Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Archive for March, 2013

My top 5 Nats Games seen in person

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As we get started for a new season of Nats baseball, one with incredible promise and high expectations, I thought I’d put out a fun post for retrospection for all us Nats fans.  What are some of the best Nats games you’ve seen in person?  This post is inspired by a post from William World News, he himself inspired by another post (so this is transitive blog post inspiration here).

Here’s my Best 5 Nats games seen in person, in no particular order:

1. Nats Park Opener 2008: I caught a 4am flight from a Vegas bachelor party to make it.   We had nosebleeds up in the left field bleachers but Dad and I stayed for the whole game.  Jon Rauch blew the save and gave up the lead in the top of the 9th and we all groaned; it was late on a Sunday night and very cold.  Dad and I had metro’d down and started making our way back to the train, thinking that with the cold there may be a long set of extra innings when suddenly Ryan Zimmerman blasted a walk-off homer to win the game.  Very special game.

2. Ramon Ortiz taking a no-hitter into the 9th on September 4th, 2006 at RFK.  We basically saw the greatest game of Ortiz’s career as he shutdown the powerful St. Louis Cardinals on zero hits through eight.  Ortiz also managed to hit the SOLE home run of his career that night.  In the top of the 9th he gave up a hit … and then promptly served up one of the longest home runs I’d ever seen to Albert Pujols, who blasted a ball to dead-center field at RFK that landed in the upper bleachers.  Before Pujols had rounded first base Frank Robinson was out of the dugout to pull Ortiz and let Chad Cordero get the save.  Looking at the box score it was an awfully fast hook; there were 2 outs in the 9th, the Nats were ahead 4-1 and Ortiz was only on 95 pitches.  Why not let him get the CG?  Still a special game.

3. Fathers Day versus the Yankees 2006: Zimmerman walk off again for come-from behind victory, closest RFK ever came to being full outside of the 2005 opener.  The stadium was absolutely buzzing that day and I was dutifully in tow with my own father (along with good friend Pat Boyd and his dad, a diehard yankee fan).  The same group was also at the 2012 Nats-Yankees series, and we saw the game where Bryce Harper struck out 5 times.

4. NL East clincher Oct 1st, 2012; entire crowd singing “Take On Me” when Michael Morse came to the plate, and then despite being behind in the 9th the Nats clinched the division when the Braves lost, which was announced in the middle of the 9th inning as the mobile-phone enabled crowd started cheering and the announcers were forced to post it on the scoreboard.  The Nats were listless that game, getting just 4 hits off of Kyle Kendrick in 7 innings and seemed distracted.  But it was all worthwhile for the champagne celebration afterwards.

5. First home game as a franchise: April 14 2005.  The new Washington franchise played its first 9 games on the road, ostensibly to give the Nats their own stage for their first home opener.  Thanks to George W. Bush‘s attendance, the line to get into the stadium was an hour long and we missed the first inning entirely.   But we got in, the team won behind 8 strong innings from Livan Hernandez and a tradition was started.

Coincidentally, Zimmerman now has 8 career walk-off home runs, a distinct penchant for the dramatic.  Which is a ton considering that the career record is 13, belonging to Jim Thome.  Can Zimmerman keep getting these marquee home runs and put his name on this list?   He seems to have a long career ahead of him and plenty of time to hit a handful more walk-offs (myworldofbaseball has a nice description of each of Zimmerman’s 8 walkoffs).

Games I wish I had been to:

Strasburg‘s debut: June 8, 2010; my family was in South Africa for the World Cup 2010 so we missed it.  However, I remember my dad distinctly telling me Strasburg’s line on the day.  7ip, 14Ks, 0bbs.  And I thought he was kidding.

– Teddy Wins!  After years of losing, many people had given up hope that Teddy would ever win.  I thought personally his best shot was his Bobblehead day, when “secret service” members guarded him as he tried to finally cross the finish line first.  But it was not to be and I thought perhaps he’d never win.  As it turned out, the prerequisite to Teddy winning was the Nats themselves winning a title, a fitting end to his losing streak.

– Any of the 2012 playoffs, but especially NLDS Game 4 walk-off.  Probably the most special moment in the Nats short history.  I did not “win” any playoff tickets out of my season ticket groups and watched the game from home, on tape delay.  Amazing finish.  I have a photo of Jayson Werth stomping on home plate framed in my son’s room now; ironically its the same photo that now adorns the side of Nats Stadium.

– Final game at RFK: I may have been there frankly.  That was a long time and a lot of losses ago.  If I was there, It didn’t turn out to be nearly as special as it could have been.

What are your best Nats game memories?

My 2013 Fantasy Baseball Team

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Kemp reacts to being Boss' first round pick in my fantasy league for the 2nd year running. Photo unknown via ladodgertalk.com

Editor’s note: feel free to stop reading now if you don’t want to read 4,400+ words on my fantasy baseball team.  I won’t blame you for it.  For those of you who do play fantasy, as I made picks I wrote down who I was considering and who was available per each pick to try to give some context for the pick.  I’ll insert a “jump” line here so that RSS readers don’t have to see this whole massive post :-)

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Local HS players to keep an eye on this Spring

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There’s not usually a lot of buzz around baseball prospects coming out of High School in the DC Metro Area, but this year we’re starting to hear things about a couple of local players.  Here’s a quick preview of these two local phenoms who may be making news in June’s Rule-4 draft plus links for a few other good local prospects.

  1. First is someone of particular interest to me, having graduated from James Madison High School in Vienna.  Senior shortstop Andy McGuire was named to Baseball America’s 3rd team pre-season All-American team and has routinely been placed on top 50 draft prospect lists (projecting perhaps as a 2nd rounder).  He was on the 2012 Under-18 USA team which won the world title last fall in Asia.  He’s committed to play for the University of Texas for now; we’ll see what happens if he gets offered a decent bonus by his drafting team.  He’s 6’1″ 190lb and some reports say he may not be able to stay at Shortstop (though I don’t see why when such athletic shortstops as Troy Tulowitzki and Ian Desmond are both taller and heavier and play premium defense at the position).  Obviously his value is higher at this position as opposed to moving to 2nd or 3rd.  He struggled last season with a hip issue that eventually required surgery; it should be interesting to see how he performs this spring and whether he can raise his draft stock enough to sneak into the first round.  If you’re interested in more information, Perfect Game has a ton of information on him here.
  2. Meanwhile, this AllMetSports.com article popped up this week about T.C. Williams hurler Alec Grosser, who showed up at a showcase game and was sitting in the low 90s, touching 94-95 with a wipeout slider and great movement.  Suddenly this unknown has put himself in a position to have nearly every team in the majors sending scouts and cross-checkers.  He has an ideal starter’s frame; 6’4″ and 195lbs with room to pack on muscle, which has scouts more than excited.  He’s committed to George Mason for now but has the whole spring to showcase his talents and possibly move up draft boards.

Other names from prominent teams who might be getting some draft buzz include:

  • Matt McPhearson, a speedy leadoff/lefty outfielder for local power Riverdale Baptist with a committment to college powerhouse Miami.  Scouting reports from PerfectGame.org say he could be drafted in the first 5 rounds.  Not a slap hitter but a line-drive hitter with some power for his size (5’10”).
  • Thomas Rogers, a senior LHP with defending Virginia state champ Lake Braddock could hit 89 from the left hand side before suffering a TJ injury; he’s committed to UNC and probably will end up there (instead of the draft) by virtue of missing most of his senior year on the mound.  If he can get that velocity back and perhaps hone it while at UNC he has a chance to be an impact player some day.

A good list of eastern regional prospects from Virginia and neighboring states can be found here, at the 2013 Rawlings/Perfect Game pre-season All Atlantic Region teams.  There’s plenty of guys in the area with college committments; the guys mentioned on above are the ones who sound like they’re possible draftees or who are committed to “marquee” college programs.

Written by Todd Boss

March 28th, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Nats Blog & RSS Feed Overview

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I read all my sports news via RSS Feeds, which I’ve read into Google Reader for years.  If you’re like me, you were probably highly irritated when finding out that Google is summarily ending the Reader service.   I’ve done a bit of research on where to transfer my RSS feeds and “Feedly” seems to be the way to go.  (Tangent: if you’re a big RSS reader, where are you moving your RSS feeds to, or what do you use as an alternative to Google Reader?  I’m leading towards Feedly)

Anyway, while thinking about my Google RSS feed future, I happened to take a look at the two categories of Nationals RSS feeds that I have listed and was astonished to see the number of Nationals links I now have.  I count at least Eighty (80) Nationals related blogs and another Thirty (30) Nationals “Official” feed links (official meaning Team sites, beat reporters, or Masn feeds).

Can you believe there are (or were) eighty blogs out there about the Washington Nationals??  And in reality that number may be a bit low, because I’m always finding out about new Nationals blogs that pop up.  A great number of these blogs are now dormant (read onwards), but there’s still quite a few near daily blogs pumping out nearly as much content as the paid Beat Reporters.

Anyway; I thought it would be of great service to list all these various Blog links for the general Nats readership.  And of course if you see a blog out there that I don’t have, I’d love to grab it.  I also took this opportunity to clean up my own links section along the right-hand side to prune away obsoleted blogs and add in the currently active blogs.   Lastly: if your site doesn’t have an Nats-specific RSS feed, then I don’t have it here.

I’ll divide these blogs into various categories.  The links for each Blog are the RSS feeds, not the actual blog site.  But if you want to go to the blog site it is usually straight forward enough to figure out from the URL or from a bit of google work.

Highly Active Nats Blogs (Daily posts or close)

Less Active but not Dormant Nats Blogs (sporadic posts)

  • 2011 Nationals Draft Info: Sean Hogan‘s 2011 Draft blog; listed here since its part of a series (see next).
  • 2012 Nationals Draft Info: Sean Hogan’s 2012 Draft blog
  • Bang! Zoom!: last post 2/11/2013. before that Nov 2012.  Not sure what’s happened to Kirk Raymond but I hope he returns.
  • Center Field Gate: last post 1/20/13: was highly active in-season so we’ll hope for a return.
  • DC is for Baseball: last post 1/31/13: Sean Hogan‘s main site; his interest lays more in prospects and the draft, so he gets busier around the Rule 4 draft and has the per-year detailed Draft blogs (see below).
  • First Ladies of Baseball: last post Oct 11, 2012, may not actually be dormant; we’ll see if the authors Ashley Warlick and Maggie Keller pop back up when the 2013 starts.
  • For Love of the Nationals: Last post Jan 2013: despite posting recently, Dave Lint only has posted a handful of times in the last 3 years, so we’re calling this site dormant for now.
  • Internet Baseball Writers Association: Washington, D.C. Chapter;  home site for Dave Nichols-led DC-IBWA where Nats bloggers emulate the BBWAA and vote on things.  Coincidentally the membership rolls of DC-IBWA mirror this blog posting in terms of listing Nats bloggers.
  • Nats Noodles; last post 1/15/13: author “Nat Anacostia” has been sporadic this off-season.
  • Nats Triple Play: last post 1/29/13: only a handful of posts in the last year; may be dormant.
  • Natsfangirl; last post 10/4/12: author Jenn Jenson posts beautiful photography on this blog, which seems to have taken the off-season off.  I hope she’s back for opening day 2013.
  • Natstradamus last post 3/7/13: periodic intelligent pieces with heavy Sabre-lants from author Luigi De Guzman (aka “Ouij”).
  • Dick Heller: last post 2/21/13 by namesake author Dick Heller.
  • Win for Teddy: last post Sept 2012: very active last season, hope to see them come back.

Dormant, Obsolete or Abandoned Nats Blogs

  • Ball-Wonk: last post Dec 2010
  • Capitol Baseball: last post July 2012: not sure what happened here; the author was posting nearly daily in-season 2012.
  • Capitol Punishment: Last post Sept 2012.  Chris Needham‘s infamous Nats blog, one of the first and one of the most vociferious about the state of the early Nats, which he “quit” a couple years ago but to which he continues to post sporadically.
  • DC Double Play: last post Jan 2012.
  • DC Sports Plus: last post Nov 2012.  Sean Hogan’s previous blog, essentially ended May 2011.
  • De civitate sabermetricarum: last post 5/29/12: was doing near daily posts and then suddenly stopped.
  • Distinguished Senators: Last post May 2011.
  • FJB: last post Apr 2012: like Needham, Steven Biel sometimes pops back up on this blog and posts about the team, despite the title of the blog (Fire Jim Bowden) long since being obsoleted.
  • F*ck Yeah Stephen Strasburg: last post Jan 2012: yes indeed there’s a site with this title.
  • Half Street Blues; last post May 2010
  • I Miss RFK; last post July 2009.
  • Just A Nats Fan; last post July 2011.
  • Life is Better With Baseball; signed off Aug 2011.
  • National Record; last post Feb 2012.
  • Nationals 360: last real post Jan 2011, now taken over by an Electronic Cigarette company?
  • Nationals Daily News: last post Dec 2011, this was Mark Hornbaker’s former site before starting the DC Baseball History site above.
  • Nationals Fangirls moved to just Nationals FanGirl (singular), but www.nationalsfangirl.com currently says that its “Account is Suspended.”  Oh well.
  • Nationals Farm Authority: Brian Oliver‘s fantastic farm system tracking site, who signed off Sept 1 2010 to start a new career.  NationalsProspects.com has picked up where Oliver left off.
  • NATIONALS NEWS NETWORK: Dave Nichols closed this to join it with the larger District Sports Page, which reports on all Washington Sports in one location.  Unfortunately he has no Nats-specific RSS feed, so I don’t regular read the site (I don’t really care about random Redskins, Wizards or Capitals stories).
  • NATIONALS NEWS NETWORK: Off The Field; last post Sept 2011.  Cheryl Nichols also moved to the District Sports page.
  • Nationals Review; last post May 2012.
  • NationalsDailyNews.com Teamwire: last post July 2010
  • NationalsFanboyLooser: last post June 2011.  Former blog by Mike Harris, who then took over as Sports Editor of The Washington Times after they re-introduced Sports to the paper after a 2 year hiatus.
  • NationalsPride.com: last post: April 2010.  Authors Bergin and Henderson suddenly stopped writing.
  • Nats Doggerel last post Mar 2010: short lived blog that posted quick poems about the Nats.  I’m not kidding.
  • Nats320 — A Washington Nationals Blog: Jeff Saffelle‘s photography-heavy blog which suddenly went off the air in July 2011.  There’s a story there but last time I saw Jeff we didn’t get into it.  I think the loss of this blog, one of the absolute first Nats blogs, is a real shame.  Jeff took a lot of heat on the blogosphere/twitter for being “too friendly” to the Nats cause; to that I say “this is a free country; you’re free not to read what you don’t like.”  Too many haters in this world.
  • NatsStats: last post Aug 2010.
  • Nats of the Round Table: last post Oct 2008, may have morphed into Nationals Baseball above.
  • NBTN: last post July 2009, now the page renders in Japanese.  Weird.
  • Passing Time Between Wil Nieves’ Bombs… last post March 2012.
  • Past a Diving Vidro: last post May 2011.
  • Planetary Nats Blog: last post Dec 2010
  • Pulp Nationals: last post Mar 2010.
  • Senators Fans Unite: Will Bentzel signed off Jan 1 2010.
  • StephenJWalker.com: last post Oct 2011.
  • Swatting Nats; last post Oct 2010.
  • The Half Street Highrise: last post Apr 2010, author Banneker moved to The Nats Blog.
  • The Nats Report: last post Nov 2010.
  • Washington Nationals; last post Nov 2010, domain now gone.
  • We’ve Got Heart; last post Apr 2010.
  • YOU DEAD DAWG: last post Nov 2011.

Not entirely about the Nats but of Interest to Nats Fans

Nats Beat Reporters

  • All Nats All the Time: official blog feed of MLB.com Nats beat reporter Bill Ladson.
  • Byron Kerr: MASN Nats beat reporter Byron Kerr‘s official blog feed.
  • Latest entries for Nationals Watch: from Washington Times beat reporter Amanda Comak.
  • MASNsports.com‘s Nats Beat Reporter Pete Kerzel‘s blog feed.
  • Nationals Journal; Washington Post Nats Beat reporters Adam Kilgore and James Wagner‘s official blog.  The NatsJournal is one of the longest running blogs out there and is very widely read.
  • NATS INSIDER; Comcast Sports Net’s Mark Zuckerman‘s blog, probably which has the widest readership of any link on this page.

Other links for Members of the Press

  • Bob Carpenter: MASN TV broadcaster Bob Carpenter‘s official blog feed.
  • Examiner Beanballs RSS: Washington Examiner Beanballs feed, Nats specific but very sporadic.
  • Examiner MLB RSSWashington Examiner MLB feed, but seems Nats specific.  Sometimes picks up Tom Loverro‘s stuff.
  • Washington Nationals News: official MLB feed for the team, mostly written by Ladson as well.
  • Thomas Boswell (washingtonpost.com): Washington Post National writer Tom Boswell‘s rss feed.  He doesn’t write exclusively on the Nats, but there’s plenty of baseball content.

Nats “Official” Blogs; these are from the team, from players, etc.

Obsolete “Official” Nats blogs and links

Known Nats News items on the Net not listed above

  • Mr Irrelevant: Jamie & Chris Mottram has a DC-sports heavy blog, but not Nats specific.
  • I’m not entirely sure i’m getting all the content The Washington Examiner offers via the above links (which is a shame if true, because I like the writing of Thom Loverro)
  • District Sports Page, what grew out of Nationals News Network and Dave Nichols, doesn’t have a Nats-specific feed, just an all-Washington sports feed, and (frankly) I can’t stand the overexposure the Washington Redskins get in this town.
  • DC Sports Bog features the always-entertaining writing of Dan Steinberg but isn’t entirely Nats focused.
  • William World News from William Yurasko is in the same boat; some Nats posts, not entirely Nats related.  Lots of DC-area items of interest though.
  • We Love DC; as with others in this section, lots about DC, some about the Nats.  Editor: Tom Bridge with Nats specialist Rachel Levitin.
  • DC Pro Sports Report: like with District Sports Page; all DC sports, no Nats-specific feed that I can find.  Update: Nichols provided this link: districtsportspage.com/category/nationalsmlb
  • Baseball News Hound: authored by Ryan Kelley, who also contributes to Bleacher Report.  Lots of Nats stuff but not exclusively so.
  • Seamheads.com: more of a generic baseball blog but does have some DC-centric guys like Ted Leavengood who guest-blogs for MASN.

If you have updates, corrections or additions to anything above, please comment and let me know.  I know I may have some of the names for these blogs wrong, or am missing major contributors to sites whose author rolls change quickly.  I apologize in advance for any errors or mistakes.

No takers for Carlos Rivero plus Rule-5 returns

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Carlos Rivero snuck through waivers and stays with the organization. Photo Brad Barr/US Presswire via bleacherreport.com

Great news 3/25/13: the Nats exposed Carlos Rivero to waivers, got no takers and he was outrighted to AAA Syracuse over the weekend.

I know he didn’t have the greatest numbers this spring (8-for-47 for a meager .170 BA), but he seems like he could be a valuable utility guy in a pinch, able to play multiple positions both in the infield and outfield.   I liked what I saw from him in limited TV time this spring.  I’m glad he made it through waivers and remains an option in our farm system for at least this year.

He also clears a spot off the 40 man, leaving us sitting at 38/40.  Plenty of room to make moves if need be.  But not a ton of manuverability; of the 38 guys remaining, you can only really make a case for Corey Brown as being relatively expendible/likely to pass through waivers.  If we get a slew of injuries like last season that cause us to do mass call-ups, we may have to heavily depend on the 60-day DL.

Meanwhile, another year of Rule-5 complaining (see here and here) has essentially proven once again to be wasted breath; both Jeff Kobernus and Danny Rosenbaum have been returned to the team.   Kobernus still seemingly sits behind Steve Lombardozzi, Anthony Rendon and Wil Rhymes on the team’s 2nd base depth chart, meaning we’d have to have a pretty bad slate of injuries for him to sniff the majors this year.  But, it is nice to have him back, considering his draft pedigree and bonus money investment.  Rosenbaum was our AA Ace last year and started out with ace-like stuff, but struggled in the 2nd half.  Given that the team suddenly has a slew of starter arms in AAA (especially if Chris Young sticks around, though he probably walks), perhaps we’ll see Rosenbaum starting in AA again.  Not likely though; would you rather challenge Rosenbaum in AAA or give another year of starts to someone like Tanner Roark at this point?

Ladson’s inbox 3/22/13

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Micah Owings has had an impressive spring, putting himself in line for a 2013 callup. Photo Jonathan Newton/TWP

We’re getting closer to Opening Day!  Bill Ladson publishes what may be his last spring training mailbag late friday 3/22/13.

As always, I sometimes edit questions for clarity and answer here before reading Ladson’s response.

Q: Micah Owings is showing pretty impressive numbers in Spring Training. What are his chances of making the Opening Day roster, considering Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore are also backup outfielders?

A: Zero, barring an injury this week.  The Nats outfield has been set since mid last year.  Micah Owings knows this but took the offer with the Nats presumably for two reasons: the team is expected to be good (and what veteran player doesn’t want to catch on with a first place team?) and the team is a bit thin on corner outfielder OF prospects in the higher minors.  Looking at the current state of the minor league depth chart, it isn’t hard to see how a solid start in AAA would catapult Owings above Corey Brown into the #1 OF reserve spot (of course, Brown can play center, so it would likely depend on which OF was injured, but still).  I like reclamation projects, and I like what we’ve seen out of Owings so far this spring.  I’d like to see him make it back to the majors as a big bopper.  Ladson agrees, though he says the team may promote him in May or June??  Who exactly is he to replace?

Q: Most of the Nationals’ starters are not showing good numbers in Spring Training. Should we be worried?

A: Nope.  Rule number one with Spring Training; pay zero attention to the stats of any established Major Leaguer.  They’re not pitching these games to try to get a win; they’re pitching to get ready for the season, to work on specific pitches, to work on location, etc.  I once heard a story about Tom Glavine giving up something ridiculous like 8 runs in his final spring training outing and the press corps going nuts; turns out he was working on locating his change-up, and ONLY working on locating his change-up, so once the opposing team figured out what he was doing they started sitting on an outside change-up and tattooed him.  This is exactly why you can’t trust stats from Florida.  Ladson agrees.

Q: Do you think the bars that Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg have set for themselves this year will be too much for them to handle?

A: I’m not really aware of any “bars” either player has set; the only things I can think of are Strasburg saying he wants to be a “workhorse” and perhaps Harper saying he wants to hit 30 homers?  It isn’t like they’ve thrown down the gauntlet and said they want to win MVPs, Cy Youngs, etc.  Now the Press on the other hand; yes they’ve probably set the bar too high.  But (especially with Harper) it isn’t hard to see this scenario; usually MVPs are the best players from the best teams.  If the Nats end up being a playoff team, and Harper is our best player …. he’s going to be a leading MVP candidate.  This doesn’t imply Harper is the best player in the league (that’s NOT the definition of the MVP and not how its generally voted), but it does mean he may be in the running.  Ladson dismissed the question as well.

Q: What do you feel are the plans with Eury Perez this season and beyond?

A: First off, I’d say that Eury Perez really cost himself development time this year as a side-effect of playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.  The Nats demoted him while he was sitting on the bench for the D.R., and mentioned publically they were worried about his lack of work.  I’d say that Perez needs another season proving himself at AAA before he really starts putting himself in the mix for a full time MLB spot.  He put up great numbers last year; .314/.344/.361 between AA and AAA with 51 steals in 127 games.  That’s classic leadoff/centerfielder stuff, or exactly what the team acquired in the off-season in Denard Span.  In games so far this spring, Perez has just glided to 2nd base on steal attempts; he’s faster than nearly any player I can remember in a Nats uniform.

But the question is this; how does Perez fit in given that the Nats are committed to Span for at least 2013 and 2014 (it seems more and more likely we’ll be declining his 2015 option based on this paragraph), and considering that the team has rising stud Brian Goodwin who seems to be a similar player in a similar position (albeit with slightly less speed but significantly more power)?  I’m beginning to think that the log-jam in the Nats outfield is going to eventually mean that Perez ends up being traded for an opportunity elsewhere.  Ladson agrees with all of these points, also mentioning prospect Michael Taylor, who I always forget about.

Wow; short mailbag, only 4 questions.


Why does MLB want to damage its sport with an International Draft??

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First we saw what happened to Puerto Rico as a Baseball talent source once it was included as a US territory and made part of the Rule 4 Amateur Draft.  In a nutshell; all the US teams closed whatever academies they may have had on the island and cut back on scouts because there was no longer any competitive advantage to being there and developing talent, and thus the number of players from Puerto Rico has drastically fallen as compared to 20 years ago.  The best article on this topic i’ve seens is by Jorge Castillo of the New York Times in Jan 2012.

Next we saw the gutting of the Amateur draft compensation limits, along with limits on International free agency spending as ramroaded into the latest CBA.  These guidlines were seemingly put in by cheap owners with poor executive staffs who were tired of having the lower payroll teams eat their lunch by spending a few more million dollars on scouting and player development to gain competitive advantages.  You know, instead of just having tens of millions of extra dollars handed to them by Regional Sports Networks in large markets (Jerry Reinsdorf, i’m looking at you here, complicit with the notoriosly cheap Bud Selig).

Now this; now we’re hearing that MLB is actually considering putting in place an International draft.  A June 1st deadline exists to take action and apparently both sides (the owners and the Players association) seem to be in favor of this draft in some form.  MLB is so interested in getting an international draft that they’re willing to give (per Buster Olney) “significant concessions” to the players union (up to and including higher minimum salaries and lowering the time to arbitration) in order to make it happen.  The Union’s argument (as it always has been) goes along the following; amateurs and foreigners aren’t union members, so to hell with them.  If we can guarantee ourselves more money, lets do it.

Why is this bad?

Simply put, I do not trust MLB executives and the collective penny pinching, revenue hounding ownership-driven management of the sport to put in place the appropriate resources to off-set what is sure to be a massive pull-out of Latin American countries by all 30 teams if an International Draft is put in place.  What possible incentives would a team have to develop talent in a place like the Dominican Republic via a privately funded academy, if their rivals could just swoop in and draft them after they’ve been developed for years on end?   I feel that an international draft would destroy the pipeline of Latin American talent into the sport, and it would significantly harm the future of Baseball.  It would be like Puerto Rico, only on a grand scale for every country south of the Rio Grande.

All so that the owners can save a few million dollars.  The average MLB salary last year was $3.2M, or less than most teams now have as budgets for the entire annual Rule 4 draft.  Pennies all-told when compared to the typical 9-figure payrolls they maintain and the hundreds of millions of dollars they earn from gate, concessions, parking, merchandise and TV revenues.

I’m not saying the current situation where 16 year olds are signed and then discarded as washed out 19 year olds in America (and left with no English skills, little education and no future) is good.  I’m not saying that a system controlled by underworld Buscones is good either.  But I have no faith that MLB will take the proper steps and will invest enough money in these countries to offset the impact of a draft.  Zero faith; this is after all the same instution that is currently trying to kill pensions for non-uniformed employees!

I don’t entirely understand why the Players Association is for this either; don’t they understand the long term ramifications of these policies?  I mean, amateurs aren’t part of the union … but EVERY major league player once was an amateur and faced all these same issues (whether they were subject to the Rule 4 draft or they had to deal with international free agency or had to deal with the Posting system).   Are the players so myopic in pursuit of short-term financial gains that they can’t see what the long term effects will be?

Now, the above alarmism being said, there are pretty significant barriers to an international draft.  Take for example the situation going on in Mexico.  Mexican clubs demand large transfer fees for their players, and nearly every player of any consequence over the age of 13 “belongs” to a club (much like the old Reserve Clause in the majors, only its even MORE restrictive); how would you draft someone who has a price tag associated with them?  The issues with the Mexican league are detailed and highlighted in this excellent SportsonEarth.com story by Jorge Arangure Jr about a lawsuit being filed on behalf of a Mexican prospect who is alleging that he’s being tied to a Mexican club via forged documents.  Meanwhile a “handshake” deal exists between MLB and the Japanese league preventing MLB teams from signing Japanese players as youths so as to allow them to go through the “posting system,” which enriches clubs in the country.  How do you handle Japanese players in the draft?  Does the posting fee count against the international FA limit?  It clearly doesn’t now, allowing teams to spend tens of millions of dollars just to acquire the rights to negotiate with Japanese FAs (who come from the industrialized and wealthy Japan) but meanwhile FA teenagers from impoverished Latin American countries now face cap limits on bonuses that often times were little more than a few thousand dollars.  How is this situation in any way justifiable?

This isn’t Professional Basketball, where professional leagues are now established and are popular the world over and an international draft in the NBA makes sense because player development occurs naturally without the required investment of the US professional league.  There’s no summer-long pro baseball in the Dominican Republic or Venezuela where so many of these players come from; there’s barely organized amateur baseball there outside of the academies run by teams.  Sure there’s Winter leagues … but are these winter leagues more for returning players from stateside or showcases for local talent?

If you take these Latin American academies away … you will destroy baseball in the country.  And you’ll shut down the pipeline of talented players coming to play in America, which will lessen the sport.  Is that really what these owners want?

(Here’s some additional reading material on the topic: Maury Brown‘s BizofBaseball take, MLBTradeRumors’ running blog of updates on the topic, and Jay Jaffe‘s op-ed piece).

Written by Todd Boss

March 21st, 2013 at 9:24 am

WBC Semis, Finals and Tourney Review

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Maybe Team USA wasn’t meant to make it to the WBC semis regardless; the two teams that beat them in pool play made the finals themselves.  Lets take a look at the semis and finals, and talk about the tournament in general:

Semis: Puerto Rico outsted 2-time defending champion Japan relatively easily behind the batting prowness of Alex Rios (who is earning himself fantasty baseball street cred by the bucket-full this spring).  Perhaps Japan is regretting having some of its best players bow out of the tournament just as team USA has.  Hey, that’s why they play the games, right?  Japan’s ace Kenta Maeda couldn’t find his rhythm and pitched just badly enough to lose.

Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic wore down the Netherland’s pitching staff and got some revenge over the Netherlands in the other semi, to setup a Finals rematch from pool play.  The star of the game was not one of the D.R.’s stars, it was little known Moises Sierra, who made a fantastic catch in the first and then doubled in the eventual winning run in their big 5th inning rally.

Finals: Though it seems anti-climactic, the D.R. jumped out to a first inning lead and were never really threatened, winning the final 3-0 over Puerto Rico.  The D.R. finishes the tournament undefeated and rightfully so, having easily the strongest roster of any of the teams.  And they finally win the WBC title that many thought that they were the most deserving to win (outside of the US team of course, which has yet to field a full-strength team in any of the 3 iterations of the tournament).

Tournament Thoughts: I feel like the tournament is catching on a little bit, that the patriotism factors that the smaller nations are showing is starting to wear off on the Americans who aren’t playing.   The TV ratings remain low in the US … but they’re sky high elsewhere.  I do believe MLB needs to look into moving the tournament to occur either around the All-Star break or (more likely) after the World Series ends each year so that players are at full strength, have no excuse not to play and we could have a better tournament.

Written by Todd Boss

March 20th, 2013 at 10:35 am

Miami New Times piles on Loria, Selig

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These links are a bit dated, but I thought they were interesting reads.

  • The Miami New Times has refused to divulge their sources to MLB, mostly because (as far as I can tell) they’re still pissed at Bud Selig for allowing his buddy Jeffrey Loria to screw Miami.  This “Press Release” reads more like a disgruntled blogger than it does an official communique.

In either case, any worries that people may have had about Gio Gonzalez or anyone else getting suspended for their roles in the Biogenesis case seem unfounded.  How can MLB suspend anyone if they don’t have any evidence in their hands?

Written by Todd Boss

March 19th, 2013 at 10:18 am

Ladson’s Inbox 3/14/13

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Mar 12, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; United States pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) delivers a pitch against Puerto Rico at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a while since Bill Ladson did an inbox; strange because you’d think with Spring Training in full swing he’d be getting a ton of emails.  Here’s his 3/14/13 edition.  Lets see if he takes a question on who will be the 2014 manager for the 5th consecutive time.

As always, I write my own answers before reading his, and edit questions for clarity as needed.

Q: Should the Nats be worried about sending their pitchers to the World Baseball Classic? Will there be pressure on them to pitch too many innings too soon?

A: Yes, this organization may be worried, as discussed in depth in Feburary in this space.  We’ve never had a pitcher throw in the WBC who hasn’t come back either injured or less effective, and league-wide studies show the same trend.  However I will say this: all 5 pitchers we’ve sent in years past were relievers.  This year we sent two starters in Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler.  So maybe things will be different.  Yes the concern basically is that these guys are more interested in getting outs than getting ready for the regular season, causing them to overthrow, to not prepare as they normally would in the spring, to not focus on specific things that they would normally do in spring training games.  It is less about innings or pitch counts (which are strictly monitored).   Ladson says the team isn’t worried about their arms, but is worried about the lack of playing time Eury Perez is getting.  And they have a great point; Perez is sitting on the DR bench instead of getting ABs in spring training games.  His chances of making the team dropped to zilch and he’s already been re-assigned to AAA.

Q: Who are going to be the lefties for the Nationals by Opening Day?

A: I’m assuming he means the “Lefty relievers.”  At this point its looking like we’re going to break camp with just one lefty reliever in Zach Duke. Bill Bray needs more minor league time, Bobby Bramhall and Sean West are in minor league camp slated for AAA jobs, Brandon Mann got one inning and was awful, Pat McCoy got some innings but isn’t ready.  Only Fernando Abad has stuck with the big-league team and looks good.  But, if Henry Rodriguez is ready to go there’s no room for Abad.  I’m guessing Abad goes to AAA and bides his time.  Ladson agrees, and points out that our righties can get lefties out.

Q: With Tyler Moore on the big league roster, what do you think will happen to Chris Marrero?

A: I’m going to answer this my way, then i’ll predict what Ladson says.  Chris Marrero goes back to AAA, burns his last option in the process, and bides his time waiting for injuries to take out the likes of Adam LaRoche and/or Tyler Moore. That seems to be the only way he gets opportunities this year.  The team will hope for a strong AAA season to build up trade value and then will move him if they can.  Otherwise he’s looking at a waiver wire trip this coming off-season.  Now, before I read Ladson’s answer i’m going to guess that he says something along the lines of “The Nats will look to trade him for valuable assets” but he’ll neglect to mention that Marrero has zero trade value right now, having missed all of last year.  Lets see if i’m right: I stand corrected; Ladson has finally come around on his stance on Marrero and says he’ll be in AAA all year.

Q: Would the Nats ever consider adding Kyle Lohse to the roster?

A: Consider?  Perhaps.  Actually do it?  I don’t see it.   Kyle Lohse is becoming the poster child for the problem with the Qualifying Offer in the new CBA.  He foolishly declined it (on the advice of Scott Boras, who probably told him he could get 3-4 years guaranteed on the open market), and now sits unsigned 3 weeks from opening day.  Its amazing; this guy was 16-3 last year!  Lohse is seen as a product of his environment, a great coaching staff in St. Louis who do wonders with mediocre pitchers.  And make no mistake; 2012 aside Lohse is a career 97 ERA+ pitcher with a .500 record and a 4.45 ERA.  He doesn’t fit into the mold of what Mike Rizzo generally wants in a starter; power arm, high K/9 capabilities.  Now, if the team bus crashed and we lost our starting rotation to injury tomorrow … yeah i’m guessing we’d give him a call.  But there’s no way the Nats (or likely any other team) is going to give 3 guaranteed years to a 34-year old soft-tossing guy.  Boras really, really miscalculated here and it looks like its going to cost his client millions.  Ladson agrees.

Q: Please find out where Cole Kimball is in his rehab. I would like to know if he’s anywhere close to pre-surgery velocity.

A: I only saw Cole Kimball in one game, but his velocity was down.  Perhaps its ramped back up later into spring training.  In either case he’s bound for AAA to burn his last Option and await bullpen issues for his shot.  Ladson says he’s “close to throwing 95-mph.”  I wish more of these games were televised.

Q: Having heard earlier in the offseason that general manager Mike Rizzo feels Steve Lombardozzi and Danny Espinosa are both starters and not bench players, do you feel one of them will be traded prior to Opening Day? Lombardozzi was an extremely clutch pinch-hitter last year in my opinion.

A: Traded prior to Opening Day?  Almost impossible; nobody makes trades at this point in the season.  You make trades prior to spring training and then after a couple months are past in the season to address off-season or intra-season needs.  We’ll save the Espinosa vs Lombardozzi vs Rendon discussion; we all know it by heart by now.   Ladson says a trade is not coming.

Q: Considering he had a very good year with Triple-A Syracuse in 2012, what are the chances of outfielder Corey Brown making the team?

A: Zilch.  He may have hit in AAA, but he didn’t hit squat with Washington last September.  He’s at least 6th on the Washington OF depth chart (Werth, Harper, Span, Moore, Bernadina and then Eury Perez.  Perhaps even lower; I think the team would give Carlos Rivero and Erik Komatsu chances before Brown at this point.  And its just a matter of time before uber-prospect Brian Goodwin passes him by as well.  Brown’s looking at another year of AAA time, burning his last option, and then getting the MLFA treatment.  Ladson says no chance.

Hey!  No question on the 2014 Nats manager this time! I stand corrected.