Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Blog Because They Love You

Despite the long offseason and the doldrums of winter, there was a flurry of excellent blog posts today. All are well worth your time.

  • Oleanders and Morning Glories takes a look at Soriano and the difficult position he's in.

    He asks:
    As those that follow the Nationals know, Alfonso Soriano is playing a dangerous game (not the most dangerous game, that involves Cossacks). He is refusing to play OF, gambling that whatever he loses by being a “poor teammate”, he will make up by maintaining himself as a second-baseman. Most of us have assumed that this is a bad move on Soriano’s part, but is it really?

    For the answer, you'll have to click through. A few weeks ago, I took a look at a similar question, but from the National's perspective.

  • Nats Blog pours through Tom Verducci's latest column and finds a line that should make your jaw drop:
    Verducci suggests that Sosa may sign a deal (and I assume he does not mean a minor-league deal, but he doesn't say) "with the MLB-owned Washington Nationals largely because commissioner Bud Selig has had a strong relationship with Sosa and wants to get this erstwhile ambassador of the sport off the street, hat in hand. "

    Read the rest of their post for the entire remark, and the potential questions this raises as the team moves forward. It ain't good!

  • Banks of the Anacostia considers whether Jose Guillen's recent blather about wanting a contract extension is a good idea. He does a thorough analysis, looking at Guillen compared to other batters in the league, and is well worth your time.

  • The Nats have finally signed Felix Rodriguez to a one-year $600K contract. Roster bonuses would elevate that to $1.2 million. Rodriguez is a good gamble, but the bullpen is already loaded. How many roster slots does Bowden think he has?

    At any rate, Federal Baseball looks at Felix as a player, and gives a thumb up to the signing. He walks you through his career, and tries to figure out whether last year's stats were something to worry about.

  • Did you click on them all yet? No? Well, get to it. I'll be waiting.

  • Fouled-Off Bunts: Hurt Worse Than We Thought Edition

    We knew that Brad Wilkerson had a sore forearm which sapped much of his power, and reduced his already fishy ability to make contact. But did we know he was hurt this badly?
    A sore forearm turned into a sore hand and eventually a chipped bone in his hand, which led to a sore shoulder.

    Instead of resting his original injury, Wilkerson kept playing through the pain and made things worse.

    "The biggest thing I learned from last year," he said, "was that sometimes you just have to sit down."

    It's a good thing the team has such strong leadership to tell players when they need to sit down, right, Frank?

  • Adam Wogan landed on his feet in New York. Wogan was the Nats Director of Player Development until Jim Bowden fired him, thinking that Bob Boone could do a better job. I wonder what Wogan thinks of Preston Wilson's centerfield defense?

  • The Baseball Hall of Fame will hold its Negro League Hall of Fame balloting at the end of February. There are many deserving names, chief among them Minny Minoso, Luis Santop, Jose Mendez, and Mule Suttles. Of note, Frank Robinson will be addressing the committee, though it doesn't appear that he has a vote.

  • Sammy Sosa plays poker with Alex Rodriguez. Who knew?

  • David Catania has posted most of the documents relating to the ballpark lease on his website. If you want to dig through the full lease, it's there.

    Of particular interest is the arbitration-enabled document answering Linda Cropp's demands point-by-point.

    Of particular interest is their response to demand #4, local ownership. For their less-than-inspired answer, check page seven.

  • And finally...

    The Good Phight, a Phillies blog, takes a look at road park factors. Since teams play such extreme unbalanced schedules, it's not safe to assume a neutral road environment anymore. They take park factors and compute them using each team's actual road schedule and show that certain teams have pretty extreme road environments.

    In the Nats' case, multiple games in Philadelphia and not having to play road games at RFK give the Nats the fourth highest run environment on the road. Read his explanation for more details and the importance of its application.

    I'll also point out that it confirms my suspicions with respect to Soriano. With a steady diet of Oakland and Seattle on the road, the Texas Rangers had the toughest road park assignments in the American League. While that doesn't completely excuse Soriano's pitiful road performance, it also means that his road line isn't a fair baseline, and is probably just as distorted as his home batting line is.

  • Gandhi Says WAAAH!

    DC CFO Nat Gandhi isn't happy with the proposed lease that's up for vote by the Council next week.

    1) The final version of the lease took out a rent reserve. I'm assuming that this is the reserve they had established in case terrorism prevented play in the new stadium. That was inserted at the behest of our Wall Street Overlords to improve the bond rating.

    2) This one seems petty, but he throws a hissy fit over the private financing scheme being dropped out of the proposal. It does seem like the communication was poor, but from reading the Times story, it seems as much a case of the good doctor having a bruised ego as anything. Dropping the scheme was the right way to go. DC would get $246 million up front, but they'd lose many more millions in revenue over the life of the deal.

  • The Washington Post throws the weight of their editorial board on Gandhi's side. But, strangely, they didn't see fit to actually, you know, write a story in their pages about this. Here's your opinion. Oh, you want the facts, too?

  • Meanwhile, the Council gets briefed today starting at one. Expect heady denouncements of the unfair lease, and how it violates the sanctity of DC's women and children by about five.

    Keep in mind that the stadium opponents are the stadium opponents. Their noise doesn't matter. If Marion Barry or David Catania allege that Tony Williams and Jim Bowden are planning to use the stadium to systematically slaughter DC's children one by one for a giant blood orgy, it doesn't matter. They weren't going to vote for it in the first place anyway.

  • DC Watch helpfully posts Mark Tuohey's letter to Linda Cropp, which summarizes the major differences between the latest lease, and the earlier submission.

    If you're looking for the info, that's the best place to go, rather than someone's rehashed summary.


    Now that I'm looking at the DC Watch link a little more closely, it seems like it contains the answers to Gahndi's problems:
    Deletion of Section 4.6. Section 4.6 of the Original Lease, which contained provisions governing the Rent Reserve Account, has been deleted from the Lease. As noted above, this Section may be restored if required by the rating agencies to assign investment grade ratings to the stadium revenue bonds.

    Part of the fear was the one-more-dollar clause, which reportedly required DC to lose one of its two skyboxes if they asked for anything more from MLB. If I'm reading the summary correctly, MLB has okayed the inclusion of the rental reserve IF our Wall Street Overlords demand it. Problem solved, it seems.

    All DC would need to do is amend the lease in the Council, which shouldn't require a super-majority, just the regular 7 votes which would be necessary for final passage of the whole damn thing anyway.

    Much ado about nothing, or am I senile?

  • Monday, January 30, 2006

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Jose Guillen, GM Edition

    So Jose Guillen's injured wing is going to keep him out until mid-March, and will probably prevent him from starting the season on time? Great. I'm so glad he persevered and fought through the injury last year so he could hit .130 in September. He didn't need that tendon attached to the bone anyway.

    It was clear he was injured. And still Frank penciled his name in the lineup. Was the inmate running the asylum?

    Guillen, for what it's worth, wants an extension.

  • The surgery was on Guillen's shoulder, not his lips:
    Guillen indicated, however, that Soriano is still resistant to change.
    “I’m trying to talk to Soriano about playing the outfield,” Guillen said...

    “He told me that he’s not an outfielder,” Guillen said.

    Guillen said he’d even be willing to move to center field and let Soriano play right field if that’s what it took to make Soriano happy....

    “We’d love to have Sosa,” Guillen said. “He’s one of the greatest players in baseball. But that’s not up to me.”

  • The Soriano mess rolls on. First it was an aside in last week's inanne column when Boswell threw out the idea (jokingly is how I interpreted it) of an extension for Soriano. Now the hardest working man in sports, Ken Rosenthal spits out the same idea.

    Distinguished Senators and Banks of the Anacostia say all that there is to say about that idea. Check 'em out.

  • The WaPo looks at the business side of Jeffrey Zients.

  • Missed the Nats one-day caravan o' fun? MissChatter was there, and she brought her digital camera. You, too, can see how bored the players look.

  • And finally.... Curly W breaks out the PowerPoint and produces a handy schematic as to who's screwing who in the stadium deal.

  • Sunday, January 29, 2006

    MLB's Gonna Wash That Lease Right Off Of Their Hands

    I'm still not quite sure what to make of Friday afternoon's news that MLB and the mayor had hammered out another lease agreement. The various reports on the issue answer some of the questions, but leave some hanging out, too.

    It does seem, though, that what's happened is that MLB has divorced itself from the actual funding. Friday's developments, which don't actually lay out a financing agreement basically lays out the maximum that MLB is willing to do. They've shifted responsibility of the construction to the city, and removed themselves from the negotiations. It's now up to Mayor Tony, Linda Cropp, and the rest of the Council to hash it out amongst themselves.

    By not including the financing, it seems a certainty that the city will agree to one of those total-cost contracts with one of the construction companies. DC will turn the keys over to Clark (to name one) and let them bear the burden of overruns on their own.

    The Washington Times has the most thorough review of the particulars. It appears that MLB did throw money into the pot, but it's coming, it appears, at a cost of development rights. I'm still not clear on whether MLB getting a share of the development rights is new, or if it's an amendment from before. Anyone know?

    The Times article also quotes Cropp as saying that she thinks there's enough to get the lease past the council. We'll know by Friday.

  • I'll also link to the Mayor's press release, if only for this paragraph, which is the most concise statement of revenue that I've seen. Take it for what it's worth.
    Under the deal, funds to pay for the stadium will come from four separate outside sources. 1. MLB will make rent payments to the District for the next 30 years, worth $92 million. 2. Fees on tickets, hotdogs and t-shirts sold at the ballpark will generate $369 million over 30 years – a fee system that makes sure that only people who attend games will pay for the ballpark. 3. The ballpark fee, which affects fewer than 2,000 businesses in the District, will raise $215 million over the 30-year period. 4. And finally, utility taxes assessed primarily on the federal government will raise another $215 million. This combined sum, $891 million, guarantees a revenue stream that will allow the District to build a beautiful ballpark, sparking a revitalization of an underdeveloped area of the District and giving people a new entertainment destination without ever having to tap into general fund revenue.

  • I should also mention that the Post article says that Nat Gahndi thinks that Wall Street won't like the lease because a reserve account was deleted from this version of the lease. If that truly is a problem, we'll find out more this week.

  • Friday, January 27, 2006

    Lease Breakthrough?

    WTOP says that MLB and the city have agreed. Now all we need is Council Approval. Hey, weren't we already at this step before?

    More later....

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Delinquent Blogger Edition

    Missed me? Wait... you're not supposed to ask a question you don't know the answer to. Forget I asked then.

  • Nats are still interested in Sosa. Despite having no other suitors, Sosa wants guaranteed money. At this point, he's like a past Presidential Candidate (say Gore or Dole) stepping forward, demanding his party's Presidential nomination because he was once successful before. It's too bad that Sosa doesn't realize that he doesn't even rise to their level. He's like Lyndon Larouche at this point.

  • ibid, The Nats are close to naming John Wetteland as Bullpen coach. Wetteland had a solid reputation as a Yankee, and several media reports noted that he worked hard with Mariano Rivera, teaching him how to properly prep for a game.

  • It doesn't seem like there's a deal on the lease yet. Today's supposed to be the deadline to still have a vote on 2/7, but Vince Morris seems to indicate that there's another hearing (or that they could schedule one) on the 14th, giving them another week to fritter away. An article in Thursday's time indicated that they had made substantial progress.

  • Tom Boswell has his first baseball column of the season. This one's a general column, which looks like it's earmarked more for a forthcoming book than at anyone who'd read it today. That he spends more time trying to work subtle entendres in relation to Anna Benson than he does on anything related to the Nats is a good indication you can skip this one -- unless you're bored at work. It IS a Friday, afterall.

  • The Nats finally released the finalized Spring Training Schedule. Helpfully, they've identified a few stretches of games that would allow you to maximize your time in beautiful downtown Vierra. (No Panera jokes here) Anyone going? I've thought about it, but don't think I can do it this year.

  • The Post has a pretty interesting article looking at a ahem gentleman who owns several parcels of land in the stadium area. He's an interesting character, and the writer does a good job to paint a picture of the neighborhood, and the blight surrounding it.
    Chernoff, 63, is a presence. Balding and just shy of 300 pounds, he dresses in T-shirts and khakis. He wears brown leather sandals year-round, his feet chronically swollen from a circulation problem.

    Leaning back on the strip-club sofa, he swings a beefy arm over a cushion and describes how he recently unloaded the land near the corner of Half and I streets SE. He got $8.9 million for the land where the Nexus Gold Club sits plus four small adjacent lots and $35.9 million for the trash recycling lot a half-block away. Once the deal closes, high-end condos and apartments lie ahead.

    Read it! It's good stuff!

  • Another day, another bunch of whiny activists.

  • On one hand, it's nice to know that BB&T is putting their money where their mouth is, but on the other hand, the cynic in me has a strong suspicion that none of the developers most commonly linked with the projects were going to be using their services anyway. I'm sure some bean counter went through and did the math. At the very least, it got them some free advertising in the Moonie Times.

  • Ever wanted to be a play-by-play announcer? You could be the Next Dave Jageler, and broadcast games for the Schaumberg Flyers. Here's your chance. (Just ignore the B-I-G catch).

  • Blah blah Jose Guillen's a good person blah blah.

    I'm such a cynic with these things. It's great that he's doing it, but I hate when they tell us (or imply) that we should think he's a great guy for doing it.

    Note that he didn't promise to hit a home run for anyone, pendejo

  • Nasty Nats reviewed Beyond the Shadow of the Senators. Distinguished Senators highly recommended the book to me a year or so ago, and I promptly went out and purchased it, and it's sat on my desk since. Yeah, I know you don't really care, but I'm typing it anyway. The book has a companion website with more info about the book there.

  • OMG! continues their review of MLB's mascots with the crap of the cream. Screech makes a not-so-surprising appearance near the bottom of the standings.

  • Wednesday, January 25, 2006

    Blogs Are Taking Over The World

  • The Deputy Assistant Under Secretary for Nats-blogging, Ball Wonk, details the pathetic excuse of a Nats offseason caravan. He lets you know how you can meet your favorite Washington Nationals and Brandon Watson.

    The Royals, who I think originated the concept (?), show you how it's really done. This intinerary appears to be their fourth caravan this winter.

  • Federal Baseball wants to know what kind of numbers you think Nick Johnson will put up. My guess was just a WAG. I'll have my CRAP projections out in a month or two.

  • Banks of the Anacostia reports that the Denver Post reports that Felix Rodriguez has reportedly agreed to sign with the Nats and report to Spring Training.
    Perhaps best known for tearing cartilage in his left knee getting out of the shower in May 2005, Rodriguez from 1999-2004 was one of the more feared setup men in the big leagues, putting up a 3.11 ERA/1.29 WHIP over that span. As so many other pitchers have before him he imploded in his short stint with the Yankees in 2005 both before and after his shower injury. I think that there is an excellent chance that Rodriguez could return to form with the Nats and I suspect that he would look forward to padding his stats at spacious RFK.

  • Beltway Boys wonders why Barry Svrluga thinks we're going to finish behind the Marlins. Barry's just lowering the bar so that when we win the East, he'll be able to generate more excitement for his follow-up book. The Pulitzer Committee is a-waitin'!

  • Nationals Enquirer, not to be confused with Nationals Inquirer, or National Equirer, or the National Zoo, has two good posts. (He probably has more than that, by my ADD is kicking in). The first answers Bill Ladson's mailbag questions for him. Perhaps Bill could just outsource this in the future?

    The second comes up with a potential stadium cost-saving alternative that I hope isn't being considered, but that would probably come higher on Tony Tavares' list than getting rid of the double-stacked luxury boxes.

  • Last, but not least (and not just because I'm not linking to the BPG forum today) is OMG! The French-Canadien Rusty Staub begins his exhaustive analysis of MLB's mascots. Where else can you learn that Wally the Green Monster bats both ways, or see how mangy the Detroit Tiger actually is? Only here, lady and gentlemen.

  • Twenty Questions With Barry

    In yesterday's svrlugian chat session, the Post's beat writer gave out a few mild nuggets of info.
    New Carrollton, Md. - Part 2.: so, you speak of trading Soriano, like you know something we don't.

    Are we actively looking to flip him somewhere?

    Can you give some sort of vague-ish "nod, wink" type of answer, if you can't really say anything?

    Barry Svrluga: Nod.


    (There aren't takers right now, though.)

    Which indicates that the Nationals are actively trying to trade Soriano. We had heard the godawful Soriano for Josh Beckett rumor -- which Boston probably answered not with words, but by hanging up the phone. But this indicates that there's a little more shopping going on than what we had assumed.

    The key point is Barry's last sentence, though. Who wouldn't want a $12 million player? And that's the problem. Soriano is a desirable commodity, but not at that price.

  • Later, responding to a question about Bowden wanting to make another move to shore up the pitching staff, Barold said:
    The GM change in Cincinnati yesterday ,where Dan O'Brien was fired, could be significant for Washington. Bowden is still obsessed with some of his former players over there, namely Wily Mo Pena and Austin Kearns. The former front office, with O'Brien reporting to John Allen, basically refused to deal with Bowden. I don't think that will be the case with the interim GM, Brad Kullman.

    Bowden has always lusted after his players, Kearns, Dunn, Pena. If Cinci management is finally ready to bury the hatchet, Bowden's probably soiling himself at the opportunity to bring one or more of them.

    It had been reported that the Reds, under the old regime, had turned down an offer of Jake Westbrook for Kearns. Truthfully, I don't know why they'd have turned that down -- especially if it came prior to the Casey trade. But that gives us an idea of the kind of deal we'd have to offer. And no, the low budget Reds are not going to take Soriano off our hands.

  • Barry answered a different question, which I found interesting:
    Midlothian, Va.: Barry,

    Thanks for your great work. I have sort of an inside baseball question. Occasionally, quotes similar to ones in your stories show up in other inferior outlets. Is it that the Nationals do a lot of this stuff via conference call or press conference? Or does the front office just stick to the same talking points with each reporter?

    How is access with the front office?

    Barry Svrluga: Hello, Midlothian.

    Jim Bowden, the GM, is very good at staying on point when he's making an argument or explaining why he did or didn't do something. Typically, all the beat writers will get him separately by phone, but he'll send the same message. When it's a conference call (as it was when they signed Schneider to a four-year deal), I'll indicate it in the story.

    The front office is generally quite accessible.

    I'm always sort of interested in how they go about their job. I suspect that it's pretty different than the way we generally think of.

    One question I'd like to know is about the feature stories. We saw this a lot, especially last spring training. All the papers would have profiles of the same player on roughly the same schedule. Is that something the team set up? Did they give the papers access to a player one at a time? Or did the reporters do that for the inter-paper competition (not that there's really much of one anyway)? It's not really important... just something I'm strangely curious about.

  • Here's another one that interests me:
    Washington, D.C.: In the wake of the Abramoff scandal, congressional leaders are racing to change lobbying regulations to prevent Members of Congress and staff from accepting tickets to sporting events.

    Are the Nats nervous about any impact this could have on attendance?

    Barry Svrluga: Someone on the Hill mentioned this to me last week, and it's something I'll look into. RFK became a place for lobbyists to entertain last year, and my understanding is there's a movement to push the level of gifts down to $20, which can get you in the ballpark but not into one of the primo seats. Thanks for the reminder.

    I had heard it alleged (without having direct knowledge, so keep that caveat in mind) that the reason for the Diamond Club ticket price at $90 (when even the Devil Rays have similar seats for $200ish) is precisely because of that. With the buffet 'meal' beforehand, they could count the ticket as half dinner, half admission, and not be in violation of any of the rules. I'm sure this is something that MLB-PAC will be examining closely.

  • Tuesday, January 24, 2006

    No Trespassing!

    Two quick news blurbs:

  • Hizzonner says that they're close enough now that he expects to have a lease set by Friday, which is the deadline day for consideration in February's City Council hearing.

  • The city went to court to kick people off the stadium site, as part of the eminent domain process.

    Assuming the court okays the motion, and there's really no reason the court wouldn't, the resident and businesses would need to vacate the land. The city has already placed $98 million for the land in escrow, and the residents who haven't accepted the city's offer can attempt to litigate to get what they feel they deserve.

    Better scurry over to the bathhouses while you still can.

  • Broadway, Larry Rose

    Bill Ladson's latest mailbag brought up the possibility of Larry Broadway taking over first base for Nick Johnson in 2007. Johnson will be a free agent at the end of the season, and will present a difficult choice for the Nationals.

    When healthy, Nick Johnson is an elite first baseman. At the midpoint of the season, a decent case could have been made that he should have been an All-Star. But then he broke. Again. Is it really smart of a team to invest $5 million or more of its money on a player who can't stay on the field for more than 120 games?

    The answer to that question will depend a lot on Larry Broadway's performance this season. He's been tabbed by Ladson and others as the "first baseman of the future", but is it deserved? Or is that a label that's foisted upon him because the system is hurting for upper level prospects?

    Broadway is a left-handed first baseman, whom the Nationals drafted out of Duke in the 3rd round of the 2002 draft.

    He signed quickly and got into some late-season games with the Gulf Coast Expos and the Vermont Expos. In Vermont, he demonstrated decent contact, hitting .315, and rapped out four home runs in 127 at bats -- not a bad start for someone just out of college.

    But he made a name for himself in 2003. He split time in double-A and triple-A mashing 20 home runs and 35 doubles -- tremendous power for a young player. His eye, while not tremendous, earned him 69 walks in just 129 games. He struggled a bit in Brevard County, but excelled at double-A Harrisburg, hitting .321/ .371/ .551 as a 22-year old.

    To build on his success, he started out in Harrisburg in 2004. Injuries and a stretch of ineffectiveness left him there. Broadway wrenched his back in the opening month of the season, leading him to hit just .120 through his first 20 games, and sapping his power. Although his numbers improved as he got healthy, he still hit just .270/ .362/ .451, a disappointment considering where he had finished off the year before. He did finish the season with an impressive 22 home runs, and continued to demonstrate a decent batting eye. Just with the back injury, some of the production wasn't there.

    2005 was an important year for Broadway. He needed to show that 04's disappointment was just the lingering effects of his back problem. The Nationals were optimistic and started him out at triple-A. It didn't go well. In 57 ABs, he didn't hit for power or average.

    Then came the tarp. He tore a ligament in his knee when he collided with a tarp in April. The injury set him back about a month. On rehab, he tore through the Gulf Coast League, as you'd expect a moderately advanced 24-year old to do. Then he returned to Harrisburg, and put up similar numbers to what he hit in 2004.

    Whether it's the lingering effects of his injuries, or something else, he lost some of the batting stroke he had. His average fell to .269. But at the same time his power spiked. Although he hit only 12 home runs, those came in just 186 ABs. When added to the 14 doubles he churned out, it produced a pretty healthy .538 slugging average, which is in line with the best seasons of his minor league career. In fact, the isolated power (Slugging - Average) was the highest of his career. Despite his low average, he was doing more with each hit than he had done before.

    But this was also his third straight year of hitting double-A pitching. You'd expect him to have that kind of success (and maybe truthfully you'd actually expect him to have even more.)

    2006 is going to be a make or break year for Broadway. He'll be 25, and has yet to establish himself in the upper levels of pro baseball. He needs to show that his past injury problems were the result of his stagnation. He hasn't really shown improvement since his breakout 2003.

    He has some pretty big advances he's going to need to make if he is going to take over for Nick Johnson.
    The potential is certainly there. He's got power, and he has a decent eye. And by all accounts he's a pretty solid defensive player. But I just don't yet see the batting line of a regular pennant-quality first baseman. He could be a decent stop-gap solution for a year or two, or a fine bench player. But unless he puts it together and actually makes advances in a more advanced league he didn't have success with the first time around, it's going to be a tough path.

    I'll certainly be pulling for him. If he succeeds, there'll be less pressure to re-sign Nick Johnson. If he fails, then the Nationals will be faced with some difficult questions next off-season.

  • Broadway's Stats

  • Broadway's journal of his 02-03 seasons.

  • Fouled-Off Bunts: Who Knew? Edition

    Baseball Analysts takes a look at crappy farm systems around the league and concludes that the Nats have the worst. It's hard to argue with that.
    In the end, none of these systems look to be particularly impressive. However, I think the Nationals and Reds clearly stand out as the two worst teams. Given the potential of Bailey and Bruce, and my high thoughts for Denorfia, I think Cincinnati probably has the better system.

    This gives the Washington Nationals, understaffed for years, the worst system in Major League Baseball. As this team finds an owner, and likely a new staff in the coming year, we can only hope an emphasis is placed on a farm system that offers very little hope.


  • Ladson's back with another mailbag. There's nothing really exciting in there, other than evidence of Ladson's man-crush on Andre Dawson.

  • Jack Evans throws his hands up like he's French, again. "Legislatin' and lobbyin' is hard! Why won't these idiots just vote the way I vote?"

    There's a Friday deadline to get the lease on the agenda in time for the February Council meeting. If it's not ready be Friday, the Council won't be able to get to it til their next meeting in March.

  • The team has offered minor league deals to Daryle Ward and Felix Rodriguez.

    Ward is a left-handed first baseman with moderate power. He doesn't get on base, shouldn't play anywhere other than first, and is about as slow as I am. A spring training invite won't hurt, but he'd be a long shot to make the team, unless Nick Johnson breaks. Again.

    Rodriguez is an interesting possibility. He's had a long string of decent seasons, before stinking up the park in limited playing time last season. With the volatility of bullpen pitchers, and the health of Luis Ayala slightly up in the air, it's a good idea to bring him in.

    The same article notes that the team is also interested in Ugueth U. Urbina. These two sentences say it all: Urbina, 31, is currently in a Venezuelan prison on attempted murder charges. The source said if Urbina is set free, he could be a good fit out of the bullpen for the Nationals.

    Anyone know what Lawrence Phillips is up to now? If you missed the Urbina news, here's some background.

  • The Devil Rays rejected the Nats offer of Bill Bray for Joey Gathright. In terms of talent, that would have been a good deal for the Nats. But in terms of need? Do we really need another slap-hitting outfielder?

  • Mr. Beasley speaks!

  • Monday, January 23, 2006

    It's The Environment, Stupid

    Recently, I've seen some ridicule of the Soriano trade that doesn't make much sense to me. Leaving aside the off-the-field crap, and his apparent bad attitude (which I know you can't do in real life), the most common refrain you hear centers around the difference in park.

    "Wait til the Nats see what kind of numbers he puts up in RFK. When he hits 20 homers, they'll see what a bad player he is."

    This line of thinking is usually accompanied by comparisons to Brad Wilkerson and the 30 home runs he'll probably approach in the lefty-bat-favoring Texas ballpark.

    On one hand, they're discounting Soriano's numbers because of the favorable ballpark (although it's not really that favorable to RHB), but they're not necessarily making the same adjustment when it comes to Wilkerson's numbers.

    They key, in all those cases, is to put the numbers the batters put up into context. 20 homers in an extreme pitcher's park in the lower-scoring NL is quite possibly equal to 30 homers in an AL hitter's park.

    A note before I go too much further. As you know, I'm not much for numbers. I use them very selectively, because I think they have a tendency to be misused, manipulated, and misunderstood. I'm not trying to make a definitive argument here, just throwing some general ideas out there in a qualitative sense. I'm just not smart enough to do the hardcore quantitave analysis, which would just scare the average person away anyway.

    If you watched Texas games last year, you saw a crapload more runs than us woe-filled Nats fans did. Texas hitters and pitchers combined to produce and yield 1723 runs. Nationals hitters and pitchers managed just 1312.
               R/G  Lg R/G  Difference
    Nationals 8.09 8.96 -9.7%
    Rangers 10.63 9.43 12.7%

    Certainly some of that is a product of the difference in quality of the respective pitchers and hitters, but it's probably safe to say that Alfonso Soriano could have his raw numbers (homers, rbi, doubles, etc) reduced by twenty percent or so and still have a similar value in terms of the run environment Washington played in.

    Wouldn't a three-run homer, for example, on average, have a lot more value to the Nationals than to the Rangers? If there are fewer runs scored, each successive run becomes more important.

    Certainly A three-run blast in a 9-7 Texas win is more important than one in a 4-3 Nats loss even though nine fewer runs were scored. But, for the sake of argument, we're dealing with a more macro level approach.

    All of this is a long way of saying that Soriano can have his numbers go down and still have similar effect on his team's W/L totals.

  • Another importance of considering the teams' run environments is on the importance of their other statistics. Brad Wilkerson gets on base more, but Alfonso Soriano slugs more. Which is more important?

    Most people would say that OBP is life. I'd certainly agree. If two players have equal OPS, the one with the higher OBP typically has more value. People have cranked out fancy Excel charts to show that you should weight the OBP portion of OPS by around 1.8 to get a true value.

    But RFK might change that, if only slightly.

    Let's consider two parks, and prepare to suspend disbelief for a moment or two.

    Let's say a team plays in a park where the run enviroment for the two teams is 1,000 runs per game. (silly, I know) With teams scoring that many runs, is there really any difference between a single and a home run? Not really. Since runs are so common, slugging doesn't have as much value as on-base percentage. Your value in that park is tied up to your ability to not make outs since you need so many runs (and baserunners) to win.

    Compare that with a park where the average game ends 1-0. Since offense is so much more difficult here, a two-out walk does you zero good. And in an environment where runs are scarce, slugging is at a premium. That solo home run has a lot more value here than a single (or even a walk).

    It's not so much that OBP isn't important in the second park, but that slugging takes on an increased importance. The parallels with RFK aren't perfect, obviously, and RFK certainly isn't that extreme, but I feel comfortable saying that an extra point of slugging at RFK is worth a lot more than an extra point of slugging at Ameriquest.

    To use a crude example, which would you rather have? A Soriano solo home run or a lead-off walk by Brad Wilkerson? (Don't point out the flaws in this 'argument', I know what they are!)

    I'm not smart enough to figure out how much more value it has, but Soriano's home runs are going to be very important to the Nationals runs scored totals, and accordingly, wins -- even if there are fewer homers and runs scored than in Ameriquest.

  • Fouled-Off Bunts: Trim The Fat Edition

    Whether the new stadium is a Ford or a Buick, it's pretty clear that we can't afford the tru-coat or the extended warranty. Goodbye glass and steel! Hello plywood and stucco.
    "The question is, what are people willing to give up to get seven votes?" said council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), a stadium supporter who has favored a retro-style ballpark. "Many of my colleagues are focused on the price, a cap, and not what the stadium looks like. That's what my druthers are, too. I want a very basic stadium. We can't build a stadium that costs a fortune out of glass and steel and looks like the Taj Mahal."

    (BallWonk points out that Mr. Evans probably hasn't seen a picture of the stone Taj Mahal -- unless he's talking about the steel and glass one they just put up in Toledo)

    The WaPo's article notes that they're considering hiring a construction company to control building costs. DC would turn over responsibility of the project over to one of these companies, and they would deliver a stadium under their terms, for a set price. Since they're in charge, they'd have to pay for any overruns.

  • What's better than listening to James Carville ramble on about sports? How about listening to him ramble about sports with Tim Russert's son? Almost makes me want to listen to Dibble...

    It's an amazing coincidence that the Nats ticket office managed to completely and most-assuredly randomly put the Russerts and the Carvilles together in the front row like that. Serendipity is amazing, and the listening public is all the better for it!

  • Not much new on the Sosa watch. Ladson's article from last week is notable only because we get to hear from Sosa's whiny agent. "Waaah! Sammy wants guaranteed money! Waaay! Other player once got guaranteed money! Waaah!"

    If Sosa's so in demand, let him take the guaranteed money from the hundreds of other clubs lining up to sign him. Federal Baseball takes a look at Sosa's agent's contention about Jim Bowden's past use of guaranteed money, and finds that there's probably not much there there.

  • Livan speaks! Sort of...

  • You know baseball is in trouble when their own website leads off with how great the NFL is:
    It's feeling a lot like Major League Baseball around the NFL right now, and not just because Joe Buck was using his football voice on Sunday.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. It sounds a lot like recent World Series matchups, doesn't it?

    Ummm... No. Not at all. Do you see it? I certainly don't.

  • Friday, January 20, 2006

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Radio Days Edition

    A few more details trickle in about the Nats Radio deal. It's for three years for undisclosed figures on AM 1500 AND FM 107.7.

    Why is it undisclosed? If the Washington Post is part of the radio network (Hell, they're the name of the freakin' station), why can't the Post reporters get the number? Are they not looking hard enough? Are they encouraged to not look harder? It doesn't mean much, but for an industry which has gone to such great lengths to avoid conflicts of interest (notably in the Post's stupid refusal to let its reporters vote for MVP and Cy Young), it seems that this sort of arrangement could create a lot of little conflicts.

  • Just passing this along....
    EX-AM 1510’er Dave Jageler’s ascendance to the Washington Nationals broadcast booth at WTWP AM and FM is a testament to his persistence and talent, but according to one source in Boston and another in DC, the reason for the opening was due to former Bruins announcer Dave Shea’s work ethic. Said one source, “ Dave Shea is known as a pretty lazy guy in this business and that’s why he’s out.”

  • Les Carpenter has an interesting story about the Iranian Hostage, who upon their release, were given lifetime passes to major league baseball games. He tracks some of the passes down, and finds out what they've done with them. Carpenter, from what I've seen, is a solid writer, but they didn't really use him this year.

  • Jim Bowden, as you'd suspect, isn't overly thrilled with the World Baseball Classic, even if he understands what they're trying to do with it.
    "But when you look at it from your club, it's a distraction. It takes key players from every team. You may have a new player who may not get to play with his new teammates as much as you would like to get ready for Opening Day."

  • Thursday, January 19, 2006

    Baseless Speculation

    This is all just baseless conjecture and is just me thinking out loud....

    Theo Epstein has returned to the Red Sox after taking most of the winter off. Now Epstein was rumored for a few jobs, which he would have either accepted, or that could hypothetically have been used as leverage for more power within the Sox organization. Now he's slinking back to the Sox in a role that seems lesser than the one he had.

    Now, isn't it possible (and yes, possible is distinctly different than probable) that all those other jobs fell through? Obviously the Dodgers one did, but Epstein was connected with a few of the other ownership groups (if only in theory), notably Fred Malek's bid.

    If the recent USA Today report that the ownership mess was down to Jeff Smulyan and Fred Malek, could this be a sign that Smulyan has the inside track?

    God, I hope not. If you've missed my previous Anti-Smulyan rants, here's one taken at random from the archives.

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Stadium In Neutral Edition

    The Times has an article on the status of the Stadium Negotiations. No news, in this case, isn't necessarily good news. Of note, the lease will have to have been finalized by Jan 27 in order to make it on the hearing schedule for the 2/7 hearing. Eight more days. Think they can get it done? Me neither.

  • Todd Jacobson writes an interesting article about the recent rookie career development program, which teaches them how to not gamble on baseball and squander their fortunes away on coke and hookers.

  • Apparently having a crappy-ass ticket office is a franchise requirement.

    I got my bill for my 20-game plan a few weeks ago. The invoice looks like it was designed by someone using Bank Street Writer on a Commodore 64. The ticket price is listed, then on the next line comes their not-so-convenient $20 ticket convenience fee. Yet, when you go to the bottom of the invoice, the Balance Due portion doesn't include the $20 fee, and there's a check box to decline the Orioles exhibition game, which, presumably, isn't already included in the price. In other words, it's a mess.

    But at least I'll have my tickets...unlike our Florida brethren.

  • Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    Keep Your Cable Rights!

    There's one thing and one thing only that would make me side with Comcast, hoping for a long, protacted battle between them and MASN. And Barry Svrluga says it's on the radar. Again. Make sure you're sitting down before reading on:
    Former Cincinnati Reds reliever Rob Dibble could be in the running for the color job on TV.


    Dibble, who was considered last year, is horrible. He previously worked at ESPN, where he was practically unlistenable. One of the most satisfying hits I've had was when someone at ESPN stumbled on to my site with a particular google search.

    This anecdote sums up Dibble pretty well:
    "During our championship season in 1990, Charlie Sheen threw us a couple of parties at his Malibu house. He spent over $50,000 - all of it on strippers, hookers and porn stars.

    "For one party, he sent limos to pick us up from Dodger Stadium. I actually blew the save that night.

    "I like having fun, but this was a freak show. I saw one of my fat, ugly teammates having sex with this beautiful porn star in a Jacuzzi."

  • The other news from Barry's Blurb is that Mel Proctor is likely out of a job. Charlie Slowes will apparently shift back and forth from radio to TV, in much the same way as the Orioles announcers float around.

    I enjoyed Mel's dry sense of humor, but he really had a hard time with fly balls, which created some awkward moments as he'd describe outfielders coming in for a ball he, seconds ago, had called a high drive. Anyone wanna help him with his resume?

  • Fouled-Off Bunts: Copy Editor's Dream Edition

    You don't think a copy editor would miss a chance to get a dick joke in print, do you?

  • Here Come Da Judge: The Mediator has been selected, and it's a friend of Tony Williams. The city and MLB have fifteen days of mediation, where they can try to resolve the differences. If no agreement has been reached, it could then move to binding arbitration.

    It's an interesting case. Because the DC Council was never party to the Baseball Stadium Agreement, and because DC law requires the Council to sign off an all expenditures of over $1 million, it's not clear that arbitration would help MLB force the lease down the city's throat because arbitration likely wouldn't be able to tell the Council to approve it. Arbitration could produce a lease, but without council approval, the city would be in violation of that lease and subject to the penalties laid out in the BSA -- something like $19 million (I'm too lazy to look it up now). But if it gets that far, MLB and the city are back at square one with no lease, no stadium, and no prospects. Would MLB really take it that far, throwing the nearly $600 million they already have on the table away? It doesn't seem likely. I would bet that someone blinks before we get that far.

  • Yesterday, the WaPo painted an unflattering portrait of Marc Tuohey, the Chair of the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission, ripping him notably for getting screwed over in the initial negotiations on the Baseball Stadium Agreement, something I've been saying for a while now.

  • Cue the violins. Barry Svrluga has a profile of our non-Dutch third baseman, Ryan Zimmerman. It's a nice story, if not a tad over written.

  • Keeping tabs on our old friends, Tomo Ohka (he of the 4.04 ERA last season) requested $5.2 million in salary arbitration. That's just over 2 Ramon Ortizes (he of the 5.36 ERA).

  • Wondering what Sammy Sosa's up to?
    --Not rejoining the Cubs
    --Begging for a job with the Marlins.
    --Partying with Vin Diesel and Mike Piazza -- not that there's anything wrong with that.

  • Think Tony Tavares enjoys being called to testify?

  • The Lords are starting two days of owner's meetings, featuring a briefing on the ownership situation here. How long do you think that'll last? 3 minutes?

  • I don't know who John Castellini is, but he's clearly a Nats fan. And anyone who can work a shot at Cristian Guzman into a discussion on executive pay on the Jim Lehrer News Hour on PBS is A-OK with me. (Just do a search for shortstop)

  • I think I've finally found out why Rocket Bill pimped Terrmel Sledge so hard. From the Padres mailbag (I won't make a dismissive comment about the superior quality of the questions and answers in SD as opposed to nationals.com):
    Nationals manager Frank Robinson, I'm told, was sold on his potential and hated to see him go to Texas in the deal for Alfonso Soriano.

    Alright... I've gotta take one shot. Do you think we'd ever see something like this in one of our mailbags? Only this is certain: Good chemistry lives in harmony with winning. An abundance of wins tends to solve everything.

    Is it just that no one is asking good questions?

  • Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    Signed, Sealed, Delivered

    Jim Bowden had a busy day.

    First, he signs Brian Schneider to a contract extension: Four years, $16 million. Not a bad payday. The deal buys out Schneider's final two option years, and his first two years of free agency. It's rare that a player will give up two years of free agency for a non-bank-breaking contract. But the tradeoff in financial security was worth it to him, apparently.

    It's a good deal. OMG looks at it more closely, and has the analysis I'd write if I weren't so lazy.

    One note... from Ladson's article, he mentions that Schneider had an MRI on his shoulder -- which kept him out of a slew of games at the end of last year. Apparently, it's 100% healthy. Good.

  • Nick Johnson avoided arbitration by signing a 1-year, $3.2 million contract. While specifics weren't mentioned, it includes a number of incentives, presumably for games played.

  • Then came the bomb. The Nats and Soriano, to no one's surprise, weren't able to reach an agreement, so they exchanged arbitration figures. The Nats filed at $10 million, Soriano at $12 million. If they can't come to an agreement, they'll have to have an arbitration hearing. At the hearing, both sides make their case to a third party who typically has the baseball knowledge of someone you pick off the street. The arbiter listens to the stats, and compares the player's stats to those players who have a similar amount of service time. The arbiter then chooses one number -- either the club's or the player's. He can't split the difference.

    In most cases teams settle with the players. It might be in Jim Bowden's best interest to split the difference and try to settle with Soriano, so they can spend all their ammo on the position switch, instead of quibbling over a million bucks or so. (Because all Bowden would do with it anyway is buy another 1.2 Marlon Andersons)

  • Former Nat Brad Wilkerson agreed to a contract with the Texas Rangers for $3.9 million. When looking back at the Soriano trade, you need to keep that in mind. Would the Nats have been better with Wilkerson plus $8 million? Most people would have to conclude that -- especially those who've seen Ramon Ortiz pitch. Interestingly, if Soriano gets his $12 million, they'll probably have paid more for one season of Soriano than they would have for two years of Brad Wilkerson (who still has another year of salary arbitration.)

    There's no use crying over spilled ballpark beer though -- unless it's Blue Moon.

  • Friday, January 13, 2006

    Coming Soon To A TV Near You

    Thanks to Basil at federalbaseball.com for the pointer, but DCRTV has a surprising rumor. He's usually pretty good with these sorts of larger rumors, but I'm not quite ready to hold my breath.
    We're hearing that Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos has reached an agreement with area cable TV giant Comcast about selling all or a portion of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. A potential $300 million deal. Paving the way for Comcast to start carrying the channel, which features many Washington Nationals games.

    If so, Christmas is a month late!

    OPS On Top

    Our friends at the Hardball Times have an interesting article discussing the merits of OPS. OPS, if you're not aware, stands for on-base + slugging percentages. It's a rough shorthand of the offensive contributions of a baseball player.

    Personally, I prefer to look at the component stats, which is why you always seem me write things out as .300/ .430/ .550 (Batting Average/ On-Base %/ Slugging Ave).

    Some contend (and statistical analysis backs it up) that on-base percentage is more important than slugging. So if two players have equal OPS, the player with the higher on-base percentage typically does more offensively to help his team win.

    It's certainly not a perfect measure, but OBP and SLG are readily available, and adding them in your head is a helluva lot easier than worrying about coefficients, a run matrix, or any of the other methods statheads use.

    Dan Fox' article gets a little chart and math heavey about 2/3 through, but if you plod through it, he explains why OPS works so well, despite being a blunt tool.

    Fouled-Off Bunts: What Beautiful Cheekbones Edition

    The Times says that the Nationals are close to an arbitration-avoiding contract extension with Brian Schneider. Good for Bowden. Good defensive catchers who can bat their weight aren't that easy to find, and the Nats farm system has fewer major league quality catchers in it than my apartment building.

    It also notes that the team isn't the close to a deal with Nick Johnson, and (no suprise) Alfonso Soriano. It wouldn't shock me to see Soriano file at $11 million+ for arbitration. They have to file by Tuesday.

  • Our friends at the Free Lance-Star have a closer look at the Nats new third base coach, Tony Beasley. Beasley, who shouldn't be confused with Mr. Beasley, seems genuinely excited for the opportunity. Bowden apparently did his homework:
    "[Bowden] told me I wasn't recommended by anyone, and he didn't know me. He was interviewing me strictly on my track record.

    "That made me happy. No one has given me anything. I've always tried to work hard and get what I deserve."

  • The NY Sun looks at the derailed careers of two former Cubs, one of whom is already in the region, and another who is rumored to be on his way.
    From 1998 through 2004, [Sammy Sosa] averaged 46 home runs a year, and he'll be 37 this year - not young in baseball years, but not so old it's inconceivable he has something left. Unfortunately, he doesn't. Whether because of age, because he stopped corking his bat (or his muscles), or whatever else, Sosa is done as a ballplayer. He has no defensive value, can't hit for average, and doesn't hit for enough power or draw enough walks to compensate.

    A player without his credentials - who hit .221/.295/.376 at age 36 while battling injuries last year - would be scraping for a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training; any team considering signing Sosa to an actual deal with a guaranteed job is being blinded by gaudy stats from years ago

  • Wanna play baseball with Ryan Zimmerman? Have $95 burning a hole in your pocket? Free on January 21? Here ya go.

  • And finally.... Not that there's anything wrong with that, but here's an article from a friendly alternative paper in San Francisco, admiring athletes for their ummm... not-on-the-field talents, with special binocular-aided attention to Cristian Guzman in particular. I'll try not to think of him as being lithe and nimble again.

  • Linda Cropp's 95...Errr 10 Theses

    Field of Schemes (an impartial site without an agenda, right?) did actual reportin' and stuff, and contacted Linda Cropp's office to get the list of demands she's placed on MLB. She contends that if these conditions are met, that she can get the necessary votes.
    1) No residential taxpayer will pay anything for baseball.

    2) No more money shall be allocated for baseball other than the $535 million already authorized and all baseball-related income.

    3) All local, small and disadvantaged business enterprise contracting and employment requirements will continue.

    4) The commitment from baseball for local ownership of the team, and, for tax purposes, that the team will be based in the District.

    5) Land and environmental costs of the baseball stadium will be capped and guaranteed by third parties, such as Major League Baseball, potential owners and/or developers.

    6) Construction costs of the stadium will be guaranteed so that taxpayers will not face an open checkbook problem. The checkbook will be closed.

    7) All development rights in the area outside of the baseball footprint, and taxes generated therefrom, will benefit the District and its residents, not baseball.

    8) The District will have development rights (on top of parking required by baseball) on the baseball footprint, which will be directed to protect taxpayers from any cost overruns.

    9) The $20 million team contribution to the stadium project budget shall be applied only to previously approved costs within the initial project budget as designated by the Sports and Entertainment Commission, and may be increased by the team’s new owners.

    10) Certain community benefit obligations of the baseball team will be strengthened or clarified.

    Field of Schemes says it's much ado about nothing. I'd have to agree, for the most part. There's not really anything new here, and some of the promises are so vague as to be relatively meaningless. It doesn't change the terms of anything, just rewords them, and packages them into a 'convenient' top-10 format.

    The only one that could present a problem (hypothetically) is the local ownership one, but at this point who really knows?

    Thursday, January 12, 2006

    Don't Look At Me!

    I swear! I had nothing to do with this:


    We Have Coaches

    Welcome back, Mitchell Page! Page, who served as minor league hitting instructor, and who turned Marlon Byrd around (.282/ .344/ .482 after the All-Star Break), has been named the Nationals new hitting coach. Page, who had had some problems with alcohol, which led to his dismissal from the Cardinals, should be a huge improvement over Tom McCraw. The reason for optimism?
    The Cards' management frequently talks about taking "tough at-bats," which is a pretty good indicator of the team's success at the plate. Despite yesterday's loss, for example, Tony La Russa said he admired his team's ability to be patient and to work the count against Clemens. Conversely, he reprimanded the Cards last week for swinging from the heels and taking poor at-bats against Jose Lima. You don't normally think of the Cardinals as a saber-friendly team, but it's the type of thing that La Russa and hitting coach Mitchell Page have harped on all year long.

    We could certainly use more ABs like that.

    Page's strategy doesn't mean be overly patient though. He wants hitters swinging at strikes, but in a controlled manner. Get a good pitch to hit, and rip it. He also seems to emphasize better control on two-strike counts -- going with the pitch and trying to put it in play. Phil Rogers wrote about this in more detail for ESPN.

    The Nationals also named former manager Davey Lopes as their first base coach. Lopes, who was a prolific base stealer for the Dodgers in the '70s, will hopefully help the team take better approaches on the base paths. The Nats had far too many pickoffs. Lopes managed Milwaukee for three seasons with spectacularly bad results. If the Nats get off to a slow start, Davey might earn an interim tag.

    The third base coach is Tony Beasley. Beasley has a sensational record of managing in the minors with the Pirates farm teams. In five seasons in the woeful Pirates system, he made the playoffs every year. Just 39 years old, he looks like he could have a bright future ahead of him. Beasley was recently hired as the Yankees roving minor league fielding instructor, but the call of the majors changed that. The Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star ran a profile on him a few weeks ago.

    Zipping Around The Stats

    Dan Szymborski, one of the Baseball Primer gurus, has released his ZIPS projections for next year. (Here's the background on the projections)

    Here are the stats for the key Nats:
    Nick Johnson     .283  .402  .475
    Jose Vidro .293 .368 .443
    Jose Guillen .284 .341 .476 23 HR
    Ryan Zimmerman .309 .343 .481
    Ryan Church .282 .352 .459
    Alf Soriano .248 .295 .439 27HR
    Brian Schneider .259 .325 .389
    Marlon Byrd .264 .325 .394
    Cristian Guzman .241 .279 .338

    They're just a data point, and certainly not perfect. Although I haven't crunched any numbers with it, it seems that it's typically overly charitable to young players (does anyone really think that Zimmerman is going to out-produce Soriano, let alone by that much?) and to young pitchers. It also usually projects older players to decline pretty sharply.

    Using those projections, someone at Primer crunched some numbers and came up with a wildly optimistic 85 wins, with the caveat that they gave Nick Johnson and Jose Vidro a full season of playing time. Last season, ZIPS was pretty accurate on the macro level, being one of the few projection systems to give the Nationals a chance. (100 sims of last year's projections nailed the team's 81-81 record).

    On the micro level, it wasn't as good. Here are last year's projections, and last year's actual stats.

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Aiming For Small Paragraphs Edition

    Cropp's ready to compromise. She says if the mayor can get MLB to cap costs at the $535 plus financing charges, and throw some tickets to the children, that there'll be enough votes for passage of the lease.

    The Mayor's spokesman said that he thinks he can deliver a lease with those terms:
    "We're confident we can meet all of her criteria," Morris said. "The letter from Chairman Cropp is a great thing. It puts a firm marker in the sand that all parties can agree on. And it cements what the mayor has said for a year, that no residential tax dollars will be used on the ballpark and that District residents will reap enormous economic benefits once it's built."

    One of the other demands is that MLB pick local ownership. I don't know how the mayor can deliver that, but WWN reports that USA Today reports that (see last paragraph) the bidding is between Malek and Smulyan now, which is about as clear a choice of good and evil as we've had since World War II.

  • The Post's silly-headlined Sosa story is up. On top of everything I said last night, Sosa's just two homers behind Frank Robinson. Other than that it would take him til July to hit that many, I'm sure that the (in the words of Distinguished Senators) "washed-up, immobile, suspiciously-afflicted-with-acne-in-his-thirties, bat-corking malcontent" beating Frank's own dugout is sure to create smiles all around.

    Does anyone know how Frank feels about steroids?

  • Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Another Day, Another 800 K Edition

    Marlon Byrd re-signed today on the same one-year $800K deal that Jim Bowden has seemingly given to everyone on the bench. Byrd, who was arbitration eligible, will most likely be a back-up/platoon partner next season.

    Byrd, who smacked lefties around last year, would be excellent in that role. I said it a million times last year and I'll continue to say it as long as the team is living the Endy 2.0 Brandon Watson Experiment: Church/Byrd would give the Nationals excellent production out of centerfield. Add them together, and you'd have above league average production out of one of the lineup slots for just over a million bucks. But instead the team will dick around with Watson just long enough to bring back my ulcer.

  • Speaking of ulcers.... The wily Banks picks up on a story that the Nats are sniffing around the moldering corpse of Sammy Sosa. Sammy Sooser as he's known in certain Washingtonian quarters, is d-o-n-e, hitting a miserable .221/ .295/ .376 for the Orioles.

    It's not so much that I'd mind the team bringing him to spring training and seeing how he is, but there's talk of a guaranteed (though Bowden loves the non-guaranteed) contract. Sosa has never been a team player -- which is fine if you're producing. But he's not the kind of player who would happily ride pine for a slap-hitting pixie like Brandon Watson. With the Soriano mess, and the always volatile Jose Guillen running around the outfield, it's another headache this team most definitely does not need.

    Sosa would be Bowden at his worst, lusting after the big name celebrity. It's too bad that he doesn't realize that Sosa is more Norma Desmond than Katherine Zeta Jones.

  • Ladson reports that Tony "Dizzy" Blanco, who injured himself playing winter ball, will undergo shoulder surgery, and that he should be ready for spring. It's too bad that Blanco couldn't have scheduled the procedure for last May.

  • Not one, but TWO baseball sources let Ladson know that the team's close to signing Dave Jaegler, late of the Pawtucket Red Sox, to be Chuck Slowe's partner. I googled and googled and googled, but couldn't find any audio clops of the Jaegermeister, but I did find out that he's not really a handsome man.

  • Continuing my new All Ladson, All The Time format, he writes about the bullpen:
    Cordero ran out of gas in September, though, and was shut down for the final two weeks of the season. The Nationals have him on a conditioning program to make sure his arm doesn't get tired again. The Nationals also would like see Cordero lose 10 to 15 pounds.

    Was his conditioning what caused his arm problems? Isn't it possible that the bazillion innings he pitched under high stress conditions a culprit? I'm not saying that he couldn't stand to lose a few pounds, but them I'm not really one to talk.

  • The Federalist has a good round-up of some of these issues, including a more in-depth look at the So-So debacle. He also looks at a rotoworld report that the Nats might be interested in Jeff Weaver. Weaver's good stuff, but where's the money? Will he work for free? Answer those questions, he does.

  • Fouled-Off Bunts: Do As I Say, Not As I Do Edition

    Jack Evans is tired. So very tired. Politicking is hard stuff, and after his cursury effort (which really boils down to "This is the agreement we made. This is the agreement you must approve. I like Baseball neener neender.") he's giving up. And we know that Mayor Williams hasn't done much public persuasion, other than slapping up a hokey pro-stadium graphic on the DC website -- which is probably only visited by the kinds of people who already oppose the stadium anyway.

    While the Times is the grey could, the AP et al are much more optimistic, reporting that senor bowtie is ready to send the legislation back to the council. The accounts are sketchy on the details, but it's a promising sign.

  • Meanwhile, yesterday's Times relayed an interesting development (which might have something to do with this).

    Apparently the city has too much money for the ballpark. The city is projecting that it's going to collect $58 million per year from revenues, but that the loan is only $38 million, leaving $20 million per year to be squandered on the children, or other such projects.

  • The Nationals have named their minor league coaches for the 06 season. Of note, outfielder Tony Tarasco (most famous for not catching Derek Jeter's home run in the ALCS) is listed as Vermont's Pitching Coach. Either that's a typo, or Bowden's obsession with toolsy outfielders has gone way too far. Ignore their reference to the 2004 season, as well.

  • If the Council does get the lease, there's a chance that Marion Barry might otherwise be umm... busy. The goddamn taxman set him up.

  • Emmis Stockholder? Sucks to be you. Poor Jeff Smulyan.

  • The New Orleans Zephyrs will host the Tulane men's baseball team for their entire season, after their home stadium was destroyed in the hurricane.

  • Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    All Tuckered Out

    If you're reading this, chances are you already know that Michael Tucker was signed by Jim Bowden yesterday. I'm only 23 hours or so late to the party.

    I'm not thrilled with the Tucker signing, but it's a lot like most of Jim Bowden's other signings. They're like finding a penny on the street corner. It's great that you've found something, and it's great that it's free. But when it comes down to it, it's probably not even worth your time to bend over and pick it up.

    Tucker's contract is for one year, and it's non-guaranteed -- just as Jamey Carroll's is. I don't think I've really seen a non-guaranteed deal before, but essentially (and thanks to NFA for looking this up), it means that the team can cut him in spring training while only being on the hook for 30 or 45 days worth of pay (depending on the timing of the release). Teams can do that with arbitration eligibles, as well.

    Tucker's not a wretched player. But he just had a miserable season. That instills confidence, huh? The gamble will be whether his crappy .239/ .318/ .362 season (wow, that sucked more than I thought!) is the beginning of the end for the not-so springy chicken, or whether it was just a fluke. The Nats will have spring training to decide.

    Offensively, Tucker should never face a left-handed pitcher. In fact, he shouldn't even gaze in the direction of one from the comfort of the dugout. Over the last three seasons, he's hit just .223/ .290/ .336 against them. (That's roughly what Cristian Guzman batted against right-handed pitchers)

    But against righties, he's a beast -- assuming you can stretch "beast" to within an inch of its life. .262/ .349/ .427 ain't much, but it beats the green kindling that was our bench last year. Put him in a platoon (and I'm only advocating this if Ryan Church gets hit by a bus)with Marlon Byrd, who hit .290/ .343/ .416 versus lefties in that same period, and you actually have a little bit of production out of an outfield slot.

    Defensively, Tucker can play center. He's not especially good, but if you have to throw him out there when Church gets suspended for a week for ticking off some religious group, he won't kill you. He's capable (read: meh) at the corner slots.

    All things considered (can you read that without hearing NPR's godawful jingle?), he's a pretty good fifth outfielder.

    But, and there's always a but on this team, how does he fit in? He's another left-handed bat on a bench that already has Marlon Anderson and Robert Fick coming off it. The aforementioned Anderson and Fick, as well as Byrd, Jackson, and the Ladson-pimped Brandon Watson all can play the outfield.

    What is Tucker adding that any of those aren't already providing?

    The bench, after Sledge went down, was tremendously bad. I recently did a replay of the Nats season with Diamond Mind, and I had to use all my will power to not use Livan as a pinch-hitter. There were days that Cristian Guzman and Jeffrey Hammonds were literally Frank's best choices. There's no telling how much better pinch hitting could have meant to the Nats. Not all pinch hits would come in meaningful situations, but the Nats had so few real big PH ABs, that even a marginal improvement could've meant a few more games in the standings, or some relief on a gassed bullpen.

    The bench that Bowden has assembled is versatile -- perfect for the National League. And it provides a decent amount of power, and is flexible enough to give the team some options in the late innings for optimal matchups.

    In that thought, Tucker isn't a bad signing. But, again, it's Michael Tucker. Like the penny, is he really worth bending over for?

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    Luis, Luis, Oh No Me Gotta Go

    Cross another one of the arbitration list. Luis Ayala slides off the arbitration pile with an eminently fair 2-year $2.2 million deal, which buys out next year's arbitration date as well.

    For the Nationals, they gain some cost certainty for one of the league's best setup men, ensuring that if he has another dominant season that his pricetag won't quintuple. For Ayala, he gains some financial security, and knows that when he shreds his elbow after Frank sends him out there for fifty of the first thirty-four games, that he'll be well compensated.

    Barry's story notes the problems that last season's frequent appearances eventually had on him. But Barry's missing the larger point. It wasn't just the 68 games he appeared in last year, but the 81 he appeared in the previous year, and all the innings he logged in Winter Ball (notably as Caribbean World Series Champion, Mexico's closer). Ayala threw a lot of pitches over very few months, and the tendinitis he started reporting in June was a portent to him being completely shut down by the end. Thankfully, Barry gets Ayala's agent to say that everything's ok, and that he'll be ready to go in the Spring.

    Ayala's not much of a strikeout pitcher, striking out a respectable, but not really dominant 5.77 batters per 9. He's not even an especially tough pitcher to get a hit from: career .266 batting average allowed, and a surprisingly high .286 last season, especially considering how dominant he appeared to be. Ayala excels because he does two things really well: he doesn't walk many batters (just 2.86 per 9 last year), and he doesn't give up many long balls (a decent .81 per 9 -- and Puerto Rico was a pretty extreme homer park).

    When a pitcher throws strikes, doesn't walk batters, and keeps the ball in the park, more often than not, good things will happen.

    He's also shown an amazing ability to pitch in a pinch. In 34 bases-loaded ABs, he's allowed just three singles. That's it. Runners in scoring position with two out? Consider them stranded: just a .226 batting average allowed. If there's such a thing as clutch pitching, he's shown it, easily working out of the few jams he's created.

    If his arm is healthy, he'll be an essential component to the team. With this team needing to scrap for every run, the importance of a shutdown bullpen arm is magnified -- as we saw when we lacked that arm for most of the second half.

    Three Up, Three Down with Luis Ayala

    Three up:
    #3 -- 5/15 against the Cubs. The Nationals got down early on a rare off start by John Patterson. After the Nationals rallied to take a 5-4 lead in the 6th, thanks to two ground balls rolling between Neifi Perez' high socks, it was time for Ayala to bridge the gap. Two innings later, and one measly two-out single later, he turned over the game to Chad Cordero for the easy Hairston, Patterson, Perez one-run save.

    #2 -- 8/18 against the Phillies. With the season sliding off the abyss, the Nats played in Philadelphia in a game they had to have. Down 4-3, Frank handed the keys from John Halama to Luis Ayala in the sixth inning. to face Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard. Ayala needed to keep things close. Burrell earned the rare walk. Howard singled to right. No worries for Luis. David Bell earned a chorus of boos with a GIDP, and Todd Pratt followed with a sharp single to the typically unreliable hands of Carlos Baerga. Inning over. With the top of the order due up against a shaky Rheal Cormier, they were sure to scratch out a run. Nope. Ayala held up his end of the bargain a second time, striking out the inning-beginning-but-ending-in-theory Chavez, as part of a quick 1,2,3 inning. The Nats bats exploded for two (yeah, I said exploded) thanks to a leadoff double by Jose Guillen. Ayala got the much-deserved win, and the Nats got an essential W, despite starting the broken-winged Ryan Drese.

    #1 -- 8/3 against the Dodgers. Luis pitching two shutout innings is old hat. The Nationals had a one-run lead, which is all Ayala needed most nights. But this one is memorable for Frank's managing, and how Ayala played into it. Luis was sent up to PH for the starting pitcher, Tony Armas, despite the presence of a number of lefties on the bench. Showing us all that Frank knows best (and that Tony's a machine), he singled to center. He came out the next inning, and sliced through the Dodgers' bats, with only one can of corn making it out of the infield. A normal pitcher's night would be over. But not El Mecanico. After Cristian Guzman led off the inning with a single (shocking, I know), Ayala came back out for a second time, and dropped a perfect bunt to first base. Two perfect innings; two perfect plate appearances. One perfect night for Luis.

    Three Down:
    #3 -- 5/1 against the Mets. Entrusted with a tie game in the eighth inning, he pitched great; then he fell apart. In the ninth inning, the Mets loaded the bases with nobody out before scoring three runs: two on a Carlos Beltran double crushed to left field.

    #2 -- 5/13 against the Cubs. It was a tie game when Ayala relieved Loaiza to start the eighth. Aramis Ramirez homered to dead center field on a towering blast that sucked the life out of the non-drooling fans in attendance. Burnitz followed it with a double, and Ayala nailed Dubois with a pitch to bring a rare early hook for Ayala. Both would score, giving Ayala three runs allowed, his season high.

    #1 -- 9/1 against the Braves. While I was puttering around Utah, I only saw one game. This was it, unfortunately. Down 7-1, the Nats stormed back to tie the game thanks to two clutch hits by Vinny Castilla. Ayala came out to face MVP-type Gold-Club-Lovin' Andruw Jones. Four pitches later, the game was over while Andruw trotted around the bases, crushing the hopes of Nats fans, again.

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Save Us, Orioles! Edition

    Alfonso Soriano for a package of players including Corey Patterson? Why not shoot me now? Corey Patterson is exactly like Brad Wilkerson, but without those pesky walks, and with even less bat control. Oh, but he's fast. That counts for something, right? Soriano thinks he's getting traded, at least. There's gotta be a better package than that. Even the Dave Bush/Miguel Batista names that were floating around for Wilkerson are more attractive than KKKorey Patterson.

    Thankfully the Orioles are interested in Patty McKay. You know you want him Angelos! Save us from ourselves, please!

    I wish to associate myself with the remarks of the good gentleman from Anacostia. His analysis/reading of the tea leaves is excellent.

  • If healthy, Jose Vidro will play in the World Baseball Classic. If I can get arm in shape, I'll be pitching, too.

  • Texas, imagine their folly, is thinking about batting Brad Wilkerson leadoff. Bah, that'll never work! He strikes out too much! I want my leadoff hitter to have speed, like Brandon Watson.

  • Having an emptiness in your heart because you haven't read enough stadium rhetoric? Here ya go: Yay for the stadium, it cures what ails ya; but think of the children!

  • Friday, January 06, 2006

    Get Yer Orioles Tickets

    Orioles tickets go on sale Saturday, but for weasels like me who've attended a game or two in that Godforsaken armpit of a city over the last year or two have been given a chance to buy them ahead of time.

    Washington will once again invade Baltimore, recreating the 1860s. There'll be blood, sweat, the faint odor of urine, and masses of people who hate each other, but are strangely unified in their common disgust with Peter Angelos.

    I've got mine for the Saturday and Sunday games. I'll probably break down for the Friday night game, too.

    If you want to buy, just visit the Orioles website (be sure to scrub your internet history when you're done). Look for the small pre-sale link, which is usually on the left, and enter the code 2951 -- which I think is the number of Orioles fans actually left.

    UPDATE: Bah, they're not on sale anymore. Oh well. There were plenty of good seats available, and the rest go on sale 10 AM on Saturday. Fill the town with red.

    The Commish Set Me Up

    WWN points to an interesting City Paper article on the grassroots effort against the stadium. While the beginning focuses on one man's allegedly self-funded quest to derail the project, it's truly a story about the political failings of Tony Williams. What could've been a slam dunk has turned into, to mix a metaphor or three, a street fight.
    the mayor has rejected mounting a high-profile, in-your-face assault to stir up the pro-baseball rabble and win over councilmembers. And it’s not as if the pro-stadium forces don’t have resources at their disposal. “[Williams] could get on the phone to 10 people and have all the money we would need for a great campaign in one afternoon,” says one operative. “And lots of top-flight people are ready to provide their services at cost.” But no one will step up and start a big grassroots campaign without the blessing of the team now working out of the executive suite’s dugout.

    Instead, Williams is relying on the highbrow approach. He’s trying to show individual councilmembers the wisdom of the Southeast stadium plan. The mayor has chosen to pursue a free media blitz rather than hit up a few pals in the business community and craft a message that might change the public perception of the stadium deal. He must figure that councilmembers are swayed more by stories in the Washington Post than by calls and e-mails from constituents. Williams now has almost nothing to offer in terms of chits and has never built a political machine that can crank out votes or make things miserable for any ambitious pol who crosses him.

    The final nugget of the column notes the latest scuttlebut going around town. Apparently, Marion Barry is being sentenced for tax evastion not because he didn't pay taxes (not everyone pays taxes according to the quoted yahoo), but because he opposed the stadium. Uh yeah. Of course if that's true, then the unconfirmed reports of Bud Selig being spotted on the New Orleans levees makes a whole lot more sense now.

    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    Yay For Jamey!

    Jamey Carroll re-signed today. While his $700,000 deal is a bit too rich for my blood, I'm not going to quibble over a few hundred K for a player who understands his role, and does anything the team asks. (Except hit game-winning grand slams)

    Interesting note about his contract though. Ladson says it's non-guaranteed. I'm not quite sure if that means what I think it means, but presumably they could cut him at any time (or demote him to the minors) without having to pay the full contract. Given the love that Frank has for him, as well as the team's injury history, there should be a role for him to start the season, especially if Vidro isn't quite right. But if Vidro's ready to go, there's going to be a roster crunch for that 25th spot.

    Either way, I'm glad to have the li'l scamp back.

    Top 3 Jamey Carroll Games:

    #3: 5/8 against the Giants. He smacked four singles, was constantly on base, but Jose Guillen, Nick Johnson, and Jeffrey Hammonds (man, I thought I had finally repressed him) couldn't knock the little guy in.

    #2: 6/19 against the Rangers. Filling in for an arthritic Vinny Castilla, the li'l guy sprinkled three hits across Ameriquest's sun-baked sod. He set the tone early, singling and scoring the game's first run, then drove the nail in the cliched coffin with an RBI single to close a 5-run game-winning eighth-inning overly hyphenated rally.

    #1: 9/27 against the Marlins. The mighty mite swings a balsa bat, but on a night when Dontrelle Willis was trying to dominate the league, Jamey Carroll turned him into his personal Jesus. He had not one, but TWO RBI hits! Yay, Jamey! The first turned a close game into a not-so close game, and the second, a 2-RBI double showed that the power of Christ does compel, from time to time.