Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Disease of Admiration

Well, now the that the grim specter of baseball death has departed for a couple of weeks, I can return to my regularly scheduled complaining about Jim Bowden. And I have more beef for the taquitos than ever now that Washington Post stalwarts George Solomon and Thomas Boswell have drunk deeply of the Bowden Kool-Aid. Today we'll be focusing on Boswell, who wrote this column about how he doesn't care about the Redskins.
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.

6-4-3

That's the vote. It's way too close, considering they have to pass it again on December 14. Linda Cropp abstained, so I guess Williams is going to have to work on her for the next two weeks. Lucky guy.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Welcome to the Gary Bennett Era

Well, we have a back-up catcher. Screw that, though, we need a stadium. It was a trying couple of days, as what I once confidently predicted to be a 10-3 majority dwindled to six sure votes. I feel like a local sports guy predicting the Redskins record in July. Fortunately, it looks like Linda Cropp will, in fact, get on the bandwagon.
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.
Back tomorrow. Whether I'll be ecstatic or ludicrous is up to the D.C. City Council.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

One Big Holiday

I hope you had a good holiday. If you didn't, there's another one coming up in no time, so don't sweat it.

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

Why Are You Thankful?


Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Endy Conundrum

I don't think we're going to see Endy Chavez in a Nationals uniform. If there's one thing we've learned in the Jim Bowden Era, it's that our interim (please!) general manager doesn't lie to the press. If Gammons reports that he's after Guzman, he gets Guzman. Rosenthal says he wants Castilla, he gets Castilla. So when Ken Rosenthal reports the following, I believe it:
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.
So, to sum up, two of the three defensive stats I bothered with show Endy Chavez as an indifferent center fielder. Indifference is something you'd put up with in center from Vernon Wells or Brad Wilkerson, but not from a guy who can't hit any better than the dreaded Replacement Player (defined sabermetrically as "Neifi Perez with a hangnail and a wicked hangover"). Therefore, I urge Jim Bowden to trade the hell out of Chavez. I appreciate that he had the stones to ask for Ryan Madson, but he should settle for anything. One rumor had a Chavez-Marlon Byrd swap in the offing. As far as I can tell, Byrd and Chavez are actually the same person, so that won't make much of a difference. I guess I'd rather have the guy who managed 44 walks in a season, though.

Miscellany:
  • 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

A Proven Run Producer

I know that I seem to be complaining all the time, especially lately. But even my cynical heart leapt when I first saw our new official team site. I like the logo, I like the color scheme. I dislike the dude ranch W, but not so much that it prevented me from buying a cap on the way home. Even the name, while less than optimal, isn't bad in and of itself. It's not the Wizards or the Voodoo or something. I've been doing this since June, and the team feels more real with each passing day. So today's a happy day, and I start complaining . . . now.

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

Our Long Nationals Nightmare

Well, it's not Jim Bowden's worst move, but it is his most puzzling. As you've probably heard, the Nationals acquired Jose Guillen from the Angels in exchange for Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis. Reaction has been mixed; I think it was a lousy deal, but perfectly in line with Bowden's tendencies.

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.)

Guillen Rivera
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.

Miscellany:
  • 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

Bowden Delendus Est

Quick take - I hate it. Dammit dammit dammit. Further analysis later.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

There's no "h" in Cristian

It's one day later, and I'm not any happier about this than I am yesterday. Baseball Prospectus has a stat called Value Over Replacement Player, or VORP. For whatever reason, it's caught on much better than my own Value Under League-Variable Average, so we'll use VORP. BP defines it as "the number of runs contributed beyond what a replacement-level player would contribute if given the same percentage of team plate appearances." It's a counting stat like RBI or hits (rather than a rate stat like batting average or on-base percentage), so playing time makes a big difference. In 2004, our own Cristian Guzman provided a VORP of 14.8, just trailing Boston's Orlando Cabrera, who checked in at 15.2. Of course, since those are only his Red Sox stats, Cabrera did that in 248 plate appearance, while Guzman had 624 for the Twins. Yes, our shortstop of the future was out-produced by a crappy hitter in under half the playing time. While I agree that Guzman is likely to hit better than Maicer Izturis would have in a full year at short, it's clear that Izturis + $16 million + a draft pick > Cristian Guzman.

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

An Inauspicious Beginning

I warned you just yesterday that Jim Bowden was on the verge of doing something infuriating, and now he's done it. Sometimes I hate being right.
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.
And we give up three draft picks for the priviledge of signing these titans of the diamond! Way to build up the farm system, Bowden, you mercenary bastard. There can be no clearer indication that Bowden cares less about the long-term future of this team than he does about his next job.

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

Mo' Ritmo

I guess RICO wasn't so suave after all.
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

You Pays Your Money and You Takes Your Chances

You've probably already heard this, but they start taking season ticket deposits on Thursday.

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

General Patton Day

We're starting to get a feel for what kind of payroll we're going to have. From the Post:
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.
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.
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.

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.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Special 100th Post Commemorative Post

This'll be quick. First off, the Cropp Affair seems to have blown over. She has made public her intention to back the Mayor's plan if her alternative doesn't go through, which means she'll be backing the mayor's plan. So don't sweat it. Sleep easy. Take your wife out to dinner. Have a banana.

Capitol Punishment has a blurb on some 40-man roster shenanigans. I've never heard of any of these guys, so go read it over there. The only player I'm talking about is Rickey.

One More Thing: There's another DC baseball blog. Scorekeeping is "the Sabermetric Shadow General Manager Blog of the Washington Ex-Expos" as of November 4. There's a lot more 40-man stuff up there today, so have a gander. Nothing about Rickey, though. And by the way, I found this one myself - you people are supposed to be keeping me up to date on these things.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

What Happens to a Team Deferred?

Nothing, probably. In case you hadn't heard, Council Chairman Linda Cropp pulled some parliamentary chicanery and tabled both stadium financing plans for two weeks. Cropp claims that a mysterious developer has approached her with the idea of shouldering some of financial burden, so she's coming with a plan. Yeah, right. Anyway, the seven votes are there, and all this does is delay the inevitable. Who knows, maybe Cropp isn't hallucinating and actually will come up with a money-saving plan. And I might be elected pope in a couple months. Who knows?

There were a couple of polls
in the Post this morning. No one in DC wants a baseball stadium, evidently. I attribute this to three factors: 1) They just don't want it 2) They don't trust their local government to do anything right 3) The opposition has effectively convinced people that they're on the side of the Children, and that automatically makes you right these days. How many times have we heard people yell "Stadium?! What about the SCHOOOOOOLS?! The CHIIIILLLDREN!!!!"? Never mind that this has nothing to do with DC's amply-funded public schools. If you can convince the people that you're the one with a baby dangling from your hip and a righteously concerned expression, you win public opinion.

I like this poll better:
Forty percent of all self-described baseball fans thought the team should be called the Senators, while 14 percent supported naming the team the Nationals and 10 percent favored calling it the Grays.
What more do you need? Nationals is tepid and no one likes it. That's not quite right, actually: people like it okay, but nobody loves it. People love it so little that even though it was officially the team's name for fifty years, no one used it. Write the mayor and tell him to get over the fact that he's not a governor.

Larkin update:
This story popped up at the MLB.com site today.
Shortstop Barry Larkin has expressed interest in playing for the Washington-bound Expos and being reunited with interim general manager Jim Bowden.
I'm sure Larkin would express interest in anyone who expressed interest in him. He's not exactly Carlos Beltran in terms free agent desirability.
Larkin could also fill a leadership void that was left by Wil Cordero, who left the Expos after the 2003 season. As captain of the Reds, Larkin was known to be a mentor to most of the young players on the team.
Wife-beater Wil Cordero was a team leader? Was this only after Crazy Carl Everett was traded?
Larkin is considered one of the best shortstops to ever put on a Reds uniform. In 19 seasons, he collected 2,340 hits and has a lifetime batting average of .295. Larkin also has won three Gold Gloves during his career.
They're damning him with faint praise. Larkin is much more than one of the best Reds shortstops; he's one of the best ever. You know else is one of the best ever? Rickey! We demand Rickey!

One more thing. Check out this exchange from the Expos Mailbag:

I'm expecting big things from outfielder Terrmel Sledge this season -- maybe even a spot on the NL All-Star team. Am I being realistic? -- Gary Zeig, Pittsburgh, Pa.

If you said this to manager Frank Robinson, he would think you were realistic. Robinson has often called Sledge "a complete player." Robinson believes Sledge is capable of driving in at least 90 runs and hitting a lot of home runs.

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 Frank Robinson considers "a complete player" an outfielder who admits he can't catch fly balls? He's 27 years old, and if he hasn't figured that out yet, I don't know if he's going to. If he hit like Manny Ramirez, we could overlook this fault, but his bat's a lot closer to Larry Bigbie's than it is to Manny's. Why is everyone so dead set against Juan Rivera being the everyday right fielder?

Monday, November 08, 2004

Crisis Averted?

I have three things to talk about today, and I'll handle them in order of importance.

It looks like the mayor will get his way. The AP reports that Anthony Williams has the seven votes he needs to pass the stadium bill tomorrow. In case you feel the urge to show your support for the plan, the Washington Baseball Club has the info for you. Love it or hate it, Williams' plan is the only one that gets us baseball.

Now we can talk about the team, which I steadfastly refuse to call the Nationals before it's official (more on that later). The most interesting rumors come from Peter Gammons.
Jim Bowden had nothing to lose in taking the Washington GM job. He has assurances that he will have some money to build interest, and other GMs know he will be creative and active in seeing what's out there for Vidro, Nick Johnson, and others. Don't be surprised if Bowden takes Jose Guillen off Anaheim's hands . . .
One of these at a time:

  • I fully expect people to be up in arms if Jose Vidro is traded. He was always the other awesome player no one knew about because he played in Montreal, and with the departure of Vlad, he became the face of the franchise. He is without question a fine player, good for at least a 110 OPS+ every year. However, he's about to be 30, he has bad knees (perhaps the reason Baseball Prospectus has him as a distinctly below-average second baseman), and he makes a cool $9 million a year. The question you have to ask yourself with a guy like this is "Is he going to be any good the next time we are?" In Vidro's case, the answer is no. We must also consider that Vidro could fetch some good stuff. It seems like everyone needs a 2B, including contenders like the Yankees, Cards, Astros, and Angels. If Bowden sees a chance to add a couple of young, quality, near-major league-ready players and clear millions off the payroll, he should jump at it. But I worry because I've seen nothing to make me trust Bowden to get value for Vidro or to spend the freed-up money wisely.
  • Trading Nick Johnson would be the height of foolishness, and I'm not just saying that because Johnson is a sabermetric darling. Johnson's situation is the opposite of Vidro's. Vidro's value is very high right now: he's a got a good reputation, both on the field and off, years of solid production behind him, and he plays a premium position. Johnson has a well-deserved reputation as injury-prone potential guy at a position where it's easy to find a guy who can pop 30 homers for you (just ask the Mariners). Johnson certainly does have potential - he led the 2003 Yankees in OBP, but of course played only 96 games. My strategy would be to give Johnson every opportunity to excel, and then trade him as soon as he puts in at least 140 games in a season. I don't think he's ever going to be healthy for more than a year at a time, but there's no reason to get rid of him when he'll get little in return.

  • I discussed Jose Guillen before, and nothing has changed. Capitol Punishment points out that we already have Juan Rivera, who's just like Guillen but cheaper, younger, better-behaved, and possibly better. So what would be the point?
Another rumor: Ken Rosenthal of the Sporting News suggests that Bowden may be interested in 40-year-old free agent shortstop Barry Larkin. And I say, why the hell not? He wouldn't be getting more than a one-year deal, and if we're not going to get Rickey, it'd be nice to have at least one future Hall of Famer on the roster. I hope that if Maicer Izturis isn't the starter, they leave him in AAA where he'll get to play every day rather than sitting him on the bench in Washington.

Finally, some real frivolity. I'm a little late on this one, so bear with me. On Thursday, Will Carroll let on that a source told him MLB would be selecting "Grays" as the new name for the Expos. Shockingly, it turned out that Carroll may have been speaking authoritatively when he didn't have all the facts. Shortly after Carroll's Jimmy Olsen-quality scoop, the Washington Times reported that MLB would in fact be selecting "Nationals." Then the Post chipped in, saying that Selig like "Senators," but the Mayor prefers "Nationals." Regardless, the new owners would be allowed to change the name when the team moves into their new ballpark. Carroll responded, sticking by his story and changing the news-breaking post to some drivel about "It," a mysteriously capitalized and undefined pronoun, having a "strong possibility of not passing the new council." Carroll is apparently not aware that there isn't a new council until January, and the financing bill ("It"?) is trying to pass through the old council. Then he shut down his blog.

I've made it clear that I don't like "Nationals," but I may as well explain why. It's remarkably uninspiring - is "Nationals" anyone's first choice? It doesn't mean anything. It's an adjective rather than a noun, making it comparable to "Metropolitans," which is a terrible name for anything other than an a cappella vocal group. Defenders point out that "Senators," the correct choice, is inextricably linked to DC's losing past. Fine, but you can't reject "Senators" for that reason and then choose "Nationals," which is just as traditional. And why are we trying to escape that past? It may not all be pleasant history, but it is our history. If you don't like it, go ahead and name them the Xtreme or something else with no local resonance. A very good case can be made for "Grays" because it has advantages "Senators" doesn't have. "Nationals" does not - it's nothing but the poor man's "Senators." As for the mayor's input, I respect the things Williams has done as much as anyone, but the baseball team should not be a vehicle for him to take a political cheapshot. Stick to the license plates.

It's not decided yet, and there's still time to influence this decision. "Senators" has won poll after poll, however, so it's not clear that MLB is going to listen. I'm still willing to try, even if they don't care. Anyone know how to contact Selig or Tavares?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Uh Oh

Here I was marshaling my arguments about such frivolities as a team name and trade possibilities when some real news rudely interrupted me. You've probably heard about this already, but DC City Council Chairman Linda Cropp introduced on Friday an alternative stadium plan, one that would keep the team in the vicinity of RFK, thus saving the city a pile of money (Washington Baseball Blog has a summation that's more complete than anything you'll be getting from me). Okay, fine, it's a different Metro stop. Whatever. The problem is that MLB was sort of looking forward to the Anacostia site.
Major League Baseball has made plain its firm intent to move the Montreal Expos out of Washington if the plan by D.C. Council chairwoman Linda Cropp to build a ballpark on the grounds of RFK Stadium stands, said Mark Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission.
MLB officials publicly took a neutral stance on Cropp's surprise maneuver Friday, when she sought to alter a detailed relocation contract calling for a ballpark near South Capitol Street SE. But in extensive private discussions with District officials continuing this weekend, baseball's tone is considerably darker.
"Baseball is very unhappy about this. This has got to be worked out," Tuohey said. "RFK is not the appropriate long-term site. Baseball was set on that, and so were we. And Linda was certainly in on these negotiations. If this doesn't get worked out, baseball is simply going to be looking elsewhere. They will not be here."
Baseball's options for the soon-to-be-renamed Expos next season are likely limited to going back to Olympic Stadium in Montreal or playing temporarily at the current RFK Stadium. But a refusal to build the new ballpark in Southeast ultimately would cause Washington to lose baseball for the third time, Tuohey said.
The Council vote is on Tuesday, and Jack Evans thinks Cropp has the votes. This might be a good time to bombard the Council with unsolicited advice. The next couple of days should be very interesting, and perhaps not in a good way.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Jack Evans said a swear!

First off, another new blog. Your daily reading should consist mainly of DC baseball stuff by now. Washington Baseball Blog features the musings of erstwhile Yankees fan John Viega. Go have a gander. John reports on a rumor that the Expos are interested in picking up troubled outfielder Jose Guillen from the Angels. As you may recall, Guillen was suspended for the last two weeks of the season and the postseason, which is no doubt why he's available. He's been a fine hitter over the last two years, he's right in his prime, and he'd provide some right-handed pop, a department in which the Expos are sorely lacking. Furthermore, he has only one year left on his contract. I would hope he'd come cheap, given his status with Angels' management, but I can't think offhand of anyone Anaheim would want and I'd want to part with. We'll see.

A quick update on the progress of the stadium financing bill. David Catania introduced twenty impossible amendments to the bill to get himself in the paper. All but one of them were shot down in committee. It was a tense session, including this outburst from my hero and yours, Jack Evans:
"I've been on this council for 14 years, and I don't just ... vote for anything," said Evans, using a profane adjective. "I take my job very seriously. I mean, shit, dude."
Meanwhile, the Tyrone Biggums of DC politics is also trying to keep his name in the paper.
"I'm still fighting against the baseball stadium," he said.
Mr. Barry said that even if the council approves financing for the new stadium before he takes office, he can still work to defeat the project.
"A lot of votes come in after January," he said, pledging to block construction contracts for the new stadium.
Oh, please. I dare you to try and stop this thing in January, Marion. I double-dog dare you.

Will Carroll is reporting that New Era is going to present Washington Grays hat designs to MLB. He's been wrong before, as you may have heard me mention once or twice, but time will tell.

I keep talking about Baseball Prospectus, I know, but at least I'm not complaining this time. Clay Davenport went over the NL Gold Glove winners today (no subscription required for this one), comparing them with the guys he thinks should have won. Check this out about our own Brian Schneider:
With his second Gold Glove in a row and third overall, [Mike] Matheny is a good choice, but perhaps not the best for this year. His 36/9 is solid enough, but doesn't quite stack up to what Brian Schneider was doing up in Montreal. Base stealers went 38-for-54 off of Matheny--the caught-stealing percentage isn't that good, but the attempts were low. That counts in his favor, even after allowing for the fact that trailing teams don't try to steal as much, and opponents trailed the Cardinals a lot last year. Off of Schneider, they were only 36-for-72; he was the only regular or part-time catcher in the league who had as many CS as SB against. Schneider's season scored a 44/13, and fits right in with how he's played the last three years. In my opinion, he would have been the better choice.
That's nice to hear. Schneider isn't much of a hitter, though he's certiainly not atrocious by catcher standards. He's cheap, too. In light of the fact that Tavares and Bowden want to keep Tony Batista, this is an interesting tidbit:
Everyone says what a terrible fielder [Batista] is, but he's put up numbers like this in Toronto (40/17 in 2000), in Baltimore (37/13 in 2002), and now Montreal, too. The odds of it being some sort of teammate or pitcher interaction are getting pretty low.
I've never heard much about Tony the Baptist's defensive game, but he's damn good, at least according to a couple of Baseball Prospectus metrics. Remember when the O's played him at shortstop part of the time? Those were hard times in Baltimore.

And finally, some follow-up. In the comments to yesterday's post, reader Olibou makes an interesting point: the return of Frank Robinson probably means the return of pitching coach Randy St. Claire as well. St. Claire had at least something to do with the transformation of Livan Hernandez from innings-eating mediocrity into innings-eating badass, so I figure that's a good thing. Olibou also agrees with me about Rickey.

Thom "Tom" Loverro has an annoyed column about our new GM.
But the Washington club didn't get a general manager until Tuesday, when it was announced former Cincinnati Reds GM Jim Bowden agreed to take the job. So the Washington franchise, in its infancy, is taking on an identity: Home of Dysfunctional General Managers. Dan Duquette and Bowden — these were the candidates for the Washington job? Heck, why not Syd Thrift?
We got any Red Sox fans out there? I know Duquette's reign ended badly, but was he all bad? I remember that he caught a lot of guff for letting Mo Vaughn go, and he was vindicated in that. Anyway, Loverro wonders why Pat Gillick wasn't even considered, and I do too. The poor old guy was practically begging for the job. And if Bowden is going to sign Batista for three years and trade Brendan Harris for Jose Guillen, it won't matter that he's only around for a few months.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Tenure? Rickey's got 15, 20 year

The returns are in, and the guy who traded Sammy Sosa has defeated the guy whose favorite player is Manny Ortiz for the right to throw out the first pitch at RFK in April. I'm surprised they went to all that trouble just to decide that.

First a general manager,
now a field manager. It's almost like we have a real team or something.
Bowden said Frank Robinson will remain the team's manager during the transition period.

"I don't think it's fair to make any drastic changes in personnel when you'd be bringing someone in that may be re-evaluated in three months or four months or whenever the new ownership people are in place," Bowden said. "Frank's done a decent job with this club."
"Decent job"? Way to damn Robby with faint praise. I haven't heard much good about Robinson as a manager. My main concern is that he's reputed to have a laissez-faire attitude towards pitchers' arms. Capitol Punishment points ou at that the indestructible Livan Hernandez was the only Expo to throw more than 150 innings last year, but I'd add that only Hernandez started more than 19 games. Regardless, I have a hard time getting too worked up about the manager either way as long as Bobby Cox isn't going anywhere.

Jim Bowden (pronounced BOE-den) knows he won't be around long.
"One of the things that was intriguing to me is that it was a short-term commitment," said Bowden, who is taking a leave of absence from his job as an ESPN commentator.
Just remember what Chris Kahrl said, Jim: No need to get ambitious. Here's my advice: the first year is going to be a complete mess, and we'll be lucky to win 70 games. There won't be much money, and even if you want to make some trades, there's not much to work with. So Bowden's primary goal should be to entertain me, Ryan. Who's the most entertaining living baseball player? Rickey! Rickey Henderson is out there, and Rickey wants to play. Rickey will work for cheap, and Rickey might teach some of these guys to take a walk (Rickey's looking at you, Endy). Plus, Rickey is one of the greatest players ever to lace up the spikes and/or insult Lou Brock while he's standing right there, and I know I'd be thrilled if Rickey retired in a Washington uniform. Also get Jose Lima. That guy's nuts.

ESPN.com is having a poll on the name of the Washington team (here, in the lower right corner). "Senators" is winning with 44.8% of the vote right now, beating the hell out of the other contenders. "Grays," sadly, is coming in fourth in a field of four, behind the execrable "Nationals." It's obvious that Senators is the popular favorite, and I wish they'd just get it over with.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Is There Something Going On Today? Everyone's Wearing Stickers.

It's official: Jim Bowden is our general manager. The more I think about it, the more I dislike it. What's Bowden known for? Bold decision-making. Trades. Exactly the kind of thing we don't need. Bowden's going to be in charge for one season at the most, and probably much less. A guy with his tendencies and that small a window in which to make a splash and advertise himself for a new job could do a lot of damage. He's the anti-Bob Watson, and Watson was perfect for this.

I've complained about Baseball Prospectus before. Joe Sheehan recently made a ridiculous prediction about how bad our team will be next year. Steven Goldman was excoriated in this space last week for his smarmy assumption that our team's dumbassery would help out his Yankees. Will Carroll is always wrong. BP is also home to bitter Expos fan Jonah Keri, who thinks our team should be renamed the Vultures. Not a DC-friendly lineup, to be sure. There is Washingtonian Chris Kahrl, however, who is both interested in and informed about our issues. She conducted a chat today at the BP site.
The Washington Federals (or Grays, anything but Senators, please) shouldn't really get ambitious in their shopping. Sure, they could use an infielder, but consider the lineup:

C Schneider
1B Nick Johnson
2B Vidro
3B Brendan Harris?
SS Maicer Izturis?
LF Terrmel Sledge
CF Brad Wilkerson
RF Juan Rivera
OF Ryan Church

S1 Livan Hernandez
S2 Tomo Ohka
S3-5 Armas? Day? Downs, Patterson, Rauch?

You see the problem. A veteran for third or short makes sense, a veteran reliever, and maybe a starter, but really, no need to get ambitious. Folks will come to the curiosity of Year One. The priority should be on shoring up the farm system and building a team that can play in the East after the Phillies and Mets have choked on their own follies, because the objective is to build a team that can eventually supplant the Braves.
That lineup is questionable. I've seen nothing to make me think that Wilkerson will play center. In the last three years, he's spent 73, 42, and most recently 18 games out there. He's obviously considered by the team more of a LF/1B guy than a LF/CF one, and first base is pretty much the opposite of center field. Endy Chavez will be in center more often than not, making outs with abandon (at the plate, I mean). Also, I'd be shocked if Maicer Izturis and Brendan Harris were the starters in April. I'd be shocked if either one was, actually. In the Tony Tavares interview at MLB.com, he listed signing a SS and a 3B as priorities - they've already made an offer to Tony Batista, and he made it sound like Maicer would get a little more time at AAA or on the bench. This could all change depending on the manager, of course.

Other than that, Kahrl's completely right. "No need to get ambitious" - can we tattoo that on Bowden somewhere?

Moving on: I don't really want to get into the name debate again, even though it seems to be all anyone wants to talk about, but Kahrl had this to say about the Expos' new monicker:

I fancy the Federals, but that's because I remember the USFL and tend towards Hamiltonian sensibilities. I'd be enthusiastic about calling them the Grays.

Consider me a founding member of the movement "Anything But the Senators."

Ugh. Federals is godawful and, thankfully, un-suggested other than by Kahrl. Senators is perfect. Grays is very close to perfect. Any - and I mean any - other name would be a disaster.

I figured I needed a link to an Orioles blog, and here it is. Orioles Warehouse has been going impressively in-depth about the inner workings of our friends by the Harbor. A take on DC baseball is said to be forthcoming, so we'll see if I'm being premature in my endorsement.

Monday, November 01, 2004

NEVER MIND!

From the Post:
Major League Baseball has hired Jim Bowden, the former Cincinnati Reds' general manager, as the general manager of the franchise that is scheduled to move from Montreal to Washington for next season, two industry sources said.
Capitol Punishment has already suggested that this is a terrible idea, and I see no reason to disagree. Over ten years of GMing is a little much for me to analyze right now, but there's not much to like. The Reds had only one playoff appearance during the Bowden years, and he's best known for the Ken Griffey, Jr. trade, which didn't work out all that well, as you may have heard. It should be a temporary position, and I hope they tell him first to do no harm. You have to feel sorry for Pat Gillick.

Marcia Wallace Day

Happy birthday, Mrs. Krabappel. There's nothing to talk about, so I'll just go ahead and start speculating, if that's okay.

Houston Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker stepped down today. It seems like everyone else who quits or gets fired is immediately a leading candidate to own, manage, or generally manage our beloved Washington Whatevers, so here's another one. Hunsicker will continue with Houston as an advisor, but there are ways around that. Hell, Pat Gillick is still an advisor to the Mariners, but that hasn't stopped him from openly campaigning for this job.

Hunsicker would be okay with me. His record is mixed (leaving Bobby Abreu unprotected in the expansion draft is a doozy), but he seems to have drafted well (Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Wade Miller). The Astros made the playoffs five times over his nine years of his tenure, and you can't argue with that. Keep in mind, though, that there's no reason to think he wants to be our GM. Apparently his wife is battling cancer, so he might just want some time off. This MLB.com story has more details, but nothing about why he quit.

That's all I've got. Brad Wilkerson's in Japan. He's playing 1B, in the "biennial Japan All-Star Series," but I don't know if that means anything. I remember a while ago they showed some of this ESPN, and I hope they do it again.