Thursday, January 31, 2008

CHEAP!!!!Watch: City Under Seige, Part IXVCLIII

There are several free agent starting pitchers still on the market, but the Nationals are unlikely to pursue those targets, preferring to let a group of pitchers, most of whom are in their twenties, battle for five spots in the rotation.

Note: Mike Bacsik is 30.

(how the hell is he only 30? Doesn't he look like he's about 45?)

Tim Redding turns 30 in a few weeks.

  • Here's what I figure the starting pitcher depth chart looks like. There's not point in picking a 5-man rotation because teams don't use just 5 starters. You need, typically 10 or so to get through a season. The Nats used 13 last year, 12 in 06 and 15 in 07.

    Colon Battlestar
    En. Gonzalez
    Walter Johnson's Corpse

  • While the list is a bit younger than last year's set, it certainly doesn't seem as deep, especially as former unknowns such as Hanrahan (whose future surely has to lie in the pen) became knowns. The team hasn't yet dug up the Simontacchi/Jerome Williams-type warm bodies who, even if they both ended up sucking, ate up some innings, and at least deluded us into imagining a scenario with a sub-5 ERA.

    With the move from RFK to a park that even if it's neutral is going to represent a dramatic increase in runs allowed (my quick and dirty look, which I might expand on later shows that a neutral park would yield, on average, almost 2 more runs per game, split between the offense and defense), the soft underbelly of the pitching staff is going to be exposed like an armadillo after a spinal fusion.

    The idea that the team can't find a spot for one of the scrapheap pitchers left on the wire, someone whose sole purpose is to be cannon fodder, eating those innings when Hill breaks down before the team's forced to turn to The Big Train's corpse or (worse) Bacsik, is pretty silly. I've held my tongue on the lack of movement because I know the team's a strong believer in trying to wait the market out, but if they're not going to make a movement towards any of them??

    Here's a list (probably not exhaustive) of who's left. Yes, they all suck. But they should be cheap. I'm not expecting them to give Kyle Lohse the 4-year deal he wants. That'd be stupid. But it'd make sense to throw a 1-year deal to Jeff Weaver or Kris Benson. See if you can get the aging, soft-stool-tossing Livan Hernandez on a cheap deal, two years, maybe... Freddy Garcia's injured for a while, but see if he'll come on a 1+ an option deal. There are options, if they choose to explore them. Someone's going to take a 1/$5 MM or less contract. Someone's going to get desperate and sign the Tony Armas 1-year, $2 million contract (note to Bowden: don't sign Armas to the Armas contract).

    Signing a vet isn't going to deprive the kids of their opportunities to pitch in the majors. It's just going to ensure that when we get to the bottom of that depth chart that we're not going to have to rush someone who really or add someone to the 40-man who doesn't quite have to be added yet. And if the vet flames out, who cares? Cut 'em and move on to the next stiff on the list. Anything to keep us away from the corpse... and Bacsik.

  • Screw Vegas!

    Right in the ear!

    200-1, my ass!

    Apparently word of "The PLAN!" hasn't reached that far west. Underestimate it at your own peril, goons!

    Tuesday, January 29, 2008

    Jesus Rises In Ohio sez that the Nats have signed Johnny Estrada to a 1-year, $1.25 million contract. The story claims (and it'd be my gut reaction too) that this has nothing to do with The Pusher's injury, but that it's their way of giving Flores more development time. As much as we love Jesus, that's probably the best course of action for him, giving him an entire season to work on his swing at Columbus (or quite possibly, Harrisburg.)

    Estrada's last few seasons have been all over the place, alternating in quality from good to Guzmanian. The MLB story trumpets his respectable .278 average last season, while ignoring his much more important .296 on-base percentage -- 12 walks just don't go as far as they used to in today's economy. When he's going good, he's a high average hitter, but when he's not, it's ugly... as Brewers fans can attest.

    Calling Estrada's arm a rag would be an insult to the textile industry. Only four catchers allowed more than Estrada's 73 stolen bases. (Of course, only 5 allowed more than Paul LoDuca's 72). Estrada threw out just 11 of them, giving him the worst CS% in the league. In fairness to him, that's a significant dropoff from previous seasons, where he was only slightly worse than average. He played last season with elbow problems, and had surgery to remove a bone spur (as well as to clean up his knee).

    But his problems go a bit beyond that. The Brewers were really unhappy with his attitude, and his game-calling abilities. (He refutes that, of course.) (Some interesting comments from a typically informed Brewers fan here, especially starting at 75)

    If he gets in shape, and works hard, he's not a terrible signing, even if he only hits slightly better than the previous season. One year deals, especially for that cheap, are rarely bad.

    For the long-term, getting Flores full-time play, and some time to work on the bat isn't a bad thing. As much as we love him, he did only hit .244 .310 .361, and his OPS+ is basically the same as Estrada's was last year -- a season in which fans are painting Johnny as the offensive anti-christ.

    At the very least, if the attitude problems are as real as the Brewers -- a seemingly dysfunctional team anyway -- claim, it'll be another ounce of black powder in what could be one of the most interesting clubhouses since the Yankees in the 70s!

    Sunday, January 27, 2008

    Intercepted Communications

    After reports of Paul LoDuca's "training-related" (wink wink) knee injury surfaced last week, my first inclination was to call up my good buddy Jim and have him ask Aaron Boone about the process for tearing up contracts because of knee injuries. With that fantasy not likely to become a reality, we're resigned to see the Pusher three to six weeks after his impending knee surgery, much like the groundhog (another rat-like creature) reemerging from his hole.

    Although LoDuca has been hibernating in that hole, avoiding the general public, especially post-Mitchell, he's still communicating with the team and his friends. Since his cell phone IS TOAST!, he's resorting to his second favorite form of communication: the hand-written note.

    Thanks to the incompetence of the US Postal Service, I've come across a few of these notes, and I thought I'd share them with you, the loyal reader.

    Some are benign:

    Some try to reassure the players:

    Some try to reassure the manager:

    Some hope for a quick cure:

    Some don't contain anything new:

    And some just want to taunt.

    Friday, January 25, 2008


    King Kaufman's always-excellent column has an interview with Will Leitch of Deadspin. Normally, I'd just click the ol' X button, but I read it, and found this part particularly interesting. So just passin' it along...
    If I meet Jim Edmonds on the street -- I love Jim Edmonds, he was one of my favorite Cardinals. But if I met him, he wouldn't like me and I wouldn't like him. And I think that's OK. I'm not sure that that means I have any less of a connection to Jim Edmonds, frankly.

    I think it's the opposite of that. My connection to Jim Edmonds is much more pure. He's not a human being to me. The only way I can revere him the way I do is for him not to be a human being.

    That's why personally I'm always confused by the obsession with getting autographs and memorabilia and that stuff. To me it's more of an ethereal thing, the connection between a fan and a team.

    I mean, if you really think about what it means to be a sports fan, it's completely illogical. It makes no sense. It does not make sense for me to be so devoted to the St. Louis Cardinals. They've never done anything to me. I think I met Whitey Herzog once at a book signing when I was 9. I'm sure I was just one of the people who annoyed him at the table by asking too many questions while he was trying to chew tobacco.

    It's illogical. They don't care. But if you start letting that stuff get you, you just won't be able to enjoy sports at all. I think there's a certain, I wouldn't say delusion, I'd say it's more of an understanding of what the context of sports actually is.

    Thursday, January 24, 2008

    One Plan To Rule Us All

    NFA has word about Baseball America's organizational rankings, which have the Nats jumping from last, all the way up to #9. Here's the ego-swelling quote from the press release:
    “The Nationals’ march up our prospect rankings isn’t unprecedented, but it’s extremely impressive,” said Baseball America Editor In Chief John Manuel. “It shows a commitment to building an organization, not just a team, and to building it creatively, through trades for prospects, through the draft and through international signings. The Nats have shown that with the resources they now have, they intend to be players for top amateur talent. General Manager Jim Bowden should be commended especially for the team’s 2007 draft class, because he brought in strong personalities and strong talent evaluators to the organization and got them to work together for the common goal of restocking the farm system, and the early returns on the ’07 draft class indicate that mission was accomplished.”

    Great news, of course, and a sign that that part of "Teh PLAN!!!!" is working.

    Food for thought... there's rightfully a lot of praise for the success of the '07 draft and how well things went. What about the '06 draft though? There's Marrero (great) then a bunch of high profile picks that haven't yet panned out. There's still time of course, but I'd be interested to know what they did differently between the two drafts. Just lucky? Some sort of change? The power of Rizzo? Less Brain Typing? There's a lesson or three in there for the team, and I'm sure they've got their best minds (and Bob Boone) working on it.

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Everybody Loves PLoD Edition

    Thanks to loyal reader Kevin for passing along this story with David Wright suggesting that Paul LoDuca should have to be waterboarded.
    "I'd like to think that maybe there's some fabrication [about Lo Duca in the report], or maybe it's not all true," Wright said. "But I've said it from day one - whether it's my best friend in the game or whoever, if they get caught . . . using performance-enhancing drugs or steroids, there should be a harsh penalty."

    Lots of Nats fans agree with you, Davey!

  • The Post has a story on Nick Johnson's comeback attempt. He's working out heavily, dropped some pounds, and thinks he's going to be able to be ready for spring.

    I'm glad to see the quotes in there from Manny about the importance of NJ's OBP. It's a strong indication that he realizes that NJ is the superior player -- offense AND defense -- to DY. No matter how tingly DY's story made us feel last season, the team would've scored more and allowed fewer runs had NJ been there. And, of course, Ryan Zimmerman would've won the gold glove.

  • I'm glad to see that the Nationals are sponsoring job training fairs for their employees. It's always terrific when a company steps up and helps its employees who just can't make it in the world today, giving them the skills and direction they need to find a career to which they are more suited.

  • The Nationals finally got around to putting up single-ticket prices for the upcoming season. Yegods. Are they trying to reduce demand? Those bleacher seats in the outfield have to be among the very worst buys in all of professional baseball (outside any ticket to a Rays game). $35 to sit in the bleachers? $27 to sit in the upper deck over the bleachers?

    They changed the premium pricing fiasco a bit this year. The days no longer line up one-for-one with the bobblehead that they're making you pay for. Instead, it's all Saturday games, and a series against the Cubs. That's a little more reasonable.

  • Noted asshole Jerry Reinsdorf now says that the ballpark site was a mistake. (I love how the picture there makes him look like a hot air balloon -- an accurate depiction if there ever was one)

    Since he was in charge of the process and he strong-armed the city into hiring his son's firm as a ballpark "consultant" (I think I saw that in an episode of The Sopranos), I'd imagine that he'd be willing to refund the city some of the $3.7 million the firm charged, right? right? hello? this thing still on?

  • Cause I'm lazy, I never mentioned anything about the Rauch/Lopez arbitration filings. They're close, so who cares?

    The surest sign that the person you're talking to doesn't know anything or doesn't think things through is when they start the cliched rant about "Gee, I wish I could fail at my job and get a 20% raise." Blah blah blah. That's not a fitting analogy though. If you want to make it fit, you'd have to accept the front end of it, too.

    Lopez might be getting a raise after a lousy season, but was he really worth just $400,000 when he hit 23 homers and made the All-Star Game in 2005? Nope. If you want to extend the analogy about being lousy at your job, you'd have to work under a system where for the first 3-6 years of your career, you'd be vastly underpaid relative to the quality of your work with ZERO control over how much your boss paid you. He'd pay you what he want, often near minimum wage, and you'd be expected to still bust your ass, otherwise there'd be no way to ever make more than the minimum.

    Not only is the man not paying me enough in my early years, I can't shop my services around. I know I'd like to lock myself into a long-term contract at a nice firm in a warm, tropical climate, but I can't. My company owns my rights until I've given them six solid years of work. Even though I've done well and could get myself some security with a 3-year deal someplace else, I can't. I'm bound to this godforsaken company with some asshat coworkers and investors who bitch and moan about how unproductive I am and complaining about the 'exorbitant' salary I'm making this year when they were more than happy to exploit me over my last few years of work.

    Is Lopez worth $5 million or whatever he's asking? Eh.... maybe, maybe not. But don't begrudge him his efforts. And keep this in mind: If deep down in their hearts, the Nationals didn't think they could beat $5 million in labor out of his sorry carcass, they'd have non-tendered him. You think Uncle Teddy just likes throwing away money?

    Nats fans, I've noticed from reading the message boards -- yeah, it's a weakness! -- have a 'Unless I've personally seen it, it didn't happen' attitude combined with one of "what have you done for me lately." In Lopez' case, that's a double-edged sword that's slicing him twice with each swing.

  • Tuesday, January 22, 2008

    Bye Bye Barry

    From DCRTV:
    DCRTV hears that Washington Post sports writer Barry Svrluga will be jumping to the paper's Washington Redskins coverage team. Meanwhile, the Post is looking for someone to replace Svrluga on the Washington Nationals beat. In addition to the Skins, Svrluga will also cover the 2008 Olympics for the Post

    Good for him. More important beat in this city, with a much less demanding schedule.

    But it sucks for us.

  • WFY links to the FishbowlDC post that has more information.

    There's been no replacement named yet. And some poor sap named Marc Carig takes over the Orioles beat. HAHA.

    I just want to know when they're going to get a baseball columnist who follows the Nats. It's been years since they've had one.

  • Monday, January 21, 2008

    Setting Up His Failure

    Another Monday, another mailbag. Another mailbag another marge-simpsonesque groan of exasperation.

    There's a question about Austin Kearns. After a paragraph praising his play, the answer sez:
    I would like to see him hit 35 home runs and drive in 110 runs. I've been told many times by members of the Nats' front office that Kearns is the club's second-best player behind Ryan Zimmerman. Now it's time for Kearns to put up Zimmerman-type stats. I hope the second half of the 2007 season was an indication of what Kearns is capable of, as he hit .285 with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs.

    I won't point out the logical fallacy of how if his second half is what he's capable of, then doubling it doesn't get him close to the targets, cause that's the low-hanging fruit. But is 35/110 a reasonable expectation?

    No way in hell. And if that's what you're expecting out of him, he's never going to make you happy. How many players do you think hit 35/110 last season? Lower. Nope. Lower. Yeah, you got it! Good guess!

    Here's the list:
    Howard (why doesn't he have a nickname?)
    Carlos Pena (who knew?)
    Big Papi.

    That's it. That's what the 'expectations' of Austin Kearns are. Think he's going to meet that? No way. And there's no sense in even putting the bar up there.

    Think I'm being unfair (of course I am! It's a blog! We're supposed to do cheapshots!)? Let's lower it to 30/100. So how many batters hit that last year? Nope. Lower. Even Lower. Hey, you got it again!
    Add Cabrera, Berkman, Beltran, Pujols, Lee, Morneau, Adrian Gonzalez (who knew?) and David Wright to the list. All (save for Gonzalez) have won or easily COULD have won an MVP over the last three seasons.

    Could he hit it? Yeah, perhaps. He's got a ton of potential. But more likely, he's going to be a 25/90 kinda guy with where he's probably going to hit in the lineup (5th or lower).

    But with Kearns, those counting stats sort of miss the point of what makes him so great. He's not going to be someone who's going to excel in the triple crown stats. What makes him good He has decent mid-range power. He hit's a decent number of doubles. He has a good eye, walking enough to give him a solid on-base percentage. Lots of little things add up into an ok offensive player.

    When I looked at his '07 season closely earlier this offseason
    , I came to what was (even for a Kearns fanboy) a pretty surprising conclusion; he's one of the four or five best right fielders in the NL.

    His offensive stats were hampered by RFK, but if you put them into context, he was basically a league-average offensive performer. And it's his defense -- easily the best range in the league -- that puts him over the top. Various defensive metrics have him 10-20 runs better than an average right fielder, putting him into that first tier of RFers overall.

    Will his counting stats go up in the new park? For sure. I'm going to be bidding high on this guy in my roto draft this year. But you need to have reasonable expectations of his numbers. And to really value the guy, you need to look beyond those numbers. He's a solid, solid player.

    Friday, January 18, 2008

    The Ray King Health Plan

    Thanks to the always terrific Shysterball, comes dieting advice from Ray King.

    Yes, dieting advice from Ray King.

    What's the secret for this world-class athlete (file swimsuit photo)? Cutting down on carbs? Hitting the elliptical machine for 3 hours a day? No longer ordering Frito Lay products directly from the manufacturer?


    Less Sprite. And more pork chops.


    I'm putting this sentence here so I can have another short paragraph.

    I'm training to write for a newspaper.

    Stay Tuned when ESPN The Magazine brings us other important Nats-related articles:
    -- Marriage Advice from Dmitri Young
    -- Brevity and Clarity in communications from Stan Kasten.
    -- Living beyond your means with Uncle Teddy.
    -- Dealing with life's little pressures with Chad Cordero
    -- Child Care with Elijah Dukes
    -- Cutting-Edge Humor and Brilliant Insights from various Nats Bloggers

    Wednesday, January 16, 2008

    {Content Goes Here}

    1) Baseball Prospectus sez (based on nothing, really) that Ryan Zimmerman's going to be a breakout candidate. A reasonable enough statement. But then as that particular author is wont to do, he takes it a step further to say that he'll outproduce David Wright, who was a legit MVP candidate last year. Um, yeah. Possible, I suppose, but then so is the possibility of me being elected Pope. (Wily Mo Pena gets an honorable mention)

    Somewhat-related discussion (though not as much angst from Mets fans as I was hoping) at Baseball Primer.

    2) Someone somewhere passed along the UniWatch link (complete with screenshots of the questions) that indicates that the Nats are sniffing around the uniforms, seeing whether people like them. Somewhere, there's a W-clad blogger crying silently inside.

    Saturday, January 12, 2008

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Feels Like The First Time Edition

    Chad Cordero comes back on a one-year, $6.2 million deal. He's got one year left of arbitration before becoming a Type-A free agent, and netting the Nats 2 picks when he signs with Texas (assuming Uncle Teddy doesn't sell him to Japan first).

    How many teams have a closer as their highest-paid player? Brewers maybe?

  • Luis Ayala (file photo), as you undoubtedly know by now, was shot in a hunting accident, hurting his non-throwing arm. Rather than make the tired Dick Cheney joke that everyone made, I'll just point out that he's just trying to adjust to life in SE.

  • The latest mailbag fills us with informational goodness:
    --Dmitri Young (file photo) deserves to hit cleanup because of his 11 homers and 60 RBI in the slot last year. It's a travesty he didn't get any MVP votes with those kind of numbers.
    --Andre Dawson (file swimsuit photo) deserves to get in the HOF. (A position that I've come around to). Tim Raines (file powder blue photo) doesn't. (sigh... guess he struck out too much)

  • From the Department of Due Diligence comes news that Barry Larkin (file photo) had no idea who Elijah Dukes is. (And apparently from that photo, he doesn't know what an iron is either)

  • The link's behind a wall, but BPro had an interesting look at the defensive shift, with a special nod to the Nats and Ryan Zimmerman (nut-saving file photo).

    Last year, MLB 3B turned (not started) 33 double plays. Zimmerman had 7, the vast majority a product of the shift.

    How successful has the shift been? Since 2000, a 3B has turned a double play at second base 94 times. Zimmerman, despite only having played two full seasons, leads all the majors with nine turns in those eight seasons.

  • Despite what they indicated previously, the Nats are not having a FanFest this year, much to the chagrin of a number of their most loyal fans (file photo). While it's easy to point to this as yet another data point in the "Uncle Teddy Is Cheap!!!!" case file, especially given the putrid excuse proffered by the PR professionals (basically, "we just haven't had time" -- as if the PR staff were hanging drywall or writing press releases for all the new FA pitchers the team signed), the more likely reason is simple.

    It's a crappy team without any tradition. Bad teams like the Reds and Orioles pull these things off because they can point back to their glory days. (tasteful file photo 1. tasteful file photo 2)

    Who are they gonna dust off? OK, there's Frank Howard, and.... and... Nobody (other than the few manchildren who went into a catatonic state for 30-something years when the Rangers left town) wants to see crappy backup infielders on crappy teams who never one anything other than the year Ted Williams stumbled into some fluke performances. He might be a nice enough fellow, but not even his family wants to see Eddie Brinkman. None of us are going to remember Cristian Guzman fondly. Why would we do so with him? (look at his 1967!)

    Sure, some people would show, but it wouldn't be nearly the experience that people envision when they think of these things. As it is, they can barely get players from the current team to show. The list features such favored sons as Aaron Boone (GREATEST PLAYER EVER!1!!11!! -- FYI, here's a list of his wife's movies... hard to pick a fave, huh?) and Mike "would you like to supersize your meal?" Bacsik (a man who clearly has NO shame). Yawn. (File Photo)

  • Wednesday, January 02, 2008

    Can't A Dude Take A Vacation?

    Whine whine whine. That's all you do. And you jerks don't even have the graciousness to send me cash? I don't see you whining to the Post! And what have THEY done? And those jerks get paid! Svrluga finally emerges from his wintry hole, sees his shadow then steals my shtick! Go complain to him for not writing either, assuming his editors haven't already sent him to Seattle!

    Meanwhile read the mailbag. I choose to read the first Q/A as satire.

    I'm crawling back into my wintry hole now. Leave me alone, dammit.