Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Typical Jackassery

It's no wonder people get worked up over JournoList when opinions from so-called "opinion-leaders" are always so typical.

Take this DCist post on Nats home opener attendance and the replies. 

Hey, does DC even have a baseball team?  Wow. Clever.  You are so post-modern.

AA product at major league prices.  Yes, in Washington DC they complain about the prices for inferior products.  Washington DC itself is an inferior product at over inflated prices!

Send the team back to Montreal.  You first.  And please stand right over there underneath the crumbling concrete at Stade Olympique.  Or, you could really see what total fan disinterest really is by standing Rusty Staub, Steve Rodgers and Andre Dawson next to the 7th D-man for Les Habitants and see who gets recognized first!

The fans in Washington are just like fans everywhere else.  Win and they will come.  If you don't believe that, just look at the Caps.  Two years ago you could put federally protected witnesses in the seats at Verizon for a Caps game and they'd be perfectly safe. 

One rebuilding plan later and you can't find a seat.  Oh, an a rebuilding plan accelerated by a once-in-a-generation Number One overall pick. Hmmmmmm?

Nice ballpark, high average incomes, large media market.  All that is needed is time and some smart baseball decisions and Washington will be a baseball town.  Everything except the smart baseball decisions is in place.  No gurantees there I am afraid. What's this, year 100 of the rebuilding plan on the North Side?

I know this is considered a football town, specifically the Redskins.  But c'mon . . . those clowns are actively bad.  Do you suppose they will be a dynasty again anytime in the Snyder era?  Fat freaking chance. And even if they win, they will never be loved again, unless Dan Snyder can figure out a way to monitize that!

Some other thoughts this afternoon:

Tigers eat $14m and cut Sheff.  It affects the Nats this way IMHO, the only value to be had from DY would be to get him healthy enough to showcse him for a mid-season deal to a contender.  A switch hitter with some pop and on-base skills would be a perfect addition for a strech drive and post season roster.  Less likely now with Sheff out there (and the Big Hurt too).  It was along shot anyway. I know neither are switch hitters but both at this moment in their careers would fit best as PH's and add to the menu of options for any team seeking such help.

Wonder what it takes to be considered to have "shown interest" in one of Tampa's out of options pitchers?  I hope more than this.

And congrats to TWGMIBB for giving up on our old friends Tony Armas Jr. and Junior Spivey.  I was really hoping they would stick around to undermine the Mets but even a clueless twit like TWGMIBB figured out what we already knew . . .

Friday, March 27, 2009

If you don't think the salary structure isn't driving rosters

think again.

I don't think even the Iraqi information minister could stand up in front of the assembled media and declare that Matt Wieters isn't the best option for the Orioles right now at catcher.

Love it or hate it, this is how the system works. It's show BUSINESS remember.

I have to say the Dmitri Young revelation is a bit baffling. There must be some advantage for Young to be on the 40-man . . .. wait I've got it! Per diem baby. Think Da Meat Hook could live on the minor league per diem? Me neither.

I doubt that it makes too much difference roster wise. I count at least 4 guys who would almost certainly clear waivers . . . O'Connell, Montz, Casto and WMP.

Unless Jim can explain some reasoning behind it, I guess we'll just have to chalk it up to his ego. Young had to be the shining example of his brilliance in picking through the scrap heap to find a gem. I guess he was hoping lightning would strike twice in the same place.

I do have to give the Lerner's credit for following through on this promise. I seriously doubt anyone would blame them for backing out.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


I caught the bottom of the second top of the third inning of yesterdays Grapefruit league game.

I have to say, even though they went one-two-three, it made me a little bit excited to see Adam Dunn, then Dukes, then NJ.

I only saw a pitch or two of Dunn's AB but then Elijah worked the count full against a guy described as the Asian Greg Maddux (Kawakami I believe). He then K'd on an Eric Gregg-brand outside fastball.

NJ was his usual self, working the count fouling off pitches before he got hung up and tapped weakly to the pitcher.

Still, if Elijah is anywhere near a patient as he looked in that AB, I think pitchers are going to dread working to the middle of that lineup.

Balestar looked decent and his entire outing was a big step up from what we've seen. Unfortunately for him, after what the food critic wrote about J Zimm's latest exploits, maybe the future IS now. I still think the smart play is to deny him Super Two.

Hey, we're all waiting for Strasburg's first start aren't we? We can wait a little while for J Zimm?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

No Way

I am sorry.  But there is NO WAY anyone and I mean anyone is going to leave $3-4m on the table.

That's what we're talking about here with J Zimm.  If there is one thing you can say about the Nats organization, its they know the ins and outs of finances.  The District is found about THAT the hard way. 

Just the time value of money makes it worthwhile.  The Nats may have to pay the same amount eventually but they will do it a year later than they would otherwise.  Someone we know is going to learn a harsh lesson in the time value of money this June.

Let me put it another way . . . would you rather have 2 months (maybe 10 starts at the most) of a 22 year old fledgling pitcher or a full 30+ starts from a fully developed and operational starting pitcher 5 years hence?  It's a no brainer decision . . . even the Reds and Brewers figured this out (Jay Bruce and Ryan Braun)

Are the Nats costing themselves a chance to contend?  No.  Can they manage JZimm's workload easier in Syracuse? Yes.  The dramatic uptick in innings he's going to throw this year is so critically important.  If this jump is managed correctly and he comes through it without channeling the spirit of Shawn Hill or John Patterson, then you have such a huge asset.

If it means a May Gustavo Chacin carpetbombing, I think I can get over it.  I mean even Jason Simontacchi is starting to fade a bit.

Aren't we witnessing the effects of the "I want it all and I want it now" theory on Wall Street?  Make the investment and wait for the dividends.  Defer consumption and reap the rewards later. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A curious relationship

It sure looks like the Wowin' Curacaoan is about to lock down a spot in the starting rotation. Now, we've said the same about Jerome Williams before but let's be positive for once and say Martis may develop into a decent pitcher before its all said and done.

And how did the Nats end up with this 22 year old pitcher?

Brian Sabean needs a LOOGY down the stretch in '06. JimBo is happy to offer up Mike Stanton and all he gets is an A ball pitcher. Looks real good now.

But how about this . . .

Stanton got his start in pro ball as a 13th round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves in the 1987 draft.

And who do we know was running the Braves at the time . . .

One Stan Kasten!!!

See, the PLANtm has been percolating longer than ANY OF US EVER KNEW!!!

On a much sadder note, I hear of the passing of Hall of Famer George Kell.

I'm sure most of you know Kell as the guy they point to and say "If Kell's in the Hall, then why not Player X"

But for me, growing up in mid-Michigan Kell was the soundtrack to baseball. I'm sure that most people seeing Kell and Al Kaline doing games wouldn't say they were the most polished professional broadcasters they ever heard and they weren't.

But it was always a pleasure to listen to Kell's call of the game. It had to be since the alternative was Ernie Harwell on the radio and that was pretty darn good.

He was comfortable, he could tell as many stories from the old days as Kaline and always seemed to enjoy his job and the game. I know that I still hear his echos once in a while as I'm watching games and I'm sure I always will.

Godspeed George.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Defense v. Offense at Second Base

That's what it lookslike it's coming down to.

The defendant is Anderson Hernandez.  Hard to tell from his 294 major league innings if he is double plus plus defender or not.  Minor league stats are just as iffy.  So, numbers are out.    Our eyes tell us that he's a decent defender. And it looks like he's got the manager in his corner:

"To me, this guy has only had one rough year - last year when he was in
Triple-A with the Mets," Acta said. "He looked like a laid-back guy
that, at times, if he was not performing very well, [he] looks kind of
like a too-cool type of guy. But he can play. He does things right. He
works properly."

The plantiff is Ronny Belliard.

I still can't get over his line from 2008. .287/.372/.473 in only 296 ABs but good enough for an OPS+ of 120.  Dan Uggla of the Marlins was a 128+ OPS in 531 AB's average defender.  Chase Utley?  135 OPS+ in 607 ABs.
Wow, tough division for 2Bs. 

Hey, who the Mets got?  WGMIBB strikes again. And only $18m over the next three years invested in 245/355/305!!!!.  HA HA

I think it's safe to say that Ronnie can hit a bit.  Clearly, he has more offensive upside that Hernandez.  But as we all know, he's a tad underwhelming as a defender.

So, which way to go?  I'll bet that Manny wants Hernandez simply becasue he knows that on any given night, he's going to have some defensive concerns in left and center, maybe SS to a lesser extent. 

And, if you are the optimistic type, Hernandez carries the potential to not be Tony Pena's like with the stick.  Maybe he even pushes average.  It's possible. From a game management standpoint, you have the ability to make the dreaded offense for defense replacement.  Trailing late, Belliard can PH for Hernandez (or be the top side of the vaunted double switch) and actually be a threat to cut into a deficit.  I know as a fan I'd be likely to stick around to see if Ronnie B. can deliver.  I don't know if the bullpen would be as happy.

Moving on, hey all five of us Nats fans have our own big time internet meme now.  Deadspin, the BIG TIME.

Two camps.  Those that say why does a guy who hates sports write about it for a living?  And the others who say, he can write so get off his back.

How about a third camp?  The camp that says hey Washington Post, can't find someone who can write AND doesn't think sports are beneath him. Really. It's that hard.  Had the job opening out there for months and months and no one else would stain their resumes to take the job? 

Then I think, well it's the Post.  They would care more about how they are perceived in the media bubble than serving their , their their "readers".  That's the message that is sent.  We'd rather have a freaking poet write our gamers than someone who may know about the game and write as if that was so.  Cause the people who actually read the stories may in fact share that enthusiasm? 

We can get the finely crafted prose in a dusty unread yearly sports writing anthology. And I hear Pulitzer's fetch a pretty penny on ebay now a days.

Finally, there was a reason Adam Dunn came at a discount.  So deal.  He's a butcher in the field and isn't exactly Charlie Hustle out there.  He walks and hits for power.  That's what he does.  That's what he will do.  He will also strike out in key situations.  Want more than that?    Here's how you get everything.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Please listen to this man!

This man makes a lot of sense . . .
from Pirates Revolution:

Wily Mo Pena buried in talented Nationals outfield

Jim Bowden didn't earn much praise for his work in rebuilding the Nationals, but he was able to successfully stockpile an above-average group of outfielders. He added Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn to a depth chart that includes Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes, Austin Kearns, Willie Harris and Wily Mo Pena.

Pena would seem to be the most attractive (attainable) trade bait, as he just turned 27 and possesses prodigious power from the right side of the plate. The Nationals need help badly in their rotation, and so it's not a stretch to believe they could deal from a strength to address a weakness.

Jeff Karstens isn't a world beater, but he would provide Washington with a steady presence on the mound every fifth day. Pena -- owed $2m million in 2009 -- could serve the role currently set aside for grizzled veteran Craig Monroe. Despite a strong spring, Monroe is likely at the end of the line. The Pirates could hope to coax Pena's potential out into PNC Park's right field.

Jeff Karstens is more like the second coming of Tyler Clippard (although I have to give Ty some credit, his K rates in the minors aren't half bad) down to the started in the Yankee system and therefore is more hyped than he deserves to be. 

But when you are dealing essentially a sunk cost, even a Karstens is an upgrade.  And how bad is Craig Mo when Wily Mo represents an upgrade?

Get this one done Mike!

Washington Nationals One-a-day calendar Fact o' the Day Friday March 20:

The 2005 inaugural version of the Washington Nationals finished last in the National League in hits, runs, batting average, and home runs.

Way to pimp the product guys!  I am waiting with baited breath for the next Nats Fact (I will not peek ahead, I want to be properly surprised) like worst ERA or most games lost to injury in 2008 or some other reason to NOT want to go to the ballpark. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Can we expect an annual Pattersoning?

Curious.  One can't help but go back to John Patterson, thought to be the #2 starter going into camp and cut by this time (probably for the same reasons).

I absolutely agree that this was done with salary in mind.  Little over half a million saved. 

Based on the Patterson example, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt health wise on Hill.  They were dead right on that one and perhaps they also know that Hill's elbow is chronic.  Still, at $755,000 he'd make a fine set-up guy, limiting him to 1 IP at a time.  Perhaps that's a luxury they decided they couldn't afford.  And truthfully, what's the upside to a right hander who can't go multiple innings or pitch on consecutive days?

Signing Joe Beimel for $2m/1 year.  Very Nice. 49 IP in 71 games?  Have we hocked a LOOGY here or what?  But a 210!!! ERA+  yikes.  I guess we know who's going to face Ryan Howard in any late inning situation this season.

I guess they DID have the extra cash to spend on a relief pitcher.  You're only half a cheap bastard today, netting out at an extra $1.5m in payroll (maybe less if they can flip Beimel at the deadline!)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Those gritty Mets

Taking a shot at Lastings Milledge and his attitude. . .

Yeah, those gritty Mets vets, Captian Red Asses all, they wouldn't choke when the going gets tough . . . errr

Trading Nick J.?

It's the topic of this semi-literate exchange.

You earn the sobriquet semi-literate when you a) forget that Willingham is on the team and 2) regret that Bonifacio was the price to be paid.

Nevertheless, the question is an increasingly valid one.

Nick will be 31 by the end of this season and a free agent. Those two facts alone make him obvious trade bait for a team who's future is lengthening by the day.

What everyone seems to consider in re: Nick J. is his record of brittleness.  Granted.  But look at the numbers!  And that's just on offense.  Check the fielding stats.  Even though it's not a primary position, he bring a lot of positive value on that side of the game too.

What I fear in a Nick J trade is not getting full value.  For a team with either a black hole at first base or a team with a good hitter but terrible fielder at first, Nick could represent a significant win boost even as a three month rental.  And that's without considering that he'd only cost less than $3m to the team getting him (not an insignificant fact based on the direction baseball revenue is going).

Basically, my argument is: yes Nick J. is an obvious and valuable trade chip.  But, I would not make a deal just to make a deal.  To open a spot in the lineup.  The deal would have to involve significant future value.

Worst case scenario, keep NJ and offer him arb at the end of the year.  Maybe he decides not to risk the FA market and takes you up on it.  Since he'd be unlikely to come anywhere close to his actual value in arbitration, he'd be an undervalued (with the standard NJ caveat if healthy) asset.

Take a page from the late JimBo's book . . . ask for the moon and stars and go down from there.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hobson's Bullpen Choices

It seems the two main questions for the Nats in spring training are how is the playing time for our excess OF/1B's going to play out and who's going to make the bullpen.

(I guess a third is who's the #5 starter but in the end we all know it will end up being a parade of the veteran garbage like Wells and Chacin and the not ready for prime time players like Martis)

The internal options have been gas on the fire so far this spring.  And let's face it, we are just waiting for Saul Rivera's arm to fall off from overuse.  Really, would anyone be comfortable with any bullpen option right now in a close game?  And aside from Hanrahan, who would Manny call on to get a strikeout when he really needed it?

What about outside the organization?

Jeff Niemann is out of options and may not make the Rays 25 man roster.

He looks like a Joel Hanrahan clone . . . great K rates lousy control.  Frankly, that's more upside than a Steve Shell or even a Jason Bergmann brings to the table. 

I know the fireballer with no control taking up a valuable bullpen seat this summer is reserved for Rule V draftee Terrell Young but aren't we about the Plan?  Playing time is the one commodity the Nats have in spades.  If they could grow a successful middle guy out of someone else's dross, we'll that's how teams rise from the 102-loss grave.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Some faulty reporting

St. Barry back in charge at Nats Journal must have lost his edge.

He reports that salary concerns are causing the Nats to balk at signing Duaner Sanchez!!!


$30-$50 million below any reasonable threshold and a paltry $1.3m is a concern. Pshaw.

Duaner recent history and makeup . . . that would make me think three times about him as a bullpen option.  But cash, c'mon.

But, if I'm wrong and St. Barry's right then . . . .


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Financial legerdemain

The Chicago Tribune is reporting the Cubs don't think Luis Vizcaino is going to make their team and are looking to trade him.

I can't say as I blame them.

So what does a below average 34 year old relief pitcher have to do with the Washington Nationals? It was this:

The Cubs' chances of trading Vizcaino are slim because of the overpriced contract, though if they packaged him with a prospect, they could explore a deal with Oakland for shortstop Bobby Crosby, who makes $5.25 million and is being shopped after Orlando Cabrera signed.

"packaged with a prospect"? Wouldn't it be smart to offer to take Vizcaino off the Cubs hands, not send them another dead weight contract and essentially buy a prospect for what is now called one of the worst minor league systems in the game?

Vizcaino is owed $3.5M this year with a club option for '10 at $4m with a $500,000 buyout. The option vests if Vizcaino appears in 135 games in 08-09 or 68 in 09. Basically, $4m (as long as the FO can count!)

So, for about $3.5m (I'm subtracting the salary of the min wage guy who's losing service time because of this financial legerdemain) the Nats can get a prospect. I would also point out that you could grind this figure down a little more if you take into consideration the bonus to sign that the Nats won't have to pay.

Based on the going rate, it would have to be a pretty good one. Although, one could argue that taking a guy who's already been a pro for a year is less of a risk than any amatuer and thus has less of a risk factor reducing his value. Or you could just ask for the two for $1.75 per or three for 1.16 per specials. Here's the shopping list.

Basketball teams do this kind of thing all the time. And, I am not sure of the status of the sale, but I know the Tribue Co is in Chapter 11. I'll bet their creditors would be happy to liquidate a liability like this contract. Or the new owners, I'm sure battered by the economy and the demands of coming up with the financing for the sale, would see it as a smart short term cash flow decision.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The upside to a min payroll

MLB Trade Rumors has the link to Buster Olney's report on the scout's glowing reports about SS.

They add the somewhat snarky comment that "There's no way the Nationals can pass on a talent like this."

Really. Was that necessary?

I notice the previous posting concerns a 17-20% drop in attendance forecasted for MLB this summer.

So really, who in baseball will be in a position to offer $10m in cash to an amateur pitcher?  Maybe the NY pair, Boston, the Dodgers maybe but that's it, that's the list.

The rest of these teams will be scrambling to make payroll if they end up on the real bad end of a cratering attendance number. How about $400m in lost revenue with this drop. 

Even if a team has a deep pockets owner, think their other investments/businesses aren't hurting?  Milwaukee has an $80m payroll this season.  What if projected revenue drop by 25%?  Detroit is north of $100m?  What's the attendance drop likely in Detroit this summer 30%? 50%? 75%? 

Where are teams going to cut?  I doubt they can squeeze much out of the 40%-45% non-payroll expenses they have.  It will come out of payroll unless the owner decides to eat the loss (Or MLB arranges financing ala the NBA's loan) They won't be looking to add a pricy new risk while they are desperate to dump salary anyway.

And will these teams even have $10m in cash on hand by July? 

Washington, OTOH, has a paltry $50-$55m payroll.  A 25% attendance drop will cut into profit not expenses.  And let's not forget, in this new age of supersized government, the DC area is actually GROWING.  It's likely the attendance drop in DC (Even with a bad team) will be less than other markets. (to put it another way, all you saps in flyover country will be subsidizing our Nationals indirectly . . . thanks and you're welcome)

So really, the Nationals have the financial wherewithall to make the big bonus payment and they have the need for a symbolic signing.  Boras might posture and bully for a while, but he knows that the Nats are where he'll be able to squeeze the most. 

I discount to about 10-15% probablility that the Lerner's would just not pay the huge bonus on principle.  Maybe that's low but since they've owned the team, they have been genrous with draft bonuses.  (And don't give me the Crow crap, in three months, he'll know just how sorry he should be for turning down that $3.5m)  Over slot for 2,3,4,5 & 15 last year.  Way over slot for McGeary the year before.

The upside to the min payroll?  When you're the only one with money when everyone is trying to sell . . .

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Pop

Nationals Enquirer has it embeded

It's not top quality video and sound but listen for one thing: the pop.

The pop of the fastball hitting the catchers glove.

I remember distinctly the first time I heard a different pop coming from a catcher's glove.

Michigan v. Minnesota in Ann Arbor.  86 or 87. (Time not so distinctive).  Sitting in the bleachers just before the game is set to start and the starting pitcher for Michigan heads to the mound.  He throws a couple of warm up tosses and then . . . . POP.

It echoed all around the stadium, off the building beyond the right field fence. It demanded attention.  It was clearly different from any POP any other pitcher I had ever heard.

That pitcher was Jim Abbott. 

Yeah, the guy without a right hand.

I didn't need to be a trained scout to know within the time the sound from his fastball hitting the catcher's glove hit my ears that Abbott had it. And yeah, Abbott had a decent, not great career, in the bigs but I doubt any other pitcher I saw that day threw one pitch in the bigs. 

So, listen to the pop in the SDSU catchers glove (even on the breaking stuff!)  and buy your ticket to San Diego.  For September 1st at Quallcomm Stadium.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

No help here

Shawn Hill heads to Dr. Andrews waiting room and the starting rotation, already an iffy proposition at best becomes just that much weaker.

And one step closer to the Towers/Chacin August flambefests.

Rob Neyer shows us the best of the available SP's. It's not an impressive group. 

Anyone for Pedro?  Would giving the "creaky junkballer" 20 starts be worth anything at this point?  Answer: No.  Unless Pedro found the time machine just long enough to convince a contender his playoff resume was worth a mid range prospect.

I notice he doesn't mention Odalis?  Wonder if that bridge has been burned?

Maybe the best thing is to just roll the slop out in the 5th slot until September when this arrives . . . inverted W and all.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Is this true?

"You're going to like Washington better," Kearns said. "We were so hurt last year we got out brains beat out night after night. If you're trying, they'll stick with you."

And if it is, is that a good thing?

A New Yorker I know always killed me about Washington sports fans being content, not demanding more from their players like they do in New York.

So, is effort enough?

Maybe for a guy like Willie Harris it is. Making the minimum (last year) and clearly not as physically talented.

But even I think with salary comes more than effort points.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

For the last time

For the last time, enough with the "didn't get anything at the deadline for Soriano. Please.

Until a tell all book from someone trustworthy, we don't know who anyone offered for Soriano.

And unless we hear the Twins offered Joe Mauer or something like that, then Soriano for Smoker and Zimmermann looks like a decent enough haul.

Now, Svrluga misses a chance to kill Bowden for one of his dumbest moves. He even cites it, the first Guzman contract. No one else was going to pay Guzman $4 m a year at the time AND he signed Guzman before the Twins non-tendered him (as they were likely to do). That cost a 2nd or 3rd round pick for no reason other than misunderstanding the situation.


I assume GoDaddy will be getting some business in the next few days as FJB closes shop with a job well done.

It was inevitable and had to be done.

I do disagree about the way the Lerner's and Stan Kasten handled the situation. From the outside looking in, it's easy to demand that this guy or that guy lose his job for some embarrassing situation.

However, on the inside its much different.

Can anyone run a big organization if their reaction to every media report is to pressure employees to quit? For every story the press gets correct, they get one wrong. And don't think that isn't true . . . just check the records. For every trade actually made, 100 dead certain reports fill the air which are totally incorrect.

Or if you want to know about false allegations, just go ask Ray Donovan.

Standing up for your people is a good quality. Of course, the flip side is your people need to serve you well and also know when its time to go. At least JimBo got the second part mostly correct. Maybe he should have quit earlier, maybe he should have been canned and made the scapegoat for the 102 losses . . . but when the time came, he did jump (OK maybe he was pushed but we'll never really know that).

Guilty or not, he had to go. Stan the the Lerner's gave him the benefit of the doubt and he did the honorable thing and quit.

The next guy who takes this job will know that one allegation or one problem isn't going to result in getting Steinbrennered. No one can run an organization like that.

And let's give him this . . . Elijah Dukes for Glenn Gibson and for all those who killed Jim Bo for not dealing Soriano . . . I give you Jordan Zimmermann. And Josh Smoker. And Michael Burgess who was begot from Jose Guillen. A better record that the Now Uncontested Worst GM in Baseball . . .