A fan's observations on the Washington Nationals, from across the virtual divide.

Plan A

Filed under: Background,Fan Experience,Organization,Personnel,Players — Wigi @ 4:36 pm December 3, 2010

While my ties to Washington baseball are long and deep (and limited only by my middle age), I admit that I did not follow baseball as closely as I do now through the Dark Years. I was an ultra-fanatic as a child, took a thirty-four year break, and became an ultra-fanatic again in the fall of 2004, as the Nats came to town. Certainly there are those among us that followed every baseball season meticulously, but I was not one of them, and I suspect that for the vast majority of Nationals fans, the Dark Years were dark years.

When you’re a ten year-old kid, and you live, eat and breathe the Washington Senators, your focus is on your favorite player – for me, that was Frank Howard. I was only vaguely aware of who Bob Short was, and it was not until late in the 1971 season that I any appreciation at all for what his bumbling ownership meant. From the perspective of a child, he was an adult who had done me wrong, even if I was unaware or incapable of understanding how he had done it. I was hurt, and it was personal.

After Short came Bowie Kuhn, Ray Kroc and Peter Angelos – all three conspiring against me and other Washingtonians to keep baseball out of the Nation’s Capital. Perhaps it isn’t fair to lump all three into the same basket of disdain – after all, Ray Kroc was just trying to save the Padres for the city of San Diego, rather than deny them to Washington. But really, it didn’t matter, since I didn’t have a home baseball team.

When the Nationals came to town in 2004, it was only after Washington and a half-dozen other cities begged and pleaded with Major League Baseball to be allowed into the club, and the city of Washington paid a ransom of over $600 million, in the form of a new stadium. And in many respects, the 2005 Nationals were less than you would expect from an expansion team, since the entire organization had been gutted top-to-bottom. Washingtonians were starved for baseball. We were made to beg to get our team back (and our victory was at the expense of the fans in Montreal). The organization we got in the bargain has proven to be hobbled for what will likely be ten years because of Major League Baseball’s willful mismanagement of the team.

Now that I had a home team to root for again (even though I live 4000 miles away), I looked at baseball differently than I ever had before. Sure, I still had my favorite players, but of equal or even greater import was how the organization ran. For the next four years it ran not well at all. Under the ownership of MLB and then the Lerner family, Jim Bowden was part General Manager, part sideshow barker. His three tenets of management seemed to be to give the fallen a second chance, make a big splash, and “it’s about Jim Bowden, stupid.”

As a Nationals fan who watches the organization, the four major baseball holidays – Spring training, the entry draft, the trade deadline and the Winter Meetings – were times when you could always count on Jim Bowden to come up with something. Even his inaction, such as his inability to trade Alfonso Soriano, was structured to be a Jim Bowden publicity stunt.

More than once, both to friends and in this space, I made the argument that we as Nationals fans should be thankful that we have a team at all. Certainly that is true. But our gratitude should not be confused with blindly accepting the Nationals without looking at them with a critical eye – and I now admit that I was not as critical as I should have been. When SmileyGate broke in 2009 I realized what many before me had been saying – the Nationals were in the midst of an organizational crisis, and a big part of the problem was Jim Bowden.

When Bowden left, and Mike Rizzo became  the General Manager, Nationals fans finally caught a glimpse of what competent organizational management was all about. Rizzo couldn’t be more different than Bowden. Rizzo is all about building a top-shelf major league organization, and came to the position with a great resume’. Rizzo is quiet and thoughtful… and in fact, listening to him speak and trying to make sense of what he says is a bit like listening to Alan Greenspan talk about the economy – he is oracle-like in his obfuscation.

A year and a half with Rizzo at the helm has been just what the doctor ordered for Nationals fans. While the team as a whole has shown only modest progress under his leadership, the Nationals have a top-notch bullpen, and have drafted two of the most highly-touted prospects in many years in the form of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. In addition, other homegown talents such as Drew Storen, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond all made the Nationals in 2010, showing that the organization is indeed growing and maturing. Whatever angst Nationals fans had about the organization during the Bowden years has probably been assuaged.

Until yesterday.

And by yesterday, I mean, the day Adam Dunn signed a four-year contract with the White Sox.

Truthfully, that anxiety has been building since the summer, when it became clear that the Nationals weren’t all that interested in signing Adam Dunn. I think a lot of us thought that the Nationals would come to their senses and sign Dunn, and that the low and/or short-term offer was a strategy to get Dunn at the price they wanted. And perhaps it was, but you would think that Mike Rizzo wouldn’t take that stance without a Plan B.

Actually, I think that it is the other way around – Adam Dunn was Plan B.

Which brings me to the angst. If Adam Dunn was Plan B, what is Plan A?

I think, to most casual (and perhaps serious) observers, Plan A isn’t obvious.

I can tell you this, if Plan A is Carlos Peña or Adam LaRoche, I don’t think the fans are going to be happy. I won’t be happy.

I’ve said this before – I am not a Major League General Manager, and neither are (almost) any of you, so I am not, and you are not qualified to make an informed judgment about the merits of who the Nationals have to play first base. But given that most fans had a strong opinion on whether the Nationals were going to keep Dunn, I think that most fans would agree that Plan A better be some kind of plan. Nationals fans liked 40 home runs and 110 RBIs a season. Nationals fans liked the affection and respect that Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn shared. Nationals fans thought that Dunn made Willingham and Zimmerman and the rest of the lineup better hitters.

Mike Rizzo, you better have a heck of a Plan A.

What is different today is that the bar is set a lot higher for Mike Rizzo than it was for Jim Bowden – and rightly so. Nationals fans are done with rebuilding, especially when, from their perspective, the rebuilding is being preceded by demolition. I am willing to take Rizzo’s actions as an indication that one of baseball’s best minds has a plan, and that 2011 will be better (by a lot) than 2010. In the meantime, I think I need to express my expectations.

The only rationale that works for me is that by letting Adam Dunn walk, the Nationals are going to be a better team… and not in three or four years, but the day pitchers and catchers report. Of course, Rizzo isn’t one to articulate his plans to the public – after all, he’s like the oracle. We have to infer his intentions from his actions.

We suffered through Bob Short, and we suffered through thirty-four years of no baseball. We begged for our team and paid the ransom. We put up with the dysfunction of Major League Baseball-as-owner, and the dysfunction of Jim Bowden. As fans and as a community, we’ve been at this for almost fifty years, and for forty-eight-and-a-half of them we’ve gotten the short shrift. I was ready to believe that when Mike Rizzo became GM, that we had finally seen the beginning of a new era.

I want to believe that. But you’ll forgive me if a lifetime of rooting for baseball in Washington has made me cynical.

By letting Adam Dunn go, Mike Rizzo has set the bar very high.

Mike Rizzo, you better have a heck of a Plan A.

In Arizona, the Nationals Represent – Part 1 – The Team

Filed under: Organization,Players,Teams — Wigi @ 12:17 pm November 22, 2010

I was trading email last week with Mike Henderson, one of my blogging colleagues. I mentioned to him that even if you discount Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper’s Arizona Fall League performances, it seems that almost every time you look at an AFL box score over the last two years, you see the names of Nationals prospects leading the way. Last year’s Phoenix Desert Dogs won their division, a team that featured not only Stephen Strasburg, but Drew Storen, Chris Marrero, Danny Espinosa, Josh Wilkie and Jeff Mandel. Strasburg lead the league in wins and Storen led in saves. This year’s team – the Scottsdale Scorpions – has clinched their division and then went on to win the Arizona Fall League championship. Bryce Harper is the headliner of this team, but other Nationals prospects, such as Derek Norris (who was supposed to play on the 2009 squad, but sat out with a hamate bone injury), Mike Burgess, Steve Lombardozzi, Cole Kimball, Adam Carr, Sammy Solis and Brad Peacock have all made their mark in Phoenix this fall.

Bryce Harper hits a triple into the gap on November 10 against the Peoria Saguraros

Bryce Harper hits a triple into the gap on November 10 against the Peoria Saguraros

Perhaps it was just my perception – after all, most of the various media sources I follow are Nationals-centered. But I watched four AFL games in person this year, and two last year (see here and here), and Nationals fans had plenty to cheer about in all of the games. But rather than blindly trust my perceptions, I decided to find out.

As it turned out, finding out was a bit easier than I imagined. Of course I expected that there would be Nationals representatives in Arizona. Last year’s Desert Dogs were managed by Gary Cathcart and Paul Menhart was the pitching coach, so the Nationals front office was well- represented on the field, and this year’s Scorpions are managed by Randy Knorr, the manager of AA Harrisburg. Finding Nationals representatives wasn’t very hard – they are standing in the dugout. But for the observant Nationals fan, a look around the stands was an even better place to look. In  Scottsdale we happened to look behind us and standing at the top of the section was Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein. Sitting behind home plate in a Nationals jacket and holding a clipboard and a radar gun was noted scout and noted dad, Phil Rizzo.

I asked Rick Eckstein about the the Nationals success, and whether the Nationals placed a greater emphasis on making the most of AFL. Rick said he didn’t think that the Nationals did anything really different than any other team, but that the Nationals’ success at AFL indicated the strength of the organization at this level. I then asked him about the decision to send Bryce Harper to the fall league. He said that it has been a huge success – Harper has gotten the opportunity to experience a higher level of competition and be exposed to the work habits of other top prospects. On days that Harper doesn’t play, he’s chomping at the bit, pacing in the dugout, and asking questions of his fellow players and coaches, and drinking up the experience.

When I talked to Randy Knorr about the how well Nationals players were doing in AFL, he didn’t necessarily agree with my premise that the Nationals players always seem to be leading the way. In fact, the Scorpions have a great team, and perhaps Knorr was not in a position to single out Nationals players when he manages a team with players from five different organizations. But as the results of the AFL championship game pointed out, it was Nationals players who were leading the way.

Another indicator of the Nationals influence in Arizona is demonstrated in a rather roundabout way. The Scottsdale Scorpions were comprised of players from five teams – The Nationals, Orioles, Rockies, Giants and Diamondbacks. There was always a strong contingent of Diamondbacks fans at the games, and they remember Mike Rizzo from his days with the team. Many of the fans I spoke with saw Mike Rizzo at a number of the early AFL games, as well as Pat Corrales, who was working with the team.

At one point when I was speaking with Randy Knorr, he made the point that one goal for the Nationals in 2011 was to stock the AAA roster with predominantly Nationals prospects. In past years, the team has had to fill the AAA roster with a lot of minor league free agents, and Knorr pointed out that this was an indication of the strength of the Nationals farm system. This is changing, and Knorr thought that the AFL performances over the last two years are an indication of how things are changing within the Nationals organization.

As much as the Nationals organization wants you believe that the Nats aren’t doing anything special in Phoenix, it is hard to argue with the results. Last year’s Desert Dogs went to the final game and this year’s Scorpions won the championship. Nationals coaches managed the teams, and the front office had an everyday presence in Phoenix. You could argue that a lot of the organization’s attention to AFL had to do with their high-profile top draft picks participating in the league, but it has been all of the Nationals players that have been making an impact on the field, not just the Harpers and Strasburgs.

Most Nationals fans focus on what happens in the Major Leagues, and certainly that is the metric that matters the most. But I think it may be hard for many of us to understand how badly pillaged the farm system had been and that it takes many years to turn that around – and that success in the majors is highly dependent on a healthy farm system.

If Arizona Fall League is an indicator, perhaps the Nationals luck is about to change.

Trade Deadline Post Mortem

Filed under: Media,Organization,Personnel,Players,Teams — Tags: , , , , — Wigi @ 2:56 pm August 2, 2010

I am not a GM, nor do I play one on television… so I don’t have (an informed) opinion about how the Nationals did leading up to the trade deadline. Certainly the two trades the Nationals made make a lot of sense, and in terms of Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos, I think it was definitely a case of selling high.

What bothers me about it all is that the pundits seem to be critical of Mike Rizzo for sticking to his guns with regard to the trade value for Dunn (and presumably Willingham). In Rizzo’s blog, he addresses (and essentially dismisses) the criticism.

I can’t help but wonder if the team were some other… say, the Yankees or the Phillies, or the Cubs… whether the “conventional wisdom” would be so strongly lined-up against the Nationals and Rizzo.

Does (the collective) baseball somehow believe that the Nationals don’t deserve to be shrewd players in the marketplace?

Rizzo is right: if the criticism is that the other teams didn’t get Dunn at the price they wanted to pay, that is their problem.

(Next) Spring is in the Air…

Filed under: Fan Experience,Personnel,Players — Tags: , , , , — Wigi @ 11:36 am July 29, 2010

This isn’t much fun for me.

Back in 2006, when Jim Bowden was shopping around Alfonso Soriano, we watched and waited every day… waiting for news… waiting to hear about the trade that would send our reason to come to the ballpark off to a contender, in exchange for prospects. Soriano smiled and worked hard, swiped bases, swatted home runs, and threw out runners from left field as if he was turning the 4-6-3, and we all knew that it was a charade. Soriano wasn’t staying, Bowden was asking for the moon, and Nationals fans pretty much knew that the rest of the season was really about showcasing the healthy trade pieces, and not about putting a winning team on the field. We heard the whispers, we read the rumors. Major League Baseball’s contenders were the vultures, and the Nationals were carrion. Bowden stood between them, looking to strike a deal that would send the choicest parts away, for a handful of magic beans.

No, July 2006 wasn’t much fun.

In a lot of respects, 2010 is worse. The Nationals aren’t quite dead,  but they’re not well, either. The vultures are circling, looking to pick up The Last Piece, in exchange for prospects. Bowden is gone, replaced by Mike Rizzo. He, too is asking for the moon. He’s asking for the moon for Adam Dunn. He’s asking for the moon for Matt Capps. Who knows who else is in the trade mix. One of the things that makes it worse is how ubiquitous Twitter has become. Rumors and whispers travel the InterTubes in nearly instantaneously in 140-character chunks.

The trade deadline is the point where most baseball fans (and all Nationals fans) have to come to grip with the fact that the sweet dreams that are born in Florida and Arizona in the spring are dead. General managers knew this in April, but fans hold out hope and root for their favorite players until the end of the season. Rizzo is thinking about 2011. The fans are thinking about the next game. As the trade deadline approaches, and the rumors fly, it isn’t very pleasant for Nationals fans, who spend the days leading up to the deadline contemplating the loss of their favorite players.

I think I can handle the rumors and hand-wringing. If the Nationals can make themselves a better team through trades, I’ll swallow a little disappointment now for a shot at the playoffs next year.

But I am not ready for more of the same.

Remind You of 2005?

It shouldn’t.

The Nationals of 2005 were a very different animal than the Nationals of 2010. In many ways, it feels the same, and Mark Zuckerman wrote today of the last time that the Nationals were four games above .500. But on September 18, 2005, the Nationals were riding the escalator down, while our 2010 Nationals are riding the escalator up.

The Nationals in 2005 were the bare bones leftovers that Major League Baseball decided to impose on its thirtieth city – in many respects, worse than an expansion team, because there was no need for MLB to create the illusion of fairness of an expansion draft. The league, with the able assistance of Omar Minaya and Jim Bowden gave Washington a team with a  slashed payroll and traded away every significant prospect. Even if the 2005 Nationals had found their way into the post-season, nothing between 2006 and 2009 would have been appreciably different.

Our Nats sucked, and they would have sucked, no matter what.

But here we are in 2010. The Nationals are about in the same place in the standings as they were in 2005. But the Nats’ future looks very different.

The problem is, nobody really anticipated that the Nationals would be all that different this year. I think most of us had absorbed the idea of 70-92, and most of us would probably have be OK with that. We were ready to accept twenty-two games below .500, knowing that we would be better next year.

But we’re better this year.

Which makes me wonder. At what point does Mike Rizzo decide that the Nationals need to make a run at this season?

The Nationals shopping list is actually rather short. While the Nationals desperately need improved starting and relief pitching, they have ample reinforcements on the way, in the form of Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Chien-Ming Wang, Jason Marquis, Ross Detwiler, and perhaps Jordan Zimmerman. Last night’s game exemplifies why the Nationals need to shore up their pitching. They won, but the bullpen made things exciting… perhaps a little too exciting for some people’s tastes. If we can wait out three weeks of Super-Two purgatory (and several rehab stints), the Nationals pitching will be getting a lot better very quickly.

The other glaring hole is in right field, where there is no in-house answer. The platoon of Justin Maxwell, Roger Bernadina, Willie Harris, Willy Taveres and who-knows-who-else (actually, I do know, Cristian Guzman) has been adequate to good defensively – and defense is a big part of the Nationals success in 2010. But at the plate, well… not so hot. There are some who argue that we should just let Willie Harris play the position.

I am torn. I think that Willie Harris will be a better hitter if he plays every day. But what he won’t be is the guy that offers protection to the lineup… and I think that the Nationals need one more feared bat in the lineup. Say what you will about Elijah Dukes, opposing pitchers at least respected him. Sure, you could throw breaking balls at him, but you couldn’t make a mistake to him.

The Nationals will be Also-Rans if they don’t solve their right field problem. The question is whether Mike Rizzo is going to be satisfied with meeting the 70-92 expectation, or whether he’s going to shoot for 92-70. If he chooses the latter, the Nationals are going to have to make a trade. The current winning formula isn’t sustainable… even with better pitching. They need their entire lineup to wake up at the plate. As it is now, there’s a path through the lineup where you can pitch around the hot hitters. A legitimate bat with the defense and arm for right field is what they need.

Right now.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Filed under: Fan Experience,Players — Tags: , — Wigi @ 3:51 pm March 17, 2010

Damn you, Jim Bowden.

Back in 2007, when Bowden traded for Elijah Dukes, the fans of the [Devil] Rays couldn’t have been happier to get anything in trade (in this case, Glenn Gibson) for Dukes. Tampa Bay fans, and the Rays organization had given up on him. Nationals fans, while wary, were willing to give Dukes a chance. The team made efforts to give Dukes a support system. Over time, Elijah grew on many Nationals fans.

Today, as we digest the news that Dukes has been unconditionally released from the team (here and here and here), most fans are expressing shock and sadness. In the three seasons Dukes played for the Nationals, we saw numerous flashes of brilliance, struggles at the plate and on the field, a demotion, a call-up. We saw Dukes make halting steps forward as a person. I think most Nationals fans were rooting for Dukes as a player and as a person. We were ready for another Dmitri Young story – a disturbed and troubled man finding his way, finding redemption in his God-given talents. Coming into spring training, we all wanted to believe that we were a few weeks away from seeing the complete transformation of Elijah Dukes.

And we (he)  may well have been that close.

Damn you, Jim Bowden.

The problem is, Nationals fans should never have been put in the position of having to mortgage their hopes on (one of a series of) Cinderella stories. It doesn’t matter what metaphor you want to use for Elijah Dukes – the kid deserving a second chance, the low-cost, high-upside gamble, the misunderstood and unpolished superstar (oh wait, that was Lastings Milledge). Because of Bowden’s need to weave together getting something for nothing and a morality play, success for Elijah Dukes has always been defined as something more than just becoming a successful baseball player. That is unfair to Dukes (though he has some control over how his morality play turns out) and it is unfair to the fans.

All of that additional drama, heightened expectation, and now hand-wringing is courtesy of Jim Bowden. Bowden couldn’t acquire a player (or make any kind of a public move) without inviting controversy. Pick your player/story: Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez, Chad Cordero, Aaron Crow, Wily Mo Pena, Paul LoDuca – I could go on (and on… and on) – they all seem to have some BowdenDrama back story that makes them more about Jim and less about the player.

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love Elijah Dukes, and nobody wants him to be successful more than I do… and nobody is more crestfallen about his release. But it is easy as a Nationals fan to accept that the development of a player was not only good for the team but good theatre… because that is the bill of good that Bowden sold us, over and over. That isn’t the way it has to be.

If you look at Elijah Dukes’ career thus far, but forget that it is Elijah Dukes, there really isn’t anything all that surprising about his release at this point. The Nats are flush with outfielders, many as young and promising as Dukes, but with a lot more potential and organizational flexibility. Dukes had to come into spring training and own right field. He didn’t. He’s gone. We’re only in a dither about it because he’s Elijah Dukes.

As I read the news this morning, I couldn’t help but think that if Jim Bowden had spent as much time evaluating talent and charting a course for the team as he did weaving the BowdenDramas he wove, the Nationals might be in a much better place today than they are. Most of us might never have learned the full Elijah Dukes story, and at one level that would be sad, but that story wasn’t about baseball.

Over the years I gave Bowden the benefit of the doubt – as a rule, I don’t think I have much grounds to comment on what a GM does, because I don’t have those skills or tools. I think now I was wrong not to be more critical.

I am really going to miss Elijah Dukes. But I think that his release was both the right decision and a gutsy one on the part of the Nats.

Damn you, Jim Bowden.

Will History Repeat Itself?

I make an effort not to put myself in the position to be an armchair General Manager. I figure that there are probably fifty people in the world who are qualified to be a Major League GM, and I am not one of them. For me to comment would be a little like me commenting on major surgery – Take that spleen out! You can live without a spleen, right?

But there are aspects of being a GM that isn’t about evaluating talent or negotiating contracts.

One of them is, what happens when one (or more) of the Nationals’ prospects ends up playing themselves onto the big club’s roster?

The gaudy (in a bad way) start of spring training is setting up the scenario where it is entirely possible that a player like Ian Desmond or Drew Storen so handily outperforms the incumbent that Mike Rizzo’s biggest April worry is what to do with Cristian Guzman and Jason Bergmann. It wasn’t so long ago – 2008 – that this very scenario played out as Jesus Flores played himself onto the big team’s roster, even when his ticket seemed irrevocably punched for AAA.

Back in November, I traveled to Arizona for Arizona Fall League, and I interviewed Drew Storen about his plans for spring training. At that time, he said his plan was to come to Florida and make an impact. While he’s had only one appearance so far, it was notable for both its success and brevity. He’ll pitch again tomorrow – and while his appearance may be overshadowed by Stephen Strasburg, a strong performance will almost certainly get the attention of the front office. An impact, indeed.

Ian Desmond is doing the same thing… and as a position player, he’s getting a chance every other day or so to show that perhaps Syracuse isn’t the place for him.

The problem that Rizzo faces is that the business of baseball – assigning players to the minors in order to both foster their development and slow down the arbitration clock – seems to be in conflict with the actual performance of the players. I suspect it is tempting to not let a player’s emprical performance on the field interfere with a perfectly good business decision. But the fans don’t see it that way, and people like me are rooting for Drew Storen and Ian Desmond.

I am not saying that Storen or Desmond… or any other Nationals rookie… deserves to make the team. What I am saying is, if they have game, they don’t deserve to ride the bus in the minors because the Nats have expensive contracts with veterans. The fans don’t deserve it, either. I think we deserve the best available team… and I think that the take home message from 2009 is that  it is a mistake to assume that any player on the team is a lock at his position on the first day of spring training (see Milledge, Lastings). Albert Pujols comes to spring training believing he needs to earn his spot. It seems to work out for him.

So will history repeat itself?

Let’s hope!

We All Get a Little Pudge Around the Holidays

Filed under: Organization,Players — Tags: , , , , — Wigi @ 1:46 pm December 8, 2009

If it weren’t for Paul LoDuca, we would all be thrilled about the signing of Ivan Rodriguez.

Pudge isn’t LoDuca. Pudge (presumably) knows what his role is… I’m not sure LoDuca did.

This should be a no-brainer for Nats fans.  As much as we all love Wil Nieves, Pudge is in a different tier than Wil.

Pudge will be in the clubhouse as much (and maybe more) for what he knows and who he is, than for what he can do. In the most recent Nationals Journal posting, Chico Harlan quotes Jack McKeon about Pudge:

“What a leader he was,” McKeon said. “He not only leads by example, but he was really positive with the Latin players. He’s a guy that took charge. He took charge of that [2003] club. Good guy, comes to play, unselfish, does all the little things. He’s a winner. I heard about the move and I couldn’t wait to see Rizzo to say, ‘Damn, you got one of my favorite guys!’”

Later in our [Harlan and McKeon's] discussion, McKeon explained Rodriguez’s value in relation to the young pitchers he can potentially help.

Speaking about the Nationals, McKeon said, “You’re probably going to get a half a year quicker development from those young guys and that’s where he’ll really pay off. That’s where you’ll really like him.”

As for the salary – critics of the Nationals payroll over the years complain both that it is too low, and that the Nats are wasting their money. As for the wasting part, we can point fingers directly at Jim Bowden, who today said:

“Following in the footsteps of Paul LoDuca and Dmitri Young, another bad [signing] by the Nationals,”

quoted from Dan Steinberg’s D.C. Sports Bog

Seems to me, if anyone would know a bad signing in this world, it would be Jim Bowden…

On the other hand, if Bowden doesn’t like the move, how bad could it be?

If the Nationals get the kind of leadership from Pudge that he’s brought with him for his whole career, $6 million will be a bargain.


Twitterview: @Ballystar40 – Collin Balester

Filed under: Players — Wigi @ 3:32 pm December 1, 2009

Attention all short-attention-span Nationals fans! Collin Balester will be available for questions on Planetary Nats Blog’s first-ever Twitterview! Submit questions now, we’ll get started at 7 PM Eastern, 4 PM Pacific, 3 PM Alaska time.

You can submit your questions ONLY via Twitter. To do so, include the hashtag #ballytwitterview, like so:

#ballytwitterview What do you and Flores talk about when you have your gloves over your mouth?

The Twitter stream will be posted here, along with photos and other stuff.

====================================

@HendoDC – what was ur most improved pitch this season?

@ballystar40 – I would say my fastball command because that really improved for me and really helped my other pitches work.

@wigi49 – what’s the current score in your follower race with @JLannan31?

@ballystar40 – 210 to 294 me

@section138 – Where’s my academy award prediction prize, dammit!!?? Who changed your mechanics last year? McCatty? St.Claire b4 he left?

@ballystar40 – It’s comming :). Um I would say a little of both. They are both great pitching coaches and help me in different ways

@J_D_P – Big question, Maryland or Virginia?

@ballystar40 – I like both a lot but I would have to say VA

@J_D_P – Wrong answer Collin. Maryland > the commonwealth

@luckyjarmes – Can you talk on being a part of a very young rotation, and what adding a veteran arm would ad to the staff/your game?

@ballystar40 – Ya it’s an awesome feeling to be apart of a really young and so talented staff that’s gonna only keep getting better so fans will be :) soon

@ndwas – Which free agent do you most want to see on the Nats in 2010?

@ballystar40 – umm really I don’t no. I don’t really no of all the free agents I have just been focused on me this offseason.

@lwb2 – lot of talk about bringing in a vet pitcher to “mentor” #nats young arms. Who are ur top 3 wish-ist mentors among actives

@ballystar40 – I really don’t no. Maybe a John lackey. I really don’t think we need anyone to tell you the truth. I’m ok with all the guys we have

@MissMischief86 – How did you feel when you threw that first pitch in the big leagues? Before and after…

@ballystar40 – I felt great it was a dream come True and I really couldn’t soak it all in till after the game. I really don’t think I took a breathe haha

@wigi49 – what is your ‘stache goal for spring training? Selleck, Fingers, Dali? Do we add Bally to that list?

@ballystar40 – Yes we doo it’s going to be something fierce. It will be growing for 7 months by then

@wigi49 – If there was Major League Kickball, would you play two pro sports?

@ballystar40 – Definitely i can kick that ball like no other. And my fielding is better cause it’s such a bigger ball.

@HendoDC – as a guy with 5+ yrs experience in #Nats system, what’d b ur advice to a 2009 draftee pitcher?

@ballystar40 – Just keep working hard I know it seems like such a huge mountain to climb but the more hard work you put in you will get to the top.

@wigi49 – Pick a day on the calendar: When does offseason end, and spring training start for you?

@ballystar40 – um I would say when I start throwing because thats when It starts getting workouts everyday and throwing so really theres no time for stuff.

@NatsNut1 – How do you keep from getting too bummed when sent down? You seemed to have so much fun up in the bigs,.

@ballystar40 – Umm you just got to no that your coming back and keep working hard, I have fun living so yes its way more fun in the MLB and ill be there.

@J_D_P – Whats the best heckle you’ve heard? Either at you or someone else

@ballystar40 – um in philly when i was warming up they were just crushing me and I really don’t remember what they were saying but they were the best haha.

The Intangible Value of Stephen Strasburg

What are you doing Saturday afternoon?

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ll be watching the Desert Dogs – Javalinas game on television*.

And for that, you have Stephen Strasburg to thank.

The Nationals are pretty psyched about it too, I bet. After all, here it is just a week before Thanksgiving, and quite a few fans are going to tune in a baseball game to watch Strasburg and the Phoenix Desert Dogs try to win the Arizona Fall League Championship. It is probably safe to assume that interest among Nats fans has never been higher, and I confess, a big part of why I went to Phoenix was to see Strasburg. But like they say in advertising, “Come for the Strasburg, stay for the rest of the Nats.”

Between Strasburg and the Desert Dogs, and the splash that Mike Rizzo is making revamping the front office (more on this soon), it is likely that the Nationals have never had a better November. Okay, November 2004 might have been better, but that was technically the Expos, and from the Montreal perspective, that wasn’t a good month at all.

The only downside: High expectations. We’ve had them before – search my blog for “irrational exuberance”. But I think we’ve all been hurt enough now that our expectations are more in line with reality.

The Nats paid a lot for the privilege of signing Stephen Strasburg. When they weighed the cost and the benefit of signing him, I wonder how much they considered the good feelings and attention that would be generated in the offseason with his participation in the AFL. In most other years, the AFL action would be an obscure afterthought for most people. But this year, a lot of attention has been called to AFL, and Nationals fans are getting to “see” not only Strasburg, but also Drew Storen, Chris Marrero, Danny Espinosa, Josh Wilkie, Jeff Mandel and Sean Rooney.

So Saturday afternoon, a lot of people will be watching college football. The hardcore of us – most of you reading this – will be watching the AFL Championship Game on television.

This is very good news.

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*The AFL Championship Game can be seen starting at 2:30 Eastern Time/10:30 Alaska Time on MLB Network (cable) and MLB.TV (Internet).

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