Sunday, December 10, 2006

This I Believe

  • I believe in "The Plan."
    The key to any long-term success is to have a farm system churning out major league quality prospects. You need guys who can come in for a few years and give you league-average performances for $350K a year so that you can afford to give Carlos Beltran his $17MM a year when he's a free agent.

  • I believe that Stan Kasten will turn DC into a revenue-generating machine.
    Much is made of his on-field success in Atlanta, but where he really excelled was getting fannies into seats, getting a stadium built, and ensuring that the Braves could maintain a payroll high enough to keep their young superstars and to acquire missing pieces to push them over the top.

  • I believe that, for the short term, Jim Bowden is the right man for the job.
    Crazy, huh? Bowden's strength really is "catching lightning in a bottle." We may focus on all he does wrong, but he has a pretty good eye for hitting talent, and he typically puts together a passable scrapheap bullpen, giving his pitching coaches a lot of leeway to work miracles. If, as it seems they've done, they constrain him -- the things he says, and the kinds of creative but over-reaching moves that have dominated his career -- he could be very useful while the team makes its transition. Of course, when the time comes, we'll have to bury him 15 feet off the teeming shores of the Anacostia.

  • I believe there are lots of misperceptions, on both pro and con sides, about what the plan actually entails, and that it's not really in Kasten's interest to correct most of them.

  • I do not believe that every dollar saved on major league payroll is going towards the minor league payroll, nor do I believe that a buck saved this year is a buck that's going to be invested in future years.
    This is a perception that, although Kasten hasn't stated it, he's allowed to linger, in part, perhaps, because it wouldn't serve him to refute it. I'll admit that I don't have every specific, but there are some interesting patterns.

    This post (which is attributing an argument to me that I never made) on BPG is highly illuminating. Under MLB control, the Expos averaged about $3.5 million on draft signing bonuses. Under the first year of Lerner control, the team spent $5 million, just a $1.5 million increase over what Selig had signed off on. While that's a damn good thing, that's not nearly as impressive as you would've thought for all the talk, right?

    They do deserve lots of credit for expanding international scouting, which was non-existent before. Although (cheap shot warning) if it's going to produce 34-year old hack middle infielders, we can probably save a few bucks by axing the whole shop!

    The point isn't to denigrate the good things they're doing, but to point out that the $20 million difference between what they spent last year and what they're likely to spend this year on MLB payroll isn't ALL going to the minors.

  • I believe that RFK can support a greater than $45 million payroll.
    Since their books are closed, we can't really figure everything out, but in 2005, they were projected to generate $129 million in revenue. That article, which was written at about the halfway point of the '05 season, also notes that they were on pace for about a $20 million profit.

    I'll acknowledge that a lot of that was the honeymoon effect, and lots of winning at the right time. The profit would also be less today because, as the article notes, their non-payroll expenses (scouting, minors, etc) were below league average.

    Most recently, Forbes Magazine's annual franchise valuation, which every team executive hates and distrusts, pegged the Nats as the 6th most valuable franchise. The article claims that their estimated $145 million in revenue is roughly 20th in the league, but that they were the fourth most profitable team in baseball, making nearly $28 million in '05.

    I don't know where the truth is, but even if both the Post (who got their numbers right from MLB at the time) and Forbes are conservative, there's a little bit of money, even at RFK to play with.

    Yes, I'll acknowledge that these revenue figures were likely down quite a bit last year, which, based on an average ticket price of $22 -- the figure from the Post piece -- accounts for about $14 million (my math was bad earlier) less in revenue. But league revenues are up thanks to the success of mlb.com and the renewal of the Fox contract, and the creation of the new TBS package. I'll be interested to see the new Forbes valuations.

  • I believe that the Nats would be well-served to sign two veteran free agent starters.
    I think they need veteran inning-eating starters to protect the kinds from overuse, especially those in the bullpen, but also for those who'd be staring down 150 innings of a 6.50 ERA. I think it's also important for the fans this season, to know that the team hasn't given up on putting a passable team on the field this year. And it's important because, while the prices might seem high this year, they'll seem even higher next year. Gil Meche was a bad deal; Vicente Padilla was not. Jason Marquis was a bad deal; Schmidt wasn't. But that's for another post.

  • I don't think the team completely writing off the 2007 season will have any meaningful long-term consequences so long as the team looks like they're making an effort next year, when the revenues start rolling in.

  • I believe I've written too many words.
    What do you believe?
  • 19 Comments:

    • I believe one of Tim Redding, Colby Lewis, or Joel Hanrahan will be a surprisingly competent #3/4 in 2007.

      By Blogger Brian, at 12/11/2006 7:48 AM  

    • I believe that you're right, but that it will take until mid-August 'til we have a clue which one it is.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 12/11/2006 8:42 AM  

    • I believe that the sun will eventually explode and our descendants will be vaporized, that there is nothing we can do to prevent this, and that as a result our lives are meaningless and empty.

      By Anonymous ntr Phil Dunn, at 12/11/2006 9:21 AM  

    • I saw that attribution to you on BPG, and it didn't sound like anything you've espoused.

      I am surprised how often someone takes what I've written and rearranges the intent of my meaning. Suddenly, I'm advocating the signing of Barry Bonds.

      But hey, that's the chance we take for throwing our words out into the blog-o-sphere.

      An exceptionally good post, Chris.

      By Anonymous Farid @ Beltway Boys, at 12/11/2006 10:11 AM  

    • Your beliefs are proof that you have faith in the process and the team. Faith = belief without evidence.

      And I'll agree with most of them. I'll disagree about the pitchers - because I'm ok with chewing up the pitchers in the system to see if they can make it at the major league level - at least all the guys at AA and above. In a year with such low expectations, the only downside to pushing/rushing folks up to pitch is one year on the arbitration calendar. It wouldn't be a bad thing to leave a couple of promising guys out there to get a lot of experience. Even though I'm sick of Tigers comparisons, a Maroth-style year isn't a bad thing. As long as the pitchers are learning, leave 'em out there.

      By Anonymous A wary fan, at 12/11/2006 10:58 AM  

    • Agreed on all counts. Excellent post.

      Perhaps we should call it the Kasten Creed?

      We believe in One Stan,
      the President, the Almighty,
      maker of The Plan and The Customer Experience,
      of all that is said and unsaid

      We believe in one Lord, Jim Bowden,
      the only son of Stan...

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/11/2006 12:04 PM  

    • Nice article. I agree with pretty much everything except the veteran SP thing - while it'd be nice to have a veteran inning eater, it's not really necessary (and the guys the Nats are looking at don't really qualify as "quality" or "inning eater" in any case).

      Scot.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/11/2006 1:01 PM  

    • I totally agree. This is a nice summation of all the things that have been swirling for the past few weeks.

      And I agree with you about the starting pitching. If we could just get 2-3 more warm bodies there, the team actually wouldn't be too bad.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/11/2006 1:10 PM  

    • It's too bad that that's not in "The PLAN!" ;)

      The key is that they COULD do it without crippling the plan, but they're making a choice not to. That's where the debate has been for the last week, and I'm sick of thinking about it. ;)

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 12/11/2006 1:12 PM  

    • Sounds about right all around. I'm inclined to agree, although I could live with just one free-agent pitcher.

      That said, I can tolerate non-tender types in that role, too.

      By Blogger Yuda, at 12/11/2006 1:43 PM  

    • I believe you plucked this column from my head. I like how you didn't include a belief that the team will spend the money when the time comes. That's something they have to show.

      By Blogger El Gran Color Naranja, at 12/11/2006 1:59 PM  

    • Re free-agent pitchers:

      Important to keep in mind Brian's point that signing these types of guys actually benefits "The Plan".

      By Anonymous Will, at 12/11/2006 2:00 PM  

    • I was going to write something about how I am wary about their commitment to supporting a payroll commensurate with their revenue-generating abilities, but that'd just get corrupted back into the "LERNER'S ARE CHEAP" boilerplate. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      I still think that Philadelphia's revenue is probably going to be the best comp for the Nats. Whether they'll (literally!) double the payroll to that in 2-3 years, when the first fruits of the farm are ripening, we'll see.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 12/11/2006 2:02 PM  

    • Will -- offering arbitration to Ramon Ortiz would have benefited the plan, too. ;)

      I have this nagging voice in the back of my mind that reminds me of Jim Bowden's quite (in fairness, pre-Lerner) about how he was glad that the Angels signed Hector Carrasco because the team wouldn't be able to afford so many #1 draft picks.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 12/11/2006 2:03 PM  

    • I believe that it is politically stupid to refer to their strategy as "The Plan". I suppose I wouldn't expect Kasten to be familiar with the provenance of that term in DC's race relations, but the owners should be well aware.

      Especially when the plan seems to involve transferring hundreds of millions of dollars from DC taxpayers to the ownership group, prohibiting those same taxpayers from benefiting from the naming rights on the stadium they are paying for, and then declining to make the investment to put a decent team on the field.

      By Blogger Gadi, at 12/11/2006 5:27 PM  

    • I believe that children are our future

      Teach them well and let them lead the way

      Show them all the beauty they possess inside

      Who's thinking of the children?

      Will someone please think of the children?

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/11/2006 6:45 PM  

    • SEXUAL CHOCOLATE!!!

      By Anonymous BristowNats, at 12/12/2006 11:01 PM  

    • I agree with most of your points but all I hear from the club PR wise is about 08. I feel frustrated as a fan that Nats have given up on 07 already. Give me and show me examples that they havent, Keep it up.

      By Blogger Mac G, at 12/15/2006 9:45 AM  

    • By Blogger Sneakers hobbies, at 10/28/2009 8:23 AM  

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