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Adult/Amateur and College baseball in the DC Area for 2014

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I know its 20 degrees out, but we’re only a month away from opening day for the Nats, colleges started playing two weekends ago in the warmer states, and local amateur leagues can start as early as April 1st.  So lets talk some local baseball.

I thought it’d be of service to readers to summarize information of known local  adult/amateur leagues for anyone who is perhaps interested in getting back to playing, or who knows someone looking for a team.  If you’re looking for a place to play this summer, now is the time to reach out and start making contacts/sign up to play.  I’ve also gone over the Division 1 schools playing in the area and put in some links for those that want to go see some college ball.

I’ll list these leagues in perceived order of talent/skill/intensity from highest to lowest.  Each site also has links for those who may want to look into playing or watching.  I’m not including any youth, AAU, travel, American Legion, Babe Ruth or Cal Ripken (not to be confused with the Cal Ripken collegiate league) baseball here; we’ll start with College-age Adult baseball.  I will have a post coming later on that discusses draft prospects in the area worth following, which will give an overview of what high schools are worth looking up this spring.   Honestly I don’t know a ton about the big DC area travel league other than listening to complaints from my adult baseball buddies about how they get all the good fields :-) .

1. Local College-area Baseball teams.  If you’re looking for some division 1 area baseball, Washington DC has four teams to consider: (ACC), George Mason (A-10), George Washington (A-10) and Georgetown (Big East) all play division 1 schedules of varying strength (in roughly the order I just listed).  Their home fields are:

  • Maryland: on Shipley Field in College Park
  • George Mason: across 123 from campus behind the big Track and Field pavilion
  • Georgetown: on Shirley Povich field in Bethesda
  • George Washington: in Barcroft Park on Four Mile Run in South Arlington

Maryland (being in the ACC for one last season) features several marquee teams visiting this year (2014 schedule here), including UNC, NC State (with consensus 1-1 overall pick Carlos Rodon), and Clemson.   Mason’s best home opponent (2014 schedule here) may be 2013 CWS participant St. Louis.  Georgetown’s 2014 home schedule‘s best visitor may be Seton Hall (the new Big East isn’t that big into baseball), and GW’s home slate for 2014 highlight may be Rhode Island.  These schools are playing each other in mid-week stand-offs here and there, and new A-10 rivals GW and Mason face off more than a few times this year.

Personlly, I’m kind of bummed by Mason’s exit to the A-10; it means no more visits to or from my alma mater JMU, an itinerant baseball power.   JMU does a mid-week visit to Maryland after playing a 3-game set in Towson; that’s about as close as they come to DC this year.

2. DC-Area Summer Collegiate Leagues: Once the NCAA seasons are done, lots of college players debunk for wood-bat leagues.  The local wood-bat Cal Ripken Collegiate League has teams from DC, Maryland and Virginia and is the successor to the long-running Clark Griffith League (one of the first wood-bat leagues in the nation but now defunct: the Clark Griffith league suspended operations in 2010 and has not been able to re-start itself).  The Cal Ripken league has flourished and expanded since its inception, taken some of the former Griffith teams and now has at least 12 teams competing.  The marquee team is the Bethesda Big Train, named after Senator’s great Walter Johnson and whose home games are at the fantastic Shirley Povich field in Bethesda (also the home-stadium of Georgetown University).  If you havn’t seen games at Povich, you should take a drive up there one night this summer and take in a game.  The quality of play is good (the players are either Division-1 college players or elite HS prospects) and the field is great.

The Cal Ripken league is a step down from the famed Cape Code League in terms of summer college talent … but then again nearly every other wood bat summer league is a step down as well.  Of the dozens of summer leagues out there, most pundits would rank the Cal Ripken league as a 3rd tier quality league (2nd tiers being leagues like the Valley League, the Northwest league, the Alaska league or the Coastal Plains leagues).  But the Cal Ripken league definitely has its share of pro alumni.

Eligibility: you must have college eligibility left to play in this league.  High Schoolers are eligible but rare.  Teams are competitively assembled and hand selected.  Most players are contacted through their college coaches, but some are placed via relationships with GMs.  The Cal Ripken teams are always looking for host families; if you are interested in hosting a player definitely reach out to the league to volunteer.

3. The Industrial League: The Industrial League is the most elite level of adult amateur baseball in the area, filled with ex-Collegiate players and ex-Pros to serve as close to a “semi pro” league as we have in the area.  The current incarnation of the Industrial league plays wood bat and is the combination of two long-standing leagues (the “Industrial League” and the “Credit Union” league).   The old Credit Union used to play with aluminum, but went to Wood fully upon its dissolvement.  There’s only a handful of teams; this league used to be much healthier.  The “history” page on the website is informative and gives some great background on the league itself and its origins.  A quick check on 2013′s season showed that they played just a partial slate of games compared to the 40-50 game schedules they used to play.

By way of talent comparison; recent industrial teams used to scrimmage the Griffith/Ripken teams and would get wiped out.  Not so much because of talent, but because of depth.  These college summer league teams have full rosters and massive bullpens.  However, many years ago the tables were turned when these industrial teams featured significantly more talent and would dominate the Clark Griffith teams of the time.

Personal connection: I played in the predecessor league (Credit Union) for a brief time while in college, and can attest to the quality of play at the time.

Eligibility: no restrictions; anyone can play at any age.  No restrictions on time sitting out if you are an ex-pro.

4.  DCMSBL/MABLDC Mens Senior Baseball League: a large adult baseball league (the 2nd largest Adult league in the Nation according to MSBL’s records) with divisions ranging from 19 and up to 55 and up.   DCMSBL started in 1991 with just a 30+ division and now has dozens of teams split amongst 19+, 25+, 35+,45+,55+ and a wood-bat only league that crosses age divisions.  In 2012 the league had no less than 75 teams among all these divisions (each team has to have a minimum of 15 registered players, meaning there’s more than 1100-1200 players in the league).  Note: MABL stands for Mens Adult Baseball League, which was formerly the under 30 adult league now rolled into one organization).

The DCMSBL amateur league is pretty decent baseball.  The 19-and up is essentially a low-end collegiate summer league (though not nearly as talented as Cal Ripken).  There is some overlap with teams in the Industrial league and the Cross-age group woodbat leagues.  The 25 and up division has a large number of ex-college players and ex-pros, and the 35-and up teams have more than their fare share of ex-major leaguers as well.  Its not uncommon to face a guy in the upper 25+ division who was a starter for his Division-1 college team for 4 years and is just a few years removed from that level of competition.  There’s enough teams so that there are “upper” and “lower” divisions of play within each age group.  From an intensity standpoint, the “upper” divisions are quite competitive each year while the “lower” divisions are less intense but certainly not a “beer drinking” division like you’d see if you were playing softball.

Teams are organizing right now for play that starts in the first week of April.  There’s a player waiting list that you can sign up for at the website www.dcmsbl.com.

Note: there is also the Chesapeake MSBL that covers the Annapolis, Southern Maryland and Howard county areas with similar rules and talent levels to DCMSBL.  The two leagues play an all-star game at season’s end in one of the local minor league stadiums (this year in Frederick).

Personal Connection: I played in this league for more than a decade, finally “retiring” temporarily (?) to rehab injuries and get our kid out of infancy.  We played two seasons in the “upper” 25+ league and the rest in one of the lower leagues; the upper leagues are pretty good baseball, though not nearly as good as the Credit Union of old.

Eligibility: ex-professionals must sit out a year before being eligible to play.

5. DC Wood Bat League, formerly associated with NABA and which absorbed teams from the old WARBL.  It had 12 teams for 2012 and expanded to two divisions and 14 teams in Spring/Summer 2013 (in prior years they had as many as 20 teams; its good to see them growing).  There seems to be some overlap between DCWood and DCMSBL teams, and this league definitely has had some talented teams in the past.

Eligibility: 19+, no known pro restrictions.

6. Ponce de Leon league, owned and operated by Bob Duff, serves as an excellent low-key competitive league for players to play.   There are a slew of very specific competition rules that control the flow of games, prevent blowouts and limit the ability of pitchers to dominate the league.  But this league also guarantees participation and is a great option for guys who havn’t played in years or who are nervous about the intensity of the above leagues.

It is now affiliated with the DC Wood bat league somehow; this is a new affiliation and I don’t know all the details other than what’s on the websites.

Ponce has two age divisions; 30+ and 48+.  You have to be at least 30 and cannot pitch unless you’re at least 36 in the younger division.  There are no pitching restrictions in the older division.

To show how much inter-linking and cooperation there is between the leagues mentioned here, we met Ponce league owner Duff when he ran a fantastic DCMSBL 28+ team back in the late 90s (they’re now a dominant 35+ team), he owns and operations the Ponce league, which has an affiliation with the Wood bat league, and Duff used to own/sponsor one of the Clark Griffith teams.  That’s some serious participation in the local DC baseball scene.  Just to add one more note about Duff; he started and runs the Diamond Dream Foundation, which runs baseball programming for youths, has an association with the Nationals and runs a charity golf event every August that features many current and former pros with connections to the Orioles, the Nationals and baseball in general.  If you’re interested in playing in this golf event, I’ll be sure to put an announcement out when he starts organizing.

Eligibilty:  30+ with restrictions as noted above.  No known pro restrictions.

[Editor's note: after the 2013 publication of this, I noticed an advertisement in a local publication for new adult baseball league, discussed here.]

7. Legends Sports Leagues: Has two divisions (19+ and 30+) and advertises itself as a “less pressure” league.  Has been in operation for a while based on the pictures from their website.  I can’t believe i’ve never heard of it; anyone know anything about this league?

8. Eastern Women’s Baseball Conference: the EWBC is an Adult Womens baseball league with teams from DC to Baltimore that plays competitively.  I must admit; I had not heard about them until prompted by suggestions in the comments from last year’s post.


I’d love to hear from you if you’re familiar with any other area leagues that I may have missed, or if you have some thoughts on the post here.  I know there were lots of corrections and clarifications from this post last year; apologies if I didn’t get them all in for this year.

Editor’s note: some of this is reposted from last year’s PSA informational blog about area baseball leagues.

Written by Todd Boss

February 28th, 2014 at 9:16 am

Happy Holidays!

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Happy holidays to everyone who reads and (especially) participates here.  I really enjoy our conversations and I hope you do too.

I hope you and yours are well this holiday season.

Written by Todd Boss

December 25th, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Non-Baseball

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Nats Player Option status for 2013-2014

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I took a moment to update my own little internal spreadsheet that tracks Player Options for the Nationals, now that Cots’ site has updated service time numbers for 2013.

This spreadsheet is in Google Docs at this link, as well as being in the “NatsArm Creations list along the right hand side of the blog.

Springfieldfan also maintains an options page on the Big Board with a bit more detail for other players in our system outside of the 40-man players that i’ve focused on.

Interesting Options developments for 2014:

  • First and foremost, 40-man member Corey Brown exhaused his 3rd and last option in 2013.  Does anyone think he’s going to be on next year’s 25-man roster as a bench player?   Ironically the team needs lefty power off the bench, and Brown is a lefty with two straight power-filled seasons in AAA.  But somehow me-thinks he’s going to lose out on this competition and faces a DFA sometime between now and April 1st 2014.  He’s cleared waivers before and stayed in the organization, but with more teams purposely tanking right now I wonder if he’ll survive another exposure to waivers.
  • A reminder that Ross Detwiler remains out of options, though the Nats have shown that limitation is easily worked around by virtue of “soft tissue” D/L trips as needed.  Nonetheless, if Detwiler is healthy in spring training, he’s either your 5th starter, a lefty in the pen, or facing a transaction.  It seems like we have this conversation every spring.
  • Denard Span has achieved 5 years of cumulative service time, meaning he can refuse an option to the minors.  Not that he’s in grave jeopardy of such a thing.

The bulk of the team remains very options-flexible, with 30 of the 39 guys on the current 40-man roster capable of being sent down if needed.  This proved to be very handy last year when a number of guys under-performed, and may prove to be handy this year.

Frankly, Spring Training 2015 is going to be a big options showdown for a lot of guys on this team; I count at least four guys and perhaps more who are almost guaranteed to use their last options in 2014.  But this is a topic for a post a  year from now.

Written by Todd Boss

December 5th, 2013 at 9:42 am

Ladson’s inbox 12/2/13 edition

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The drumbeat to have Morse back continues.  Photo hardballtalk.nbcsports.com

The drumbeat to have Morse back continues. Photo hardballtalk.nbcsports.com

Happy Thanksgiving!  Apparently I didn’t realize how long between posts it had been (nearly 2 weeks).    I didn’t go anywhere or anything; just hunkered down for the holidays, entertained the in-laws, and found myself with very little non-work computer time to delve into hot-stove season issues.

Thankfully, we have a Bill Ladson inbox to get us going this week!  Dated 12/2/13.

(Note: I was mid-way typing this post when the Doug Fister news broke … so its a day later than I wanted it to be, and I edited this to be relevant).

As always, I write my response here before reading his and edit questions for clarity/conciseness.

Q: I’ve heard about so many big-market teams being out of the Robinson Cano sweepstakes. What about the Nats? They did swing a shocker of a deal in Jayson Werth, and Cano could be the signing that brings the World Series trophy back to the beltway.

A: Several national writers (including this latest, most comprehensive viewpoint from Paul Swydan on ESPN insider just this week) are making the same point.  In simple terms, sign Robinson Cano, move Anthony Rendon to third, move Ryan Zimmerman and his scatter-arm to first, and put Adam LaRoche out to pasture (or, more likely, a trade for 20 cents on the dollar).   I’d love the move in the short-term but would absolutely hate it in the long term.   Its really simple: the guy’s 30.  He wants to be paid for the next decade as if he’ll never age.   His anticipated 10 year $200-and something million dollar contract will immediately be at the top of the list of albatross contracts in the league.  You just can’t do it, not if you want to maintain finacial flexibility to extend the core of this team (Strasburg, HarperDesmond to name three) and maintain some sort of a budget.  (Oh, by the way, I have always maintained the Jayson Werth contract was a “statement contract” to the league, an overpay that legitimized this franchise as a FA player after years of being a laughingstock in the league under Jim Bowden and inept league ownership.  So, i’m not entirely sure I’d use Werth’s deal as any sort of predictor of Mike Rizzo‘s intentions).

Hey, it isn’t my  money.  If Ted Lerner‘s ok with spending $150M or more a  year … maybe i’d be on board.  But man, 3 or 4 years from now when Jayson Werth is hobbling around the outfield earning $20M plus, Zimmerman’s at $15M/year and possibly clogging a 1st base spot, each of Desmond, Gonzalez, Harper, Strasburg and Zimmermann earning 8 figure deals, a Cano $25M/year albatross is clogging your payroll, and the team starts telling its fans that they’re standing pat or depending on signing middling free agents to try to “win” next year (you know, like the Phillies), I think you’ll regret this contract.

Ladson thinks the team could be in on Cano, and could use Rendon as trade bait for a pitcher.  *sigh* well, we’ll see what happens.

Q: Do the Nats have any interest in a guy like Raul Ibanez to fill the fourth outfielder/power-left-handed-bat-off-the-bench role? He’s over 40, but a veteran with outstanding work ethic. His 2013 season’s numbers suggest that it might be worthwhile to take a gamble on him for one year, if he’s willing to accept a reasonable salary and less playing time. Your thoughts?

A: I just do not see it.  Would you trust a guy who suddenly spikes his performance at age 41?  Rizzo needs to go younger, not ancient.  Raul Ibanez makes sense to sign a series of one year deals with AL teams that can DH  him as long as he proves his worth until he’s retired.  Ladson says the nats need a 4th OF who can man center; a good point.

Q: With the way that Ryan Mattheus hurt his hand last year and then struggled mightily after being activated from the disabled list, is he in the Nats’ bullpen plans for 2014?

A: I think Ryan Mattheus may be on the outside looking in come April 1, 2014 after his performance and injury in 2013.  Without any other moves, you have to think right now the Nats bullpen has 4 locks (Soriano, Clippard, Storen and Stammen), one loogy (from within or outside), one long man (Ohlendorf or a 5th starter competition loser) and one spot up for grabs.  Mattheus is the current leader in the clubhouse for that spot .. but he’ll face competition.  Right now, if Christian Garcia is healthy he’s proven to be more effective than Mattheus.  If Garcia can’t go, then Mattheus probably has the spot locked up barring any more signings.  He could face some competition from guys in the minors like Nathan Karns (if the team decides he can’t find a 3rd pitch and converts him to a reliever… though this probably doesn’t happen until 2015 at the earliest), or possibly from new 40-man addition Aaron Barrett.  For right now i’d say he’s the 7th guy but he needs to produce at 2012 levels to keep his job over Garcia.  Ladson agrees with me, I guess.

Q: Just wondering, do you think No. 2 prospect Lucas Giolito will get an invitation to Spring Training with the big club?

A: Nope, not this year.  No point.  He’s yet to play a day in full-season ball; he needs to stay in the minor league section and get his full work, not languish on the MLB spring training bench getting an inning every other day.  Now, if he shoots up the system in 2014 and ends in AA, then yeah a spring training invite for 2015 could be in the works.  Ladson agrees.

Q: After reading all these trade rumors, I feel like the Nationals are going to make a huge move this offseason. Do you feel it would come as a bat or as a pitcher?

A: Even before the Fister deal, I still would have said a Pitcher.  Even though I don’t think pitching was our problem in 2013 (a tease for a draft blog post with some interesting stats that I have in progress).  The problem with trading for a Bat is this: there’s just no obvious place to upgrade.   Not unless you move a guy like LaRoche or Span (our two least productive bats last season) and make a hole for someone coming in.  Ladson really goes out on a limb and says ‘it could be both.’

Q: Why not bring back Michael Morse for the extra power on the bench and replacement forAdam LaRoche from time to time?

A: I think the book on Michael Morse has been written by now: he can’t stay healthy, he’s a liability in the field, and he needs to be able to DH.  He’s just not an NL player anymore.  A quick look at the depth charts in the AL shows a couple of teams that could take a flier on Morse.  The problem is that two of the teams with the most need for a DH (Seattle and Baltimore) both had Morse last year and he washed out.  Maybe his last shot could be with a team like Oakland or Houston, teams with limited budgets willing to give last-chances to guys like Morse to resurrect their careers.  Ladson repeats his last Morse answer; Morse wants to be an every-day player and at Washington he’d be  a bench player.

Q: With Stephen Drew being a Scott Boras client, could you see the Nationals signing him, having him or Ian Desmond transition to second base? It could solidify the middle infield with veteran stability, couldn’t it?

A: Why in the h*ll would you purposely take a plus defender shortstop (whether it be Stephen Drew or Desmond)  and waste him at second base?   That’d be dumb.  That’d kind of be like what Texas is doing to Jurickson Profar.  Despite the oft-repeated mantra that the “Nats are Scott Boras‘ b*tch” if you check the records we’re not even the team with the most Boras clients.   And most of our Boras clients were guys we drafted irrespective of who represented them.  I’m really tired of reading the cliche that any and all Boras clients are Nats targets because we for some reason feel obliged to deal with him.  I’ll tell you this; I’d rather be friendly with Boras than unfriendly; he represents serious talent in this game and if we can get access to his players more easily than an antagonistic GM, we’re in a better positions.  Ladson doesn’t think Drew would want to switch positions either.

Ladson’s inbox 11/13/13

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I wonder who we can get for Danny Espinosa in trade?   Photo AP via mlb.com

I wonder who we can get for Danny Espinosa in trade? Photo AP via mlb.com

The Hot Stove League is in full effect; Bill Ladson has done two mailbags in two weeks!  Here’s his 11/13/13 edition, hot on the heels of his last one on 11/5/13.  Lets get to it.  Lots of “what-if” scenarios involving Nats players are already being rumored by big-time names in the industry.  Lets get to them.

As always, I answer here before reading his response and edit questions for clarity if needed.

Q: Do you think Anthony Rendon will be in the regular lineup in 2014, or is there a possibility of him being traded?

A: Honestly, despite Anthony Rendon‘s name prominently being mentioned as a centerpiece for rumored deals for the likes of Max Scherzer and/or David Price, I don’t believe these kind of deals are going to really happen.  I can’t see Detroit trading away Scherzer, not in their “win-now” mode.  And I can’t see Mike Rizzo pulling off a deal with the ultra-competitive executives in Tampa Bay, not after he’s done such a good job re-stocking the farm system and getting everyone healthy.  For now I see Rendon right back as the starting 2nd baseman in 2014, with the Nats facing a tougher decision on what to do with deposed starter Danny Espinosa.  Ladson “doesn’t know yet.”  Thanks for the “going-out-on-a-limb” prediction there.

Q: What do you think about Drew Storen‘s future with the Nationals? And with that said, what do you think the Nats could get back in a trade?

A: I think that as long as this team is competitive Drew Storen (and to a lesser extent this also goes for Tyler Clippard at least for one more year) will stay here and hold down their spots in the back-end of the bullpen.  If we suffer another down year (or, more likely, if we suddenly see an influx of home-grown replacements) these guys and their escalating salaries are ripe for trading to contenders with bullpen holes.  They’re both good pitchers, “closer quality” who aren’t being used in that capacity in Washington thanks to the luxury signing of Rafael Soriano and his $11m/year salary.  What can they bring back?  Well if you use the Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos trade as a blueprint, the team should hope for a near-majors prospect.   I don’t think you can always get that; teams now are far more protective of their prospects than they used to be.  But for either player i’d take a top-10 prospect even if he was further down in the minors.  Ladson says he thinks Storen is getting traded … but doesn’t say when.  But he does mention the Scherzer rumors…

Q: Do you think the Nationals will go after free-agent lefty Eric O’Flaherty to improve their bullpen depth?

A: Maybe.  If they can get him on a minor league/cheap deal sure.  The Nats tried this route last year with Bill Bray (taking a formerly effective loogy in FA who was coming off of injury) and Bray finished the year on the AA disabled list.  So that didn’t work out so well.  I’m sure there’s more than a few teams in the lefty reliever market, and if its like 2012 the Nats might shy away from the prices these guys command.  Remember; they’ve got more than a few decent in-house options already, guys who proved they could pitch last year.  I don’t perceive the “need” to get a lefty reliever in free agency to be as critical for this team as others seem to think.  Yes I know the team is already calling guys (as they should), but somehow I think they’re going to end up shying away from the prices they see (much as they did last  year with their trio of lefty FA relievers).   Ladson says the team wants healthy players, not guys coming off of TJ surgery like Chien-Ming Wang.  Fair points.

Q: Wouldn’t a bench of Steve LombardozziTyler MooreZach Walters and Scott Hairston give the Nationals a balance of lefty/righty bats and much more field flexibility than they have had in recent seasons?

A: This bench, comprised entirely of in-house solutions, would give the team this profile:

  • Two righties , two switch hitters
  • Two corner outfielders  but nobody who could really play center
  • Two middle infielders who could cover at least 2nd, SS, 3rd.   Moore could cover 1st if needed.
  • Demonstrated right-handed power off the bench … but not so much lefty power
  • Just one real proven major leaguer (Hairston)

We just don’t know what to make of Moore at this point in his career.  Great in 2012, awful in 2013.  We know he can hit it a mile … can he do it when he gets just a few ABs a week?  I don’t know.  Lombardozzi fills the “utility guy” role who can plug in at 5 positions … so where does that leave Walters?  I know Walters hit 29 homers last year in AAA; if he replicates that in the majors he’s a $100M player.

Where’s the lefty power?  That’s what this bench misses, and that’s why I think the team looks for some lefty pop off the bench.   Ladson repeats the need for bench power.

Q: Reportedly the Nats are looking for an elite starter, and it’s been said that Scherzer is a better fit than Price because of Mike Rizzo’s history with Scherzer. I don’t understand why a relationship with the general manager makes a player or manager the best choice. What does liking him or knowing him have to do with it? Shouldn’t the choice be made by determining who is the best pitcher for the Nats?

A: Good question.  On some levels, GMs seem to fall in love with the guys they drafted, especially guys they scouted.  We saw this with Jim Bowden‘s obsession with his former players from Cincinnati, and we see it with Rizzo and his former players from Arizona on some levels.  Makes sense right?  How many of us have seen executives hired who brought in “their guys” to help out?  You’re comfortable with the known commodity, guys who you feel like you have a relationship with, guys who you know can get the job done as you think it needs to be done.

But that only explains why Rizzo may like Scherzer moreso than Price at a personal history level.   That has nothing to do with a) the ability to actually make a trade for the guy, or b) the fit for the team.  Now, any team in the league would take a healthy Cy Young winning pitcher, and that’s why trading for either guy will take a significant investment in prospects.  In reality any team in the league would love to have either guy at their pre-FA salary levels; they’re steals.  The “value” of a win on the FA market is now estimated to be about $7M or so; even if these guys are paid double that in 2014 they’re going to produce more than 2 wins.  Ladson speculates that because Scherzer’s agent is Scott Boras that the Nats would for some reason have a better shot at signing him long term.  See, I dont’ believe that either.  If the Nats offer the most money, they’ll get the player no matter who his agent may be.  People like to say the Nats are Boras’ “bitch” team because we sign so many of his players … but if you check the Player Agent database, the Nats have as many Boras clients as a few other teams (Kansas City, Detroit, Seattle, Boston, Baltimore) and most of them are draftees, not FAs.  You’re going to draft the best player no matter who his agent may be.

Q: With Adam LaRoche having a bad season at the plate, do you think the Nationals will end up trading him along with possibly Danny Espinosa and others to the Rays for Price?

A: Genesis of a dumb trade proposal; hey, lets see if Tampa, one of the shrewdest and most forward thinking organization in the majors, will not only take on two of our most disappointing players from 2013 (LaRoche and Espinosa) but also will they take on more than $15M in anticipated payroll for a former Cy Young winner and inarguably one of the best 10 arms in baseball?!  Yeah that’s a great trade!  Hey, lets see if we can trade, oh I dunno, Yunesky Maya and a bunch of guys from AAA who hit .220 to the Dodgers for Clayton Kershaw!  Yeah, that’ll work.

I’m sorry for the sarcasm, but this is just such a stupid trade idea given how we *know* the Rays work that it just isn’t worth addressing.  If you proposed this in a chat with a professional talent evaluator they’d ignore it, or post it just to ridicule it.

The Rays want prospects back.  Always.  They don’t want guys with 8 figure salaries who are already on the wrong side of 30.  Espinosa’s trade value is near worthless right now.  Anyone who thinks they’re going to be the centerpieces of a trade with an organization as smart as Tampa is a fool.

Ladson doesn’t even address the proposal, just saying confidently that LaRoche will be back.

Ladson’s Inbox 11/5/13 edition

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Can Roark win a 2014 rotation job? Photo Alex Brandon/AP via wp.com

Can Roark win a 2014 rotation job? Photo Alex Brandon/AP via wp.com

Well, we finally got a manager, so hopefully MLB.com Nats beat reporter Bill Ladson will stop taking “Who do you think the next Nats Manager” questions.  I’m not ruling it out though :-)  Nonetheless, here’s the latest Ladson inbox, dated 11/5/13.  As always, I write my response before reading his and edit questions for clarity.

Q: Will Davey Johnson still play a role in the organization?

A: Who cares?  Does it matter?  Whatever role Davey Johnson could play would have so little significance on the on-field play of the 2014 team that I find it useless to even speculate.  I’m sure the Nats offered him a limited role out of respect, and I’d assume Johnson accepted it as long as it allowed him to go relax in Florida for a while, hoping another managerial job opens up.  Ladson expects he’ll consult to the team and advise on trades and FA signings because he’s such a great “talent evaluator.”  Hey Bill; if Johnson was such a great talent evaluator why exactly did he run Danny Espinosa out for so many at-bats?  Why didn’t he push to make a change in the rotation when it was clear that Dan Haren wasn’t pitching at even a replacement-level?  How come he didn’t see the rising talent that made such a difference in September?

Q: After Stephen StrasburgGio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, how do you see the rest of the rotation shaking out?

A: A good question.  After going into the 2013 season with almost no high-minors starting pitching depth, you have to think the team is going to cover themselves for 2014.  So count on there being more seemingly worthy candidates than roles going into spring training 2014.  The answer to this question may depend on payroll issues: right now Cots has the Nats with about $80M committed for 2014 prior to its arbitration cases, which MLBtraderumor’s Matt Swartz is estimating will run the team another $37.3M (which honestly I think is slightly low).  That’s roughly $117M in payroll before even looking at a single FA candidate.   You could save some of this money with non-tenders or trades (Tyler Clippard at $6.2M is a candidate to be moved), but not enough to get an impact player.

Will the ownership group expand the payroll even more for 2014, knowing their “window” with this group of players is shrinking?  Or will they stay the course and know that nearly $30M of mostly underperforming veteran FAs (LaRocheSpanSoriano) come off the books after next season, allowing them to reload in the FA market towards 2015 and beyond?

If ownership frees up some cash, by trade/non-tender or by expansion of the payroll limit, there are FA pitchers to be had.  I’ve seen more than one pundit with the Nats linked to Matt Garza, but I don’t see it; I don’t think he’s worth what people seem to think he’s going to get (4 yrs/$60M).  More likely is the team going with a modification of the Edwin Jackson/Dan Haren plan and getting a reclamation project in the ilk of Josh Johnson on a one-year/low paying contract with big incentives.

Less predictable is the trade acquisition.  Nobody saw the Gio Gonzalez trade coming until it happened, and something similar could happen now.  The team is in the same position generally this off-season as it was in 2011 in terms of having a slight surplus of closer-to-the-majors arms and bats and could put together a similar package.  If we moved Brad PeacockTommy MiloneDerek Norris and A.J. Cole for Gonzalez in 2011 (or in otherwords, a good-looking starter with great initial call-up numbers, a solid lefty starter who dominated AAA, a decent looking catcher prospect and a high-leverage low-minors prospect) would a similar package of something like Tanner RoarkNathan Karns, Eury Perez and Robbie Ray fetch a #2 starter in the trade market?   Oakland isn’t facing the same issue they were in 2011 with any of its pitchers, so the most likely eager-to-make-a-trade GM in Billy Beane is out.  But that being said, they’re paying Brett Anderson a LOT of money for Oakland’s payroll (roughly 1/6th of their payroll for next year), and he could be moved.  Anderson wouldn’t cost nearly this much in prospects, but would be a huge risk; he hasn’t pitched a full season in years.

Meanwhile everyone knows Tampa is looking to move David Price, but any trade for him has to start with your two best prospects and build from there, and the Nats are just back to the point where the farm system is looking respectable again.  I’m not sure the Nats are going to be willing to give up what the Rays will demand.  The Nats have done business lately with the Chicago Cubs, who may look to move the arbitration-eligible Jeff Samardzija, but they’d be selling incredibly low on him after his poor 2013.  Lastly the Tigers reportedly are considering moving Max Scherzer, who enters his last year of arbitration looking for a big pay day and with Ken Rosenthal reporting that the Nats are his best fit, but I just cannot see purposely moving a Cy Young winner and disrupting a team that continues to be one of the best in the AL.

With no FA acquisitions and no trades, I see a competition next spring that likely sees Ross Detwiler in the 4th spot (no options, theoretically healthy again), Tanner Roark in the 5th spot (he keeps his spot until he shows that his remarkable September numbers are human), Ross Ohlendorf as the spot starter/long man in the MLB pen, and Taylor Jordan-Nathan Karns being the #1 and #2 starters in AAA Syracuse.  Some speculate that Detwiler would lose out to both Roark and Jordan and become a lefty out of the pen … but I don’t see that.  I’m not counting it out, but I don’t see that happening if he’s healthy.

With any significant FA acquisition or trade, you line up Stras-Gio-Zimmermann-New Acquisition and Detwiler to start off 2014, just as you did in 2013.   Roark and Ohlendorf likely work out of the MLB pen and Jordan/Karns still in AAA.   Maybe Karns comes up and works the 7th inning as well, while Jordan remains starter insurance plan #1.

Ladson also mentions Price, also mentions what I do about the difficulties lining up, thinks the Nats will acquire someone for #4 spot and then says Roark has the inside edge on #5 spot, even over Detwiler (who he thinks could move to the bullpen). 

Q: What did you think about the Nationals hiring Williams as manager last week?

A: Well, I guess Ladson had to get in one last question about the managerial situation.  My take: I like the move, I think Matt Williams‘ combination of successful playing career and MLB coaching experience will instantly give him the respect of the veterans and the rookies on this team.   He will get this team in line, he will bring some old-school notions to this team and won’t back down in a fight (as Johnson clearly did with Atlanta all year).  I think he will give this team the spine it lacked and will do nothing but help move the team forward.

One other opinion; I do see some critics who say that Williams’ lack of direct managerial experience at any level hurts him.  I say BS; he was a major league coach for four years, working underneath a successful, respected manager.  He presumably contributed to the decision making process, got to witness first hand how decisions worked out, got to decide for himself how he would have handled situations, and in some ways I think this experience supercedes being a manager of a lower-level ball-club where there’s no egos and just a bunch of kids who you can cower into submission.

Ladson says its too early to tell, but that Williams had a great news conference.  Honestly I didn’t really expect much of an answer here from an employee of MLB.

Q: What is Christian Garcia‘s status? Will he join the Nationals in 2014? He was a great late addition to the bullpen in 2012.

A: He’s finally healthy, and pitching in the Mexican Winter League.  I think the team sees the error of its ways in trying to convert the injury-riddled pitcher to being a starter.  He’s working as a reliever in winter ball, and I hope to see him continue to work as a reliever in the spring.  I’d love to see him earn a spot in the bullpen; lord knows the team could use one more reliable arm in the 6th/7th inning (Ryan Mattheus needs to be on guard; your spot is in jeopardy for 2014).  Ladson agrees with everything I’ve said.

Q: Do you think the Nationals will trade Danny EspinosaTyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzithis winter or sign a couple free agents? I believe they need a lefty middle reliever, a left-handed bat coming off the bench and a veteran backup catcher.

A: Trading any of those three guys after the seasons they had at the plate would be selling incredibly low.  So no, I don’t think any of them get moved unless they’re part of a larger deal.  Espinosa needs to get healthy, learn how to hit left handed, and build trade value.  I believe he can be a valuable player for someone, somewhere, just based on his incredible defense.  But he has to hit better than .150.  Moore needs to return to his 2012 power ways, but I still see him as a useful player who we have no reason to trade; he still has options, he’s still pre-arbitration and thus he’s cheap.  Lombardozzi is the quintessential utility guy; he can play 2nd, 3rd, left, right.  You have to have one of these guys around … and if he can’t hit, it is’t going to kill you.  But when this player gets 300 ABs (as Lombardozzi got last year) … then you have a problem.  This is why the team got Scott Hairston and why they’re likely to give some looks to Zach Walters in 2014.   Maybe the team looks for a cheap veteran to replace Chad Tracy but i’d hope for a bit more positional flexibility.

I can also see the team kicking the tires on a veteran lefty but don’t entirely see the need; Ian Krol may have faltered down the stretch but he was mostly good.  Abad was good.  Cedeno was good.  We have all these guys locked up.  You see who wins a competition and switch them out if they’re ineffective.

Ladson thinks Espinosa is getting traded no matter what, and has played his last game as a National.

Q: Are Gold Glove Awards given with consideration to the offensive stats of a player? Otherwise, how could Denard Span miss out on the award this year?

A: They’re not supposed to be … but we all know old habits die hard and bit players who are awful at the plate often times have a hard time getting a Gold Glove.  Span as it turned out led all NL centerfielders in one defensive metric (Total Zone Total Fielding Runs), but I have zero problem with the NL winner Carlos Gomez.  Ladson says he was “shocked” that Span didn’t win, and then used “# of errors” as a metric.  Poor form Ladson; you need to reference some of the advanced stats in question.  Gomez led the NL in Defensive Runs Saved, one of the two major defensive metrics.  So your argument fails.  Span may have great range, but he wasn’t best in the Ultimate Zone Ratings measurement either.  See the Fielding Awards spreadsheet link to the right to see all the leaders in one place.

2013-14 Off-season Baseball Calendar

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Now that the WS is over, the official off-season begins.  Since a number of key dates related to player movement are based on the end of the world series, now we can officially list the key upcoming dates.

This document is also available in the links section to the right-hand side of the blog (see the 2013-14 MLB Off Season Calendar link).  I’ve uploaded it to Google XLS.  A few of the dates listed here are estimates or based on the day they occurred last year.  The XLS has urls to back up some of these dates.

Date Event Nats-specific Impact/Winners/Notes
Sept 29th, 2013 Last day of regular season No Nats post-season for 2013
Oct 1st, 2013 Beginning of 2013 Post season (NL WC game).  End of Year BBWAA award ballots due (prior to beginning of post season) Some Nats may get some mentions
Oct 21rd, 2013 Sporting News Comeback Players of the Year AL and NL Mariano Rivera and Francisco Liriano winners
Oct 27th, 2013 Roberto Clemente Award given Carlos Beltran 2013 winner; Zimmerman best Nats candidate
Oct 28th, 2013 Fielding Bible Awards given No Nats mentioned
Oct 29th, 2013 Rawlings AL & NL Gold Glove Announcements Span, Desmond finalists but no awards
Oct 30th, 2013 Last actual day of 2013 World Series; official end of 2013 season Boston wins Game 6 and takes the 2013 WS 4-2
Oct 31st, 2013 (WS end + 1) Official start of FA period (8am CST the day after the last game of the WS)
Nov 2nd, 2013 (WS end + 3) Team and player options must be decided three days after the end of the World Series.  (this may be WS + 5 by 2013)
Nov 2nd, 2013 Clubs have to re-set their 40-man rosters, moving all 60-day DL players back to active. Nats currently sit at 39/40 with two 60-day DL guys; someone has to get dropped unless the FA’s don’t count against this list.
Nov 2nd, 2013 HoF “Veterans Committee” releases ballot.
Nov 4th, 2013 (WS end + 5) 5pm: Deadline to make Qualifying offers for your own Fas (average of top 125 salaries or $14.1M for 2014).  5 days after end of WS was 13.3M for 2013.  Nats highly unlikely to offer Qos to their two Fas.
Nov 4th, 2013 (WS end + 5) End of “Quiet Period.”  Teams have “exclusive” negotiating rights with their own free agents during this period.
Nov 4th, 2013 (WS end + 5) 5 days after WS ends: Free agent filing period and exclusive negotiating window ends at 12:01 a.m. ET. Free agents can sign with any team. Haren, Tracy only Fas for Nats in 2013.
Nov 2013 est MLB Comeback Players of the Year AL and NL
Nov 4th, 2013 (WS end + 5) Free Agency granted to all eligible Minor League free agents (5 days after the end of the WS).  Eligibility done on service time; 6 years ML service for college draftees or 7 years ML service for HS draftees or free agents under the age of 18. Plenty of significant, long-serving Nats farm hands hitting MLFA this year.
Nov 4th, 2013 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year awards, given by MLB to best defensive player on each club. Span or Desmond likely in the mix but unlikely to win
Nov 5th, 2013 MLBPA announces “Players Choice” awards: Player of the year, Comeback Player of the year, etc
Nov 7th, 2013 BBWAA Award Nominees announced on MLB networks
Nov 8th, 2013 Sporting News Executive of the Year announced
Nov 6th, 2013 Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Awards Desmond, Harper may get some attention here.  Werth also
Nov 11-13, 2013 GM Meetings, Orlando, FL for 2013
Nov 11th, 2013 (WS end + 12) 12 Days after WS ends: Players must accept or reject Qualifying Options No Nats likely getting Qos
Nov 11th, 2013 AL, NL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards Roark get some honorable mention votes?
Nov 12th, 2013 AL and NL Manager of the Year
Nov 13th 2013 AL and NL Cy Young Zimmermann may get some top-5 votes but not likely.  Strasburg?  Doubtful
Nov 14th 2013 AL and NL Most Valuable Player Werth may get some top-10 votes
Nov 14-15th, 2013 Owners Meetings, Chicago for 2013
Nov 20th, 2013 Day to file reserve lists for all Major and Minor League levels.  In other words, Last day to add players to 40-man to protect them from the Rule5 Draft
Dec 2nd, 2013 Midnight: Deadline for teams to Tender contracts to arbitration eligible players.  If not tendered, those players immediately become free agents.   This is the non-tender deadline for arbitration eligible players No real non-tender scares for this year’s arbitration eligible list of Nats.
Dec 2nd, 2013 Last day for teams to offer 2014 contracts to unsigned players.  (same thing as the non-tender deadline above?)
Dec 9th, 2013 Last day to request outright waivers to assign player prior to Rule 5 Draft
Dec 9th-12th 2013 Winter Meetings, Lake Buena Vista/Orlando, FL
Dec 3rd, 2013 HoF “Veterans Committee” officially releases ballot that was made public ??????
Early December, 2013 Baseball America announces its Executives of the Year
Dec 4th, 2013 MLB Balloting results announced for Hall of Fame Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting
Dec 4th, 2013 MLB announces winners of 21 “GIBBY” awards (greatnest in Baseball yearly awards)
Dec 12th, 2013 Rule 5 Draft.  Occurs at Winter meetings
Dec 31st, 2013 Deadline for BBWAA ballots for HoF voting.
Jan 9th, 2014 Hall of Fame BBWAA voting announced; the HoF class of 2014.
Jan 15th, 2014 Salary arbitration filing period
Jan 18th, 2014 Salary arbitration figures exchanged
Feb 1-21, 2014 Salary arbitration hearings (actual hearing date per player picked at random), Phoenix AZ
Feb 12th, 2014 Voluntary Spring Training reporting date for Pitchers, Catchers, Injured players
Feb 15th, 2014 Voluntary Spring Training reporting date for non-pitchers and catchers
Mar 2-11th, 2014 Contracts of unsigned players who are not yet eligible for Arbitration may be renewed
Early March 2014 First Spring Training Game for the Nats
March 13th, 2014 Last day to place a player on unconditional release waivers and pay 30 days termination pay instead of 45 days.
March 27th, 2014 Deadline to request unconditional release waivers without having to pay the player’s full salary or $100k bonus for certain types of veterans
March 31st, 2014 2014 Season Opener; Opening Day 2014; active rosters must be reduced to 25 players and 40-man rosters must be established
March 31st, 2014 Opening Night 2014: ? Vs ?
April 1st, 2014 Traditional Opening Day (Cincinnati)

 

2013 playoff team payroll analysis

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One little spreadsheet I like to put together at the end of each baseball season is the subject of this post: a look at the payrolls of the 30 teams compared side-by-side with their seasonal performance and then looking at the playoff teams.

Here’s the table; the teams are sorted by the Opening Day Payroll as calculated by Cots.   I used Cots’ numbers because they were far more accurate than other typical sites that report these types of things  (Googling leads to tables at Newsday, CBS and USAToday among others).  Cots are the most accurate because they take into account payments to former players, which is significant in some teams.  The other lists do not take this into account, just summing the payroll of the players still on the roster.  The team this makes the most difference for in 2013 is the New York Mets, who released Jason Bay but are still on the hook for his $17M payroll this year; that took them from the #23 payroll to #15 just by itself.

Team Cots Opening Day Payroll Cots Opening Day Rank Final W/L W/L Rank Playoff Status Payroll/Record Delta (CBS)
New York Yankees $228,106,125 1 85-77 14 -13
Los Angeles Dodgers $216,753,286 2 92-70 8 NL West -6
Philadelphia Phillies $159,585,714 3 73-89 24 -21
Boston Red Sox $154,555,500 4 97-65 1 AL East 3
Detroit Tigers $148,693,600 5 93-69 6 AL Central -1
Los Angeles Angels $137,271,250 6 78-84 17 -11
San Francisco Giants $136,908,777 7 76-86 18 -11
Texas Rangers $125,340,100 8 91-72 10 -2
Toronto Blue Jays $119,277,800 9 74-88 20 -11
Chicago White Sox $118,914,500 10 63-99 28 -18
Washington Nationals $118,289,679 11 86-76 12 -1
St. Louis Cardinals $116,790,787 12 97-65 1 NL Central 11
Cincinnati Reds $106,855,533 13 90-72 11 NL WC 2
Chicago Cubs $106,837,810 14 66-96 26 -12
New York Mets $93,684,590 15 74-88 20 -5
Baltimore Orioles $92,238,333 16 85-77 14 2
Atlanta Braves $90,039,583 17 96-66 3 NL East 14
Milwaukee Brewers $88,828,333 18 74-88 20 -2
Arizona Diamondbacks $86,300,500 19 81-81 16 3
Seattle Mariners $84,199,643 20 71-91 25 -5
Minnesota Twins $82,010,000 21 66-96 26 -5
Kansas City Royals $81,871,725 22 86-76 12 10
Cleveland Indians $80,605,733 23 92-70 8 AL WC 15
Colorado Rockies $73,949,071 24 74-88 20 4
San Diego Padres $68,333,600 25 76-86 18 7
Pittsburgh Pirates $66,805,000 26 94-68 5 NL WC 21
Oakland Athletics $61,964,500 27 96-66 3 AL West 24
Tampa Bay Rays $61,928,975 28 92-71 7 AL WC 21
Miami Marlins $50,526,900 29 62-100 29 0
Houston Astros $26,105,600 30 51-111 30 0

The “delta” column gives a barometer for teams who over performed or under-performed based on their salary.

Some interesting observations in bullet-form:

  • The Jason Bay note from above: nearly 20% of the Mets’ payroll this year is dead money.
  • 3 biggest over-performers this year shouldn’t be a surprise: Oakland, Tampa and Pittsburgh.
  • The biggest under-performer also isn’t much of a surprise: Philadelphia.
  • Only 3 of the most expensive 10 teams made the playoffs.
  • Half the top 10 payroll teams finished with a LOSING record.  That’s amazing.
  • The Dodgers spent nearly as much as 3/5ths of its divisional rivals (San Diego+Colorado+Arizona’s payroll).
  • I didn’t realize just how much payroll the White Sox were carrying this year, for a last-place finish.
  • Miami more than halved their payroll from last year to this.  Los Angeles more than doubled theirs.
  • Washington, despite the disappointing season, finished almost exactly where they should have based on their payroll; they had the 12th best record of any MLB team and had the 11th highest payroll.
  • The only two teams to “under-perform” their payroll and make the playoffs were Detroit and the Dodgers.
  • Boston was the only team to “over-perform” their payroll rank of the 11 highest payroll teams.  That’s a lesson for you.

The playoffs consisted of:

  • 3 high-payroll teams (LA, Boston, Detroit)
  • 3 mid-league payroll teams (StL, Cincinnati, Atlanta)
  • 4 lowest third of the league payroll teams (Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Tampa)

This post dovetails nicely into my next coming post, which looks at the roster construction of the 10 playoff teams and talks about team building mechanisms.

Written by Todd Boss

October 18th, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Baseball in General

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Is this a media/political correctness over-reaction?

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Is this really a racially insensitive statement, or a media overreaction?  Photo via usatoday.com

Is this really a racially insensitive statement, or a media overreaction? Photo via usatoday.com

I know that the whole “Redskins” name debate has dialed up in recent months.  Sometimes tacked on to that debate is the status of the Cleveland “Indians” moniker in general, and the racially insensitive logo (at least in some people’s eyes) in particular.

But is this picture really that bad?  Is this sort of reaction warranted here?

Are these guys really dressed up in “red-face” or are they dressed up more like a “clown-face” that happens to be red?  I mean, the team colors are “red,” as evidenced by the red lettering on their jersey.  I dunno.   I didn’t think twice about this picture until I saw the story repeated several times in my RSS feed today.  And my initial reaction is this: I didn’t think anything of it and certainly didn’t take it as insulting.  But then again I’m a) not an American Indian an b) generally cynical when it comes to the general over-reaction in today’s climate against anything that is funny, sarcastic or anything even remotely resembling a politically incorrect statement.

I mean, it isn’t as if they colored their faces like this:

Not good.  Photo via google images.

Not good. Photo via google images.

 

The two links that I posted happen to be from two websites that may be just trolling for readers.  One is the click-ad opportunistic BusinessInsider website; they often post incredibly argumentative headlines and lists of pictures that force you to click through 20 items to pad their hit counters.  The other is the USA Today, which has somewhat of a “stuffy” reputation in the sports reporting world for being overly “PC” in its columns and stances (see anything that Nancy Brennan has ever written or consider their relentless/continued coverage of everything Lance Armstrong when the other major sporting news outlets have long since let go of the coverage).  So perhaps I’m just getting caught up in these two website’s trolling activities and over-reacting myself.

What do you think?

 

Written by Todd Boss

October 3rd, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Ask Boswell 9/9/13 Edition

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Haren continues to make friends in Washington.  Photo nats official via espn.com

Haren continues to make friends in Washington. Photo nats official via espn.com

With the NFL kicked off and Washington set to return to hits sports normalcy (95% redskins, 5% for the rest of the town’s sports), Tom Boswell did  his weekly chat on 9/9/13.  Lets see if he took any baseball questions:

As always, I write a response here before reading his, and edit questions for clarity:

Q: I guess they should have traded Haren; Oh Well.

A: If Mike Rizzo got any sort of viable offer for Dan Haren after he passed through waivers, then  yeah I’d be pretty irritated right now.  The “rumors” were that he was asking for a ton in terms of prospects; but who knows if anonymous GM quotes are reliable.   But this is also quite a bit of hind-sight is 20/20; you can’t know if Haren’s going to continue to be good or if suddenly he’s going to fall off a cliff.  If any player struggled, hit the D/L, returned and then was great 4 starts in a row, i’d also have thought to myself, “hey, that D/L trip fixed him!”  I’m not going to kill the Nats management over not moving Haren post-trade deadline, other than to say this: the entire organization has been in denial for MONTHS about this team, its construction, its manager, its makeup and its capabilities.  I’m on record saying there should have been a managerial move long before it came to where we are today.   That is the bigger problem with this organization.  Boswell seems to be less forgiving than me; he calls this one of Rizzo’s worst moves.

Q: Should the Nats just shut down Harper at this point?

A: No, not unless there’s a medical reason.  Bryce Harper came back home to  have a hip analysis and it looks like a couple of games.  If there was something deeper, this organization (which has clearly shown itself to be medically conservative) would absolutely make a move.   Boswell has a different take, clearly criticizing Nats management for bungling several injury recoveries this year.  Hmm.

Q: NL Central predictions?

A: St. Louis wins it with their home-heavy schedule running in, Cincinnati uses a ridiculously easy schedule heading in to claim the WC home game and Pittsburgh still wins 90 but has to go to  Pittsburgh and loses the coin flip game.  Boswell just says that the Nats aren’t going to make it.

Q: How much do you attribute the Nats decline this year to poor medical management? For some reason, they continue to let Harper self-manage. And now the LaRoche weight loss issue.

A: There’s definitely some odd things going on medically with this team, and have been all year, but I blame the bulk of this team’s troubles primarily on three factors:

  1. Too much clubhouse chemistry damage; adding a cancer in Rafael Soriano, removing fun loving respected vets Michael Morse and Mark DeRosa, and really leaving the team leaderless in some aspects.  Ask yourself: who is the “leader” of the offense?  Of the pitching staff?  There’s no Dustin Pedroia on this team; a guy who is vocal and loud and rallies the troops; the long term contract vets on this team aren’t leaders, and guys like Harper clearly aren’t generating the respect he deserves in his own clubhouse (as evidenced by the beanball war with Atlanta and nobody stepping up to get his back).
  2. Offense: The bench offense just falling apart, along with key guys (Adam LaRoche) just not coming close to performing like he did in 2012 and Denard Span really failing to be the guy we thought he was going to be.  Oh, and Davey Johnson really failing to react soon enough to make changes.
  3. The starters really taking a step back with no roster coverage, with Haren really, really hurting the team (they are now 9-18 in his 27 starts).

Boswell says the Nats have an explanation for every medical issue that has arisen.

Q: Does Strasburg have a composure/maturity problem?

A: This goes back to the whole meltdown Stephen Strasburg had earlier in the season when Ryan Zimmerman threw a ball away; the most recent issue was the Chicago Cubs game when a tough grounder to short wasn’t converted into an out by covering-man Anthony Rendon and he promptly gave up a 3-run bomb.

I think I’d answer two ways: First yes I think he needs to work on keeping his emotions in check on the field.  But Secondly, pitchers have an absolute right to be upset when they work a hitter to hit his pitch, get the grounder he wants and a guy who shouldn’t even been playing SS throws the ball away.  Boswell makes a good point; he’s only 25.  He’s still young.  But yes he still has a ways to go.

(Note: I did not see the 2-balk game, nor read about it.  That was the genesis of this question.  If the questioner meant to ask, is Strasburg mentally focused enough?  Then I’d probably say, not yesterday!)

Q: Athletics or Rangers?

A: Tough call with Oakland vs Texas; I’d go Oakland.   As does Boswell.

Q: Nats are 65-51 in games not started by Haren: wouldn’t even a .500 or a little better starter have put the Nats in contention?

A: Possibly.  Assume you replace Haren’s 9-18 team record with a 5th starter who guided the team to a 13-13 record in his games; that’s only 4 games more in the Win column, pushing them from 73-69 to 77-65.  That’s still outside the division and outside the wild-card.  But you’re closer.  Boswell basically does the same logic.

Q: Is Ryan Zimmerman’s abdominal surgery part to blame as well as his shoulder?

A: Possibly; it isn’t hard to see a direct link between the drop of Ryan Zimmerman‘s UZR/150 numbers and his surgeries.  They both happened the same instant.  Boswell embarrasses himself by saying to ignore the fangraphs numbers.  Sorry; stats are stats; Zimmerman just made his 20th error of the season, by itself indicative of nothing but a clear indicator of what he’s done to the team this year.

Q: Do the Nationals tweak for 2014, or do they need to make big changes in the roster. What do you think of these predictions: LaRoche becomes an expensive bench player, Span and Gio traded.

A: Reactions to these predictions?  Ridiculous, more ridiculous and ridiculously ridiculous.  LaRoche is Rizzo’s buddy; he’s going to play 1B.  Span‘s value is nearly nothing right now, despite his 19 game hitting streak, why trade someone who’s worth nothing when you can keep him on the cheap and see if he regains his hitting stroke?  If not, trade him for nothing next year.  Lastly; go look at Gonzalez‘s contract for the next 4  years and tell me who we get in return that gives us that kind of value?   And if you trade these three guys, who’s playing 1B, CF and #2 starter??  Why even take this question?

Larger question: Tweaks or major changes for 2014?  I think you’re looking at tweaks.  Basically the entire team is signed through next year.  They thought this was a winner this year.  I’m sure Rizzo’s ego will continue to tell him its a winner next year.  Absolute worst case for the next 12 calendar months for Nats fans: team starts hot next spring, fades slowly, slowly but stays a few games out of WC through the trade deadline, then falls apart after the point at which we could move all these expiring contracts for prospects.  Boswell says tweaks, though a new SP is needed.