Thursday, July 31, 2008

Meet Chris Curran

Chris Curran, the Nationals 22nd round pick of 2008, graciously agreed to answer 20 questions for DCSportsPlus. Thanks a lot to Colin, a friend of Chris who passed the questions along.

Before I post the questions and answers, here is a little background on Chris:

From Colin's comments on NFA: "You guys don’t know how good Curran will be. 25/25 in steals is just the beginning. Originally from Massachusetts, he’s going to need a couple/few years to adjust to 2B (I’ve played with him since I was 8, now 21, and he’s never played the infield), but he’s so athletic that he will stick. I truly believe that once he gets the position down, he’ll be flying through the system....Maybe he played a couple/few games [at 2B] in a screwaround league, but in high school, as well as legion and into college, he was the CF. Athletic as all hell, he’ll adjust, I’m almost sure of it....[It's] tough to compare him to anyone in the MLB for the mere fact that he’s never played 2B, and I’ve never seen him play it. If I honestly had to compare him to anyone, offensively, [Red Sox OF Jacoby] Ellsbury probably. A bit of pop, good contact tremendous speed, and good OF defense."

It looks as of now that the Nationals have abandoned their plan to put Curran at second base, as he has played 32 of his 33 games in center field (and the other as the designated hitter). In those 33 games, Curran is hitting .331/.420/.379 with 3 2B, 1 HR, 12/14 SB, 32 R and 14 RBI. His 17 BB/19 K ratio is impressive as well.

Now, without further ado, the 20 questions:

1) What was your first thought when the Nationals asked you to switch from CF to 2B? Do you think there is a chance you’ll still end up back in the outfield?

I was a bit shocked when I found out. I thought it would hold me back from possibly climbing to the next level/team since I havent played there, but I'm an athlete, I'll pitch if they need me to! I thought that if they would give me a chance in the outifeld, they would put me there...and they did!

2) All signs are pointing to you as a top-of-the-lineup hitter, with great contact skills, a great eye and tremendous speed. What is the one thing about your batting approach or baserunning game that you would like to improve upon to make yourself an even better top-of-the-lineup hitter?

I think that mastering the bunting game is what I need to work on most. I have drawn plenty of walks, a couple hit-by-pitches, and a few infield base hits.

3) 8 years ago, the Expos drafted some outfielder out of Gonzaga University in the 22nd round. That outfielder’s name is Jason Bay. Is it comforting knowing that one of the game’s stars was in your position only 8 years ago?

Yes it is, because for the most part when you draft someone in the later rounds you don't expect too much from them. It becomes a price tag game, the players with the most money actually get more oppertunities. Luckily, my managers and coaches don't treat me as a late pick if a pick at all. They seem pretty fair and I have actually played every game.

4) Did you get drafted earlier, later or around where you figured you’d get drafted in 2008?

Later. A Cardinals scout told me 7th to 8th round. Now when a scout tells you a round you usually want to add 2-4 rounds to that.

5) How disappointed were you when you didn’t get drafted out of high school?

I was highly disappointed, but after my first year of college I realized I wasnt ready out of high school.

6) A Boston Globe article said you were a dishwasher for a restaurant to help pay for school. Did working in a humbling environment change your work ethic or perspective any?

I wouldn't say it CHANGED me or the way I work really because I feel I have always worked my hardest whether it be baseball, work, or anything I really wish to accomplish.

7) The same Globe article mentioned your mother’s dedication to watching you play. When she’s at your games, does it make you relax or does it put more pressure on you?

It helps me relax. My mother knows how good I am and how hard I work, so I dont feel pressured at any point with her watching.

8) What are your favorite professional sports teams or athletes?

Favorite Baseball Team: Washington Nationals
Favorite Athlete: Bryan Curran (Brother)

9) Do you have any routines before starts (such as eating the same food before every game or painting your nails like Dmitri Young)?

Nothing too much. The simple baseball reminders: telling myself that I am the best one on the field, I've worked the hardest, the smartest, the fastest-things to help me stay positive and keep my confidence. I remind myself of where I'm from and everything I've been through.

10) If you could face any one pitcher in their prime (past or present), who would it be?

Nobody that I can think of at this time.

11) Fill in the blank: Without _______, I would not be a baseball player.


12) If you weren’t a professional athlete, what would you likely be doing right now?

Making music as a recording artist. Rap and Hip Hop.

13) How close do you follow the Nationals franchise? Do you read blogs or look up stats and standings every day or just rely on SportsCenter or newspapers for your information?

Honestly, I don't pay too much attention to SportsCenter, the newspapers, or even read anything on the internet. I dont even know my own batting average! I'm not the one to follow stats, I just play the game one at-bat at a time, one inning at a time, one game at a time. I'll let the scorekeeper and the people who handle the numbers handle them.

14) What did you do with your signing bonus?

Nothing as of yet, I haven't received it yet.

15) Is there a past or present Major League player you think you compare similarly to? If you want, you could also compare individual skills (such as Jose Reyes' speed, Nick Johnson's eye, etc.).

A lot of people have told me I remind them of Juan Pierre.

16) All of the scouting reports on you mentioned a decent bit of power. You only have 2 extra base hits so far in the GCL. Is it because you’re still getting used to hitting with a wooden bat (and the power will come eventually), or are you just trying to get singles and then stealing bases to get into scoring position?

One of the things they (meaning the managers) want me to work on is hitting line drives and hard ground balls. The game has changed a bit as you progress, so yes I am adjusting to the play and the use of wood, but having only 2 extra base hits means nothing. Base runners could be in front of me, where and how they pitch me. Many things come into factor.

17) I know you haven’t spent too much time in the Nats system yet, but who are your best buddies so far? Which Nationals coaches have helped you the most in terms of your development?

I love the people here. I cant really name any individuals because people will be upset I didn't name them. I get along with everyone and all the coaches have helped me in one way or another. whether its base stealing, working the count, strike zone recogntion or bunting.

18) There always seems to be a shortage of good middle infielders. Do you think that moving to second base is the best chance for you to get to the majors, or do you think it would have been in CF?

Personally I feel my best chance is in CF. I feel comfortable there and know how it needs to be played, but if they move me back to IF well have to see what happens.

19) Fill in the blank: Chris Curran will be batting ___ in the lineup, playing ___ for the Nationals in 20__?

I wish I could answer that (laughs) but unfortunately no matter how good or bad I play, it's not up to me to say where and when. It'll take some time, I'll tell you that much. I'm still learning alot

20) In a different Boston Globe article online, there’s a small picture of you with a nice little moustache. Please tell me you are still rockin’ the ‘stache!

(Laughs) No, I am not. I've always had different hair styles, facial hair and I kept people guessing. But at the time a clean shave is what I'm working with.

Chris celebrated answering my questions by going 4-5 with 2 runs, 3 RBI, 1 SB and his first career professional HR last night. Congrats, Chris!

One thing I wish I had seen before, from the comments section of NFA (by Nate of Nats Triple Play): "Chris Curran was 5th runner up at the 2000 Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee and has a lovely baritone singing voice."

Is this true, Colin?

If you want to ask Chris any more questions, leave them in the comments and Colin can probably pass them along to Chris and back to me to post again here.

For additional reading material on Chris, check these articles out (all from the Boston Globe):
Draft puts Curran in Tricky Position
Sibling Rivalry Propels Curran
Boston Globe Baseball All-Scholastics (scroll down some and check out the moustache)
Chris Curran on

And once again, thank you Chris and Colin!


MASN is reporting that Failipe Lopez and Paul Lo Duca have been released by the Nats to clear room for Emilio Bonifacio and Elijah Dukes, both of whom are being called up from AAA.

One word:


My life is oh so much better now that these two veterans who offer very little to the team and nothing beyond 2008. Finally, JimBow has admitted two of his mistakes. It's still way too late, and he still needs to be fired, but at least he dumped these two deadbeats.

Also-The Nats also traded minor league righthanded Jhonny Nunez to the Yankees for IF Alberto Gonzalez. From the looks of it, Gonzalez is an all-glove, no-hit SS. Jhonny Nunez will probably not be a Major League pitcher, as 22 year olds in A ball with 5.22 ERA's are pretty easy to come by. Looks good enough to me, I've seen enough no-glove, no-hit infielders in Felipe Lopez and Royce Clayton to last me a lifetime.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Believe it or not, but it could be worse

I'd say it's much worse to be an Astros fan at this point than a Nats fan. Despite being 9.5 games (and 6 teams) out of the Wild Card and 12.5 games (and 3 teams) out of the NL Central lead, the Astros keep trading prospects for mediocre ML guys. First they traded Chad Reineke to San Diego for Randy Wolf, and today they traded Matthew Cusick to the Yankees for LaTroy Hawkins. Wolf and Hawkins are both past their prime (with ERA+s of 82 and 73, respectively) while Reineke and Cusick both look semi-promising (Reineke has a career minor league ERA of 3.71 and 8.8 K/9 in his fifth minor league season while Cusick has a career OPS of .835 through a year and a half).

But then again, when I read this off of and this from Nationals Journal, I begin to wonder.
The key quote from the article:
Indeed, Nationals pitchers -- especially young ones in the Majors and Minors -- are attractive to other teams. Bowden declined to mention the hurlers that teams want, but a baseball source said Jason Bergmann, Garrett Mock, Ross Detwiler and Adrian Alaniz have been mentioned in trade discussions.
Wat. Trading Detwiler would be one of the more incompetent things, EVER. His value is at an all-time low. Let him regain his value. Bergmann is one guy who I can see going nuts with like a 2.50 ERA if he's dealt. Keep him. Mock is more of a fringe ML guy and Alaniz is still way far away (and doesn't have incredibly impressive stuff), so I would understand moving either of them for other prospects. But Bergmann and Detwiler shouldn't be moved until they're at peak value.

And then we have this (from Nats Journal):

Chico Harlan: Speaking of pitching/progress, has any been made with (first-round pick) Aaron Crow in negotiations?

Bowden: No.

CH: Do you think you'll have him signed by the Aug. 15 deadline?

JB: Don't know that. We're working hard trying to sign all the guys that are unsigned.

If we don't sign all of our top 5 picks (and when I say all, I mean Aaron Crow, Danny Espinoza, Graham Hicks and Adrian Nieto), I'll go nuts. "The Plan" is worthless if there is no stream of top-of-the-line talent into. Having the same pick next year would both set us back a whole 'nother year while at the same time making us the laughingstock of baseball (maybe even moreso than the Mariners and Astros franchises...note that 4 of the teams Randy Johnson has played for are run by incompetent nitwits...MON, SEA, HOU, NYY. Arizona, watch out. If Byrnes ever leaves, you're screwed).

Wednesday Nats Roundup, Mailbag

Last night was pretty good by my standards (other than the Nats losing). I met a guy from my fantasy baseball league outside the Taco Stand (on the right side of Half Street I think it is...between the Metro and the CF Gate. Awesome Tacos!!) for the game. It's always nice to get a different perspective, and I got one from a Cubs fan who lived in New York and recently relocated to DC (and has a huge man-crush on Lastings Milledge).

The game itself was actually pretty good. It was a quick one and our pitchers were excellent. I was very impressed with Balester, Mock and Hanrahan (and, even though he came out unscathed, I remain skeptical about Charlie Manning). Too bad our offense is awful and we've got Zimmerman making excellent baserunning decisions...NOT!

I think this is interesting: Paul Lo Duca thinks his value is lower because he's not catching. That's pretty obvious I suppose, but it's also obvious that Lo Duca is the 3rd best catcher on the team and Jesus Flores should not EVER be benched again for the sake of "showcasing" a lousy player behind him (a la last week and the Johnny Estrada dealio).

And now it's mailbag time!
Right-hander Jon Rauch has been my favorite player since the Expos acquired him in 2004. Do you think it was good to trade Rauch to the Diamondbacks for second baseman Emilio Bonifacio?
-- Ben F., Suffolk, Va.

No. I tried to rationalize it for a while, but it simply wasn't a great trade for the Nats. Now that being said it could end up being a win for the team, but Rauch is worth more than Bonifacio. They should have (and definitely could have) gotten more than Emilio.

How could the Nats trade away such a valuable player in Rauch? He's clearly been their most consistent pitcher. I'm very disappointed in this trade, as I'm sure many others are, too.
-- Steve O., Montreal

Wookie had a good run in DC, but a 29-year-old closer on one of the worst teams in baseball is as useful as a cow on roller skates. We're building for the future and Rauch probably wasn't going to be part of it. But, like I said, we should have gotten more for him. Bowden's mistake.

What is going on with the Nationals' bullpen? It was advertised as the team's strength and hasn't performed as such. Is it because Chad Cordero went down with a shoulder injury?
-- Lee H., Silver Spring, Md.

The bullpen had 3 solid guys up until the Rauch trade in him, Rivera and Hanrahan. Now we're down to two. Counting on Colome to be effective was not smart, as he simply has never been an incredibly solid reliever. Last year's 3.82 ERA was a fluke. I have no idea what's up with Ayala, but unlike Colome, we didn't see that coming. His lowest ERA EVER was 3.19 last year and that was coming off of Tommy John surgery. Hopefully he'll bounce back and be a solid setup guy next year. Shell has been fine, Manning has been unpredictable, Sanches was uninspiring...and the Chief is hurt. But then again, middle relievers are the most unpredictable players in all of baseball. There's no sense putting faith into them.

Are there any middle infielders in the system who are close to being the big leagues?
-- Michael P., Minneapolis, Minn.

Bonifacio is the only one. Leonard Davis played 20 games at 2B last year in A ball, but he's really a 3B/OF type and Seth Bynum is doing damage in AA at the ripe age of 27. Desmond is in AA and COULD be up at some point next year. I doubt it, though, unless things start clicking. If the Nats sign 3rd rounder Danny Espinoza soon, the answer might be different.

I was so excited when the Nationals acquired Elijah Dukes from the Rays. How has he been so far?
-- J.P., Fairfax, Va.

Besides being injured, he's an absolute manchild. He's hitting .263/.367/.434 for the season, but
is hitting .302/.400/.497 since May 21, where he turned his season around after an awful 1-26 start to the year. He is a future MVP candidate and maybe even a future HOF guy. All he has to do is keep his emotions and actions in check (something I'm becoming progressively more confident in). He'll grow up eventually, and grow up into a heck of a ballplayer.

With the Nats' inability to generate offense, has there been any mention of replacing Lenny Harris as hitting coach? I believe they were better offensively under Mitchell Page.
-- Tim H., Lorton, Va.

Nope. Nobody's thought of getting rid of Lenny.

It appears to me that the team needs to change the manager. Manny Acta doesn't really appear to make tough decisions, especially at critical parts of a game. Appreciate your thoughts.
-- Phil P., Falls Church, Va.

Sometimes I question Manny's lineup making skills, but for the most part, he's a great manager. He runs the team remarkably well considering how bad they are. When it comes to starting certain guys and putting certain relievers in at key points, you often have to wonder how much pressure the FO is putting on him to play guys like Lopez, Lo Duca, etc.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The calm before the storm

Just explaining my semi-absence: nothing's been happening. The trade deadline is Thursday, though, so things WILL happen. Although I have an inkling that the Nats' moves will almost all happen between August 1 and August 31.

I'm going to tomorrow night's game. Hopefully I'll have something interesting to blog about afterwards! And hopefully I won't have killed any Philly fans (not because their lives should be spared, but I'm just not one for jail time).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Christmas in July!!!


The rotating blob of catching fail was DFA'ed to make room for L-Millz with Thrillz, who is coming off the DL;

My favorite part of his post-DFA interview:

Q: Do you even consider it an option to report to Class AAA Columbus (if you clear waivers)?

[Heck] no. You won't see me in Triple AAA. You can print that, too.


To recap some of many reasons he's awful:
He refused to talk to The African Queen. NOBODY refuses to talk to The African Queen!!!
From my previous post "There are not enough words, but too many phrases":
My roommate (a Brewers/Nats fan, so he gets double the Estrada fun) wrote up a quick 5-tool (or apparently 6 tools now) assessment on Estrada for me:
me: i need for you to give me a scouting report on johnny estrada for my blog...very quick...just hit his skills in the 5 tools
roommate: uh
roommate: he doesn't walk
roommate: but can hit for average
roommate: no power
roommate: speed blows
roommate: defense sucks
roommate: arm sucks
So, in a nutshell, the most worthless player in all of professional baseball is gone. Good riddance. There's no way the door avoids hitting you on the way out because you're so freaking slow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wednesday Night Nats Roundup

Mostly just links and a little blurb, since I'm tired.

Old news: WMP is out for the year, but should be back for Spring Training next year. Maybe his labrum/rotator cuff woes were to blame, as he "had a tough time getting around on fastballs because of the shoulder." I was skeptical when Guzman's career was supposed to be turned around with laser eye surgery/weight loss. This isn't the same thing, but until I see results, I'll continue to be skeptical.

Nats Journal injury updates:
Aaron Boone still has discomfort in his calf and will have an MRI tomorrow. We don't necessarily need Boone back yet, but it would be nice to have him so Zim doesn't have to start every day. The trade deadline doesn't matter, as he'll pass through waivers (if the Nats choose to trade him away, reducing their monopoly on Boones from 3 (before Bret retired) to 2 (now) to 1 (if Aaron is traded).
Acta says we'll probably see Shawn Hill again before the end of the year. Similar to SBF's sentiments on Nats320 about Zimmerman: if one of our guys with decent potential is hurt, shut them down. No sense making it worse in a season that is un-salvagable anyways.
Da Meat Hook will also be back by the end of the year. "Asked if Young was expected back by the end of the year, Acta said, 'Oh yeah. Not by any means are we shutting him down. No. I'm very positive we'll be seeing him over here again.'"
Chico and Ladson are both reporting that Milledge could return as early as the weekend. As long as he's ready, fine. If he's not 100%, just like with Hill/Zimmerman, it's simply not worth it. Injured groin muscles are not things you want to play on (no pun intended).

The Nats could non-tender Chad Cordero. It wouldn't be worth it to resign him for $5 mil if he's not going to pitch, and then hit FA after the year. Maybe we can get something done with an option for 2010 before the season ends. Otherwise we'll have to cut ties and hope he's still around on May 15 when we can sign him again. I want the Chief back. He's still only going to be 28 at the beginning of the 2010 season. He's worth keeping, just depends on the price.

Last but not least, Pete Orr has decided against playing in the Olympics, deciding rather to stick with the Nats. It probably would have been career suicide for Orr to go to the Olympics rather than sticking it out in Washington.

Wednesday Night Hokies Roundup

A few quick, random things to note:
First, more pics of the new jerseys from Not as bad as my initial reaction, but they're still pretty bad. I like the numbers, but hate the sleeve things.

Offensive Lineman Sergio Render and Defensive Back/Return Specialist Macho Harris were named to the pre-season all-ACC team. I'm surprised Kam Chancellor and Ed Wang weren't named to the team, but I'm sure they got votes. In my opinion, Tech has usually been a team whose recruiting classes and preseason teams have been semi-underrated outside of the state of Virginia (do you agree, Mike?). One thing-if Jason Worilds (formerly Adjepong) is healthy all year, he will be on the post-season all-ACC team. He's a man-child (as opposed to Render and Wang, who are just really, really, really, REALLY large men...especially when you're trying to get between them and through the doors into a party...when you have mono. True story...took some pushing).

Speaking of being semi-underrated, Tech was overwhelmingly picked by journalists to win the Coastal Division (but also overwhelmingly picked to lose the ACC Championship game to Clemson, who is usually overrated). I don't really care about either this or the pre-season all-ACC stuff. It's the post-season that matters.

Angela Tincher might just be the best Virginia Tech athlete ever. She ranks up there with Michael Vick, Bruce Smith, Dell Curry, Joe Saunders, etc. She won the ACC's top female athlete of the year award (with Tyler Hansborough winning the top shemale athlete of the year award). She also won the USA Softball National Player of the Year Award. Also from the article: "Tincher is the first softball player ever honored with the Garber Award and the first Virginia Tech athlete to gain either of the ACC's premier individual awards." So congrats to you, Angela Tincher!

This is also semi-old news, but Tech will kick off the 2009 football season in a made-for-TV game played at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The number one opponent choice is University of Alabama. If the Crimson Tide decline, the game will likely feature the Hokies against a different SEC team. To make room for this game, Tech and Cincinnati agreed to move their previously-scheduled game back to 2012.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I leave for 3 hours...

And the Nats go and trade their closer and sign their shortstop to an extension.

First, we'll discuss the Rauch deal:
Tim Dierkes of figured Bowden would ask for more than just IF Emilio Bonifacio for Rauch.
MLB Fleece Factor thinks it is a pretty good deal for both teams.
National Fanboy Looser thanks Rauch for a job well done and asks if it's a good deal or not.
Fire Jim Bowden says "at first blush this is the kind of deal we should be doing."
We've Got Heart also figured the Nats would get more prospects for Rauch.
Bleacher Banter's intitial reaction is positive.

Something interesting I wanted to pass along (from Nationals Journal commenter "e"):

I'm going to try and be optimistic about this. I'm not thinking "another Nook Logan." I'm going to think, "another Jose Reyes."

Bonifacio's minor league stats:

6 seasons; 648 games; 2543 AB's
12 HR; 216 RBI
209 BB; 528 K
226 SB; 65 CS (78%)

Jose Reyes' minor league stats:

4 seasons; 343 games; 1303 AB's
13 HR; 135 RBI
101 BB; 217 K
129 SB; 44 CS (75%)

Sure, the strikeouts are a concern, but he has cut down on them some this season.

Reyes didn't start hitting homers until his second full season with the Mets.

My first reaction is that we got a decent player in a position of need. I think we could have gotten more for Rauch (perhaps another low-level prospect), but if this was Rauch's market, I'm happy. I heard rumors of Reid Brignac for Rauch, which would have made me happier, but this is fine. I'd also like to point out that the trade is with Arizona, which means Bonifacio is a Rizzo boy. I like Rizzo's guys.

I'm looking for Joel Hanrahan to become the new closer rather than Saul Rivera. Hanrahan's numbers are good enough for the role (although Rivera's are a bit better), but Hanrahan seems like a better option for the long-term (Hanrahan is 26, Rivera is 30). I'd rather see him learn into the role now (since he's got electric stuff) when we don't have many legitimate options in the back of the pen. (side note-it's amazing that this is the first time I've ever tagged Saul Rivera in an entry. He's that non-descript, I guess). Ryan Wagner is probably going to replace Rauch on the 25-man roster.

Now to Guzman-Mark Zuckerman of the Washington Times says the deal is $8 mil per year for 2 years. That seems a bit steep, considering he did basically nothing in years 1-3 of his current contract, but it does seem he has turned his career around for the most part. At this point, I don't think the price even matters, since we already know the Lerners aren't going to spend any money anyways.

And the current polls on Nationals Journal indicate that there is widespread approval (82% at this time) of Guzman's signing, but mild skepticism (58% approval) concerning the Rauch trade.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Skins trade for Taylor, Nats celebrate with football-like score

It's my 100th post, so I figured I'd have a nice, big and exciting headline. Unfortunately, my dog ate it. I don't actually have a dog, so I'll just say I left it at Subway. Whatever.

So to the news-you've probably heard this from 400 people by now, but the Redskins traded a 2nd rounder in the 2009 draft and a 6th rounder in the 2010 draft for DE Jason Taylor, who will replace the injured Phillip Daniels. Hog Heaven put it nicely in terms of what to expect: a contract extension, poor run defense and a bunch of sacks (click the link to read up in-depth). John Clayton of ESPN also had nice things to say from the Skins' standpoint. I'm pleased...a 2nd and 6th rounder isn't a whole lot to pay for a good DE, even if he's 34.

As the headline suggests, the Nats scored two touchdowns (one with an extra point and one with a two-point conversion) today. Or 5 field goals. Or 4 safeties and a field goal. Or one touchdown (with an extra point), two field goals and a safety. Or (insert another combination here). No matter how you put it, the Nats scored 15 runs today in their win against Atlanta. Flores led the way with 5 hits. Willie Harris (I'll start calling him Willie Mo, as he's 4th on the team in homers. That way when I said at the beginning of the year that Wily Mo would be a beast in the Nats lineup, I can still take credit. And wow, this is a long thought enclosed in parenthesis) had two hits (one of which was a homer), 3 walks and 5 RBI. AK-25 (Austin Kearns' new nickname, shorter thought enclosed in parenthesis) scored 5 runs and tallied 3 hits (and one homer) to go with a walk and 2 RBI. Even Fail-ipe had a nice day, going 3-4 with 3 runs and 3 RBI.

I think Austin's back. He's hitting the ball hard every at bat, whether he gets a hit or not (hitting .327/.414/.531 since his return on July 3). This is the kinda player I want on my team-good hitting, great defense and good hustle. Now if we can sign his best bud, Adam Dunn, in the offseason, we might be in business!

Another note-is anyone else intrigued by Milwaukee's trade for Ray Durham? It (theoretically) cuts Rickie Weeks' playing time. Weeks is young enough (only 25 years old) to take a chance on, and he has a ton of potential (still). With top SS prospect Alcides Escobar hitting .338/.367/.443 in AA this year, the Brew Crew could definitely afford to move Weeks (and scoot J.J. Hardy over to 2B in the process...or just scoot Escobar there). I still think it would be a longshot, but worth looking into if the Brewers were interested in a guy like Rauch. Heck, we'll even give them Fail-ipe to split time with Durham in case the Brewers want "tools" in return...Fail-ipe's got a few (speed and ____, plus he is a huge tool himself!). And since we're talking speed, I'll even throw in Johnny Estrada! Talk about legging out an infield single last night! A guy Estrada's size has to love beer and brats, so he must just be incredibly depressed to leave beer and brat world in Milwaukee. Just a thought. And just kidding about Lopez and Estrada, Brewers fans.

Last news-Virginia Tech has released their 2009 home jerseys I had talked about earlier.

One word description: Nikesucks. I like the numbers, but the "sleeves" look horrendous. The "old" jerseys were great. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

There are not enough words, but too many phrases

Besides the obvious words, here's what I've got:
What was Bowden thinking?
Why should I even care about this team any more?
Is it any wonder the Nationals are the biggest joke of a team in baseball?

I don't even know how to express my total lack of respect for the Nationals' front office. I'm not going to defend them anymore. They're idiots. Complete morons. Guys that should be doing (insert name of non-noble work here).

Why am I so mad? Bill Ladson of reports that taking Wily Mo Pena's place on the 25 man roster is none other than....JOHNNY ESTRADA!

Here's what Ladson says exactly:

With Pena expected to go on the disabled list on Friday, the Nationals are expected to activate catcher Johnny Estrada from the DL. Estrada has played in only 17 games this year because of a sore right elbow.

The Nationals will have four catchers -- Estrada, Jesus Flores, Paul Lo Duca and Wil Nieves -- on the 25-man roster. Manager Manny Acta said that Estrada will come off the bench and get some playing time behind the plate.

"I have to see Johnny Estrada out there," Acta said. "We have to take a look at him. It's July. Other than that, we'll deal with what we have."

This is so wrong on so many levels. I don't see why they want to torture us so much. Here's a good analogy-Johnny Estrada is to baseball as William Hung is to singing. Sorry, William, I hate to compare you to such a worthless baseball player, but you're the best I could think of.

Johnny Estrada has only had 1 season that has ever been deemed "above average" in OPS+ (where 100 is average, anything above 100 is above average and everything below 100 is below average). Estrada topped out at 113 in 2004, carrying a career OPS+ of 84 and OPS+'s of 74, 92, 78 and 8 from 2005-08 (note the small 2008 sample size, only 39 AB). With such a below-average bat, he must be valuable elsewhere, right? Wrong. Estrada has only thrown out 24% of potential base stealers over his career. Estrada is one of the slowest men on earth (more on that later).

My roommate (a Brewers/Nats fan, so he gets double the Estrada fun) wrote up a quick 5-tool assessment on Estrada for me:
me: i need for you to give me a scouting report on johnny estrada for my blog...very quick...just hit his skills in the 5 tools
roommate: uh
roommate: he doesn't walk
roommate: but can hit for average
roommate: no power
roommate: speed blows
roommate: defense sucks
roommate: arm sucks

Here are some opinions of Estrada from fans:

"At least (Jason Kendall is) likely to post an OBP greater than .300 and not be a distraction in the clubhouse, unlike Estrada. And be fast enough that you can actually bunt him over to second base. And who won't be a double play machine. And Estrada had a pretty crummy year defensively as well." commenter EvilTwin (Brewers Fan during Estrada's time there)

"Johnny Estrada sucks. He was the worst catcher in baseball last season at throwing out baserunners. He is overweight and I have read more than one report that he has a pathetic work ethic. No thanks." commenter Fixxer019 (Padres Fan when Estrada was rumored to be negotiating with them)

"Can we simply replace 'Johnny Estrada flied out to left' or 'Johnny Estrada grounds out 6-3' to 'Johnny Estrada sucks?' Seriously, after each out he makes, I don’t want to hear who got the putout or who got the assist, I just want to here 'Johnny Estrada sucks.' For example: 'The 2-2 to Estrada. Grounder to second. And Johnny Estrada sucks.'" commenter Aram (Braves fan during Estrada's time there). Also from the same site: "#%$^ing Estrada……"-LatNam, commenter.

"Omar Minaya, to his undying credit, did do one good thing this off-season -- trading away Guillermo Mota, though we had to accept Johnny Estrada. Johnny Estrada sucks at baseball. But at least the cheater is gone." (Mets fan after the Estrada-Mota deal)

"The difference between Estrada and Schneider is negligible, although I suppose Estrada is glacier-slow, whereas Schneider is just catcher-slow."-Matt Collins of (Mets fan)

"He may actually be a .300 hitter, which when you add in doubles power (36 last season) and a few walks is pretty darned valuable. (Written in January of 2005, so obviously not the case-.278 career hitter). On the other hand, if he can't hit near .300, he's a drag on the team, because he only hit nine homers and is painfully slow (no stolen bases or triples in his major league career, or in the minors since 2000) and his defense looked pretty shoddy. Interestingly, he wasn't charged with a passed ball last season, despite seemingly having trouble blocking the plate."-Mac Thomason of

"I hate him as much as anybody here. He's a butcher behind the plate, he's slow as hell, he has no work ethic, and he does nothing with runners in scoring position." commenter Comet

Had enough? Now do you understand why Johnny Estrada is an awful call-up in any situation? WAIT, THERE'S MORE! Estrada is being called up to be our 4th catcher. 4. We have 13 hitters on our roster and 4 of them are catchers (3 of them being ONLY catchers, with Lo Duca being an impostor at 1B/LF occasionally...with a .939 fielding percentage on the balls that he actually gets near). That's absolutely ridiculous. Behind our normal starting lineup (I'll call it C-Flores, 1B-Young, 2B-Lopez, 3B-Belliard, SS-Guzman, LF-Casto, CF-Harris, RF-Kearns), we have 5 bench players-2 guys who can ONLY catch in Estrada, Nieves, 1 guy who can ONLY catch in Lo Duca (but we play him at 1B/LF occasionally to decrease the quality of our team), 2 guy who can play 2B/SS/3B in Pete Orr and 1 guy who can play all of the OF positions in Ryan Langerhans. Estrada's only value is as a backup catcher, where he should be fourth on the depth chart.

I know Zimmerman's coming up soon, but who is going to be sent down? The only real possibilities are Orr, Casto and Langerhans-the three guys with the most versatility. So we'll be even MORE shorthanded. Unless Bowden's going to pull the trigger on a deal (he no longer gets the benefit of my doubt), this is probably the worst baseball roster strategy I have ever seen. 31% of our batters on the roster are catchers, and only 1 of them can hit. At least Nieves is good defensively. Lo Duca and Estrada are the Terrible Twins.

Things are not looking good for our future if the Nats are this reluctant to swallow their pride and dump obvious mistakes. Combine that with a 100% irresponsible spending system (which allowed them waste $6.25 mil on both Lo Duca and Estrada in the first place rather than anyone of value) and suddenly defining the team as a "slot team" in terms of the draft and there is no hope visible for the Nats.

For the Nats to ever make the playoffs, 2 things need to happen:
Jim Bowden needs to be fired
The Lerner Family needs to sell the team. It's obvious that they are not capable of running a big league team. They approve spending money in the dumbest places (Johnny Estrada and Paul Lo Duca) and won't allow it for the most important areas (our 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th round draft picks).

As far as I'm concerned, The Plan will never succeed with the 3 Stooges (Bowden, Ted Lerner and Mark Lerner) running this team.

For the love of Frank Howard, can someone bring DC a respectable baseball team?


I'm sure there might be holes in my logic and maybe some bad grammatical errors, as I was too ticked off to even read through this post again. So just leave them in the comments and I'll correct them.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Destin Hood signs with the Nats

I guess Lerner had to prove he's not 100% cheap, so we went ahead and signed Alabama HS OF Destin Hood. says this:
According to baseball sources outside the Nationals organization, Hood will make
a total of $1.1 million in the next five years. The money is considered
the baseball slotting system when it comes to second-round picks.

Tip of the hat to NFA for alerting me.

1 down, 4 to go. We need to sign every one of the top 5 picks. No excuses. None.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

All-Hokie Post

Virginia Tech is taking another step toward respectable football scheduling by agreeing to play an SEC school to start the 2009 season. The release says that "talks are currently underway with the University of Alabama. In the event an agreement cannot be reached with the Crimson Tide, Tech's opponent will likely be another Southeastern Conference team." The game will be held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and will be the 2009 NCAA opening game (not just the VT opening game).

This isn't exactly breaking news, but the Hokies will host Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge this year. The game will take place on December 1 at 7 PM and will be on ESPN2. Look for me there, in an orange afro wig. I'm just excited that we'll play a good non-conference team at home. Watch out for Tech Basketball this year. They might shock some people.

Last but not least, Virginia Tech (and West Springfield HS!!) alum Joe Saunders pitched in his first All-Star game last night. Saunders allowed no runs on one hit (a single by Hanley Ramirez of the Florida Marlins). It only took him twelve pitches to retire the side, which also featured Chicago Cubs Kosuke Fukudome and Geovany Soto and Philadelphia Phillie Chase Utley. Also, congrats to Joe and his wife, Shanel on the birth of their daughter, Matea.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

All Work and No Play

Postpones Maybe Next Year's next edition to sometime tomorrow (between late afternoon and late night). Sorry, but sleep>blog.

Maybe Next Year? Part Five: The Bench

By now, you know the drill. Read up on all of the previous "Maybe Next Year" posts here.

Tonight's edition is the bench. Keep in mind that the bench predicted is done assuming the starting lineup is how I set it here and also assuming the pitching staff consists of 5 starters and 7 relievers, leaving us with 5 bench players on a normal basis. Due to the extreme right-handedness of my lineup (Guzman, a switch hitter, and Dunn, a left handed hitter, were the only two non-righties in my lineup), the bench will consist of 3 lefties and two righties. This really only made a difference in my final pick, which I'll talk about more later. I'll withold 2009 predictions for these guys, as it's kinda silly to predict them considering I did the starters' predictions based on about a full season of play.

R/R Luke Montz-C/1B (no ML contract yet, will cost $400k or less in '09)
At first I had Nieves, but why not Montz? The kid hit .282/.368/.536 to start the year in Harrisburg and has hit .260/.328/.462 in AA and above in his career, to go with 42 XBH's in 407 at bats. As long as the walks continue to rise and the K's continue to fall, Montz will be a servicable backup catcher and first baseman.

L/L Nick Johnson-1B (under contract, $5.5 mil in '09)
We all know what we get with Nicky J: a metric ton of walks, decent power, great defense and multiple trips to the DL. When Nick The Stick (or Slick Nick) is on the DL, I suppose Leonard Davis, Justin Maxwell or Mike Daniel get their chances to prove themselves (Casto will play more 1B then). Side note: Nick Johnson stole 16 bases in A ball? WAT?

R/R Wily Mo Pena-OF (option-$5 mil for the Nats to pick up, $2 mil for Pena to pick up, $2 mil likely)
Do we have to keep him? Unfortunately, yes. We'll decline our part of the option (if for some reason we accept, I'll go bezerk), but Pena will undoubtedly pick up his part, as $2 mil is a nice bounty for a pathetic 35 OPS+ (Odalis Perez has a 38 OPS+ this year). Pena gets $1 mil for each HR he has hit. Meh. Maybe next year he'll return to the Wily Mo we hoped we would get, the one who put up OPS+ above 100 from 2004-06 (and with the Nats in 37 games last year). Maybe he'll get back on track with his "top comparables" on (Cory Snyder, Austin Kearns, Phil Plantier, Albert Belle, Mike Marshall, Jermaine Dye, Frank Thomas, Preston Wilson, George Bell and Willie Stargell round out the top 10). I'd say expect more homers, continued poor defense and a different '10 uniform in Wily Mo's future.

L/R Willie Harris-2B/3B/SS/OF (resigned, $1 mil for 1 year)
Willie's a pretty big no-brainer. He's got speed, plays plenty of positions, and has been a decent player this year. He's still only at .221/.335/.379 over the year, but he has hit .273/.385/.429 since June 1. In terms of contract estimation, we'll just say Harris receives a $200k raise over his 2008 salary to make it an even $1 mil.

L/R Kory Casto-1B/3B/OF (under contract, $400k auto-renew likely)
Kory barely edged out Leonard Davis in my book, but his left-handedness and experience gives him the edge here. He plays above-average defense at 4 positions (1B/3B/LF/RF). He hasn't swung the bat great overall, but is hitting .294/.368/.412 in July. I would be very happy with that production over a full season. I'd expect more along the lines of .280/.340/.400 though. And after seeing Ryan Langerhans for most of 2007, I would still be very happy with that.

The odd men out: Leonard Davis, Justin Maxwell and Mike Daniel (lack of high-level experience), Ryan Langerhans, Wil Nieves and Peterson T. Orr (lack of success in the Majors, low-ceiling) and (needs to start wherever he is).

Total Bench Cost: $9.6 mil (estimate), most of which goes to Johnson at $5.5 mil.

Check in tomorrow for Maybe Next Year? Part Six: The Bullpen!

Monday, July 14, 2008


After reading this comment on NFA today, my first reaction: Wat? According to NFA commenter RJS, "Clippers website says Alex Escobar has been released." So I go to and sure enough, Alex Escobar has been released. Escobar was hitting .257/.318/.387 in his 67 games in AAA this year, so it's not a huge surprise I guess. It does come at a random time, though, as Wily Mo Pena is going to have surgery on his shoulder and will be out for an unspecified amount of time.

Guess that means it's either Mike Daniel, Roger Bernadina or Garrett Guzman in Washington soon. Between Daniel and Guzman, whoever isn't called up to the Majors will probably take Escobar's spot in Columbus.

Maybe Next Year? Part Four: The Pitching Rotation

Hopefully by now, you've read parts one, two and three.

Once again, what I'm trying to show all of you is that 1) The Nationals could (theoretically) be a .500 team next year and 2) They don't have to spend a whole lot of money to do it. They just have to spend that money in the right way. Responsibly. I'd like to point out again that I get all contract information from Cot's Baseball Contracts. It's crazy in-depth, accurate and (better yet), incredibly user friendly.

Without further ado, your 2009 Washington Nationals' pitching staff:
1) RHP Tim Redding (arbitration-eligible, ~$2 mil)
Redding is the "ace" of the Nats' staff filled with #3/4 pitchers. In 198 and 2/3 innings pitched for the Nats in 2007-08, Redding sports a 3.76 ERA and a 10-9 record. 11 of his 20 starts this year have been quality starts, but he's allowed 4 earned runs or fewer in all but 2 of his starts (and 3 or fewer in all but 5). The Nats are 15-5 in his starts. In reality, a team's "ace" is the guy who, when he pitches, gives the team the best chance to win. It's a tossup between Redding and Lannan in that category, but you can't really argue with W's. I know John Lannan gets 2.75 fewer runs per game in run support, but a 15-5 team record when Redding starts (compared with a 21-55 record in games he doesn't start) is pretty impressive.
Realistic 2009 prediction: 12-9, 32 GS, 183 IP, 3.68 ERA, 70BB/120K

2) LHP John Lannan (under contract, $400k auto-renew likely)
Lannan is intriguing. He doesn't strike out many batters (4.41 K/9 for his career, 5.01 K/9 this season) and allows a decent number of baserunners (career WHIP of 1.344, 1.283 this year), yet still puts up decent numbers in terms of ERA (4.15 career ERA, 3.40 this year) and ERA+ (118 career ERA+, 125 this year). He doesn't throw particularly hard. But why bother arguing against results? The kid has the intangibles to pitch in the majors. He keeps the ball in the yard and goes out and gives you a quality start most times he's out there (13 of 18 starts this year were 6 innings or more with 3 earned runs or less). And somehow the Nats are still only 5-13 in games started by the 23-year-old lefty. Meh.
Realistic 2009 prediction: 8-12, 33 GS, 185 IP, 3.90 ERA, 65BB/95K

3) RHP Jason Bergmann (under contract, $400k auto-renew likely)
Bergmann is about as intriguing as Lannan (to me, at least). Here's a guy who only started 21 of his 104 games in A+ or above (11 of which came in 2007-08, after reaching the big leagues). It appears that his time as a reliever stunted his endurance, as he falls apart after the 5th inning, with about a 90 OPS+ allowed over innings 1-5 (with 100 being a league-average pitcher) as opposed to about a 143 OPS+ allowed during innings 6-8 (which is probably better-sounding than what it really is, considering these are career numbers and include games he came in as a reliever). If we can get the Mann on a better strength and conditioning plan that allows him to pitch 6 effective innings each game rather than 5, we have ourselves another Tim Redding, just with better K/9 numbers (7.19 K/9 as opposed to Redding's 6.11). Here's to some more (and improved) BERGMANNIA in 2009! He's my breakout candidate.
Realistic 2009 prediction: 15-7, 33 GS, 197 IP, 3.42 ERA, 50BB/160K

4) LHP Oliver Perez (FA signing, $5 mil for 1 year)
Why not replace one lefthanded starter named O. Perez with a younger one? Oliver is equally intriguing (time to invest in a thesaurus, no?) as Bergmann and Lannan but has hit both peaks (2.98 ERA and 239 K in 196 innings pitched in 2004) and pits (6.55 ERA in 112 and 2/3 innings pitched in 2006) in his career already. Why is he worth picking up? He is having a season this year that looks average at best on paper (6-5 for a good team, 4.44 ERA) but also looks like an abberation if you search deeper. Perez's H/9 is actually better this year (7.58) than his career average (8.08) and last year's (7.78). He's just been a little wild, with career highs in HBP and WP at the ASB, and a little unlucky. His K's are a little bit down and his walks are a little bit up, but those things are correctable. This guy's got sick talent and is just going to be 27 at the beginning of next year. Guarantee him some money and innings and let him try and rebuild himself for a year under a new pitching coach. What's there to lose?
Realistic 2009 prediction: 13-8, 33 GS, 194 IP, 3.57 ERA, 85BB/205K

5) RHP Collin Balester (under contract, $400k auto-renew likely)
Balester has the most talent in the system. We've seen flashes of it in the first 3 games, with a 100% ridiculous line of .154/.185/.154 against the first time through the lineup (comparable to Tim Redding's career hitting line of .145/.168/.173). But, unfortunately, baseball games are 9 innings rather than 6. And Balester allows a .387/.487/.710 line against during innints 4-6 (semi-comparable to Sammy Sosa's 64 HR 2001 season, where he hit .328/.437/.737). The sample size is small (3 games and 73 career batters faced), but Balester needs to be efficient later on in games next year just like Bergmann.
Realistic 2009 prediction: 6-8, 22 GS, 130 IP, 4.19 ERA, 45BB/100K

So there you have it...our $9.2 mil starting rotation (even less if Oliver isn't signed and the rotation spot goes to Shairon Martis, Tyler Clippard, Garrett Mock, etc.). Under my predictions, the staff will go 54-44 with about a 3.72 ERA. Wouldn't be too bad...hopefully the likes of those guys I just named above could fill in the extra 9 or so starts. Keep in mind that these predictions are based most on performance and not injury.

Be sure to check in tomorrow night for the bench, Tuesday night for the bullpen and sometime later this week with the wrapup of the series.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A few more quick things

I just wanted to point out some things I've read about this evening before I go to tonight's part of the "Maybe Next Year" series. (Edit-I'm going to hold off until tomorrow night to do the pitching staff and Monday night to do the bench. That way more people will see it. And I'm sleepy).

Ken Rosenthal (via had some interesting things to say tonight in his "Full Count" video: The first thing that jumps out in the video is the headline "Matt a Nat?" At first glance, I was like...Matt Morris? Matt LeCroy? (I certainly hope not) Nope, Matt Holliday. I know your first reaction is probably "WHAT?" I'll leave it to MLBTR to explain:
Rosenthal names the Nationals as an "intriguing dark horse," saying they've been checking up on Holliday. They like the idea of having him for '09, and could even entertain signing him long-term.
It's interesting to see the Nats' name pop up here. I'd certainly like Holliday as a National if he could be aquired at a reasonable price. His home/road splits are pretty drastic over his career, although less drastic over 2007-08 (and I certainly hope Bowden notices that...although my faith is low because of his expectations that guys that come from the Reds and the GAP will hit better in DC), but he's still put up decent numbers on the road over his career. In a quick search, the only semi-asking price I've found for Holliday was David Price of the Rays. We certainly don't have any pitching prospects of his calibur (yet), but I would be interested to see what else we would have to include with Milledge/Dukes/Kearns (because one of them would have to move in return). FireJimBowden put up an interesting top 10 Nationals trade values list tonight-I'm guessing (since we lack true superstar prospects) that we would have to move at least 2 off of the list for Holliday (plus another prospect). Would something like Milledge+Martis+Rhinehart/Montz be enough? I doubt it. Would it even be worth it? I doubt it. I'm still not sold Milledge will cut it as a starting ML outfielder (has the bat for center, but not the glove and has the glove for the corners but not the bat), so I wouldn't be reluctant to dealing him. But are the prospects worth giving up for a guy whose numbers may or may not be totally inflated by Coors Field (we know they're somewhat inflated, but do we know how much)? All are interesting questions. I'd like to see what you guys think in the comments.

The other rumor was one we've heard similar stuff about before, but with a bit more in terms of being specific. We all know Jon Rauch has been gathering interest around the league, but Rosenthal finally named some names. Again, I'll leave it to MLBTR to wrap it up:
Jon Rauch is a hot commodity, drawing interest from the Rays, Red Sox, and Diamondbacks. His price will exceed that of Brian Fuentes, since he's under team control through 2010.
As usual, I'm wondering how much the Nats could get for Rauch. He's signed incredibly cheap for a good closer (or even an established reliever). Makes me wonder whether it's worth it or not to deal him...but I guess being the worst team in baseball with a good closer is like being a cow with a tuxedo...might look good, but still pointless. Wait till a team gets desparate and milk the top prospects out of them. Stick Hanrahan at closer. He's got the stuff to close in the Majors.

In other news, Manny Acta is reshuffling the pitching rotation to the following:
1) Tim Redding
2) John Lannan
3) Odalis Perez
4) Jason Bergmann
5) Collin Balester

Works for me

Zimmerman starts his rehab stint Monday for the P-Nats (against the Salem Avalanche) and continue there Tuesday. Then he's off to join Columbus in a 4-game home series against the Indianapolis Indians.

Buried inside this article on the Columbus Clippers' official website:
While some minor league players are anxiously awaiting to see if they will get the opportunity to play for the US, other players are turning to their native countries for the chance to represent their homeland in the Olympics. Rumor has it that Yurendell de Caster will play for the Netherlands and might be joined by Clippers’ teammate Shairon Martis.

Canadian Pete Orr was planning on heading back to Canada to help his country in the race for the gold. He had already gotten permission by the Washington Nationals and was ready to go, but due to some injuries at the major league level received a call-up on July 8th.

“This trip to the major leagues could affect Orr’s eligibility for team Canada,” said Scott Leo, play by play announcer for the Clippers. “It was pretty much a sure thing that he would be on their roster, but now it will be interesting to see what happens. I think Canada is supposed to release their final roster this Saturday, so we will all be curious to see if Orr’s name is on it."
I'm not sure how I feel about de Caster and Martis playing in the Olympics. Sure, they deserve the chance to represent their country (well, sorta), but these are two guys that need to be in the Majors come August. Orr really only needs to be around if the Nats dump Fail-ipe or trade Guzman or Belliard (which is entirely possible). If both Orr and de Caster are gone, the Nats would be seriously shorthanded in case of an injury. And Martis has to be a favorite for Odalis Perez's starting spot when he gets traded (not if, but when). It just doesn't make sense from a personnel standpoint go let these guys play, no matter how bad we are or how much they want to play for the Netherlands.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday afternoon roundup

A decent bit of Nats rumors today.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via speculated today that both New York teams should have interest in Austin Kearns. The Mets have two corner outfielders on the DL (Church with post-concussion stuff, Alou out for the year now) and are starting Inning-Endy Chavez and Fernando Tatis, who both could be considered the epitome of short-term solutions. The Yankees have Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon on the DL. There is apparently no timetable for Matsui's return, but no matter when the two of them get back, Sherman doubts the Yankees' ability to hit lefties (something Kearns does well). This isn't really a rumor, more of a speculation of sorts. I don't see Bowden trading Kearns unless he gets a decent bit in return, so it's really a win-win for us. We either get to see Kearns back in DC next year (and, as I hope you know by now, I'm a big Kearns fan) or we get a decent bounty of prospects (hopefully ones that can hit) in exchange for him.

Also, reported that the Cardinals were scouting the Nats recently. The original article came from, where the author, Jim Molony, suggests the likely players scouted were Odalis Perez or Tim Redding, "both available inexpensive options who have been pitching well lately." Tim Dierkes of MLBTR also speculated that the Cardinals could be looking to upgrade at SS by aquiring Cristian Guzman. Howabout Perez and Guzman for Aaron Miles and 2 or 3 B prospects?

Lastly, the Caps resigned defensive forward Boyd Gordon to a 1 year deal at $725k. The general consensus is that it was a good signing. I haven't seen anyone who says otherwise. Gordon is a good checking line/4th line guy who can play both the wing and center. He can shut down opposing players, but he doesn't score many points. Japers' Rink had a great write-up on his value to the team this morning.

One random note: Check out the "Answer Man" series of interviews on "Big League Stew," a Yahoo! Sports blog run by David Brown. Some of the stuff is pretty funny, and very interesting. I spent a good hour of my Friday morning (from 1 pm to 2 pm) reading the interviews. Some of my favorites were Huston Street, Kerry Wood and Bert Blyleven. Even Joba Chamberlain is pretty funny. Just skip the Derek Jeter one-he's about as exciting as a grey tube sock.

EDIT (5:15 PM): Roger Bernadina was sent down today. Ryan Langerhans was called up. Why waste a spot on a guy we know can't hit? Give Escobar or Daniel a chance. Another poor move on management's part.

Maybe Next Year? Part Three: the Starting Lineup

Hopefully by now, you've read parts one and two. Basically those set the groundwork for tonight. What I'm trying to show all of you is 1) The Nationals could (theoretically) be a .500 team next year and 2) They don't have to spend a whole lot of money to do it. Yes, Uncle Stan and whoever the new GM is are going to shell out some green. They can probably do it without raising the payroll a huge bit. All they need to do is spend the money RESPONSIBLY-no stupid Paul Lo Duca, Rob Mackowiak or Johnny Estrada signings.

I'd like to point out before I go any further that I get all contract information from Cot's Baseball Contracts. It's crazy in-depth, accurate and (better yet), incredibly user friendly.

I'm not going to waste a whole lot of space on the Nats' contractual obligations for next year. I will, however, link you to another spreadsheet I made. It profiles all Nats 40-man guys and their contracts for next year. So here it is.

If my calculations are correct (some are bound to be off by a little bit, but I doubt many are off by much...if they are, leave corrections in comments), the Nats have $40.7 mil tied up for 2009 in contracts for 31 players (under the assumption that all guys under team control that haven't hit arbitration yet are auto-renewed and all guys eligible for arbitration are offered, minus Colome, so it's likely to be even less than that).

The Nats' opening day payroll in 2008 is a few dollars (well, $39 thousand dollars is a few dollars to the Lerners) short of $55 mil. Even a $5-10 mil raise in payroll (don't be cheap, Lerners) would give Kasten and Bowden's replacement roughly $19 mil-$24 mil to play with. That's a lot of money, maybe even enough to feed Latrell Sprewell's family. Let's see what we can do with that extra cash. I'll go over the starting lineup tonight, the pitching staff tomorrow night and the bench Saturday night.

Without further ado, your 2009 Washington Nationals' starting lineup!
1) Cristian Guzman, SS (resigned, $7 mil per year over 2 years)
Guzman is the shortstop most likely to give the Nats their most bang for their buck, as he won't cost the 8 digits per year that Furcal will and will (hopefully) take a small hometown discount (because we payed for a whole lot of nothin' from 2005-07).
Realistic 2009 prediction: .305/.335/.425, 8 SB, 8 HR, 90 R, 55 RBI
2) Mark Ellis, 2B (FA signing, $5.5 mil per year over 2 years)
Performance-wise, I'd rather have Orlando Hudson, but we all know the Lerners are too cheap for him. So I'll settle with Ellis, formerly of the Oakland A's. He would fit very well in the #2 hole (career OPS+ of 100, meaning he's exactly league-average hitting-wise, but with more BB than K this year, he obviously can handle the bat well enough for the 2 hole) and is a great fielder. The only knock in this plan is that he and the Athletics are currently talking extension. Let's hope he slips out of Billy Beane's hands.
Realistic 2009 prediction: .275/.340/.420, 10 SB, 12 HR, 90 R, 65 RBI
3) Ryan Zimmerman, 3B (arbitration-eligble, ~$5 mil for 2009)
We all know Zimmerman's abilities. He is the king of the walkoff, has a large ownership in Web Gems and always seems to be the guy to get a key hit when you need one. The question: is he going to be 100% healthy next year? I'm leaning yes. For now. It will be fun to see him have the breakout year everyone thought he would have this year.
Realistic 2009 prediction: .290/.350/.490, 5 SB, 28 HR, 95 R, 105 RBI
4) Adam Dunn, 1B (FA signing, $14 mil for 1 year).
Dunn is a three-true-outcomes hitter (meaning he usually homers, strikes out or walks). I'm perfectly content with him hitting cleanup. You know what you're going to get: 40 HR, 100 RBI, 100 BB, 180 K. He's not a 1B by trade, but has spent significant time there over his career (remember, Dmitri started as an OF also). Speaking of Da Meat Hook, Dunn can't be as bad fielding-wise as him, so it's an improvement across the board. I am suggesting a Dunn signing because he'll come relatively cheap compared to his true production (don't let the .250ish batting average fool you, he's quite a threat in the lineup). His power shouldn't decline a whole lot outside of the Great American Ballpark (look at his Home/Away splits here. His OPS may be 51 points lower on the road in his career, but .866 still ain't bad. And he ain't Garrett Atkins). I am also suggesting signing Dunn because Johnson is inevitably going to be hurt and I've got a gut feeling* Da Meat Hook is gone by the deadline (*as opposed to Ray King's Gut Feeling, my favorite Nationals Journal username).
Realistic 2009 prediction: .250/.380/.525, 5 SB, 40 HR, 105 R, 125 RBI
5) Austin Kearns, RF (under contract, $8 mil)
I don't think it's much of a secret that I'm a big Austin Kearns fan. I can't stand but like the guy who can best pull off overalls and a John Deere trucker hat. I also can't stand but like his defensive abilities or his ability to get on base. One thing to watch out for: if the Nats sign Adam Dunn, they've brought in Kearns' best friend. I don't know if that could work out any better for the morale of the two guys, and I have a feeling it would positively influence the performance of both.
Realistic 2009 prediction: .270/.360/.470, 5 SB, 25 HR, 85 R, 95 RBI
6) Elijah Dukes, LF (under contract, $400k auto-renew likely)
Dukes has surprised me a lot this year in ways I didn't expect. It seems as if he was telling the truth when he talked about being closer to a model citizen now that he got away from some of his bad friends from his hometown (my words). There's no doubt in my mind that Dukes will be a solid performer in 2009. He's proved to me that he's not only worth a spot on the 25-man roster, but a spot in the starting lineup. This is what I least expected: now, when I hear the name Elijah Dukes, "great ballplayer" comes to mind before "bad person." A lot can happen in a year, and it certainly doesn't come close to erasing the turmoil of his past, but he's taken giant steps and instilled confidence in both Nats fans and himself.
Realistic 2009 prediction: .270/.370/.460, 25 SB, 20 HR, 80 R, 80 RBI
7) Jesus Flores, C (under contract, $400k auto-renew likely)
I'm going to be straight-up with you right here: I'm not confident that Flores can handle hitting above 6th over a full season-yet. He's a little too streaky at this point and looks foolish at times. That being said, he's STILL an above-average catcher both behind the plate and at it. I think wedging him between Dukes and L-Millz would be a good situation for him.
Realistic 2009 prediction: .265/.325/.445, 1 SB, 15 HR, 55 R, 75 RBI
8) Lastings Milledge, CF (under contract, $400k auto-renew likely)
As good as Lastings looked this year, he still only hit .245/.312/.368, a far cry from last year's line of .272/.341/.446. I think he's somewhere in the middle, and is also a developing center fielder. I don't see why we shouldn't write "8" beside him on both sides (the lineup and the fielding arrangements) next year and see what he can do. If he gets hurt again, or plays bad, Dukes is probably a better CF at this point anyways. Stick him there and someone else in LF if needed.
Realistic 2009 prediction: .265/.335/.435, 25 SB, 15 HR, 65 R, 65 RBI

These 8 guys under my "realistic 2009 predictions" would score 665 runs (and account for 665 RBI, coincidentally). The 2008 Washington Nationals are on pace for 583 runs as an entire team (which wouldn't include bench players). Now, my predictions all won't come true (and injuries do happen...but we all know that), but that would be a significant improvement, wouldn't you think? And on the whole, the lineup would cost the difference between Guzman's 2008 and 2009 salaries (roughly $3 mil), the difference between Kearns' 2008 and 2009 salaries (roughly $3 mil), the difference between Lopez' 2008 salary and Ellis' 2009 salary (roughly $300k) and the difference between Young's 2008 salary and Dunn's 2009 salary (roughly $9 mil). So a little more than $15 mil could improve the starting lineup to the point that it would score 82 runs more than this year's entire team combined (including the bench and pitchers)...and my runs/RBI predictions were made more on player career averages/highs than the players playing around them (so they may be a little bit low in the cases of Guzman, Ellis, Dukes, Flores and Milledge). Is that $15 mil worth it to you? Account for around 100 more runs between all bench players and pitchers and you're looking at an offense that scores 765 runs. That equates to 4.72 a game, which would 6th out of 16 in the league this year. Combine that with a bullpen that is improved a little bit, and the Nats could break even on runs next year (will go further into depth there tomorrow).

But it's your turn. What do you think about my plans? It's all easier said than done, but these days, money talks louder than most other factors. Time to pull out your checkbooks, Lerner family.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Part 3 coming tomorrow

Got back from the game pretty late, so I'll just post my thoughts on that and do Part 3 in the "Maybe Next Year" series tomorrow.

It was quite a game tonight! I took the girlfriend (it was her first baseball game sitting in the stands) and we had a good time, even better because the Nats won! She liked Dmitri a lot, as well as Belliard, because they were "gangster" and "played with swagger." I wonder what she would have said if Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge were playing. But I guess Da Meat Hook and Belliard are old enough to be referred to as "O.G.'s" now, as in "original gangsters."

Jesus Flores and Kory Casto came through with the big hits (and walk) for the Nats tonight. Lo Duca was hit by pitch one too few times (since he's still on the team at the moment). Lannan didn't pitch incredibly well (threw a lot of balls), but he did get himself out of a lot of jams, inducing the Diamondbacks into countless double plays (actually, my dad counted, and it was 4).

It was my first win at Nationals Park, with the previous 4 games being losses by the counts of 6-0, 6-1, 13-3 and 10-2. Sooooo the GF is officially GL-good luck.

That's all I've got. I'll probably have a post at some point during the day tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Caps resign Fedorov, Laich

According to TSN (via OFB and Japers' Rink), the Caps resigned C Sergei Fedorov to a 1 year, $4 mil deal. And according to Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post, forward Brooks Laich was resigned to a 3 year deal worth $1.7 mil in 2008-09, $2.1 mil in 2009-10 and $2.4 mil in 2010-11.

A week ago today, I posted up my predictions: Feds at $2.5 mil and Laich at $1.75 mil. I was pretty dead on about Laich and pretty far off about Feds. I am in love with Brooksie's deal (as opposed to most women, who are just in love with Brooksie). He's signed 3 years for fairly cheap. If he progresses rather than regresses over those 3 years, he can be a pretty special player. Feds' deal I'm a little skeptical of. I guess you can't put a dollar amount on a player that is good himself and makes other players better as well. I can't be negative about the signing. I'm glad to have Feds on our team still.

With a combined $5.7 cap number between Feds and Brooksie, the Caps have roughly $3.55 mil left to spend on Fehr, Morrisonn and Gordon. As my friend Emily graciously pointed out: Gordo is a luxury at this point. We don't really need him back, and it's probably in our best interest to save ourselves the cap room. As commenters on Capitals Insider pointed out, Karl Alzner's contract has to be in the mix too. Crap. His cap number is $1.675. So basically we have $1.8 mil to resign Fehr, who will take his qualifying offer and Morrisonn, who hopefully will come back at a discounted price. The Caps will have a lot more breathing room if Pothier is put on the hockey equivalent of the physically unable to perform list (called the LTIR by Emily), as his contract won't count against the cap. That would give them an extra $2.5 mil to play with. Also, a guy like Jurcina ($912k) could be dealt before the season starts to clear room for Kap'n Karl.

Just put your trust in GMGM's ability to navigate the salary cap. No matter what, it's a good day to be a Caps fan!

Maybe Next Year? Part Two

Yesterday I went over some moves I think the Nats would be wise to make this coming offseason in order to take a step towards (and perhaps over) .500 next year.

Last night's post was some of the "who," but tonight's post is the rest of the "who" and some of the "what," where I'll (crudely) project the names and prices of the roster for next year. Guys like Texeira, Hudson, Furcal and K-Rod likely price themselves out of the Nats' range, but maybe Uncle Teddy will surprise us (probably not).

To do this, I made a beautiful spreadsheet using Google Documents:

As you can (hopefully) tell, I have no idea how to make it show up right on the blog. I'll just direct you to the link where you can look (and sort!). You can see my spreadsheet here.

I'd like to point out 10 "set in stone" players for next year. "Set in stone" does not mean "untouchable" or anything along those lines. Instead it's guys who I can't imagine the Nationals trading and guys who are basically are guaranteed a spot on next year's team and the Nats meanwhile have no reason to trade them (either due to a small contract, or even a large, unmovable contract). Thus, "set in stone" is not necessarily a good thing. The ten players I named: Flores, Zimmerman, Dukes, Milledge, Kearns, Lannan, Bergmann, Balester, Rivera, Hanrahan. I'd say there is a 99.9% chance all 10 of those players are on the Nationals' opening day roster next year (barring injury, of course).

Tomorrow night I'll go through my personal projections, for both the 25 and 40-man rosters. They will include (again, crude) statistical projections for the players on both rosters. I'll also include in the post what I figure the Nationals will do with the players that are on the roster now that I don't project to be there next year. Hopefully by then, I'll figure out how to make stuff from Google Docs able to show up in a blog entry (has to be converted to a picture as far as I know).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Maybe next year?

No, that's not a concession. Chico's questions today on the Nats' Strategy for the Future has inspired me. I've got a plan of my own. A plan to be .500 next year with minimal moves needed.

First, start signing some mid-level free agents this year (probably type B guys, maybe one type A guy) and then NEXT year start going after the studs. Do what the Tigers did and sign a guy like Pudge this year to build the team around and then fill in the rest of the holes next year.

The foundation is here. It is POSSIBLE to make the playoffs next year, but only if Jim Bowden is canned. It is NOT PROBABLE, by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't find it incredibly hard to see Zimmerman, Milledge, Dukes, Kearns, Flores, Lannan, Balester, Redding, Bergmann, etc. having breakout years.

Here's what I think our lineup and 25-man roster could look like next year with minimal FA signings:

SS-Cristian Guzman (resigned for $14 mil/2 years)
2B-Orlando Hudson (FA signing for $32 mil/3 years)
3B-Ryan Zimmerman
1B-Adam Dunn (FA Signing for $12 mil/1 year)
RF-Austin Kearns
LF-Elijah Dukes
C-Jesus Flores
CF-Lastings Milledge

L-John Lannan
R-Colin Balester
R-Tim Redding
R-Jason Bergmann
L-Oliver Perez (FA signing for $5 mil/1 year)

Closer: Jon Rauch
Setup: FA to be named later (Wheeler was resigned in April)
Middle: Luis Ayala/Saul Rivera (trade one, keep one)
Middle: Steven Shell
Middle: Adam Carr or Zech Zinicola
Situational: Charlie Manning
Long: Joel Hanrahan

CA Wil Nieves/Luke Montz
1B Nick Johnson/Dmitri Young (keep one, trade one)
IF Aaron Miles/Mark Loretta/Adam Everett/Pete Orr/Yurendell Decaster/Leonard Davis (signed at $1.5 mil/year or less)
IF/OF Willie Harris
IF/OF Kory Casto
OF Wily Mo Pena

See...a few mid-to-upper level FA signings would really change the complexion of the team. I think that's a lineup and rotation that could make the playoffs, with the assumption that the young hitters progress rather than regress. That's a dangerous assumption, but who can see the team going .500 by simply signing Dunn, Hudson and Perez? The nice thing is this: By signing guys like Dunn and Perez, it shouldn't block youngsters from coming up. They'll likely only demand a 1 year, incentive-laden deals because they've had relative down years this year (Dunn's BA is .228 and Perez' ERA is 4.62). I think we can make it happen. I'd also like to note this: no more assuming Johnson is going to be healthy. I'm planning like he's hurt from now on. Dunn is basically Johnson with a little less AVG/OBP and significantly more power (and better durability).

Here's a list of 2009 FA's by the way:

48 Hours

It's been about 48 hours since my last post, so I'll give you a recap of what's new:

See that blank space? It represents what has happened since Saturday evening. The Nats still suck, as they lost for the 5th straight game (including being swept in 4 games against Cincinnati). The Hokies haven't made any news lately (thank goodness) and the Caps are in that awkward 2 week stretch between Laich and Morrisonn accepting arbitration and the actual process. I could talk to you about the Caps' rookie camp (or developmental camp, whatever it's called) but Japers' Rink is really your source there.

So what is there to talk about?
C.C Sabathia was traded to the Brew Crew. My contending team, the Cubs, should be a little worried. Not too worried, as Sabathia will only pitch in 15 (regular season) games for the rest of the season. At the moment, Sabathia replaces Jeff Suppan, who was placed on the 15-day DL yesterday. Suppan's injury, called "persistant irritation" by, is likely only going to keep him out for 1 or 2 starts. Over such a small sample size, it's hard to say whether or not Sabathia would have a large impact. I'll overestimate and say he'll be responsible for 1 more win over those 2 games. After that, I'm guessing Dave Bush is the odd man out (I'll double check with my roommate, a Brewers and Packers fan that I would feel sorry for...but he once liked New Found Glory, which negates my benefit of the doubt...check out his analysis of the C.C. move if you get a chance). Bush is he loses 2 of every 3 decisions. Even if C.C. wins 2 of every 3 decisions for the rest of the year, he's a 5-6 win improvement. And that's the best case scenario (although somebody might want to add in his value as a hitter as well). The thing is: the Brewers have 66 fewer runs scored than the Cubs. The addition of Sabathia might replace the 26 runs allowed disadvantage they have, but the Cubs are still a superior team from top-to-bottom. Especially when Alfonso Soriano returns from injury.

And I guess for your Nats fix, here are my answers to the mailbag:
Is shortstop Cristian Guzman going to be dealt at the July 31 Trade Deadline?
-- Will S., Reston, Va.

Yes. The Nats were supposed to have signed him by now. Now I'd say there's about a 50/50 chance he stays still, but if he's not signed 10 days after he was supposedly "very close to signing", I bet Guzman called JimBo's girlfriend "guapo" and JimBo misinterpreted it (mainly thanks to "El Guapo" who does not translate to "the beautiful one") and did something to offend him, like saying this: Su madre es un puerco gordo. I think that this scenario could potentially happen: Guzman traded somewhere as a rental (LA?) and resigns in the offseason. He would be a Type B (because of playing time) so he wouldn't cost us a pick like he did the first time around, despite playing better.

Do you take back your assessment of the trade that sent Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner from the Reds to the Nationals on July 13, 2006. You thought it was a steal for Washington?
-- Justin, C., Atlanta, Ga.

It WAS a steal for the Nats. The Nats traded two middle relievers, a crappy old shortstop, an unhappy infielder (sorry, can't find the link on Harris) and a so-so prospect (at the time) for an up-and-coming outfielder, a 26 year old all-star shortstop and an interesting reliever. The trade was incredibly lopsided in the Nats favor. 99% of the time this trade is made, the Nats make out like bandits. But for some reason, Felipe and Kearns left their bats in Cincy and the Nats only come out with two average players in return for their crap.

This is only semi-related, but in my search for stuff on that trade came up with this link, where the original rumor consisted of Kearns and Brandon Phillips to the Nats. Oh, how nice would that have been?

Knowing that Bowden likes Reds outfielder/first baseman Adam Dunn, what are the chances that Dunn could be in a Nationals uniform?
-- Joe B., New York, N.Y.

In a trade: 10% chance. As an FA after the season: 50% chance. Even with Dukes, Milledge, Kearns, Johnson and Da Meat Hook taking up all of the positions Dunn can play, he will be a National next year if Bowden is still GM (which is the 50% chance).

Don't you think this team needs some talent on the Major League level to generate interest. You can't possibly be forgetting the reason that they are in Washington in the first place, can you?
-- Jon A., Stony Brook, N.Y.

What's the point? The season's over. The Nats only need to go 7-65 for the rest of the year to end up with more wins than the (and that would require almost twice as bad of a pace as July's 1 win in 6 games). All potential interest is gone. The exciting youngsters are basically all on the DL (Zimmerman, Milledge, Dukes) and everyone who planned on seeing Nationals Park has seen it by now. Suck it up, let the kids play and grab San Diego State ace Stephen Strasburg #1 overall next year.

Will Ronnie Belliard and Dmitri Young be traded before the Trade Deadline
-- Rob A., Washington D.C.

I'm going to say one of them gets traded. Both are hitting fairly well at the moment. Belliard is signed relatively cheap (Young really isn't). If Belliard is traded, it means either Pete Orr or Ray Olmedo or somebody equally bad as a replacement. I say Young goes and Bill Rhinehart is the starting 1B in September.

Now that Nick Johnson is out for the reminder of the season, what will be the approach with him for next season? Will he stay here in Washington?
-- Daniel O, Centreville, Va.

Just as I do every year, I assume he'll be out for the season and am surprised (sometimes even pleasantly surprised) for every single at bat he takes. Cherish those at bats, kids. You might not see many more out of Porcelain Man.

I am mostly frustrated that the team lacks basic fundamentals -- not moving the runner over to second or third with no outs, baserunning blunders, throwing to the wrong base or swinging at the first pitch after the pitcher throws four straight balls to the previous batter. What are your thoughts?
-- Tim R., Auburn, N.Y.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When you play for a team almost 20 games under .500 before the ASG, who is going to blame you (and for that matter, replace you) for not hustling, sucking at bunting or overthrowing the cutoff man? I'm pretty sure they're not going so far to start signing bloggers.

But for all the people clamoring, "Let the Kids Play!!," you're ignoring the fact that many of them are skipping fundamental training. It's a lot different learning to bunt against 75 mph fastballs in HS and 95 mph fastballs in the majors. John Lannan spent very little time in the high minors, where pitchers adjust to higher pitch speeds. As the linked article above says, Bergmann was predominantly a reliever in the minors, so he didn't hit at all. Bernadina and Dukes do miss their cutoff men, but it's because they're trying their absolute hardest to nab baserunners. I agree, the fundamentals need to be in place when the Nats are ready to compete. But for now, just sit back and let this ragtag group play as hard as they want to. I have a feeling "don't throw the ball home in that situation" could translate "don't try and throw out advancing runners" in the minds of youngsters like Bernadina. The funadmentals need work, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn't make a difference anymore this year.