A Washington Nationals Blog

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Wily Mo Connection

OK, so now a guy with a career reputation, with number to back it up, as a prolific strike out goes 3 for 4 and absolutely kills one out at "The Juice Box." So this raises a huge new question mark for the Nationals outfield. Alright, fine, Bowden found the 40 HR bat that we need, even though it came along with a ton of Ks. But the real question is: where do you put him? He is, at best, a mediocre, and more likely a poor defensive corner outfielder, who wants to play right field. The problem is that Kearns is the Nats right fielder of the present and future. I know that Kearns hasn't been putting up the numbers at all this season, but I don't think that you can give up on him regardless. Church has also failed to meet the expectations of everyone that said, "Just give him a full season, he'll show you." But has he done so poorly all around that you replace him with Pena? I don't know, but I think that such a decision comes too soon. Plus none of this solves the issue of CF, which has been a revolving door for the Nats ever since they moved to DC. And it is a problem that still hasn't been solved and I don't think will be until 2009 at the earliest.

As for the long term impact of Wily Mo, its still way to early to tell. How will he handle RFK in the long run, or more importantly, the NEW ballpark next season? Will he continue to hit for average and not strike out? Will his power truly help turn this line-up around offensively? I think that the answers are going to be bad, then just poorly; no; and not as much as we need because of the previous 'no'.

Despite this, the trade was a good one. We got a big, although flawed bat for a minor league 1B that is probably only going to cost us one minor league reliever. So we basically are going to get Pena for a Winston Abreu.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Chico Gets the Hook

So Matt Chico's time in the bigs, at east for now, is over. Chico has been sent down to AAA after another lackluster start where he committed the trifecta of pitching sins by throwing too many pitches, walking too many batters, and going less than 5 innings. The move makes room for Wily Mo, who will likely be starting in left field.

I have to feel bad for Chico. His most recent starts have been poor to terrible, but the kid has managed to take the ball every five days and go out there and at least try. And with his demotion, the Nats have now eliminated the last member of the Opening Day rotation. I would assume the goal over sending him down for a couple of weeks is to get him the chance to work on his control and mechanics, which have been seriously struggling and causing most of his problems. Hopefully we will see good numbers in the two or three starts out of Chico and not a collapse that sometimes comes from a demotion like this.

But I would anticipate that Matt will be back with the big club in September as one of the call-ups. In fact I think that the club owes it to him to come back up and at east keep him with the club and give him a couple more innings in September. I understand the need to see more of Lannan, Hanrahan, and possibly Bowie if he returns, but Chico has been the closest thing that this team has had to an iron man on the pitching staff and deserves at least a little prize for his efforts. Plus, even with his bad starts, the kid posted an ERA of under 5.00, better than some of the pitchers on the '06 staff. So Matt, good luck and see you again in September, and then again in February when you get a shot to pitch that opening series in the South Capitol home.

Trader Jim Strikes Back

So only one day after signing the last in a long line of draft picks, JimBo has finally pulled the trigger on Wily Mo Pena who has been widely talked about as a possible waiver trade for the Nats. So now we have a 25 year old former Cincy outfielder for a player to be named later. It is now officially my hope that we can pursue Adam Dunn in the off-season if for no reason other than consistency in our outfield acquisitions.

But the trade with Boston raises at least two questions. First, who goes to pay for Pena. In a perfect world, you would trade a Logan or a Church or maybe even a Langerhans; coupled with a King or Bacsik for Pena. The main hope is that the Nats don't give up one of the shiny new draft pieces for the seriously slumping Pena. The second and more pressing issue is: where will he play? Even if he gets sent to Columbus for a couple of weeks, Pena is almost a given as a September call-up, but the other question is whether he will be at RFK as soon as this weekend and whether we will try him at LF or CF. These questions and more have yet to be answered. But here is the official release anyway.

OK, question answered. Pena will play left, Church center, and Kearns continues in right. So ends the Nook Logan Experiment.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Zimmerman's Defense

At this point, it is well established that Zimm is one of the best defensive 3rd basemen in the majors. That is right now, at age 22. But he does have a serious problem, namely, sailing the ball every time he has an easy play to make. This simply doesn't make sense. It goes against the fundamental concept of "easy", being something that is "not hard or difficult; requiring no great labor or effort." (Thank you Webster's). In fact, Ryan has now committed 18 errors over the course of the season, which just happens to be the same number of home runs the Zimmerman has hit going into tonight's game. Now, the thinking from the Nationals brain trust seems to be that there is a basic mechanical issue that needs to get worked out by Ryan. It is either foot work (Manny) or he is standing too tall (Ryan). In a way, it seems that they are both right. Zimmerman seems to pull his feet in too close together when he has time with a throw, which both puts his feet out of position and makes him stand too tall. This isn't something huge. In fact, its something that can get and hopefully will get worked out in the near future. But if Zimm wants a Gold Glove, he needs to take the problem seriously, or he risks just become a mediocre infielder and a defensive liability as he loses range later (much later) in his career. Last year's winner, the perennial winner, Scott Rolen, committed only 15 for the season, which was a high number for Rolen, who has committed 10 or less a number of times in his career. But one thing is forgotten about ol' Scotty: in his first full season, he committed 24 errors, and followed that up with 14 the next two seasons. Even the god of all third basemen, Brooks Robinson committed 21 errors in his first full year. But Zimmerman has the talent, and ability, to be as good or better than Rolen, and maybe even Brooks defensively. This year is, in effect, the delayed rookie season for Zimmerman, and if he works to solve his issues, we should see the outstanding numbers that he is capable of.

In the meantime, he has hit 18 homers going into tonight's rubber match. Last year he hit 20. This year he will easily match and likely surpass that total by a wide margin. But all this raises the new poll question of the week. Will Zimmerman end this season with more HRs or more E5s? The polls are now open, please vote and feel free to discuss.

A little hometown love for John Lannan

This is a great little story about Lannan from the point of view of a guy who knew him in middle school and got to watch him pitch that solid game against the Giants a little while back (that was only like a week ago wasn't it? Seems longer to me.) But anyway, hopefully the guy will get his wish: Lannan isn't at Shea, but he is starting against the Mets (Lannan is from Long Island) on Saturday at RFK.

Batting 1.000 in the Draft!!!

OK, so the Nats have decided to really step up tonight. A great win over the Phillies, and a last minute announcement that Jack McGeary signed on the dotted line for a $1.8 million bonus. This means that the Nationals have signed 20 of their top 20 draft picks. This is not only astounding, it is borderline unprecedented. I tip my hats to the Lerners who went out of the slot to pay for McGeary and got what they said they were looking for. I mean, this kid turned down a scholarship to Stanford and now finds himself the next in line of Washington Nationals young LHPs.

The big thing is that the Nationals went way over slot for this signing. Everyone has said that McGeary of 1st round talent, but nobody thought he would ever sign. Turns out he had 1.8 million reasons to sign with the Nationals and he did. This just makes me giddy, I got to watch another great home game, plus the last of the star draft picks is in the fold!

Now, Bill Ladson had posted a downer of a story right after the Smoker signing about how McGeary was not, just flat out not going to sign with the Nationals and had decided to go to Stanford. I've got to say that I was a little skeptical when it was published, and it was roundly denounced in both the Post and the Washington Times and pretty much everywhere else that said the deal was still open and it was just a matter of how much money the Nationals were willing to spend (read; how willing to piss off MLB the Lerners were). And now, reading back through that article of Ladson's, two main things caught my eye. First, Dana Brown was the source of all the talk on the Nationals' side of things. Brown knows scouting, but he is not, repeat NOT the GM or the President, who are the ones making decisions on whether deals are dead or not. This one clearly was not. I think that it was telling that the info was coming from a scouting director, not somebody more directly involved in the operations and signing side of these things. It was Brown's job to find McGeary, not to sign him. The second thing is the statements from McGeary himself, "I was surprised that I was taken as high as sixth. I thought I would be falling in the teens or 20s." This means that he probably felt like the Nats wanted him, plus it made it easier to go over the slot and pay 1st round money for a sixth round pick then 1st round for a 15th round pick. Overall, I think that Nats320 is right, this draft had the ability to be a turning point: it is. The Nationals and the Lerners have stepped up and paid the money that they needed to and have now made the light pay roster of this year make even more sense. The extra bonuses to those like Smoker and McGeary were at least in part possible because of The Plan. All hail The PLAN (at least for tonight).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Josh Smoker is a Washington National

Or, more precisely, a Gulf Coast League National for the time being. The signing was announced today and means, as I'm sure you have heard, that the Nats have signed 19 of their 20 picks. Smoker came for a nice even number: $1 MILLION. It was a good pick up and means that the Nationals have now signed both of their compensation picks from letting go of Soriano at the end of the season and not trading him last July. The result is basically getting Smoker, a hot prospect and only 18 years old, along with Jordan Zimmermann, a RHP currently with the Lake Monsters as part of that phenomenal pitching lineup in Vermont. So, in the end, Bowden got what he wanted, namely two young pitching prospects in exchange for an all-star rental.

That leaves only one late pick that the Nationals would love, but don't need to take in order to have had a great draft year. So for all the comments about how the Lerners haven't been giving up the $$, this should quiet some of that, it means that they are willing to not only pay for usable now college talent (Detwiler), but also to pay good money for high school talent that will fill out the system and give us something to grow over the years.

Smoker likely the Newest National

Barry on the Journal is reporting that Josh Smoker has likely signed and the official announcement will be made at 4:30 this evening. I haven't been able to find any info about dollars or anything else, but it looks like that Nationals have brought another good young arm to Washington and have now signed all but one sixth-round draft pick from this year's Amateur Draft. More on the details if I find them. Ok, Nationals Farm Authority now saying a $950K bonus was reported by the Washington Times.

Wily Mo

The Boston Globe is reporting that the Sox are looking to reach a deal with a National League team in the near future and are close to reaching a deal. There has been a lot of talk about the Nats being the team that picks up Pena, who has recently cleared waivers and could be up for grabs. There isn't a lot of additional info on this, though I have seen some rumors that the deal has fallen through. Still no word on the more hopeful (and more likely) signing of Smoker or possibility Jack McGeary, though McGeary is widely thought to be going to college, not pro ball. Here is the deal, the Nats have the chance, but likely not the goods, to make a trade with Boston for the likes of Pena, who has had an awful season. But there is, at least in my mind, a good possibility that Smoker will get signed, likely above his slot, and that we will see him in the system for a couple of weeks before he heads out to fall and winter ball, which I would assume is likely for a kid in his position. If something is heard, which is hopefully will be, then I'll get it our as soon as possible.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bye bye Bacsik

And with that, you can bid Mike Bacsik adieu as a starter from the Washington Nationals. With Tuesday being the return of Hill to the, well, hill, it means that there needs to be a spot opened up in the rotation. So Bacsik was the choice. And really he was the only one.

Lannan-been too good, and you haven't seen enough to make a true decision.
Hanrahan-same as Lannan, but has shown more consistent composure and has seriously looked like a veteran of a couple seasons in his starts.
Redding-Older than the rest of the options (he'll be 30 over the winter), but he has shown good stuff recently and could become a good veteran piece or even a low-level trade at a later date. But again, you need to keep seeing him.
Chico-Last man standing. I know that he has struggled in his last 3 to 5 starts or so, but he is the only person to hold up through the whole season and you have to at least give him a cookie for that work.

That leaves Bacsik. He simply hasn't been spotting his pitches and, to be honest, it looks like everyone has seen enough of him now that the book on Bacsik is pretty open and he has to pitch perfect in order to work through a major league lineup once, let alone two or three times. So he's going to the bullpen. I hope that he does well and I wish him luck.

But all this raises an even bigger question. The Nats, with the 300 pitchers called into Spring Training and mocked in so many places (including here to some degree), but the end result now is that you have a bunch of mediocre to promising arms that you have let start and now you want to see them all. But I've heard rumors, especially on the TV broadcast Don Sutton had a throw away line a couple nights ago, that there would not be a six-man rotation. This, in my opinion, would be the way to go with this team. It would give you the chance to see an additional pitcher for a couple more starts and spread around the experience. But I wasn't hired in the off-season and Manny was, so the rotation stays at five. This means that as Bergmann and maybe Bowie get back, there may be even fewer spots and more people will have to get shuffled to the 'pen. It also means that we will likely not see Ross Detwiler brought up, even for a brief showing, this season. I think that this is probably good. We have seen a lot, I mean a lot of young arms and have found a couple of guys that might have parts in the rotation in '08. But we don't need to rush Detwiler just so that we can all oooh and aaah until he gets slapped around in the early innings. The most impressive thing is the confidence and ability to bounce back after a beating that most of the call-ups have shown. A lot of that comes from time spent well in the minors and is something that Detwiler (who needs a nickname by the way) can only learn down on the farm. So, with folks like Bacsik going to the 'pen, its best that the young promising arms stay down and build experience. No ball on Monday, and look forward to the all important August 15 deadline for draft signings coming up this week!!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

So that was an abusive loss. 11-4 is not what you look for out of a team that is supposed to be on a winning streak and looking for a good end to the regular season. But it is what we got. And it was all because of one thing. Walks, all 10 of them killed this game. I thought it was over for sure when Chico started literally giving away runs like candy, but then Livo decided to give up homer like so much of the same candy. I was really kind of a chronic problem for all Nats pitchers today. 10 walks. I really just don't know what to say. I mean, Rivera and King walked 4 and only got one out between the two of them! But deep breath. This is bound to happen to all pitchers sometimes. They are after all, human. Except for Rauch who is simply too tall to qualify at simply human.

But back to my point, the real issue is that they all crapped out at once. This is no good. We could have handled Chico, or even Chico and Rivera. But three pitchers all missing their marks on one night is just too much. It really cast a shadow on the fun of batting practice off Livan, or as Carpenter referred to it, slow-pitch softball off Livan.

So, since its late, or early, or whatever two things to take away.

1. Matt Chico is starting to look shaky and in need of some more seasoning again. This is unfortunate, but not really unexpected. The kid is 22 and never even saw a AAA start in his life. Months like this are going to happen.

2. Homers are not enough for this team to win consistently. In fact, the Nats look their best when everyone is drilling doubles around the park like the St. Louis series looked at times. We hit 3 solo shots and scored 4 runs. Need more base runners, more base hits, and less of the ill-timed long ball.

Alright, enough for now, I need sleep.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Just Had to Post This...Now w/ Commentary

Got this email from MASN regarding the outage earlier:

Thank you for contacting MASN.

Television blackouts are periodically imposed upon all teams in Major League Baseball. They are beyond the control of the teams themselves.On Saturday night, the start of the Nationals’ game was briefly blacked out for about 15 percent of MASN’s subscriber audience.

A miscommunication regarding blackout programming for Saturday night’s game caused some DC area cable subscribers to miss the first several innings of the game. Satellite customers were not affected, nor were any cable customers outside of the Washington, D.C. area.While this was an isolated incident --- and was in fact the first network error in MASN’s three year history of televising more than 430 Nationals baseball games -- it was unacceptable and we apologize for the inconvenience.

We appreciate the feedback from Nationals fans, who allowed us to correct the mistake quickly.

MASN will continue to hold ourselves to the standards of excellence that the Nationals and their fans deserve from their sports network.

Thank you again for contacting MASN.

Your friends at the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network

Well, it only took 5 days for them to email back, so thanks for small favors. But here is the real issue. It seems like MASN is dumping the blame either on Baseball, or on DCA. Well, that's fine. But here is the problem: As the provider of the game's feed and as the producer of the product, you would think that MASN would make an explicit effort to make sure that their product gets out eeach and every day. Apparently, they don't do that. I guess its just enough to have cameras and Bob and Don there and hope for the best. This is not only bad for the fans, its a stupid premise to run a network on.

Second, it said that the blackout (read here: our inability to do our jobs) only affected 15% of MASN subscribers. Those being the 15% that are within the DC Metro area and could have seen the game on DCA. Masn covers a huge area according to their website: The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) is a registered trade name of TCR Sports Broadcasting Holding, LLP, a regional sports network. MASN serves a 7 state area, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Charlotte, North Carolina and including Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, the District of Columbia and parts of West Virginia. So what this means is that the people who couldn't watch the game are the ones that would be most interested in doing so. It was the people that live in DC and the 'burbs. I would be that folks in Cleveland Park, Rockville, and Arlington have more interest in the Nationals game than people north of Aberdeen or in North Carolina. So this means that even though only 15% of possible viewers were blacked out, something like 50% of the hardcore Nats fans got screwed. This is just poor and needs to be fixed.

The last thing is the half truth about it being the first network failure. OK, it is the first time that the game was suposed to be on WDCA that it wasn't. But it is by no means the first time that there have been 'technical difficulties'. I have personally had at least 4 outages this season, including Wednesday night when the feed went black right at the beginning of the game and the sound and picture kept freezing and cutting out for the first inning. If you want Nationals fans to quit complaining, yelling, emailing, calling, and writing letters, then don't run a network that would be considered poor by a Community College-run local cable access channel. In other words, Peter Angelos, pay up. You got the TV rights, now spend some money to protect them. I would be that a failure to provide regular TV access to the DC area for Nationals games could be considered a breach of the agreement that you stole from MLB. In fact, maybe that's it. DC is a litigous town Stan, find some lawyers and sue MASN. If they can't provide good access, maybe this agreement should be void. Put somebody on that. Or send the MASN agreeement to me and I'll get on it! Just so long as we can end this idiocy and I can watch games every night like anyone else in the United States (and parts of Canada) get to without fear of 'technical difficulty' lies from MASN.

Giants Early Re-cap

So now we are only waiting for the business-person's special in San Fran to start and then the Nats' date with history is done. Its obvious that now Mike Bacsik is going to be the answer to a trivia question for the rest of time. And after I saw the pitch, the first thing that I thought was, man, he really missed with that pitch. But then, after staying up late to watch the press conference, and reading some of Manny's comments in the paper, I almost have to wonder if Bacsik accidently on purpose left that pitch up in the zone. I've got three reasons for this thought. First, Bacsik is a soft-tosser, but he chose in a full ocunt against the most feared hitter in a generation to throw his fastball. Just doesn't really make sense. I would love to hear from Schneider how they come to that pitch and why they threw it then. Second, is Manny's comments after the game that he felt Mike was a little to excited about being part of history. And third is the way that Bacsik came off during the interview. He was well-spoken, funny, and thoughtful. But that isn't what was so interesting. When he was asked about giving it up, he seemed less interested in the fact that it but the Giants up by one, and more interested in the fact that he was now part of history and since someone had to give up the homer, it might as well have been him. All of this make me wonder if he wasn't at least a little happy in a perverse sort of way that it was him that gave it up. Now, I'm glad it wasn't Lannan, who would then become the most infamous rookie pitcher in the history of the game, but I get the feeling, kinda like when a cable company tells you that a game isn't on because of 'technical difficulties', but you suspect something more, and wonder why Mike Bacsik chose that pitch then.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

No Bonds, but I still don't care

Alright, so Barry didn't hit 756*. But it happened in a game that I can only describe as bittersweet. I hate watching losses in extra frames, and I hate it even more when it means that I stay up until something like 2 in the morning only to watch Chad give it up (not that I blame him, everyone gives it up occasionally) and then Ray King, giver of sage advice, pretty much fall apart on the mound in the 11th. I hate games like that. just hate 'em.

But, every cloud has a silver lining as they say, and this one was named John Lannan. Lannan, it is well known, is the 3,241st starting pitcher to be used by the Nats this year and started the season playing Real Baseball, Real Close, down in A ball. But now, despite the fears of many who have commented on the Journal and elsewhere, Lannan's most infamous moment remains breaking Chase Utley's hand. And for that I'm happy. I'm also glad that the team got a little respect out of the national media who was in S.F. to make an electric atmosphere more circus like, and then cover the moment. ESPN, si.com, thank you for mentioning that at least our pitcher doesn't suck, though your story was at best one note when compared to Svrluga's. But even though some of it was begrudging admiration at best, the most backhanded compliments came from John Donovan. John I guess thinks that a kid pitching seven innings of 1 run, that's right 1 run ball isn't reason enough to leave him in. Nope, it must be a slight against Bonds, because Bonds is in a hitting slump, yep, it was a hitting slump, not a decent outing by a rookie pitcher that you haven't heard of because you have your head so....well, I think that I make my point. The worst part is I agree with Donovan about Bond's hitting. He isn't in a slump, he's just not that good anymore. He is 43 years old. His swing does have holes in it. Yes, he can crush the ball if he hits it, but he has to hit it first. This is why I respect Manny, who chose to not once issue the intentional walk, and instead Bonds only drew 1 "normal" walk and went 0-3. That isn't so shocking, it just shows that he's human. A living incarnation of a juiced bobble-head sure, but still, largely just human. I just don't see this 'slump' as something new or creative. More just a thing to roll out when a new and under-the-radar pitcher comes in and does something unexpected while you are actually watching a game that doesn't involve a team from Boston or one wearing pin-stripes. But enough of that, I'm still mostly angry from lack of sleep and losing a decent little win-streak.

Next up for the merry-go-round of fun is Mike Basik. He's been pitching pretty solid and if he doesn't let his nerves get to him, he should be able to handle the most aging Giants line-up and make for another great game. By the way, my prediction is, NO HOMER in this series. I have my reasons, which I will only get into if I am proven to be a genius. So take a nap after work and stay up late on a Tuesday to watch history not be made as the Nats take on the San Fransisco Barry Bo...er...Giants.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Open Letter to MASN

To TCR Sports Broadcasting Holding, L.L.P., who is better known to sports fans in the region as MASN:

We, the fans of the Washington Nationals are tired. Since the creation of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network and the revival of Washington baseball in 2005, we, the fans, have suffered insults that no other fans of any sport have been forced to endure.

For the Inaugural Season, the majority of us were left without games in our homes because of a disagreement that your principal owner had with Comcast cable. Disagreements between the Orioles and cable providers resulted in a stunted fan base, a confused public, and frustrated Washingtonians. While this slight was taken personally by many in the Nationals Nation, we have, largely, moved beyond it. The expansion of MASN and MASN2 to all the major cable providers salved some, if not all wounds.

But the 2006 and the 2007 seasons have not resulted in any honeymoon period. For 2006, our club operated like a shoe-string minor league team. There was no pre-game, no post-game, minimal graphics, and extensive advertising for sports teams in a different city all together. All of this while the Nationals served as the sole reason for the existence of the MASN network at this early stage in its development.

With the 2007 season we again looked hopefully for change. The inclusion of pre- and post-game programming, the addition of commentators and reporters all gave hope that the Nationals and their fans would be treated to the professional programming that is due a Major League baseball team. But again, our hope has been misplaced. This season has resulted in technical difficulties that have meant lost games, missed moments, and damped efforts to grow a fan base for a still very new club in its new home. The "technical difficulties" that resulted in the loss of the game on August 4, which was scheduled for WDCA was not the first, and will likely not be the last such transgression.

This letter is not a call for restitution, or compensation, or even an apology. This is a demand that you, quite simply, do your jobs. Produce and supply to us, the fans and your customers, the very minimal product that promised us when you handed out schedules for our refrigerators at RFK Stadium on Opening Day. Give us our baseball. Give it to us in its entirety. Give it to us with sound, without fear of blocked signals, of programming cutoffs in extra innings, of innings or even entire games lost to "technical difficulties" that never seem to be sully resolved. All that we ask is that you MASN, give us the very same treatment, and quality product that you supply to any other Major League club that you serve. Many fans of the Nationals are fans of wider baseball. Sadly, I have heard no stories of "technical difficulties" that have resulted in the loss of games, or even innings, for any other Major League club that you provide for.

All that we ask is for the same. All that we ask for is what we have been promised. All we ask for is our Nationals. And if you cannot provide it, then give us back control of our own future.


A Nationals Fan