Friday, December 21, 2007

All They Want For Christmas

Thanks to a mistaken BCC on an email from Mr. Kasten, I received a copy of the Nats' Secret Santa list, what our favorite Nats were asking for. Rather than hoard the info for my own devious purposes, I figured I'd share with you, my dear reader. If you're feeling charitable, I'm sure that any of these millionaires would appreciate you chipping in to brighten up their holiday.

Ryan Zimmerman: A first baseman who can field and Tiger Woods Golf for his Wii since his wrist won't let him play.

Austin Kearns: An HD Radio to listen to more Bluegrass Music and a Skyline Chili gift card.

Elijah Dukes: A new sidekick with an unlimited text and photo plan.

Lastings Milledge: A nifty new sweater vest

Ray King: A 72-ounce steak.

Paul Lo Duca: A gift subscription to the Racing Form, some Nationals Park stationary, and a new cellphone since his old one is TOAST.

Chad Cordero: A new baseball cap, and a trade for Khalil Greene.

Nook Logan: A shiny new bus for whichever minor league team he lands on.

Robert Fick: A shiny new bus for whichever minor league team he lands on, and a punching bag for his frustrations.

Ryan Church: Earplugs for the inevitable booing he's sure to receive for not being Lastings Milledge.

Matt Chico: Really high walls at Nationals Park.

Wily Mo Pena: Really short walls at Nationals Park.

Mike Bacsik: No walls at Nationals Park.

Joel Hanrahan: A copy of his favorite book.

Justin Maxwell: A new metering machine.

Tim Redding: A new trimmer.

John Patterson: A Jack LaLanne Power Juicer to help make healthier beverage alternatives in the clubhouse.

Dmitri Young: John Patterson's head on a stick.

Manny Acta: A new elbow for Shawn Hill.

Stan Kasten: Brisket that's reasonably priced.

Jim Bowden: A microphone and a mirror so he can practice at home since Stan won't let him do it in public.

Ted Lerner: Nothing listed. "Exchanging presents is a waste of money"

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Glorious Day!

Enjoy Portland, Bobby!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Mentor For Dukes

Uncle Teddy's Home For Wayward Youth is not just a DC phenomenon.

NFA has been running down the coaches for next season, and a name on the GCL team caught my eye, Cesar Cedeno.

Cedeno was a terrific ballplayer. He played for 17 seasons, mostly with the Astros. He had pretty good power, when you consider that the ballpark he was playing would make RFK look like a bandbox. He hit for average, had great speed, knocked in runs and scored 'em. All the talent in the world.

But he had his issues off the field.

In December 1973 while near his home in the Dominican Republic, he was showing off his gun to his mistress. Like our friend Dukes, Cedeno apparently loved the ladies. As he tried to get the gun away from her, they wrestled a bit, and the gun went off, killing his mistress. Cedeno eventually was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and ordered to pay 100 pesos as "punishment".

But that wasn't his only incident either. As a commenter at Primer said, "Later, in 1988 he was arrested again for allegedly assaulting the mother of his child. That article recounts his other antics . . . in 1978 he injured his hand in an outburst after making an out in a close game (fined $5K by the team). In 1981 he went into the stands to confront a heckler in Atlanta, this time the league hit him up for the $5K. In 1985 he picked up a DWI as his car ended up stuck in a tree, that cost him $400 fine and $7K in property damage restitution. At the time of the 1988 arrest he was awaiting trial after being charged with smashing a glass into a man's face at a nightclub."

Despite those off-field incidents, Cedeno was still able to play 2006 games in the majors at a very high level. Hopefully Dukes is able to turn his life around and avoid all further off-field crap. And hopefully he'll be able to do what Cedeno did on the field.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Degeneracy In Chart Form

The NY Times helpfully provides a chart of the two central figures of the Mitchell Report, David Segui and Paul Lo Duca.

When you're done studying the report, take a look at the Sports Bog, who transcribed an interview that the Cap'n gave to WFAN in NY right before the Mitchell Report came out -- a report he likely knew he was mentioned in because of his coughALLEGEDcough wide involvement in the issue and Mitchell's request to speak with him.

When asked whether we'd be surprised by any of the names in the report: "No, I'm not going to be, I don't think you're gonna be really surprised about who's on the list. So I think it's the kind of thing where a lot of the stuff was five, six, seven years ago and you know something? It's over with. Get over with it, you know? You know what I mean?"

Now THAT'S leadership.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Heck Of A Job There, Stanny

Which troubled Nationals outfielder (no, not that one, the other one) has yet another restraining order against him, this one for threatening yet another one of his girlfriends (though perhaps not one of his baby's mommas -- at least for a few more months)?

If you guessed Elijah Dukes, congrats! Now make sure your deadbolt is locked.

This one stems from a relationship in the fall. After breaking up in October, he sent her some threatening messages. He followed that up with random phone calls, then a threatening visit on November 24. That's right around the time he jumped the Dominican team he was playing for. (You'll also recall that Tim Tolman spoke highly of Dukes right before this event, which tells you all you need to know about the credibility of Mr. Tolman on these issues.)

This comes in a week where the Nationals newly signed catcher was implicated in 1) illegal HGH use; 2) illegal steroid use -- namely Winstrol; 3) Pushing HGH and steroids on his fellow teammates; 4) placing orders for illegal steroids and HGH for teammates; 5) purchasing illegal steroids and HGH for his teammates.... basically he was a drug trafficker.

Heck of a week this team's having, eh?

Kasten finally did say something about the report. But as Stan Kasten is wont to do, he used a lot of words to say jack shit.

  • UPDATE: Charges against Dukes were dropped when the woman didn't show up at court today. False alarm, perhaps.

    It's a shame that bad things like this keep happening to good people.

  • Boz on Boz

    Sports Media Guide ran an interview with Tom Boswell the other day, focusing on his career and how he got to where he is. It's a pretty interesting read as the local boy makes good, and you can definitely see the passion seeping from his words, the same sort of fanboy passion which makes the best of his columns terrific. (but also lead him down the primrose path)

    He focuses on how he selects what he selects, what he thinks makes a good column, and what leads him to success. Interesting stuff.

    If you're ever at a used bookstore, and you see one of his old books, don't hesitate to pick it up. Even if it's about old subjects, the quality of the writing and the level of insight (back in the day!) is extraordinary. He really was the best baseball writer in the 1980s, even if he didn't have a local team.

    Dream A Little Dream

    It's almost Christmas time. We can dream a little bit. Let's, for the sake of argument, play with some numbers, and my favorite little toy, the quick-and-dirty Runs Created estimate... (AB * OBP * SLG)

    Last year's Nats C had 560 ABs.
    Let's give Lo Duca the bulk of the playing time, .310/ .380 (OBP/SLG), and Flores backs up (.300/ .380). That's about 65 runs.

    Last year's 1B had 627 ABs.
    Dmitri plays most of the year, .350/ .480. NJ comes back for a chunk, .370/ .450. Boone spots some starts, .300/ .350. That's about 100 runs.

    Last year's 2B had 663 ABs.
    Belliard (.330/ .425) and Lopez (.330/ .380) split the time. That's about 88 runs.

    Last year's 3B had 655 ABs.
    Zimmerman (.350/ .510) loves the new park and plays almost every day, with Boone or Mackowiak getting the occasional start. That's about 110 runs.

    Last year's SS had 654 ABs.
    Guzman plays a good chunk, hitting .300/ .350. Lopez fills out the rest. That's about 70 runs.

    Last year's LFers had 613 ABs.
    Pena (.330/ .510), Dukes (.360/ .480), Milledge (.350/ .475) and Mackowiak (.300/ .350) find some way to split the ABs. That's about 95 runs.

    Last year's CFers had 597 ABs.
    Dukes plays the majority of the time. Milledge gets his share of starts. That's about 100 runs.

    Last year's RFers had 604 ABs.
    It's still Kearns' job (.360/ .480) (I'm a fanboy, and I think he's going to love the new park!) though Milledge and Pena see quite a bit of time. That's about 100 runs.

    Let's see... 65 + 100 + 88 ummm... That's about 730 runs. Throw in a handful for other players/pitchers, etc... and we can make a decent argument for 740-750 runs next year, up from the 673 they scored last year. That would put them right about middle of the pack in runs scored, way up from their worst-in-the-league showing last season.

    Just for sake of argument, let's say that the pitching holds steady -- More innings from Shawn Hill and a breakout from someone injury-prone like Patterson or, say, Mark Prior, offsets any increase in runs allowed from moving out of RFK (Just go with me, dammit!)

    740 runs scored with 783 runs allowed gives us... about 77 wins. With a little bit of luck, they're .500. And if one of those bats breaks out, they could do even better. We'll see what happens. At least we won't have to deal with that 'historically bad' crap again next season.

    Saturday, December 15, 2007

    Not-So-Blind Item

    From Boz today, on the taint of steroids.
    Three years ago, every baseball player was a suspected cheat. In '05, new Nats GM Jim Bowden stared at a player who'd been an Expos standout. "He looks smaller this year," Bowden said. By the next year the player had been traded.

    Hmmm... WHOEVER could that be?

    Might as well have said "left-handed, sometimes first baseman who strikes out too much."

    A Prior Commitment

    Ladson sez that the Nats are interested in signing always-injured Mark Prior. (From afar, I thought he was injured more than he was -- save for last year, he's started 20 or more games a season all but his rookie year)

    Prior's a mess (and probably not ready at the start of the season), but he's exactly the type of player that the Nats should take a chance on. There's still a world of potential in that arm, and if he ever were able to stay healthy, you'd have a great starter come relatively cheaply. It's a no-risk move in that it wouldn't cost the Nats a thing, other than cash. And with the new revenues from the stadium and the mid-$50s payroll, that's something they're swimming in. Worst case, he breaks down, and Uncle Teddy's out a few million bucks -- bucks that wouldn't be aimed at player development or 'The PLAN!' anyway.

    Same articles says they're also interested in Jason Jennings, which we've known for some time. He's in the same boat, even if his upside is that of a #2/3 starter. Still, a #2/3 starter would be our ace! If the Nats got both of them, they'd be better off and even if they got injured, the Nats have a decent depth chart of interchangeable 4th and 5th starters to fill in. This isn't going to be like 2005 where injuries left the Nats with a three-man rotation and some duct tape.

    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    Sunday Night Baseball

    The Sunday Night Home Opener appears to be official. Look for John Smoltz to take the mound against Tony Armas (making his triumphant re-debut with the Nats -- the first outing of what is sure to be the most breath-taking and improbable Cy Young campaigns in recent memory).

    The article says that the Players Ass. signed off on it today (apparently in lieu of reading the Mitchell report) and that this game replaces the regularly scheduled 4/28 game on the schedule.

    My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

    Noted PLoD puffer Bill Plaschke, in light of today's report, backtracks a bit from his prior deification of Paul Lo Duca: "The renowned leadership of catcher Paul Lo Duca?

    A sham."

    Heady stuff from the guy who's love for Lo Duca led him to repeatedly bash LA's then-GM day after day after day after day for loving spreadsheets and not manly virtuous men who will their teams to victory with the sheer volume of their charisma like Paul Lo Duca.


    Nevermind! /Litella

    Are we going to see the same from Tom Boswell? Is he going to take a step back, look at his godawful lionizing column that painted Lo Duca as some trash-humping bastard child of Gen. Geo. Washington and George Patton? Will he, like Plaschke, admit he's wrong?

    I doubt it.

    Oh, I'm sure there'll be a throw-away line, lumping Lo Duca in with Logan and the other Nats who were accused. But he'll focus instead on Clemens, Pettite, maybe Tejada (gotta hit those O's!). Eh. Whatever. (Hopefully he'll prove me wrong!)

    UPDATE: He proved me wrong!

    He didn't even mention Lo Duca in passing! It's an excellent column, though. Boz is, at his heart, a fanboy. And when someone crosses that fanboy, look out. For whatever his faults, Boz really was the first major sportswriter to bring up the steroids topic, years ago when he fingered Jose Canseco. (sorry for the disturbing image)

    Two More Players

    The Nationals signed two more players for the bench today, one good, one bad.

    Rob Mackowiak, a player the Nats could've killed for in 2005, gives the Nats plenty of versatility while being a solid bat off the bench in a Marlon Anderson vein. Mackowiak has experience on the infield, mostly at third and played 20 games at second as recently as 2005. He's mostly been an outfielder the last few seasons, spotting for duty in all three spots. He's a career .262/ .334/ .409 hitter which ain't great, but ain't gonna kill you either. OK eye, so-so contact, gap power, memories of speed... could do worse.

    The other signing, I don't quite get, Willie Harris. Harris had a career year with the Braves, following two terrible (terrible doesn't even begin to describe it) seasons. He's a career .247/ .318/ .321 hitter who doesn't get on base or have any power at all -- picture Jamey Carroll swinging with one hand. The Braves rode his hot streak early in the season (.391 BA in May, .355 in June) before Willie Harris realized that he was supposed to hit like Willie Harris, finishing about where you'd expect him to in the second half: .214/ .294/ .354. He can play a bit of second. He can field pretty well in the outfield. But he's less-than-zero with the bat, and the Nats seemingly got snowed by an aberrant hot streak from early in the season. I just don't quite understand this one, especially after all those Rule 5 selections. Unless he's providing depth at Columbus, he's not going to help the bench as the press release proclaims.

    Nook Logan, HGH Cheat!

    Nook Logan (along with Paul Lo Duca -- who wrote the HGH dealer on Dodger's stationary!) is named in the Mitchell Report.

    If that doesn't convince you that HGH doesn't work, nothing will!

  • Other Nats...

    Mike Stanton, Jose Guillen and Gary Bennett (another data point in the efficacy death rattle!),

  • The Lo Duca section is interesting.
    Radomski estimated that he engaged in six or more transactions with Lo Duca. Insome transactions, Radomski sent the performance enhancing substances by overnight mail to Lo Duca’s home or to the Dodgers clubhouse and Lo Duca sent Radomski a check a week or so later.

    Radomski produced copies of three checks from Lo Duca, each in the amount of
    $3,200. All are included in the Appendix. Radomski said that each check was in payment for two kits of human growth hormone.

    According to the notes of an internal discussion among Los Angeles Dodgers
    officials in October 2003 that were referred to above, it was reportedly said of Lo Duca during the meetings:
    Steroids aren’t being used anymore on him. Big part of this. Might have some value to trade . . . Florida might have interest. . . . Got off the steroids . . . Took away a lot of hard line drives. . . . Can get comparable value back would consider trading. . . . If you do trade him, will get back on the stuff and try to show you he can have a good year. That’s his makeup. Comes to play. Last year of contract, playing for 05.

  • By request:

  • No Christmas Card For The Rocket

    Nats 320 interviews Brian Schneider, getting some trade reactions from him. SBF also asks Schneider about Bill Ladson's comments from his last mailbag, where Ladson ripped Schneider for not being a leader and for always hiding from the press. Schneider's response:
    Its funny, how I have just been traded. I am gone now. I don’t know why he continues to personally feel he has to say negative things about me and bash me—knowing there is no way I can fend for myself. Yet, he continues to do it. When I hear him talk about leadership in the clubhouse--he doesn’t know what is going on in the clubhouse. We have our own clubhouse and things that go on there. He has no idea. But, he feels he needs to continue to write about it. He really has no idea. More than half the time—it’s not correct at all. I chuckle and I laugh because it’s not even close to the truth.

    There's one fewer Christmas Card that Schneider has to send!

    I was reminded of a story from early in the 2006 season when aired a comment about Schneider from an anonymous source, saying that Schneider was 'complacent'. That comment was later pulled from the story with no explanation given.

  • Schneider, to me, seems like the quiet leader type, not the kind of guy like Dmitri that's going to stand up in the middle of the clubhouse and move guys with his larger-than-life personality. He's the kind of guy, it seems, whose actions speak loudly. For whatever his faults as a player, he really did appear to command the team and the game from the catcher's box, even if the ultimate results were mixed.

    As far as the claim that he didn't make himself available enough, I wasn't in the clubhouse so I can't speak to that, but it always seemed like stories had a quote or two from him, and the few times you caught a Nats interview on TV, it seemed to be with Schneider. Maybe he wasn't always available or give interesting stuff, but he hardly seems to have been the worst (from the outside, of course).

  • Mo' Money

    Just updating the payroll numbers from this post with the recent changes. Just the changes...

    Starting 9:
    Pena, $2 million
    Lo Duca, $5 million
    Total: $27.1 million

    Langerhans, $500K
    Boone, $1 million
    Total: $9.4 million

    Starting Pitching:
    Patterson: $850K
    Total: $3.45 million

    Ayala: $1.7 million
    Wagner: $450K
    Colome: $1.25 million
    Total: $12.25 million

    Grand total: ~$52.2 million.

    Seems like there's enough room for a pitcher (Colon, Lieber, Jennings) and a glove-first shortstop (John McDonald, Adam Everett, etc). Get those two, and there's enough upside that if all cylinders are banging to be next year's surprise team.

    (The delusions of winter are wonderful!)

    UPDATE: Nats re-sign Jesus Colome for $1.25 million.

    Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    Bye, Bye, Nook

    Hope you're sitting down. The Nats have non-tendered Nook Logan. Now, I'm not quite sure what that means in the context of someone who's not yet arbitration-eligible, but I'm working under the assumption that it's basically a pink slip. Don't call us. We'll call you.

    They did the same with Irish Mike O'Connor, whose starts you've probably just finally flushed down the ol' memory hole.

    But the more important news is that they've agreed to contracts with Luis Ayala, John Patterson and Ryan Wagner (remember him?), avoiding arbitration with all. No terms yet. I wonder if Wagner's is a minor league deal? Could they have worked out something with him on that level, circumventing the need for waivers to option him down. (Yes, I'm talking out my ass now)

    That leaves Jesus Colome, Tim Redding, Felipe Lopez and Jon Rauch as the remaining arbitration candidates. I'd imagine that all would be tendered at this point.

  • UPDATE: Zuckerman (via NTP) says that all WILL be offered a contract. Welcome back, FLop. (I'm really pulling for the guy... he's a hard worker, and I'm sort of tired of the Couch Commandos trying to divine attitude through the 2 shots of his face you get a game. Meanwhile, Kudos to the Times for finally getting an RSS Feed! I was starting to miss a fundamentalist slant to my news coverage!

  • The Astros are exepected to non-tender shorstop Adam Everett, a player who I mentioned as someone the Nats should be interested in investigating when I bleated for a glove-first shortstop last week.

    Everett broke his leg in an on-field collision last year, missing most of the middle of the season. He was able to play a few games at the very tail end of September, but I imagine that (along with prior concerns about his back) helped scare the Astros off. With that in mind, the Nats probably still should kick the tires.

  • More on Everett... the algebraic argument for him!

  • I Don't Think He Liked It

    Harper from OMG took on yesterday's Tom Boswell magnum opus, dissecting a few of the more ridiculous lines. Check it out.

    Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    Tick Tock Tick Tock

    Hey, Felipe, it's almost midnight! Do you have a contract? The non-tender deadline is at midnight. If they offer him a contract, an arbiter (assuming no prior settlement) will decide his salary, somewhere in the $4-5 million range. If they don't tender him an offer, he becomes a free agent.

    Here's a list of other non-tender candidates. Johnny Estrada, the switch-hitting catcher, jumps out, but with all the talk of PLo getting the full-time starters job, that might not happen.

    Speaking of which... the PLo press conference was today, and Dan Steinberg has the goods. I love the quote from Bowden about how PLo is a winner, baby! All he does is win! Don't you want to be a winner? "He's a winner. He's always won."

    (Except for last year when the Mets had a historic collapse, or when they folded in the NLCS the year before... or all those long years with the Dodgers when his innate ability to win couldn't end that decades-long streak where the once-proud franchise couldn't win a solitary game... but other than that, yeah, baby, he's a winner!)

    More Me. God Help Us All

    Harper from OMG has gotten around to doing something that's crossed my mind a few times: setting up a round-table of other like-minded self-important bloggers!

    He invited me along for the first installment, talking about the busy week or so that the Nats have had. And along with ol' pal and former blogger Basil, we kibitzed a bit.

    If you're interested to see what the three of us had to say, check it out.

    Pick Those Nits

    Boswell writes (!!!) about the Nats today, using the signing of Paul Lo Duca to produce his latest hagiography. It's fine, and at least has an interesting perspective from Tom Glavine. (But as many in town can tell you, anecdote does not make good public policy.)

    This is going to sound like just a nitpick, but it's something that stuck out of me, more in a huh? kinda way, so I wanted to check it out a bit. When discussing what he claims are overblown defensive differences between Schneider and Lo Duca he brings up this stat:
    In the last two seasons, both men threw out 49 runners, but opponents had 156 steals against Lo Duca to 111 against Schneider. So the Nats will probably allow about 22 more steals this year.

    That's easy to check.

    Schneider 07, 53-24 SB-CS
    Schneider 06, 58-25 SB-CS
    Total: 111-49

    Lo Duca 07, 72-22
    Lo Duca 06, 84-27
    Total: 156-49

    So he's right. It's just an average of 20 more steals a year... 20 extra bases, perhaps (at the very most, likely much less) another 10 runs over the course of a season... in other words, not a ton.

    But I got thinking about it a little more. The catcher isn't the only deterrent to the running game. The pitcher plays a significant role, too. (Remember how runners used to run at will on John Patterson?) How are the Mets pitchers? Do they give more or less opportunity than the Nats' pitchers?

    Well, I can't really answer that one. I ain't smart enough or facile enough with the ol' computers. (Frank Robinson taught me everything I know). But I do see Tom Glavine at the front of the Nats' list, and my impression is that he's been very tough to run on in his career. So a quick look at the numbers...

    Glavine, 06: 6-9 SB/CS
    Glavine, 07: 5-8 SB/CS

    So Glavine completely shut down the running game, even with Lo Duca behind the plate. Does Lo Duca deserve credit for that? Perhaps. Likely not, though. If you replace the 400 IP he had over those two years with someone who didn't hold runners as well, how many more SB would Lo Duca have allowed? Another 10? 20?

    Here's a list of all Mets pitchers over the last 2 years with their SB/CS totals. Glavine was excellent and Trachsel was decent at holding runners. Everyone else pretty much stunk. So is it their lack of ability at holding runners or the lack of ability to the catcher? When the team "average" is so terrible, I'd lean towards the latter.

    For comparison's sake, here's the Nats list. You can see it's very top heavy with pitchers who couldn't hold runners -- O'Connor, Patterson, Livan and Rauch. O'Connor never paid attention. Patterson and Rauch have high leg kicks / big motions. And Livan just didn't care. It's safe to say that they're as weak at holding runners as Glavine is strong.

    But if you look at every other pitcher on that list, you notice very few attempts. And you notice lots of eight-for-sixes... numbers along those lines. The "average" Nats pitcher did a lot better than the Mets' "average" pitcher.

    The roundabout point that I'm unskillfully making (and really just throwing out there because I don't know if it's entirely true... just one of those hunches) is that Lo Duca's SB numbers are held down by the skill of one of his key SP getting 400 IP over the last two years and that Brian Schneider's SB numbers look worse than they are because he had over 400 IP from pitchers who don't really care about holding runners.

    In other words, had Lo Duca been on this team, the Nats would've allowed FAR more SB -- beyond the 20 that Boswell is claiming -- and that had Schneider been on the Mets, they would have done significantly better there, too, likely much more than those 20 stolen bases. Lo Duca makes the average Pitcher look worse in that category; Schneider makes them look much better.

    Now that's not to say that they shouldn't have signed him. Given most of the alternatives, he's among the least objectionable (take a look at Estrada's SB numbers some time!), and SB really are overrated. And there's always a chance, especially with a player whose offensive value is completely tied up in batting average, that they'll have a hot streak/month and be truly valuable. Remember, at WORST, he's a few runs better than Schneider with the bat, and with the potential to be much better. The defense takes a slight step back in terms of SB, but if Tom Glavine is to be believed, his ability to work with pitchers isn't going to be much of a dropdown from Schneider.

    Monday, December 10, 2007

    Safe At Second Without A Throw

    Barry says that the Nats have agreed to a one-year contract with noted redass Paul Lo Duca. (Eye-Talian for "The douche")

    For the reasons why I think this is a bad idea, and why Lastings Milledge is probably sighing, check out my post from a few days ago...

    Bright side: Laurel Park has been saved.

  • Given a few minutes to think... it could be worse I suppose. I'm not his biggest fan, but, whatever. He's not a completely terrible idea, though his age and conditioning (HA!) make me think he's more likely to float to the surface than rebound.

    Considering the alternatives, this isn't bad. Estrada's a better hitter, likely, but his defense is probably worse, and he has a bad reputation working with coaching staffs. Damian Miller's the only attractive option, and perhaps he'd be a decent signing as a backup, giving the Nats someone who can throw the ball towards second, if only a little bit faster than I could.

  • Lastings, 'Lijah and Kearns, Oh My!

    Warning: Non-rigorous pseudo-statistics lay (not lie!) ahead.

    So our new outfield... what's it mean? Is it improved, and is it going to lead to more wins? Damned if I know, but let's make some rough estimates.

    Our friends at have shared the Bill James 2008 projections with us for our quartet.

    Milledge: .286/ .350/ .463
    Kearns: .272/ .368/ .457
    Dukes: .253/ .351/ .459
    Pena: .277/ .335/ .495

    You can see that they're all basically the same player. Kearns gets on base a little more, but slugs less. Pena slugs more, but doesn't get on base much. They have slightly different skill sets, but their overall net offense is close enough that they're interchangeable (ignoring defense, of course).

    To measure offense, as you've seen, I like to use runs created. It's great about measuring the net effect of differences in percentage stats above, letting you know their impact on the team's bottom line: runs. Now, there are about 1,001 different ways of calculating RC with various flavors of complication. I'm throwing that all out the window and going with something simple cause I don't care about 3 standard digits of precision. I want to see broad outlines, not the cellular level.

    The easy-ass formula I'm using is AB * OBP * SLG. That's it. Just to show you that it's closer to the complicated formula, let's sample a few players.

    Nook Logan RC, 34. Short formula, 34.1. Brian Schneider RC, 45. Short Formula, 44.6. Austin Kearns RC, 88. Short Formula, 85.6. Close enough!

    So the trick, you see, is figuring out how much playing time the guys get.

    Nationals OFers combined for 1787 ABs last season. We know that a certain percentage of those ABs are going to be taken by 5th outfielders for rust reasons or because of injuries. So let's make an arbitrary decision to assign 87 of those ABs to the pure backups, giving us 1700 to divvy up. And, hey, for the hell of it, let's assume that Dukes doesn't knock up one of the Lerner granddaughters and stays healthy, and the ABs are divided pretty evenly, leaving 425 a piece. (You'll see that it doesn't much matter in that if Dukes does go down, as long as the other big 3 are upright, they'd be able to pick up his level of production without a dropoff)

    Here are the RC projections using the short formula:
    Kearns: 71
    Pena: 70
    Milledge: 69
    Dukes: 68
    TOTAL: 279 RC

    How does that compare?

    As it stands, the top 5 outfielders from last year (Kearns, Church, Logan, Langerhans and Pena) combine for a total of 1677 ABs, again, close enough for this purpose. Using the same short form RC total, that produces a total of 237 runs created. 279-237 gives us an approximate improvement of 42 runs. Every 10 runs or so is a win, so that's a total improvement of about 4 wins on offense. (Now, of course, this isn't factoring in defense, and I've read enough scouting reports on most of these guys to know that nobody has a farkin' clue. They'll either be great or terrible -- how's that for a prediction!)

    Now, of course, this could blow up in the team's face. These are, afterall, only on-paper predictions. But that's where the beauty of this also comes in. Two of the four are truly young. And none of them are really old. Because of that, it's not inconceivable for one of them to have a truly breakout season. And if that does, they'll way overshoot that RC estimate. There are a lot of unknowns, of course, and the randomness of life has a funny way of making fools of us all, but at least for now, on paper, last week's shuffle and re-signings greatly improved the team. (But still, lock up your daughters!)

    Friday, December 07, 2007

    Where's The Blade When You Need Him?

    Now that the team has basically foiled my plans for the offseason. SINE DUN!!!!!! SINE ANDREW!1!1, it's time to round the roster into shape. They're fudging around the margins looking for a veteran starting pitcher to bring in, something that they really should do. Jason Jennings is the name that comes up, and he'd be perfect to add to the list of fat-bottomed players on the roster.

    But I think there's one move they could make that would make a world of difference in the year coming up... a small move they could make that would make almost as large a difference in the team's runs scored / runs allowed total as my initial "Jones or Bust" plan.

    Get a defensive shortstop.

    First, basically ignore the bat. Just punt offense. Anything you get from the guy would be gravy. With Dmitri, Pena/Dukes and Boone on the bench, you've got a ready stable of PHers to come in late in the game should the Nats need a run or three.

    Keep in mind that the Nats haven't really had great production from last year. Oh, they got some decent performance last year, especially with Guzman's hot streak, but I've written before that that was a house of cards built on Guzman's luck with more ground balls finding holes than ever before. It's something you definitely can't bank on next year. Lopez was passable offensively there -- thanks to his one hot streak coming while playing there -- but his overall seasonal performance (.245 .308 .352) made him one of the two or three worst players at that position.

    Because the offense wasn't particularly good, a drop-off with the bat isn't going to completely cripple the team. It's not like you're subtracting Albert Pujols for a glove.

    But what about the defensive improvement?

    First, let's establish that the Nationals shortstop defense is terrible. No, that's not quite a strong enough word. Brutal. Spirit-crush. Soul-sucking. Gouge-my-eyes-out-and-smash-my-head-through-a-plate-glass-window-inducing? Yeah, that's more like it.

    By any defensive metric you want to use, Felipe Lopez is one of the worst in the league. I'm quite partial to zone rating (which measures the rate of plays made on balls hit into that fielder's area), which shows Lopez' 2007 in a group with the three worst in the league. His performance with the Nats in 2006 was worst in the league. And his performance in 2005 was well below average (thought not in the absolute worst tier).

    Guzman's record isn't much better. In '05, he was in that bottom tier. And in limited PT in 2007, he was basically tied with Lopez for ineptitude. When you consider his rustiness, the surgery to his arm/shoulder, and the decline in his foot speed, it makes sense. He ain't what he used to be. (and he never was really much of a gold glover)

    In an attempt to quantify that impact, someone figured out a way to estimate runs from those range numbers, and Nats shortstops were basically about 20 runs below the average fielding NL shortstop. That number is consistent with different defensive methodology for fielders at or near the bottom of the league. It's hard to be much worse than that, because you'll get yanked. (see: Wilson, Josh)

    Conversely, the best shortstops in the league are typically worth 20-30 runs above average, with 15-25 runs above average being a pretty decent target.

    So if the Nats were to find a glove-first shortstop, they could conceivably find a net gain of 35-45 runs just with the glove. That's a HUGE impact, a three to four win improvement.

    When I reviewed the Nats CF situation a month ago, I tinkered around with the numbers and what kind of impact Andruw Jones could have to the team. My conclusion was that if Andruw Jones returned to 2006 form (pre-injury), it would represent about 30-40 more runs over the performance they got from Church and Logan.

    My mind is still spinning around that a bit and what that implies, but it is entirely possible for the Nats to come close to equalizing the signing of a big bat just by improving the shortstop defense! And all for what's likely to be under a million bucks!

    Now, of course, that's certainly easier said than done. The Royals did this a year ago when they traded for SS Tony Pena. The guy doesn't hit, but he gets to everything between New Madrid and Lawrence. Stan Kasten's own Atlanta Braves did the same thing when they signed no-bat Rafael "Don't Call Me Ron" Belliard, another noted defensive whiz.

    The Orioles of the 1970s followed this strategy. Earl Weaver, who never met a big bat that he didn't like, carried Mark Belanger in his lineup solely for his glove. He batted him at the bottom of the order and pinch-hit for him liberally when the game situation required it. Belanger's bat stunk, but his gold glove made up for it, making him a net asset to the team. The Nats really should adopt this strategy.

    I certainly don't have the scouting knowledge of other team's farm systems to know which minor leaguer could be this team's version. But there's gotta be someone out there who can do that at the bottom of the lineup and who wouldn't cost too much in a trade. One target, if they're looking for more of a veteran, is Adam Everett from the Astros. Can't hit, but, man, can that guy field. He's a FA at the end of the year, so he's not a long-term project, and the Astros are probably too much in love with him, but it can't hurt to kick the tires.

    So punt the offense! Rely on improvements by Kearns and whoever ends up catching, as well as the potential of Pena, Dukes and Milledge to carry the offense. And sit back and watch a sweet, sweet glove make beautiful love to those batted balls. The pitchers on the mound will certainly appreciate it, making their jobs -- especially those kids we're trying to develop -- so much easier.

    Thursday, December 06, 2007


    The Nats have signed free agent corner infielder Aaron Boone. No word on dough yet...

    In isolation, I think it's a good move. He's not a great player, but as the utility guy coming off the bench and spotting starts, he's not bad. He's certainly better than Tony Batista -- with the glove AND bat. He's got a little bit of speed, but he's definitely not fast anymore, especially after all the knee injuries he's had.

    He hit an impressive .286/ .388/ .423 as a 34-year old with the Marlins, which is probably on the verrrrry optimistic side of what we could expect. More likely, the Nats will get something in the .260/ .330/ .420 range, which is still better than half the players on this team.

    I wonder, though, how this all fits into the puzzle, especially with the Nats Rule 5 selection, who's also a corner infielder. I assume the Nats might try to work something out with the Indians to send him down to the minors. Or else, they'll let the new kid be Robert Fick to Boone's Tony Batista. That's a bit puzzling, but Bowden always seems to have a bunch of irons in the fire. So no use overreacting to that now.

    Boone doesn't have the legs to play middle infield anymore, but he also has a pretty sizeable reverse platoon split for his career. He's hammered (well, comparatively) righties much more than lefties. (.763 OPS v RHP, .740 OPS v. LHP)

  • The one thing this does do is raise the ol' red flag a bit over Zimmerman. After initially poopooing the thought of his injury affecting him, the more I've read, the more I've seen that it's an injury that often requires a bit of time to adjust to. He should be ready to go, but he might not be himself, at least. Just throwin' crap against a wall tho...

  • Barry Sez that it's 1-year, $1 million, an excellent value. There are $50K bumps in there for certain levels of games played, but it looks like it tops out at $1.5 million, which would still be well worth it.

    Barry also reports that the Nats have agreed on a 2-year deal with Wily Mo Pena, avoiding arbitration with him. He gets $2 million this year, then has a mutual option for $5 million and a $2 million player option if that's declined.

    Interesting move, I suppose in that I don't really see the need to lock him up now, especially since we don't really know what kind of player we've got, a hot month be damned. It's certainly not a BAD deal, and it has the potential to be a VERY GOOD one. Just interesting on the timing, I s'pose, especially with the comments Barry relayed from Bowden about the lack of a need to lock up Zimmerman long-term. (which also sends up some of those injury red flags)

  • Rule 5 Draft

    The Nats take Matt Whitney with their first pick in the Rule 5. I dunno what they've seen, cause all I see is a 24-year old corner infielder who's slugged pretty decently in a fairly decent pitcher's league, but who's also played at Single-A for about 15 straight years.

    Good power. Mediocre eye. Is "Whitney" English for "Tony Blanco?"

    Recall that Rule 5 players must stick on the major league roster. To be sent down, the Nats would have to offer him back to the Indians.

  • With their second pick, they take corner OFer Garrett Guzman. His redeem grace is his left-handed bat, which gives him a decent chance of sticking.

    So-So Power. Meh batting eye. Blah speed. He's about to turn 25, and he played in a fairly tough pitcher's league, too. So maybe there's a bit of hope there.

  • Here's Baseball America's capsule on Guzman.
    Guzman missed the entire 2005 season after breaking his neck in a car accident just days before leaving for spring training that year. Now 25, the undersized lefthanded hitter profiles as arguably the best fourth outfielder candidate on the Rule 5 eligible list, drawing comparisons to Orlando Palmeiro. While Palmeiro was a bit better runner and defender, Guzman offers more power and offensive upside. Guzman, who batted .312/.359/.453 at Double-A New Britain in 2007, has solid gap power and the ability to play anywhere in the outfield, though he profiles best in left. "He probably doesn't run as well (as Palmeiro) but they're very similar players who can do a lot of things for you," said one National League scout.

  • Nationals Farm Authority, as you'd expect given the last word in the blog's name, has a quick rundown. He calls the first pick "curious," which seems about right.

  • Wednesday, December 05, 2007

    Rule 5 Fun

    Brian at Nationals Farm Authority takes a good look at the upcoming Rule 5 draft, throwing out some names and scouting reports of guys whom the Nats might be interested in.

    One name he didn't list is one that's somewhat intriguing to me: Mark Johnson. Johnson was a minor-league free agent, and probably the best catcher available through the process. He signed with the Cardinals, but was left exposed to the draft. I have no idea whether the Nationals were interested in him in the first place, but if they were, his selection of St. Louis wouldn't be surprising, since, at the time of his signing, the Nats had two catchers, and the Cardinals were looking for a backup.

    Now I'm not going to pretend that Johnson is particularly good. But he's left-handed. He's (essentially) freely available. And he had a pretty good year in the minors (Usual PCL warnings notwithstanding).

    I don't know about his defense, but it can't be worse than Lo Duca's. And he would come at a fraction of the cost.

    If there's someone on the board that the Nats like, I'd pass on him, and take my chances that he'd be around the second time through. If they select him, they could still sign a veteran free agent and give Flores more PT in the minors. Or they could live large and carry three catchers. (I hope not!)

    We certainly expect big things from the Rule 5 draft. Flores is going to be a thorn on Mets fans' sides for years. And Luis Ayala was picked up that way. But for every success, there's Levale Speigner and Tony Flores. So every pick is its own little crapshoot.

    So why not take a chance on a semi-disposable backup?


    Svrluga sez that Paul Lo Duca might be moving to the forefront in the Nats' catcher sweepstakes.
    Read the story - which says the first option is to trade for a left-handed hitting long-term project, Arizona's Miguel Montero - and then scroll down. Lo Duca would still be Plan B - a free agent signing that would only help in the short-term - but he would certainly be sexier than Damian Miller, who folks told me yesterday appeared to be the fall-back.

    Let's consider this.

  • Barry Sez:
    "Lo Duca is an accomplished hitter"
    Paul Lo Duca's on-base percentage was .311 last year. Brian Schneider -- the guy whose offense we couldn't stand -- had a .326. His OPS+, which adjusts his on-base and slugging averages for league and park was 80 last year, meaning he was 20% worse than an average hitter. Brian Schneider -- the guy whose offense we couldn't stand -- was 77, a smidge below.

    The average NL catcher created .15 runs for every out they made. Paul Lo Duca created 51 runs while using 355 outs, meaning he was 2 runs below the average NL Catcher. Brian Schneider -- the guy whose offense we couldn't stand -- was 4 runs below average.

    They're the same feckin' batter!

  • Barry Sez:
    "as one official told me last night, [Lo Duca is] 'a gamer.'"

    This is translation to mean: He's a redass. He's a fireplug of a guy who runs around slapping people on the ass going rah rah, let's go get 'em boys. It's important to note that he's one of the players who helped cement Lastings Milledge's reputation, by pseudo anonymously ripping his attitude any chance he got. It's widely suspected that he was one of the driving forces (perhaps with Billy Wanger) of the "Know your place, Rook" note left on his locker one game.

  • Barry Sez:
    "Though his defensive skills have dwindled - or were never that good"

    He's on to something with the latter. Paul Lo Duca caught just 18% of the runners trying to steal against him, which is in the bottom half of the league. He committed 9 throwing errors, which was second most in the league. Base stealers ran early, often, and late against him. He faced an average of .82 attempts against him per game, a number that was higher than all but one other regular NL catcher. So runners ran MORE often on him and with GREATER success than the average catcher. To say his defensive skills have declined is like saying that Pavarotti's singing skills have faded. They're both long gone! (How's that for a hip reference? I'm down with the kids today!)

  • Barry Sez:
    "he would add some punch to the lineup with quality at-bats."

    We've already established that he's Schneider-like with the result of his ABs. I don't know where this perception comes from. Well, I guess I do sorta. Lo Duca -- on top of being that tough and frequent talking man's man that makes sports writers (especially in LA!) go in a tizzy -- is the kind of high average (at least til last year), good contact batter that makes grizzled old baseball men nod approvingly because he knows how to "play the right way." The fact of the matter is that no matter how many times he DOESN'T strike out, he had a terrible offensive season, and he's not likely to improve given his age.

    While his 24/33 BB/K ratio is impressive (although those walk totals would look great in Soriano's batting line), those also compare favorably with Schneider's 56/56 totals. Schneider might strike out a bit more -- just 20 times over a full season -- but he walks 30 more times per year! SCHNEIDER HAS A BETTER APPROACH AT THE PLATE!

  • So if you want Lo Duca, you're getting Brian Schneider's bat, but without any defense. Sign me up.

    At least the dirtbag will give a good quote.

  • Special Uncle Teddy's Home For Wayward Youth Note:
    He likes to sleep with teenagers

    And the guy loooooves to gamble. especially on the ponies.

    So maybe he'd fit in afterall?

  • Academy Update

    One of the conditions of the stadium funding was that the team would have to establish a baseball academy in DC. We haven't heard hide nor hair about it since the proposal was initially released and a friend's inquiry with the team was rebuffed with a standard form letter essentially boiling down to "we'll let you know when we let you know." Well, the Times gets around to letting us know a bit, even if there's not a whole lot of news. On the brighter side, it does mention a few projects that the Nationals Foundation is working on, including the previously known children's diabetes facility.

    Someone on one of the billion or so message boards I skim mentioned the idea of the team contributing to funds for spousal abuse and domestic violence. I kind of laughed at the idea at first, but the more I think about it, the more I think that would be a meaningful direction for them to head, especially with the cast of characters they've had over the last few years (Wil Cordero, Dmitri Young and now Elijah). It doesn't have to be anything other than grant money from their foundation to local community groups, but if they're going to exploit the actions of those players to acquire them at reduced costs, then it would certainly be fitting to pay the community at large back. They accept grant requests, but the ominous-sounding warning at the top of the page makes it look like any group who applies is going to get a standard "We're sorry, but.." letter.

    Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    Payroll Update

    Just updating us on where we stand today with our favorite schmucks... And this (as we've seen!) is subject to change:

    Starting 9:
    2B, Lopez: ~$5 million (3rd time arb eligible)
    CF, Milledge: $400K
    3B, Zimmerman: ~$500K (potential for a long-term deal)
    1B, Young: $5 million
    RF: Kearns: $5 million
    LF: Pena: ~$2.5 million (arb-eligible, was $1.875)
    C: Flores: $400K
    SS: Guzman: $4.2 million
    TOTAL: $23 million

    Johnson: $5.5 million
    Belliard $1.6 million
    Dukes: $400K
    Catcher: $1 million (assuming a veteran backup, for now)
    Langerhans/Logan-type 5th OFer: $500K
    Jimenez-type MI: $500K
    TOTAL: $9.5 million

    Starting Pitchers:
    Hill: $400K
    Bergmann: $400K
    Patterson: ~$1.5 million (2nd time arb, was $.85 million)
    Clippard: $400K
    Chico: $400K
    Redding: ~$1 million (1st time arb)
    TOTAL: $4.1 million

    Cordero: ~6.5 million (2nd time arb, was $4.15)
    Rauch: ~1.5 million (1st time arb)
    Ayala: ~1.5 million (2nd year arb, was $1.1)
    Colome: ~1 million (1st time arb)
    King: $850K
    Rivera: $400K
    TOTAL: $11.75 million

    Total Offense: $32.5 million
    Total Pitching: $15.9 million
    Grand Total: $48.4 million

    Uncle Teddy's accountants are smiling. The team's gotten better AND it's gotten cheaper.

    1) Finding a catcher. Candidates: Damian Miller, Paul Lo Duca, Johnny Estrada (eh, no, meh)

    2) Finding a veteran arm for the starting rotation. Candidates: Livan, Jennings, Clement, Colon, Lieber, Benson, Weaver.

    3) In an ideal world, finding some infield depth. Good luck finding anyone competent, unless you want to vastly overpay David Eckstein. We'll see what happens with the upcoming non-tenders list. (Maybe we'll find Lopez on the list!)

    Monday, December 03, 2007

    Another Deal!

    Svrulga says that the Nats have traded (To Sutton's delight) Johnathon Albaladejo to the Yankees for Tyler Clippard.

    Excellent, excellent move. The Nats' pen is loaded. Here's a quick list:


    We're six deep and not even to Mr. Alba. He's got potential, but Bowden has shown time after time that he can dig up a reliever while blindfolded and with one finger up his nose.

    Clippard turns just 23 and has a pretty solid track record in the minors, including an eye-popping 175 K in 2006 and 181 in 2005! For his career, he has 640 K in 609 minor-league innings, and he instantly becomes one of the Nats' best K pitchers.

    Attention Female Nats fans and non-traditional Male Nats fans: Bonus shirtless pics of our new pitcher can be found here.

    The more I think about it, the more I like it. He's got a live arm and decent control... what's not to like? I'm wondering what NY is thinking here.

  • Brian from NFA raised a good point. One of the things that makes this trade a steal is how they acquired Albaladejo -- he's someone they plucked from the Pirates on a waiver claim (might've been a pure release?). In other words, they got him for nothing, and traded him for something of value. That's how you fill a system with talent.

    Clippard probably immediately becomes the team's best advanced pitching prospect.

  • More Rumors

    I still hate 'em, but Ladson gives us a barrel full.

    -- Kearns is on the block. They're looking for pitching. Laddy mentions Mike Pelfrey of the Mets (not sure they have a need for a RFer now unless they repackage Church) and Kevin Slowey of the Twins. I'm as big a Austin Kearns fanboy as there is, so...

    He also says that Lopez is on the block. That's not surprising, but the fact that the team seems to think he has some sort of value IS. Of Lopez, Ladson says, "The only saving grace was his defense at second base and shortstop," which makes me wonder if he ever watched him in the field this year.

    -- No truth to the Guzman to the Cubs rumor. "A baseball source shot that down immediately, pointing out that the Cubs have too many good infielders on their 40-man roster." But what does that have to do with Guzman?

    -- No Coco Crisp. He costs too much.

    -- They're going after Jason Jennings (good!) They're only offering a one-year deal. (bad! someone'll offer him more)

    -- They're willing to offer Livan Hernandez two years. Good, but he's going to get more on the FA market.

    It's Gibson

    Glenn Gibson is the player headed to Tampa Bay, one of the Vermonsters. In Baseball America's recent Top 10 prospects list, he was ranked 8th. Here's what I wrote about him.
    Gibson has succeded not because of the quality of his stuff, but because of his smarts. He doesn't have an over-powering fastball, but he's got a decent curve, and apparently has decent command, and knowledge of how to attack the strike zone to keep hitters off balance.

    In 58 innings at Vermont, he struck out 58 batters and impressively walked just 15, showing that his command and his plan worked really well. But there's also probably a limit to how far that can get you, and he's going to need to refine those secondary pitches to continue to succeed at higher levels and to keep those K rates up. You don't need a plus fastball to succeed, but you certainly need strong secondary pitches. How well those develop will show how far he'll go. But the mental aspect of pitching can't be knocked -- and he's certainly demonstrated that.

    In a pure talent sense, it's a solid swap. I'm not especially high on Gibson's long-term potential, thinking that he's putting up stats with excellent command of mediocre stuff.

    But the stathead side of my is superseded by the fanboy side. Any player whose Wikipedia profile needs a separate off-field issues section is one you've gotta be careful of. And it's a player I'm going to take no joy in rooting for.

    The next day should be instructive. Anyone comparing the acquisition of Milledge with the trade for Dukes is an idiot. Other than the color of their skin, there's not much linking the two of them. There's a big difference between being an asshole and a sociopath, and its pretty clear which player is in which camp.

    Uncle Teddy's home for wayward youth isn't a bad idea if you're picking up assholes like Milledge or Jose Guillen (or even someone like Milton Bradley) -- players of that ilk. But when you're acquiring players with long arrest records and a player WHO THREATENED TO KILL HIS KIDS, then you've probably gone too far.

    I'll give $100 to any of the beat reporters who get Bowden on the record with the answer to this question: "Jim, when you acquired celebrated asshole Jose Guillen you were so confident in his ability to be a model citizen that you said that you would be happy to leave your children with him. Will you say the same for Dukes?"

  • Alternatively, there's the ubiquitous Jeff Passan's take.
    Bowden fancies himself Father Flanagan, it seems, and the Nationals held a meeting today with Dukes and first baseman Dmitri Young, as Barry Svrluga notes.

    Can't imagine the tenor of that meeting.

    Nats: Elijah, are you done beating women?

    Dukes: Yes, sir.

    Nats: Elijah, you still getting high every day?

    Dukes: No, sir.

    Nats: Elijah, do you promise not to get in the face of umpires like you did in the Dominican Republic earlier this week? You know, the place where you're trying to rehabilitate your reputation and show you're not insane?

    Dukes: Yes, sir.

    Nats: Welcome to Washington!

  • I Hate Rumors

    Especially this rumor.

    Elijah? It is enough! No clue yet... we'll find out soon enough.

    I really hope it's not him. I'll defend Milledge to the end, but not that fecking scumbag.

    If it is Dukes, does this mean that Milledge is gone, part of a trade for pitching, pitching, pitching?

  • Wa Po confirms that Dukes is now a National. Joy. Hide your women (or at least make sure they're on the pill) and lock up your children (or at least make sure they're wearing flak jackets)

  • In retrospect, this seems a tad premature, eh?

  • WaPo has a bit more... key thing is that it's a PTBNL, which doesn't really mean much, other than that Tampa Bay likely wants to ensure that they have a roster slot open for the upcoming Rule 5 draft. If that's the case, then it would indicate that that's someone currently on the Nats' 40-man roster. I'd be stunned if it were anyone of consequence.

  • Sunday, December 02, 2007

    Why Does ESPN Hate The Nats?

    (The cool kids tell me that you need to rip ESPN if you're going to call yourself a blog)

    The Mets released their tentative schedule the other day, and it was notable in that it didn't include a Sunday Night game in DC to start the season. I chalked that up to being tentative, but a throw-away line in the Daily News indicates that that might not be the case: "The Nationals had lobbied MLB for their new stadium to be unveiled with the opening Sunday night game against the Mets, but ESPN balked at that matchup."

    The past tense of that makes it seem like a done deal.

    I'm shocked! Shocked that ESPN wouldn't want to carry a game featuring one of the worst draws in all of sports. Don't they know that the opening of the new park is an event of great historical significance?

    Saturday, December 01, 2007

    The Other Side

    With the trade fresh in our minds, I exchanged questions with DJ Short of the always informative MetsBlog. I was especially curious about these so-called "attitude problems", which from the outside seemed more a function of middle-aged white men being shocked that a black kid would have a rap album with (gasp!) bawdy lyrics. Is he a bad teammate?

    I'm an admitted Milledge apologist, but it doesn't change the fact that these events happened. I mean, the guy barely played here (115 games in parts of two seasons) and I can think of several incidents off the top of my head. Whether it's missing the bus and arriving late for a game in Philadelphia, the infamous 'Know Your Place, Rook' incident with his teammates, the rap song, getting suspended for three games in the final weeks of the 07' season, or, oh yeah, ticking off the Marlins in the final weekend of the 07' season, which may have been the impetus needed for the butt-kicking the Mets took in the final game of the season. I do think the media had it out for him from the get-go, but you can't ignore the decisions he had complete control over. He has all the talent in the world, but as Milledge once said, 'he needs to get his grown man on.'

    It's definitely a bit more than I had thought. Many of these, though, seem to fall more in the youthful exuberance category. And besides, if Billy Wagner and Paul LoDuca hate you, you're probably a pretty good person. (That's also known as the Kent Corollary)

    I asked about his defense. He played center in the minors, but was blocked in the majors by Carlos Beltran.
    He rarely played center in his time with the Mets -- only 14 games -- because of Beltran, so it's hard to gauge him fairly. I remember him making a few highlight reel-type catches in center this past season, but under further examination, it was due to poor jumps on balls. He has a good arm, but he often forgets and/or ignores the cut-off man, or he misses his target entirely. The tools are certainly there, but he is still pretty raw.

    Milledge claims that he had a hard time in learning the corners in the majors because of the different angles to the ball. We'll find out. The new park has a much smaller CF to cover, so that should help.

    What about his focus? Does he have the drive to maximize those tools?
    Without question, I think he does. He just needs a fair shake. Given an everyday job, I'm sure he could flourish. Washington is an ideal situation for a player like him, as much as I hate to say it. He has one of the quickest bats I have seen in a while. The ball just jumps off his bat.

    What about the reaction in NY? It seems universally loathed. Is this going to change the perception of Omar Minaya?
    Time will tell. Today, he is not very popular. If he gets Bedard or Haren next week, things will change.

    Milledge probably had greater value in the heads of Mets fans than he did on the trade market for a pitcher, but there is good reason for that. After the Kazmir trade, we did not want to be burned again. And we waited a long time for Milledge to get a shot. I mean, we heard rumors about Milledge for just about everyone under the sun including Manny Ramirez and we were still hesitant to see the kid go.

    He endeared himself to many Mets fans by hitting his first major league home run in the bottom of the ninth off the hated Armando Benitez. Moments later, when he returned to the outfield for extra-innings, he high-fived the fans down the right-field line. The fans -- mostly young ones-- loved it, while by-and-large the media, talk show hosts and veteran players criticized him for it. It was all downhill from there.

    This deal is not on the level of Kazmir, it's impossible, because position players are more replaceable, but it will hurt to see Milledge punish the Mets over the next few years. I'm sure there are a number of Mets fans who would rather have Milledge and Flores rather than Schneider and Church.

    Good stuff, as always!

    I took a few cracks at some of his questions, trying to assuage some of the fears of Mets fans. If you want some of that spin, check it out.

    Crisis Averted

    But but but Tim Tolman personally assured me that he had changed!!!!