Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Response to A Microcosm

Original post here (Tried to post response, didn't take don't know why?)

They have shown us. They have made it crystal clear: The Washington Nationals are a business.

They demand ROI. And they want it today not in three years.

This offseason continues the same pattern they have shown since inception. A big announcement about your #1 overall choice and that record breaking contract. So let's not talk about the fact that we went super cheap for EVERY OTHER PICK WE MADE! Our 3rd round choice was a 10th rounder on every one else's board but he'll sign fast and cheap so he's a Nat and who really cares about 3rd round choices?

It's apparent the Lerner's have decided they can comfortably maintain their asset by keeping payroll manageable, catering to high dollar customers (the big offseason expense are luxury club upgrades in a brand new ballpark!) and selling tickets to fans of the visiting team who just happen to be plentiful in Washington.

From an MBA standpoint, it makes a lot of sense. It's practical, prudent and almost foolproof.

But I don't have to point out how it feels from a fan's perspective. Hell, if the OWNERS don't care to win, then why should anyone else?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The one that got away

Was thinking of posting on yesterday's slew of roster filler signings when word crossed the tweet deck that the big market, money burning franchise the freaking Oakland A's had once again ponied up and taken an asset off the market the Nats should have had.

In the person of Ben Sheets. 1 year $10m plus incentives.

Hey, in hindsight wouldn't it have been a bargain to go $8.5 to Rich Hardin?

Oakland spent $4m+ last year for Michael Inoa a 16 year old international FA with a big time fastball.

So, why can a team, sharing a media market smaller than the Washington metro media market with a decrepit stadium and coming off a 75 win season afford to spend$14m+ and the Nationals can't?

Simple reason: the Oakland ownership believes it must take chances to build a franchise that wins enough to get some poverty stricken locality near by to build them a new stadium. OK so Silicon Valley is hardly poverty stricken but the principle is the same . . . A's management is willing to take chances to get better quickly while the Nationals prefer to throw s*(& against the wall and hope some sticks.

(Disclaimer: this does not mean I favor wild free agent spending sprees.)

Au contraire. Most free agent spending is wasteful. But there are numerous way besides overpaying declining ballplayers to use the financial advantage granted by the 7th largest media market in the country. This franchise has still shown no interest in taking gambles. 205 losses in two years should prompt some more intense action than Jason Marquis and Matt Capps.

So anyway, about yesterday's new guys. Why not? Walker looks serviceable, may be able to get some outs in the 6th 7th innings which were hard to come by last year. Was more excited about Chuck James. Remembered his run of excellent pitching three years ago at age 24. Less excited when it turns out that run was fueled by a .250 BABIP. The next season (pre-injury) he was average crafty lefty with poor K/9 totals. Not a recipe for long term success, more like a guy who bounces around and ends up in a rotation when injuries strike (a left handed Brian Moehler if you will.)

Chris Duncan? From a platoon perspective it would be better if he was right handed. That way we could have a terrible fielding 1B with power against tough lefties just like we do against everyone else. From a sit on his ass for 8 innings and come up and try to hit one out perspective its a pretty good move. He can certainly do that if he's healthy. The question then becomes: can a National League team survive with three players who's best position by far is DH?

Now the Nationals are in the same situation as the roto player who has carefully refrained from overpaying for stars and is ready to cherry pick bargains and then he suddenly realizes: who the hell is he gonna spend all this money on? There will be a temptation to throw it at Orlando Hudson (not terrible) or Jon Garland (dear god please NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!). Resist Riz. Keep it in your pocket and wait for a better way to leverage it. It will come along.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Screw with TWGMIBB

Here's your chance.

Drive up the price of Ben Sheets.

Do it today.

The Mets "rotation" is Santana and a bunch of question marks. Not nearly good enough to hang with the Phillies. And everyone, even clueless Omar knows it.

He's under the gun. He HAS to win NOW. He has to fill up that new ballpark. He overpaid for Jason Bay (oh the sweet smell of irony, first he gave him away then he overpays to get him back the true mark of an incompetent; buy high and sell low.)

Sheets is the only difference maker left. Make Omar pay. Make him give Sheets a player option or a big buyout for the second year. Make him pay $8m this year. Put the screws to him.

It's what shrewd GMs do to teams in their own division.

You know what that's like don't ya Stan! Konack him!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Introducing The Let's Try not to Suck at Historical Levels in '10 Campaign

So I'm led to believe that Aroldis Chapman or his agent decided he'd rather live in Cincinnati, Cincinnati mind you than in DC. He'd rather pitch in a bandbox where his every youthful mistake will be floating in the Ohio River rather than in a neutral at best ball park. OK. That makes sense. Oh wait, it must be that the Cincinnati Reds, playing in the 33rd largest media market in the US with a 2009 Opening Day payroll of almost $75m OUTBID the Nationals? Really? I can't say if Chapman will ever be a major league pitcher, even less likely is him becoming a top of the order ace. But for the pocket change between the cushions in the Lerner's sofas, the Nats could have bought a chance at greatness. Not a big chance but a chance nonetheless. A chance that isn't going to come along for a while. Maybe there is another freely available young hard throwing left hander we just don't know about. Maybe they can get him? Oh wait. That would cost too. Sorry. We'd rather get Randy Winn or Doug Davis. Proven veterans. Winners. Full of grit and determination who know how to play the game the right way.

As the Nats proved with the Storen pick, they are unwilling to gamble in any way to get better. Drew Storen may be the next Mariano Rivera for all I know. He'd have to be if ANY of the high ceiling HS pitchers taken after him develop into major league All Star starters. It was a chance to at least TRY to be a contender at the cost of risking some precious dollars and they were unwilling to roll the dice.

I'd rather fail trying to win the world series than to generate consistent 81-81 records. And I know, it only takes a moderate amount of luck to go from 81 wins to the post season so that's not a terrible strategy, but it isn't an exciting one. And this is an entertainment business.

I will give them this much. They aren't Kansas City. But they aren't far away with Marquis, I-Rod and Capps. The "Let's Try not to Suck at Historical Levels in '10 Campaign" doesn't get the blood flowing.

OK so no Chapman. Why not Sheets? Short run, he'd cost more. He may break down. He may never even throw a pitch for you. But he might pitch like he has in the recent past. He would make an excellent rental at the deadline. And all he costs is money.
I suppose I'll need a few more years of pounding this same point before I give up and realize that the Lerner's are not interested in winning, they are interested in running a successful business. I can't blame them on that point because well they are running a business. Winning and losing is only a difference at the extreme margins for them. They will pay to not be historically bad but they will not pay to be outstanding. They HOPE to be great, if it can be done without taking risks or spending too much but if it doesn't happen, well they can still sell enough tickets to visiting team fans to keep the cash registers clicking.