Monday, January 31, 2005

Steinerized!

I still don't have the Inter-Web at home, so this will be quick 'n' shoddy.

How 'bout that Sosa trade? I think it's just fine for the O's, and I direct you to Capitol Punishment for a good analysis. The Orioles really didn't give up much; they didn't need Hairston, and the other two guys weren't prospects in any meaningful sense of the word. I wonder if O's fans are going to buy it. They've been very upset over the lack of movement this offseason, and I don't know if this will make them feel any better. I have this theory, though, that the rivalry with the Nationals will arouse the civic pride of the Baltimorean and that attendance at Camden is going to be better than it's been in several years.

Defense! David Pinto at Baseball Musings has developed some kind of fancy-pants defensive metric, the "Probabilistic Model of Range." So far, he's gone through shortstops, second basemen, and centerfielders. Guzman looks good, Vidro terrible, and Chavez mediocre. Vidro, by the way, is a guy all defensive measurements agree on: he's terrible. He's still a swell hitter, but I wonder if a move to third might be a good idea. All discussion of the validity of Pinto's metric is so far over my head that I feel like 311 covering that Cure song, so don't come complaining to me if you think he's full of it. I will add that Pinto also contributes just about the worst damn idea I've ever heard, and we can thank Jim Bowden for bringing it up.

More Defense! The Inquirer takes on the Cristian Guzman enigma. You know what the great thing about Ozzie Smith was? He was the greatest defender at shortstop in the history of ground balls, and he still managed to be a league-average hitter in his good years. So even if Guzman sucks up every grounder that comes his way, he's only halfway there.

I'm worried about Dayn Perry. Two weeks in a row now he's had no imaginary girlfriend. Did he get therapy? A real girlfriend? A court order? Regardless, I suggest that he get back to it. Without the greasy pervert gimmick, he's just an unfunny flamebaiter.

Finally, a notice that Nationals Pastime has been bringing the ruckus. I haven't mentioned any of it because it didn't go with what I was writing, but check out the following:

Friday, January 28, 2005

Programming Note

I'm moving this weekend, so what with cables and the intraweb and all that stuff, I won't have an update on Monday (at least). So here's what I want you to do: come up with an all-star team of the players you root for even though they aren't Nats or whatever other team you like. Active major-leaguers only. Here's my team, no Nats or Cardinals.

C: Victor Martinez (CLE)
1B: Hee Seop Choi (LAD)
2B: Marcus Giles (ATL)
SS: Miguel Tejada (BAL)
3B: Aubrey Huff (TB)
LF: Eli Marrero (KC)
CF: Dave Roberts (SD)
RF: Lance Berkman (HOU)

SPs
Greg Maddux (CHC)
Jose Lima (KC)
David Wells (BOS)
Josh Towers (TOR)
Orlando Hernandez (CWS)

RPs
Brad Lidge (HOU)
Juan Cruz (OAK)
Shigetosi Hasegawa (SEA)

Bench (Honorable Mention)
Placido Polanco (PHI)
Vernon Wells (TOR)
Julio Franco (ATL)

Manager
Bobby Cox (ATL)

How 'bout you?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Hitting A Homer

New Blog! Actually, not new at all. Yuda points us to this one, which I'm not sure what to call (Washington Nationals Blog? Capital Ball?). These guy (Chris and John) are Expos fand and have been at it since July. I haven't had the chance to dig through the archives, so I don't know the backstory. Now something quick about Boswell. I'm short on time.

The Washington Post's Thomas Boswell certainly isn't resting on his laurels after winning the 2004 Ron Santo Award for Unthinking Homerism. His column today has been thoroughly rebutted by the Nationals blog world, particularly for this gaffe:
Outfielders Juan Rivera (.307 in 391 at bats) and Terrmel Sledge (15 homers as a rookie) are promising.
You and I know both know that the more promising of these two outfielders is currently the property of Los Angeles of Anaheim, and that's the kind of thing that gets you another award. What gets me, though, is not really the factual error, but the laziness and dishonesty of Boswell's arguments. Boswell thinks Rivera is still a Nat, so he's "promising." If he'd remembered the trade, Rivera would have been a "platoon" or "utility" player that Jim Bowden suckered the Angels into taking in exchange for proven RBI-driver-inner Jose Guillen. I don't want to rag on Boswell. He's not a malicious creep like Dayn Perry or a buffoon like Will Carroll. We're on the same side, but he's such a homer that he just doesn't care about the facts.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Just More Livan to Love

New Blog! Nat Fanatics has a blog, a whole bunch of useful links, and a really nifty scrolling news thingy. Welcome aboard, Fanatics!

I guess now we know where ESPN goes for column ideas. On Monday, I wrote a (very) long bit on how Livan Hernandez is great because, even though his ERA isn't up there with the elites, the sheer volume of innings he gives you makes him all kinds of valuable. Well, go have a look at today's Hot Stove Heater on ESPN.com:
Hernandez has led the National League each of the last two years in innings (255 and 233 1/3) and complete games (nine and eight). Those 17 complete games are more than any other NL team has had during that span. Take that, Prior boy.

Hernandez, soon to be just 30 (according to official records), also was pretty darned good those two years, posting a combined 3.41 ERA, ninth in the league. Given that, the three-year, $21 million contract extension he signed with Montreal (now Washington) last year has become one of baseball's bargains. Some executives surveyed called it one of the most valuable veteran contracts in the game.

It's okay, I'm not mad. Livan, official pitcher of Distinguished Senators, needs all the press he can get. And the ESPN piece added the element of lots of fat jokes, which I failed to include.

MLB.com's Around the Horn series continues today with a breakdown of the Nationals' outfield. These pieces are interesting not for their analysis, but for the look they afford into the inner workings of the team, into what the manager, general manager, and other insiders are thinking. According to assistant GM Tony Siegle:

"Last year, our main offense was [third baseman] Tony Batista, but he had flaws. His on-base percentage wasn't very good," Siegle said. "But with [Brad] Wilkerson, a healthy Nick Johnson, a healthy Jose Vidro, [Vinny] Castilla and [Cristian] Guzman, Guillen will knock in those guys after they get on base. The offense is a lot better than it was a year ago."
Tony Batista's 2004 OBP: .272.
Vinny Castilla's non-Coors Field 2004 OBP: .281.

Guillen isn't replacing Batista, he's replacing Juan Rivera, who got on base just fine for the Expos (.364 in '04). Batista's actual replacement is a fair bet to be worse than T-Bat was last year. As Nationals Inquirer observes, it's good that the guys in charge are talking about OBP, but this sounds like a justification after the fact rather than a philosophy for putting together a team. Siegle again:

"Endy [Chavez] has some abilities that could make him a player on the top of the list," Siegle said. "He's a great defensive player. He has an excellent arm and great range. But when he comes to the plate, he has to stop thinking he's Vladimir Guerrero and stop swinging at everything. ... He's not disciplined at the plate. If he learns to use his speed and make good contact, he will be a complete player."
Very reasonable. I don't know if Chavez' problem is that he's always swinging from his heels, but something's the matter, and I like that they recognize this. I'm still not entirely sold that he's a great defender, but if he is, he could be a very useful player with just an extra 30 points on his OBP.
The feeling in the organization is, if Chavez can't do the job, Wilkerson will be switched to center flied and Sledge will play left.
This is the first time I've heard anything that indicates that the team is thinking about Wilkerson in center. He's only played 60 games there combined over the last two seasons, and I doubt he's all that good at it. I believe in outfield defense, and B-Wilk in center sounds like a recipe for a doubles party. However, this would doubtless be our best defensive alignment, and it means Nick Johnson doesn't get benched so Frank Robinson's li'l buddy Terrmel can play every day.

I find disturbing the lack of any mention of Ryan Church. Church is probably major league-ready, and would almost certainly out-produce Endy with the bat. Can he play center? Maybe, maybe not, but if Wilkerson is being considered, there's no reason not to think about Church as well.

A Glimpse of the Future

The picture was too big and I didn't feel like fiddling with it, but here are links:
From ESPN MLB 2K5, here are Wilkerson, Ponson, and Palmeiro part I and part II.
I also stumbled on this shot of RFK from EA's MVP Baseball 2005. I'm not endorsing either one until I have played them or I get some crazy Armstong Williams-type money from EA or ESPN.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Carolus Macer

Carlos "Skinny Chuck" Delgado decided on the Marlins, who were generous enough to hook him up with $52 million over four years. This is bad for us, since the Marlins are in our division and Delgado is going to smack the hell out of our pitchers on the regular for a few years. It's not like this is going to stop us from competing or anything - we weren't going to do that anyway.

The other local-interest angle is that Delgado is just the latest in a humiliatingly long line of free agents who snubbed the Orioles. As with Carl Pavano, I think the Orioles win by losing. This exhaustive post at Orioles Warehouse provides a great deal of evidence that Delgado is not a good bet to age well. He's a big, slow first baseman past 30, and guys like that don't tend to last long. There's no doubt that the Marlins will be happy with Delgado for at least a couple years, but let's see how they feel when they're giving him $16 million in 2009 (if his option vests) before we start hooting that the Orioles screwed up again.

Baseball Prospectus has released their 2005 PECOTA, which is a system for forecasting player performance. The real reason it exists, of course, is so that during the lean winter months they'll have something write about. During PECOTA Season, BP features a large number of cart-before-the-horse pieces in which the authors tell us what GMs should have done based on this statistical crystal ball. Anyway, I don't want to delve too deeply into Nats player projections, as the spreadsheet is available only to subscribers (i.e., the suckers who pay for Dayn Perry's subscription to Maxim and Man Show video archive). Suffice it to say that, according to BP, pretty much everyone sporting the Walgreen's logo is due for a decline. Don't despair, though, because I think they're full of crap. "Bluegrass" Brad Wilkerson, for instance, gets a 254/362/462 line (BA/OBP/SLG) with 22 homers and 23.5 VORP. I have no idea why they think a 28 year old who's improved in every season he's played will decline so drastically from his 2004 (255/374/498, 32 homers, 48.2 VORP), but consider that they projected only a 17.2 VORP for him last year (it seems playing time tripped them up in this case). So feel free to ignore them. I know I will.

Speaking of PECOTA and VORP and all that stuff, let me know if any of this doesn't make sense. Really, I don't know if I'm writing for an audience made up mostly of Bill James-reading BP-subscribers or of people unfamiliar with OPS+ and the like. I don't want to bore the former, but I will if it avoids overwhelming the latter.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Fan Friendly?

I just saw this, and I think it's worthy of its own post. John at Nationals Pastime has already had a bad experience with the Nats.
I got about the worst possible seats in my third choice seating area . . .

But it still pisses me off that they didn't actually give me any priority at all for being long-suffering loyal D.C. baseball fan. I was basically willing to pay whatever price for great seats. I'm not happy about paying $35 a seat for crap, when I was promised priority that I didn't get. Pissing me off even more, I tried calling the ticket office, and it just rang and rang.
Go read the rest. John wants advice, so give it if you have any. This is a hell of a way for the team to open their relationship with the fans.

Read About Your Blog in Some Local Page

Distinguished Senators is now officially Washington Post-recognized Distinguished Senators, along with Ball Wonk and Nationals Pastime. If you're here as a result of the Post piece, and even if you're not, you ought to investigate the other Nats blogs, handily listed to your right. Even if you hate this, you'll find something you like.

I'm going to talk about Livan Hernandez, official pitcher of Distinguished Senators, and happily enough I get to start by pointing out something foolish Will Carroll wrote. Carroll's column at Baseball Prospectus today (requires subscription, which means that bastard Dayn Perry gets some of your money) contains a list of pitchers whose strikeouts per 9 innings have declined from 2002-2004, which Carroll points out is a warning sign of imminent collapse (that's two Replacements quotations so far, BTW). Livan is on this list, which is kind of strange considering his actual K/9. Observe:
2002: 4.7
2003: 5.8
2004: 5.6

We have established repeatedly that Carroll lives in, or at least writes about, a world similar to this one, but with many important differences. Pete Rose manages the Las Vegas Expos in Carroll's otherworld, for instance. It seems strange, though, that Carroll's reference to Livan is accompanied by a link directly to his BP-approved stats, whence I got the above numbers. Usually the sane have to do a little thinking to penetrate Carroll's fantastical claims, but it was too easy this time. Mocking the winner of the Inaugural Will Carroll Memorial Nostradumbass Award is not the point of this post, though. Rather, it is a paean to the portly radness of Livan.

Livan Hernandez was the best starter in the National League East in 2003. 233.3 innings, 3.20 ERA, 155 ERA+, 55.6 VORP (more on that later). No one noticed, of course, but it was a remarkable, even miraculous season. Livan's 2002 was Loaia-quality; 216 IP, 4.38 ERA, 87 ERA+, and 2001 was worse than that. What happened? Apparently, Expos (and now Nationals) pitching coach Randy St. Claire worked with Livan on dropping his arm angle, and Hernandez' K/9 jumped from 4.7 to 5.8.

It wasn't a fluke. Livan's 2004 may have been even better than his 2003; he was not quite as effective but even more durable. He once again led the league with 255 innings 9 complete games, along with a 3.60 ERA and 115 ERA+. The only better pitcher in the division was Florida's Carl Pavano, and he left for greener pastures in the offseason. So will we have the best pitcher in this very competitive division in 2005? It's possible.

It would seem to come to three guys, although someone could always surprise us and have the season of his life. Besides Livan, there's Tim Hudson, recently acquired by the Braves in a trade with Oakland, and Mets free agent signee Pedro Martinez. I'm about to say something all controversial here, so buckle up: Livan Hernandez was better than either one of these jockjaws last year. The problem with evaluating someone of Hernandez' talents is that most mainstream pitching statistics that aren't stupid are rate stats rather than counting stats. It's easier with batters; you have rate stats like batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage along with counting stats such as homers, RBI, hits, etc. Pitchers have ERA and its smart-ass kid brother ERA+, but the main counting stats for hurlers are wins and losses, which are misleading and evil and I refuse to use them. Walter Johnson, for instance, lost 26 1-0 games in his career. Those losses certainly had nothing to do with him, but he was penalized for playing on a long string of crappy team. Who was better last year, 16-14 Randy Johnson or 16-9 Jeff Suppan? There you go.

A large part of Livan's value comes from his durability. His 115 2004 ERA+ isn't impressive next to Tim Hudson's 133 or Pedro's 125, but the extra innings (255 vs. 188 and 217, respectively) make him more valuable. In situations like these, I like to use Baseball Prospectus' VORP, Value Over Replacement Player. It's a counting stat without the statistical noise of wins and losses. Livan's 2004 VORP was 58.3, against Hudson's 48.6 and Martinez' 51.2. Based on last year's performance, Livan wins. That's not much to base anything on, though, so let's look a little closer (but quickly - this is already too long).
  • Hudson is headed in the wrong direction. His strikeout rate was a career-low 4.5 per 9 last year, his ERA+ the worst since 2001, and he threw the fewest innings he's pitched since his rookie year. He's only 29, though, and he's about to be enfolded in the loving embrace of Braves pitching coach/demigod Leo Mazzone, so don't count him out.
  • Pedro also had on off year in '04. His ERA shot up over 1.5 points from 2003 to 3.90, the worst of his career. Pedro's ERA+ went from a superb 212 to 125 (for comparison's sake, 212 is better than any ERA+ Sandy Koufax ever had). On the other hand, he threw as many innings as he had in five years. It's a safe bet that his ERA and his innings pitched will both go down in '05.
  • Livan kept his Ks up last year, but his walk rate went from a career low in 2003 back up to his liftetime average, more or less. Of these three pitchers, he's the most likely to replicate his 2004 performance, unless all those innings finally catch up with him
Conclusion: I'm betting on Pedro, but a rebound season from Hudson could put him over the top. If Livan throws 50 more innings than these two again, however, it'll take a heck of an ERA difference for either one to turn in a more valuable season.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

As Opposed to "Broken Ladder"

I don't have much to say, so let's take a spin around the Nats blog world, shall we?
  • New Blog! The Capitol Dugout message board I mentioned recently has a blog attached, and it's right here. Rich Tandler's latest post is an in-depth look at whom RFK is likely to favor. I don't want to spoil it for you, but the answer rhymes with "belly-itcher."
  • Ball Wonk has a fairly adorable idea for a mascot, since Youppi won't be making the move.
  • Capitol Punishment passes along the info that Jim Bowden is now interested in hiring Barry Larking for a front-office role, since Larking apparently won't sign on to be a part-time player. I would have been happier with Larkin/Maicer Izturis at short than Cristian Guzman, but that's ancient history.
  • Nationals Inquirer is running profiles of each of the Nats. He started with Endy Chavez.
    He does seem to be a pretty good centerfielder; for instance, his Zone Rating ranked fourth among National Leaguers who played center on a regular basis. That's not bad.
    I've been wondering about this. Ultimate Zone Rating sez that Endy's a defensive superstar. Win Shares and Baseball Prospectus' defensive metrics, however, have him as average at best. Either way, he's not good enough to play every day unless he tacks a little something onto his OBP. He was a very effective base-stealer last year, by the way, and early indications are that Frank is going to emphasize that part of his game. Fantasy players, take note!
  • Also check out the Jose Guillen profile. I still that think that, if Juan Rivera gets to start (and he won't on the Angels), he has a very good shot to out-hit Guillen. They're very similar players, but Rivera's on the way up and Guillen's on the way down, and that's not even taking into account the Jackass Factor. That trade may not be Bowden's worst move, but it's still my least favorite.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Onward, Cristian Soldier

Nothing's going on, so let's revisit the MLB.com piece about the Nationals' middle infield.
Guzman, who was the starting shortstop for the American League Central Division champion Twins, hit .274 with eight home runs and 48 RBIs in 2004.

Known as one of the American League's best defensive shortstops, Guzman, 26, finished second in the AL with a .983 fielding percentage.

Bowden considers Guzman to be one of the cornerstones of the franchise and believes he will become a better hitter in the future.

Based on this passage, there are three reasons to be glad to have Cristian Guzman: 1) he's a proven winner 2) he's a great defensive shortstop and 3) he has yet to tap his potential, and the best is yet to come. The first idea is, of course, damn silly. Tony Womack has a World Series ring and Barry Bonds does not. Teams can win championships in spite of mediocre players, and Guzman's Twins haven't even done that. The other Guzman justifications are more worthy of scrutiny.

As for his defense, we really don't know. Every defensive metric I've looked at says that he was godawful for his entire career until 2004, when he got good - real good. The reasons for this have been discussed at Capitol Punishment and around here, with one theory being that the Metrodome's old artificial turf made him look worse than he was. Perhaps his fielding in 2004 reflects his actual ability, or maybe it was a fluke. I guess we'll find out.

Cristian allegedly has potential. He's had this potential for a long time, and it's possible that he always will. That's not quite fair, actually - he was actually good once. In 2001, Guzman made Twins' fans swoon with a 302/337/477 line. He still couldn't take a walk, you'll notice, but a shortstop who slugs .477 can be on my team anytime. Then came three years of suck; slugging average under .400, on-base percentage high of .311, no more than 30 walks or 18 stolen bases in a year. His OPS+, which takes on-base plus slugging and adjusts it for league and ballpark with 100 being average, stayed between 80 and 78, so he was consistently bad. It's also worth nothing that Guzman has enjoyed a huge advantage at home over the years. His career OPS is 100 points higher at the Dome than on the road, and he's been better in literally every offensive statistic at home. But he has this one good season and his youth. Jim Bowden thinks he'll break through and become an elite shortstop again. I doubt that he will.

I tend to roll my eyes when the issue of a player's "character" comes up. I haven't met any of these guys, and I don't trust sportswriters to tell me who's a good dude and who's not. Sportswriters count "talking to sportswriters" as an integral part of character, and they've spent years trying to convince us that Rickey Henderson is a bad guy and a bad teammate, which is pretty well disproved by the affection his teammates seem to have for him. Furthermore, I believe that a man can be a good teammate with some severe character flaws (Ken Caminiti, for instance) and vice versa (Mark Grace, maybe?). However, when you hand out a four-year contract to a bad player based on his potential, it pays to take his character into account, and Twins fans think Guzman is lazy. He doesn't keep himself in good shape, and the complete lack of improvement in the last three years would seem to lend some credence to the idea that he's been coasting. I'm not the type to fetishize "tough," "gritty" players, but if so much of Guzman's value is in his potential, it would be nice if he were the kind of guy to take advantage of it. It appears that he is not.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Al Grito De Guerra

New Blog! The Nationals Inquirer today tackles a subject dear to my heart but recently neglected. Remember the lovable dipshits of the Loudoun Cabal? They need money, as the Inquirer informs us. Welcome aboard, mysterious Inquirer!

As you've probably heard, we finally got Esteban Loaiza. One year, $2.9 million, so I can't get too upset. Oh, he's going to suck, don't you worry about that. The official excuse for his horrendous 2004 seems to be that he was pitching with a tired arm. Great. That's like getting pulled over for speeding and, when asked if you knew how fast you were going, responding that you didn't but it's not your fault because you were too drunk to see the speedometer. Anyway, this doesn't make us any better, but it can only make us worse for one year, which is a rousing success by Bowden standards. Furthermore, the signing set off a chain reaction the final result of which was the acquisition of Antonio Osuna, who signed up with this rag-tag bunch of misfit largely because he digs Mexicans. Osuna is good when healthy, but once again . . .

I lied above - the final final result of the chain reaction was the designation of Sun-Woo Kim for assignment. I don't like this at all. Kim isn't going to win a Cy Young and he's not a two-time All-Star like Loaiza, but he's versatile, doesn't make much, and is only 27. In short, he's a much better fit for the needs of this team than Esteban is. So actually, if I think about this too much, I am going to get all pissed off about Loaiza. Jim Bowden is a dirty liar, by the way.

Speaking of Bowden's incompetence, there's an infuriating puff-piece on the MLB.com site about the middle infield.
Guzman will play alongside second baseman Jose Vidro, forming one of the best double-play combinations in the National League.
They're not joking! I don't feel like arguing with this crap right now, but you go ahead and enjoy it.

UPDATE: Distinguished Senators has obtained this exclusive photo of Antonio Osuna addressing the press from a diner.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Landlord


(Image courtesy of the inscrutable Japanese media.)

Tomokazu "The Landlord" Ohka is safely back in the fold, having signed a one-year contract for $2.75 million to avoid arbitration. That's going to be a huge bargain. Ohka had a more-or-less lost year in 2004, as he took a Carlos Beltran liner off his arm in June, which knocked him out for most of the rest of the year. But check this out:

2002: 192.7 IP, 3.18 ERA, 131 ERA+
2003: 199 IP, 4.16 ERA, 119 ERA+

For a #2 starter, that's much better than solid. If the Landlord put these numbers up for a team with fans and a TV contract, well . . . he wouldn't be a household name, but he'd probably get a ridiculous salary from the Yankees at some point. The point is that Ohka's a really good pitcher, and it's not his fault that no one knows it.

A couple more things about the pitching staff:
  • Livan Hernandez, the official pitcher of Distinguished Senators, was the best pitcher in the NL East in 2003, and the second-best in 2004 (behind Carl Pavano). Once again, the fact that few are aware of this doesn't change the fact.
  • Tony Armas also signed, so we don't have to worry about arbitration with nobody. I don't expect all that much from him; he's one of those guys who's good when he's healthy but isn't ever healthy. The Nick Johnson of baseball, you might say.
  • You know what I don't know anything about? The bullpen. I like the idea that Chad Cordero gets to close and is only 23, but I'm pretty clueless beyond that. Go ahead and fill me in.
Great Moments in Sports Journalism with Dayn Perry!
And once again I don't know who the hell the lucky gal is.
9. Imaginary girlfriend of the week

Golly, it's Phantom co-star Emmy Rossum! I sit through the West Coast premiere of Phantom, but only with the help of my gift-bag Ipod and a creative prostitute. I sit through the Golden Globes, but only because of three sessions of "utility closet coitus" with Emmy. Our fling is torrid, mythic and worthy of verse. We don't talk about who gave whom the clap.
It's like he's trying continually to top himself. The imaginary girlfriend gimmick is amazingly creepy, but growing stale. So he introduces poor hygiene in the Scarlett Johansson delusion, then racial tension with Eva Mendes. I guess he's pretty close to out of ideas, or perhaps he writes this while waiting his turn at the free clinic, because now we have the added element of sexually transmitted diseases. What kind of person fantasizes about and publishes his fantasies about 1) not showering 2) "tamale skills" and "swarthy charms" 3) hookers and 4) STDs? Someone like award-winning Dayn Perry, apparently.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Jose Guillen - VINDICATED!

Our rightfielder discusses the incident that got him suspended from Los Angeles of Anaheim last year:
He thought I threw my helmet at him, but that's where the batboy sits and it didn't even come close (to Scioscia).
Oh, it was all just a big misunderstanding! He didn't throw his helmet at the manager, he threw it at the batboy! Don't worry, Jose. All is forgiven. Prick.


We're still after Esteban Loaiza. Maybe it's all the Sammy Sosa talk, but this doesn't seem like that bad an idea anymore. A good chunk of my rage over the Cristian Guzman contract stemmed from the idea that an interim general manager shouldn't be saddling his rightful successors with a four year contract, especially for a player with Guzman's apparently poor work ethic. One year for Loaiza? Well, fine, I guess. He's not any better than what we already have, but it won't cost us anything long-term. Maybe the Yankees will forget who he is and trade for him at the deadline again.

Speaking of Sosa, I've already discussed how this trade idea is entirely a product of Bowden shooting his mouth off and has about as much a chance of happening as Dayn Perry has of winning a Pulitzer Prize. But let's pretend for a moment that it's feasible (the trade, not the Pulitzer). I don't want any part of Sammy Sosa. One argument put forward is that we need star power on the Nats to bring in the rubes. Unless all those ticket numbers are completely made up, I don't think we need celebrity to sell tickets. Furthermore, this isn't 1998 Sosa we'd be getting. Since he played Salieri to Mark McGwire's Mozart, Sosa has declined in all facets of the game, been caught with cork in his bat, feuded with management to the point that they're openly trying to get rid of him, and become mysteriously bulkier and more acne-afflicted. I can't prove he's been juicing, but he sure looks like another satisfied customer of the Steiner Bros. Training Program. Sosa would get us publicity, but not the good kind.

Would he make us a better team? His offense has declined in each of the last four years, and 2004 was his worst year since 1997. He put up a line of 253/332/517 with 35 homers last year, which is very good. But his stats away from Wrigley were a much less impressive 231/304/474. That's a Vinny Castilla-on-the-road type of line right there. In fact, it's a lot worse than Juan Rivera, in case you're keeping track of Bowden's past blunders. Sosa projects to be a low-OBP guy with good power. Is that better than what he'd be replacing? Once again, it all comes down to what you expect from the husky mystery that is Nick Johnson. Currently, our 1B/LF/RF alignment is either Johnson/Wilkerson/Guillen or Wilkerson/Sledge/Guillen, depending on how long it takes Frank Robinson to find an excuse to bench Nick. Assuming Terrmel "Complete Player" Sledge is the lucky fellow sent to the Cubs, that changes to Wilkerson/Guillen/Sosa. Essentially, Sosa would be replacing Johnson and/or Sledge and at this point in Sosa's career, it's debatable that he'd win us any more games. In fact, if Johnson returns to his 2003 form, it would be a catastrophe. At any rate, Sosa would certainly make the Nationals harder to root for.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Something for Nothing

I have not yet discussed the latest round of Sammy Sosa trade rumors. I also haven't discussed the foreign policy of the Kingdom of Rohan or the geneaology of the House of Atreides, because I try to stay focused on the real world. You may remember that the last time this idea popped up, the offer was something along the lines of Brad Wilkerson in exchange for Sammy Sosa and all his salary in perpetuity. The new offer is Terrmel Sledge in exchange for Sammy Sosa and all his salary in perpetuity. From MLB.com:
A source close to the situation said while the Nationals have talked to the Cubs, they are not willing to give up young players or take on Sosa's salary, which is $35 million for the next two seasons. The source added that Washington's top priority is acquiring a starting pitcher.
"The Nationals are not trading for Sosa unless the Cubs are willing to pay the entire salary," the source said. "The team will not trade its young players for Sosa."
Essentially, Bowden is making public that the fact that he would happily accept Sosa if he doesn't have to pay anything or give anyone up. I'm sure he'd be willing to trade Jamey Carroll for Albert Pujols, too, and that trade idea is just about as realistic. So, in conclusion, nice job getting your name in the papers again, Bodes. You're doing a bang-up job.
Great Moments in Sports Journalism with Dayn Perry!
No doubt Dayn was sitting around wondering, "how could I make this week's celebrity-humping fantasy just a little bit creepier? I know, I'll make it kinda racial! If I keep this up, I'll be a gag-writer for Tom Arnold in no time!"
9. Imaginary girlfriend of the week

Why, it's Eva Mendes! She's among the fetching harem members of an East L.A. street gang. I lead the hardscrabble but outrageously wealthy O.C. Gringo Kings out of my Mission Viejo estate. It's forbidden love, but our passion, which is intense, carnal and somewhat filthy, will not abide our being apart for very long. We make love to the throbbing Tejano beats of the barrio. I adore her for her swarthy charms, nasty inclinations and tamale skills. She adores my money. It works until it no longer works, at which point I move on to something British and uncomplicated. Like Scary Spice.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Nick Johnson Signed

One year, $1.45 million. That's not to say they won't trade him later. Only Ohka and Armas remained unsigned.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Three More Links

More stuff for the linkfield, and then I'm going to bed. Loyal reader and recovering Phillies fan (one day at a time, man) Yuda has a blog right here. The best thing to come out of Kentucky since Bourbon, our own Brad Wilkerson, has a website. There's not a whole lot there, but it has a message board. Go say hi. Finally, there's message board movement. The Fanhome board has moved over here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

He Coulda Been A Contender

Nick Johnson's finished in this town. One of two things is going to happen: 1) he gets traded, or B) he warms the bench. Have a look at this article from MLB.com:
Johnson has been on the disabled list five consecutive years, and played just 73 games in his first year with the Nationals because of a strain in his lower back and broken right cheekbone. In between those injuries, Johnson's high strikeout total and problems adjusting to National League pitching alarmed manager Frank Robinson.

Regardless, Wilkerson will play everyday. The question is, at what position? He is an excellent defensive first baseman and outfielder. If Johnson gets off to a slow start, look for Wilkerson to play first.

There you go. Frank doesn't trust him, and even if he is a Nat in April, he's going to be taking a seat the first time he goes into a slump so that Robinson favorite Terrmel "Complete Player" Sledge can get out there every day. You'd think Robinson would have better judgment about complete players, having been one himself. Also distressing in that piece - no mention of Brendan Harris as a backup for Castilla.

I'd be happy giving Johnson a chance. We know he has the ability to get on base at an astonishing clip, and that's an attribute sadly lacking elsewhere in the lineup. I'm making up trade possibilities only because I think Johnson is going to be traded, and I want us to get the best deal possible. If Bowden were interested, he could probably pull it off. Mike Cameron wants out of Flushing if he can't play center, and the Mets are looking to cut salary so they can pursue Carlos Delgado. They need a first baseman, we need a center fielder. Shipping out the arbitration-eligible Johnson would probably allow Cameron's contract to fit in our budget and would save the Mets some money. But no, Jim Bowden thinks we need a mediocre pitcher. He wants to sign Esteban Loaiza, who is not good. Or he wants to trade for Brian Lawrence, the very embodiment of mediocrity. Or Shawn Chacon, who's actually kind of intriguing, but we don't need him. We need a center fielder, dammit, and Mike Cameron is right there. (See this Capitol Punishment post for further discussion)

And finally,
Great Moments in Sports Journalism with Dayn Perry! Pot Kettle Black Edition.
From a list of New Year's resolutions Dayn was kind enough to supply other people with:

9. City leaders: Stop giving in to the selfish demands of team owners and leagues.May we dispense with the risible notion that cities are somehow obligated to use tax dollars to build sports arenas and stadiums for millionaire owners? Here's a novel idea: pay for your own place of business. Those public funds are better off spent on more essential services or left in the pockets of taxpayers. Since we can't expect owners and leagues to have the integrity to step away from the public trough, we need our city leaders to show some measure of resolve and stop handing out the corporate entitlements. . .

6. Fans and media: Take it easy on the righteous indignation.
Yeah, Dayn, I hate it when people get all righteously indignant. Especially about public stadium funding. I haven't seen someone so oblivious to himself since . . . well, since Will Carroll yesterday, I guess.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Word vs. Action

New blog! Adub's Nats Blog is the newest addition to our li'l community, and its fortuitous name gives it the first place on my list. I'm relieved - I was worried for a while that the dead blogs would outnumber the living. (UPDATE: The Gray Pages is back - dude was on his honeymoon in Costa Rica. I'll be in Malta in April for mine, just in time to miss the first batch of home games.)

Jim Bowden, January 5: "We don't want to spend money on a stop-gap solution. That doesn't make sense. We're better off giving the ball to Mike Hinckley or John Patterson or Jon Rauch and continuing to develop our young pitchers within. Our dollars are better spent on player development and scouting and building the ballclub the right way."

Washington Post, January 11: "General Manager Jim Bowden pushed to try to land free agent pitcher Shawn Estes, offering a two-year deal before Estes appeared on the verge last night of signing a one-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. So Bowden is now turning to a target once thought to be off the Nationals' wish list -- right-hander Esteban Loaiza."

I think I'm going to let my bloggers-in-arms do the talking for me.
  • Capitol Punishment: "What bothers me is a lack of recognition about what this team's needs are. They don't need pitching depth. We've got third and fourth starters coming out our wazoo. The Nats need front-line pitching, not innings." Yeah!
  • Nationals Pastime: "Everyone who is a regular reader knows that I am down on this guy, who has really only had one year that didn't totally suck (it just so happened that one year was outstanding). Paying this guy anything is overpaying him, even if it's a meager amount that gets up to the $3M range with performance-based incentive clauses. Plus, Loaiza would push someone who is better out of the rotation, though maybe only for part of the year."
  • Nats Blog: "This is kind of a puzzling interest on behalf of the Nats. The possible rotation - Livan Hernandez, Zach Day, Tony Armas Jr., Tomo Okha and Jon Rauch - is not altogether offensive. In fact, it's down right presentable when you consider that Rauch has a lot of upside and Okha has pitched well his entire career. So the Nats are not in desparate need of a starter such that they need to take a flyer on Loaiza. "
  • Nationals Baseball: "Bowden is targetting Loaiza because he is an "innings eater". This is true, but do we want those kinds of innings? Everybody and his mother baking apple pie know that 2003 was a fluke. Next year we're probably looking at a 4.50 ERA, 30 HRs or so. Fine for a #4 starter...which we have like 92 of."
  • Ball Wonk makes a very important point: "Are the Nationals really planning to spend millions of ticket-buyer dollars on useless subsidies to unproductive pitchers? Svrluga says yes, but the only sources he quotes are agents. Esteban Loaiza's agent and Shawn Estes' agent. No one from the Nationals. So maybe this is just a case of agents talking up the supposed interest in their players and a gullible reporter buying the spin and reporting a one-source story as fact."
So maybe it's not time to panic yet, though I can't see what Shawn Estes' agent has to gain by making public a shockingly stupid offer from the Nationals when his client is safely signed ("The Nationals still offered him a two-year deal worth somewhere in the $6 million to $7 million range . . ."). Here's Ball Wonk again, on management's misplaced priorities:
. . . that 4.01 ERA for all five starters [in 2004] is terrific. Our problem isn't the pitching, it's the hitting. If we had even average hitting, a 4.01 staff ERA would get us a winning record. (92 wins, actually, if Pythagoros was right about the square root of baseball.) That 4.01 ERA means that our starters gave up less than three runs over each 6-2/3 innings pitched. When your starter only gives up three runs through the seventh, you ought to win that game. If you don't, it ain't the starter's fault, and throwing $4 million a year at Esteban Loaiza ain't gonna help any.
Our pitching is fine, better than fine. We're going to struggle scoring runs, just as the Expos did last year, and Bowden has done next to nothing to address that.

Meanwhile, in Carrolland . . .
Will Carroll, October 29: "It's the Grays."

Will Caroll, November 19: "My report on 'Grays' is, therefore, wrong . . . While the hat designs were presented for three names, only Grays was sent back for a second design. That's where my source saw it."

Will Carroll, January 10: "After the Rose story in 2003, I’ve learned not to take people at their word, to get the documentation in hand."

It's amazing that Carroll thinks he learned that lesson in 2003. May he continue to amuse us for years to come.

And finally, what you've all been waiting for,
Great Moments in Sports Journalism with Dayn Perry!
I advise you to start the water running in your shower right now, because you're going to need it:

Imaginary girlfriend of the week
It's Scarlett Johansson! We leave our commodious artist's loft in Soho and enjoy Eggs Benedict while smoking cloves, wearing berets and idly thumbing through various national-security trade journals. Lots of things cynically amuse us. She adores me when I pontificate on Schopenhauer and the cosmic will. I pretend to like cats for her. Ours has an impossibly pretentious, four-syllable name. We make love, sometimes, in an ashtray the size of an above-ground pool. Our hygiene is passable at best. We make love at poetry readings and during the intermissions of Laurie Anderson shows. Eventually, she annoys me, and I leave her. But, for now, we make love in the unvisited sections at Strand and in the standing water in the Shea Stadium men's room.

I've never in my life been so glad not to be Scarlett Johansson. And yes, folks, this revolting exercise is one of Dayn's weekly features!

Distinguished Senators Mailbag

Over at the MLB.com site, Nationals beat reporter Bill Ladson occasionally answers questions from befuddled fans, some more befuddled than others. He does a fine job, though he seems still to be relying on months-old conversations with Frank Robinson and Tony Tavares. This time around, I thought I'd take a stab at the questions Ladson answered.

What are the Nationals looking to do with Nick Johnson? Will he be the everyday first baseman? -- Jeff, Arlington, Va.

Well, Jeff, it looks like they're looking to ship his ass to Tampa and get nothing in return, more or less. How's that make you feel, Jeff? Good? Even if they do keep him, he's more likely to be the "everyday for a couple months then a constant presence on the DL" first baseman. Essentially, we're damned if we do, damned if we don't.

It's common knowledge that interim general manager Jim Bowden has approximately $6 million left to spend to help improve the team. Given the team's obvious need to improve its rotation, why doesn't upper management give Bowden the leeway to sign a pitcher such as Odalis Perez? -- Ken G., Valleyfield, Quebec

Because Jim Bowden shouldn't be trusted with a pair of safety scissors, let alone $10 million dollars. Shawn Estes?! Esteban Loaiza?! And now, to comply with the strict, xenophobic laws of your homeland, Ken, here is my response in French.

Puisque Jim Bowden ne devrait pas être fait confiance pour une paire de ciseaux de sûreté, encore moins les dollars $10 millions. Shawn Estes ? ! Esteban Loaiza ? ! Et maintenant, se conformer aux lois strictes et xénophobiques de votre patrie, Ken, voici ma réponse en français.

Will the Nationals ever sign a player from Latin America like they did in the past? -- Todd D., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Huh? What an odd question. You okay, Todd? To answer, yeah, I'm sure they'll sign at least one.

When does Spring Training start, and where will the Nationals train? -- Jerry M., Martinsburg, W.Va.

I was going to be all sarcastic and say "Spring Training starts in the spring," but then I realized it starts in February. Wacky.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Ha Ha! A Shovel!

Apparently the way to spark discussion is just to make up some trade possibilities. See the comments to yesterday's post for some interesting stuff, but please ignore the parts where I can't figure out how Dugout Dollars works.

The Washington Post is reporting that Orioles Vice President Jim Beattie is a whiny little wuss.
Hoping to land a premier starting pitcher and a middle-of-the-lineup bat through free agency or a trade, Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Jim Beattie said the uncertainty of the financial effect the Nationals will have on the Orioles has caused the franchise to be outbid for players. Without an agreement with MLB on a compensation package, the Orioles are unsure how much they can spend.
I'm not the first to call "bullcrap" on that one, but I'll do it anyway. Bullcrap! Here's what happened to the Orioles. They targeted some players (Carl Pavano, Carlos Delgado, basically anyone named "Carl" or "Carlos" or "Charles" or "Karolus"), the market went nuts, and they got outbid. There's no shame in that, and I think the O's are having a good offseason simply by avoiding any Russ Ortiz-type contracts. Whether that's by luck or design depends on whom you ask, but if it's the former, it's a real shame that Beattie has to come up with such a lame excuse for doing something intelligent. If it actually is D.C.'s fault that the Orioles didn't get the chance to spend $10 million a year on Carl Pavano, then you're welcome, Baltimore. Don't mention it.

It's time to introduce a new feature here at Distinguished Senators. As you may recall, Dayn Perry recently attained an exhalted place on my shit list on account of a lazy list-instead-of-a-column for Baseball Prospectus in which he wished "that things in D.C., generally speaking, go horribly wrong for the Nationals." I did some looking around and discovered that Dayn also writes a whole bunch of crap for FoxSports.com, and man does he embarrass himself. Go check it out - it's a priceless treasury of humiliation and self-loathing. Imagine you picked a fight with a guy in a bar, but it was dark so you didn't get a good look at him. So you go outside to take care of business, a little nervous in case you're about to tangle with Ivan Drago or someone, and you discover it's Woody Allen. If you were a better man, you'd walk away and not take advantage of the easy butt-whipping you were in a position to dispense. Well, I'm not a better man, and I plan on doing to this jackass what he publicly fantasizes about doing to Eva Mendes, whoever that is. I guess that's the kind of think you miss when you don't read Maxim. Anyway, it's my pleasure to bring you . . .

Great Moments in Sports Journalism with Dayn Perry!
Today's entry is from a few weeks ago, back during L'Affair Cropp. Dayn comments,
Weekly Shovel-Head Award: This week's dose of blunt-force trauma goes to MLB toady Bob DuPuy, who feigned shock and outage, when D.C. city leaders dared (dared!) to mandate that MLB pay for at least half the cost of the new stadium to be built in Washington. Cretin. It's not the public's obligation to spend hundreds of millions of dollars toward building you a place to do business. Get some integrity, pay your own way. It's either that, or I bludgeon you with a shovel. [emphasis mine]
Of course, anyone who was paying attention knows that Linda Cropp's infamous amendment demanded nothing of the sort. Nothing like calling someone else a cretin - and threatening cranial assault in an edgy, FoxSports-like manner - when you have no idea what you're talking about. We'll be back tomorrow with some really creepy stuff.

Links!

I'm revising the links. First, I put up a link to DCist, "a website about the Washington, D.C. area and everything that happens there. That means news and events, restaurants and nightlife, happenings, goings-on and observations." They mentioned me on Thursday, which I thought was nice. I'm not changing the name of the blog, though, no matter what they say.

There are also a couple Nationals blogs to add, though one may be stillborn. Nationals Baseball is a Nationalized former Expos blog that's been going since July. First National Blog hasn't had a post since late November, so it's going in the dormant section. Speaking of which, I'm moving some of the others in there as well until they prove that they're alive. Grim business.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Johnson and Wilkerson

There's still not a whole lot going, which may explain this content-free article from Baseball Prospectus. When it comes to BP, content-free is actually an improvement over their usual stance - full-on snark - but it's still disappointing. I was expecting something really hateful and half-informed (or snide but well-informed, if it were Chris Kahrl), and it was quite a let-down to read the fluff that was actually provided. The article's available for non-subscribers, so you don't have to worry about any of your money lining the pockets of that bastard Dayn Perry. Anyway, here's a blurb about Nick Johnson:
Not that we get our drawers in a pinch over players who strike out a lot, but Nick Johnson had cut way down on his strikeouts from 2002 to 2003, only to increase his rate with the Expos last year. While it wasn't to 2002 levels, it was a jump from last year:


2002: .259
2003: .176
2004: .231
These are not drastic fluctuations, but he had more walks than strikeouts in 2003, something he couldn't repeat last year. Anytime somebody who struck out 98 times as a rookie gets to the point where they've got more walks than strikeouts, then that's a good sign. Maintaining it would be even better, of course.
That's it?! I have a load of questions about Johnson, more than I have about any other National. Such as:
  • Is Bowden going to trade him?
  • If he does, will we get anything good? How about Mike Cameron?
  • Will Johnson ever be healthy for a full year?
  • What's he going to make in arbitration?
  • Even if he is healthy, will he be any good? He put up a .251/.359/.398 line in 2004 and slumped drastically as the season went on, and I don't know why. Nagging injuries? Disinterest? Hangover? That's the kind of thing I'd like to know before I decide what kind of names I want to call Bowden when he makes the trade.
You may have even more; Johnson is a riddle surrounded by a mystery wearing ill-considered facial hair. He has a chance to be the Nats best hitter if he can approximate his 2003 performance (.284/.422/.472), but he has just as good a chance to be complete waste, on account of either injuries or plain suckiness. Whoever wrote that Baseball Prospectus piece doesn't attempt to answer any of these questions, and I wonder why he even bothered to write what he did.

Brad Wilkerson, who appears to be everybody's favorite Nat, avoided arbitration by signing a one-year deal for $3.05 million. Wilk's spent three full years in the majors, and he's been a solid player in all three. 2004 was his best year, an incremental improvement on his '03. That $3 million should be a real bargain. Here's something that bugs me, and the Transaction Guy is only the latest to do it:
I have Wilkerson pencilled in as the Nats’ centerfielder, but if they move Nick Johnson (something they’ve been trying to do all winter) then Wilkerson will move back to first.
Consider this: Montreal's manager in 2003 played Endy Chavez in center field 135 times, even though he couldn't hit and Wilkerson was on the roster. In 2004, the Expos manager put Chavez out there in 127 games, and Wilkerson played center only 18 times. Endy Chavez is still on the roster, and Frank Robinson is still the manager. I have no idea why anyone thinks that Robinson is suddenly going to start reading Bill James abstracts and discover that Chavez shouldn't be starting at any position. Wilkerson will be in left field or at first. He will not be a regular centerfielder.

I mentioned Mike Cameron above. It looks like the Mets are about to sign Carlos Beltran, which could impact us a couple of ways. My attainable dream of finishing ahead of the Mets in 2005 is looking a lot less attainable, for one thing. Also, the Mets are apparently going to move Mike Cameron to right field, and they'd be better off trading him. Cameron is a decent hitter, not a great on-base guy but with some power, but his real value is defensive. He's considered one of the handful of greatest defensive centerfielders out there, and putting him in right wastes his greatest talent and gives the Mets a subpar bat for a corner outfield position. The Mets are in need of a first baseman (assuming they don't sign Carlos Delgado), and we have one our GM seems not to want. I don't think Nick Johnson would be enough to get Cameron by himself, and Tomo Ohka would seem to be the most likely other guy to be traded, since he doesn't want to re-sign for what Bowden wants to give him. Should Bowden do Johnson and Ohka for Cameron? I can't decide. Both players coming from the Nats are undervalued in one way or another, and Cameron is six years older than Johnson. However, it would help our remaining pitchers to have a player of Cameron's prowess in center, and it might save the Nats money, depending on what Johnson and Ohka get in arbitration and assuming no cash or other players changed hands (I'm having hard time finding the terms of Cameron's contract. He made $4.3 mil last year, but it might go up for the next couple). Cameron had surgery this winter and is out until May, but that means we get a month of Endy in center, as opposed a whole year if we don't get Cameron. Basically it comes to what you think Johnson's going to do the next few years.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Heard Any Good Jokes Lately?

There's nothing going on. Well, nothing interesting. So I call upon those of you who have heard a good joke lately to share it with the rest of us. Fill the comments with hilarity!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Bright Side

Distinguished Senators has been very negative lately. I interrupted my vacation just to call some dude I've never met an asshole (not that I retract, mind you), and the year-end awards were a remarkable deluge of bile, even by my standards. So today I'm sheathing my liquid swords and keeping it positive. I present an entirely non-sarcastic list of the things Jim Bowden has done right in his short tenure.
  • Cut Rocky Biddle. That saved us $2 million and plenty of late inning heartbreak.
  • Let Einar Diaz go. Say what you will about new backup catcher Gary Bennett, but Diaz was at least as bad and made over 2 mil.
  • Didn't seriously attempt to re-sign Tony Batista. Batista, by the way, just got $15 million over two years from the Fukuoka Hawks in Japan. The only way that makes sense is if the Hawks got the exchange rate wrong or misplaced a decimal or something. Let's see if the inscrutable Japanese press can explain it:
    Fukuoka Softbank Hawks's acquiring the Tony Batista infielder of 214 majors totaling home runs (FA from 31= Ecspoz) has understood the sixth. It became mutual agreement by the contract for 15 million dollar (about 1 billion 575 million yen) total two years.
    That's a lot more than he made with the Ecspoz.
  • Signed Wil Cordero for one year, $600,000. It's incumbent on Frank Robinson to use Cordero correctly, to make sure he sees as few right-handed pitchers as possible, while Terrmel Sledge faces minimal numbers of lefties, but Bowden did his job on this one.
  • Pursued Odalis Perez. It was his own fault that he didn't have enough money to sign him, but Bowden chose the right guy to after. Kevin Millwood, Esteban Loaiza, and Derek Lowe were out there, and Bowden got it right.
  • "We don't want to spend money on a stop-gap solution," Bowden said. "That doesn't make sense. We're better off giving the ball to Mike Hinckley or John Patterson or Jon Rauch and continuing to develop our young pitchers within. Our dollars are better spent on player development and scouting and building the ballclub the right way."
    That's the best thing I've ever heard Bowden say.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Odalis? Oh Well.

ESPN is reporting that Odalis Perez is re-signing with the Dodgers for three years and $24 million. This is not the time for recriminations, not the time to point out that keeping Juan Rivera instead of Jose Guillen would likely have left Jim Bowden enough cash to pick up Perez. Nor is it the time to point out that Bowden would have had enough had he not made either of his lame-ass, draft pick-costing, "big ticket" free agent signings. Because I've already pointed those things out.

This should take us out of the big-name free agent pitcher market. Derek Lowe is going to get a pile of loot from some sucker, and I hope it's not us. Esteban Loaiza and Kevin Millwood aren't any better than what we already have and more expensive. The $7 million or whatever it is that the Nats have left should be invested in a time machine, which would allow us to go back and un-hire Bowden, among other things.

Baseball America's Aaron Fitt conducted a chat today about the Nats' farm system. Here are some highlights:
Q: Jon from Chicago asks:
What is your opinion on Brendan Harris? I am a Cub fan that was saddened by his trade but understood why. Still I grew fond of him and I'm interested in him because I think he has the chance to be a Craig Biggio type player. What do you think?

A: Aaron Fitt: I, like my colleague John Manuel, am a believer in Harris. He got temporarily blocked when the Nats signed Vinny Castilla to play third base, but he could easily slide over to second if Jose Vidro is dealt. Biggio is an interesting comparison - their offensive games are somewhat similar, as both are good line-drive hitters with occasional pop, but Biggio has more speed than Harris, and Harris probably has a stronger arm.


Yet another reason the Vinny Castilla signing was lousy: Brendan Harris is major league-ready. Even if Castilla does outperform him in 2005, which is questionable, there's little chance that he'll provide more bang for the buck and/or lost draft pick.
Q: John from Washington, DC asks:
Aaron, what Nationals minor leaguer to you see having the biggest impact at the majors league level this year?

A: Aaron Fitt: Good question. Church is ready to be a big leaguer, but it is uncertain where he will play. Guillen and Sledge are locked into the corner outfield positions, and Wilkerson will play center if the Nats keep Nick Johnson at first base. My guess: they do not keep Johnson, they keep Wilkerson at first and play Church in center, although they could also try to get Larry Broadway some playing time at first base. Of course, Hinckley could have more impact than Church or Broadway if he can work his way into the rotation sooner than expected. But to answer your question, I guess I'll go with Church.
I have gone on at mind-numbing length about our sorry centerfield situation, but this solution never occured to me. Church should out-hit Endy Chavez if he's allowed to play every day, but his defense is open to question. We know what we're getting with Endy, and it ain't much. Couldn't hurt to take a flyer.

I'm beginning to think that Nick Johnson won't be with us next year. I don't mean he's going to die, I mean he'll be in Tampa, and you can make your own joke about the similarities. Bowden's going to trade him because he wants Terrmel Sledge in left and Wilkerson at first. I'm not against the idea of trading Johnson, but I don't think we're going to get value. The Johnson for Alexis Rios proposal may never have existed, and other than that speculation has centered on a few relievers from Tampa Bay.

If you have any interest in our minor leaguers, you should get over there and read the rest. It's a long chat, chock full of guys I've never heard of.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Awards!

It's Awards Night here at Distinguished Senators. I'm wearing my tux, Joan Rivers is standing outside, and the blogosphere's brightest stars have come out to shine. Our first award:

The Capitol Steps Award for Lamest "Funny" D.C. Team Name. First, the runners-up.
  • "Meanwhile, pundits are all atwitter over what the name of the new D.C. team should be. How about the Washington Porkers?" Michelle Malkin, Sept. 30.
  • "MLB has assured that the Washington Lobbyists . . ." Peter Gammons, Oct. 4.
  • " . . . to discuss becoming the interim GM of the Washington Kerrys." Gammons again, Oct. 26.
  • And the winner is: "I've been trying to come up with a good name for the new team, and I think I finally have it. It respects the history of the franchise and also fits with the new city: The Washington Exposés!" David Pinto, Baseball Musings, Sept. 29.
There were a lot more floating around than just these, but sifting through them was having a deadening effect on my soul.

The Ron Santo Award for Unthinking Homerism. The runners-up are . . .
  • "If and when the Montreal Expos are moved, somebody somewhere is going to be getting a pretty good franchise -- one that is chock full of solid, young players under club control for several more years (Jose Vidro, Nick Johnson, et al.), a farm system full of highly touted prospects and a refreshing lack of debt obligations in the form of long-term contracts." Dave Sheinin, Washington Post, Aug. 29.
  • "Tell me Bowden isn't cleaning the Orioles' clocks so far?" George Solomon, Post, Nov. 21.
  • "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." Thomas Boswell, Post, Nov. 30.
  • And the winner, from the same column: "If this is what Bowden does on a shoestring, who will this crazy guy grab if he ever actually knows what his budget is?" Boswell again. It was slim pickins this year, as the Post didn't switch to drooling fanboy mode until they were pretty sure we were getting the team. Expect it to get worse soon.
The Baseball Prospectus Award for Smug, Poorly Reasoned Anti-Nats Hackery. Amazingly, all of our finalists for his award write for Baseball Prospectus. Should I cancel my subscription? Should you? Anyway, here they are:
  • "New D.C. name? How about the D.C. Vultures, in honor of those nice folks who descended on the team every season like ugly birds hovering over carrion." Jonah Keri, Oct. 12. Keri doesn't win because I cut Expos fans a lot of slack for stuff like this. If I were them, I'd be doing the exact same thing.
  • Talking about the contract mess the Yankees have gotten themselves into: "Sounds like the Washington Expos are going to be taking on a lot of bad contracts." Steven Goldman, Oct. 25.
  • "The Expos might be one of the worst teams ever next year, because it's hard to see how they get anything done this offseason." Joe Sheehan, Oct. 26.
  • And the winner, a late entry and a wish for the new year "That things in D.C., generally speaking, go horribly wrong for the Nationals." Dayn Perry, Dec. 31.
The Nostradumbass Award for Egregiously Bad Prediction (with apologies to Andrew Sullivan). This is perhaps our most prestigious award, and if you've been paying attention to this humble blog, I think you know who's going to win. And have the award renamed after him. Lots of runners-up!
  • "We're very optimistic, and expect this to be settled in the next three, four weeks." D.C. Sports 'n' Entertainment Commission Chair Mark Tuohey, July 9.
  • "Barry Bonds is going to get screwed out the MVP this year, no diggity. Scott Rolen is about to find himself in the right place at the right time, Miggy T style." Ryan Moore, July 25.
  • "This makes it very, very hard indeed for me to imagine the judge permitting an Expos move to Washington in time for preparations to begin this off-season . . . If the suit is somehow settled in the next couple of months, the move can, of course, happen at once. It could also happen if the arbitrator delivered a quick ruling strongly in favour of MLB that left no further avenue of appeal, or if the judge peremptorily closed off the 'injunctive relief' part of the suit. But, all in all, Selig & Co. seem to have left their hardest problem for last here." Colby Cosh, Sept. 29. Of course, RICO turned out to be the easiest problem.
  • ". . . yes, its the Grays." Will Carroll, commenting on Ball Wonk, Oct. 30. He expunged this prediction from his own blog, or else I would have used that instead.
  • "Call me crazy, but I'm making plans for Opening Day 2005 in Montreal." Neil deMause, Field of Schemes, Aug. 11.
  • ". . . after the World Series (Astros in six, and good for them) . . ." Ryan Moore, Oct. 20.
  • "[D.C. would] be no fun anyway, surely naming their team the Senators . . ." Will Carroll, June 28.
  • And the suprise winner of the instantaneously renamed Will Carroll Memorial Nostradumbass Award for Egregiously Bad Prediction *drumroll* "DC’s bid is dead." Will Carroll, June 28.
Congratulations to all our winners, and thanks to the runners-up for reaching for the stars only to come up just short. Maybe next year. Anything I missed? Any stupid prediction, unfunny team name, any foolish statement made with the unconditional love of the homer? That's what the comments are for.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Redskins Undefeated in 2005

I'm back, and you don't have to be all hard and pretend you didn't miss me. During the week or so I was away, absolutely nothing happened. Coincidence? You decide. I trust that you all have flooded Da"y"n Perry's inbox with so many witty, devastating emails that he sobbed right through Regis leading us into the new year. If you haven't, it's not to late to shoot his smug ass a message. My rule of thumb here is threats of violence are too far, personal insults (preferably misspelled) are just right. Or you could go the Will Carroll route and just wish him dead.

There's another Nats blog. Josh Kraushaar's Nationals Review (get it?) covers both DC baseball and politics. Consider it a counterpoint to Carroll, except that Mr. Kraushaar isn't openly hoping for the Reaper to visit his opponents. Welcome aboard, sir!

I'll be back tomorrow to hand out year-end awards. Andrew Sullivan just said, "If this is anyone but Steve Allen, you're stealing my bit."