Monday, June 29, 2009

Twenty Two

Amidst the carnage that is season 2009 in Nats(ghost) Town, at least we have the entertainment value that is an Adam Dunn AB.

Go on over to and watch it again.  Love the slo-mo swing cam.  And Jim Palmer's reaction . . . "that's the farthest I've ever seen a ball hit here"

It can be so easy . . . get a quality start and not terrible relief pitching, hit a couple of home runs and walk away with win 22.  Still on that 48 win pace.  When you salvage one game in every three game series and STILL help your winning percentage . . .

Now, the trade rumors intensify around all Nats including Dunn to the Mets.

And as per type, the New York prospects get hyped beyond all persepctive.  Bobby Parnall?  Really.  A set up guy who could never close because he can't throw strikes consistantly (hello Joel Hanrahan???)  And, thanks to the drafting acumen of TWGMIBB, the Mets have little else.

(Washington Nationals One-a-day calendar update: June 27/28  Nationals Trivia: "One of the worst trades in Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals history came in 2002 when the team traded Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee and Lee Stevens for what fat errrrr front line pitcher")

Why not just slip a knife in my back and make it quicker?  Never forget, never forget!

Willingham to the Reds.  What's on the shelf in Cincinnati?  Maybe 1-5 is too much to ask for. How about 6-15?  A couple of pitching prospects on that list with flyball tendencies.  Not Rizzo's style.  A couple of big (but old for their level) middle infielders.  Hmmmm. 

First impression on the Morgan/Milledge rumor.  The Pirates turned it down?  That's Nyjer Morgan not a '75 vintage Joe Morgan right?  A 28 year old who doesn't walk, has no power but plays top tier defense.  This is what is known as replacement level talent.  If they really want Morgan, just wait a year and the Pirates will non-tender him instead of clogging up their OF with an expensive defensive sub.

Morgan's age 28 season underway right now: 90 OPS+.  18-28 in SB's.  64% success rate. Isn't that a net negative?  Milledge gave us 91+ last year at age 23.  IOW, Morgan's NOT gonna get better.  He is what he is.  Milledge can still improve on the hitting side.

Lastings fielding stats are as ugly as you would expect.  Wow. Morgan can really pick it. But aren't we building a ground ball staff?  No Sid Fernandez's on the horizon as far as I can see.  And if it's defense you want, this guy built almost all his value on defense (prior to this year when he's built nothing.)

Solid citizens are nice but as Leo "the Lip" Durocher said. . .  It's OK to say give equal talent, take the good clubhouse guy.  Given unequal talent, not so much. 

Very disappionted in the Langerhans trade.  Very.  Mike Morse?  Does he bring anything to the table that the Nats don't already have?  Langerhans could have been a good 5th OF (certainly could have filled Kearns' roster spot would he be put out of our misery.)   C'mon Mike ask for someone deep in the Mariners system.  Recently demoted Shiron Martis was buried in the Giants system and all it took was Mike Stanton.  Surely you could have gotten at least a lottery ticket rather than basically nothing.

Finally, OK it's tonight that Scott Olsen gets his revenge on the Marlins.  Yeah, that's the ticket. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I like being right once in a while

mostly because I'm wrong a whole lot more.

But I thought I'd just log for future generations this bit of fortunetelling . . . .

Here's what Heyman (SI baseball writer said see #14)

Here's what I said.


An interesting 40 minutes of talk on the Nats draft here.

My thumbnail review: too easy on the new regime.  They aren't focusing on more polished college players, they made signability picks from #10 on down.  That is an entirely unacceptable strategic decision. 

I can live with not handing out big money major league FA contracts.  They almost never work out and can be huge failures. 

But to go cheap at the draft!!  C'mon.  In terms of actual outlay, what are we talking?  Even with Strasburg's contract, would they to top $30 million even if they took tough signs?  Say $20 million to SS another $4m to Tyler Matzuk who was a top 5 talent and is asking for this.  Still have $6 million left for the rest of the draft. 

I don't hesitate to point out that this team was over $40 million in the black last year.  That's profit.  So don't tell me it isn't in the budget.  If it isn't, then that's a choice.  You've decided to skimp on the best way to build a lasting winner.  And you get away with it because everyone feels sorry for you that big bad Scott Boras is going to bend you over and make you pay out the wazoo for the top guy.

So for less than half of A.J. Burnett's $82.5 million over the next 5 years, you could add 3-4 impact prospects to your mostly barren farm system. 

Instead they've basically punted.  Pin everything on SS being the guy they think he'll be and no one will remember the other picks.

Please, look at why you are where you are.  Those disasterous drafts of the early to mid '00s. Now, aside from SS, 2009 is a waste.

And fine, you like groundball pitchers and are focusing on infield defense.  Guess what?  That's not what other teams are looking at.  So, if that's your plan and it seems solid enough, then work it.  Get your guys LATER rather than earlier.  That 3rd round pick would have been there in the 10th. 

I'd be somewhat mollified if they were just honest about it.  Yes, we're cheap bastards and we're not going to go above and beyond build a winner.  Why should we when Red Sox fans fill our park? 

Monday, June 22, 2009

Nineteenth and Twentyth

You gotta respect the streak.


As unbelievable as this sounds, things could be worse.

There was a time earlier this season when there is no chance the Nats win either or both of those games against Toronto.

So Shiron couldn't keep the starting pitching streak alive (five in a row one whole turn through the rotation. How many teams can claim even one streak like that this year. Answer is probably a lot of good ones but . . . )

Now on a 48 win pace.  Twenty three to go to clear the '62 Mets futility record.  (I'm a big believer in setting your goals short just to make them reachable.)

Concerning note: Villone, Tavarez and MacDougal are the only arms that seem useful in the pen.  No long term value there at all.  On the other hand, it does show how a decent bullpen can be cobbled together from scraps.  Let's take that lesson to the off season rather than one that says pay a lot for a short reliever.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I thought I'd get a few days break from bloviating with this new, blog the number of the win strategy.

Three of the top five web gems from Nationals (Kearns/Hernandez then Willie's gem). Might have to rethink that whole offense/defense thing.

Really, the old saying in baseball is: you're as good as the next day's starter.  And if a guy gives up zero runs in 6 and a 1/3rd, anyone is gonna look good.  (until Lannan's shaving cream in the face. Was it just me or did Stammen look pissed? And why did it take a minute to get the guy a towel? Don't they have people for that?)

I see that the Pale Hose might have gotten tired of MacDougals wildness and figured a 30+ year old guy wasn't ever going to learn control.  But good gracious, he's dealing.  95-96 consistently. He's benefitted from two double plays behind him and from hitters without a lot of patience like Cano but still a guy who can bring it like that shouldn't be freely available.  Caution should still be exercised . . . wait till he gets a closing situation with some more patient hitters -- white knuckle time.

Well, we now know who it ws that was asking for the moon in all those previous trade deadline deals?
If I had the inclination, I'm sure I could find the exact same quote or one pret near it in '07 with Soriano and last year too.  The GM is different but someone's the same!

One more thing.  This post in Nationals Journal shows me something.  Rizzo's thinking ahead.   He has dare I say it . . . A  PLAN tm.   Not only that but a smart and sound plan.  Don't start abusing the young pitchers arms until they are on the cusp of free agency. 

If they are serious about limiting innings, why not go with the six man rotation?  Boston is (at least until they find a sucker errrr trade partner for Brad Penny).  98 games left in the season.  That would be a little over 16 starts per pitcher.  Average 6IP and that's just under 100 innings.  That'd be close to the top limits and it would keep them all in the bigs rather than having them waste time in Syracuse.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Wonder if a running feature titled with the latest win number would leave this blog essentially shut down?

OK. Let's be positive. It is win 17.  And it pushes the Nats back to a mere 29 games under .500.

Who drafted John Lannen in the 11th round?  Looks like a nice pick.  Even got to do a phoner on Baseball Tonight last night.  Got to be the first time since the end of Zim's hitting streak that the Nats got positive coverage from any national outlet.

So that's 1-4 on the current 15 game swing through the AL East. I point out that this is right on target for my 3-12 prediction.

Staying positive, here's a question.  Would you rather have this and $20 million a year or this?  Long term people, long term.

On the trade front, MLB Trade Rumors reports the Rangers have interest in NJ.  Please, let that one be true.

The Rangers have far and away the best farm system in the game right now, with impact prospects, lots of depth (particularly in very young pitching) and plenty of prospects close enough to the majors to help the big league club in 2009 and 2010.

And their owner just declared bankruptcy and is laying off staff.  Time to circle the carcass and vulture these guys.  Imagine what you could get from them with something they need to contend this year and salary relief? 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thanks Dying Medium

For the $1 grandstand ticket to last night's Potomac Nationals Wilmington Blue Hens tilt.

The Washington Post sponsored it (and thanks for the $1 hot dogs too.) 

Potomac won 5-3.  Hurrah.

Just jotted down some notes and wanted to record them for posterity.  FWIW.

1. Michael Burgess looks like a young Kirby Puckett.  Showed off his arm in the 3nd inning when he nearly threw out the Wilmington SS taking second on a ball hit to the base of the wall in right.  From the track, he hit Espinosa on the fly square on the bag.  The runner beat the throw by an eyelash. Made it close at home on a sac fly later that inning of medium deep depth. 

2. Chris Marrero, who went 3/4, is a decent athlete.  Went from 1st to 3rd on a short single in the 2nd beating a pretty good throw.  Then he scored on a PB/WP (they didn't announce which) that skipped half way to the backstop. 

3. Stephen King saw 6 pitches in his first two AB's.  All 6 were strikes and four of them (I think) were of the embarrassing swing kind.  (Burgess K'd 3 times and took some weak swings but nothing like King's first 2 ABs.)  Rapped a nice single in his 3rd AB and then promptly got thrown out trying to steal. 

4. Brad Meyers is tall.  The red stirrups make him look even taller.  Didn't see a lot of slow breaking stuff and the mitt didn't really pop on the FB.  Best pitch by far was a change that generated five or six wayyyyyyyyyyy to early swings.   No walks either. Might have gone the distance if Espinosa hadn't pulled Marrero off the bag with a throw in the 8th.

5. Espinosa redeemed himself with a nifty pick and throw out Moustakas to end the inning.  He and Tim Nelson the starting 2B displayed some good up the middle defense. 

6. Key blow of the game.  Bottom of the 7th.  3-3.  Rooney the Nats catcher hits a chopper right at Mike Moustakas, the 3rd pick in the draft last year.  Right between the wickets.  Plascencia followed with a single making it first and third no outs.  Wimington goes to the pen and brings in a lefty.  Trent Jewett  pinch hits his DH and sends up Brian Peacock. Peacock battles the hard throwing lefty (Don't know who, couldn't understand the PA announcer and his number was wrong in the program).  Then he lines a shot over the CF's head plating two.  A managerial move that pays off!!!  Makes up for the blown suicide squeeze by Boomer Whiting in the next AB.

7. Atahualpa Severino slammed the door shut in the 8th and 9th. Four in a row

Monday, June 15, 2009

2 cents

Everyone else is throwing theirs in so . . .

Maybe he doesn't deserve the ziggy but that's what he's gonna get. 

You've fired players, coaches, general mangers, who's left? (Don't answer that , you can't fire the owners.)

The CW from all the writers today like Feinstein and Heyman is Acta never had a chance, the team was poorly constructed. 

This is a load of crap.  Out of ST, the 2009 team was light years better than the one that left ST in '08.  Remember them?  Writers were falling all over themselves to declare the '08 Nats a threat to the '62 Mets.  Didn't happen.  Didn't think it would either.  But the perception was Acta was doing more with less and that's good for any manager.

Now, expecations were higher and the fall has been catastrophic.  Bad formula. 

This team is not historically bad.  It just isn't.  They should just be averagely horrible like the Rays used to be and Pirates are now.

A lot of it is just luck.  And spare me the defense crap.  That would only move them down a slight bit not the cliff like fall they've experienced. 

Mostly, Manny's gone because he had no idea how to stem the tide of defeat that washed over the team beginning with those three straight losses with 9th inning leads to Florida during the 1st homestand.  Soon, it became apparent the team tightened up in key situations and their flaws became sharper (players expecting a bad result plus weak defensive players + mediocre relief pitchers in key spots = key mistakes in big situations).  And once the ball started rolling, the confidence plunged and on the reverse side, the other teams just KNEW they could come back. 

I can't recall any genius moves Manny's made to break this vicious circle.  FJB criticized him for giving JZimm the hook early in his last start.  Perhaps we should give Manny some credit here.  A guy managing for his job would have ridden JZimm hard and put him away wet if that would give him the best chance to win THAT DAY.  But the last thing this franchise needs is an 80 A's staff like implosion from overwork. 

The sad thing is: it probably won't matter who the interium guy is. He'll up the winning percentage just on the luck factor returning to normal. 

And I think NJ's foul ball adventure counts as the next shoe to drop.  As soon as the ball hit the turf, you just knew it would come back to haunt the team.  That it did on the next pitch only heightened the sensation.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Any guesses on the next inept tragedy?

There has to more. 

It can't stop with SmileyGate.  Or Natinals Or epic tarp Fail.  Or 16-42?

What's next?

Will they forget to file some paper work and allow Scott Boras to declare Strasburg a free agent?  Would you be surprised if that actually happened?

How about a travel related disaster?  Some missed connection means they don't arrive in time to start a game.  Would you be surprised?

It keeps me on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next monumental screw up.

In other non-news, tiny market teams the Pirates and Twins are bidding for top Dominican prospect.  Large market team with massive needs too busy finding needy college seniors to pay smallish bonuses to.  I haven't heard the word overdraft as much in the last few days since oh my last bank statement.

Any guesses on the record over this slog through the AL East?  15 in a row vs. the Top 2 payrolls+last year's WS losers+a decent Toronto+ the Battle of the Beltway which is pick 'em at best.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cheapskates and liars

Normally, I take the contrarian position when it comes to the Nationals.  I never tire of pointing out that while Aaron Crow didn't sign (for the largest bonus offered to a pitcher in last year's draft BTW), the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 15th round selections ALL signed for above slot money.  In 2007, the Nats spent more on the draft than any other team in MLB.

But the first day of the 2009 draft proves to me once and for all: this ownership group are cheapskates and liars.

Lie: We'll take the best available player.  Drew Storen was not the best player available at #10.  End of story.  He was drafted for financial reason alone. 

Same goes for the #2 and #3 picks.  They are even more obvious.  Neither was the best player available by a long shot and both will sign for slot. 

It is completely clear now that the Lerner's have no interest in building a winning team in Washington.  Actually, its more accurate to say they are not driven to build a winner but would be glad if the s*^&*^ they throw at the wall some how sticks and winning happens.

Do they understand they are 15-41?  There is sucking and there is embarassing. Are the Lerner's embarassed by their product?  I am.  They should be.  And I would be doing everything I could, exploiting every angle to erase the bitter taste of the last year and a half from the minds of the local fan base and the national scene (such as it is for this crew).

Let's go down the checklist:

1. Spending on major league free agents: Nope. 
2. Spending on the draft: put the brakes on THAT now too.
3. International signings: None of note.  Not even a hint of interest.  How can the Pirates be a player for the top international prospect and the Nationals aren't? 
4. Take on bad contracts:  Two months ago the Nats couldhave gotten Dontrelle Willis AND a prospect for two used parking tokens.  Willis was a $20m sunk cost and Detroit would have been glad to be rid of it.  So for $20m (half the PROFIT the Lerner's earned last year) they could have added a prospect and bought a ticket on the D-train lottery. 

I don't care to hear about how much SS is going to cost.  Do the Lerner's not build parking garages because the Boy Scouts running the cement concession charge a premium?  No. It's the cost of doing business. 

I wouldn't be able to face the public in any forum right now as a Nationals owner.  The only way I could is if I was announcing some important move to turn this disaster around.  I'd be damn humble, embarassed and humiliated and burning with a desire to right this wrong.

Instead we get BS.  Same message, different messenger.  "We're doing everthing we can to win" translation "keep spending on our crappy product and maybe if we luckbox into it, we'll win a little but in the meantime we can fill the stadium with Phillies and Met fans. Their cash is just as green as a Nats "fan".

You could disagree with George Steinbrenner when he ran the Yankees but there ews NEVER any doubt that what he did was designed with one goal in mind: WINNING.  That's not the case here. If the owners don't care, why should I?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Believe me, I don't want to be positive but . . .

. . . I have to.

It's my nature.  I always distrust popular opinion, generally I despise anything that everyone else loves.  There are exceptions of course (usually when I was there BEFORE the crowd arrived i.e. U2 during and before War, dropped like a stone after they exploded).

And Boswell sums up for the most part the objections to the decisions made over the last two plus years by this ownership group.

A lot of it hits the target.  The Lerner's have not invested as much as they should have in the major league product.  But, I am not sure that is really such a terrible thing. 

He cites Randy Wolf and Jon Garland as FA's that should have been signed.  I'll give you Wolf, who's having a great year in Dodger Stadium, but would you want to gamble that he'll keep it up for the next two years?  Check his injury history.  FOr one season, yes.  The Nats FO should have outbid the Dodgers by a substatial margin and put him in the front of the rotation.  Agreed.

Last time on Jon Garland, Boz.  Give it up. He SUCKS!
What is there to like here? His 5.34 ERA?  How about a 86 ERA+?  I case you are wondering, an average pitcher would be 100.  So he's way below average.  62 IP 27 K's Really?  And you would have given him his 3/30 Really?   

Boz gives us all the free agents that populated the '91 Braves worst to first season as an example of how to spend.  Ok fine.  But were any of those guys half as valuable as oh Ron Gant, David Justice, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Steve Avery and Mark Wohlers all developed by the Braves system?   No.  And here's why.  The Braves could AFFORD free agents like Terry Pendelton (who was basically dumped by the Cardinals) because they had such a bounty of young, talented and cheap players. 

Where are the Nats young talented and cheap players?  I'll tell you.  They are playing for other teams thanks to the miserable drafting record of wait, you guessed it TWGMIBB.

(recycled mateiral ahead)

You don't like Lastings Milledge in CF. Well it could have been AL MVP candidate Grady Sizemore except for Omar.

Top of the rotation got you down. Nothing that reigning AL Cy young award winner Cliff Lee couldn't fix except for Omar.

Wish for some more production from 2B? How about 20/20 guy Brandon Phillips? Whoops. Omar dealt him too. 

Jason Bay have been an upgrade in left for the last few years?  If you
say yes, you have Omar to thank for missing out.  But that's small
potatoes next to the Lou Collier Experience!

Want the list of MLB players Omar drafted for us?

2002 -- Darrell Rasner, Mike O'Conner and Jason Bergmann. 

2003 -- Chad Cordero, Jerry Owens, Kory Casto, Daryl Thompson and Luke Montz

2004 -- Bill Bray and Brett Campbell???  Look him up. He pitched 4 1/3 innings in 2006 for the Nats.

by the way in case you are wondering if it makes a bit of difference to
have an incompetent running your draft, see 2002.  Clint Everts 5th
overall. Who was 6th?  Zach Grienke.  7th? Prince Fielder.  How about
17th? Cole Hamels.

How about that brilliant Erik San Pedro pick
at #54 in 2004?  Care to guess who went back to back at 64 and 65?
Hunter Pence and Dustin Pedroia.

In other words, there is
precious little to reap in 2009 because nothing of value was sown in
2002-2004.  (For those who can't see the connection, imagine an 18 year
old drafted in 2002 who's now 25 and in the prime of his career.) And
you have to imagine it because there is nothing of the sort in the Nats

Kill this ownership group for not being more aggressive in using their financial advantage in creative ways not in NOT blowing cash of mediocre free agents. 

I ask myself, why are the Pittsburgh Pirates leading the bidding for a 16 year old Dominican shortstop prodigy whom they say is better than anyone they could take in this draft?  Go and BigFoot them Teddy.  Why did the Oakland A's get Michael Inoa last year for a mere $4m?  You can't tell me the Nationals couldn't afford to massivly overpay? 

Mike Illich told baseball to screw off and took Rick Porcello late in round one and now look . . . he has a 20 year old potential #1 starter.  It ws a risk yes but we can see the results of not taking big risks.

Can someone explain why the Nationals financial advantage can't be leveraged at the major league level by absorbing bad contracts in exchange for prospects?  Basically, I'll take on your sunk cost obligation (say Barry Zito) in exchange for a nothing prospect of ours or a bad contact that is not as bad.  SF throws in one of their pitching prospects.  It boils down to a prospect sale.  Owners may like to win, but there is some point where saving $20 million outweighs winning.

August 16th.  You have Strasburg, Zimmerman, Lannan, Detweiler, Martis and Stammen as starters.  That's 6!  Tom Glavine was 7-17 his first year.  He got better.  These guys will too.

Nick Johnson will be gone by then.  So perhaps another arm has arrived.  Or the middle infoelders with a high OBP and solid glove. 

Maybe Josh Willingham is gone too for a live arm for the pen. 

2009 offseason.  No more Kearns, no more Dmitri.  $13 million freed up. 

Basically, it can be done and it can be done quickly.  Unless the FO is paniced and does some real stupid things.  Look at what happened in Tampa pre-2008.  Bought faded stars and nothing ever developed.  Pittsburgh did the same.  Pat Meares?  Derek Bell?  Is that what we want?  Gamble big fellas.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I guess it was just chicken s&^$

The chicken salad out of chicken s&^% defense finally collapses.

Didn't things pick up a bit after Lenny Harris got the ziggy last year?

They can't get much worse so when improvement comes (by improvement I mean merely a .400 winning percentage rather than the .265) it will be seen as a result of the change.

How will we know?  Would the improvement be as a result of the change or just the balancing of luck. I know gambler's fallacy and all but here we're dealing with human beings not coin flips. 
You know how hard this game is?  If you believe you're playing well because you're getting laid 
or because you're not getting laid or because you wore red silk panties--then you are!

And most interesting is the new hire.

Steve McCatty is described as a motivator.  A gut feeling guy. 

St. Claire was a video and numbers guy.

So basically, they've completely flipped they way they are going to handle pitching at the major league level. 

I also note that McCatty's career reached it's apex when he pitched for Billy Martin in Oakland. 

On August 10, 1980, McCatty pitched a 14 inning game against the Seattle Mariners, only to lose 2-1.

Yes, the same Billy Martin who chewed up and spit out young pitchers at an astounding rate even for his time.  I can't say that McCatty will coach from the Martin playbook but it seems likely that his philosophy would be shaped by his experiences at that time in his life.  A young guy, in the big leagues, pitching well and learning from one of the best managers of the last half century (for the first two years of any stop anyway).

So do I need to spell it out?  Or will we wait until they ask JZ to throw 130 pitches in August because he has to learn how to finish a game? 

Finally, Manny, I really wouldn't read anything into the decision to flip from passive to aggressive in pitching coaches. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

When does it turn campy?

There is that fine line, when a bad movie become good in its badness.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Top Gun as an action adventure not a comedy etc.

I think this team is nearing that line.  It's almost to the point when I'd be disappointed they won.  It would invalidate, at least for one day, the search for the problems.  Starter gives 7 strong innings . . . well hey maybe the kids are coming along.  No, I don't need that kind of fals hope.

Instead, I'll just float.  The losses aren't really painful anymore they are more like deja vu.   I'm not sure I'd know how to react if the Nats won two in a row.  It would seem like the natural order had been upended. 

What to do when there is nothing to do?  Wait for the other team's to just treat a Nats game like a late spring exhibition . . . get your work in and don't get hurt.  Not really worry about the final score unless you are still in a pennant race. 

My own goal will be to countdown to 43.

That's how many wins you need to keep the '62 Mets on the bottom of the slag heap of immense baseball losers. 

So 13 down and 30 to go.