Distinguished Senators, the Washington Nationals Blog That Is Great

Monday, February 29, 2016

Kept His Gun in Quiet Seclusion, Such a Humble Man

Now these thugs actors all of a sudden
[Marlins general managers] hustle backwards all of a sudden
-Rick Ross, "Rich Forever"

I never thought that random hillbilly Dan Jennings would become a beloved recurring character on this blog.

I'd never heard of him until last year, when he parlayed his position as general manger of the Marlins into a demotion and termination. That's what we call "hustling backwards." With a combination of good intentions and incompetence, Dan Jennings has made himself the platonic ideal of hustling backwards, and now he works for the Nats!

Now that we're on the same side, I hope he doesn't take it personally that I spent a fair amount of 2015 referring to him as a random hillbilly and comparing him to Billy Carter. I don't think he will. Whatever his faults, Jennings seems like a good-natured fellow, and he doesn't strike me as the kind of person who would take "hillbilly" as an insult.

In fact, he seems like the kind of guy who not only knows all the words to the song from "Dukes of Hazzard" but tries to live by them. He's just a good ol' boy, never meaning no harm, etc.
Dan Jennings on his way to work
It's worth recounting what is, for all its dopiness, the most unusual baseball career since Rick Ankiel's:

1. Dan Jennings grows up somewhere in Waffle House country. He makes his way the only way he knows how, even though it's just a little bit more than the law will allow. He probably plays baseball at some level.

2. Dan Jennings winds up working for the Marlins, straightenin' the curves and flattenin' the hills.

3. Dan Jennings becomes general manger of the Marlins. I assume that this is because everyone ahead of him quit or got fired, but still. As GM, he is called upon to fire manager Mike Redmond.

4. Dan Jennings exhibits a deep-seated understanding of the spirit and purpose of the Marlins organization: In an effort to prevent the team from having to pay another manager, he offers to step in and manage the team himself. It's an unusual move, going from general manager to regular manager and expecting to be kicked back up to GM when you're done. It beats all you ever saw.

5. Dan Jennings isn't any good as manager. Maybe it's not his fault, but I bet Mike Redmond felt pretty good about it.

6. Having done his part to save his loathsome organization from paying an extra salary, Dan Jennings asks for his job back. He is fired.

7. Dan Jennings gets a job with the Nationals as special assistant to the general manager. There are nine special assistants to the general manager, so there's no telling what he's actually doing. Maybe he's getting coffee. Maybe he's running moonshine. The mountain might get him, but the law never will.

So there's Dan Jennings' bizarre baseball career arc. From GM to field manager to unspecified front office job. Based on his demonstrated tendencies, we can assume he's using his face time with Mike Rizzo to hustle himself backwards into a bullpen catcher job. After that? The ground's the limit for Dan Jennings. Maybe he'll start blogging.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

It's Too Late to be Grateful

On Christmas Eve, Daniel Murphy's representatives paid a call on Mike Rizzo. They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and stood, with their hats off, in Rizzo's office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.

"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Rizzo,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for unemployed infielders, who suffer greatly at the present time."
Representatives from the ACES agency make their pitch to Mike Rizzo
At this point, a certain kind of general manager - a more cautious, if not necessarily a better, one - might have asked if there were still prisons and Union workhouses, if the Treadmill and Poor Law were still in full vigour. Finding out that they were, he would have dismissed Murphy's agents, snapped at Dan Jennings for expecting to get Christmas Day off, and gone home to eat some gruel and be terrorized by ghosts.

Rizzo took a different tack. Overwhelmed by holiday spirit, he whipped out his checkbook and started writing, looking up to ask the portly gentlemen if 37 million dollars would suffice.

It did, and now we have Daniel Murphy for three years. I'll do the cons first:

They tell me Murphy can't really play defense. He's going to be playing second, at least until everyone gets injured, and bad second basemen are no fun.

Murphy's presence means that we'll be rooting for Ryan Zimmerman's inevitable trip to the DL to come before Anthony Rendon's inevitable trip to the DL. The former might send Murphy over to 1st base, where the damage he can do is minimized. The latter could set off a terrifying cascade of defensive wackiness, so let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Assuming he stays at second, this is a straight defensive downgrade; possibly a steep one.

The other reason I don't like this signing is that Daniel Murphy is a basic Irish-American. That's a new stereotype I just developed to describe people whose walk-up music is "I'm Shipping Up to Boston." Thanks to Rizzo's Christmas liberality, I'm going to have to hear that damn song a couple hundred times more than I would have otherwise. Sam Adams commercials have been more than filling my need to hear it, so this is not a welcome development.

Fricking Irish. I'm starting to think those 19th century editorial cartoonists had a point.

Daniel Murphy avec shillelagh
To understand the pros, I have to put in some effort to accustoming myself to baseball in these times. Consider:

A 770 OPS gets you a 113 OPS+ these days. Man, I'm from the 90s. Back then, you could slug .550 and bat eighth. Every shortstop hit 30. The roads were paved with dingers. We didn't have half a dozen basic Irishmen coming up to bat to the hackneyed sounds of "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," either. Back in my day, everyone used "Crazy Train."

The point is that by modern standards, Daniel Murphy's C+ OPS makes him a pretty good hitter.

The other weird thing is that pretty good hitters make 12 million dollars, and that still seems weird to me. Greg Vaughn and Jeff Cirillo never made that much in a year. Eight digits for a guy like Murphy makes no sense to me, but I guess I'll have to get used to it.

So, in conclusion, a lame conclusion. Maybe this is good! By the bizarre, degenerate standards of the mid-2010s, the guy can hit well enough to make an absurd amount of the Lerners' money.

On the other hand, maybe this is bad! I mean, is there really an advantage to having a second baseman who hits a little bit above average when he fields way below average? Is Murphy + Danny Espinosa - $12 million really better than Trea Turner + Danny Espinosa + $12 million? I'm not convinced, and I'm not sure a free agent signing that requires a number of injuries to pay off is a good investment.