Another Ask Boswell edition, dated 12/17/12.
As always, I type my response here before reading his answer (which sometimes leads to non-answers, since Tom Boswell sometimes doesn’t directly answer the same question i’m answering), and I sometimes edit questions for clarity.
Q: What is it going to take to settle this MASN Mess?
A: Probably a huge check to Peter Angelos to buy out his 90% stake in MASN. But I like the approach baseball is taking; clearly Angelos has himself an incredibly one-sided deal, and clearly the whole “we’ll renegotiate in 5 years” turned out to be a gigantic mess. Because its now drug on for more than a year with Angelos predicably low-balling the team while other teams out there get multiples of millions of dollars more per year than the Nationals are getting. Wendy Thurm at fangraphs.com posted a great review of all 30 team’s RSN contracts. For comparison purposes the next closest Market sizes to Washington (based on 2008 MSA) are Miami and Houston. Miami gets $18M/year in a very bad deal, Washington is getting $29M/year, and Houston just negotiated a $80m/year deal. Detroit, which is smaller still than Washington, is getting $40M/year in an old deal that expires in 2017, though they’re likely not to rise too much because of the economic conditions of their market. What does all that mean? Clearly Washington is no New York/Boston/Los Angeles, but clearly the team needs more than $29M.
I hope Fox Sports comes along, buys out Angelos and negotiates individual terms with the two franchises. Will it happen? Probably no, probably never. Perhaps the solution will be a change of ownership in Baltimore, and Bud Selig (or whoever the commissioner is at the time) tacks on a clause of the switch to split off the RSN. I could see that happening.
Boswell says it will take time, anger, and maybe even Selig imposing his whole “best interests of the game” clause.
Q: Who has the most frightening lineup in baseball ( Angels, Dodgers, or Blue Jays)?
A: Hmm. The Angels now feature no less than SIX guys who have hit 30 homers in a season; Trout, Pujols, Trumbo, Hamilton, Morales and Wells. That’s some incredible offense (even if Vernon Wells‘ time is past). The Yankees and the Rangers were 1-2 in Runs Scored, Slugging and OPS in 2012 but both will be weakened by injuries and FA defections in 2013. The Dodgers lineup “seems” potent, but includes a significant number of question marks. If everyone plays to their potential, then yes the Dodgers could be fearsome. But its more likely that Crawford struggles and that Adrian Gonzalez continues to appear as if his best days are past. Lastly Toronto may have a great middle of the order but they can’t match the Angels for up-and-down the lineup power. The additions of Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera aren’t going to help them catch the Angels. Boswell says Toronto is best.
Q: With Hamilton->Los Angeles, are the odds of LaRoche leaving higher?
A: I think the ongoing stalemate over contract length plus Texas suddenly being majorly in the market for a middle-of-the-order lefty bat to replace Hamilton should have Nats fans worried (or rejoicing, depending on your viewpoint) that Adam LaRoche may be plying his trade in Dallas the next few years. I would not be surprised to see LaRoche sign a 3 year deal in Texas right now. Is that the end of the world for the Nats? No … I think the team will do just fine with Michael Morse playing first and Tyler Moore getting backup reps in LF and at First. Others have pointed out that Morse’s lefty/right splits are nearly identical and it doesn’t matter that we wouldn’t have another lefty in the lineup. And (not that the average fan cares about this point) it would save a bit on payroll, perhaps allowing the team to augment/buy something they may need at the trade deadline.
Q: With all the FA stars seemingly ending up in the AL, are the Nats better just by attrition?
A: A fair point. But the NL Dodgers have certainly bought their fair share of talent too. As a Nats fan, you have to be happy about the decline of our divisional rivals in the past few months: Marlins fire-sale, Mets basically turning into a mid-market team (and traded away their Ace in RA Dickey this week), and the Phillies making one curious acquisition (Michael Young) after another (Ben Revere). Washington has improved this off-season, and if they can stave off the injury bug that hit the offense last season they could improve on 98 wins in 2013. But I also think St. Louis will be just as good, I think Cincinnati has improved, and of course the Dodgers could be scary if all their talent comes together. Boswell thinks so, but also has stated before that the WS now goes through Los Angeles.
Q: Is there something amiss in the MASN contract legally, since Angelos has not accepted what should have been stipulated in the contract?
A: It sure seems so. Ever since Angelos got the team, his legal background seems to have Selig spooked. I wonder if this is why Selig has not pressed more for a solution to this situation. Boswell thinks that the search for a MASN buyer could be indicative of a permanent stalemate in the contract talks.
Q: Will Philadelphia fans forgive Lannan for breaking Utley’s hand? Should the Nats batters be worried when he returns?
A: Yes the Philadelphia fans will forgive and forget; remember, most fans just root for the laundry. Whoever is wearing the jersey is a friend, everyone else is foe. I don’t think our batters should be too worried; I’m sure they look forward to facing John Lannan. He’s not exactly the second coming of Cy Young after all. Boswell says that Chase Utley brings the HBP on himself by virtue of his hitting too close to the plate.
Q: You’re Mike Rizzo: Do you have another big move up your sleeve, either a trade of a FA signing? Or are you satisfied with what you’ve got, and standing pat?
A: I don’t think the team has any more major moves; Mike Rizzo left the winter meetings early because his work was done. I can see a couple of players getting moved for prospect depth, and perhaps an under-the-radar signing for a right handed reliever to compete for a spot in spring training (ala Brad Lidge last year), but that’s it. This team is who it is right now. Well, once the LaRoche situation is resolved anyway. Boswell agrees.
Q: Who you got for more wins this year, Angels or Dodgers?
A: Dodgers. Easier division, more talent added. The Angels have to deal with both Oakland and Texas, and look to have a significantly worse rotation so far in 2013. The Angels can’t improve much from 89 wins, but the Dodgers can definitely improve on 86 wins. Boswell didn’t really answer; he says both make the playoffs but neither makes the WS.
Q: Was it the # of Years that convinced Hamilton to go to Los Angeles?
A: I think it was partly a sense that Josh Hamilton felt he wasn’t wanted in Texas, and then mostly from there the right destination in terms of team and guaranteed dollars. Some cynics out there in the baseball world say that the team doesn’t matter; that players only follow the money. I don’t believe that necessarily. Money issues equal, If you had to choose between a franchise on the brink of the playoffs, in a warm-weather city like Los Angeles versus a team that hasn’t contended in years in a crummy weather city (thinking Seattle, another rumored destination), where would you choose? Boswell says Hamilton isn’t worth 5 years but didn’t answer this part of the question otherwise.