Friday, December 31, 2004

Dayn Perry Is An Asshole

I'm still on vacation, but I couldn't pass this up. Baseball Prospectus contributor Dayn Perry, doubtless up against a deadline and with nothing to write about, took the coward's way out and posted a list of his wishes for the new year.
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 24, 2004

Merry Christmas

I'm off to Colorado to try to discover the source of Vinny Castilla's eerie power. Merry Christmas, thanks for reading, and may there be piles of Nats merchandise under your tree.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

It's Quiet . . . Too Quiet

So calm. So peaceful. No raging invective against Linda Cropp, no invective against the invective against Linda Cropp because you're a bunch of sexists/racists/gentrifiers (keep the landed gentry out of DC!), no invective against the invective against the invective against Linda Cropp. In place of this rigamarole we get to see the jerseys (Ball Wonk has an artist's conception here, and the team store is packing in the rubes - I mean customers. Valued customers). Response in the thriving Nationals online community has been overwhelmingly positive, so I feel like Martin Luther nailing theses when I say that they're ass-ugly. Here I stand, I can do no other.

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.

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.
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.

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

Feels Good, Don't It?

Comment! You'll be getting no new content from me today, so make your own!

VICTORY


Monday, December 20, 2004

But More Importantly

Evidently some kind of financing agreement has been reached. Channel 9 is the only thing I can find to link to at the moment.
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.

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.
This could get done tomorrow, and wouldn't we all feel better?

And Finally

From Rotoworld:
Nationals GM Jim Bowden announced tonight that he would tender contracts to his remaining arbitration-eligible players.
Tony Armas Jr. and Tomo Ohka apparently will be back to join Livan Hernandez and Zach Day in the rotation.
Good, I guess. I was worried about Ohka.

My Briefest Infatuation

So much for that idea.
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.

The Man from Okinawa

I'm sitting around waiting for some arbitration deadline news, or a Williams/Cropp statement at least, and it's getting boring. So I shall digress.

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.
"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.''
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.

Josh!

Big ups to Josh, who risked frostbite to report on the rally:<>
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.

Wanted: Intrepid Cub Reporter

Anybody going to the Town Hall meeting tonight? Send in a report and I'll be happy to post it here.

I think I'ma talk about some personnel tonight. That'll feel good, as long as Bowden doesn't non-tender Ohka.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Why is "Town Hall" Capitalized?

I miss the days when Jim Bowden would do something knuckleheaded and practically write my post for me. I have much less to say these days because 1) it's too damn depressing to think too much about and B) municipal politics make my eyes glaze over. But, since I don't think anyone cares right now that we could have easily afforded Adrian Beltre if Bowden hadn't mounted that prodigal quest for the front page of ESPN.com, I guess I'd better talk about the extended kick to the junk that is the Cropp Affair.

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

I Haven't Gone To Ebay Yet

From the Times:
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.
"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.
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.
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

There Are Some Swears in This One

This actually makes me feel a little better.
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.

The Joys of Fiscal Responsibility

I was going to expand on the sarcastic "Joy to the Schools and Children! This is the best Christmas ever!" theme, but Capitol Punishment took that ball and ran with it.
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!

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!
Would it have been better with swears? That's the blogological dilemma I'm dealing with right now.

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

"Wholly Unacceptable"

Dammit.
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."

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.
Alternative title for this post: "Well, How Nice for the Fucking Schools."

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

?

Well, I don't know what's going on and I'm too tired to bear down and figure it out. Go look at the Washington Baseball Blog's summary.
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.

Thumb-Twiddlin'

The City Council is talking and talking and talking. Nothing's happened yet. Well, nothing I care enough to talk about. How about a stream of conciousness? Here goes. I might keep updating this, so don't go anywhere.
  • 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

Leadership!

A whole bunch of mildy interesting stuff happened today.
  • 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.
I assume you've heard about the Sosa rumor. It's utterly ridiculous, and it won't happen. The current "offer" is Sosa in exchange for Brad Wilkerson and all of Sosa's salary. This is one of those rare trades that's bad for everyone. The Cubs would be paying $18 million a year for Sosa to play for someone else plus whatever Wilkerson would be making, which, given his career trajectory, would be considerable in a couple of years. We would be getting a declining, whiny, proven cheater who's not as good right now as the young player we're giving up, as the Washington Baseball Blog shows us.

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 Central Problem

Defenders of Jim Bowden's generosity toward mediocre players are fond of saying things like, "it's only $4 million! Stop being such a jihadist!" Well, Bowden's expensive tastes have caught up with him.
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.
"It's because of the marketplace," Bowden said. "It's strictly financial."
And is if that weren't bad enough, look at what Bowden is condsidering doing instead.
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

I Don't Care What You Guys Say, Tony Clark Is Awesome

There was a spirited discussion about Nick Johnson and Alexis Rios in the comments to yesterday's post. And evidently no one in the world loves Tony Clark the way I love Tony Clark. Buncha ingrate Yankees fans. Anyway, have a look.

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

His Name is Rios and He Dances on the Sand

The Pixies were great again. The austerity of the performance (no chit-chat between songs) made it all the more hilarious when Joey Santiago went all Nigel Tufnel during "Vamos," doing some kind of weird theremin thing with his guitar. I would have liked a little more variety to the set lists (they never did play "Dig For Fire" or any of the B-sides except "Winterlong"), but I don't mind hearing "Debaser" twice.

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

Rock Me, Joe

The Pixies were great, and Joey Santiago is the coolest one.

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

Rethinking Vinny Rethought

Capitol Punishment last week pointed us to a post about Vinny Castilla on Sabernomics. The idea seems to be that Castilla's outrageous home/road splits from last year (954 OPS at home, 774 elsewhere) have a mysterious explanation other than the unique conditions at lovely Coors Field. "Although Castilla was obviously not as good as his Coors stats indicate, he is also better than his Away stats indicate." I don't think this is true. Vinny's best non-Coors OBP is .310, last year with Atlanta, and he's also put up a .254, .268, and a .308, compared to .281 on the road in '04. His OPS outside of the Mile High State tops out at 2001's 775, and that was inflated by Enron Field. I don't think there's anything at work in Castilla's 2004 home/road splits other than typical Coors magic, the Bichette Effect. That 774 road OPS is perfectly in line with the rest of his career. Castilla won't hit .260 for us, he won't draw 50 walks, he won't hit 35 homers. We'd better hope his defense is flawless.

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.
What do you think? It's quite possible that the unusual aspects of playing in Coors field hurt the abilities of Cirillo, Perez, and Zeile for at least a year afterwards. Considering the sample sizes we're dealing with, though, it could be nothing. Castilla was horrific the first time he left the Rockies (562 OPS with Tampa in 2000), but he only played 85 games, so there may have been some injury issues. Combine the potential for a Coors Hangover, however, with another year on the old fella and the pitcher-friendly venue RFK is likely to be, and this could be Vinny's worst year yet.

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

Who Was the Fourth President of the United States?

I'm back from James Madison University, home of the Fightin' Dukes, which are apparently bulldogs. So consider this a shout-out to all my people in Harrisonburg, VA. To sum up what happened while I was gone:
  • 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.
That's it for now. I'm thinking very deep things about Vinny Castilla and the long-term effects of having played in Colorado (I lived in Colorado for about a decade, and I still haven't recovered). My deep thoughts are thus far lacking facts, though, so does anyone know where I can get year by year home/road splits? ESPN's only go back three years, and Bigleaguers.com has the last four years, then everything before that expressed together. Website, book, whatever.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Lowedown

The lineup is set: we have acquired an aged, overpaid third baseman; a lazy, overpaid shortstop; a manager-slapping right fielder; and a back-up catcher whose name I didn't even know a week ago. Now talk has shifted to Jim Bowden's next move, probably a free agent pitcher. Paul Wilson is off the market, having found another sucker. Matt Clement and Brad Radke are apparently out of our price range, so we're left with Russ Ortiz, Jaret Wright, Odalis Perez, Esteban Loaiza, and Derek Lowe. I give my endorsement to Odalis Perez, who could be a real bargain, and I shudder at the thought of any of the other guys (check out this Mariners-specific analysis from Jeff Shaw at Mariner Musings). That's not really the point of this post, though. I'm going to use Derek Lowe as a nifty segue into the state of our infield defense. I'm pointing this out now so you won't be surprised when it happens.

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.