Nationals Arm Race

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

Reaction to Tom Boswell’s accusatory column

32 comments

Here’s Tom Boswell‘s latest column about the Nats.  The more I read it, the more irritated I get with his stance.  Maybe it was a column designed to get a reaction of of people.  If so maybe I’m just a sucker for reacting (and writing this blog post).  So be it; in a town with so little Nats press coverage, those stories that do get printed have that much more import to the general public.  And I don’t want the general public feeding off of a crap story like this to get their impression about the team, where it stands, and where its going.

As far as I can tell, Boswell is taking the tired stance that “The Lerner’s are cheap” since they havn’t accomplished what they’ve laid out to accomplish this off-season (namely, obtain a Center Fielder and a Starting Pitcher).

Here’s the gist of one quote that I can’t get over:

If you want to know why it’s almost Christmas and the Nats haven’t signed Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson, why they haven’t bid on Yu Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes, why they haven’t been within a zillion miles of C.J. Wilson, Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder, and especially why they haven’t made a prospects-for-a-star trade such as the Reds for ace Mat Latos, it’s probably because ownership is tensing up, tightening the leash again.

Wow.  Well there’s an awful lot of assumptions in here.  Player by player:

  1. Mark Buehrle: the team DID make an offer to him, and came in 2nd.  The Marlins, who suddenly are spending money without abandon, guaranteed a 4th year and a TON of money to sign him.  Was Buehrle the answer?  Was he worth 4 years at $14.5M in average annual value (AAV) per year?  To say nothing of the fact that Miami heavily back loaded the contract so that Buehrle will be getting an asounding $19M in 2016, when he’s scheduled to be a soft-tossing lefty turning 36 years old.  I’m sorry; its a bad contract and you cannot fault the Nats for not wanting to extend that much money on a guy who is no better than a #3 starter in this league.
  2. Roy Oswalt: last time I checked, Oswalt hasn’t signed.  You can’t MAKE a player sign a contract!  Why is it the Nats fault that Oswalt likely is on vacation with his family and hasn’t signed a 2012 contract yet?   In fact he specifically said that he was waiting for the markets for both Wilson and Buehrle to clear before he even considered what he was going to do.
  3. Edwin Jackson: Boras client.  Boras clients wait til the last minute to “create the market.”  Nobody’s heard a peep out of Boras’ camp yet.  Again, how is it the Nat’s fault that Jackson hasn’t signed yet??
  4. Yu Darvish: $51M in posting fee and then reportedly wants a $75M contract.  Darvish isn’t Cliff Lee or CC Sabathia, and those are the only two pitchers with contracts in the 5yr/$120M range.  Is Darvish the same as Lee or Sabathia?  Not even close.  He’s a good prospect who has yet to throw a MLB pitch and who may or may not ever live up to his billing.  No other Japanese pitcher has lived up to his billing, so the track record isn’t rosy.  There’s taking risks, and then there’s taking ridiculous, franchise altering risks that set you back for 5 years.  I will not fault the team for staying out of the Darvish negotiations.
  5. Yoenis Cespedes hasn’t even established DR residency, so he’s not even an official free agent yet!!  How can you fault the team for not pursuing him if he’s not even eligible to sign??    Not to mention the fact that he’s a complete raw talent that needs probably a year and a half of minor league time and couldn’t help us in 2012?
  6. CJ Wilson was a #2 pitcher who laid a massive egg in the playoffs and signed a lucrative deal to play for his home town team.  What makes you think he was even considering coming to Washington?
  7. Jose Reyes was another bad signing by Miami, giving a ton of money to a clubhouse malcontent, injury risk short stop who only produced when it was his contract year.  Why even mention Reyes if he’s not a pitcher or a center fielder, in the context of this article?
  8. Prince Fielder; again, hasn’t signed yet.  Boras client.  Not the Nats fault.  Maybe Rizzo has spent hours and hours on the phone with Boras and we don’t know.  I don’t have a phone tap into the Nats front office, does Boswell?  Lets not criticize moves (or lack of them) until they ACTUALLY OCCUR.
  9. Mat Latos-like deal: well, i’m kinda glad we havn’t made a Latos deal since I thought that deal was incredibly bad for Cincinnati.  They gave up one starter, two close-to-the-majors first rounders AND a 4th decent prospect for a guy who I wouldn’t even say is in the best 50 pitchers in the game.  If Rizzo mades this trade and gave away the kind of talent that Cincinnati did, there’d be a massive uproar.

Lets face it.  The Nats stated needs were always going to be really difficult to fill.  Why?  Because:

  1. there was such a lack of starting pitcher FA depth that those candidates out there were ALWAYS going to get bid up ridiculously.  Its simple economics; lack of supply means a lot of demand.  And, if you’re building a team FOR THE LONG TERM you don’t hamstring yourself trying to chase in the short term.
  2. There’s even fewer legitimate CF targets out there, either in trade or in the FA market.  There’s perhaps 10-12 legitimate CFs in the league who provide plus offense AND plus defense.  You’re not going to just “trade for” one of these guys.

So, any deal to fill either spot isn’t going to happen overnight.

Here’s another quote I take issue with:

When are they going to stop trying to build a suspension bridge with the minimum amount of steel and then, as happened in 2008 and ’09, act shocked if it collapses? After one 80-81 third-place year, have they forgotten the pain?

Who says that they are?  Last time I checked this team hired Rizzo in 2009, then formulated a plan, and the team has in the last two years improved 10 games each year in the win column while building a top-10 farm system.   How can you accuse the team of going off the rails of its own plan just by virtue of the fact that a couple of potential FA targets signed elsewhere in a seller’s market??

Boswell uses phrases in this article such as “All the signs are there,” and “Its probably because…” and “the Nats could end up” and “Its what I suspect is happening.”  EVERY one of those phrases is Boswell conjecture.  He has no idea what’s really going to happen.

Another quote:

Instead, they’ve done nothing except sign washed-up center fielder Mike Cameron, 39, to a minor league deal.

Really?  They’ve done “nothing” except that signing?  So all that work scouting players, negotiating with Buehrle, and talking trades was “nothing.”  To say nothing of the fact that Cameron, while a minor deal, was a necessary one.  This team has NO backup outfielders right now.  Just as they have almost no utility infielders.  So while CF and a SP were the #1 and #1a off-season priorities, there are other holes to fill.

One more hypocritical quote:

In baseball, no pitfall is more common than becoming infatuated with your own young, unproven, inexpensive players. For example, you look at Ross Detwiler, Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone and figure one of them most likely will become a 100-game winner. Sorry, tilt! Not how it works. They’re nice prospects. But odds are that none ever has a 15-win season. Buehrle and Oswalt already have won 161 and 159 games, respectively — and each may win 50 more.

Oh, so we can’t count on Detwiler, Peacock or Milone (total combined 2012 salary: around $1.2M) but WE SHOULD be throwing upwards of $120M on Yu Darvish!?  Because he’s so proven at the major league level?   Why isn’t Darvish “just another nice prospect” as well?  Wouldn’t you rather see if Brad Peacock is just as good a right handed starter as Darvish at 1/100th of the cost?  I would.  Especially considering that for that money saved you could end up with somone as good as Darvish AND the next big FA slugger.  That’s why you develop prospects, and that’s why you let them play.  If instead this is an argument about why we should be getting Oswalt, well see above; Oswalt hasn’t signed yet!

Boswell’s over-riding point seems to be that the Nats need to be spending the anticipated $30M revenue bump they anticipate getting from the new MASN TV contract, now.  That’s fair, certainly. But lets not print such a wildly accusatory article when its DECEMBER and half our possible targets are actually still out there.  The team may actually still be spending that money!  Not to mention the dozens of trade possibilities that nobody’s even considering since, you know, we’re not Mike Rizzo and don’t know what he’s actually considering or talking about with other GMs.  We have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow.  Tomorrow this team may sign Fielder, Oswalt AND Cespedes and suddenly Rizzo and Lerner are the heros.

Until tomorrow happens though, printing this kind of reactionary crap is just that.  Crap.

Thomas Boswell
Thomas Boswell
Columnist

Nationals have more cash coming in, but refuse to spend it

Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post – After making the Nationals respectable in two seasons, General Manager Mike Rizzo said the team was a player or two away from contention. But it seems ownership has not opened the purse strings to sign any significant players.

The Washington Nationals never really seem to learn. Or, rather, the Lerners don’t. As soon as you think they start to get it, they backslide again.

When are the Nats going to be allowed to be good? When will they get to build a winner with a roster that has a sensible margin of safety, rather than constructing a team that can succeed only in a best-case world?

When are they going to stop trying to build a suspension bridge with the minimum amount of steel and then, as happened in 2008 and ’09, act shocked if it collapses? After one 80-81 third-place year, have they forgotten the pain?

It’s happening again. All the signs are there. The Nats’ baseball people lay out clearly what they want to achieve in the offseason. None of it is terribly difficult. But there is risk and expense. Then, as the offseason unfolds, nothing happens.

Was Jayson Werth just the exception that proves the rule? Even his signing only nudged the Nats’ 2011 payroll over its ’05 level, when the team was an MLB chattel. Is what we’re seeing, again, really the distressing norm?

“We’re busy. We’re trying to be aggressive but broad-minded, we’re working behind the scenes,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said on Wednesday, adding that the Nats were working on “bench options.” Bench options? Pine or oak?

If you want to know why it’s almost Christmas and the Nats haven’t signed Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson, why they haven’t bid on Yu Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes, why they haven’t been within a zillion miles of C.J. Wilson, Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder, and especially why they haven’t made a prospects-for-a-star trade such as the Reds for ace Mat Latos, it’s probably because ownership is tensing up, tightening the leash again.

32 Responses to 'Reaction to Tom Boswell’s accusatory column'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Reaction to Tom Boswell’s accusatory column'.

  1. Good take on the Boswell rant. Couple of things you didn’t note: 1) several people elsewhere have pointed out that what Boz said today is in flat contradiction to his praise for the Rizzo gradualist approach in Monday’s chat, and 2) he spent a good chunk of his column talking about how Ted is making all the decisions and any decision involving substantial money has to be justified to him in detail, complete with PowerPoint presentation.

    The difference between today’s Boz and Monday’s Boz could be just Boz blowing hot and cold, as he’s done quite often especially on the Nats. But the detail about Ted makes me wonder if Boz is channeling a Nats insider (no, not the one we all know and love) who doesn’t believe that the Nats will get any of the big names, blames Ted and his control, and is very frustrated by it.

    If Jim Riggleman were still manager, he would be a likely suspect. But Davy certainly isn’t; he thinks he has the horses now except for the bench and maybe a big slugger. And this certainly isn’t Rizzo’s style. So it’s likely someone working for Rizzo or maybe directly for the Lerners (I suppose it’s even possible, if unlikely, that it could be Mark himself, waiting impatiently to inherit the throne).

    Boz could deal a lot better with all this if he were the Boz of thirty years ago; regretfully he isn’t. He hasn’t degenerated into a pile of crap as Dick Young did, and he’s still worth reading, but it’s a pity that in his best years he had no home team.

    Steven J. Berke

    22 Dec 11 at 12:40 pm

  2. Hear, hear. A tremendously weak and poorly considered piece by Boswell. My real concern is that they do a costly trade of high prospects for Gonzalez (who not only won’t be cheap with arbitration but also is not a sure bet leaving Oakland’s pitcher friendly park and way too many walks for a quality pitcher). Or better yet, renting Oswalt for 140-160 innings and still leaving a number of starts for Detwiler, Peacock, Milone.

    Do you have any sense as to whether Rizzo and Co. listen to Boswell?

    rfw31

    22 Dec 11 at 12:46 pm

  3. I must admit I didn’t think you’d agree with me Steven :-) . I cant’ wait to see what Harper responds with, since I put the link to my post as a comment to his praising post.

    Totally agree with the contractions between this and Monday’s chat. I should have mentioned it in the post. I blew out that post in 30 mins and posted it without a ton of review.

    Davey himself has said that (paraphrased) he likes the team as it is, right now. Which means he likes his chances going with Detwiler/Milone/Peacock in the 5th starter role. You buy another starter and he better be worth it, because it would light Detwiler on fire (no options, no room seemingly in the bullpen) and delay Milone & Peacock another year (barring injury).

    A possible good point on the unnamed insider … but who could it be? Rizzo’s a big scouting/prospects guy, and the Nats have done nothing but let him draft and buy a ton of high-end talent. You have to think Rizzo is really happy right now in his job and where the team has gone in the past two years.

    Todd Boss

    22 Dec 11 at 1:00 pm

  4. Gonzalez; not for. Agree totally. I wouldn’t mind Oswalt frankly and would choose him over Detwiler/Peacock/Milone for that last rotation spot IF and only if he’s really healthy and can return to his form of two years ago. That’s a tough one to determine. And, let it be said, there’s zero guarantee that Oswalt comes here. If I were Oswalt, given his age and his poor 2010 season i’d go to San Diego, pitch in that mammoth park, put up a 2.10 era through July and earn a trade and a contract extension. He’s only got one more shot at a big pay day and to me, hearing him say he’d take a one-year deal was entirely about re-building his FA value next off-season.

    Does Rizzo listen to Boswell? I can’t imagine so. Just look at his monday chat and his thursday column. They’re entirely contradictory. Boswell is a senior baseball writer for sure, but he’s also got a job to do that is in contradiction to building a team for the long run.

    Todd Boss

    22 Dec 11 at 1:03 pm

  5. I basically agree. While I can’t blame the fans for having a “here we go again” feeling, it’s still too early to come down hard on the team. Though I agree with Steven that the article reeks of insider with issues.

    I don’t think I agree with your take on Buehrle though. Again, I think in the modern stat heavy day we get caught up in finding value. At a certain point you need to start getting wins with less regard to the value. Accept that you are going to have to add money not just shift resources. While I’m not sure the Nats should have gone up to the Marlins deal, the deal they did offer should have been more competitive.

    Also he’s not “no better than a #3″. He’s consistently been a Top 40 type pitcher or better, so while for some teams he might be a #3 on most teams he’s a #2.

    Harper Gordek

    22 Dec 11 at 1:10 pm

  6. Yeah but look at how many guys HAVE signed and not with the Nats. Oh and coming in second for the Buehrle sweepstakes?!?!?!?!?!?! They were $20 million short. I’d call that a distant second. If you could even call it that.

    They still haven’t re-signed Ryan Zimmerman and haven’t addressed their CF issue.

    Dan

    22 Dec 11 at 1:22 pm

  7. I may be underselling Buehrle a bit, yes. When I think “#2″ starters i’m thinking about a class of pitchers just below legitimate Aces in this league. I just don’t see Buehrle as that kind of guy. I see him as a workhorse, a guy who is always there to throw 6 innings of 3 run ball, give up a ton of hits and be right around a .500 or slightly better pitcher. In other words, exactly what he was in 2010. He improved a bit in 2011 for sure … so if you buy him for four more years, what are you going to get?

    I did just look up his splits: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=buehrma01&year=2011&t=p

    Unlike Livan (who was great in Wins, of course god-awful in losses but (and here’s the key part) he was equally as bad in NDs as he was in Losses), Buehrle was nearly as good in his NDs as he was in his wins. That says to me he was relatively unlucky, got bad run support, etc. Ok maybe i’ll lighten up on Buerhle.

    Frankly, the arm I wanted for the team this off-season was Oswalt. Not Wilson, not Jackson, not Buehrle. Oswalt on a short-term deal to slot in between Zimmermann and Lannan and make for a much better top to bottom rotation. He’s a veteran (like Buehrle) but he also has a much higher ceiling during his career. If he’s healthy, he’s your best choice on a short term deal.

    Would you have guaranteed $58M for Buerhle for 4 years? 3 for $45M maybe. 4 for $58M is tough. That last year looks like it could be a massive albatross.

    Todd Boss

    22 Dec 11 at 1:25 pm

  8. You may or may not be right about Boswell’s column, but what I hear too often is a congratulatory tone by fans/bloggers who give Rizzo and company a free pass.

    It was easy to criticize Bowden for his faults and failings, but at least he inherited a decimated franchise relocated to a new city without baseball for 30+ years, no talent – just feeding off Robby’s good name.

    What Rizzo’s excuse. He is in a new ballpark. He has drafted at the top each year because of poor team performance so now he has talent – at least prospective talent, but it is still prospective.

    Rizzo has made one major signing – Werth – and one positive trade Ramos. Otherwise it has looked fairly bleak.

    Without going too far back in time, let’s look at recent years.

    Rizzo set goals for 2010, 2011 and 2012 off seasons. Signed Marquis and Capps. Those were the two major signings. One failed badly and the other lead to the Ramos trade, a good move. Te rest of the signings were temporary bottom feeder moves that did not amount to anything long term to help the club.

    Next year, pitching and defense were the keys. Signed Werth but did not follow-up with any other top tier talent. The jury is still out on Werth, though he has time to meet expectations. As of not signing anyone else, the excuse was that players didn’t want to sign her. Was it true who knows. Seems strange – why would a player not want to sign and play with a Strasburg and potentially Harper.

    This year, it is front line top of the oration starter and center fielder who can hit lead off – same story at the 2011 trade deadline. Braves got Bourne, we came out empty handed.

    So far this off-season we have heard much talk, but little to show for it besides signing of bottom feeders – aged athletes at the end of their career.

    Look criticize Boswell if you want but when is it time to start criticize the person the person most responsible for what have or do not have – Rizzo.

    Just my take but I think that was the point of his article.

    Kevin Blanchard

    22 Dec 11 at 1:38 pm

  9. http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/10/2012-top-50-free-agents-1.html Of MLBtraderumors list of top 50 free agents I count quickly at about 20 that have signed. Of those, a number were clearly not at positions the Nats were pursuing.

    2nd is 2nd; the Nats made an offer they thought was fair for Buehrle’s market value for the next three years. that’s how you do business. If you think the Nats offer was completely unfair, so be it. If it was that out of the realm of possible, then we wouldn’t have been a “finalist” in the first place. Clearly Buehrle considered the team, considered the area, considered the opportunity. And then when he was offered a ton more money he took it. Can’t fault him. But to say that the Nats “weren’t even in it” isn’t fair.

    Last time i checked, Zimmerman was under contract through the end of 2013. Why do we NEED to re-sign him right now? In Zimmerman I see an injury prone super star that has had three major injuries in 6 years. Maybe the team is better served trading him and installing Rendon in his place instead of guaranteeing a 9-figure salary to a guy that misses 20% of your games. I’m not necessarily advocating the team dump him … i’m saying you let 2012 play out, see where you stand.

    We never were going to solve CF on the FA market, and last time i checked its December. They have a lot of time to “solve” CF issue.

    Todd Boss

    22 Dec 11 at 1:39 pm

  10. Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

    On Buerhle, keep in mind that Miami has Ozzie Guillen as manager and the Nats don’t, and apparently this was a significant factor in Buerhle’s thinking. So it might not have been enough to match Miami’s offer; the Nats might have had to top it significantly, with either an extra year (unthinkable) or additional money (unsellable to a lot of owners who aren’t Ted Lerner).

    On another point, it isn’t quite true that no Japanese pitcher coming to MLB has ever lived up to his billing. Hideo Nomo did quite well, and since he didn’t get the buildup that DiceK and Darvish did, it could even be said that he exceeded his billing. But that was a while ago, and while he was the best performing Japanese pitcher on these shores, he’s hardly a Hall of Famer (I remember him well because that was pre-Nats and I was a Dodgers fan then.)

    Steven J. Berke

    22 Dec 11 at 1:40 pm

  11. There are some legitimate points in this rebuttal, and I am glad to see the passion on both sides. I think we are fundamentally dealing with a DC sports fanbase that is emotionally scarred by a perceived lack of interest in winning for the financial benefit of the owners and at the expense of the fan.

    However, there is a very real question in my mind as to whether the Lerners are interested in paying a high enough payroll, consistently, to field a winning team. Their payroll for 2011 was $63M… the Phillies was $170M. I don’t care if your farm system is #1 every year, that just ain’t gonna cut it.

    To win consistently you must compete for players consistently. There has been no indication that they are willing to spend the money, which they make from the fans (and will get $30M more of this year) on making the team a winner. They won’t even pay for fireworks, what makes anyone think they’re going to pay top talent what the market bears?

    jqh3

    22 Dec 11 at 1:42 pm

  12. Bowden inherited what he did … and then led the team downward to two 59 win seasons. Bowden’s drafts were absolute disasters for the most part and the 2009 team was an embarrassment that I completely lay at his incompetent hands.

    Rizzo was hired, drafted well, rebuilt the bullpen, rebuilt the entire team, got rid of “toolsy” and “athletic” types that Bowden was obsessed with, and suddenly the team went from 59 to 69 to 80 wins. And all of this while the farm system went from a Baseball America ranking of #29 in 2009 to #12 in 2011, and by early accounts looks to easily be top 10 with the additions of this past draft (rated #1 by the same group).

    I’m not sure what you expect out of Rizzo, other than what he’s done? Improve the mlb team and improve the farm system. You can nit pick about FA signings but the way to build modern baseball teams not in New York, Boston or Los Angeles is through player development and pedantic improvement. That’s exactly what he’s done. Most of his FA signings not named Werth were for spare parts, not for marquee positions.

    If Rizzo is such a failure, how has the team and the farm system improved so much in just two years?

    Todd Boss

    22 Dec 11 at 1:46 pm

  13. Payroll; I agree with you that the payroll should be higher. But $170M? If you’re not drawing, you can’t afford that kind of payroll. Its a chicken-or-egg scenario; the team needs to improve, which will lead to fans, which will lead to more revenue, which should lead to more payroll. Baltimore used to have the highest payroll in the league. Why? Because they were one of the best teams in the league. Cleveland? Same thing; now they’re considered a “small market.” Success will beget payroll. Unfortunately for the Lerners, they missed a golden opportunity to open the new ballpark with a winner, and now here we are 4 years later looking at marginal, gradual franchise improvement.

    Now, if this team gets to 85 wins this year (probably a modest goal frankly) and competes for a playoff spot with a $70-$75M payroll (my current projection, along with baseball-reference’s before any FA signings occur) and then do not commit to more payroll to bring us to the 90M range or so? That’d be a travesty.

    btw; fireworks? Not their call; neighbor complaints about late-night noise.

    Todd Boss

    22 Dec 11 at 1:51 pm

  14. Good point on Buehrle. We sometimes (as fans) forget that some player moves take into consideration the same thoughts we have when we change jobs. Some guys follow former managers (Buehrle and Guillen). Some guys just want to be closer to home (Burrell in SF, latin american guys and the East Coast). We often times say that players will follow the money no matter what, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case 100% of the time. $10M in NYC (with a 12.6% local tax rate) is not the same as $10M in Texas (with no state income tax).

    The “born in Japan” argument is not meant to be racist, I promise. I do think more directly about Dice K, his posting fee and his struggles here. I think more about the unmitigated disaster Kei Igawa was for the Yankees. $26M posting fee, 5yr $20M contract. For that $46M outlay the team got exactly 13 MLB starts, one quality start and a 2-4 record for a per-win outlay of $18.4M. If you get $1m/win on the starting pitcher FA market you’re doing well. $18M/win? That’d kill 1/3rd of the franchises in baseball for 5 years.

    Todd Boss

    22 Dec 11 at 1:57 pm

  15. “To say nothing of the fact that Cameron, while a minor deal, was a necessary one. This team has NO backup outfielders right now. Just as they have almost no utility infielders. So while CF and a SP were the #1 and #1a off-season priorities, there are other holes to fill.”

    Hey Boss, doesn’t the above statement by you negate everything else you said, all of which is just your opinion. I’ll bet you even think the Nats will finish ahead of the Marlins next year (and there is a Santa Claus).

    bosco

    22 Dec 11 at 2:03 pm

  16. Well, I think that there are a few points here that seem at least somewhat agreed upon:

    1) It is not realistic to expect a $170M payroll from this team anytime soon. I was not suggesting that, but wanted to draw what I consider to be a meaningful comparison with a division rival.

    2) If 2012 is a good year (85-90 wins), there should be an immediate need to add top-level talent in whatever capacity is needed. If the team has a shot to be seriously good in 2013 and they don’t pull the trigger then we will know what where we stand with the Lerners: they will just be using the team as a cash-generator with little/no interest in the W/L column. I would take this a step further and say that the Lerners should then do whatever is in their power to take this team to the next level, eg, spending $120-140M/year to build a CONSISTENT, winning team.

    3) The next year-two years are critical; if the Nats regress it will be very, very difficult to get people back to the park/build a winning team.

    I did not know that about the fireworks, but it strikes me as odd: people live in very close proximity to many parks where they feature fireworks after wins and home runs. Not questioning the veracity of your claim, but can you provide a link?

    jqh3

    22 Dec 11 at 2:05 pm

  17. Sure, these are all opinions. Why else do we blog, comment and post our opinions? If you disagree with my opinion I understand. But i’d at least expect to see a reason or some proof why you think your opinion is more right than mine.

    Judging by the reaction elsewhere in these comments, I don’t think i’m alone in my opinion that Boswell’s piece had some issues.

    Will the Nats finish above the Marlins? hmm. Well the Marlins have definitely added some pieces. If Hanley doesn’t turn into a disruption and goes back to his normal productivity, and their pitching staff stays true to capabilities, it will be tough for the Nats to finish above them. If Josh Johnson comes back to Ace form and you replace 29 really bad Volstad starts with 32 good Buehrle starts, that’s suddenly a much tougher team to beat.

    Todd Boss

    22 Dec 11 at 2:13 pm

  18. My “source” for the fireworks thing was a former co-worker who is a resident of the area around the stadium who told me as much. Apparently lots of complaints about fireworks going off in a residential neighborhood at 10-10:30 or later on weeknights. I may be wrong; I went looking for a link on jdland (figuring that’d be the best spot) but couldn’t find anything. So, maybe he’s wrong, and i’m wrong.

    Todd Boss

    22 Dec 11 at 2:16 pm

  19. I appreciate this view of Boswell’s rant.

    I view the Nats’ situation this offseason through the lens of my children when they have a few dollars:
    “Ooooh, Daddy, I really want that magazine, I have the money — well most of it — if you give me a dollar, I can get it.” Then, “Ooooooh, Daddy, there’s the book I heard about — I need, need, NEED it, can I get it?” “I don’t know, how much money do you have.” “Well none, because I bought that magazine last week.”

    This offseason’s free agent crop is the “magazine section” — if you’re really trying to be smart about how and where to spend your money, if you know you need a great book, isn’t it a bit dumb to spend your money on a cruddy magazine?

    I want this team to be good. For them to get there, they have to make wise moves, and throwing piles of cash at old/aging, overvalued, or completely unproven starters in a weak market is not wise. I’m GLAD the team isn’t grabbing 2nd/3rd tier guys at top dollar (anymore) just to make fan base believe they’re serious players. Seems to me the Lerners are, maybe, learning.

    And what’s wrong with that?

    Brian

    22 Dec 11 at 2:27 pm

  20. Greetings, gentlemen, I thrilled that I found this site today, because this is some of the best Nats dialogue I’ve ever read. This is my first time, so please be gentle…

    1. Disagree slightly with Boss on the chicken-and-egg analogy regarding payroll. That’s only true when an owner needs to rely on gate (and TV and merchandise, etc) revenue in order to generate payroll. By all accounts, however, the Ted Lerner is the wealthiest owner in baseball, and so he almost certainly afford to build a high-payroll, winning team first, which would then increase team revenue to a level that could sustain that payroll.

    The counter-argument about your analogy, Boss, can be found in Tampa, where I presently reside (I’m seriously the only Nats fan this side of Viera). Former Rays owner Vince Naimoli infamously declared that he would start spending money on payroll once fans started coming out to the games. But the fans never showed up, so he never increased payroll. In that regard, at least, I tend to generally agree with Boswell: you need to spend money to make money—or (more appropriately) if you build it, they will come. (The unhappy for the Rays is that new ownership HAS put a great team on the field, and still nobody comes to the games).

    2. Also regarding payroll, I agree that payroll must increase. There’s no excuse for a major market, DC team spending roughly what the tiny market Rays spend on players. Sure the Rays have built a great farm system, just as the Nats are doing, but Tampa Bay has to rely on prospects because they can’t afford FA talent. As I noted above, Ted Lerner CAN afford it. So the team should be somewhere from $100-125M in payroll eventually. That said, the Nats in now way should splurge now on overpriced prospects like Yu Darvish, or on positions they don’t need to fill, like 1B. Look, I’d love to have Prince Fielder, too, but Mike Morse looked great at first, and the team has more pressing needs right now, like an apparently unobtainable centerfielder. (Also, I can’t look at Fielder’s body type without having nightmares about Mo Vaughn, who swelled to roughly the size of the Hindenburg after he’d signed with the Mets.)

    3. And finally, I as much as I like and respect Boswell, that column really was a disappointment. You could sense in his Monday chat that he was getting impatient, but his outburst today was nonsensical at times. As Boss ably pointed out, he criticized the Nats for not signing (past tense) free agents who are still available. Even worse, though, by lumping in players like CJ Wilson and Jose Reyes, he was criticizing the team for not signing guys (particularly Reyes) who he’d previously argued they shouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole! Honestly, he seemed more like an angry fan today than anything else. A bit disappointing.

    clark17

    22 Dec 11 at 3:12 pm

  21. Did not have time to digest all of the comments so forgive me if I step on someone else.

    1) This team is being built for 2013/4; not 2012. The Nats need to find out which young pitcher will step up next year – not sit in Syracuse while the Nats trot out high paid pitchers in their 30′s on the downside.
    2) The Nats need money to resign Zim. Remember him, Boz?
    3) The best strategy next year is to start the season, see how Harper progresses, throw the young guns in there, hang above .500, then be a buyer instead of a seller on July 31. That’s what I would do.

    Wick

    22 Dec 11 at 3:51 pm

  22. How can you say it is wrong for Boz to criticize the nats for not signing still available FAs. That’s the point, their still available because the nats haven’t signed them. Where were the Lerners last summer when the Phillies got Pence and the Braves got Bourne? Two players who definitely fit their needs. Sitting on their hands (and money) while division rivals spent money and got better. Isn’t everyone tired of saying wait till next year? Remember George Allen “The future is now.”? I have never seen so many people afraid to spend someone else’s money. Boz has been in this town as long as I have and there is some concern we may never see a winner. I empathize with him, especially when all our rivals are spending and making playoffs. Phillies spend tons of money and have sold out the park for years. Other than us hard core fans, most people come out to see big name players. Yes, MAYBE some of our young players may become big time, but isn’t a bird in hand worth two in the bush?

    bosco

    22 Dec 11 at 4:19 pm

  23. Glad to hear from you.

    Chicken and egg versus Lerner spending money as a wealthy guy; I can appreciate your viewpoint. Yes Lerner is very wealthy but by all accounts he’s tended to run the Nats as a business and not as a typical sports franchise, thus he’s looked to, you know, make a profit. The infamous Ken Rosenthal article about a year into the Lerner’s ownership (whose link I can no longer find unfortunately) seemed to highlight this fact by reporting on frustrations of team employees just trying to do basic office functions. In reality, we all think the Nats payroll *should* be higher (based on affluence of market, size of market in terms of population, size of market in TV viewership, etc) but nobody really “knows” if the team is profitable. I mean to say, we don’t know HOW profitable. We have some Forbes articles that estimate revenue and profits, and we have some leaked financials from teams that have shown some teams (Florida) to be crying poor when they really aren’t. The Nats are privately held and under no pressure to release their internal financials, so we’ll never really know if Lerner is making nary a dime or if he’s pocketing $30M/year. The general sense in the community seems to be towards the latter, which is really a shame considering he was basically handed a new stadium and was hand-picked to own this profit generating franchise.

    An owner like Mark Cuban? You get the sense he doesn’t care if he loses money year in, year out; he wants to win. Lerner? we sense its the opposite until proven otherwise. That’s pretty much why I said the chicken-or-egg thing related to gate revenues.

    Tampa’s situation is shocking. Fantastic team, by all accounts great new owners (I read Keri’s 2% and loved it). Seems to be a geographic problem. It’d be a shame to see the Rays move out of south florida because of it (though, as I discovered when researching this article http://www.nationalsarmrace.com/?p=1787, there really isn’t a great ready-made baseball market out there for them to move TO).

    One other comment on team construction: http://www.nationalsarmrace.com/?p=2657 I did another article in the past looking at construction methods, highlighting the method the Rays and other playoff teams are using and came up with a slightly modified version of what Tampa is doing.

    On a side note … just saw the Gio trade went through and I can’t hardly believe the prospect haul we sent. will need to digest before posting…

    Todd Boss

    22 Dec 11 at 4:19 pm

  24. How can you say it is wrong for Boz to criticize the nats for not signing still available FAs. That’s the point, their still available because the nats haven’t signed them. Where were the Lerners last summer when the Phillies got Pence and the Braves got Bourne? Two players who definitely fit their needs. Sitting on their hands (and money) while division rivals spent money and got better. Isn’t everyone tired of saying wait till next year? Remember George Allen “The future is now.”? I have never seen so many people afraid to spend someone else’s money. Boz has been in this town as long as I have and there is some concern we may never see a winner. I empathize with him, especially when all our rivals are spending and making playoffs. Phillies spend tons of money and have sold out the park for years. Other than us hard core fans, most people come out to see big name players. Yes, MAYBE some of our young players may become big time, but isn’t a bird in hand worth two in the bush?

    Ed J

    22 Dec 11 at 4:20 pm

  25. How can you say it is wrong for Boz to criticize the nats for not signing still available FAs. That’s the point, their still available because the nats haven’t signed them. Where were the Lerners last summer when the Phillies got Pence and the Braves got Bourne? Two players who definitely fit their needs. Sitting on their hands (and money) while division rivals spent money and got better. Isn’t everyone tired of saying wait till next year? Remember George Allen “The future is now.”? I have never seen so many people afraid to spend someone else’s money. Boz has been in this town as long as I have and there is some concern we may never see a winner. I empathize with him, especially when all our rivals are spending and making playoffs. Phillies spend tons of money and have sold out the park for years. Other than us hard core fans, most people come out to see big name players. Yes, MAYBE some of our young players may become big time, but isn’t a bird in hand worth two in the bush?

    brian

    22 Dec 11 at 4:23 pm

  26. Clark,
    A warm welcome, the water’s fine.

    Mark L

    22 Dec 11 at 7:45 pm

  27. What, are you going to point a gun at someone’s head and say, “Sign here!” It doesn’t work that way. Something like 30 of the MLBtraderumors top 50 free agents have yet to sign, including top 10 guys like Fielder, Jackson and Oswalt. Its only december; that was kind of the point of my blog post.

    Pence wasn’t a fit; he’s a right fielder. Bourn perhaps more so, but he’s still not the plus defender that Rizzo likes (-6.2 uzr/150 last year and barely above league average OPS+ for $4.4M). Upton a better fit. Seems to me Rizzo is holding out for someone better.

    Baseball development requires patience. The Phillies are going to regret these contracts in a few years, when they’re stuck in the $150M range but finishing at .500. Mark my words.

    Todd Boss

    22 Dec 11 at 9:35 pm

  28. Interesting that after Gio new broke Boz insinuated in the comments on the post site that the Gio deal was the reason for today’s column. reading between the lines Rizzo leaked the deal to Boz and claimed that ownership was hesitiating – Boz column hits Lerner has heart palpitations and relents.

    I anin’y buyin Boz’ spin. This was an attack piece on Ted Lerner and as Boss points out was completly unjustified. Darvish is throwing money down the crapper. CJ wilson, and Reyes were overpiad. Buerlhe is probably as decent a deal as could be had but he wasnt coming to DC with oz in Miami as long as the $$ were close. So what was Boz beef really?

    Bill

    22 Dec 11 at 10:47 pm

  29. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/post/nationals-pull-off-blockbuster-deal-for-gio-gonzalez/2011/12/22/gIQA5nY6BP_blog.html is the link for the Sheinen WP article but I can’t find Boswell comments. Do you have a different link to Boswell’s comments?

    I think its incredibly telling there’s no Boswell column in today’s paper. No mea culpa, no “sorry I over-reacted yesterday.” I wonder if he’s just embarassed by having a thursday column be partially obsolete by friday.

    Just posted my own thoughts on the Gio trade on this blog…

    Todd Boss

    23 Dec 11 at 9:04 am

  30. Todd – Boz wont apologize because he thinks he was helping the Nats FO by breaking a roadblock from ownership. Bowden had an intetresting comment on ESPN.com that lends some credence to boz’s comment 9see my post from last nite)

    JB says:

    “Live arms are always good things, and getting one back with Gonzalez helped Washington GM Mike Rizzo convince his club’s board of directors that this was a deal he had to make.

    And from what I’m told, that was no easy feat. Word is that more than one member of the board was opposed to making this deal, but you have to give credit to Rizzo for standing up for what he thought was a good deal for his club.”

    Bill

    23 Dec 11 at 1:36 pm

  31. Here’s the Bowden quote link (insider only): http://insider.espn.go.com/blog/the-gms-office/post?id=3007

    I don’t know what you think about Bowden, but here’s what I think in a nutshell: he was a miserable failure as our GM, arguably a failure as the GM of the Reds during his time there, and now he’s suddenly passing judgement on the guy who turned this franchise around in a very short time, mostly by jettisoning Bowden’s players and by showing how his approach to building a team was far superior to Bowden’s methods.

    So, that being said …. i have a hard time giving any of Bowden’s stuff now that much credence. Notice there’s no sources for his “word is that…” statement. Not that I would have expected there to be. Not saying he made that up, of course, but its unsubstantiated. In cases like this, what you end up believing all falls with how much credence you give to the writer. Ken Rosenthal? Tom Verducci? Jeff Passan? Yeah i believe what those guys write 100%. Bowden’s a tougher case.

    This trade, and its complexity, certainly was weeks in the making. Boswell’s article seems coincidental in timing, not the “reason” they made the trade.

    Todd Boss

    23 Dec 11 at 1:49 pm

  32. [...] Wow.  Demanding a complete mea culpa from this ridiculous column (see my reaction to it).  Lets see what he says: Boswell says the facts changed between his chat and his column and then [...]

Leave a Reply