackles one of the hot issues of the day, and probably the key thing everyone needs to know about the stadium deal. What a waste of space.

    • The Pinstriped Bible looks at bunting effectiveness. (Chart at the bottom) We know that the Nationals led the league in Sacrifice Bunts with 91 (That's 82 more than the Texas Rangers). But did you know that we failed on the bunt 24 times? Or that that's actually the fifth most effective percentage in the league?

      That's one of the problems with the bunt -- it's not bad when it works out well, but it doesn't work a fair amount of the time. And in those cases you've completely wasted an out with zero benefit to the team.

    Jose Es El Loco

    Just when you think that Jose Guillen can't get any crazier, NFA reports that he's taking his soon-to-be surgically repaired shoulder and playing, playing, playing.

    After two weeks of rehab, he'll play winter ball, then be ready to play in the World Cup of Baseball (or whatever the hell they're calling it). I suppose that he knows more about his prognosis than I do, but wouldn't you think that rest would do him good? He REALLY wore down as the year went on. Wouldn't a month or two of rest be better for him regardless of injury?


    NFA also takes a look at Baseball America's top-10 Nationals prospects, interjecting his own thoughts and coming up with his own list.

    Take a look at it. He gives a quick synopsis of each player and links to the stats if you want even more depth to see how shallow our system is.

    Pants On Fire

    And the Scummie&trade for Most Ridiculous, Self-Serving Statement goes to... [drumroll]

    Bob Dupuy!
    Bob DuPuy insisted the time line for naming a Nationals owner would have no bearing on the team's success.

    "All of that is patent nonsense," DuPuy said of the criticism, which was levied last week by Nationals manager Frank Robinson and some city officials. "The team is being professionally and competently managed, and it has been throughout. Tony Tavares is a wonderful and experienced baseball executive who did a wonderful job. We won't drop a beat with regard to the operation of the team."

    I suppose that he's right (from a certain point of evil, malevolent, calculating, hard-hearted, callous, greedy, shallow, bureaucratic point of view). I mean, from an operations standpoint, they have been running quite successfully. I haven't heard about the trailerpark at the RFK ghetto catching on fire lately. They've only had one of their employees gunned down.

    Further, they've quite successfully drawn up plans for a third (well, fourth, I suppose) jersey (coincidentally, just in time for Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Festivus). And they professionally and competently raised ticket prices!

    Maybe I'll have to take back the Scummie? Nah!

    That is the statement of a delusional man. A man so wrapped up in his own petty side and so concerned with protecting his image and the image of his precious Tsar Bud that he'll say the most ridiculous things possible. But the sad thing is that like the buck-naked emperor, Mr. Dupuy (and using Mr. chartiably stretches its very definition) honestly believes that he's right.

    Meanwhile, all Nationals fans are getting is the occasional glimpse of a 70-year-old, pallid, wrinkly thingamabob.

    Mr Dupuy, on behalf of all Nationals fans, put on some farkin' pants and wake up to reality, you lying sack of crap.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005

    Sickles Says "Anemic"

    John Sickles, the Minor League guru recaps his top-20 Nationals Prospects, and the results ain't good! Only one or two of the players on his list took a step foward. The rest regressed, or were too injured to perform.

    His comment on Danny Reuckel, #12, sums it up: Repeating the league and didn't pitch as well as he did in 2004. Still has a chance to be a decent middle reliever, but for many clubs he would not make a top 20 list.

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Brahman Bodes Redux Edition

    One of the front-runners for the Boston GM job, Dayton Moore, has said "No Thanks!" He joins a growing cast of thousands who've turned down the job. Jim Bowden, of the people they've interviewed, is probably at the top of the list now. Buck Says that they'll be looking for a few more good men before settling.
    • Nationals Farm Authority notes the not-so lamentable loss of two of our loveable farm hands: Rich Rundles, and Kenny Kelley. Neither is going to crush the team, but it is strange to see the franchise lose some depth, even if the depth is about as shallow as the kiddy pools I used to pee in. (And no, "used to" doesn't mean last week.)

    • The Distinguished One applies a rigorous scientific analysis to determine whether Bodes' unhealthy love of Juan Encarnacion would accomplish his stated off-season goals. Unfortunately, it's 87.5% NO!

    • The Federalist riffs off a comment from one of my posts yesterday, looking at whether a Wilkerson/Marquis trade would make sense. Short answer: it'd be better than trading him for cash.

    • The TPers discover a giant lake monster, and how that relates to the Nats.

    • Nats Blog, apparently not content with the idiot who gave Roger Clemens a first place vote for MVP, wonders why more starting pitchers don't get MVP support.

    Finally, a hearty good job to our friends at MLB for one of the few things they've ever done right since allowing Jackie Robinson to play. I think that 50 games for a first steroid offense might be a little too high, but there's no doubt that it will serve as an effective deterrent!

    Two thoughts, though, and they both relate to something the probably senile Senator from Kentuck' said on the radio this morning.

    First, he said that records of steroid users should be wiped from the books (although he doesn't think that that's Congress' place to decide) This idea, which has gained traction in some circles, is patently stupid. The record book is just a list of numbers. It contains no value judgements. When reading it, you're free to make those judgements yourself and discount performance in your mind. No one who looks at records is going to think that Rafael Palmeiro belongs in the same breath with Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in the 3,000/500 club. If Palmeiro does go into the Hall (which I don't think will happen at this point), don't you think that the first thing anyone brings up will be his guilt? His stats will be an afterthought.

    Second, he made the bizarre claim that no one used amphetamines while he played, which directly contradicts statements by a number of players, notably Pete Rose and Jim Bouton. Greenies were used by almost everyone every day. Maybe they didn't take them out in the open (though given some of the accounts in Ball Four, I doubt that), but they WERE prevalent in the good Senator's day. That he can't recall is either an indication of his increased senility, or a sign that he's not discussing these issues in good faith.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    Cheers For The Chief

    Congratulations go out to Chad Cordero for his 14th place finish in the MVP race. It may not sound like a lot, but it puts him in a flat-footed (or shredded-elbow) tie with Lance Berkman and Bobby Abreu. Not bad company indeed!

    He was named on 9 of the 32 ballots, with one sixth place, two seventh and ninth place, and four tenth place votes.

    Cordero had an amazing season. I just hope that the blistering pace he set early on (and the ensuing tendinitis) don't have any long-term impact on him, like it most likely has for his brother in abuse, Luis Ayala.

    I May Not Be A Wise Man...

    But certainly I'm not the only one who sees the inherent flaws relayed by Pravda's own Bill Ladson:

    The Nationals are looking a leadoff hitter, but, as of now, have shown no interest in free agent outfielder Kenny Lofton, formerly of the Phillies, or Padres outfielder Dave Roberts.

    "I know Kenny Lofton had a good year, [the Nationals] can do better," the baseball source said.

    The Nationals are serious about getting better in the outfield and they have turned their focus to free agent Juan Encarnacion, who played for the Marlins this past season. The Nationals previously tried to acquire Encarnacion before landing Preston Wilson this past July.

    First (and I know it's an old and tired rant) why the hell can he never quote ANYONE. I don't think that he's had an on-the-record quote from anyone, ever. I know that some things do need to be done off-the-record, but just once, I'd like to see him attribute something!


    The other news in the article is that los dos Joses are undergoing surgery. Vidro's having scar tissue removed from his knee o' death. Guillen's having his labrum repaired, which he originally tore at the end of June. Ladson better be careful that he doesn't tear his the way he's patting Guillen on the back:
    Guillen hurt the shoulder sliding headfirst in a game against the Blue Jays on June 26, but he never went on the disabled list and played with the shoulder problem for the rest of the season

    He's not a pussy like that girly man Ryan Church, I guess.

    Wondering what Guillen hit after that? Yeah, me too.

    .265/ .337/ .433 with nine home runs and thirty-five RBI in 77 games. [Caution: Multiple Endpoint Manipulation Ahead] In his last 16 appearances, he had two RBI, but he did slug .191 in those games.

    So is playing injured really a good thing?

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Tepid Stove Edition

    I'm torn.... is it a good thing that Jim Bowden doesn't really have a budget to purchase players in a pretty crappy free agent market? Or is that a bad thing? A blessing AND a curse, I suppose.
    • Theo Esptein rumors heat up, again, noting that he'd probably prefer Washington to LA because of the fresh slate with ownership, and because DC is closer to his home. Additionally, it reports that Fred Malek has been in contact with Theo, and that he's probably his preferred GM candidate.
    • Our friends at Sons of Sam Horn have been keeping tabs on CFers. One of them was especially interested in Brad Wilkerson but I'm bringing it up more because one of them reports that the Cubs are close to acquiring Juan Pierre, one of Bowden's objects of Marlin's lust.

      If that happens, there are several wrinkles. 1) Bowden wanted him; he'd have to find a 'new' lead-off hitter, because apparently Brad Wilkerson's superior on-base percentage isn't enough. 2)Would the Cubs then back off Rafael Furcal, increasing the chances he stays with the budget conscious Braves? 3)Would the Cubs be looking to trade the crappy Corey Patterson (AKA Wilkerson lite)? I had read that the Cubs had floated the idea of Patterson for Wilkerson, which would be a horrid deal. Patterson, in his best season, is worse than Wilkerson in his worst.
    • So, an American Citizen born in Cuba, who once resided in Costa Rica, can play for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic? Why bother? Why not just draw straws and play shirts and skins?
    • Baseball America named their Nationals top-10. Hero to millions, Ian Desmond is number four. (Which is more an indictment of the farm system than Desmond's quality)

    You Can't Negotiate With A Crazy Man

    So MLB is stringing things along, nickle and diming DC to death while a gazillion dollar deal is hed in the balance. The debate, over DC's need for MLB to guarantee rent payments to ensure a good interest rate on bonds used to pay for the stadium, resumes today.

    But there's a new wrinkle.

    DC has added an additional request to the table. Not only is the city asking for $24 million in rent guarantees if the stadium becomes unusuable because of natural or unnatural disaster, they've added a request for $20 million to add parking spaces at the stadium.

    If those asshats on Park Avenue are going to play hardball, fighting over fractions of pennies on the dollar, DC is well within their right (even their duty!) to play hardball with these used-car-dealing thugs. No, we didn't order the freakin' Tru-Coat!

    MLB is predicatbly acting like the thugs they are. (Read the article for the details)

    Screw them. They're getting $600 million worth of stadium from the city, and they're getting another half a billion from the new owners. There's more than enough pie to make these fat cats wretch all over themselves.

    The city, despite the noise and the flurry surrounding the events, has negotiated in good faith, and has bent over backwards to give MLB everything they've wanted. If that's not good enough, take the farkin' franchise to Puerto Rico and see if you can get someone there to pay $450 million for it. Fat farkin' chance.

    It's strange to side with DC gov't on anything. But in this case, it's not the lesser of two evils, just the less evil of two lessers. DC, hold their loafered feet over the fires until their toe hair singes and stinks. You're in the right, for once.

    Monday, November 14, 2005

    Nobody's Darling

    We could've been rid of him!

    Cross Ron Darling off the list as a possible Mets analyst on SportsNet NY for next year. "I don't believe that is going to happen," Darling said. Darling, who worked the Nationals games this season, said he and SNY executives think he needs work to be ready for the New York market

    That's an understatement.

    MLB To Fans: Screw You

    Despite not having an owner. Despite pocketing record profit last season. Despite having all expectations (save tax revenue generation) exceed expectations. Despite all that, MLB continues to hold the hammer over the fans.

    The Nationals have announced a ticket price increase for next season. That's expected. What was unexpected were the size of the increase and the premium scheme.

    First, the scheme. Mimicking what other teams are doing, the Nationals have decided to add a premium surcharge to hot games -- in our case, the Orioles, Yankees, and Cubs. I've supported the idea before, and I really don't think it's a bad idea. Ideally, I'd rather have the team take the extra money (and ideally plow it back into the team -- yeah, I know I'm a sucker) than the scalpers/ticket brokers.

    Two problems though... The teams that have created these schemes have been smart enough to create a budget tier. They couldn't knock $2 off the price of a tuesday night game against the Pirates? Garbage. Second, the profit isn't going to be plowed into the team, but into MLB's fecking fat wallets!

    This isn't about a new owner trying to maximize revenue to put a winning team on the field. This is about MLB sucking the life out of us gullible sports fans. And the sad thing is, none of us are going to care. We're still going to go. We're still going to pay the price.

    We are Wil Cordero's wife.

    The ticket prices are going up quite a bit, too. They've renamed the ticket zones, and increased prices $2-$5 for most people. The ones who get hammered the most are the people in the $300 section. Their $30 seats go up to $35. My seats in the 400 down the line went up a buck or two. $5 seems like a pretty steep increase. (And it's even more when you tack on the premium game surcharge)

    They've also announced (just in time for Christmas) more overpriced junk to clothe you and your family in: an alternate jersey. Ordinarily that wouldn't gall me -- that's just the way that baseball works. But when you combine it with the ownership situation, it REALLY pisses me off. And the longer MLB delays the ownership situation, the more of these profits the Lords take in. Buying one of these jerseys doesn't support the team. It supports Bud Selig.

    So even though picking an owner isn't a priority, making the fans bleed is.

    Business as usual for MLB.

    And still we support them!!?

    DC To MLB: Screw You

    Is $6 million a year too much? That's the question that remains. And that's the question that's holding everything up. DC wants $6 million in guaranteed rent payments from DC because Wall Street has demanded it in order for the city to receive a favorable interest rates on the bonds it's going to use to pay for the stadium. MLB, predicatably, says no.

    The payments would amount to $180 million over the life of the lease, a fairly small price to pay for the nearly 2/3 of a BILLION dollars that MLB is receiving. Take the net present value of that money, and it's even less. DC is completely right in holding out. MLB is clearly in the wrong here.

    One of the issues surrounding the lease payments is what happens in case of disaster. MLB doesn't want to be stuck paying payments on an unusable stadium when Mr. Terrorist leaves a suitcase nuke under his seat. This, to me, is a smoke screen. There's a company who'll insure anything, and you've gotta think that the payments for this are relatively low. Essentially MLB is holding out for pennies on a hundred-million dollar deal. Typical.

    Why is MLB doing this? Greed. They want to extract every last dollar out of the city so as to maximize their return from the potential ownership groups. And the new ownership groups are happy to have the keys turned over to them, with as little expense possible. With the $450 price tag, each ownership group is going to be leveraged to the hilt. They won't own the team, their banks will. Much of the revenue the stadium generates will go right to the banks.

    Our friends at Nats Triple Play had a good take on this. TP says screw 'em. Since the ownership situation can't be decided in the next few weeks, which are central to the offseason plans, who cares when we get an owner.

    For the duration of the negotiations Bud Selig has wielded the ownership question like a stick, using it to beat back all attempts to reconsider the stadium legislation or make substantial alterations to the lease. But now he may have overplayed his hand. As Frank Robinson noted, the Nationals have already been handicapped in free agency and for the 2006 season by not having owners in place to establish a budget and direction for the team. The good news is though that the damage has already been done. Now it really is no detriment to the team to not have an owner by Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Valentine's Day, or whatever other arbitrary date Bob DuPuy announces next. So D.C. should hold the line, demand that MLB guarantee the rent and stonewall whatever other asinine conditions Jerry Reinsdorf tries to impose at the 11th hour.

    For what it's worth, Joe Madden's Sunday Notes column in the Daily News says we're not getting owners until after the New Year. For what it's worth, Reinsdorf raised that himself last week.

    Tell me again why I should care...?

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    Arms For The Poor

    Yesterday, I looked at the best starters on the market -- or at least the ones that stand to make the most money. (Look there for an explanation of why I use the stats I use) Today's the scratch and dent sale. Two of them stand to make a decent amount of money, but the others could probably be had at a bargain-basement price.

                   ERA   IP   K/9  BB/9 HR/9  G/F   FIP   3YE
    Paul Byrd 3.74 204 4.5 1.2 .97 .89 3.98 112 110 132
    Jason Johnson 4.54 210 4.0 2.1 .99 1.68 4.39 94 88 104
    Ramon Ortiz 5.36 171 5.0 2.7 1.79 1.17 5.48 83 104 82
    Kenny Rogers 3.46 195 4.0 2.4 .69 1.42 3.96 130 106 101
    Brett Tomko 4.48 191 5.4 2.7 .94 1.05 4.18 92 110 79
    Jamey Wright 5.46 171 5.3 4.3 1.16 1.95 5.17 87 123 119

    • Paul Byrd isn't young, but he's solidly effective. Purely a finesse pitcher at this point in his career, he survives thanks to his excellent control. And despite being an extreme flyball pitcher (wouldn't that look good in RFK?), he's not overly homer-prone. Byrd's biggest problem has been his health. He's suffered arm injuries fairly frequently throughout his career, and has only two seasons with 200 innings pitched, one of which was last season. He won't be cheap. I'd guess it's take a two or three year deal at $6 million per. The injuries make him a risk, but it's hard to argue with the performance.

    • Jason Johnson is consistently average. He's nothing special as a pitcher, but in the back of the rotation he's useful. In a good season, he's slightly above average. In a bad one, he's below. He has very good control, but doesn't strike many batters out -- the classic definition of a finesse pitcher. He's been durable throughout his career. Despite his battle with diabetes, you can pencil him in for 33 starts a year, but don't expect him to work deep into games. He's a 6-7 inning pitcher. Nothing in his line jumps out at me, but his W/L record could scare away some people and reduce his price. If he's floating around for $2-3 million per season, he'd be a useful signing.

    • Ortiz earned the moniker Little Pedro because of his nationality, and because of his varied repertoire. He had an excellent future ahead of him until he aged two or three years over one winter. Two out of his last three seasons have been mediocre, but his career OPS+ is still 96. Durability isn't a problem with him either, having pitched in 30+ games in four of the last five seasons -- the one year he didn't, he pitched mostly out of the pen. Ortiz is a flyball pitcher, who was completely mismatched for his home park. He gave up a ton of home runs. His stuff was still good enough to strikeout a fair number of batters, but that homer rate is hard to overlook. With RFK yielding roughly 50% fewer home runs than Cinci's park could he be a diamond in the rough? The numbers he put up last season should scare some people away. A cheap one-year deal isn't out of the question. If it's not a lot of money, say $1-$2 million, why not take a crack at him?

    • Kenny Rogers comes with all sorts of warning signs -- the incident with the camera man, his age, his second-half ERA. But he still gets results. He survives by not walking many, holding runners on, and keeping the ball in the park. He's traditionally been a groundball pitcher, but his numbers were neutral last season. It's actually amazing that his ERA was that low considering the park and the crappy infield defense in front of him. I have a hunch that he's going to be paid. Somone will offer him a two-year deal, probably in the $12 million range. He might be worth it the first year, but the idea of a 42-year old finesse pitcher scares me. One year with a triggered option would be a good deal, but I'm sure some team will guarantee him that second year (or overpay for just one).

    • Brett Tomko is the definition of average. But he's also highly durable. (Are you sensing that I think that that's important yet?) 30 starts and 190+ innings are a lock. The catch is that we're not sure how good those innings are going to be. He's only had two season above average, though he's usually hovering just below. His FIP ERA was much lower than his regular ERA. He struck out a bunch of batters while not walking toooo many. He's a pretty solid flyballer who could probably benefit from playing at RFK. If he can be had cheaply, there are worse alternatives for the 4/5 spot in the rotation.

    • Jamey Wright's ERA seems scary, but look at where he's pitched. He's survived the Coors Field gauntlet, for the most part. He walks too many batters, and he gives up too many homers, but much of that, I'd suspect are a function of where he's pitched. He's a groundball pitcher who has given up a ton of hits, again, possibly a function of park. Look at his ERA+ over the last three seasons. Last year wasn't great, but his previous two were solid. If people focus on his decline last season, he could slide through very cheaply, and should be someone the Nationals should consider. Would you take 10 wins and 170 innings out of your 4 or 5 starter? I would.

    You won't be seeing any of these guys at the top of your Cy Young ballot, but they're useful role players. Byrd is the most attractive option, but Johnson, Ortiz, Tomko or Wright could all be excellent bargains.

    The point is that there are a number of reasonable options for the back of the rotation. So it's not necessary to go to 3/$21 with Esteban Loaiza. Take the extra $15 million you'd save by signing one of those players and apply it to the offense -- or the bullpen. If Loaiza won't sign for our price, someone else will.

    Could you live with Patterson, Livan, Byrd, Lawrence, Wright? That's not the 1995 Braves, but that's a better rotation than a few of the playoff teams from last season.

    DC's Privates Stink

    So when is a private financing plan not a good idea? Say, now, when it doesn't appear to actually save anyone anything.

    One of the reasons private financing gained traction was to help eliminate the burden on businesses. Recall that they are assessed a ballpark tax that is a sliding scale based on the size of their company. The tax was projected to produce $14 million in revenue. The hope was that the Deutsche Bank plan would reduce the business tax to just $8 million.

    Well, that was before Wall Street got their greedy meathooks involved. They want all $14 million dis-ir-regardless, because it's the most stable.

    So now the city is giving up future revenue potential in turn for money today, but with no real benefit to anyone, other than being able to incorrectly point out to their economically illiterate constituents that the city isn't paying the entire thing.

    What a deal! I'll take two!

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    Brother, Can You Spare An Arm?

    We need pitching. Lots of it. For now, it's JPat, Livan, Lawrence, and pray for a torrent -- which is roughly where we ended the year.

    1/2 are set. While neither John Patterson nor Livan are true aces, they're both valuable pitchers. Patterson has the stuff, but he needs to work on his durability and his endurance. Livan has the endurance, but his knee severly limited what he's capable of doing, especially in the second half. Assuming good health, we're fine there.

    The trick is going to be replacing the 3/4 spots in the rotation. Esteban Loaiza was excellent as a number three starter. Tony Armas, Ryan Drese and Tomo Ohka ranged from execrable to underrated.

    We're in luck. There are free agent pitchers out the wazoo. But which are the right fit? And at what price?

    The cream of the crop.
                     ERA   IP   K/9  BB/9 HR/9  G/F   FIP   3YE
    AJ Burnett 3.44 209 8.5 3.4 .52 2.63 3.09 117 112 86
    Kevin Millwood 2.86 192 6.8 2.4 .94 1.39 3.77 143 90 103
    Jarrod Washburn 3.20 177 4.8 2.6 .96 0.99 4.39 131 99 96
    Matt Morris 4.11 193 5.5 1.7 1.03 1.66 3.97 104 89 111
    Jeff Weaver 4.22 224 6.3 1.7 1.41 1.06 4.45 96 103 73
    Esteban Loaiza 3.77 217 7.2 2.3 .75 1.27 3.86 105 84 154

    Let me explain the stats I used, first. The first few should be self-explantory. There's a line of theory (which actually makes sense) that one of the most effecitve ways to evaluate a pitcher is through his peripheral numbers. Hits, it's argued, are sometimes a function of luck -- think of a dying quail down the line that goes for a double, or think of, say, a ground ball pitcher in front of Vidro and Guzman. Looking at strike outs, homers, and walks are a good way to isolate those things which the pitcher most controls. And it provides a decent baseline for evaluating performance.

    G/F is the groundball/flyball ratio. The higher the number, the more groundballs the player induces. Most pitchers are in the 1.2-1.6 range (ballpark). I and some of the other blogs have theorized that flyball pitchers can excel here because of the very forgiving power alleys. Balls that were home runs in other parks will fall on to the 390-foot warning track.

    FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching, gleefully stolen from The Hardball Times. It takes the pitcher's peripheral stats and projects what his ERA would be in a neutral setting. If there's a large difference between the two, it could indicate that the pitcher was lucky (and possibly portend a crash back to earth the next season)

    Finally, 3YE is the three-year ERA+. Too often I see people evaluating players on one year's worth of stats. Three years isn't perfect, but it can help to spot trends. Remember, an average ERA works out to 100. The stat adjusts for park, and tries to form a standard baseline. Someone with a 90, for example, had an ERA 10% higher than average.
    • Burnett is the most prominent name. He has amazing stuff, routinely hitting 99+ on the radar gun. But he has some drawbacks. 1) He's the proverbial ten-cent head. He gave up on his team last year when things started falling apart, and he was quoted to the effect of, after coming back from Tommy John surgery, that if his elbow started hurting, he'd just throw harder. 2) That surgery is scary! While he's had plenty of time to recover, he's not the model of health. Last season was the only year of his career where he made 30 starts, and he's reached 200 IP in just two of his seven seasons. But more importantly, he's going to command the big bucks.

      Pitching-wise, he's an extreme ground-baller, who racks up the strikeouts. He had a decent ERA, but his other numbers indicate he was probably even better than that. Just 28, he's going to be the most expensive pitcher. Our friends at Baseball Analysts have pegged him at 4 years/ $48 million. That seems about right. Unfortunately, that's probably too much for our nomadic team.

    • Millwood is the 1A of the free agent market. Unfortunately, he'll be paid like that, even if his performance doesn't show it. Look at his FIP compared to his regular ERA. Then look at his past seasons of performance, and where they rank to this one. It screams fluke, doesn't it? While he'd be an effective innings-eater in the Loaiza mold, he's probably going to make more than the performance you'll get. Baseball Analysts chimes in with a 4-year, $36 million contract -- Derek Lowe money. I'd pass.

    • Washburn is an interesting case. One of the warning signs in a pitcher's quality is his K/9 ratio. Washburn's numbers are mediocre, and the lowest of his career. He survives by getting hitters to make outs, not by dominating them (see his FIP for proof of that). He's an extreme flyball pitcher, but he didn't give up a ton of home runs. Oh, and he's left-handed. He's 31, and could be a good fit for the Nationals. With the amount of fair territory at RFK, those fly balls stand a great chance of being run down. The declining strike outs are a bit worrying, but he's essentially been league average for his career. He's been farily durable for his career, but you can't expect him to pitch as deep into games as Livan. Baseball Analysts have him pegged at three-years, $25 million. That might be a bit rich, but that seems pretty reasonable. The park's forgivingness makes a complete collapse much less likely. And with some of the division's left-handed batting, a LHP might not be a bad idea.

    • Matt Morris scared me. Until I looked closely at the stats. Then he surprised me. But there are still warning signs. He fell off the table in the second half last year, which isn't the first time that that's happened. I'm not sure if it's a fatigue or mechanics issue. Or it could possibly be another injury -- something that's no stranger to his career. He's an excellent control pitcher, rarely walking a batter, but the high number of homers allowed indicate that he might be a bit too wild in the zone, giving up some hittable pitches. Still, his ERA is right in line with what his numbers suggest, and he's had a number of solid years in the past. BA predicts 2-years, $13-15 with incentives. That could be a reasonable deal, but some of these red flags scare me. I wouldn't scream bloody murder if they signed him, but he's not at the top of the list.

    • Jeff Weaver has certainly had an interesting career. Once promising, he went to the Yankees to wither before getting back on the right track in LA. Weaver is a work horse. He's capable of starting 34 times and pitching 230 innings. If he can find his early career form, he's an excellent pitcher. If he recreates the form of the last two years, he's league average. 230 innings of league average is pretty damn valuable. From the stats above, Weaver isn't perfect. He gives up a ton of fly balls, and a ton of those go over the fence -- something RFK could help at. The ERA+ numbers are scary, but he pitched three times at Coors field (all pretty poorly), which would weight his numbers slightly. Overall, he had a 4.34 ERA on the road, which when you factor in CO, probably isn't too bad. Esteban Loaiza, for comparison, had a 4.77 road ERA. He's also just 29. BA predicts 3-4 years at $8-9 per. When compared to Morris, I could go for that. He compares favorably with Washburn. He certainly is a bit screwy, but the idea that he could return to his Detroit promise is pretty tempting.

    • Esteban Loaiza is the name we know. It seemed like he had a better year than those numbers indicate. I'm a little wary of the number of IP and his age. It's only the second time in his 11-year career that he's broken 200 IP, and his results weren't pretty after the last one. Still, I think there is something to his late-career resurgence. When he broke out in 2003, it was a result of his learning a new pitch, the cutter. It's the same thing with Hector Carrasco -- the equation has changed (Read that! It's good!). Loaiza is not the kind of pitcher that will win you games on his own. He'll work into the seventh inning, racking up the quality starts. If he gets run support, he wins. If not, he loses. That's not a criticism. But we need to think of him as more of a #3 starter, which is really what he is. BA thinks he'll get two-years, $9-11 MM. I think someone will give the 33-year old that third year. Is he worth three-years $16 million? I'm not sure. I'd be comfortable with those first two years, but that third makes me nervous. The Nationals have offered him a contract in the 2-years $10 million range. He's countered with 3-years, $21 million. If he can get someone to offer him that, adios!

    These aren't the only pitchers available. They're just the best. Later, I'll show you the rest. There are a few pitchers who could prove to be the kind of diamonds in the rough that Jim Bowden covets.

    Given the contract estimates, Weaver and Washburn would be my number one targets. If he'll play ball, Loaiza would be welcomed back. Millwood, to me, is a younger Loaiza. He'll be vastly overpaid because of his one-year's gaudy stats. Burnett will be excellent for whoever signs him, but I just don't think the Nats are in a position to commit that kind of money. Morris is probably the least desirable.

    How would you rank them?

    Great Day For Frank

    can you dig it?It wasn't a bad day to be Frank Robinson. I slagged the guy on a near-daily basis, but he deserves some respect today, having received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    Frank even did something he rarely does. Take a look at the picture, and you can almost see the guy smiling!

    On the same day, he finished fourth in the NL Manager of the Year voting. While the best thing I have to say about Frank's managing style is that he's a Hall of Fame player, he does deserve recognition for his career accomplishments.

    If you went back to Cincinnati in 1956, you would've found a hot-headed, fire-breathing, no-nonesense-taking guy with a big stick. I haven't seen him swing lately, but that description still probably applies fifty years later.

    My favorite Frank Robinson anecdote is about the interviewer who asked Frank who the best player he managed was. He's had some good ones: Vlad Guerrero, Cal Ripken, Joe Morgan, Eddie Murray, Peter Begeron. Who did he say? Himself.

    And you know what? He's probably right.

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Liars, Writers, and Bud, Oh My! Edition

    The Commisar has spoken: the Nationals will not have a new owner in time for the owner's meetings next week. Why? Apparently Czar Selig hasn't had time to meet with all the groups. He's been too busy munching down hotdogs apparently.

    So no owner; no new GM; no nuttin. And you'll like it.

    Chris Atonetti, who was the great stat hope of the prospectus crowd, has pulled out of the running for BoSox GM. That's one less competitor for Bowden.

    And Theo Epstein's name is continued to be rumored associated with the Nats. You can read that sort of rumor in many different places. Is that a case of people just running with speculation? Or have they talked to some of the groups? I hope it's the latter.

    I'm not convinced that Theo was THE reason the Red Sox won, but his short-term track record demonstrated that he had a consistent plan. I'm agnostic as to whether he'll be the savior, but am willing to accept the ol' holy spirit if need be!