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
Archive for the ‘derek jeter’ tag
The second in a series: The first looked at the Biggest/Best/Worst Trades of the Washington Nationals era and was posted in late March. Yes, it took me 8 months to return to this series, despite writing most of this post in July. Here in Part 2, we’ll look at the biggest, best and worst Free Agent signings in the tenures of both Jim Bowden and Mike Rizzo. In the last section we’ll look at Draft picks.
Ground rules for this article:
1. When considering a Free Agent we’ll only consider the FIRST signing in this list. So, for guys who have signed multiple one-year free agent contracts in a row (guys like Rick Ankiel and Chien-Ming Wang), we’ll only consider them as a single signing. For others who signed here and then left, only to come back (example: Livan Hernandez) we’ll consider them as separate signings.
2. We are considering extensions given to existing players (since they don’t fit elsewhere). You can consider an extension just a pre-emptive free agent contract.
3. We’re mostly focusing here on Major League free agents; each year we sign many minor league FAs ahead of camp. If a Minor League FA signing ends up having a decent impact on the major league team, we’ll note him (good recent example being Laynce Nix).
Just for review, here’s the tenure period of both GMs:
- Nov 2004 – Mar 2009: Jim Bowden
- Mar 2009 – present: Mike Rizzo
The team has made dozens and dozens of signings: I won’t try to go through them all here. For those interested, here’s my List of Free Agents from over the years (also available on the links section to the right of this blog). I put up a similar notes file (List of Trades and Trading Partners) from the first post of this series, also available in the list of resources on the right-hand side of the blog.
Jim Bowden Tenure: Nov 2004 – Mar 2009
Bowden’s Biggest Free Agent Signings
- 2006: Nick Johnson 3yr $16.5M
- 2007: Austin Kearns 3yr $16.5M
- 2008: Cristian Guzman 2yr $16M
- 2009: Adam Dunn 2yr $20M
I wonder sometimes if Bowden doesn’t sit in his ESPN office as he writes his blogs and ask himself what he could have done here had he had more money to spend. Look at this list; Bowden’s biggest deal in 5 off-seasons was a 2yr/$20M contract for a slugger who really had nowhere else to go that off-season. Jayson Werth will make more than that annually starting in 2014.
Bowden’s Best Free Agent Signings
- 2006: Brian Schneider 4yr extension, $2.9M
- 2007: Ronnie Belliard 1yr ML deal
- 2007: Dmitri Young 1yr ML deal
- 2008: Willie Harris 1yr $800K
- 2009: Adam Dunn 2yr $20M
Bowden’s 2007 off-season was pretty amazing, looking back. He assembled a team on the backs of Minor League Free Agents galore, one of which (Dmitri Young) ended up being our lone All-Star. The team went 73-89 and gave 145 of its 162 starts to guys who aren’t even in the league any more (exceptions: Joel Hanrahan’s 11 starts with 6.00 ERA and late-season call up John Lannan’s 6 starts as a 22-yr old). He was the master of the scrap heap and spun a team that should have lost 100 games into a respectable 73 win team. Too bad that luck ran out in 2008 as the team bottomed out. But you have to hand it to Bowden for these three 2007 signings; Hanrahan didn’t really pay off for the Nationals, ever, but did enable us to eventually get Sean Burnett, a valuable member of the team’s bullpen these last few years.
All things considered, I’d have to say that Adam Dunn may have been his best FA signing. Dunn’s bat was mostly wasted during his two years here, considering the unbelievably bad pitching staffs that Bowden assembled. But the combination of Zimmerman-Dunn-Willingham was a pretty fearsome 3-4-5. Ironically, NOT re-signing Dunn may also have been one of Rizzo’s best non-moves, considering Dunn’s amazing 2011 collapse and the subsequent rise of Michael Morse (who would have continued to be a bit player if the Nats still had Dunn in LF).
Bowden’s Worst Free Agent Signings
- 2007: Austin Kearns 3yr $16.5M
- 2008: Paul Lo Duca 1yr $5M
- 2008: Rob Mackowiak 1yr $1.5M
- 2008: Johnny Estrada 1yr $1.25M
- 2008: Cristian Guzman 2yr extension $16M
- 2009: Daniel Cabrera 1yr $2.6M
2008 was as bad as 2007 was good for Bowden. Nearly every move he made back-fired, some spectacularly. Paul Lo Duca hadn’t been signed for a week when his name showed up prominently in the Mitchell Report; he was released before July. Rob Mackowiak and Johnny Estrada were just stealing money; its still not clear what Bowden saw in these guys. I hated the Kearns deal, never understood what Bowden saw in the guy. Daniel Cabrera was so bad for us it was almost comical, and it was a relief when we DFA’d him after 8 starts.
But the worst FA signing has to the Guzman extension. He seemed decent enough after coming back from an injury that cost him all of 2005 and most of 2006, but Bowden inexplicably extended him for 2 years for the same amount of money that he had earned the previous four … and almost immediately his production tailed off. Its not that Guzman was that BAD in 2009 and 2010, its just that he was so vastly overpaid for what he gave the team. We flipped him for two minor league pitchers, he promptly hit .152 in 15 games for Texas and he was out of the league.
Mike Rizzo Tenure: Mar 2009 – present
Rizzo’s Biggest Free Agent Signings
- 2010: Ryan Zimmerman 5yr $45M
- 2011: Jayson Werth 7yr $126M
- 2012: Ryan Zimmermann 8yrs $100M
- 2012: Gio Gonzalez 5yr $42M
Its ironic that I had to remove three deals from this list (LaRoche, Jackson, Marquis) that would have qualified for Bowden’s “biggest deal” list. That’s because the size of these deals are just dwarfing what the team was willing to do under Bowden. Lots of pundits have (and continue to) criticized the Jayson Werth deal, and it routinely appears on anyone’s list of “Worst Baseball Contracts.” And his 2011 season confirmed just how bad this may have turned out for Washington. But a bounceback 2012, which featured Werth putting up a 125 OPS+ despite missing a ton of time with a broken wrist, showing the flexibility of batting lead-off when the team needed him, plus providing the veteran leadership and professionalism that this young team needs certainly would earn back some of that contract value. In hindsight, I think the team made this deal as a strawman, to send a message to the rest of the league that we were NOT a low-budget, poorly run team, and to pave the path back to respectability in the minds of other professionals out there that Washington can be a destination franchise.
Rizzo’s Best Free Agent Signings
- 2009: Julian Tavarez 1yr ML
- 2009: Joe Beimel 1yr $2M
- 2010: Livan Hernandez 1yr ML 900k
- 2011: Jerry Hairston 1yr $2M
- 2010: Matt Capps 1yr $3.5M
- 2010: Joel Peralta 1yr ML
- 2011: Todd Coffey 1yr $1.35M
- 2011: Laynce Nix 1yr ML
In terms of impact-per-dollar, I think the first Livan Hernandez year of his return was probably the best FA signing that Rizzo has done. Hernandez went 10-12 with a 3.66 ERA and a 110 ERA+ for less than a million dollars on the FA market. That’s roughly $90k a Win, when most teams are paying more than $1M/win for free agent starting pitching. However clearly Rizzo’s most shrewd FA deal was the Matt Capps signing. He took Capps off the scrap heap; he was released by Pittsburgh after a horrid 2009, and his half season of excellent relief for us turned into Wilson Ramos and a minor leaguer (Joe Testa), returned in trade from Minnesota. I will also mention that the value that minor league signings Julian Tavarez, Joel Peralta, and Laynce Nix gave the team was also fantastic, considering where these players were in their careers prior to joining us.
Rizzo’s Worst Free Agent Signings
- 2010: Yunesky Maya 4yr $8M
- 2010: Ivan Rodriguez 2yr $6M
- 2010: Jason Marquis 2yr $15M
- 2011: Matt Stairs 1yr ML
- 2012: Brad Lidge 1yr $1M
- Chein Ming Wang: all of them.
2010, Rizzo’s first FA class, didn’t turn out very well did it? Yunesky Maya has been a pretty big disappointment, giving the team just one MLB win for an $8M investment. Ivan Rodriguez just proved to be slightly too old to be worth the starter money he was paid; you could argue that the leadership he provided was worth the money. And Jason Marquis, bought as a stop-gap for a failed farm system, was god-awful in 2010. I won’t completely kill Rizzo for the Brad Lidge experiment; it was worth a $1M flier to see if he had anything left in the tank. Matt Stairs would have been another fine, low-cost experiment except for the fact that the team kept giving him at-bats for weeks/months after it was clear he was washed up.
For me the worst FA signing was related to the money poured down the Chien-Ming Wang rathole for three years running. The Nats ended up investing $8M total over three years to get 16 starts, 6 wins and a 4.94 ERA.
Rizzo’s Too Early to Tell Free Agent Signings
- 2011: Jayson Werth 7yr $126M
- 2012: Ryan Zimmermann 8yrs $100M
- 2012: Gio Gonzalez 5yr $42M
So far, Werth’s contract is trending as an over-pay, Zimmerman’s as an injury concern, and Gonzalez trending as a complete steal (21 wins for $8.4M AAV in 2012? That’s a fantastic return for the money). Pundits have stated that the Nats have “two 9-figure contracts but zero 9-figure players” (I read it at the time of the Zimmerman signing but cannot find the link). I think that’s slightly unfair to these players, but until Zimmerman can stay healthy enough to produce at his 2009 level, you have to admit that he may be overpaid as well. Perhaps Zimmerman’s brittle health issues can be alleviated if he makes the move to 1B, where he can continue to play gold glove calibre defense but have less of a tax on his body. This analysis obviously does not take Zimmerman’s “value” to the franchise into account, which may be unfair when considering this contract (nobody really said Derek Jeter’s latest contract was a massive overpay considering his service to the Yankees, his “stature” as the captain and his eventual Hall of Fame induction; for the Yankees to cut him loose would have been a massive public relations gaffe).
Coincidentally, I didn’t view the contracts of guys like LaRoche, Jackson, or Morse as being specifically “good” or “bad.” I think LaRoche’s one bad/one good season plus Jackson’s MLB average season was just about on-par with expectations for their contracts. Morse’s 2011 production was pre-contract, so we’ll see how his 2013 goes.
Thoughts? Any FA signings or extensions out there that stick in your minds that you thought should be mentioned?
I read a quickie piece with some Mike Rizzo quotes from the Washington Time’s beat reporter Amanda Comak on November 11th, 2012 and there was an interesting tidbit at the bottom: per Comak, Rizzo has not been approached yet about any Washington Nationals participation in the WBC, but would approach each request on a “case-by-case basis” to determine what is in the best interests of the team. This got me thinking about possible Nats representatives on 2013 WBC teams.
Lets take a quick look at the Nationals representatives on WBC teams from the past, talk about whether its really in the best interests of the team to even let these guys play, and then talk about who may be candidates for the 2013 WBC regardless.
(Note: I’ve added updates highlighted in red since the original 11/21/12 publication date on players mentioned here).
Washington has sent a decent number of players to play in the WBC over the years, with very mixed results for the team’s interests. In 2006 the team sent seven different players to the inaugural WBC:
- Luis Ayala for Mexico
- Chad Cordero, Gary Majewski and Brian Schneider for team USA
- Ronnie Belliard, Alberto Castillo, and Wily Mo Pena for the Dominican Republic.
The tournament was marred for the team by a blown UCL ligament to Ayala, who had undergone elbow surgery earlier in the off-season but pitched for his home country anyway. The team did not want Ayala to participate in the inaugural event, did not want him used by the Mexican team, and team officials were “livid” by the injury, which cost Ayala the season and cost the team its 8th inning setup guy. Ayala recovered to pitch again in 2008 but was never as effective, and was shipped out in 2009 for a PTBNL. Coincidentally, I suspect the team still harbors some ill-will towards Ayala to this day. Meanwhile the other two relievers who participated both experienced regressions in form; Cordero’s ERA nearly doubled (from 1.82 to 3.19) from his breakout 2005 season while Majewski’s numbers dipped slightly before he was traded in the big Cincinnati deal of 2006.
In 2009, the team had 5 participants:
- Pete Orr playing for Canada
- Joel Hanrahan and Adam Dunn playing for the USA
- Saul Rivera and Ivan Rodriguez playing for Puerto Rico.
The WBC seemed to energize particularly Dunn, who enjoyed playing in a post-season atmosphere for the first (and only) time in his career. Nobody suffered any injuries, but Hanrahan in particular may have been affected by his lack of a proper spring training; he posted a 7.71 ERA for the team while losing the closer spot and was shipped to Pittsburgh. Ironically, Rivera also experienced a huge regression of form, going from a 3.96 ERA in 2008 to a 6.10 ERA in 2009 and was eventually released.
This begs the question; do we even WANT our pitchers playing on this team? The first two WBCs have shown pretty distinctly that our pitchers have regressed greatly after playing. This only makes sense: the spring training routines are greatly impacted to play in this event. We may see a ton of front-office resistance to specific guys (especially those coming off injury) playing in the 2013 event. Which could affect the eligibility of some specific players for 2013.
Now, which Nats may play for the 2013 teams? First off, looking at the Nationals 40-man roster, we have become an amazingly heavy USA-born team (we’ll get to non-40man roster players in a moment). Thanks to the Nats big board resource (originated by Brian Oliver and now maintained by “SpringfieldFan”), which has the country of origin for players, here’s a breakdown of the home-country of our current 36 active (as of November 15th, 2012) roster players:
- USA: 27 (would be 29 if adding in our rule-5 avoidance players)
- Venezuela: 5 (Jesus Flores, Sandy Leon, Wilson Ramos, Henry Rodriguez, and Carlos Rivero)
- Cuba: 1 (Yunesky Maya)
- Columbia: 1 (Jhonatan Solano)
- Dominican Republic: 1 (Eury Perez)
- Netherlands (via Curacao): 1 (Roger Bernadina)
As you can see, the massive bulk of our team is USA born, and essentially our entire post-season starting roster was USA born as well. That doesn’t necessarily mean that these USA-born players will actually play for team USA (Alex Rodriguez played for Puerto Rico despite being born and raised in Miami, and our own Danny Espinosa is eligible to play for Mexico by virtue of his first-generation born in the US status), but almost all of these guys will be up for consideration for the USA team. And this only accounts for our 40-man players; as we’ll see below there’s plenty of lower-minors players from smaller countries that will participate.
Who from the Nationals franchise may make a 2013 WBC roster? First off, thanks to James Wagner’s 11/15/12 NatsJournal post we already know of three WBC participants; Solano is on the Columbian team, minor leaguer Jimmy Van Ostrand is on the Canadian team, and A-ball catcher Adrian Nieto is on the Spanish team. Curacao qualifies to play with the Netherlands, and I’d guess that Bernadina would make a great choice considering the lack of Dutch players in baseball (Baseball Continuum’s projections agree. And as of 12/4/12 he’s officially been listed as a Netherlands participant).. Venezuela is already qualified for the main draw and has a relatively strong possible team. The Baseball Continuum blog posted an early projection of the Venezuelan team and listed Flores as a likely participant (specifically mentioning that Ramos wasn’t considered due to injury recovery; I’d suspect these two players to switch based on Ramos’ recovery and Flores’ awful 2012). If Henry Rodriguez was healthy i’d guess he would be on that list too, but his season-ending surgery probably precludes his participation. The Dominican Republic has perhaps the strongest depth and has no need for the recently called up Perez among its outfield depth. Maya’s defection eliminates him from discussion for the Cuban team. (12/4/12 update): Chien-Ming Wang has been announced as a member of Chinese Taipei’s team (for the purposes of this article I investigated all 2012 Nats).
Which leaves our large contingent of American players. A couple of writers have started postulating on these rosters (David Schoenfield’s very early guess as to a potential USA roster is here, Baseball Continuum’s latest projection is here). So using these two posts as a starting point, lets go position-by-position and give some thoughts as to who may get some consideration. Keep in mind the WBC rosters are generally very reliever heavy, since no starter is going to be “allowed” to pitch a complete game in March.
(Note: I’m still considering our Free Agents as “Nats players” for the purposes of this analysis, since this really goes position by position from our 2012 team to find candidates).
- Catcher: Kurt Suzuki isn’t nearly in the class of the likes of Buster Posey, Brian McCann, Joe Mauer, or Matt Weiters. There are a ton of quality american backstops right now.
- First Base: Free Agent Adam LaRoche probably faces far too much competition from the likes of Prince Fielder, Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Allen Craig, Eric Hosmer, and Mark Teixeira to make this team. If it were me, I’d go with Fielder and Teixeira. But, LaRoche’s great 2012 season and his Gold Glove recognition may get him a spot. He is a FA though, so i’d guess he won’t commit until he signs and gets the go-ahead from his new team. Or, perhaps he uses the WBC to showcase himself? Not likely needed; he should sign long before the WBC kicks off in March.
- Second Base: Danny Espinosa is a decent player, but not in the same league as Shoenfield’s projection of Dustin Pedroia and Ben Zobrist. Brandon Phillips is also in the mix for the team.
- Shortstop: Ian Desmond’s breakout 2013 season may get him some consideration. There’s not a lot of American quality short stops out there. Troy Tulowitzki is the obvious leading choice (as was Derek Jeter in the first two WBCs), but is he ready to come back from injury? Looking around the majors there are a couple other possibilities (JJ Hardy, Brendan Ryan, Jimmy Rollins and Brandon Crawford all could be alternatives as well). I think Desmond’s combination of offense and defense, combined with Tulowitzki’s injury recovery could get him on the team.
- Third Base: Ryan Zimmerman cannot break the hegomony of David Wright and Evan Longoria right now, even given Longoria’s injury struggles this season. Chase Headley and David Freese are also in the 3b mix. 12/4/12 update: Apparently Wright is committed, Longoria is out due to injury recovery and Headley “was not asked,” so perhaps Zimmerman is back in the mix.
- Outfielders: I think Bryce Harper is a natural to make this team, not only on talent but also because of the brand-name recognition (and TV ratings and fan interest) it would generate. Same goes for Mike Trout. Otherwise there’s a slew of top-end american players who can man the outfield and they read like the top of the MVP boards: Braun, Kemp, McCutchen, Stanton, Hamilton, and Granderson are all candidates to make this team. 12/6/12 update: Scott Boras has stated that Harper will skip the WBC to focus on his sophomore season.
- Starters: The two logical Nats candidates to be considered would be Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg. But lets be honest; there is no way in hell Strasburg would be allowed to play. Could Gonzalez make this team? Given the depth of American starter talent right now (just off the top of my head: Verlander, Lincecum, Cain, Hamels, Halladay, Kershaw, Lee, Weaver, Sabathia, Medlen, and so on) perhaps this will be a selection of attrition moreso than a selection of availability. So if a number of the older guys on this list beg out, perhaps Gio gets his shot. The WBC’s location in San Francisco has already lead to Ryan Vogelsong committing to play in his home town, and could lead to other Bay Area players signing up. I’m not sure any of the rest of our starters are really candidates, given the reputations of the above list plus the reliever-heavy nature of the roster.
- Relievers: our two most well known relievers (Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen) are possibilities; would the Nats block Storen based on his 2012 injury? Craig Stammen’s breakout 2012 season could get him looks, based on the reliever-heavy needs of the team. Normally Sean Burnett may be in the loogy mix, but there’s better lefty relievers out there AND Burnett’s FA status may lead him to bow out to curry favor to his new team (Schoenfeld lists Burnett as a possible member back in July, before knowing he’s declared free agency). The question is, would you take Clippard/Storen against the likes of this list of quality american back-of-the-bullpen arms: Kimbrel, Ventors, Marshall, League, Janssen, Papelbon, Hanrahan, Motte, Boggs, Bailey, Reed, and Nathan? Possibly, considering that a lot of these guys probably bow out. We’ve sent multiple relievers to each of the past two WBCs and its likely going to be the same thing this year.
Summary: here’s my guesses as to which Nats (and recent ex-Nats) will play in the WBC:
- Venezuela: Ramos
- Spain: Nieto
- Canada: Van Ostrand
- Columbia: Solano
- Netherlands: Bernadina
- Chinese Taipei: Wang
- USA: Harper, Desmond, Gonzalez, Clippard. Perhaps Zimmerman and Stammen.
March 2013 update: here’s the post-WBC actual list of participants when all was said and done, helped by the list of rosters via Wikipedia. MLB reports that nine (9) Nationals are participating in the classic, though the below list (excluding Wang) totals more. They’re not counting Solano/Columbia, having lost in the preliminaries.
- Columbia: Jhonatan Solano (AAA/Mlb in 2012)
- Spain: Adrian Nieto (low-A in 2012)
- Canada: Jimmy Van Ostrand (AA in 2012)
- Italy: Matt Torra, Mike Costanzo (both AAA in 2012, Washington MLFA signings for 2013)
- Netherlands: Roger Bernadina, Randolph Oduber (high-A in 2012)
- Chinese Taipei: Chien-Ming Wang (former Nat, non-signed FA for 2013 start of season)
- USA: Gio Gonzalez, Ross Detwiler
- Dominican Republic: Eury Perez (3/4/13 addition to DR team)
Every year I do a bit of “Team Construction” analysis to kind of gauge the trends in roster construction. Last year’s post is here, and the links to the side have the underlying spreadsheet of player acquisition methods so you can see the pure details. This topic was also covered in-depth by John Sickels on his minorleaguebaseball.com blog for another viewpoint.
Borrowing from last year’s post, there are four main ways teams can acquire players:
- Draft: The player is with the original team that drafted him. In the case of international free agents, if they’re signed as 16-year olds they are considered in this category as well (i.e., Ichiro Suzuki is not a developed player, but an international Free Agent). It could be better defined as “Club developed players.” Simple examples for the Nats: Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.
- Traded MLBers: The player was acquired by the team by virtue of trading an established MLB player. Most of the time these days, this means the player was acquired as a prospect (since most trades seem to be of the prospect-for-established player kind). Example for the Nats would be Michael Morse, who was acquired by our trading an established MLB player in Ryan Langerhans for Morse while he was still (essentially) a minor leaguer.
- Traded Prospects: The player was acquired by the team by virtue of trading prospects. This is essentially the reverse of #2. The Nats key example is Gio Gonzalez.
- Free Agent: The player was acquired in free agency. This category also includes two other types of acquisitions: waiver claims and cash purchases. These three categories are lumped together since all three indicate that a team has acquired a player with zero outlay in terms of development or prospects. Examples for the Nats: Edwin Jackson, Adam LaRoche.
Here is the summary of roster construction and “Construction Strategy Category” that we’ll talk about next. Note that I only count the “core players” on a team for this analysis. The core players is defined as the 5-man starting rotation, the setup and closer, the 8 out-field players, and the DH for AL teams. I didn’t extend this all the way to the 25-man roster, figuring that these core 15 players are the main reasons teams win and advance. That and huge chunks of the bullpen and the bench are either fill-in FAs or draftees and it would skew the analysis of how teams really got to the playoffs. Here’s the summary (the table is sorted by count of Draftees):
|Season||Team||Drafted/Developed||Traded Prospects||Traded MLBs||FA/Waivers||Ttl||Constr Method|
|2012||New York Yankees||5||2||1||8||16||#4|
So, what are the four construction methods I’ve identified? Again borrowing from last year’s version of this post, they are (with this year’s examples). The complication this year is that some of the 10 playoff teams don’t fall neatly into one specific category.
Method #1: Build from within 100%: (Cincinnati, Atlanta). Atlanta, amazingly, didn’t use a single Free Agent among its core 15 this year. They made a couple of key trades to acquire a few starters, but the rest of their lineup is home-grown draftees. That may change next year as they try to replace Chipper Jones, Michael Bourn and possibly Brian McCann, who may leave via free agency. Meanwhile Cincinnati has just a couple of free agents and mostly rely on guys they’ve grown as well.
Method #2: Ride your developed Core and use your prospects to acquire big names: (Washington, San Francisco and Detroit to an extent): The Nats have transformed themselves over just a couple of seasons, relying less on FAs to plug holes caused by an awful farm system to having most of their core team developed at home (See the table further below to follow the transformation of our team over the past few seasons). Those spots they couldn’t depend on have been filled by trades (three guys acquired by flipping prospects for them; in addition to Gonzalez Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Clippard also count here). San Francisco has seen their payroll skyrocket as they extend their home-grown talent, but for the most part they have stayed true to the team development concept. Their one major Free Agent (Barry Zito) is notoriously one of the worst contracts in baseball and it is somewhat surprising to even see him on the post-season roster. He wouldn’t be if Tim Lincecum was pitching in 2012 like he has regularly done in previous seasons. Detroit was entirely in method #2 until they decided to spend money like the Yankees; we’ll revisit in #4.
Method #3: Go Young and grow up Strong (Baltimore, Oakland and Texas to an extent): Baltimore acquired a massive chunk of their rosters by flipping major leaguers for prospects and watching them blossom into a surprise playoff team. Oakland has made a habit of getting rid of guys before they hit arbitration; fully 7 of their squad was acquired this way. The difference is that Oakland has been forced to buy a big chunk of their core group on the FA market, depending on cast-offs like Brandon Inge and Jonny Gomes to plug leaks and get production on the cheap. I’m guessing that Oakland will transform more into Category #1 as the vast amount of prospects they’ve landed lately continue to matriculate. Lastly Texas was entirely in this category before they dropped major money on the likes of Adrian Beltre and Yu Darvish, transforming them into a spending power to go with their still-excellent farm system.
Method #4: Spend what it takes to win: (New York fully with St Louis, Texas and Detroit partially here): The Yankees are the class-A example of this method (along with Boston and the Dodgers frankly), but the spending that St. Louis, Texas and Detroit cannot be overlooked. The Yankees more and more are depending on expensive FA purchases to replace what their farm system is not developing, and the problem is only being brought into more focus this off-season. Their 3 primary starters are FA acquisitions, their biggest FA is looking like a contract catastrophe, and their developed guys are not stepping up and taking over major roles (especially on the pitching staff). The other three teams mentioned here are mostly built on home-grown talent, but have spent so much money on the FA market lately that they are broaching into the upper echelons of MLB payroll. St. Louis is almost entirely built from within (as noted by other columnists doing this same type of analysis) but still has depended on a couple of key FAs to advance as far as they have.
- There’s no real formula to building a playoff team, as we see from the spread of the 10 teams among the four methods defined.
- I think its safe to say that the most difficult methods to depend on are #1 and #3. You need to have a very good farm system to depend on the #1 method to work for you, and over the past few years only a couple of teams really have had success using this method (Atlanta and Tampa Bay). Kansas City has tried #1 for years and has gone nowhere. The #3 method is also frought with issues, since it requires a ton of patience from your fan base and may not be sustainable. Would anyone be surprised if both Oakland and Baltimore collapsed next season? Probably not; you really need to build on a base of players once you’ve established yourself as a good team and continue to augment, either through trade or through FAs. But even that can be dangerous; just ask Philadelphia this year, owners of the 2nd biggest payroll in baseball and just a 3rd place team.
- Is Category #1 and #3 the same? No, not really. #1 teams rely much more heavily on personally developed prospects, while #3 teams purposely set out to acquire prospects in trade to combine with their own development mis-fortunes. If Baltimore had a better farm system, they wouldn’t have needed to jettison so many established MLBers to acquire prospects, and they’d probably be closer to a #2 team (a wealthy team who supplements developed players with key FAs, much like what Washington is doing).
- Oakland is really a unique case; they do develop players but get rid of them because of a self-imposed incredibly restrictive salary cap. Imagine what Billy Beane could do with that team if he could have purchased just $30M of players on the open market (which would have still left Oakland in the bottom third of payroll).
- Buying your way to a team (method #4) can work, but only if you have nearly unlimited money and everything goes right for you. There’s almost no excuse for a $175M payroll to get beat to the playoffs by a $55M payroll team (Oakland). That is unless you overpay for poor FA targets, install the wrong manager and saddle yourself with the worst clubhouse in baseball. In case you were wondering, the 2012 Boston Red Sox were a classic case of why money cannot buy happiness, and why unlimited funds do not necessarily guarantee playoff baseball. The Angels are another example; owing most of their season’s turnaround and success to Mike Trout and his MLB minimum salary providing nearly 10 WAR despite having the 3rd largest payroll in baseball and having just purchased the games pre-emminent hitter in Albert Pujols.
- Frequent commenter Clark has a good point; classifying Mark Teixeira and Raul Ibanez as the same type of player (acquired via free agency) is a bit mis-leading. Clearly a $150M player isn’t the same as a $1M player. But, for the purposes of analyzing how much of your team is “bought” versus “developed” the point remains the same whether its a bargain basement guy or a $20M/year player.
So, if I had just purchased a new team, what construction method would I follow? I guess it depends; if I thought I had a patient fan base, I’d probably do exactly what is going on in Houston. I’d gut the MLB roster, trade every tradeable asset and start over payroll-wise. I’d follow strategy #1 until I was at least competitive, and then i’d probably switch over to a #2 strategy or a #3 strategy, depending on just how good my developed players were. You hope for #3; it implies you’ve got so much in-house talent that all you need to do is keep extending your key guys and you’ll keep winning.
I don’t think #4 is a sustainable way of building rosters. The Yankees have gotten away with it for years, but only because they initially had a banner crop of developed players (the “core four”) to depend on up their spine. Would anyone be surprised if the Yankees fail to make the playoffs next year? Alex Rodriguez looks incredibly old, Derek Jeter just broke his ankle, they’re losing a number of hitters to FA and they only have a couple of starters locked up. Where’s their starting pitching for 2013? And what happens if they finally get hit with injuries to their rotation to the extent that Boston did this year? I think this is why you see $80M payroll teams beating out $170M payroll teams all the time; teams get bloated, they over pay their own players and suddenly are old, inflexible and unable to adjust financially to buy what they need.
Lastly, here’s what the Nats roster has done over the past few seasons:
|Season||Team||Drafted/Developed||Traded Prospects||Traded MLBs||FA/Waivers||Ttl||Constr Method|
|2010||Washington (end of 2010)||7||1||2||5||15||#2|
|2011||Wash (2011 opening day)||6||2||1||6||15||#2|
|2011||Wash (primary Roster for season)||6||2||2||5||15||#2|
|2011||Wash (end of season)||9||1||2||3||15||#2|
|2012||Washington (playoff roster)||8||3||1||3||15||#2|
The team has been slowly replacing Free Agents with home-grown or acquired talent, and as we all know is well on its way towards a strong, home grown team. This year’s core team only uses 3 pure FAs: Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth and Edwin Jackson. We could very well see LaRoche replaced outright with the home grown Tyler Moore, and if the team replaced Jackson with someone like John Lannan (not that we’ll possibly see that happen), we could be down to just one FA in the core squad.
Here’s Tom Boswell’s weekly Monday chat on 11/28/11. Of the baseball questions he took, here’s how I’d have answered them. With the Wizard’s 0-8 start there’s a lot of kvetching about NBA.
As always, questions are edited for clarity and I write my own answer prior to reading his.
Q: What is your “take” on Ross Detwiler and could he become a better pitcher than Gio Gonzalez?
A: My “take” on Ross Detwiler is that he’s too frail to stay healthy long enough to be counted on for heavy-duty innings, and that he throws too much across his body to get his breaking stuff to work properly. Now, throwing across your body isn’t a bad thing (see Johnson, Randy) but Detwiler’s never been consistent long enough to be anything more than an emergency/late season starter for this team. Can he be better than Gio Gonzalez? Not really; Gonzalez is only a year older but has 60 more MLB starts, an all-star appearance and the talent to win 20 games in the AL. If Detwiler was really that promising … we wouldn’t have acquired Gonzalez in the first place. Boswell says the team likes Detwiler, but Johnson likes a lefty heavy rotation in this division. But the team already has 5 starters signed to major league contracts, so I can’t see how Detwiler wins anything more than a bullpen spot.
Q: Is Prince Fielder really coming here? Why is there so little market for him?
A: I’ll answer the 2nd part first; there’s so little market for Prince Fielder for several reasons.
- If you look at the top payroll clubs, basically every team either has a long-term 1B commitment (names like Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, Paul Konerko, Justin Morneau, and Miguel Cabrera) or is dealing with topped-out payroll or financial issues (Mets, Giants, Dodgers) that are preventing them from purchasing a big-money star. So lots of your usual suspects are out. He’s left trying to convince mostly 2nd-tier payroll clubs to spend like first tier clubs.
- His agent Scott Boras is generally the “lets wait and try to build a crescendo of rumors” type of agent. It has clearly worked in the past … but it doesn’t seem to be working now. I think Boras’ strategy has run its course to a certain extent and teams are wary of the “mystery team” in on these major players.
- Fielder isn’t exactly an adonis of a physical specimen. He’s got a bad body, hasn’t really shown that he can control his weight, and has a pretty good barometer of his future physical condition in the form of his MLB playing father Cecil Fielder. Prince may be young and may clearly be a top5 hitter in the league, but teams are not going to want to put up 8 year commitments for a player who may be washed up by the time he’s 34. To make matters worse, Prince is a below-average first baseman AND only a handful of teams have available money and available DH spots.
Frankly, I think Prince needs to sign a shorter term deal with high AAV, get a team like the Nats to commit and then re-hit the FA market at age 30-31 when he’ll still have value.
Now, is he coming to the Nats? If I was Mike Rizzo i’d sign him in a heartbeat for 3yrs/$75M. I’d balk at an 8-year deal. But, the rumors persist and have been swirling for more than 2 weeks. So where there’s heat, there’s likely fire. Boswell says that the key date is Jan 18th, the day that the Rangers either sign or cut bait on Yu Darvish. If the Rangers suddenly have $120M that they didn’t think they’d have yesterday, they will sign Fielder.
Q: Baseball is set to announce their HOf inductees for 2012 today. Anyone you feel strongly about that should get in? What are your thoughts on Dale Murphy and Don Mattingly?
A: (note that I’m writing this BEFORE the 3pm announcement, so by the time you read this we’ll know who got in and who didn’t)
Who I believe WILL get elected: Barry Larkin
Who I believe SHOULD be in the Hall: Jeff Bagwell, Jack Morris, Barry Larkin, Tim Raines, Mark McGwire, Edgar Martinez.
What do I think about Murphy and Mattingly? Both suffer from more or less the same issue: they were both great players for very short amounts of time. Murphy was a better player all in all than we remembered and for four seasons (82-86) was probably THE best player in the game. Mattingly retired at 33 and was solid but had the same 4-year excellence followed by less flashy seasons. They’re good players who weren’t transcendent enough to get their own plaques in Cooperstown. Boswell mostly agrees with the above.
Q: What do you think of this scenario: Fielder signs elsewhere, LaRoche starts out hot, we flip him to Tampa for Upton as Harper takes over in RF and Morse moves to 1B.
A: Sounds great. Except that this scenario really only serves the perfect world desires of the Nationals. In reality LaRoche is a slow starter and we may really hear the boo-birds early. Morse was great in 2011 but most predict a sliding back. Harper probably needs some MLB adjustment time. We’ll see what happens. Boswell likes this scenario. Sure, who wouldn’t? But it does sound a bit too convenient.
Q: Is there ANY chance Boras goes for something like 3yrs/$75mil for Prince?
A: Yeah, I think there is a chance, as described above. He’ll push for longer though until the last possible minute, so this won’t play out for a while and we’ll continue to hear rumors for weeks. Boswell says it’ll “never happen.” And lays out a doomsday payroll scenario for the team. Which I don’t entirely buy; we’ve been at $60-65M in payroll for 6 years … despite being in a very wealthy market. At some point, this team will be good, will draw fans to the park and will increase revenues. And the payroll should rise to reflect that.
Q: Where are the Nats finding the (approximately) 60 runs they’ll need to add (assuming pitching stays constant) in order to go from 80 to 90 wins?
A: A good question. Some from Zimmerman, some from LaRoche, some from natural improvements from Desmond, Espinosa, and Ramos, and some from a rebound year from Werth. That’s a LOT of assumpions. Fielder would *really* help in the run creation department (he created 35 more runs than Morse last year … that’d be 5-6 wins all by himself). Boswell echos much of the above.
Q: Where do you (as an assumed HoFame voter) draw the line between admitted and suspected when it comes to steroids and the HOF?
A: If it were me, I’d go based on existing evidence. That’s all you can do. And the Mitchell Report is not really “evidence,” but more heresay and he said-she said. So Palmeiro and McGwire have some warts. Bagwell does not and it is generally unfair to lump him into the steroid-poster boy club. Boswell agrees with the above … too bad he doesn’t have a vote to defend year after year.
Q: Given what we now know about the Steroid era, is there any reason to suspect Cal Ripken of using?
A: (The allegation also being that Ripken was friends with Brady Anderson, whose 50 homer season seems awfully suspicious in hind-sight). Nobody’s ever said a word about Ripken and PEDs. You have to think he was well aware of his legacy the closer he got to 2130 games. I’d be shocked if he was shown to be a user. Him and Derek Jeter would be probably the two most shocking PED revelations in the history of the game, if they turned out to be true. Boswell doesn’t think Ripken profiled to a typical user.
Q: Why isn’t there more narrative about how the Werth contract is really killing this team, when considering the future payroll implications of having Werth, Zimmerman and Fielder potentially signed to long term, $20M+ AAV contracts?
A: I’m sure it is internally. It certainly is everywhere else in the blogosphere. The Werth contract is pretty indefensible, certainly was at the time it was signed and is even more so now. I just hope the guy has a bounce back season and really contributes.
Q: How does the TV money rise so much in the MASN deal? Aren’t viewer numbers abhorrent?
A: Good question. I don’t know. Boswell has the answer; the contract is tied not to revenues or ad money, but to comparable RSN sizes in other markets. And right now Houston and Dallas (our two closest sized cities) get 2-3 TIMES the money out of their RSNs. I cackle at watching Angelos have to write checks to the Nats, but really wish they’d cancel the contract altogether. I hate the fact that we’re enriching Angelos day after day.
Q: Why do the HoFame voters suddenly agree to induct a player? If he’s good enough on the first ballot, he should be good enough on any ballot.
A: Because there’s a cache to being a “First Ballot Hall of Famer” and LOTS of voters exclude guys on the first vote as a result. There’s never been a unanimous selection, and there never will be. But there’s plenty of guys who were very good players who got in on #2 or #3 ballot. Guys like Blyleven and Rice who languish for a decade on the ballot are rare. Boswell agrees.
Q: Is Toronto a more likely landing spot for Fielder, since they were all-in for Darvish and lost out?
A: Makes sense frankly. They could be sensing weakness in the Boston and Yankees lack of activity this off-season … Boswell says it makes sense but makes a good point; does Fielder want to commit to Toronto, knowing they’ll get outspent year after year by Boston and New York? Does he commit to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since the divisions split? Would you?
Q: How similar is Harper’s call-up situation to Mickey Mantle’s situation?
A: Not very. Completely different baseball climates. Harper has his millions already, and there’s very specific service time implications. Mantle played under the reserve clause, there was no service time issues, no arbitration, no free agency. So the Yankees could do whatever they wanted with him year after year. Boswell doesn’t really comment.
Q: Does Fielder make sense if the Nats are planning on building a cost-controlled dynasty? The 1998 yankees didn’t have any 30-homer players, let alone a big bopper at $25M/year.
A: Fair. Lots of Nats bloggers keep coming back to the payroll implications of Werth, extending Zimmerman and buying Fielder. And they’re fair. That doesn’t even talk about what to do with other big-time stars we have to deal with potentially. But i’ll respond by saying this; we don’t KNOW what the owner’s payroll limits are. All we have to go by is the past payroll figures. What if this team is just biding its time before blowing out payroll to $120M? Boswell says this is well put and signs off.
(This post was inspired by the very last question in David Shoenfeld’s 12/20/11 chat, asking where this game ranks among the greatest ever games played).
For those of you with the MLB network (channel 213 on DirecTV), the series they featured this year profiling the “Greatest 20 games of the last half century” was my favorite bit of sports programming since the 30-for-30 series on ESPN debuted. Bob Costas and Tom Verducci hosted and did 1-2 hour reviews of these 20 games and brought in guest hosts for each game in the form of actual players and managers who participated in the games themselves. These guest hosts provided fantastic commentary on the state of the dugouts at each critical juncture as well as first hand knowledge of their own thought processes throughout. If you haven’t seen the series, I highly suggest setting your DVR and watching them.
Now the interesting question: where would Game 6 of our most recent World Series have ranked, if it were a candidate to be included?
For me, game 6 was absolutely the most entertaining game I’ve ever witnessed, in person or on TV. It wasn’t the best played game (with errors and questionable manager decisions and no less than three blown saves) but it was amazingly entertaining, suspenseful, and with a story-book ending that was almost out of a movie script. But does it rank with the best game list that MLB network came up with?
First, here’s their list, counted down from 20 to 1 (with captions borrowed from the MLB link above and augmented by me):
- No. 20: May 17, 1979: Phillies @ Cubs; Phils, Cubs combine for 45 runs. This is the only regular season game on the list and for good reason; the first inning alone had 13 runs scored.
- No. 19: Oct. 4, 2003: Giants @ Marlins; Ivan Rodriguez tags out Eric Snow as he tries to bulldoze Pudge at the plate to end the game and send the Marlins to the World Series.
- No. 18: Oct. 12, 1980: Phillies @ Astros; Phils win battle in 10th to win the NLCS with an epic comeback over Nolan Ryan.
- No. 17: Oct. 17, 2004: Yankees @ Red Sox; Dave Roberts‘ stolen base and David Ortiz’s walk-off homer cap the Boston win, an epic part of the Boston comeback from 3-0 down in the 2004 ALCS.
- No. 16: Oct. 6, 2009: Tigers @ Twins; Twins win a game 163 sudden death playoff game for the AL Central title.
- No. 15: Oct. 8, 1995: Yankees @ Mariners; Edgar Martinez hits “The Double” to get a walk-off win in the ALDS, capping a 10th inning comeback as a young Ken Griffey Jr absolutely flies around the bases to score from first.
- No. 14: Oct. 23, 1993: Phillies @ Blue Jays; Joe Carter’s walk-off WS homer foils a great Philly comeback.
- No. 13: Oct. 26, 1997: Indians @ Marlins; Edgar Renteria wins it for Fish in a World Series game 7 classic.
- No. 12: Oct. 31, 2001: D-backs @ Yankees; Tino Martinez ties it with a 2-out, 2-run homer in the bottom of the 9th and Derek Jeter hits first November homer and earns himself the nickname for which he’s continued to be known.
- No. 11: Oct. 2, 1978: Yankees @ Red Sox; Bucky Dent’s improbable 3-run homer caps a massive October collapse for Boston and continues the legendary rivalry between the teams.
- No. 10: Oct. 15, 1988: Athletics @ Dodgers; Injured slugger Kirk Gibson hits a pinch hit walk-off home run off of the dominant Dennis Eckersley for one of the most magical home runs in baseball history.
- No. 9: Nov. 4, 2001: Yankees @ D-backs; Luis Gonzalez floats a ball over the drawn-in infield against Mariano Rivera to win a classic Game 7.
- No. 8: Oct. 12, 1986: Red Sox @ Angels; Dave Henderson hits an improbable 3-run homer in the 9th to help Boston come back from 1-out away from elimination to eventually beat the Angels in the 86 ALCS.
- No. 7: Oct. 14, 2003: Marlins @ Cubs; The infamous Steve Bartman game, which overshadowed an utter collapse by Mark Prior, Alex Gonzalez, the Cubs bullpen AND Kerry Wood the following day to continue the Cubs curse that lasts til today.
- No. 6: Oct. 16, 2003: Red Sox @ Yankees; Aaron Boone suddenly homers off Tim Wakefield in extra innings to end a classic ALCS game 7 between the bitter rivals.
- No. 5: Oct. 15, 1986: Mets @ Astros; Mets win in 16 as Jesse Orosco put in the relief performance of a lifetime.
- No. 4: Oct. 14, 1992: Pirates @ Braves; the injured Sid Bream barely beats Barry Bonds‘ throw to score the series winner and effectively send the Pittsburgh franchise into a 20 year tailspin.
- No. 3: Oct. 25, 1986: Red Sox @ Mets; Probably the most “infamous” game of all time, especially to Boston fans, as Bill Buckner’s error follows a series of mishaps by the Red Sox pitching staff to turn a 10th inning 2 run lead into a game 6 loss.
- No. 2: Oct. 27, 1991: Braves @ Twins; Jack Morris‘ seminal performance; a 1-0 10 inning shutout over the Braves in perhaps the best Game 7 of any World Series ever.
- No. 1: Oct. 21, 1975: Reds @ Red Sox; the game forever known for Carlton Fisk waving his walk-off homer fair, but which should be known for the unbelievably clutch Bernie Carbo 8th inning homer to tie the game and enable the extra inning fireworks.
(A quick glance at the top 20 list above has one glaring game that I’d honestly replace immediately; the Bartman game was more iconic for the individual play and not for the game itself, which ended up being a blowout when all was said and done. Nearly every other game on this list featured late game comebacks and walk-off hits).
The earliest game on this list is 1975 and if the moniker “last 50 years” is true then the classic Bill Mazeroski homer game from game 7 of the 1960 World Series must not have been eligible. Because certainly it should have been in the top 5 otherwise. A quick note about this game; click on the link for the box score to imagine just how amazing this game must have been. Recap:
- Pittsburgh jumps to a 4-0 lead early.
- Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle help spark a 4-run rally in the 6th to take a 5-4 lead.
- The Yankees extend their lead to 7-5 in the top of the 8th.
- The Pirates rally for FIVE runs in the bottom of the 8th for a 9-7 lead.
- The Yankees’ two hall of famers Berra and Mantle manage to drive in the tying runs in the top of the 9th to make it 9-9.
- Mazeroski blasts a walk-off homer on a 1-0 count to lead off the bottom of the 9th and win the world series.
Where to put 2011’s game 6? I think I’d place it right around the #4 spot. David Freese’s heroics will soon settle into place as one of the legendary performances in post season history. I can’t dislodge the current top 3 games on MLB’s list. Its a common folly for the immediate labeling of recent events as “the best ever” without standing the test of time, but in this case I feel comfortable in the statement that this game is one for the ages, absolutely.
This is your semi-weekly/periodic wrap-up of Nats and other baseball news that caught my eye.
Nationals In General
- I hope its as a 4th outfielder: Nats reportedly interested in Mike Cameron.
- Hey guys, we can get Brian Bixler back!
Free Agents/Player Transaction News
- We hear from Albert Pujol’s wife Dierdre, who says she was “mad at God” for having to leave St. Louis. I’m sorry; if you are “forced” to leave St. Louis so that you can earn $254M dollars instead of $210M, you don’t get to invoke “God” or any self-pity whatsoever. Is Pujol’s wife as out-of-touch as most modern athletes are? This almost reminds me of the infamous line from Latrell Sprewell, who turned down a $21M contract extension by saying that “I’ve got my family to feed.”
- DC-area native Joe Saunders was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks after failing to reach a multi-year deal. There were plenty of other non-tenders to talk about, but the West Springfield graduate immediately becomes a rather high-end FA starting pitcher when compared to the rest of the market. I don’t think he’s worth pursuing necessarily; he isn’t going to give us anything that we probably couldn’t expect to get out of Ross Detwiler at a fraction of the cost, and perhaps this is just a negotiating ploy by the Arizona GM. But its definitely fair to say that his arbitration cost would have probably been more than his actual worth on an annual salary basis.
- The Yu Darvish deadline passed on 5pm Wednesday, and all we know is that someone actually bid, and that there were a number of serious bidders. The NPB has four days to formally “accept” the offer, so will not know til next tuesday who “won.” I heard on SportsTalk 980 that the Nationals did not submit a bid, and here’s Adam Kilgore confirming in print. I’ve posted my opinion on Darvish in the past; i’m sure he’s talented, but don’t think he’s a 9-figure risk. Unsubstantiated early rumors list the Toronto Blue Jays as the posting winners.
- Good for Josh Willingham, signing a 3yr deal in Minnesota. Yes we could have used his offense in 2011. Willingham’s 2011 bWAR? 1.8 hitting in a horribly bad pitcher’s stadium. The players we got for him? Henry Rodriguez’s 0.2 and Corey Brown’s 0 (and subsequent removal from the 40-man roster). That was a good piece of business!
General Baseball News
- I kind of agree with Phil Wood’s take on Ryan Braun’s positive test, as printed here. If a player has been tested again and again, and then (say) gets a test mixed up or hits a false positive, and that test is leaked to the world, wouldn’t you be pretty pissed as well? I’m not saying that’s what happened here (since I have no involvement whatsoever), but such a scenario would play out pretty unfairly to the athlete in question. One can only hope that the “insanely high” levels of testosterone were either a testing mistake or a flawed test. Or possibly that Braun was surprised by the timing of the test and was doing what Victor Conte describes as a “truck sized loop hole” in the baseball drug testing.
- This story cracks me up: Derek Jeter sends the same “break-up present” consisting of a gift-basket with a hand-signed baseball to all his “conquests.” How did we find this out? Because he had a repeat hookup and apparently forgot that he had already sent one to her. Oops. Here’s the question: how do these women certify the signed baseball? Does it also come with a certificate of authenticity?
- The title of this article says it all: “MLB increasingly concerned about Mets’ financing.” Yeah, I would be too. Another excellent hand-picked owner from your commissioner Bud Selig
General News; other
- The verb “Tebowing” is now being recognized as an official word. At least its not ebonics. At least not everyone is taking this thing seriously; see here for a fantastic new Tebowing-themed beer label.
- Thank god for this clause in the new CBA: players are going to be banned from getting corporate logo tattoos. Its too bad; I’m pretty sure I just heard that Stephen Strasburg is getting the Dairy Queen logo tattooed on the small of his back, tramp-stamp style.
Here’s a weekly wrap up of Nats-related news items, with my thoughts as appropriate.
- MLBtraderumor’s Tim Dierkes announced that the cutoff for this year’s “Super-2″ status is 2 years, 146 days. This cutoff means that two (and possibly three) Nats players made the cut and will be in line for a 4th arbitration season. Jordan Zimmermann made it by 8 days, Tyler Clippard by 2 days (!), and Roger Bernadina (at least according to Amanda Comak’s calculations; he’s missing from Dierkes’ list). In Bernadina’s case, it may not matter, as he’s out of options for 2012, isn’t likely to make the roster anyway and seems a certainty for a non-tender. We’ll save salary speculation for a future post as we get closer to the arbitration dates. 11/1 update: Dierkes responded to my comment in this blog posting and said that his personal calculations determined that Bernadina missed the cutoff.
- Tim Dierkes is a busy man; he has a series of FA analysis by position and posted his Center Field analysis over the weekend. Considering that the Nats have been looking for a quality center fielder essentially since moving to Washington, the analysis is a good read. The news isn’t good; Dierkes only projects ONE viable CF FA candidate: Coco Crisp (quotes later in the week though confirm that Crisp wants to stay on the west coast, making him a less likely candidate). He mentions Grady Sizemore as being worth a flier but no guarantee to be healthy. There’s some “thinking outside the box” candidates, guys who are older and who could hold on to CF for another year, but if the Nats were to do that we might as well either go with Jayson Werth in center or re-sign Ankiel. Trade potential BJ Upton is still there, and I’m sure he’s still available for the right price. Perhaps the Nats could package a bunch of prospects for both Upton and Shields. One other interesting name to consider: Melky Cabrera. Nice season, nearly a 20/20 guy. Getting a bit expensive for KC… maybe we could flip them some pitching surplus.
- Sammy Solis has marginally improved as the AFL has gone forward, putting in a 4ip, 1run performance on Oct 29th. Meanwhile, what is going on with Matthew Purke? In three appearances through 10/29 he’s given up 11 runs on 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings. Not good. We may have to just shield our eyes until spring training.
- Bill Ladson reported on a conversation he had with Mike Rizzo about the Nats off-season plans, and the takeaway seems to be that the team “has made no promises” to Adam LaRoche about playing time in 2012. I just have a hard time believing that the team plans on just ignoring 1/8th of their payroll (LaRoche’s $8M salary on last year’s $68M payroll) by signing a replacement. Rizzo pursued and signed LaRoche for a reason; good defense and adequate bat. At least, that’s the idea. Personally I have a hard time believing that Albert Pujols is leaving St. Louis, and I’ll bet that Fielder stays in the NL central as well (perhaps replacing Carlos Pena in Chicago as Theo Epstein’s first big signing).
- ESPN’s Buster Olney believes the Nats will look at Grady Sizemore, recently having his 2012 option declined by the Indians, as a center field option. I suppose Sizemore is no more of a risk than it would be to resign Rick Ankiel, or to experiment with Werth in center and a player to be named (Laynce Nix?) in right. It would be ironic to see Sizemore come back to the team that drafted and developed him, only to trade him in an incredibly damaging deal for a few months rental of Bartolo Colon.
- Taken from a link in the previous Olney posting, the “Field of Dreams” property in Iowa used to make the movie of the same name is being sold. Visitors come by the thousands even to this day to see the makeshift field built into a century-old farmland. What I find neat is the apparent unassuming nature of the owners and the fact they’ve never really attempted to commercialize the property. In that respect, it reminds me of Cooperstown, which I visited for the first time this past summer (blog post in the works with pictures) and found to be amazingly quant and un-tarnished by the type of tourist-driven revenue generators you find at other places in this country.
- A post courtesy of Rob Neyer’s blog about the seemingly imminent move of the Astros to the AL West points out a salient points the Houston fan base would have to put up with; more 9:05pm local starts as the team travels to play new rivals on the West coast. This likely will badly affect their TV ratings. Will the Astros take to having new divisional rivals in the Angels, A’s and Mariners well? It doesn’t seem to have really hurt the Rangers, who have the same issue. One has to think an intra-state, intra-divisional rivalry with the Rangers would be fantastic for both teams though. Imagine 18 games and state bragging rights at stake for a state that takes its bragging rights (in all matters, both sports and non) very seriously.
- All 8 of our free agents filed as soon as the FA filing period opened, as reported by Adam Kilgore. I’ve got a post coming up on thoughts on the 8 free agents and which I think we should look at resigning.
- Jon Heyman’s first off-season column addresses some of the main “questions” facing baseball this off-season and he includes answering some of the major FA rumors. He lists the Nats as favorites for both Prince Fielder and CJ Wilson. Signing both would instantly add $30M of payroll to a team that already projects at somewhere in the $65M already basically allocated (we owe $45M in guaranteed contracts on the books now, probably somewhere in the range of $13M to clear our arbitration cases, and the rest being minimum salaries to 40-man guys). Are the Lerners ready to step up and pay this kind of money?
- Heyman’s article also notes that the last remaining issue in the MLB contract negotiations relates to Draft Slotting. Bud Selig has been pushing hard for this, as he feels smaller market teams get screwed by agents who know bigger market teams will pay the money for their guys. Meanwhile the league is apparently read to ditch free agent compensation picks as a bargaining chip. Certainly the union has to like this (especially for relievers, who get labeled type-A and suddenly can’t find work).
- Dodger Fan’s long nightmare may be over: Frank McCourt is apparently willing to sell the team for $1B in a deal that seems to completely remove him from gaining any additional benefit from the team (meaning, he has to divest the parking lots he was threatening to keep control over). Now if only Bud Selig would consider a decent replacement owner instead of one of Selig’s friends or whoever greased his palm most recently … ah modern baseball. 11/2/update: maybe there won’t be a Selig-appointee; apparently the team will be sold at auction. Great! That means an owner not necessarily hand-picked by Selig and his cronies. I’d love to see Mark Cuban get involved but apparently he was approached a few months ago and backed out.
- Baseballamerica.com had a front-page feature on the Nats on 11/1.
- FanGraphs’ top 15 Nats prospects wasn’t too surprising (also posted 11/1). I’m amazed how high AJ Cole is (called the top pitcher in the system, barely eclipsing the promise of both Alex Meyer and Matthew Purke). And I’m amazed how far Derek Norris has fallen. The article also points out something rather interesting: the Potomac rotation could be Meyer, Purke, Cole, Ray and then someone like Selik. Wow.
- SI.com’s Ben Reiter put out his list of the top 50 FAs available and has the Nats on Jose Reyes and Coco Crisp, but not Prince Fielder or Edwin Jackson. I guess I wouldn’t complain if we got both or either guy; either would ably fit into the lead-off spot that we’ve struggled with for years (and if we got both put them 1-2 … and move both Espinosa and Desmond’s .220 batting averages to the bottom of the order).
- And here’s Tim Dierkes’s top 50 FA list with guesses on destinations: He has the Nats mentioned as an interested party with most of the top names and signing only CJ Wilson of his top 50 list.
- And here USA Today’s Paul White’s top 50 FA list, with the Nats projected to land Coco Crisp, Freddie Garcia (?!?) and Chein-Ming Wang. His comment as to why we’d sign Garcia? “Short term fix while the kids develop.” It makes one wonder if he’s seen the state of our starting pitching frankly. There’s little reason to doubt Milone or Peacock (or some combination of both) being able to fit into the 5th starter.
- Ron Dibble. wow.
- Gold Glove winners announced; there doesn’t seem to be any egregiously bad winners like there was last year (Derek Jeter). There were some complaints from the likes of Rob Neyers about the AL shortstop selection, using the Fielding Bible awards as his source. But lets face it; the voters for the golden gloves probably spend about 20 seconds on it, when handed the form while dealing with a gazillion other items in September after a long season. They’re voting reputations, not Uzr/150 results. In fact i’d wager that fully 75% or more of the voters couldn’t tell you what Ultimate Zone Rating is or how it measures defensive capabilities.
- SI’s Joe Sheehan puts out a nice overview of each division’s “state of franchise” post, and his thoughts on the Nats are interesting. He has no idea if the team is going to be spooked byWerth’s contract and poor production, and suggests trading Tyler Clippard for a CF.
- Chien-Ming Wang has officially re-signed with the team, per this SI article late Wednesday night. We got details thursday: 1yr, $4M with some incentives. That’s a bit more than I predicted (I was thinking something in the range of $2.5M as a guess). But it still seems like a good deal, all things considered. I’ll take a $4M #4 pitcher versus the $7.5M Marquis cost, and he seems like he could very well improve on his 2011 performance.
- Byron Kerr has a rather effusive article on Sammy Solis (calling his fastball “lethal” and “high-velocity?” Sorry Byron; he’s got #3 starter stuff, not Randy Johnson-esque power) and his efforts to learn a new pitch; a regular curve-ball. Solis has used a knuckle-curve that spins/breaks more violently, but is harder to control. He’s reached the point in his career where he needs alternatives to fastballs and change-ups that he can count on, and hopefully this helps him to the next level. This is a common theme; high schoolers with merely upper 80s stuff can routinely get away with blowing the ball by most of the opposing lineups of weakling 16-18yr olds and sometimes experience a reality check when going up against hitters who can make the adjustment.
- The Nats exposed Brian Bixler to waivers (i.e., designated him for assignment to remove him from the 40-man) and he got claimed by the Astros. Not a major loss (he had a 47 ops+ last season), but still someone who could have helped out next year had he passed through to our AAA roster and been able to be “stashed” in Syracuse. Best of luck to him. His position is easily replaced from within from someone like Lombardozzi, or on the FA market similar to our 2011 signings of Hairston and Cora.
Tom Boswell did his monday morning chat on 10/31 in the wake of the end of an epic World Series and a brutal 23-0 loss by the town’s #1 draw Redskins. Lets see how many baseball questions he takes…
Questions are edited for clarity and space, and I write my answer before reading Boswell’s. We’ll only address baseball-related questions.
Q: What do you make of the decision to post-pone game 6 of the World Series so early?
A: The implication being, it never really rained. Baseball was very quick to do cancellations this year, as we saw when a day game here was cancelled despite it being perfectly sunny outside. The extra day of rest enabled St. Louis to put Carpenter on the mound for game 7 on a relatively acceptable amount of rest (3 days), a key factor that helped turn the tide. Meanwhile Texas didn’t take advantage and kept the same rotation they announced at the beginning of the series (a point I made in this space, asking why Holland wasn’t recalled after his game 4 gem). I understand what MLB was worried about (starting, stopping, rain-delays and losing TV viewership), but the delay ended up affecting the world series in a way that the Rangers can’t be happy about. Boswell notes that he was in St. Louis, it was barely raining but he supported the decision at the time.
Q: Is St. Louis the “team of the decade,” since they went to three world series to the Yankees and Red Sox’ two?
A: Eh; both St. Louis WS victories were as weaker teams that ran the table in the playoffs. For me the Yankees are probably the “team of the decade,” with their winning percentage and 90% playoff rate being paramount. Boswell notes that St. Louis’s A-players are far better than the Nats comparable players, and that we have a long way to go.
Q: Are baseball players overpaid? (Citing Pujols’ contract demands, Sabathia’s opt-out and Jeter’s $12M/year)?
A: In a game where you can have MVPs on rookie contracts making $450k (Dustin Pedroia) and a large percentage of your team also on league minimums, its hard to say that a player is “overpaid.” Pujols IS the St. Louis Cardinals; if I were them i’d offer him ownership in the team, since he’s a legacy ball player that will always be as associated with St. Louis as Stan Musial. Sabathia is just taking advantage of the market; he knows that he can get a few more guaranteed years and more guaranteed money, so why not do it? Blame the Yankees for giving him that ridiculous opt-out clause in the first place. Lastly the Jeter contract was NOT about equating pay with performance; it was about the Yankees paying to save-face for their own vast overpayment of Alex Rodriguez when Jeter’s the captain and the clear face of the franchise. Boswell notes that most FAs show solidarity towards the efforts of their yesteryear colleagues who fought so hard for free agency, and try to push the envelope.
Q: Was Nelson Cruz’s miss on the David Freese triple a Bill Buckner-level gaffe?
A: Not at all; Freese’s ball hit the fence and was nearly a walk-off homer. Cruz may not be the best fielder but that was no gimme ground ball (like the one that Buckner missed). Boswell puts it well; Cruz failed to make an excellent play while Buckner missed an easy one. No better way to put it.
Q: Was St. Louis’ victory about Karma (and then a long winded, conspiracy theory level email involving the Deckinger blown call)?
A: St. Louis’ victory showed what happens when you put together a very strong 3-4-5, have a couple guys on complete hot streaks, and add a dominant shut-down Ace starter to a good lineup with a deep bullpen. No matter what the record of the team or how they got into the playoffs, its a crap shoot as to who comes out. St. Louis went from being out of the playoffs to beating the Phillies within a span of a week. I hate it when wild card teams win the World Series, because it just validates more and more how the best teams are not being rewarded with post season success. Boswell notes just how good LaRussa’s teams have been.
Q: Was Lance Berkman’s comment about his batting thought process eye opening in the context of clutch hitting?
A: Not really; Berkman said that he (paraphrased) tries not to think about anything at the plate. And that’s the key to hitting in general; focus on the pitcher, not the situation or the pressure. Otherwise you’re distracted at the plate and will be an easy out. I think the questioner was trying to bat Boswell into a conversation about “clutch hitting,” which can’t really be proven by stat-nerds (so therefore they don’t believe it exists, despite 100 years of experience to the contrary. Grr). Boswell didn’t really address the question.
Q: Did Texas “deserve” the world series?
A: Not after blowing leads THREE times in game 6. The Rangers got everything the deserved there. Boswell notes, in response to the phrasing of the question, that Dallas has only recently (within the past few years) even had a legitimate “fan base” for baseball. It is good to see though the area starting to embrace its team.
Q: Thoughts on the way home field advantage is decided for the World Series?
A: Ridiculous. An exhibition that pulls all its stars after 3-5 innings and lets all-star “scrubs” (which are usually the one-per-team required guys from weaker franchises) decide home field advantage in the World Series. It was ridiculous that a divisional winning 96-win team didn’t have home field advantage over the barely-eked-into -the playoffs Cardinals. Either rotate back and forth year to year or give it to the team with the best record each year. It really shouldn’t be that much more complicated. Boswell says that he prefers the system stay the way it is except to say that a wild card team can never have home field.
Q: Will the Nationals go after the recently opted out CC Sabathia?
A: I doubt it; I think Sabathia is doing this purely as a procedural move to re-up with the Yankees for a ton more money. Nobody has reported his having any desire to leave New York. 10/31/11 update; this is confirmed by Sabathia re-upping with the Yankees for 5 years. Boswell seems to intimate that Sabathia makes sense on a team like the Nats. Hmm. Nothing about whether we’d actually go after him. Then some comments on just how much money Wilson cost himself in the post season. Agreed.
Q: Was this a better WS since it didn’t have the “best teams money can buy” like in Boston/NY/Philly?
A: I’m not so sure. Personally I like to see teams be rewarded for superiority over 162 games … but understand the desire of the league to have multiple playoff rounds for TV ratings and excitement. Boswell says it was a great world series. In arguable, but not the question.
Q: What do you think of LaRussa’s retirement? How does Davey Johnson rate compared to TLR?
A: Surprising; we don’t live in the St. Louis market so we don’t get the regular questioning of LaRussa to ascertain whether this was a surprising retirement or not. I’d rate Johnson relatively close to LaRussa; if Tony is one of the better managers ever, Johnson is still in the upper-calibre grouping. Boswell says this was a surprise announcement, but not really a surprise since LaRussa has had medical issues of late. He also notes that this does NOT help the Cards resign Pujols.
Q: Did Boswell save all his “alternative ending” stories and columns that he had to re-write because of some late game heroics or misfourtunes?
A: Boswell says it happens more than you think; he’s had 10-12 blown just in the past few months. Wow. He doesn’t save them though. I agree that they would make for very interesting reading.
Here’s Boswell’s 7/5/11 chat. As always, I read the question, write my own answer then interpret Boswell’s answer. All questions are paraphrased from the chatroom for clarity here.
Q: Should the Nats move Espinosa to Short, making room for Rendon?
A: I believe the Nats may eventually consider moving Danny Espinosa to shortstop to make way for either Anthony Rendon but perhaps Steve Lombardozzi in the near future. For the beginning of 2012 season? I doubt it. Yes, Ian Desmond has been hitting ridiculously badly, but he’s a plus defender at Short with an absolute gun of an arm. He’s cut way down on errors and mental mistakes. We all believe Espinosa can handle the position (he was a grade-A short stop at Long Beach State), but the right answer may be to give Desmond one more full season before pulling the trigger. Any move would be done in a spring training presumably. (Boswell more or less agrees, saying Lombardozzi will be a full time MLBer, Desmond moves too much in the box, and that Espinosa has better hands but not as much range).
Q: Did Harper skip high-A because of Potomac’s field situation?
A: Great question. Personally I believe Potomac’s field disaster factored into the situation. Perhaps part protection of Bryce Harper (who was promoted to AA over the weekend and went 2/3 in his AA debut), part penalization of the ownership/management of the Potomac franchise (which they must believe has botched this badly, to be giving away home dates). Of course there is the plain fact that Harper, despite his young age, held his own against AA-calibre talent and higher in 2010’s Arizona Fall League and he may just be ready for AA. (Boswell punts on the question, quoting Rizzo who said “the field is fine, it had nothing to do with it.” A non-answer.)
Q: What are the chances Michael Morse wins the “last man standing” all-star vote?
A: I’ll say slim, based on who he’s up against (here’s a link to the voting). Ethier, Helton, Victorino, and Ian Kennedy are the candidates. I’d guess that either Victorino or Helton wins, though Ethier is a deserving candidate. Nobody’s heard of Michael Morse unfortunately. (Boswell thinks Philly fans will vote in Victorino).
Q: Is Ryan Zimmerman’s new throwing motion working?
A: It seems not; if anything its causing even more problems. Zimmerman used to make most of his errors on relatively routine throws over to first; if he’s making a throw under duress it is usually spot on. So the new motion is designed to remove the scatter-arm throws. But now, instead of making a routine throw and it getting into his head, he’s got this new motion into his head. I can’t see how its an improvement. For me when playing the answer was always to go to a side arm motion to gain accuracy but I was playing from middle-infield positions that didn’t require long, overhand throws like what the third baseman has to do. (Boswell thinks it is working and that Zimmerman needs a bit longer to get comfortable with it).
Q: Was it too early, too late or the right time to promote Harper?
A: From a productivity standpoint it was probably too late; he clearly owned how-A pitching after just a few weeks. But, from a “learning how to be a baseball player” standpoint its just right. Finish out a half, a playoff-run, get a bunch of road trips in and get used to playing day after day. Now he can move up and get challenged by better pitching. Personally I would have put him in high-A for an incremental improvement. Run him up to AA if he dominated in Potomac, else start him at AA next year with an eye to move him quickly to AAA. I think there’s value in growing into your role. (Boswell says it was the right time to promote, but not to which level, and then compares Harper’s minor league splits to A-Rods and Ken Griffey Jr’s).
Q: How much credit should we give Rizzo the GM for 4 specific moves that paid off (Ramos-Capps, Willingham trade, letting Dunn walk and failing to get Greinke)?
A: I give Rizzo some good, some bad for his moves over the past year or so. The Ramos for Capps trade was spectacular. The Guzman trade (something for nothing) was quality. His purchase of Bixler has turned out well. I think we got fleeced on the Willingham deal frankly and think this team could have used the offense. Dunn was never going to stay here so I don’t know how much credit you can give Rizzo for purposely picking up the draft picks. He overpaid badly for Werth (for reasons that have been discussed ad-naseum here and were bigger than just the player). I liked the acquisition of Gorzelanny for what we gave up. His two rule5 draft picks were garbage. Cora and Nix on minor league contracts has turned out great. He got a decent AA starter for Gonzalez but a middling low-A infielder for Morgan. He wanted and was going to pay for Greinke, who i think is vastly over-rated, had one good season and is by no means an “ace” in this league. He’s a solid guy but not a $100m pitcher. (Boswell points out the Hanrahan-Burnett deal is looking bad for the Nats; I’ll defend the Nats there since Hanrahan was SO bad for us. Boswell also mentions Aaron Crow for some reason; that non-signing was 110% on Bowden, not Rizzo).
Q: Are Nats buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?
A: This answer will vary day by day between now and 7/31 honestly. If the Nats go on a 5 game losing streak they’re selling like mad. Right this moment, they’re probably doing nothing, stuck into inactivity by virtue of their .500 record and proximity to the wild card race. (Boswell agrees, saying the team’s record on July 28th is what matters).
Q: Will the Nats over pay and sign Marquis and Livan for next season?
A: God I hope not. Marquis should be jettisoned to make way for Strasburg’s return. Livan is worth 1.5-2m/per, but not much more. If he demands more cut him loose. Livan at this point is merely a holding over pitcher until our farm system prospects pan out. (Boswell seems to think that Detwiler could make an able replacement for Marquis, either this August/September or later on).
Q: Is Werth unable to get around on fastballs?
A: I don’t have enough video evidence to offer an opinion. Boswell says he’s just trying too hard, his mechanics are out of whack.
Q: Thoughts on the all-star rosters?
A: Havn’t even looked at them. Looking them up to comment here. Don’t care really; the all-star rosters will always have too many Red Sox, too many Yankees and too many Asians from ballot-box stuffing. I can’t stand the “every team must be represented” issue, which dilites the team and gives players cheap all star appearances. I think the fact that the world series home field advantage depends on this exhibition is beyond ridiculous. So doing a 2500 word column nit picking the all-star selections is just July column filler for most baseball writers. For me its like complaining about the BCS: its never going to change. Let other people bitch about the fact that Derek Jeter has basically been awful this year, not the best.
I will say that the manager’s selecting the pitchers is ridiculous. Yes Vogelsong has had a great season but he’s not who the fans want to see in the all star game, nor is he one of the best 15 pitchers in the league. Picking middle relievers? Ridiculous as well.
(Boswell says he likes the rosters and won’t waste an answer on what could give him an easy column!)
Q: How much money is Pujols’ injury- and poor-performance season costing him? Would he take a 1-year deal to regain value?
A: Great question. I think Pujols poor season has already cost him a shot at a 10-yr/$300M contract that many spoke of. He’s clearly going to lose years and value. I think he deserves a 7yr deal that pays him more per-annum than A-rod, and it may be what he’s shooting for. I do not think he’ll take a one-year deal. Too much can go wrong, too risky. Even if he doesn’t get the years and money he seeks, you cannot blow the opportunity to guarantee hundreds of millions of dollars. (Boswell wouldn’t even give him 7 years right now).
Q: Could Lombardozzi come up and force a replacement of Desmond in 2011?
A: No way. There’s little value in yanking Desmond in mid-august, forcing Espinosa to move to shortstop with no work all year and possibly disrupt a Rookie-of-the-Year season AND do the 40-man move to add Lombardozzi just for a few games in the bigs. (Boswell answered by defending Desmond, calling him a 10-year career shortstop. He needs to start hitting though).
Q: Comments on the Soriano “hit” that scored 2 runs?
A: An official scorer just can’t give Bernadina an error on a ball that drops in front of him, despite it clearly being a fielding mistake. Its one more piece of evidence showing how inaccurate ERAs are for pitchers. Zimmermann had Soriano popped up and was out of the inning; suddenly he’s given up 2 earned runs that he didn’t deserve. To me, it looked like Bernadina lost the ball in the over-cast sky. (Boswell points out that the play perfectly encapsulates why the team doesn’t think Bernadina is the long term answer in center. Well, duh, I could have told you that was the case long before this play!)
Q: Why aren’t the Nats hitting?/How much accountability does Rick Eckstein have in this situation?
A: Honestly, I’ve never thought that a hitting coach really could impact what a major leaguer could do. Be it out of respect, or lack thereof. If everyone thinks Werth’s mechanics are out of whack, why hasn’t he fixed them? Its an easy video fix right?
Werth is trying too hard. Espinosa’s babip is awful. Desmond just isn’t that good. Morse is good but has holes that pundits/scouts like Keith Law think are going to get exposed. Zimmerman is just getting back in the saddle. Willingham and Dunn (despite what they’re doing in 2010) were stable, high OBP forces in this lineup and when they left, there was major disruption. LaRoche has always been a slow starter, complicated (as we eventually found out) by a bad shoulder injury. (Boswell ducked the question as I have, but gives some interesting analysis of just how not-so-bad the team really is offensively right now).
Q: Why is Nyjer Morgan suddenly good again? Same question for Kearns, Felipe Lopez and (possibly) Werth?
A: Morgan needed a change of scenery, and has taken advantage of it. Same goes for Hanrahan, and in that respect that trade has worked out well for Pittsburgh. Kearns never wanted to be traded here; he is from Kentucky and liked it in Cincinnati. Once he got his balloon payment here he never earned the contract. Lopez is a special case; a good player with an awful attitude, and he’s earned a one-way ticket out of several towns by now. I wouldn’t put Werth in any of these classes; he’s hard-nosed, plays hard, doesn’t play dirty, doesn’t show-boat, and takes his craft seriously. (Boswell just says that change of scenery is sometimes good, without throwing (especially) Lopez under the bus).
Q: Why is Sean Burnett still on the roster?
A: True, his 2011 numbers have been pretty bad. But one really bad game can make 3 weeks worth of good look awful. Look at his game logs; he’s been pretty good lately except for one or two blow ups. The team needs a loogy, Burnett actually gives them more than just a one-out guy, and he was pretty good last year. Way too early to give up on him, to say nothing of the fact that there’s very little in AAA or even AA to replace him. We’re still trying to replace our actual LOOGY Slaten, signing JC Romero and possibly looking at Severino or even Chico at some point. (Boswell agrees).
Q: What are we going to do with Rendon?
A: Wait for him to prove he belongs, then find a spot. He hasn’t signed yet, could get injured again and be a total bust, or he could hit like the 2nd coming of Alex Rodriguez in the minors and shoot up to earn MLB at bats inside a year. If he forces his way onto the roster then you make room for him. Install him at 2nd, move Espinosa to short. Or, put Rendon in left and keep your current MI. Maybe Zimmerman wants out of town after 2013 and Rendon naturally moves to third. Maybe the entire team gets hit by a bus and we start over from scratch. Way too much can happen with minor league prospects to make intelligent predictions til they get to AAA. (Boswell’s answer rambled on about the state of the team … saying we’re much further along than intimated in the question).
Q: Why are the crowds booing Jayson Werth?
A: Probably because he’s in an extended slump, combined with a massive paycheck that most of us now have been told is vastly over-paying him. Nobody likes it when an overpaid co-worker struggles with his assignments; it makes you really question why you’re working at that job in the first place. Trust me, if he starts hitting the boo-ing will stop. (Boswell kinda understands the crowd’s displeasure with Werth right now).
Q: Is Werth miscast as a team leader?
A: Perhaps. I think clearly in Philadelphia he was one of many hitting cogs in a powerful lineup and they covered for each other. Now, he’s much more in focus (especially with LaRoche’s issues and Zimmerman’s absence). However, does he HAVE to be a leader by virtue of his contract? No. Zimmerman is a natural leader, as is Desmond. We have veteran pitching that can take the media brunt. But lets be honest; we don’t live in NYC with a 24-hour yankees news cycle. There’s, what, 5 beat reporters in total for this team (Ladson, Goessling, Kilgore, Zuckerman and Comack), so that’s not a ton of people asking you questions night after night. (Boswell agrees, Werth doesn’t have good media presence).
Q: Did the Lerner’s err in naming Davey Johnson as the new manager?
A: Can’t say just quite yet. Johnson was clearly an excellent manager in his time. Has the game passed him by? Unlike in professional football, where clearly Joe Gibbs was exposed as being too old and too out of touch with the modern game during his return to the sidelines for the Washington Redskins, Baseball strategy and management moves at a slower pace. Since Johnson last managed, there are no major changes in the rules of the game or the basic strategy. If anything, the major change in the game lies in the renewed emphasis on defense and pitching in the steroid-less game. Statistics and analysis has vastly increased in importance, but Johnson was already ahead of the curve in those departments when he was managing (and he was a Math major to boot, meaning he should not be wary of such heavy numerical analysis in the sport). That all being said, only time will tell. What was the team lacking under Riggleman that Johnson can bring to the table? Perhaps the answer is basic; accomplishment and veteran respect. (Boswell ridiculed the question and picked at its points, as opposed to talking about what Johnson may bring to the table).
Q: Do the Nationals ushers need to do more to enforce fan etiquette at the stadium?
A: Probably. The questioner complains about people being allowed to move freely mid-inning. I don’t notice a ton while I go to games, because our season tickets are relatively close to the field and the movement here and there isn’t too bad to notice. We did experience a rather concerning issue on 7/4; we apparently had duplicate tickets to others that we found sitting in our seats. We never really asked to see the tickets in question (not wanting to irk the woman sitting in our seats, who was clearly combative). But the usher mentioned that the day before he saw no less than FOUR tickets issued for the same seat. That doesn’t make any sense to me really; the seats are all season ticket-owned seats in the 100 sections. Something weird is going on. (Boswell says the questioner makes good sense).