37. That things in D.C., generally speaking, go horribly wrong for the Nationals.Charming. My new year's wish is that Dayn figures out how to spell his first name and gets fired. Here's a link where you can inform Da"y"n just what you think of his lovely sentiment.
Friday, December 31, 2004
Friday, December 24, 2004
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
My big problem is the lettering. First, it's lame. Bland. Uninteresting. Blocky. Lame, bland, uninteresting, and blocky are okay when there's tradition behind it. These monstrosities have no tradition. Second, it's totally incongruous with the cap. Regular readers know well that I have been against the curly, dude ranch W since I was a toddler, but the fact is that it's there, it's ours, and it doesn't want any more bears. So why have lettering on the jersey that's the exact opposite of the letter on the cap? What the hell is wrong with these people? All the world's best baseball teams have script on their jerseys, from the L.A. Dodgers to the Chunichi Dragons. And so do the really crappy teams.
So to recap, I don't like the dull jerseys; the lame, compromise name; the cheesy, late-60's W; the sleepy, cranky manager; the self-promoting GM; or the weak-hitting center fielder. Yet somehow I'm completely happy.
Not much going on in the personnel department. We're still after Odalis Perez, as are the Mariners and Orioles. The Times reported a couple days ago that Odalis would take less money to play for the Nats, which makes sense when you take into account both the dilapidated stadium and the unstable ownership and management situation. Maybe it's the thriving online community.
As I mentioned Monday night, Jim Bowden elected to tender all our arbitration-eligible players, which is good. Catcher Brian Schneider, of whom I am a fan, signed today, as did pitcher Tomo Ohka, of whom I am also a fan. I'll let the inscrutable and poorly-translated Japanese press tell you about that one:
A landlord is to remains to Expos. He was expected for pitcher Tomokazu Oya (28) to receive the offer of a re-contract from Expos, and to remain on the team on the 21st.For explanation of why Ohka is called "Oya" and "landlord," check out one of my first posts, and the first time I used the lame-ass translation gimmick. Anyway, as I also mentioned on Monday, Ohka is better than everyone thinks he is, a real forerunner, and I expect him to mention a good number of victories and the earned run average under 4-00.
It plays an active part as a forerunner, such as a landlord mentioning 13 victories in 02 and mentioning ten victories 03 years. Although it was large to have suffered a fracture in response to the hit ball in June this season near the right-hand head and it returned in September, it remained in the results of three wins and seven losses, and the earned run average 3-40.
One more thing. The Washington Baseball Blog changed its name to Nationals Pastime. I figure it's just to move up the alphabetical list of blogs to your right. And there's a new one, the Gray Pages, so now I'm not the only one with the wrong team name in his blog title. Gray Pages did that on purpose, though, crowning me King Dumbass.
Wait, one more. J.D. Drew got $11 million a year from the Dodgers. So, yeah, my Drew for CF idea was criminally stupid. I, like Will Carroll, am not afraid to own up to my mistakes.
UPDATE: Turns out Ohka hasn't signed, and the inscrutable Japanese Press is merely informing us that he was tendered. Told you I was King Dumbass.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Monday, December 20, 2004
Sources close to 9 News say members of DC's council have put a deal in place that will gaurantee some private funding for the proposed baseball stadium, saving the city's bid for the Montreal Expos.This could get done tomorrow, and wouldn't we all feel better?
Earlier Monday night, Mayor Tony Williams and DC Council Chair Linda Cropp had said they made progress toward breaking the impasse over private financing for a new ballpark. Baseball had rejected Cropp's amendment requiring that at least half the costs be privately paid.
Aides say Cropp and Williams are working on a way to assure baseball that the stadium will be built while finding private money to help cover the costs.
Meantime, Cropp has put baseball on the agenda for Tuesday's council meeting.
Nationals GM Jim Bowden announced tonight that he would tender contracts to his remaining arbitration-eligible players.Good, I guess. I was worried about Ohka.
Tony Armas Jr. and Tomo Ohka apparently will be back to join Livan Hernandez and Zach Day in the rotation.
Padres acquired outfielder Dave Roberts from the Red Sox for outfielder Jay Payton, infielder Ramon Vazquez, RHP Dave Pauley and cash.I'm waiting for Nats news, either arbitration stuff or Cropp stuff, but nothing so far. We re-signed T.J. Tucker, but I'm not going to pretend I have an opinion about it. Two points about our remaining arb-eligible players: 1) Tomo Ohka is a better pitcher than everyone thinks he is and B) if non-tendering Tony Armas saves us enough money to pick up Odalis, let it be done.
All the Odalis Perez talk, welcome as it is, ignores this team's biggest on-field problem: we don't have a major league quality center fielder. Endy Chavez may be a very nice fellow, but he has no business in my outfield. The issue is exacerbated by the fact that the market for CFs is remarkably thin this year. Carlos Beltran is beyond the means of most teams, and after that you're signing a bench-warmer or trying to convert a corner outfielder. But check this out from the Boston Herald:
Dave Roberts was a star performer off the Red Sox bench in 2004 but he's hoping for a starting role in next year's campaign. . . .Roberts said [19-year-old Red Sox GM Theo] Epstein is trying to make a deal that will benefit the player and the Sox.I think Dave Roberts would be perfect for us, and, unlike my J.D. Drew pipe dream, this is feasible, depending on what the Sox would ask for. Roberts plays fine defense at all the outfield positions, puts up an OBP in the .330-.350 range, and is an actual base-stealing threat (135 SB, 32 CS career). I don't know his contract situation, but he made under a million in 2004. Roberts isn't an all-star (he wouldn't even be starting on a good team), and he won't fix this teams significant run-scoring deficiencies, but he's a perfect stopgap and an easy guy to root for. Anyone but Endy.
"Theo and I have talked and he's looking out for my best interest,'' Roberts said. "Getting me over here was a great move and it was a perfect fit to the puzzle. We talked and he's going to do what's best for the organization and myself.''
It was a train wreck of a rally, but the turnout was very good.>
Basically, none of the scheduled speakers were there and basically the organizing group paraded anyone who wanted to speak up in front of the stage.
Mark Stern was the unofficial "MC" and he was an embarrassment; he didn't even realize Brad Wilkerson -- the Nats best player -- was on the team. (WHY wasn't Phil Wood, who that station has screwed over, MCing this event?? I could have MCed better than Stern.) And G-d love him, but the old Senators announcer was a poor MC and he sucked the energy out of the crowd with his stories about how bad the old Senators were back in 1964.
Still, it looks like a deal has been struck -- and baseball may be back! I'll wait til the first pitch but I'm feeling a ton more optimistic.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
The good news is that they're still working on it. Linda Cropp and Anthony Williams will meet tomorrow, and I'm interested to hear how many times the word "jackass" gets used. Peter Gammons is reporting that MLB is "attempting to negotiate some sort of compromise with Linda Cropp," but what that compromise would entail is not pointed out.
Also on Monday, the DC Baseball PAC, which I only just now heard about, "will host a citywide Town Hall style meeting with Mayor Anthony A. Williams, members of the DC City Council, DC Sports Commission Chairman Mark Tuohey, and others." Go over there and drop them an email if you're interested.
Friday, December 17, 2004
Despite Major League Baseball's decision to shut down business and marketing operations indefinitely, the Washington Nationals and their fans are assuming the club will be back in full operation within two weeks.It seems most likely to me that people are simply waiting until the deal is dead for sure before giving up their spot in line.
"I would bet money on it," a high-ranking club official said yesterday. "I wouldn't bet my life savings. But if I was forced to choose and bet some of my own money, I would bet that it's going to get resolved and we're going to be back up and running on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1 at the latest." Fans appear to have the same optimistic outlook. Given an opportunity by the club to request refunds, less than 1 percent of the 16,000 season-ticket holders have chosen to do so.
Nationals officials had to postpone a host of meetings set to take place over the next week or two, including key ones with potential broadcast and sponsorship partners. Most of those meetings were rescheduled for early January, further evidence that the club believes it will be operating again soon.When I hear something like this, I experience a jolt of optimism that goes away as soon as I think about it. Just because they rescheduled the meetings doesn't mean they think they're going to need them. I'm trying to resist the temptation to jump on every positive tidbit and declare victory.
In other news, Anthony Williams has stolen my gimmick and started calling everyone jackasses. Good for him.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
As the future of a Washington baseball team hangs in the balance, the mayor said Thursday it's still possible to meet the Dec. 31 deadline for a deal.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams said his administration is working to pull together private financing to win the vote of District of Columbia Council chairwoman Linda W. Cropp. An amendment she introduced requiring at least half the stadium funding come from private sources was declared "wholly unacceptable" by Major League Baseball officials.
The two things that really had me worried yesterday were 1) that Tony Tavares was stopping negotiations for TV and radio deals and 2) Anthony Williams was all like "Shit! I mean, fuck, dude! The bitch set me up!" Seriously, the man was not calm. The fact that Williams is now talking more like Badass Jack Evans was cheers me a bit. Perhaps we're going to wind up shutting down all those schools and orphanages after all. One can only hope.
That’s a lot of money! Think of what we can do with that kind of money? $450 million will build a lot of schools, will reopen DC General and even build us some new parks and recreations centers. Think of how well-stocked our libraries will be now!Would it have been better with swears? That's the blogological dilemma I'm dealing with right now.
We’ve got this huge bonanza of cash now, since we don’t have to worry about public financing of the baseball stadium. I’m so excited!
Not much has happened since Bob DuPuy bitch-slapped everybody yesterday. This thing isn't dead yet, but it's perilously close. For some time, public financing opponents have been saying "MLB needs DC more than DC needs MLB." A quick look at the last 30+ years kind of takes the snap out of that argument, as MLB has apparently needed Denver, Phoenix, Miami, Tampa, Toronto, Seattle, and San Juan more than they needed Washington. But these are just minor quibbles. The real test of this (dumbass) theory comes now. Who's going to blink: Linda Cropp or Baseball? I pose this question: what costs Baseball more money; pulling out of a very promising market and taking a PR black eye, or allowing their free-stadium precedent to be shattered by a bumbling city council? You see why I'm pessimistic.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Major League Baseball president Bob DuPuy's issued a statement saying the deal approved by the D.C. Council doesn't reflect the agreement signed with the Williams administration. And DuPay says the legislation approved last night is "wholly unacceptable."Alternative title for this post: "Well, How Nice for the Fucking Schools."
The council changed the deal to require private financing for half the stadium's cost.
The statement says the Washington Nationals will immediately cease all business and promotional activities until futher notice, though the team's baseball operations will continue. And in another ominous sign, DuPuy says anyone who left a deposit on Nationals tickets can contact the club's office for a refund.A spokesman for Mayor Tony Williams says he's not surprised by baseball's decision. Chris Bender tells The Associated Press that in the 15 days remaining to approve a deal, everyone has to spend every waking moment moving toward the middle, to save the deal.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
The good news is that the stadium proposal will pass. The bad news is that it is going to pass with a requirement that 1/2 the stadium financing comes from the private sector. There's a deadline where if the council doesn't approve a package certified by the CFO, the deal is dead (actually, the council may not actually have to approve it, it may only be that it gets to them. I wasn't too clear on that, but I'm sure the news tomorrow will clear it up). This would have to be approved by next year's council, which may not even want to foot 50% of the bill.It's like Linda Cropp doesn't even know tomorrow's my birthday. I really thought all the uncertainty was going to end tonight. I almost hope Bowden does something dumb tomorrow to take my mind off all this.
UPDATE in the comments. I don't know why I did it that way either.
- We're still after Odalis Perez. Very good, but with the market the way it is, I don't see how that $6 million is going to get him. I wonder if they could backload the contract - put Malek on the hook for $20 million in '07 or something.
- I reconstructed the current Nats in a two or three year old Playstation game, and they're not very good. I did hit an inside-the-park homer with Guzman, though.
- When they signed Cordero, why did they say "we need his leadership" rather than "we need some right-handed power off the bench"? I'd have a lot more respect for the latter comment, and the former just invites references to the police blotter.
- Emeril is really growing on me. I think it's because Food Network has dumbed itself down to the point that it's all "Learn the story behind Twinkies! You won't believe how they keep them spongy!" and Emeril is the only one who cooks anymore, catchphrases aside.
- That Kornheiser column sure was dumb. I don't get the love people have for this guy.
- Will Carroll is in the NY Times today. I guess they needed to fill the void left by Jayson Blair.
- John Thompson is on right now, and that guy is charmingly incompetent. I remember him defending Alex Rodriguez' contract by pointing out that he has a different view of money because "he grew up in a hut somewhere." A-Rod was born in New York.
- Who's the best major leaguer with your last name? I think mine is Cards center fielder Terry Moore. He was a lynchpin of the Musial-era Cards, and it doesn't get better than that. Jack Evans' is Darrell Evans, who is beloved of Bill James.
- I like the Nats Blog's take on the Pedro Martinez signing. It's great because we get to see Pedro, and it's a perfect example of the Mets continuing to do the stupidest, most expensive thing possible all the time. Jim Bowden, on the other hand, does very stupid things on a budget.
- Lordy. I had dinner, dozed off, and watched about 10 episodes of Arrested Development, and those dedicated civil servants are still talking. Lucille's my favorite. There's usually nothing in her system but a bottle of vodka and an estrogen pill.
- Lucille's my favorite Arrested Development character, obviously, not my favorite civil servant. That would be Jack Evans. Sorry, William Howard Taft.
Monday, December 13, 2004
- We got Wil Cordero. One year, $600,000. This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about with the first base situation had Bowden traded Nick Johnson. Cordero can hit lefties and presumably will spell Johnson or Terrmel Sledge against them, he doesn't cost much, and he could be good for some free publicity. All snarkiness aside, I hope he's gotten his personal life straightened out.
- Jeffrey Hammonds got a minor league deal. I'd be kind of surprised to see him on the major league roster unless we ship some outfielders out of here. He can hit every once in a while, but he makes Nick Johnson look like Cal Ripken. The dude has never played a full season.
- There was the Rule 5 draft. I know nothing about any of these guys and won't presume to comment. John Sickels discusses it here.
- The uniforms will be unveiled Wednesday at 2 in the afternoon at the ESPNZone downtown. Terrmel Sledge and Zach Day will be there to do their little dance on the catwalk. I don't think I can make it, given that I have a job.
- Finally, and most importantly, the second and final city council vote is tomorrow. If the stadium financing passes, and it will, that's it; we win.
So it's silly and we don't have to worry about it. Peruse the Post article, though.
But lest any Nationals fans get worked up about the possibility of Sosa playing at RFK Stadium, the discussions appear to be merely an indication of Washington General Manager Jim Bowden's attitude, which some consider creative and others say is overzealous.Some would call it frigging stupid.
"Whatever dollars we have to spend, it's going to starting pitching," Bowden said.Get me a center fielder, dammit. We have starting pitching.
Another indication of Bowden's willingness to listen: He met Sunday with Oakland General Manager Billy Beane about one of the A's starting pitchers, another virtual impossibility for Washington.This and the first excerpt are evidence of what I've been saying about Bowden all along. Note the absence of any concern for the quality of the team, either in the short or long term. Bowden is here solely to create buzz for himself. The more he gets his name in papers and on the front page of ESPN.com, the more likely he'll be to get himself a real GM job. "Hey, Billy! How about Ohka for Hudson?" "No, Jim." "Nice talking to you, BB. Hey, Gammons! Guess who I was just talking to?" At least this round of self-aggrandizement didn't cost us anything.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
The Washington Nationals were scheduled to meet with the agents for Odalis Perez late last night, but the club does not expect to be able to sign the free agent pitcher . . . Washington previously had fallen short in its pursuits of [Russ] Ortiz and [Jaret] Wright and now can likely add Perez to that pricey list.And is if that weren't bad enough, look at what Bowden is condsidering doing instead.
"It's because of the marketplace," Bowden said. "It's strictly financial."
With Perez out of the picture, the Nationals will shift their attention to a remaining pool of free-agent pitchers that includes the Yankees' Esteban Loaiza, the Braves' Paul Byrd and the Cubs' Matt Clement.Loaiza sucks (and it wasn't because he "couldn't handle the New York spotlight" or any of the that crap. He's just not very good), Byrd is injury-prone but looks like Frasier, and Matt Clement is actually good and therefore probably out of our price range. So, the $10 million our GM blew on players we didn't need so he could get Tom Boswell to flutter his eyelashes at him may not only cost us Odalis Perez, but may also saddle us with Esteban Loaiza.
As much I like Perez, a starting pitcher is not our greatest need. The biggest hole on this team is center field, where any arrangement of current Nats players results in a sacrifice of offense, defense, or both. Endy Chavez can't hit and possibly can't field (he's the Cristian Guzman of baseball!). If we leave him on the bench to poke Frank Robinson when he starts snoring, Brad Wilkerson moves out there and Terrmel Sledge takes over in left. This helps the offense a great deal, but you might as well tack half a run onto everyone's ERA; B-Wilk is no center fielder, and Sledge apparently isn't so good with the fly balls. This is why I liked the probably imaginary Alexis Rios trade so much - it would have kept Chavez and Sledge on the bench (where Sledge at least could be very useful), helped the defense, helped the offense, and given us an exciting 23 year old player to watch develop.
The center fielder market is very thin this year. Steve Finley, who is a center fielder only in the sense that he stands in center field until it's his turn to bat, just pulled $7 million a year (not the $10 million I'd heard before) for his age 63 and 64 seasons. Carlos Beltran is the biggest prize on the market, and we probably can't afford him (but consider this: Bowden has already spent about $10 million, and it sounds as though he has a little over $6 million more to increase the pitching staff's crap factor. If Beltran or Beltre sign for less than $16 million a year, I'm going to cry. Literally, I mean; glistening, salty teardrops running down my face and right into my soup). And that's about it for the position. I think we should consider a run at Braves right fielder J.D. Drew. Will Carroll, whom I'm not mocking today, has suggested that center field may help Drew's troubled knees, as it would involve less stopping and starting than right would. He does have a fairly terrifying injury history, but that could be the only thing that leaves him in our price range, and our outfield depth could give him plenty of days off. His defense in center is unlikely to be great, but he'd make up for that by being a baseball-smashing machine, which immediately makes him better than Endy. I have no idea if he'd be in the budget, but if the unspeakably monstrous rumors of Bowden pursuing Sammy Sosa are true, there must be something left in the kitty.
We're not getting Barry Larkin. He wants to go somewhere he can play every day, and who can blame him for that? Elsewhere in the Veteran Leadership department, Wil Cordero is apparently choosing between us and the Mets. I refer you to Capitol Punishment's discussion of Cordero's peculiar leadership techniques.
Hat interest update: I was chilling at the mall yesterday. First, two waiters commented on my sweet Nats cap. Then I was talking to the guy at the hat store, and they had gotten in 72 each of the blue and red caps. They had sold all but four.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Sportsblurb.com has an overview of our top 10 prospects.
Not to place all the blame on former Expos GM Omar Minaya, but the drafts during his years with the team were not exactly great. Chad Cordero was a solid first round pick, and there are some other players thrown in, but overall this is a farm system that severely lacks depth and talent. New GM Jim Bowden has not helped the cause by trading Maicer Izturis and letting Seung Song go through waivers. A strong draft like Bowden had when the Reds drafted Austin Kearns and Adam Dunn in consecutive rounds during 1998 would really help.It's never pleasant to hear about the state of our farm system, and I hope it's a problem the new owners are willing to throw piles of money at.
There's a rumor going around that Jim Bowden's about to land Odalis Perez for three years, $18 million. I dearly hope it's true. Jaret Wright and Kris Benson each got $21 mil over three years, and I'd rather have Odalis than either one of those guys. The market is exploding this winter - Steve Finley just got $10 million a year, and he's, like, 72 years old - so why is a pitcher as young and as good as Perez available this cheaply? Did his postseason choke-job against the Cards cost him that much? I'll be very impressed if Bowden pulls this off.
Other rumors, courtesy of this Washington Post article.
- Bowden's after relief pitcher Steve Kline. Kline is murder on lefties and doesn't like Tony LaRussa any more than I do, but he's going to cost a few million. Waste of resources. Want to see something weird and rad? It's Kline-Time, the Steve Kline fansite! Pay special attention to the part where he wipes out the dinosaurs with high, inside fastballs.
- Barry Larkin's still on the wishlist. I'm wholly in favor of this. Even in his senescence, Larkin is a handy guy to have on the bench, and he is by all accounts a great guy and a real leader. There's talk he might come on as a coach, as the Nats are short in that department.
- Rockies pitcher Shawn Chacon is drawing trade interest from several teams, our beloved Nationals among them. That's a deal that could work out well. Yeah, he flopped horribly as a closer last year, but Chacon's about to be 27 and has managed an above-average ERA in two of his four years in spite of pitching in Coors Field. I'd have to hear what Bowden was offering before endorsing or condemning.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Time to weigh in on Johnson v. Rios before it's old news. First off, I'd rather have 150 games of Nick Johnson than 150 games of Alexis Rios. Johnson provides the on-base skills this team so desperately needs, and as a Baseball Prospectus subscriber I don't think I have a choice but to like him. The problem, of course, is getting 150 games out of Johnson - it's more than he's ever played in a year. The D.C. Baseball blog misses the real problem, I think, with this comment:
Nick, obviously has an injury history that needs to be accounted for. However, his most recent injury seems so random and unrelated that it is hard to hold it against him. Still, he is less likely to play a full season.True, his most recent injury was random (he got his pretty face busted by a baseball), but that's not the only time he missed in 2004. Let's not forget that he started the season on the disabled list with the same wrist problems that have cost him scores of games over the years. Let's also not forget that wasn't even very good when he did play (.251/.359/.398, 7 HR). This isn't the kind of injury that goes away, and I'm becoming increasingly skeptical that Johnson will ever put in a full season or match his 2003 output (.422 OBP!).
What would Rios bring to the Nats? Our outfield at the moment consists of Brad Wilkerson in left, Endy Chavez in center, and Jose Guillen in right, with Terrmel Sledge and Ryan Church on the bench. Chavez, as you've probably heard, needs to go. He doesn't get on base, he has no power, he doesn't steal bases, and he's not a particularly hot centerfielder. Rios' rookie season was better than any year Chavez has had with the bat, and he was only 23 last season. Rios' defensive skills are open to question, but if he's put in center he wouldn't exactly be replacing Andruw Jones. Centerfield is the one position on this team that most needs an upgrade, and Rios could be the guy to do it. Meanwhile, Wilkerson should stay in left for two reasons: he's an above-average fielder there, and it keeps Terrmel Sledge out. I've wanted to keep Sledge on the bench ever since I saw this column on MLB.com:
Sledge will be the first to tell you, however, that he needs to improve his defensive skills. He often had problems with fly balls in the outfield and hard ground balls at first base.So here we have a guy who didn't make the bigs until he was 27, put up a less-than-inspiring-for-a-corner-outfielder 799 OPS, can't hit lefties (643 OPS), and admits that he has trouble not only with fly balls but also with grounders. He sounds like a useful fourth outfielder/pinch-hitter type, but to entrust him with a starting job would be foolish.
So that leaves us with a gap at first base. When faced with a gaping whole like this, I find it instructive to look at last year's Cardinals. Having let Fernando Vina go, the Cards were faced with the challenge of finding a second baseman. They had Hector Luna in the system already, and they signed Tony Womack and Marlon Anderson for $300,000 and $600,000 respectively - three second sackers for less than $1 million total. Thus, the Cards found themselves an effective 2B (Womack, as it turned out) and deepened their bench all for less than the cost of one-fourth of Cristian Guzman. This is what the Nats should do with first base. Bowden has been pursuing Team Leader Wil Cordero, so bring him on. I like Tony Clark (he looks like a mad scientist and slugged .472 and .458 the last two years), so throw him an offer. Give Sledge a chance at some of those scary grounders. Nobody gets more than a million and one year, and no one gets promised the starting job; if they don't like it, get someone else. It's the concept of replaceable talent at work. You give yourself flexibility and the chance to find a guy having a surprising year, like Womack last year. I'd be shocked if you couldn't get Johnson's .251/.359/.398 line out that or a similar group.
If this trade offer is real, it's an easy decision. Replacing Johnson with Rios might hurt the Nats' offense slightly in 2005. But what about after that? Rios is two years younger than Johnson, and Nick is very unlikely to age well. He is possessed of old player skills (good strike zone judgment, no speed), and big, slow first basemen don't age gracefully. Add in his chronic injuries, and you have a player who's much older in baseball terms than in years. Rios would add youth and potential, save money, improve the defense, and is much more likely to play 150 games.
In other news, is Jim Bowden consulting for the Yankees on the side?
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
If Nick Johnson for Alexis Rios is actually on the table, Bowden should do it in a heartbeat. I'll have my typically half-sensical analysis later. Now I have to go to bed and prepare to get ROCKED within an inch of my life again tomorrow. ROCK!
Monday, December 06, 2004
All the Vinny talk got me to thinking about the effect Coors Field has on hitters and whether a Coors Hangover might make Castilla even worse. I remember when Jeff Cirillo came to Colorado. He had been a solid .300 hitter with Milwaukee and remained one with the Rockies. The difference, though, was that he was a .350 hitter at home and a .250 hitter on the road. Why? One theory (and if anyone knows where I heard this, please remind me) is that since breaking balls don't break in the thin air, Rockies hitters can't adjust to ones that do when they get to sea level. It makes sense to me, and I wondered if it had anything to do with the catastrophic collapse of Cirillo's career after he joined Seattle in 2002. There is evidence that it did: from 1996-1999 Cirillo put up OPSesses of 894, 793, 847, and 862. In his final year in Denver, his OPS was 838, but only 710 on the road. Cirillo's collapse was merely his Rockies road OPS staying with him after he left: 690, 648, and 685 the last three years (his home stats dropped even lower, but he was playing in two pitchers' parks).
Jeff Cirillo suffered from a pretty nasty Coors Hangover - did anyone else? In other words, how common is it for a player to come to Colorado, see a bump in his home stats and a dip in his road numbers, and then see the lower road numbers continue after he goes elsewhere? There was only a handful of players who met my criteria, and I don't think we can draw anything conclusive from their results.
- Neifi Perez came up with the Rocks, but I'll use him anyway. In 2001, he played 87 games with Colorado and 49 with Kansas City. Overall, his OPS split was 822/580 home/road. He hit much worse the next year (564 overall, 635/496 split, and Kauffman is a hitters' park), but recovered in 2003 for a 694 road OPS.
- Jay Payton is an iffy case. Once again, the stats are complicated by a mid-season trade, as Payton spent most of 2002 with the Mets but did play 47 games with Colorado. In a full 2003 with the purple and silver (ugh), he managed a 917/814 split, remarkably even for Coors. The next year he went to Petco Park in San Diego, where batting averages go to die. His road OPS decreased slightly to 775, not enough to indicate a hangover.
- Todd Zeile had a 729 road OPS in 2001 with the Mets. 2002 saw him in Colorado putting up a 644 road OPS, a significant drop. He was back from the mountains the next year, hitting 661 on the road with the Mets and Expos, following that with 717 last year. It's possible Coors screwed him up for a year, but he is in his late 30s.
- Juan Pierre was fine after he went he went to Florida from the Rockies.
- So was our own Gary Bennett.
Speaking of home cookin', take a look at the career home/road splits for Cristian Guzman:
R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K Avg OBP SLG OPS
246 469 78 36 23 175 94 236 282 321 413 735 Home
212 402 64 25 16 114 72 255 249 284 350 634 Road
That's right, our boy Cris did everything better at the Metrodome, even steal bases. That slick turf may have hindered his defense, but it kept him a solid C with the bad, as opposed to the D student we're getting.
I may not have much if anything the next couple of days. I'm fulfilling a lifelong dream by seeing the Pixies twice in two nights - because I ROCK THAT MUCH! ROCK!
Sunday, December 05, 2004
- MLB owners voted 29-1 to approve the relocation of the Expos to D.C. Can we stop calling them the Expos now? Anyway, I'm sure you can guess the identity of the only no vote, but I'm still wondering who #29 was. The Expos don't have an owner. Did they let Loria vote twice?
- The Post is reporting that the new uniforms will be made public on December 13, conveniently the day before the second City Council vote. No news on the long-awaited beer cozies, though. In case you're wondering, my birthday's the 15th and Livan's my favorite Nat. FYI.
- According to the Times, Bowden has about $6 million and has made offers to Odalis Perez and Jaret Wright. I'm pro-Perez and anti-Wright. Why has there been no talk of Rickey? Rickey's ready to play! Rickey can contribute! Rickey!
- Baseball Prospectus has a free article about how Jim Bowden's done everything wrong. Nothing you haven't heard here, and I'm always free.
- The MLB.com Nationals site is a pretty good place to keep up on prospects and marginal players and whatnot. Since I have no expertise in this area, they could be spewing Boswell-quality nonsense and I wouldn't know, but something's better than nothing. Recently they had an organization recap and a run-down of how our boys are doing in winter ball. Endy Chavez has a brother, and he can't hit either.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Derek Lowe became a full-time starter in 2002 after five years as a reliever, and he was totally off the hook. He supplied Boston with 219 innings at a 2.58 ERA, good for a 171 ERA+, the latter two numbers second-best in the league. His performance dropped in 2003 (4.47 ERA, 105 ERA+). He allowed 50 more hits 24 more walks than he had the year before, resulting in 38 more earned runs. His 2004, of course, was a disaster - 5.42 ERA, 90 ERA+ (and still a 14-12 record, which is why I ignore wins and losses for pitchers). I don't know why Lowe's fallen off so badly. Supposedly the guy's a headcase; I don't follow the Sox, so maybe one of you can tell me. The bottom line is that he's headed in wrong direction and that his superb '02 and good postseason record will probably get him more money than he's worth.
He might be worth taking a flyer on, though, if you have a great infield defense. Lowe has an astronomical 3.34 ground ball/fly ball ratio for his career. A disproportionate number of balls put in play off Lowe are hit on the ground and are thus the responsibility of infielders. For comparison, Jose Lima's career G/F is 1.07, meaning he gives up nearly as many flies as grounders and would thrive with a great outfield behind him. So the next question is, do the Nationals have a great infield defense? Let's go one position at a time, from least interesting to most. NB: I'll mainly be using two Baseball Prospectus stats: Runs Above Average (RAA), a counting stat that expresses how many runs a defensive player saves over a season compared to an average fielder; and Rate2, a rate stat where 100 is average.
First base is fine. Nick Johnson is likely to be the starter as long as he stays off the DL, and he's solid, with a 105 Rate2 over his career and 9 total RAA. If (when) Johnson goes down, Brad Wilkerson would take over, providing the same 105 Rate2. That leaves Terrmel Sledge in left, but we'll talk about that another time.
Third base is also fine. For all the ragging I do on Vinny Castilla, he is a good defender. He was below average in 2002 and 2003 but has been very good for most of his career, including a 107 Rate2 and 10 RAA last year. Utility guy Jamey Carroll has been very good at third and pretty poor elsewhere, though sample size is an issue with a player without a regular position.
Shortstop is an interesting case, one I've adressed before. But what the hell, I'll do it again. Cristian Guzman was signed in large part owing to his allegedly stellar defense. According to my BP stats, he was good, really good, last year. His 15 RAA was better than any season Rey Ordonez ever had (Ozzie Smith, by the way, could put up 15 in his sleep with a broken leg). However, it was the only time in a six year career that Guzman was even average. Why the sudden surge in defensive production? Chris at Capitol Punishment argued that it was the result of a change in turf at the Metrodome, 2004 being the first year with a new, more lifelike substance. The most compelling evidence in favor of this idea is that Guzman's partner at second base, Luis Rivas, experienced a similar jump in his stats (91/8 in '03 to 115/29 last year). The stats of backup infielder Michael Cuddyer and former Twins Chuck Knoblauch and Pat Meares bear it out as well. If this is the correct explanation, we can expect Guzman to be pretty good playing on real live grass (and I don't mean in the same way Jeremy Giambi plays on real live grass).
Finally, second base. Jose Vidro has a great reputation, and it's largely deserved. He's a good hitter and actually signed a contract extension with the Expos before he knew their fate. Unfortunately, he's a lousy fielder, and this is not a recent development. In a seven years, Vidro has been above average once (2002), exactly average once (1997, and that was in only five games), and below average five times. His career RAA is -50 and his Rate2 94. Consider that Jeff Kent, widely considered to have the range of Michelangelo's David, has marks of 8 and 101. Given Vidro's age and the injuries he's dealt with, there's very little chance that this is going to improve. Now, I'm insistent that we should not rely on just one defensive stat. They still can't be trusted. Fine, but Ultimate Zone Rating and Win Shares don't like him either. This is not to say that Vidro isn't a helluva player; while RAA, UZR, et al. may hate him, OPS and EQA think he's great. The guy can hit, and his bat more than makes up for his glove. He's like our very own Derek Jeter, except that you don't want to punch him in the neck.
In conclusion, our infield defense is pretty good, except for all the grounders skipping past our valuable but glacial second baseman. I personally wouldn't give Derek Lowe more than two million a year if we had Clete Boyer, Mark Belanger, Bill Mazeroski, and Vic Power around the horn, but we should all thank Mr. Lowe for making us think critically. Thanks, Derek. I hope the Mets sign you so we can beat the crap out of you.
I hope this was enough DS action to tide you over for a while, because I'm out of commission until Sunday. Keep your heads up and use the ever-expanding link field to your advantage.
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Will General Manager Jim Bowden make another flashy offseason free agent acquisition? He's already added Vinny Castilla, who led the National League in RBI last season with 131, and Jose Guillen, who had 104 RBI for Anaheim. That's a heart of the order right there. He got a fine young shortstop in Cristian Guzman, too.Flashy? Vinny Castilla is many things (Mexican, overpaid), but flashy is not one of them. Jose Guillen is kind of flashy - no boring walks for him, just fisticuffs. Seriously, though, isn't Boswell capable of better than this kind of inch-deep, analysis? I admit that I don't read the guy often, but he's nationally known and not in a bad way.
If Bowden lands just one starting pitcher from his shopping list of Russ Ortiz, Jaret Wright, Paul Wilson and Odalis Perez, the Nats would already be the equivalent of the 78-win Orioles.Hey, one of those guys doesn't suck, and he ain't the one who routinely paces the league in walks. Fortunately, Paul Wilson is now unavailable. Maybe I'm expecting too much, but I'm not looking for this team just to keep up with the Orioles. Way to aim high there, Tom.
If this is what Bowden does on a shoestring, who will this crazy guy grab if he ever actually knows what his budget is?Short answer: Juan Gonzalez. Long answer: what the hell are you talking about? Jim Bowden isn't some kind of enigma: he was a general manager for ten years, and an ineffective one. You can make payroll excuses all you want, but the guy simply didn't win. He didn't produce his own players, he didn't make good free agent signings, and he's not going to do so here, either.
There are two factors at work here, two things making otherwise reasonable men giggle with glee because we threw $16 million at a player whose closest comp is Pat Meares. The first is the mistaking of action for results. This was most clearly demonstrated back on November 21, when Post sports editor emeritus George Solomon wrote: "tell me Bowden isn't cleaning the O's clocks so far?" I'll tell you, George. Bowden has blown about $25 million and improved his team marginally if at all, while O's management hasn't spent any money and hasn't damaged the Orioles. I'll take that strategy every time.
The second factor is pure homerism. I've experienced something similar myself: I always hated the name "Nationals" and the dude ranch-style cursive W. And yet, when it was announced that the Expos would become the Nats and the that red white and blue M thing would become the script W, I didn't care anymore. Sure, they were boring and ugly, respectively, but they were mine. Boswell, Solomon, and many others are seeing the Nats, their GM, and the moves he makes through the rose-colored glasses of the homer. It's a universal phenomenon - go check out an Orioles message board, and you'll see fans argue that Matt Riley is about to break out and win 20. Visit Hiroshima, and you'll hear dedicated Carps followers say with all sincerity that Eddie Diaz is a long-term solution at shortstop. There's a difference between a fan and a homer. A fan hopes Vinny Castilla hits 40 home runs in 2005; a homer knows he will.
There's another blog. DC baseball blogs are mushrooms and it has just rained. I'm going to make a haiku out of that when I get a chance. Anyway, go read the DC Baseball Blog.
Monday, November 29, 2004
The delayed decision on a planned $440 million baseball stadium to house the Washington Nationals appeared close to the necessary seven votes Monday, with District of Columbia Council Chair Linda W. Cropp pledging not to stand in the way.I'm still not as confident as I'd like to be - we thought this thing would pass last time before Cropp bunged a wrench into the works.
I'm not going to feel like talking personnel until this matter is taken care of, but I'm not the only game in town.
- Capitol Punishment is aghast at the ducats we're paying Bennett. There's a take on the wholly uninteresting Antonio Sucre trade, as well.
- Washington Baseball Blog has a look at Paul Wilson and comes to the only conclusion you can come to with Paul Wilson: eh.
- Rich's Weekend Baseball Beat reviews the 1986 Bill James Baseball Abstract and favors us with this tidbit:
“[Craig Nettles] Had a remarkable season, doing a good job with the glove and the bat while turning 41 in August. It was the best season ever for a 40-year-old third baseman.” Wade Boggs, Gary Gaetti, and Cal Ripken are the only other 40-year-old 3B who have played more than 60 games since then and not one of them had what could be termed a “good” year. Vinny Castilla turns 38 in July. Cal Ripken’s 1999 is the best on record for a 38-year-old, and he played fewer than 90 games. The combination of age and playing home games away from Coors Field does not bode well for Vinny. Way to go, Bowden, for giving Castilla a two-year deal. Whose money are you spending anyway?Darn tooting.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
Not a whole lot of news at the moment. The City Council vote is Tuesday, and Adrian Fenty thinks financing might not pass. Consider the source, though. Speaking of considering the soure, Peter Gammons says Jim Bowden is about to offer three years to the Reds' Paul Wilson. I'm not impressed.
I was going to tell a story about my hat, but I couldn't think of a good set-up. Long story short, I was at a bunch of different different bars on Friday, and everywhere I went, someone said something about my Nats cap. There's plenty of interest out there, and this team is going to be a gold mine for whomever buys it.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
The next Washington player to be moved could be CF Endy Chavez, who has drawn the interest of the Phillies. It is doubtful, however, that the Phillies would part with the pitcher that Washington wants, RHP Ryan Madson.I've been searching with some desperation for a Bowden move to be all happy about, lest I be branded as a party pooper or some such, and this would do it. Endy Chavez, like Cristian Guzman, is a near-proverbial bad hitter. In 2004, National League center fielders averaged a BA/OBP/SLG line of .265/.332/.437 (think Marquis Grissom). Endy did his best to bring that line down with a doughty .277/.318/.371. In technical sabermetric parlance, that is totally crapulent. I'm appalled that Vinny Castilla had a .281 OBP on the road last year, but at least he slugged almost .500. If you want some more sophisticated "metrics," as the kids say, Endy's line is good for an 82 OPS+ and a .244 EQA, with 100 and .260 the averages in those respective measurements. He can't hit, he never has, and he never will. "Hold on, buddy," you may say, "can't a centerfielder make up for that kind of thing with stellar defensive play? Does not Mike Cameron justify his millions by lowering the ERAs of all those who suffer the misfortune of pitching for the Mets? Did not two thirds of all known DiMaggios make their livings with their gloves?" Very true, sir. I'm not one of those guys who thinks it's acceptable to have Jeremy Giambi in your outfield - I value good defense out there. The problem is how to value it.
Sabermetrics, which can be defined as "the study of baseball, focusing particularly on how Tim McCarver is wrong about everything," are better defined here. This movement has done wonders for the understanding of how offense works, but relatively little for our knowledge of defense. That is changing, due in part to Voros McCracken's study that showed that pitchers have little effect on balls in play and, more importantly, to Billy Beane trading for Mark Kotsay and Theo Epstein trading for Doug Mientkiewicz and Orlando Cabrera. "Hmm . . . " pondered the saber-hordes, "those guys are smarter than Tim McCarver and maybe even me. Maybe defense does matter, because Lord knows Orlando Cabrera can't hit." I realize that all of this is a flippant, possibly slanderous simplification. You get what you pay for.
So, there are defensive metrics out there. The problem is that each one tells you something different. Offensive metrics are pretty reliable - you can't find one that doesn't tell you Barry Bonds isn't at least half god (insert snarky roid comment here). The defensive ones, though, are less than unanimous. And this brings us back to Endy Chavez.
- Baseball Prospectus' battery of defensive metrics sees Chavez as being average at best. He was 10 runs above the hypothetical replacement center fielder, 5 runs below the hypothetical average CF (Marquis Grissom again?). He was a little better in 2003, but not above average.
- Win Shares, a measurement devised by Bill James to make Craig Biggio look good, credits 4.3 fielding Win Shares to young Endy. Hella mediocre. 4.3 puts him in the company of a lot of part timers and non-CFs. Carl Crawford, for instance. I bet Whitey Herzog would have a good time managing Carl Crawford.
- Then there's Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), which is not only beyond my feeble comprehension but also beyond my feeble Google skills, so I can only come up with this, which goes from 2000 to 2003. UZR, slightly outdated, has Chavez as the third-best center fielder in the game during that time, behind Darin Erstad and Tsuyoshi Shinjo. And followed by Ruben Sierra and Richard Hidalgo, who combined for a total of one (1) game in center field from 2002 to 2003. The list starts making sense after Hidalgo, as Mike Cameron, Dave Roberts, and Johnny Damon make appearances. It's a very eccentric list, and I'm probably missing something.
- Steven Goldman and Baseball Crank agree with me on Bowden's moves to date.
- I had to change some links around, not that you ought to care. Brian Gunn of Redbird Nation retired, which is a damn shame. That was a superb blog, and it was even better if you were as much of a 2gether fan as I was. MLB.com has a Nats message board, so I stuck that up there. I wouldn't recommend wasting much of your time there, though. The level of discourse is pretty dismal. And I have a link direct to the Nats shop for all your Christmas shopping needs.
- Capitol Punishment already covered this, but Will Carroll discussed his Grays error. Here's an idea, Will: try "I'm hearing Grays" or "probably Grays" instead of "It's the Grays." It makes you look much less foolish when you're inevitably wrong.
- Here's who I want on the 2005 Nationals in addition to Rickey: Jose Lima and Tony Clark. Discuss.
Monday, November 22, 2004
Chris at Capitol Punishment, who's doing a hell of a job, has elected not to do himself in over the Jose Guillen trade. I remain displeased.
- Chris suggests that Guillen might not be as bad a guy as he's been portrayed, comparing him to such media pariahs as Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield. I don't think this is a good comparison. I agree completely that we shouldn't allow smug jackasses like Rick Reilly tell us who the good guys are (just as we shouldn't allow hypercritical bloggers to tell us which Sports Illustrated columnists are jackasses), the Guillen Affair goes far beyond something like Barry Bonds being a dick to Jeff Kent. Whatever Guillen did, and we don't know the entirety of it, it caused a team in a pennant race to suspend its second best hitter for the last two weeks of the season and the playoffs. Nor was it an isolated incident: "Unfortunately, this was not the first time something has cropped up with Jose." It's likely that Guillen won't get in a fistfight with Frank Robinson, but he's got a much better shot at it than Juan Rivera does.
- Chris overestimates the martyr Rivera's 2005 salary. Whatever it winds up being exactly, it'll be under half a million dollars. The difference may not be all that great in baseball terms, but $3 million here and $3 million there and pretty soon you're talking about real money. In fact, let's go back in time and undo all of Jim Bowden's big splashy moves. We save $3 million on Guillen, $3.5 milion on Vinny Castilla, and $4 million on Cristian Guzman. That's over $10 million, which in Bowden's hands gained us minor upgrades at best. Throw in a few more mil Bowden will end up spending on a "proven closer" or a "15-game winner" or another "run producer," and we're in Beltre/Beltran territory. What would you rather have: Castilla, Guzman, Guillen, and Endy Chavez; or Brendan Harris, Maicer Izturis, Rivera, and Carlos Friggin' Beltran?
- Chris is absolutely right about Izturis. So right that I'm quoting:
As a prospect, Izturis probably wasn’t much. I think much of the hype surrounding him was because of his last name and because this is a franchise that, while traditionally a talent-producing machine--was kind of starved for prospects.That said, he's not much worse than Guzman.
- I don't trust Guillen to keep up his current level of production. He was amazingly craptacular for six years, a right fielder who couldn't even produce at a league-average level. Remember, the concept of "league average" includes catchers and part-timers and Cristian Guzman, so it's particularly ugly for a right fielder to dwell in those depths. Guillen has no plate discipline: his career high in walks is 37. Barry Bonds walks that many times in a double header. It's quite possible that he'll keep it up, but even then he'll be making ten times as much as the martyr Rivera.
- In conclusion, I don't think this trade is disastrous. At worst, Juan Rivera hits 35 homers, Maicer Izturis wins a Gold Glove, and Jose Guillen goes into the stands after a guy who threw a drink at him and gets suspended for 73 games. All that happens, and we win 65 games instead of 70. No big deal. I find it more disturbing as a manifestation of Bowden's wrong-headed attitude: the RBI obsession, the lack of economy, the misjudgment of the needs of this team. Bowden hasn't done irreparable damage. Yet.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
First, Guillen. Jose Guillen, whom I will occasionally call Joey Williams in the tradition of the Tony the Baptist, is Dominican and will be 29 next year. He'll make $3.5 million in 2004, and the team has a $4 million option for him in '05. He has awful control of the strike zone - you don't walk off the island, as they say - and has only recently become a good hitter. From 1997 to 2002, his OPS+ stayed between 88 and 66. That is very poor; for comparison, Cristian Guzman's career OPS+ is 76, and he's famous for not being able to hit. Barry Bonds was at 260 last year. Guillen's career high in homers is 31, in doubles 38, and walks 37.
Joey broke out in 2003, his age 27 season, posting an unexpected 141 OPS+ (.311 BA, .359 OBP, .569 SLG). He subsequently signed with Anaheim and put up a solid 119 OPS+. That's not what's best known about his 2004 season however, as he was suspended for the last two weeks of the season (as the Angels battled for the AL West title) and the playoffs following a confrontation with his manager.
That's the guy we're getting. Here's the guy we had: Juan Rivera is two years younger than Guillen. He spent parts of three years with the Yankees before coming to Montreal in the Javier Vasquez trade. He took over the right field job vacated when Crazy Carl Everett went to the White Sox. Rivera had a solid 2004, providing a 118 OPS+ (.307/.364/.465) for the low price of around $300,000. So let's compare their 2004s directly (I'm sorry, but my li'l chart won't behave.)
OPS 849 829
OPS+ 119 118
EQA .282 .279
AOM 1 0
That last stat is a creation of my own, Assaults on Manager. Guillen led the AL with one.
As we can see, Guillen was a hair more productive than was Rivera, as long as we stick to stats that give no weight to playing time. This trade has gotten good reviews (from the Bowden perspective) in some circles, and I suspect that it's simply because people undervalue Rivera. They remember him as a part-timer in New York and a platoon outfielder in Montreal. I see a solid producer who costs next to nothing and could be poised to break out. Let us not forget that Joey Williams was a really bad hitter until he was 27. Rivera's age 26 season (104 OPS+) is better than anything Guillen did before he made it to 27. Let us also not forget that Guillen has never had another season that came close to his 2003. Guillen has a better than even chance to out-hit Rivera over the next two years, but he won't out-hit him enough to justify the outlay of $3 million and Maicer Izturis along with the risk of Guillen getting himself kicked off the team again ("Unfortunately, this was not the first time something has cropped up with Jose." - Angels GM Bill Stoneman, announcing Joey's suspension). That's a heavy price to pay for such a small and questionable upgrade.
Then there's Izturis. I'm not real busted up about the loss of young Mr. Izturis. My fixation on him over the last month says a lot more about the crappiness of Cristian Guzman and Orlando Cabrera than it does about the goodness of Maicer. Izturis has a chance to be a solid major leaguer, but he also has a good chance to be a master pine-rider. The Guzman contract isn't going to get unsigned until I perfect my time machine, so we didn't need him. Given the crappiness of this trade, however, it really should have been Anaheim throwing in the marginal prospect. Jim Bowden needs to learn that the other GMs aren't going to respect him after he lets them do this kind of thing to him. Once again Bowden gets his name in the paper and grabs a guy people have heard of. Once again he does his best to make us mediocre now and mediocre later, rather than bad now and good later. Once again he proves that he was possibly the single wrongest man in the world for this job.
- Frank Robinson will manage in 2005. I guess he didn't really mean all that stuff about getting a multi-year deal. I don't care one way or the other. Just go easy on the pitchers, Frank.
- It's the Nationals, and it'll be announced on Monday. Red, white, and blue uniforms, script W on the caps, all my favorite crap. It's a temporary name and could be a lot worse (remember the Virginia Fury idea? Boy, those Loudoun guys sure were a bunch of wacky idiots), so I'm not upset exactly. I'm filled not with anger but with ennui.
- You know that Jim Bowden guy? I don't think he's a very good GM.
Friday, November 19, 2004
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
There is no shortage of opinion on the signings around the web. Ball Wonk has some hope for young Cristian, provided he puts in some effort. A new one, the Nats Blog, preaches calm. Capitol Punishment has an interesting explanation for why Guzman's defensive stats were so good in 2004 after years of mediocrity. Aaron Gleeman is laughing at us, and it doesn't feel good. The Baseball Wise Guys are dismissive as well.
They're taking deposits for season tickets. The Nats Blog will explain how it works for you.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
The Expos made their first big splash since the announcement they plan to move to Washington, agreeing Tuesday to a $6.2 million, two-year contract with third baseman Vinny Castilla and a $16.8 million, four-year deal with shortstop Cristian Guzman.My first reaction, after the swearing, was that Jim Bowden has no right to saddle the incoming owners with Guzman for four years. He's acting like he's the real GM or something. My second reaction was more swearing. One at a time:
- Castilla parlayed some Colorado home-cookin' into a nice and undeserved contract. Fine, he had an .867 OPS last year with 35 homers and 43 doubles. But his road OPS was 774, with a Batista-like .281 on-base percentage. He's solid defensively (9th among 3B in fielding Win Shares last year, a respectable 22 Runs Above Replacement), but we will be getting very little offense from the hot corner. It's only two years, but that's one year too many. Brendan Harris will fester on the bench for a while, I guess, while we endure endless My Cousin Vinny jokes.
- I still haven't decided which of these is worse, but I'm thinking the Guzman contract wins on length alone. Four year - four damn years - of this guy. Yeah, I know, he hasn't reached his offensive potential, and now we have the pleasure of watching him put up .310 OBPs for four years on the off chance that he gets it up into Julio Lugo territory. It's like what I say when people get all whistful about Orlando Cabrera: if you want an all-glove, no-bat shortstop, Maicer Izturis is already in the system and he's practically free. If Guzman can match his 2004 defensive performance, this won't be awful. But he won't and it will.
The signings accomplished something else: they set a land speed record for proving Will Carroll wrong. In his latest foray into magical realism, the fabulist Carroll gives a run-down of the injury problems associated with some of the top free agents and provides a prediction for where they'll end up. We get Edgar Renteria. That prediction was absurd when he made it, and was firmly refuted a mere six hours later. Keep up the good work, Will! Maybe we'll sign Magglio Ordonez and prove you right for once. And maybe Cristian Guzman will win a batting title.
Monday, November 15, 2004
Arbitrators ruled Monday against the former limited partners of the Montreal Expos in their case against former controlling owner Jeffrey Loria, clearing Major League Baseball to move the franchise to Washington.
Jeffrey Kessler, the lawyer for the limited partners, said they will drop their attempt to gain an injunction to block the move. Baseball owners are scheduled to vote on the relocation Thursday when they meet in Chicago.
So much for that. Now we just to get the financing bill passed and we're home free.
Looks like Frank Robinson might not be the manager in 2005.
Expos manager Frank Robinson, 69, wants a multi-year extension now that the team should have a permanent home in Washington, D.C. If Major League Baseball consented to that, then the Expos' eventual new owners would be saddled with a manager they might not want.This is exactly the wrong time for him to be demanding a long-term deal. MLB is going to make sure they leave as much as possible to the new owners; hence the temporary GM and temporary name. I don't think the cranky near-septuagenarian manager will be the exception.
Special Tacked-On Content: I figured I'd take on the Rosenthal column while I'm up. Fortunately, my player evaluations are little more than knee-jerk Neyerisms, so I don't have to think about much. And I'm so lazy I'm not getting rid of the underlining.
The Red Sox, seeking a possible alternative to free-agent catcher Jason Varitek, inquired about Expos catcher Brian Schneider at the general managers' meetings. Interim Expos G.M. Jim Bowden responded that Schneider was untouchable. Schneider, who turns 28 on Nov. 26, led the majors by throwing out 47.8 percent of his attempted base stealers last season. He also hit a career-high 12 homers in 436 at-bats, though his on-base percentage was only .325 ...I don't think anyone on the Nats roster should be untouchable, and if anyone is, it oughta be Livan. I like Schneider, and it's not like there are legions of catchers out there who can put up a .400 OBP for you, but "untouchable" is a bit much.
Seattle and Washington are among the teams interested in free-agent shortstop Cristian Guzman, who has spent his entire career playing on artificial turf with the Twins. "He won't be able to lay back on balls as much on grass," one scout says. "He'll have to charge the ball more, just like (the Mets' Kaz) Matsui had to do coming over from Japan. But Matsui doesn't have nearly the arm strength that Guzman has." ...Hmm . . . I've been thinking about Guzman. The knee-jerk Neyerism is to say that any amount you pay for a guy who struggles to get his OBP above .300 is too much. But he's still fairly young - 27 next year - and he's a superb defender. He compiled 9.6 defensive Win Shares last year to lead AL shortstops, compared to 7.2 for Gold Glove winner Derek Jeter and 4.5 for Omar Vizquel. Baseball Prospectus has him at 38 Runs Above Replacement for '04, with 24 for Jeter and 20 for Vizquel. In fact, that 38 RAR is as many as Vizquel has ever contributed in a season. As with everything else, it depends on money, but Guzman would be a solid contributor if he keeps his defense at that level and adds a little more offense.
Washington made a run at Angels right fielder Jose Guillen, but balked at the asking price of right-handed reliever Chad Cordero. Washington also is among the teams interested in acquiring Reds outfielder Austin Kearns, but it's unlikely the Reds would deal with their former G.M., Jim Bowden. Another possibility for D.C.: Free-agent third baseman Vinny Castilla. Bowden is considering bringing in former Reds right-hander Jose Rijo as a bullpen coach. The idea would be for Rijo to mentor the team's top relievers, Cordero and right-hander Luis Ayala...I've already complained about the Guillen Affair. Re: Austin Kearns, once again we see the Man conspiring to keep Juan Rivera out of right field. That said, I'd love to have Kearns. One of these days he's going to break out in a big way, and he's still only 25 and cheap. Castilla is still a solid defensive third baseman, but he can't hit. Unfortunately, he's got some decent-looking stats because of Coors Field and a shiny, Batista-like RBI total, and Bowden might get suckered into giving Vinny the lucrative contract he (Vinny) thinks he (Vinny) deserves (stupid vague pronouns).
Any day now Bowden is going to do something really infuriating. Any day now . . .
Sunday, November 14, 2004
It's always most fun to read Peter Gammons in hot stove season, and today he favors us with a lot of Jim Bowden stuff.
Bowden is looking for a shortstop, third baseman, right-field bat and veteran (180 to 200 innings) starting pitcher.We've got a right-field bat. John at the Washington Baseball Blog suggests playing Juan Rivera in center, but I don't think that's likely. I really don't understand why he's not considered worthy of being the everyday right fielder.
If possible, he'd like to hold onto catcher Brian Schneider (who's sought by Boston, among many, after having the majors' best percentage of runners thrown out), first baseman Nick Johnson, center fielder Brad Wilkerson and relievers Chad Cordero and Luis Ayala.Cool. B-Wilk is not often called a center fielder, and it would make it a lot easier to improve the offense if he did play there. It also might lead to a lot of triples rattling around behind him.
Bowden tried to acquire Jose Guillen, whose career he rescued in Cincinnati, but the Angels insisted on Cordero.That's a relief. I want no part of that guy.
The free agents on his list include Corey Koskie and Vinny Castilla and shortstop Christian Guzman, as well as several pitchers.Why did you forsake us, Bob Watson? Two of these three guys simply cannot hit. I'd be pleased to see Koskie at the hot corner, but it disturbs me to see Bowden pursuing the other two scrubs.
Philadelphia came asking for Endy Chavez . . .Please! This would be great; if we trade Chavez to Philly, we strengthen our team and weaken a division rival.
. . . several teams have asked for rookie outfielder Ryan Church, including Tampa Bay, which has several veterans it's trying to move, Aubrey Huff and Jose Cruz Jr. among them.If we can get Huff, do it. I'm a big Huff fan. We have no need of Cruz.
I remain less than hopeful about our offseason. I'm afraid that Bowden may understand that his role (just get 25 guys to wear the uniform until the owners take over) but sees this as his chance to make a big splash and get a new job, even at the expense of his interim employers. Plus he seems far too concerned with RBIs and "run producers." I know Tony Batista drove in 110 runs last year, but that doesn't mean he's good at anything.
Here's Jayson Stark on the name issue:
Baseball did some preliminary fan polling before renaming the Expos. And the surprise favorite was ... the Washington Senators.
The only trouble was that the mayor, Anthony Williams, had already gone on record as saying the team would not be named the Senators this time around. And after all the heavy lifting the mayor has done to push a ballpark bill through a divided district council, MLB couldn't overrule him on the name.
So the club will be renamed the Nationals, even though there was big support in the polling to name them the Grays, in honor of the old Negro League's Homestead Grays. But MLB opted to go with something more generic, on the theory that once the team is finally sold, the new owners may want to change the name again when it moves into the new ballpark. And the blander the initial name is, the easier it will be to change.
Well, that's a terrible way to name a team. It sounds, though, as if they're actually going to encourage the new owners to rename the Nats, and I could see it happening. It has been suggested that owners would be reluctant to choose a new name after everyone's bought the hats and jerseys and bobblehead dolls and beer cozies and all that kind of stuff. But that could the best argument for renaming the Nats: it would lead many fans to buy all new hats, jerseys, etc. Why are the Astros red all of a sudden? Why are the Padres camoflaged? Planning the obsolescense of the merchandise causes fans to buy the new stuff to stay current and to keep the old stuff for nostalgia.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Two sources, however, said that MLB will almost certainly allow the Expos to spend more than $50 million -- and one said perhaps as much as $55 million -- which would be at least an $8.3 million increase over the team's payroll for the 2004 season.Here's what I'd like to see happen: Bowden signs near league-minimum stopgaps for the team's holes, guys like Ramon Martinez and Jeff Cirillo. He then spends the $8-12 million or so he has to play around with on one player, either via free agency or trade. Who's the lucky guy? I don't have anyone specific in mind, but here are some ideas.
Peter Gammons' latest column doesn't have anything directly pertaining to the Expos, but there was this:
Tampa Bay is trying to clear salary and shopping SS Julio Lugo 1B-OF Aubrey Huff, OF Jose Cruz, closer Danys Baez and C Toby Hall. Lugo is a fine player, but his domestic abuse issue in Houston is scaring off teams such as Boston.Well, seeing as how Wil Cordero was considered a team leader with the 'Spos, I'm sure Lugo would fit right in. Anyway, Aubrey Huff is a very good hitter (OPS over 850 the last three years), fairly young (27), and makes under $5 million a year over the next two seasons. He's also kinda versatile, though on the low end of the defensive spectrum, having played LF, RF, 1B, and 3B. He played 87 games at third last year, and that's certainly an area of need for our team.
There are some real third basemen on the market as well. Aaron Gleeman of the Hardball Times has been going over the free agent scene position by position, and his third base article is full of guys with asterisks. Aside from Adrian Beltre, who's out of our league, there's Troy Glaus, a slugger who seems destined for a career at DH, and Corey Koskie, a Canadian. Koskie is interesting. He's a more than solid hitter and has a superb defensive reputation. Furthermore, he has been very much overlooked throughout his career, which, it is hoped, may help keep his price down. There are other things that may keep him affordable, though. In Gleeman's words,
Just looking at Koskie, you'd think he was all washed up. He does everything methodically, from walking to swinging a bat, and it often appears as though he's in a constant state of hurt. After every diving stop at third base that ends an inning, he rolls the ball back to the pitcher's mound and slowly ambles over to the dugout, like an old man who forgot his walker.Gleeman recommends a "short-term, incentive-based contract." Koskie fails the "Vidro Test" - he won't be good when the team is, as do most free agents. Bill James famously observed that with free agents, you're paying for the downside of a player's career. With the exception of 25 year old Adrian Beltre, pretty much all the free agents out there are going to fail the Vidro Test, which is why I keep advocating dirt cheap, one-year stopgaps. Koskie, however, would be a lot better than Bowden's apparent preference.
And in turning 32 years old next year Koskie, with his naturally bald head, molasses-like movements and sizeable injury history, might just be an old man in baseball terms.
Speaking of which, the reality of Jim Bowden continually interrupts my flights of free agent fancy. Check out this truly asinine column on MLB.com.
One of Bowden's top priorities is to re-sign third baseman Tony Batista, who filed for free agency last week. The Expos have offered him a multiyear deal, but both parties are far apart on dollar figures.I'd rather they gave him the money he wanted and kept it to one year.
What are the Expos' options if Batista is not re-signed? They have no one in the farm system that is ready to replace Batista. Then there's free agency. The Expos can't afford Adrian Beltre, and the asking price for Troy Glaus and Vinny Castilla will likely be lower than Beltre's, but the Expos still may not be able to afford one of those two players.Why would the Expos want to be able to afford one of those two players? One of them can't lift his arm above his waist and the other one just sucks. I don't like the way this offseason is looking. So far our interim GM has tried to resign an awful player in Tony the Baptist and trade for Jose Guillen when we already have Juan Rivera, who plays the same position better and for less. If Bowden does blow $8-10 million on a free agent, I fully expect it to be a guy like Eric Milton or Moises Alou, instead of someone who's, you know, good.