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

A few words with Stan Kasten

Filed under: Organization,Personnel — Tags: , , , — Wigi @ 7:13 am April 18, 2010

Lets have a little contest. Without doing the research I had to do to compile these stats, tell me which set of statistics belongs to which season – the first eleven games of 2009, or the first eleven games of 2010:

  Year A Year B
Runs Scored 54 53
Runs Allowed 75 66
Team Batting Average .268 .250
Team OPS .755 .770
Errors 13 9
Team ERA 6.38 5.91

They seem pretty comparable, don’t they? One set of stats (2009) belongs to a 1-10 record, and the other (2010) to a 6-5 record.

The correct answer is, Year A is 2009, and Year B is 2010.

Statistically, they seem almost identical, but not only are the outcomes very different, the fan perception of the season so far is different, too. It is just a different vibe.

I have a theory about this. My theory is that the organization as a whole is a healthier place, and we have been seeing the benefits of it in many different forms, but now we’re seeing it on the field, too. This past winter, players (not all, but some) were lining up to play in Washington. A year earlier, nobody wanted to come to Washington. Whether you talk to players, general managers, pundits or fans, nobody sees this year’s team the same way as they saw last year’s team.

Organizational changes don’t happen overnight, and I wanted to find out more about my suspicions. I imagined that at some point in 2009, the Nationals decided that they needed to reinvent their front office, and from there the entire organization.

Last Saturday I spoke with Stan Kasten at Citi Field. I asked him at what point did he decide that they needed to wipe the slate clean, and reinvent the front office. Kasten said that the decision came in March, with the departure of Jim Bowden. I asked if the organizational reinvention was in reaction to the Dominican scandal, and Kasten was quick to point out that there was no way that Bowden or anyone else in Washington knew about the specifics of the Dominican problems, and that had they been aware, to allow it to continue would be professional suicide. Instead, Kasten suggested that Bowden’s resignation provided the opportunity to move in a new direction, and the Nationals took advantage of that.

Unfortunately for the Nationals, they were able to chart the course in March, but they could not act until the end of the season. Teams cannot recruit or hire people for the baseball operation during the season – most of the potential candidates are already committed to teams. But the Nationals planned through the summer, made note of those who might be available at the end of the season, and moved quickly to expand their front office once the season was over.

I asked Kasten if the Nationals were done with their organizational overhaul, and Kasten said no, that they hadn’t hired everyone they wanted, and that they expect to further enhance their baseball operations. Look for more additions in the fall. Kasten also added that the new facility in the Dominican Republic is expected to open in May, and that he has high hopes for what the Nationals can accomplish there.

I suspect that the work the Nationals have done over the past year – starting with the reinvention of the entire baseball operation has made a huge difference in the way the club sees itself and how others see the Nationals. Washington is now an attractive place to play, and I think that we are seeing at least a part of that difference manifest itself in the outcomes of the games at the beginning of this season. The statistics aren’t all that different between this year and last, but the results are certainly different.

Other notes from my conversation with Stann Kasten…

One of the topics of conversation that came up was Adam Dunn, and the status of his contract. Kasten mentioned that he thought that it was a mistake for Dunn to insist that he’s a National League player. Clearly, Dunn would be an attractive candidate for an American League team looking for a designated hitter. I asked Kasten if that gave the Nationals some advantage in their negotiations with Dunn for his extension, and Kasten said that the only thing that was preventing a deal was that Dunn needed to show that he could really play first base. Kasten said, “I love Adam Dunn… I really do love him… but he has to prove he’s a first baseman”

***************

Hendo commented that it was easy to tell the difference between 2009 and 2010 because of the errors… but if you only compare the first ten games, they become almost indistinguisable:

  2009 2910
Runs Scored 50 53
Runs Allowed 68 66
Team Batting Average .269 .243
Team OPS .763 .754
Errors 10 8
Team ERA 6.32 6.52

Point With Your Thumb

Filed under: Organization,Personnel — Tags: , , — Wigi @ 12:58 pm July 14, 2009

Since the MLB Entry Draft, there hasn’t really been all that much to talk about with the Nationals. While it was notable that Manny Acta was dismissed on Sunday night, it wasn’t really a surprise. I had wondered aloud back in April whether Manny was the right person for the job – not because I thought he wasn’t a good manager, but more because I thought that he wasn’t the right man for the job at the time. I am not sure I was entirely correct in my assessment, but a number of people, including Tom Boswell have pointed out that Manny’s strengths as a person and as a manager became liabilities as the team spun its wheels in the mud.

So since not much has happened, I hadn’t been compelled to write. Until I got The Letter.

The Letter was published as an open letter to all Nationals fans.  I received it in my email, and it has been widely cited and re-posted in a number of places. When I read it, my heart sunk.

Organizational consultants are rarely concerned about the superficial meaning of such things. What organizations do is much more important and meaningful. And when it comes to the organizational language of a Major League Baseball team, firing the manager is a rather unambiguous statement of intent: things ain’t right, and this is how we plan to fix them. Boswell points out in the article linked above that the Nationals, for once, acted like a baseball team.

Until they sent The Letter.

At least, that’s what I think.

Firing a manager is usually an unambiguous statement. Sending the letter added a lot of ambiguity.

The letter talks about how the ownership is even more distraught about the season as the fans are. It talks about Nationals have developed and/or acquired all this talent – young starting pitchers, a new center fielder, a homer-swatting cleanup hitter. It talks about how the future is bright for the Nationals…

But…

However…

The Nationals make a clear, unequivocal statement about the on-the-field operation of the team by firing the manager. But they feel compelled to clarify the move with a statement. Perhaps they thought that the move might be misunderstood. But I am left suspicious. To paraphrase Queen Gertrude, in Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much – methinks.”

The fans have cut the Nationals a lot of slack since they arrived in Washington in 2005. While the team was owned by MLB, the farm system was pillaged, with no regard to the future of the franchise. But this is hardly surprising, since a successful Expos/Nationals would be contrary to the interests of the other 29 owners. But the Lerners will have owned the team for three years on July 25th. While three years doesn’t right all the wrongs, we should see at least some impact of the new organization.

And we do. The Nationals in Washington, under MLB ownership, were 125-137 (.477). Since then, the Nationals are 185-287 (.391), and this season, they’re 26-61 (.299). The Nationals are getting worse under the stewardship of the Lerners.

If the Nationals problems were just on the field, we could look to the future and have a reasonable expectation that things are going to change. But the problems are in all aspects of the operation. The organization is sloppy and careless. Regardless of who is to blame for SmileyGate, the situation was allowed to exist within the organization. The related scandal regarding bonus skimming also happened under the Lerner’s watch.

I think the organization either doesn’t know how to win, or more likely, is focused on other things. The Nationals long and notorious string of bad luck – on the field and off – is no coincidence. The organization fosters failure and ineptitude. Organizations are a reflection of their leaders, and they do well what their leaders demand that they do. For some, that is to win the World Series. For others, it is to stumble over your own shoelaces.

When I read the letter, all I could think of was, “excuses.” It was an attempt to place blame elsewhere.

To be clear, I don’t blame Stan Kasten – the problem is above him. Stan has a proven track record in professional sports – not just in baseball. But he answers to the Lerner family, and executes the operation of the organization as he is charged to do. My question is, why would the Lerners want the product they’re giving us?

I don’t think that Manny Acta was the right manager for the Nationals. But I also don’t think that there’s anyone that really could be successful in this organization. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Manny is thanking his lucky stars that the Nats fired him.

As for The Letter, if the Nationals had to send one, I think the one they sent was the wrong one. Here’s the one they should have sent:

Dear Nationals Fans:

As the owners of the Washington Nationals, we want you to know that we are sorry and embarrassed about the play of our team. Our family has been in Washington for generations, and we are committed to excellence on the field, responsible and giving partners in the community, and stewards of what we hope will become an enduring institution in Washington, our Washington Nationals.

We believe that we have addressed the major organizational issues, and expect that our operations, led by Stan Kasten, will soon be transformed into the envy of every city in America.

We realize that when you come to the game, you hope and expect the Nationals to win. So do we. So while we struggle to find our rhythm, to reward the loyalty and patience of our fans, we have decided that whenever the Nationals lose a game at home in 2009, your ticket for that game will be honored for a $3 discount for a future 2009 home game.

Even if the motivation isn’t quite right, the Nationals would then have a stake in winning… instead of whatever it is they’re invested in now.

I don’t want to hear excuses. I want to hear accountability. It starts with Ted, with his thumb to his chest.

Encouraging Signs

Filed under: Organization — Tags: , — Wigi @ 7:30 am March 3, 2009

As the faithful dance in the streets over the departure of Jim Bowden, I have been watching for signs that the real issues are being addressed.

Everywhere you look you see Stan Kasten reasserting unmistakable control (here, here, here) of the entire Nationals operation. He has assumed the role of General Manager (until such time he can name a replacement). He has encouraged his front office staff to look for new and better ways of doing things, telling them that in the face of adversity, opportunity is often found. He’s appearing in the media frequently. He has a coherent message, and has had one since the whole Smileygate brouhaha came to light. He has taken responsibility for the situation in the Dominican Republic, and for the tenure of former GM Jim Bowden.

These are all the things that a team president should do. What is most interesting is the great skill and poise that Kasten is showing as he does all of these things.

Back in 2006, when Major League Baseball was still evaluating the different ownership groups, Kasten joined the Lerner team at the suggestion of Bud Selig. The idea was that Kasten brought the baseball knowledge and track record in professional sports that were necessary for a successful organization, and as I pointed out in a posting last week, this move was widely seen as being the one that made the difference for baseball, and made the Lerner bid successful.

We’re now down the road three years, and the Nationals have struggled to find direction. Often when organizations struggle this way, it is because there is a lack of clarity within the organization. Many would point to Bowden and suggest that he was the cause of that lack of clarity, but I would suggest to you that he was a symptom rather than the cause. The real cause of organizational frustrations such as these are often difficult to see from the outside, even in organizations whose profile is as public as a professional sports team. Organizations often don’t realize the energy and resources that are wasted as different parts of the organization pull against each other, rather than focusing that energy towards a common goal.

The outward signs, as imperfect as they are, suggest that many of the divergent motivations within the organization are now being addressed. Kasten seems to be consolidating the operation into a single coherent unit. The public face, as seen in the media, has taken a very different appearance in just the last week.

That said, we can’t know for sure that whatever has been causing the Nationals to spin their wheels organizationally is being addressed. But at least, from where I stand, there seems to be movement in a positive direction.

Adam Dunn Makes Crocuses Bloom

Filed under: Organization,Personnel,Players — Tags: , , , , , — Wigi @ 3:23 pm February 11, 2009

I happened to be looking out the window this morning to this view, when I heard the news:

$th Avenue in Anchorage

Sure looks like spring to me!

I was, in fact looking out my window when my RSS feed displayed the headline from “Nationals Journal”: Sources: Nats Sign Adam Dunn.

So I immediately head over to NJ, and it was like a virtual blog party. Even the curmudgeons and naysayers were happy.

I was happy.

I don’t know if Dunn is the right choice for the Nats or not. I am not a Major League GM. But the faithful feel better, and that makes a big difference.

I feel compelled to say “I told you so…” Even Boswell, in his chat today (before the announcement) was roasting the crow, in preparation for the feast. He said, “The Nats are going to look very smart __and I’mm [sic] be delighted to lash myself in the public square__ if they get Dunn at a great price. But I doubt it. I don’t se(e) them being a “first mover” but more like a “too late reactor” in this situation.”

If only I could be there for the lashing, because Bos will be laughing hysterically with every stroke.

This points out the danger of being an armchair GM. None of us have all the information. All we have is opinions. And while the faithful lost faith, the front office went about their work, first making a credible bid to Teixeira, and then acquiring Dunn. But in this web 2.0 world, our opinions carry some weight – not very much, but some. After all, I am just some guy with a blog, but hey, you’re reading this, aren’t you?

The real proof will come in August and September, when it is clear where the 2009 Nats are headed, and what the foundation looks like for 2010. But today, as our favorite team converges on Viera, more than a few of us have come to the realization that Stan Kasten and the Lerner Family and Jim Bowden have done exactly what they promised they would do. And they did it despite our whining and complaining, and not because of it. I think some of you owe them an apology – or at least, you should renew your season tickets.

Nine months of hand-wringing are over. And as the crocuses poke through the Earth in NatsTown… Let’s play ball!

Assuming Facts Not In Evidence: Lerners Are Cheap

IntroBowden is incompetentAaron Crow Sidebar… Lerners are cheap…

Cheap is such a pejorative term, don’t you think?

And in this context, it defies definition. It all started with Ronnie Belliard’s bats, some FedEx letters and team expense reimbursements. Today it has morphed into a commentary on the Nats participation in the free agent market.

Let’s start with the small stuff first. Baseball is an old industry. Very few people work professionally in baseball, and when it comes to management, the there are probably less than 500 people in executive positions across the Major Leagues. To be qualified for one of these positions, you almost certainly come from one of three tracks: you already work in baseball in an executive capacity, you already work in another professional sport in an executive capacity, or you are being groomed internally to advance within an organization. Or, the fourth track, you could buy a baseball team.

The difference between the first three and the fourth is that people who come from the first three are steeped in the culture of the industry. There is a way that you do things in baseball. People who come from a real estate background will likely have a very different view of how one conducts business. Business people draw a distinction between the core knowledge and talents that one needs to develop real estate (or throw a curve ball) and the skills and talents you need to manage your accounts payable. To most business people payables should be the same whether they are FedEx for contracts and blueprints, or FedEx for scouting documents. I am not at all surprised that the Lerners would want to examine the way they procure items or pay expenses.

In a lot of ways, the Lerner’s acquisition of the Nationals was like a merger – of course, the industries couldn’t be more dissimilar – but in any merger, there are always going to be ruffled feathers and hurt feelings as the new parent company asserts its control over the organization. Complaints about payables is just one of the things that happens in a merger. It doesn’t mean that the Lerners are cheap. It just means that the Lerner’s way of doing business was not immediately compatible with the culture of Major League Baseball.

When you’re sitting in a quiet room, and you hear someone in the back of the room cough, it doesn’t mean that everyone there is going to get the flu. In the absense of sound, every little breath is magnified. So it is when the Natosphere waits to hear more about the thrifty ways of the Lerners, and the Nats trade veterans for league minimum players or minor leaguers. Trading veterans for prospects, signing journeymen free agents rather than stars, letting your number one draft pick walk over a difference of $500,000 - the Glass Half Empty crowd sees this as irrefutable proof that the Lerners are cheap… and by this, the critics mean, too cheap to field a respectable team.

Even Tom Boswell piled on today. And I don’t blame him, or anyone else for being upset about the outcome of this season – and there are good reasons to be concerned about the perception of the team by the fans. I am upset too. But the foundations for this year’s poor performance were laid in the offices of Major League Baseball and in Montreal (and San Juan). I don’t see how spending more money could have made the Nats any better or more entertaining to watch. Who could the Nats have signed as a free agent that would have made them better (or more entertaining)? We’ve been promised historically bad teams since 2005, and every year the Nats have overachieved – until this year. In fact, one could even make the argument that spending free agent money caused some of this year’s problems.

The Nats signed two free agent catchers – Paul Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada – with the idea that Jesus Flores needed to play every day. The thought was that he should do that on the farm, where he could become familiar with the Nats pitching prospects, and get another year of seasoning in a less stressful environment. On the surface, that sounds like a wise and conservative way to grow your catcher of the future. But when both Lo Duca and Estrada were injured, Flores was called up, followed by Will Nieves, both Flores and Nieves played their way into the top of the depth chart, leaving Estrada to be released and Lo Duca playing any available position just to get ABs. And why did Lo Duca need plate appearances? Because if the Nats were going to recoup any of his $5 million in salary through trade, he had to play, even if there were better choices – either more talented, more healthy, or just youngsters with more long-term potential. Of course, injuries to Ryan Zimmerman, Nick Johnson, Wily Mo Pena and Austin Kearns made it easy to find potential places to play Lo Duca. Add to that the 40 percent effort that Felipe Lopez gave the Nats, and the same motivations to get him playing time, and it was clear that attending a game during the Nats 2008 season was more like shopping at Big Lots than going to the ballpark.

Don’t think the fans didn’t notice. They did. And just like a 20 minute shopping excursion to Big Lots, when watching the Nats, most fans felt that it was 19 minutes too much.

And it was like that until July 31. And while things were better on August 1, it hardly mattered by then.

But that doesn’t make the Lerners cheap. If you add $10 million to your payroll, and it doesn’t generate any wins, should you spend that $10 million? Is there some other return on your investment?

I don’t know. Probably not, and it is one of those things that is unknowable. But the premise that the Nats are unwilling to spend on free agents has yet to be proven. One can point to the Aaron Crow situation and try to infer something about the Nats willingness to spend, but one could just as easily infer the Nats desire not to be railroaded into overpaying for draft choices.

Stan Kasten made the point back in 2006 that major free agent signings are the last step you take, to get the final piece of your championship team. It is hard to make the argument that the Nats are anywhere close to that point, as they teeter at the edge of a 100-loss season.

Are the Lerners cheap? I don’t know. Either do you.

Assuming Facts Not In Evidence: Bowden is Incompetent

Intro … Bowden is Incompetent… Aaron Crow SidebarLerners are cheap

There seem to be a lot of people who are unhappy with Jim Bowden. Interestingly, very few of them happen to be the principals of the Washington Nationals.

Bowden didn’t sign Aaron Crow. Bowden signed Lo Duca and Estrada, and ended up stuck with their contracts, rather than starting Flores with the Nats. Bowden traded for Kearns and Lopez. Bowden traded for Wily Mo Pena. I could go on (and on). Suffice to say, Bowden’s list of sins is long.

Unless, of course, these are not sins at all.

Fans have no problem spotting poor performances on the field. Every fan has his or her favorites, and his or her list of players that need to be playing somewhere else. Watching a team like the Nationals is particularly painful when, for most people, the second list is considerably longer than the first. But having a list of players you would rather see somewhere else… or perhaps, a list of players that you would prefer were never here in the first place, should not be misconstrued as a referendum on the tenure of a general manager, whether he be Jim Bowden or anyone else.

Acquiring Major League players is not an exact science. In fact, it is not a science at all, but rather, an art. Billy Beane and other proponents of the Moneyball mindset would like you to believe that player acquisition can more or less be distilled down to an equation. But in reality, it can’t. Every GM has a philosophy about how the game should be played and which players best embody the skills needed to play the game that way. Implementing that philosophy takes all that into account, plus the specific conditions at the time – the team’s budget, the availability of players and prospects in your system to trade, the current state of the season (or offseason), etc.

The problem with fans evaluating the performance of a general manager is that fans have almost no information (in real time) about any of this… and for that matter, any idea what the GM does day to day. Fans do not have access to scouting information. Fans do not have information about injuries. Fans do not follow the GM around, listen to his phone calls, sit in on meetings, talk to managers and coaches, etc. Most importantly, GMs are not accountable to the fans, and so the fan’s standard of competence isn’t even relevant.

When fans do get insight into the workings of the organization and the job of the general manager, much of it comes in the form of formal statements or presentations created for fan consumption – such as a radio interview or a fan event with a Q and A session. It is great when those things happen, but it is fair to say that whatever comes of those statements and presentations is canned content for the fans, and that there really isn’t anything of substance said… and certainly that is true with the Nationals.

Even if one looks at the comments that Bowden made regarding the status of Chad Cordero’s 2009 contract, no reasonable person would be surprised by the fact that Cordero would be non-tendered, given the circumstances. What bothered people most is how it was done, and I thought that it was rather boorish to have it play out the way it did. Even so, those are style points, and for the most part, they don’t affect how the GM does his job.

Here is what we do know about the Nats and Bowden: Bowden arrived with the Nats at a time where the ownership had a conflict of interest with the rest of the league. By the time that conflict of interest was resolved and the Lerners were sold the team, the minor league system was bereft of talent. The team, under the stewardship of the Lerners and the tenure of Kasten, implemented a plan to rebuild the team through the revitalization of the farm system, much as Kasten did in Atlanta with the Braves (The Plan). This involved good scouting, strong drafts, trading performing veteran players for prospects, developing your own talent within the system, and the judicious signing of free agents – low budget at first, and then big names when it came to the last piece or pieces of a championship team.

What part of that plan hasn’t Bowden done? In fact, he’s done it all, just as promised.

But what about Aaron Crow? How is letting your number one draft pick walk part of “The Plan?”

Good question. The answer is, none of us know – and can’t know, because teams (and agents and players) just don’t share this kind of information. My guess is that Crow never intended to sign with the Nats, either because he disliked the idea of playing here, or he was hiding something – an injury, perhaps - that affected his ability to play. By orchestrating the failed negotiation, he retains his draft value in the future… and who better to make the patsy of a failed negotiation than someone whose reputation has been called into question, such as Bowden? That gambit doesn’t work with another GM.

The problem is not whether Bowden is competent, or whether he is a good judge of baseball talent, or a good GM. For most fans, the real issue comes down to not liking Bowden, and at the same time, not liking the team they’re watching. Sure, fans can point to particular transactions and say that the Nats should have done this, and not done that… Or that, and maybe they should have done this, too. The fan substitutes his or her amateur 20-20 hindsight for the judgement of the GM, and the fan always comes out smelling like roses, as he or she sits in their $40 seats watching the latest four-pitch walk or two base error, or GIDP. The bottom line is, no fan is qualified to evaluate the performance of the general manager. Fans have no meaningful idea what is being asked of Bowden and whether he is or isn’t doing what it… and none of us are qualified to be general managers or team presidents… Otherwise we would be GMs or team presidents.

As an outside observer, I believe Bowden has been given a specific mandate, and he appears to have done exactly what has been asked of him. Does that mean he is beyond criticism? Absolutely not! I have my own reasons to be unsure of Bowden and of his future with the Nats. But none of my questions have much to do with who was traded for whom, or who we drafted. I don’t believe that the Nats are anywhere except exactly where we were told they would be at the end of this season. Sure, their record this year is worse by quite a bit, and it was one of the more painful seasons to watch. But the Nationals are fundamentally a much better organization in almost any meaningful way (except won-loss record) than they were at the end of last year. All of the facts are entirely consistent with the implementation of “The Plan.” The problem is, most of the fans can’t stand it.

There may be good reasons to get rid of Jim Bowden. I haven’t heard anyone articulate them yet.

Depressing…

It seems the Nats are losing a lot lately (though as I write this, they’re three of their last five, and leading the Dodgers in the sixth). And I am depressed.

But not so much about the team. Yeah, I had higher hopes – really high hopes. I was the one that stole the term, “Irrational Exuberance” from Alan Greenspan. Greenspan was right, and apparently I was also right (in my wrongness). But as frustrating as it is to watch the Nats sometimes, it is nothing compared to reading the fan commentary in the blogs. As irrationally exuberant as I was in March (and especially after the Nats starting the year 3-0), the most boisterous of the blogosphere are irrationally vitriolic. Pick a target – Felipe Lopez, Paul LoDuca, Jim Bowden, The Lerners, Stan Kasten, Austin Kearns, Luis Ayala… even Ryan Zimmerman and Manny Acta – All of them have had critics crying for their firing, trade, release or public flogging.

All because the Nats are a last-place team.

Is this an unexpected result?

Lots of people hoped that the Nats would have been a lot more fun to watch. Whether that means flirting with a pennant race, or just being a .500 team, or even just a chance to see the Nats win every time you come to the ballpark – Most of us hoped for something more than we’re getting. As it turned out, what we’ve gotten is something we hadn’t considered – the historically-bad team we were promised last year – or at least, something close to it.

Back in June I wrote this, because it was clear back then that the Nats weren’t going anywhere, and the important things to watch and look for this season had little to do with the specific outcomes of games. I still believe what I wrote, especially the last line – “The medicine tastes awful, doesn’t it?” The problem is, the medicine was unnecessarily bitter.

If you’ve waded around this blog, or know me personally, you know that my academic and professional background is in organizational communication. One of the most important tenets of getting the most from your organization is to have a clear, organization-wide philosophy – and this is exactly where the Nats got themselves in trouble with their fans this year.

Once the Nationals organization realized that this year was about preparing the organization for growth and success in 2009, 2010 and beyond, each game became a marketing exercise to impress visiting scouts. We saw Paul Lo Duca play all over the field. We saw Felipe Lopez sleepwalk through a summer. Neither deserved to play, with healthier and better-performing alternatives available. But the Nats were not about putting the best team on the field every night, but rather, about getting the most from their personnel investments. When doing your best (by playing your best players) isn’t your organization’s primary goal, then your employees (and players) rarely do your best.

Fans may not have thought about this explicitly, but most knew that they weren’t seeing the best team on the field every night… and even when the best team was on the field, you always got the sense that the outcome of the game was secondary to making sure the scouts in attendance saw all of the goods that were available for trade.

The catharsis we all felt when the Nats released LoDuca and Lopez, and the hot streak that the team set out on immediately afterward, shows how quickly the change in philosophy can work. A lot of people thought it was about the addition of new, young players, but more likely, it was addition by subtraction.

I don’t blame fans for being frustrated, disgusted or even angry about this season. The Nats front office has created a lot of their own problems and left it to the fans to endure a 90 percent product. But regardless, the Nats foibles are short-term ones, that come the end of September, will be meaningless. The Nats will have made important progress towards building a perennial winner, and really, that is all we could reasonably expect from the 2008 season.

Which brings me back to the depressing, vitriolic blogosphere. Be angry. Be upset. Be frustrated. But the incessant, shrill whining about how cheap the Lerners are, or whether Bowden is a competent general manager, or even if Lenny Harris should be fired – is tiresome. I might be inclined to listen if the blogosphere were populated by billionaires, Major League GMs and hitting coaches. But mostly, the blogosphere is made up of men and women just like me – passionate about the Nationals, but for the most part, no more knowledgeable or competent at any of those positions than that guy sitting on the Metro reading the newspaper. Repeating your truth over and over doesn’t make it a universal truth.

But apparently, it makes an already bitter medicine even more bitter.