Nationals 2008 Year-In-Review

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, December 31, 2008 | , | 3 comments »

Everybody else is doing their year-in-reviews, I figured, "Why not me?" It was the best of times and the worst of times for the baseball team in the Nation's Capitol.

January: Fresh on the heels of signing Paul LoDuca and trading for Lastings Milledge in December, the Nats go out and sign another free agent catcher, Johnny Estrada, to a one-year, $1M contract. Estrada hit .170/.200/.170 with no homers and four RBIs in 53 at bats and was released in July, trashing the team on the way out.

February: Signed Odalis Perez and Bret Boone and invited both to spring training. One worked out, the other didn't. Also, along with a host of others, signed Wil Nieves to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. Nieves ended up performing admirably and was just 16 at bats short of LoDuca and Estrada--COMBINED.

March: In a harbinger of things to come, the Nats finished spring training 12-17-1. Released former opening day starter John Patterson. Lost Rule 5 draftee Matt Whitney back to Cleveland. Placed Estrada on the DL for the first time with a sore elbow. Placed Elijah Dukes on the DL after tearing his hamstring on opening day.

March 30, 2008: The single biggest highlight of 2008, Opening Night of the season, the inaugural game of Nationals Park. With a national audience on ESPN looking in, President George Bush threw out the first pitch, flash bulbs popped, and Ryan Zimmerman sent everyone home happy with a homer to left center in the bottom of the ninth to win the game.

It only went downhill from there.

April: Won their first three games then promptly lost 15 of their next 17 on the way to an 11-17 month. Felipe Lopez hit a grand slam in the 10-5 win over the Mets.

"I'm me again, you know? I steal bases, score runs, get on base, walk. It's exciting." --Felipe Lopez, April 24, 2008.

Placed Chad Cordero on the DL for the first time. Called up John Lannan. Optioned, then released, Ray King.

May: Record: 13-16. Beat the Mets at Shea 1-0 thanks to the defensive play of the year, Willie Harris' all out dive on the gravel warning track in left field. It was Harris' sac bunt that set up the winning run as well.

Placed Chad Cordero back on the DL, effectively ending his tenure with the Nats. LoDuca broke his hand in a game in Houston and he and Estrada went on the DL together. The Jesus Flores era began the next day. Nick Johnson tore the tendon sheath in his right wrist, done for the year. Austin Kearns went on the DL, thus clouding his future with the team. The Elijah Dukes era began.

June: Record: 9-17. Lost four-game series at home to fellow bottomfeeder San Francisco, getting outscored 25-6 in the process. Took two of three from Baltimore in the "Battle of the Beltways".

Manny Acta and Elijah Dukes got into a screaming match in the dugout in a game in Pittsburgh, after Dukes homered and showed up the Pirate pitcher.


On the last day of the month, future Nationals left fielder Josh Willingham homered off Jon Rauch in the bottom of the tenth inning for the win.

Photo by AP.

Placed Ryan Zimmerman on the DL with a small labrum tear, suffered a week before in a game against the Orioles. Released Rob Mackowiak, an off-season major league free agent. Mackowiak would not be claimed or signed the rest of the season. Odalis Perez went on the DL with tendinitis in his shoulder. Shawn Hill went on the DL with the dreaded "forearm strain", ending his season.

July: Record: 5-18. Simply dreadful baseball. Losing streaks of six and nine games. They had ten games scoring fewer than two runs, losing all of them. Bronson Arroyo, Brandon Webb, Brandon Backe, Matt Cain and Clayton Kershaw all shut the Nats out in the month.

Willie Harris, enjoying his career year, homered, walked three times, went 2-for-3 and had five RBIs in a 15-6 win over Atlanta on the 20th of the month.

"I just feel fortunate to get some balls to fall for me," said Harris, who had seven hits, seven RBI and scored five runs in the series. "I was looking forward to this series. I have a lot of friends over there. I really want to beat my old team." --Willie Harris, July 20, 2008

July saw the end of Wily Mo Pena and Dmitri Young. Pena had season-ending shoulder surgery and Young was placed on the DL due to complications from his diabetes. Neither would play again. Elijah Dukes had knee surgery and would be out several weeks.

GM Jim Bowden announces to a talk radio show that the team will non-tender closer Chad Cordero, before informing the player or his agent.

At the end of the month the purge began. Jon Rauch was traded to Arizona for 2B Emilio Bonifacio. Felipe Lopez, Paul LoDuca and Johnny Estrada were released. Minor league pitcher Jhonny Nunez was traded to the Yankees for SS Alberto Gonzalez.

August: Record: 13-15. Won five out of six to start the month, then lost 12 in a row, then won six in a row to close the month. Highlight of the month was sweeping the Dodgers late in the month, including an 11-2 romp, with Cristian Guzman hitting for the cycle and Elijah Dukes hitting two homers.

"It feels great," Guzman said. "Everybody said, 'Hit the triple, hit the triple.' I said, 'OK, I'm trying.' " --Cristian Guzman, August 28, 2008.

The purge continued after the non-waiver trade deadline, as Luis Ayala was shipped out to the Mets in exchange for 2B Anderson Hernandez. Austin Kearns was put on the DL with a stress fracture in his foot, ending his season, late in the month.

GM Jim Bowden shows up for a press conference in Los Angeles wearing a Manny Ramirez dreadlock wig.

September: Record: 7-17. Nats tried to play spoiler all month like they had the previous year, but just got beat up. Lowlight of the month: in a 4-0 shutout by Philadelphia's Cole Hamels, 2B Chase Utley maliciously dove shoulder first into Jesus Flores' lower leg, knocking him out of the game and ending his season. Utley was out on the play, trying to steal home with two outs.

The Nats ended the season being swept by the eventual World Series champs.

Starting pitcher Shairon Martis made his debut, going 1-3 in five starts with a 5.66 ERA.

October: Sent Ryan Wagner, Pete Orr, Ryan Langerhans, Lavale Speigner and Chad Cordero to AAA Syracuse. Cordero refused the assignment and became a free agent.

Fired all coaches except pitching coach Randy St. Claire. Hired new hitting coach Rick Eckstein, bench coach Jim Riggleman, first base coach Marquis Grissom, third base coach Pat Listach, and bullpen coach Randy Knorr.

November: Sent Dmitri Young to AAA Syracuse, making him the highest paid minor leaguer at $5M. Traded Emilio Bonifacio and two low-minor leaguers to Florida for LF Josh Willingham and LHP Scott Olsen.

Photo (c) D. Nichols 2008.

December: Released Jesus Colome. Selected reliever Terrell Young, a 24-year old that has never pitched above A-level, from the Reds in the Rule 5 draft. Signed Willie Harris to a two-year contract. Signed Corey Patterson, Freddie Bynum and others to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training.

Signed Daniel Cabrera, formerly of the Baltimore Orioles, to a one-year contract. Cabrera is 48-59 in five seasons with a 5.05 ERA.

The Nationals offer free agent Mark Teixeira a reported 8 year, $160M contract. There were reports the Nats upper the offer in years and money as well. Despite reports that the Nats offered more years and money, Teixeira signs with the Yankees on Dec. 24.
_________________________________________

So there you have it, the Washington Nationals year-in-review. Hope you've had as much fun reliving it as I have had in writing it. I think I'll go have a drink now.

HAPPY NEW YEAR NATS FANS!!!

Nationals Officially Announce Cabrera Deal

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, December 29, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

Text of the press release:

NATIONALS AGREE TO TERMS ON 2009 CONTACT WITH
RIGHT-HANDED PITCHER DANIEL CABRERA

The Washington Nationals today agreed to terms with free-agent right-handed pitcher Daniel Cabrera on a 2009 contact. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcement.

The 27-year-old Cabrera joins the Nationals after five seasons with Baltimore, for whom he went 48-59 with a 5.05 ERA in 147 games (146 starts) from 2004-08.

Known for his durability, Cabrera’s 146 starts rank ninth in the American League over the last five seasons. He eclipsed the 30-start plateau in each of the last two campaigns with the Orioles.

Over the last five seasons, the Orioles posted a .472 (69-77) winning percentage when Cabrera got the starting nod, compared to .437 (290-373) for all other starting pitchers.

Cabrera—who stands 6-foot-7—has fanned 7.0 batters per 9.0 innings for his career, and last year, he registered the best walk ratio and pitches-per-inning (16.8) numbers of his career.

He has recorded 10 or more quality starts in each of his five big league seasons. With 63, Cabrera has posted more career quality starts than any Washington pitcher currently under contact.

A ground-ball pitcher, Cabrera has induced 27 percent more ground balls (1204) in his career than fly balls (880), and thus, his 63 double-play grounders the last three seasons rank eighth in the AL. As a rookie in 2004, Cabrera finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting after pacing all big league rookies with 12 wins, 27 starts and 147.0 innings.

I absolutely love the stats that the Nats cherry picked to put into the press release. Let's take a look, shall we?

  • Third in ROY voting...in 2004.
  • 63 double play grounders over the last three seasons, ranking him eighth (8th!) in the AL alone!
  • Posted more career quality starts than any other Nats pitcher under contract.
  • Winning percentage with the O's was under .500, but slightly above the team's winning percentage overall for that time period.
  • 146 stars last five years ranks ninth (9th!) in AL over that time period.
  • Mentions he posted best "walk ratio" of his career last year. Walks per nine? Walks per strikeout? Doesn't say.
  • Fanned 7.0 per nine innings over career.

OK, so let's parse these stats a little, going backwards.

  • With 841.1 career innings under his belt and 651 Ks, he's actually averaged 6.96 K/9 over his career. The Nats chose to to specifically say "7.0", so I thought I'd test the exactness of their decimal point. So they misstated the actual number on the press release to start with. But how unremarkable is 6.96 K/9? It ranks him 36th for active major league pitchers and behind such noted strikeout artists as Mike Mussina (7.106) and Kevin Millwood (7.168).
  • His K/9 last season was 4.75. In fact his career line (204-2008) reads like this: 4.63, 8.76, 9.54, 7.31, 4.75. What caused him to fall off the table last year? Was it too much trying to cut down the walks? Or was it the "elbow strain" that shut him down in September?
  • His BB/9 last year was 4.75 and his BB/K was 1.00. That's right, for every strikeout there was a walk. His career BB/9 is 5.28, so his walks were down almost half a walk per game, but at the expense of 2.21 K/9. His career BB/K is .758. That means that even though he reduced the quantity of walks (K/9) his quality of pitching (BB/K) was significantly lower.
  • 146 starts in last five years might have him 9th in the AL, but it's only 31st overall. His ERA over that time period (5.05) is better only than Josh Fogg of the top 50 start gatherers in the major leagues. His 48 wins are the sixth worst of those 50 as well. Of the 90 pitchers with 100 or more starts since 2004, his BB/9 (5.11) was a half a walk per nine more than the next closest (Oliver Perez, at 4.63)
  • Winning percentage with the O's? Of the same 90 pitchers to start 100 or more games, he ranks 78th in win percentage .
  • You want quality starts? His 63 rank 58th on the list of 90. As for comparing his TOTAL to the total of other Nats pitchers? That's just ridiculous. Scott Olsen has 47 in one less year. He's the only starter on the roster with more than one full season under his belt. It's embarrassing they would even list this stat in this context. Also, his QS percentage of total starts was .432, 85th on the list of 90, behind such luminaries as Adam Eaton and formerly our own Odalis Perez!
  • Baseball-Reference has Cabrera as inducing 83 GIDPs, so that's probably just a typo. His 83 rank him 30th on the list of 90. So he's (barely) top 1/3 of major league starters the last five seasons inducing ground ball double plays! Big fat deal. He was able to keep the ball ont he ground his first three seasons, allowing 14, 14 and 11 homers through 2006. But the last two years he's been perfectly average (25, 24) allowing the long ball. So he gets outs on the ground, but as his K totals have plummeted, his HR numbers have risen. Shocker, I know.
  • Third in ROY? He went 12-8, 5.00 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. He finished behind Bobby Crosby and Shingo Takatsu. He had zero first place votes. In fact, Crosby had 138 points, Takatsu 44, Cabrera 29. Big Deal.

So there you have it, in this rather long-winded response to the Nats cherry picked stats in their press release about the signing of presumably #3 starter Daniel Cabrera.

It's the worst of both worlds. He's a lousy pitcher getting worse that takes the ball every fifth day (unless it's injury accounting for the drop in velocity and Ks). Oh goody.

Checking In From Texas

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, December 24, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

So, I've been out of town the last few days. Anything happening in the Natosphere?

Kidding.

Im depressed the way this shook out. It really is a sham that the Yankees have a license to print money and operate in the manner they do. I know it's the reality of the situation and the baseball owners are the ones that make the rules they play under, but how can anyone consciously participate in a coalition that allows one of its members to act with impunity fiscally?

As for the idea that because the Nats were in the Teixeira sweepstakes they have become "players", that's ridiculous. The Nats got played. Plain and simple. They were nothing but pawns in the whole thing.

And please don't go thinking the Nats are going to go off on a spending spree now with that $160 million. There's no one else in "The Plan" out there. If they were spending that money this off-season, it was for Teixeira.

I will say this: if the Bowden signs Manny Ramirez, I will still cover this team, but I will not root for it until Bowden is fired. You think FJB is bad? Just wait.

In other news, the Nats signed five players that all had promise at one point, but have failed as big leaguers for one reason or another.

Daniel Cabrera. Corey Patterson. Freddie Bynum.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah Nats fans.

$2.6 Million?!? Really?

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, December 22, 2008 | , , , | 3 comments »

Two-point-six million. Two million, six hundred thousand. Really?

I'm telling you now so that I don't have to say I told you so later. I know some of you are trying to take a positive approach to this. And in the spirit of the holidays I'm really trying not to be a Scrooge here. However, signing Daniel Cabrera to a $2.6 million dollar contract will be a waste of money and waste of 180 innings if he's healthy.

See, some of you are saying, "If he's healthy this is ok." I'm saying the opposite. I HOPE he's not healthy so we'll be subjected to his league leading walks, hit by pitches and wild pitches.

Daniel Cabrera stinks.

Really? Daniel Cabrera

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, December 20, 2008 | , , | 1 comments »

All the other blogs have weighed in on this already, but since I spent most of my day in a car or at my folks house, I'm finally getting a chance to offer my opinion.

Having watched Daniel Cabrera his entire Orioles career, I feel that I am uniquely qualified to make the following statement. Read closely, I don't want anyone to misinterpret what I'm about to say:

Daniel Cabrera stinks.

And it's the worst kind of stink. It's the "I'm gonna throw an effortless complete game three hit shut out with 11 strikeouts, then go three weeks averaging four and two thirds with five walks and four earned runs" stink.

In five seasons with the Orioles, he's led the leagues in walk, wild pitches and hit batsmen. He's been suspended for headhunting. He finished last season on the disabled list. But here's the biggest reason to have avoided signing him:

THE ORIOLES DID NOT WANT HIM.

One of the few teams in the league who's pitching is as bad--or worse than the Nats and they let him walk without so much as a "see ya later".

And another thing: Any team feeling like Mark Teixeira is part of their equation has ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS SIGNING DANIEL CABRERA!

Who's running this operation? Oh, that's right.

Why It's Hard To Trust Mainstream Media

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, December 19, 2008 | , , | 3 comments »

This article, posted just a little bit ago by SI.com's Jon Heyman, is everything bad about "new media", big market bias, and unnamed sources.

I'll leave to you read his story and make up your own opinion, but these are the lines that gets me:

"At least a half-dozen baseball executives with some knowledge of the process suggested to SI.com that the Red Sox remain interested in Teixeira and are merely intent on sticking to their last proposal (which one source pegged at close to but probably not more than $180 million for eight years). While none of these people were in the room in Dallas where Red Sox owner John Henry and general manager Theo Epstein met with Teixeira and his agent, Scott Boras, they all have some peripheral knowledge of the negotiations.

Several of these baseball executives suggested Henry and Epstein could merely be engaging in a game of poker with Boras, and all said they believed the Red Sox still would like to land Teixeira, the biggest free-agent prize among everyday players."

YOU AND I have peripheral knowledge of the negotiations!!!

Basically, Heyman writes that some baseball people are theorizing that a) Boras was bluffing that he had a better offer and b) the Red Sox are just calling his bluff.

However, the headline of the story on SI.com reads: Sources: Sox still in Teixeira hunt.

And of course, every Red Sox, Angels, Nats and Orioles fan are going to be driven to SI.com to read the story, just like I was, and the basis of the whole article is nothing but innuendo, gossip and rumor. In other words, crap.

Be careful what you read during baseball's hot stove league.

The Continuing Story of Mark Teixeira

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, December 19, 2008 | 0 comments »

No doubt you already have read John Henry's statements declaring the Red Sox out of the bidding for Mark Teixeira. Take that with however many grains of salt that you like. After meeting with Teixeira, and his agent Scott Boras, last night in Texas, Henry made a public statement saying that the Red Sox "are not going to be a factor" in the bidding for Teixeira's services.

That leaves the slugging first baseman with three offers on the table, and one possibly looming.

The Nats, Orioles and Angels have all ponied up offers that are reported to be in the 8-year, $160-$180M range. If a team (or teams) have upped that significantly enough to force Boston's hand, the numbers have not leaked yet.

Orioles GM Andy MacPhail said yesterday in a Baltimore Sun interview that he had the "flexibility" to make a higher bid than what was publicly known. Did he make make that offer and the numbers just haven't leaked?

The Angels are on the hook for the original bid as well at eight years, but owner Arte Moreno seemed reluctant to do more that that.

The Nationals, and GM Jim Bowden, are the real wild card here. Flush with cash and with a flair for the dramatic, Bowden may be playing this thing into what he'll consider his crowning achievement in baseball. The Lerner family has been reluctant, so far, to spend real money at the major league level.

But it seems that Bowden and assistant GM Mike Rizzo have convinced them that Teixeira is the cornerstone on which to build this franchise.

But one more team lurks, and we all know who that is. The New York Yankees, just off introducing their new starting rotation, would seem ill-prepared to than commit another $20-$22 million a year for one more player.

But it's the Yankee way, and with the Red Sox voluntarily dropping out of the stakes, is that cause for Hank Steinbrenner to swoop in and add Tex to his collection of perennial all stars? Don't forget, they have even more money coming off the books next year.

As with this entire drama, things aren't over yet. Not by a long shot.

Red Sox owner John Henry said last night that the Red Sox are out of the running for Mark Teixeira.

Simply incredible. Click the link and read it for yourself. Here's the money shot though:

"We met with Mr. Teixeira and were very much impressed with him," Henry told the Associated Press. "After hearing about his other offers, however, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor."

Since it's now 2:18 am I'm not going to expound any further, and I'm sure you're all with me in hoping there's an end to this soon. But as Yogi once said, "It ain't over till it's over."

Teixeira Saga Almost Over?

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, December 18, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

ESPN.com is reporting that Mark Teixeira's representatives are meeting with the Red Sox from office this evening with hopes of finalizing their deal. A Boston tv station reports that owner John Henry, team president Larry Lucchino and GM Theo Epstein travelled to Texas to meet with Tex and his agent, Scott Boras.

Reading these stories it certainly has an air of finality to it.

The question, if the reports are true, is: Where do the Nats got from here? They identified Teixeira as a "once in a lifetime" type of player and were obviously willing to break the bank for him. That does not mean that they view anyone else on the market the same.

All the elite pitching is gone. There isn't anyone left that the Nats would call a building block. There are useful hitters available, but with the exception of Adam Dunn, most are of the couple-of-years left category, not someone the team would envision carrying the team for the next six-to-eight years or so.

Do they envision Dunn in that manner? If not, is it worth the cash it would take to sign him to a two, three or four year contract? Is it worth the effort? Dunn is an on base machine, but he does have his liabilities, namely his defense and contact rates.

Should the Nats sign Dunn to help make the team a little more palatable until some of their young talent grows up? Would the acquisition of Dunn help in that educational process? Should the Nats conserve their cash for another day and concentrate on next year's amateur draft?

I don't have the answers. Dunn would make the team more interesting in the sense that he's a lock to hit 40 homers and reach base at a .375 clip, both areas that the Nats are significantly lacking. But he's a stop-gap. Not a cornerstone.

Cincinnati has been fairly terrible the last couple of years with Dunn in the lineup. Is the Nats lineup any different than the Reds?

Interview With a Prospect

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, December 17, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

Head over to Nats Buzz on MASN.com with Kristen (also of We've Got Heart) for a terrific interview of Nats' prospect Adrian Nieto. It's one of the most thorough interviews of a Nats prospect I've seen. And considering the Post's esteemed columninst didn't even remember the Nats had a farm team just down the road, it's not surprising.

Yet another way the on-line media scoops the dead-trees. Congrats Kristen, and very good work!

WASHINGTON NATIONALS 2009 WINTER CARAVAN AND NATSFEST

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Wednesday, December 17, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »


IT IS ABOUT TIME, RIGHT? We have asked for a fanfest for years and we will finally get our inaugural "Natsfest" on Sunday, January 25th from 1-5pm at Nats Park. It is FREE to season ticket holders and non-season ticket holders can buy their tickets starting today for $10 adults and $5 for children 12 and under.

I wonder if it will be warmer or colder than opening day 2008. Rain, snow, shine, Under Armour or sunglasses, I can't wait! See you at Nats Park in January. Happy Holidays!

Here is The Complete Press Release from Our Washington Nationals:


WASHINGTON NATIONALS ANNOUNCE 2009 WINTER CARAVAN AND NATSFEST

The Washington Nationals today announced the schedule for their 2009 Winter Caravan, as the Team will make several stops throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area, including visits To Annapolis, MD, Martinsburg, WV, and Richmond, VA. The Winter Caravan will take place thursday, January 22 through Monday, January 26 and include NatsFest, the first-ever FanFest at Nationals Park, on Sunday, January 25.

The Caravan is an opportunity for the Nationals team members to connect with their fans and the Community in the region before they head to Viera, FL for the start of the Spring Training season in mid-February. Nationals players, coaches, front office executives and broadcasters will take part in appearances throughout the city and surrounding areas during the five-day event.
The Caravan will begin with a stop in Martinsburg, WV on Thursday, January 22. Players will compete in a celebrity cook-off at the ESPN Zone in Washington, DC on Friday, January 23. The team will make an appearance in Richmond, VA on Saturday, January 24 and return to the District for Sunday’s NatsFest. The Caravan will conclude on Monday, January 26 with visits to Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in Southwest Washington and Children’s National Medical Center.

NatsFest, which will be open to the public, will take place on Sunday, January 25 from 1:00pm – 5:00pm. Fans will have the opportunity to interact with Nationals players through autograph, photograph and question-and-answer sessions. Nationals executives will also take part in a Q&A with fans. All Nationals Season Ticket Holders are eligible for four complimentary tickets per Account.

Information on how to receive these tickets will be sent to Season Ticket Holders via an e-mail on Wednesday, December 17. All Nationals fans may purchase tickets beginning Wednesday, December 17 at 10:00am, online at
www.nationals.com/natsfest, by calling 1-888-632-NATS (6287) or at the Nationals Park Main Box Office (Monday through Friday, 10:00am-5:00pm). The cost of the event is $10 for adults and $5 for children under the age of 12. The Nationals Park Box Office will be closed from Tuesday, December 23 through Sunday, January 4 while the Nationals Executive Offices are closed for the holidays.

Additional information on the Winter Caravan and NatsFest, including player participation and a full list of Caravan stops, will be released the week of January 12th.

If You're Interested...The Jim Bowden Chat Transcript

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, December 16, 2008 | , | 2 comments »

Here's the transcript of the live chat GM Jim Bowden had over on MLB.com this morning. He had nothing particularly interesting to say. If you've been paying attnetion, it's the same things he's been saying all off-season. He does maintain that Jordan Zimmermann will compete for a spot in the rotation out of spring training, continuing a long-standing Bowden tradition of over-hyping players and them blaming them when they don't live up to his hype.

Jim Bowden 12/16/2008 11:00 am - 12:08 pm

wilnieves: 10:53 am Nice contract with Willie Harris, I think this was a great pickup. Will he be starting?

j_bowden: 10:59 am Thank you. Willie Harris was one of the best 10th men in the NL last year. He's capable of playing four positions well-- CF, LF, 2B, 3B. He was a good influence in the clubhouse-- our players look up to him and he is prepared to play everyday. We anticipate him being a valuable player off the bench for us over the next two years.

msyanks: 10:59 am Has Nick Johnson fully recovered from his wrist injury?

j_bowden: 11:04 am Nick came into Washington to see medical director Wiemi Douoguih and hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham within the last 10 days. They feel that he will be 100-percent by the beginning of Spring Training.

wilnieves: 11:04 am Will Dmtri be playing for the major league team at all next year?

j_bowden: 11:06 am Dmitri battled injuries last year and continues to battle diabetes. He's worked very hard this offseason and lost considerable weight. We expect him to be in the same shape in Spring Training that he was in when he won the NL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2007.

23707: 11:07 am In terms of trades and free agents, what changes did you notice at the winter meetings this year?

j_bowden: 11:11 am There is little doubt that the economy and recession has had a dramatic impact on every aspect of all clubs' operations

welovedc: 11:11 am Mr. Bowden, how pleased are you with the results of the Rule 5 draft?

j_bowden: 11:14 am
Mike Rizzo, Dana Brown, Kris Kline and our Rule 5 expert Bill Singer did a tremendous job scouting,analyzing and prioritizing our Rule 5 board. We are very pleased to have drafted Terrell Young who our scouting department felt had the highest upside of any pitcher in the draft. Subsequent to the draft, we have received positive feedback about Young from multiple clubs.

wilnieves: 11:15 am
Who should we expect to be called up from the minors next season?

j_bowden: 11:18 am Of all of the players in our organization, more clubs ask for Jordan Zimmermann in trades than any other player. Last year, Jordan was a combined 10-3 with a 2.89 ERA in both Harrisburg and Potomac. He will be given consideration to make our rotation out of Spring Training.

wilnieves:
11:19 am Any update on Texiera? I would LOVE to see him wearing a Nationals uniform.

j_bowden: 11:24 am Our ownership and baseball operations department targeted Mark Teixeira from the very beginning as our number one offseason priority and our ongoing negotiations reflect our commitment to doing everything we can to return Mark to his hometown region with the Washington Nationals.

natsfan22: 11:24 am Injuries devestated the Natioanls last season. Has anything changed as far as the off season program or training regimen, or was it just a case of terrible luck that incapacitated the team in 08.

j_bowden: We revamped our entire medical department led by new medical director, Dr. Wiemi Douoguih who was trained by the Jobe-Kerlan group and has worked closely with Dr. James Andrews of Alabama, Dr. Timothy Kremchek of Cincinnati and Dr. Lewis Yocum of Los Angeles, three of the most renowned baseball-centric orthopedic doctors. We also hired John Philbin as our strength and conditioning coach. He's the founder of the NSPA (National Strength Professionals Association) the internationally recognized certifying agen

JMJM: 11:35 am Who do you foresee as our closer? Is the job Hannrahan's to loose? thanks

j_bowden: 11:40 am With our present bullpen, Joel Hanrahan will be given every opportunity to be our closer. He has a 95 mph fastball with a power slider and his 93 Ks last year ranked 2nd among NL relievers. If he continues to improve his command in and out of the strike zone he has the potential to be a successful closer in the
future.

exexpos: 11:40 am What is the status of Justin Maxwell? Two years ago he seemed to show a lot of promise.

j_bowden: 11:43 am Justin Maxwell has overcome his injuries and is finally healthy. He showed improvement during the instructional league and he presently has 7 HR leading the Puerto Rican Winter League. He also has a .381 OBP with 13 SB. He will be given the opportunity to compete in Spring Training for a spot on the Major League team.

margolian: 11:45 am Why would a high-priced free agent want to sign with and play for the Nationals this year?

j_bowden: 11:57 am Baseball has as much parity as we've had in the last few decades. Clubs have proven that in recent years. For example, the Tampa Bay Rays went from the worst record in baseball in 2007 to the World Series in 2008. The Colorado Rockies went from 76 wins in 2006 to the World Series in 2007. The Chicago Cubs won 66 games in 2006, finishing in 6th place-- they went on to win the NL Central in 2007. Free agents understand in today's market that clubs can improve rapidly. Also, baseball people with vision recogni

natsonly: 11:58 am What do you think our starting 5 will look like this year? Should we expect any additions to the starting rotation or any bulpen help, possibly a new closer?

j_bowden: 12:04 pm We are developing a young core of potentially succesful starting pitchers including left-handers John Lannan and Scott Olsen and right-handers Collin Balester, Jordan Zimmermann, Shawn Hill and Shairon Martis. We are also currently having trade discussions with multiple clubs trying to acquire young starting pitching as well as pursuing starting pitching targets through non-tenders and free agency.

wilnieves: 12:05 pm I know Ryan Zimmerman was hampered by the shoulder injury last year. Is he 100% for next season?

j_bowden: 12:06 pm I spoke to Ryan Zimmerman last week. He is 100-percent and expects to come into Spring Training poised for a breakout season.

j_bowden: 12:07 pm Thanks for being here today with me. Happy Holidays to you and your families... Scott Boras is on the phone, sorry gotta go.

So, there you have it. For what it's worth.

Nats Re-Sign Harris, Non-Tender Redding

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, December 12, 2008 | , , , | 6 comments »

The Washington Nationals announced this afternoon that they have agreed to terms with outfielder Willie Harris to a two-year contract. Terms were undisclosed.

Harris enjoyed a career year in first season with the Nationals, as he set career highs with 13 home runs, 43 RBI and a .417 slugging percentage. He also had 13 steals and played excellent defense at several positions.

Buried at the bottom of the release was the information that the Nats offered contracts to four of the five players eligible for arbitration: 3B Ryan Zimmerman, OF Josh Willingham, LHP Scott Olsen and RHP Shawn Hill. However, the team did not tender a contract to their most effective and durable starter the last two seasons, veteran Tim Redding.

All Redding has done the last two seasons was take the ball when asked and, for the most part, kept them in the game. In his Nationals career, he is 13-17 with a 4.53 ERA in 48 starts.

We can only guess that the team thinks that they can re-sign him cheaper as a free agent than he would make in arbitration. It's either that or he doesn't figure to be in their plans at all.

The Nats almost traded Redding to the Colorado Rockies at last year's trade deadline, and rumors swirled during this weeks Winter Meetings that a deal with the Rockies was scuttled agains when outfielder Willie Taveras failed a physical.

Allowing Redding to become a free agent puts him on the market, one that might find the picking slim and dry over the winter. It's widely speculated that veterans like Redding will have a tough time banking a big contract this off-season due to the economic uncertainty in the country, uncertainty that is creeping into the finances of baseball as well.

But it is surprising and confusing that the last couple of weeks the Nats have gone out of their way in the press to say that they are not in the market for starting pitching, yet they just discarded their most consistent and durable starter of the last two seasons.

Redding, 30, made just $1 million last year in base salary.

Shawn Hill, injured most of last season, will enter spring training with John Lannan, Scott Olsen, Collin Balestar, Shairon Martis, Jason Bergmann, Garrett Mock and perhaps Jordan Zimmermann in a competition for positions in the starting rotation.

A rotation, one must figure at this point, that will be without what was its most durable member the last two seasons.

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008.

Welcome to Nats News Network!

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, December 11, 2008 | 4 comments »

This is my redesigned site, formerly the home of Bottomfeeder Baseball Blog. Please take a moment to check out all the features and change your feeds if you've linked to the old site.

Thanks, and please let me know what you think about the changes!

Nats Select Reliever in Rule 5 Draft

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, December 11, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

In the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft held today in Las Vegas at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings, the Nationals selected RHP Terrell Young from the Cincinnati Reds with the first overall pick.

Young, 24 (6'3", 175), went 2-5 with a 2.88 ERA this season in two stops in Class A (Sarasota of the Florida State League and Dayton of the Midwest League). His fastball is said to be mid-90s, with an occasional 98 mph.

He's never pitched above Single-A. In five seasons in Rookie League, Low-A and High-A, he's thrown 142.2 innings with a 3.60 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. He's struck out 131 and walked 87. His record is 5-10 with 12 career saves.

Does anyone think that this sounds like a player that is seriously going to compete for a spot in the Nationals bullpen this season? Remember, a player selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on the drafting team's 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the original club.

Is Eight Years, $160M Enough?

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, December 10, 2008 | 3 comments »

It's hard to comprehend a contract to play baseball that runs eight years and will pay the player $160 million dollars. I'm not gonna get all philosophical on ya, but that's a heck of a lot of money.

But is it enough? Scott Boras said at the beginning of this adventure that it would take 10 years and $200M. I think everyone knew at that point that statement was a bunch of posturing. And most everyone knows by now that Mark Teixiera grew up in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and would be more than happy to play for one of the teams that call that region home--if the money was right.

Now we know that the Yankees probably won't be making an offer since they're courting every single blue chip pitcher on the market. Boston covets the switch-hitting 1B as well. And the Angels, and owner Arte Moreno, would really like to keep Tex on the payroll.

So it seems we know two things now:

1) The opening bid, and
2) The suitors are probably down to three (the Nats, Red Sox and Angels)

Despite what Roch Kubatko might think over at MASN.com, it would shock me at this point if the Orioles made an offer at this point. The Nats offer is already so well past the "feeling out" point that the O's can't come in now and try to get Teixiera for anything less.

So that leaves just three, and maybe really only two. The Angels have said that Tex was their "first priority", but don't their efforts seem just a little lackadaisical. Doesn't it seem like they keep throwing their name out there just to say they were staying in it? I've seen that act for a while now, I'd hope that I would recognize it when I see it.

And Boston really just got into it in the last couple of days. Everyone assumes that Theo Epstein will sweep in and whisk Tex away from the next biggest suitor, but has the bar been set too high? Could we be seeing a situation unfolding where, like A-Rod with the Rangers, the first offer is the best?

We probably won't know for a few days at the very least. But with a solid offer on the table and apparently a lot of effort put into this from both sides already, it's not too hard to start envisioning an early present under the tree.

The proposed trade between the Nationals and Rockies involving right-hander Tim Redding and outfielder Willy Taveras fell apart because one of the players did not pass his physical exam.

You mean the Willie Taveras? The same guy who went .251/.308/.296 last season in 470 at bats. Read that middle number again. He had a .308 on base percentage last season. Granted, he led the NL in stolen bases. But you know what the result was? 64 runs scored. SIXTY FOUR.

Willie Harris scored 58 runs in 100 less at bats from the bottom of the order for the most part.

For the SABR inclined reader, his OPS+ was 56. This number is based off how good a player is plus-or-minus 100. Of players with 350+ at bats, Corey Patterson was the worst in the NL at 48. Taveras was bottom ten.

He led off for the bulk of his at bats, and while in that slot OBP'd a cool .299.

Lifetime, his slash stats are: .283/.331/.337 (OPS+ 72). So at age 26, when a player starts to enter his prime years, Taveras had his statistically worst year in the bigs. Oh yeah, as a point of reference, Nook Logan's career OPS+ is 76.

Harris has OPS+'d 94 and 98 the last two years as a part-time player. His lifetime OPS+ is 75.

Of Taveras' 558 career hits, 80 have been of the extra-base variety. He's never had 20 doubles in a season, despite all that speed. His career triples high is five, despite all that speed and playing in Colorado the last two years.

He's had seven career home runs in 1972 at bats.

Now, I'm not going to argue that the Nats shouldn't trade Tim Redding if they get a good deal for a player in a position of need. But Willie Taveras, statistically speaking, was one of THE WORST regular position players in the majors last year. If you have a fantasy team where you need stolen bases and have a bunch of high average guys to cover for Taveras, sure, trade Redding for him. But real baseball doesn't work like fantasy.

Taveras is good for only one thing: Stealing second base when one of his weak ground balls manages to make its way through the infield.

Jumping On The Hondo Bandwagon

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, December 05, 2008 | | 2 comments »

It just makes sense for the Nats to bring Frank Howard back into the fold in some capacity. He has too much baseball knowledge and good will in this area to ignore.

Kristen, on her post for Nationals Buzz at MASN.com did a great job collecting the feelings of the many other bloggers who've already chimed in on the subject in repsonse to Dave Sheinin's piece in the Post yesterday.



Photo (c) C. Nichols 2007.

Speak of the Devil (or something like that)

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, December 03, 2008 | | 0 comments »

From the Nats Press Relese today. I'll have commentary later on.

NATIONALS ANNOUNCE 2009 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Washington slated to host Orioles at Nationals Park for spring finale

The Washington Nationals today announced their 2009 Spring Training schedule, which is highlighted by a two-game barnstorming series against the Baltimore Orioles. The Nationals will host the Orioles for an exhibition contest on April 4 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., after the two clubs play the day prior at Harbor Park, home of the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, in Norfolk, VA.

The Florida-based portion of the Nationals’ spring schedule includes 32 Grapefruit League contests, one exhibition game and four off days. It will commence on February 25 with a road tilt against the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, FL, before the Nationals host the Detroit Tigers the following day for their home opener. The Nationals will host 15 games at Space Coast Stadium—14 Grapefruit League affairs and an exhibition contest against Italy’s World Baseball Classic team on March 3.

For the seventh consecutive spring, the franchise will be based at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL. The team’s report/workout dates are as follows: pitchers/catchers report (February 14), position players report (February 17), first full-squad workout (February 19).

Tickets for the Nationals-Orioles game on April 4 at Nationals Park will be available to the public when individual-game regular-season tickets go on sale in February, and proceeds from the game will benefit the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. Individual-game tickets for the Nationals’ spring contests at Space Coast Stadium will be available beginning on January 17 at 10:00 a.m. They can be purchased at the Space Coast Stadium Box Office, online at nationals.com, or by calling 888.632.NATS(6287).


WASHINGTON NATIONALS 2009 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

DATE DAY OPPONENT LOCATION TIME
February 25 Wednesday at Houston Kissimmee, FL 1:05 pm
FEBRUARY 26 THURSDAY DETROIT VIERA, FL 1:05 PM
FEBRUARY 27 FRIDAY HOUSTON VIERA, FL 1:05 PM
February 28 Saturday at St. Louis Jupiter, FL 1:05 pm
MARCH 1 SUNDAY BALTIMORE VIERA, FL 1:05 PM
March 2 Monday *** OFF DAY ***
MARCH 3 TUESDAY TEAM ITALY (WBC) VIERA, FL 1:05 PM
MARCH 4 WEDNESDAY NEW YORK-NL VIERA, FL 1:05 PM
March 5 Thursday at Detroit Lakeland, FL 1:05 pm
March 6 Friday at Baltimore Ft. Lauderdale, FL 1:05 pm
March 7 Saturday at New York-NL Port St. Lucie, FL 1:10 pm
MARCH 8 SUNDAY NEW YORK-NL VIERA, FL 1:05 PM
MARCH 9 MONDAY HOUSTON VIERA, FL 7:05 PM
MARCH 10 TUESDAY NEW YORK-NL VIERA, FL 1:05 PM
March 11 Wednesday *** OFF DAY ***
March 12 Thursday at Atlanta Orlando, FL 1:05 PM
March 13 Friday at Houston Kissimmee, FL 7:05 pm
March 14 Saturday at New York-NL Port St. Lucie, FL 1:10 pm
MARCH 15 SUNDAY DETROIT VIERA, FL 1:05 PM
March 16 Monday at Florida Jupiter, FL 1:05 pm
March 17 Tuesday *** OFF DAY ***
MARCH 18 WEDNESDAY FLORIDA VIERA, FL 7:05 PM
MARCH 19 THURSDAY BALTIMORE VIERA, FL 1:05 PM
March 20 Friday at Detroit Lakeland, FL 1:05 pm
MARCH 21 SATURDAY ST. LOUIS VIERA, FL 1:05 PM
March 22 Sunday at Houston Kissimmee, FL 1:05 pm
March 23 Monday at St. Louis Jupiter, FL 1:05 pm
March 24 Tuesday at Baltimore Ft. Lauderdale, FL 1:05 pm
MARCH 25 WEDNESDAY ATLANTA VIERA, FL 7:05 PM
March 26 Thursday *** OFF DAY ***
March 27 Friday at New York-NL Port St. Lucie, FL 1:10 pm
MARCH 28 SATURDAY HOUSTON VIERA, FL 1:05 PM
March 29 Sunday at Florida Jupiter, FL 1:05 pm
MARCH 30 MONDAY DETROIT VIERA, FL 1:05 PM
March 31 Tuesday at Detroit Lakeland, FL 1:05 pm
April 1 Wednesday at Toronto Dunedin, FL 1:05 pm
April 2 Thursday at Philadelphia Clearwater, FL 1:05 pm
April 3 Friday at Baltimore Norfolk, VA * 3:30 pm
APRIL 4 SATURDAY BALTIMORE WASHINGTON, DC ** 6:05 PM

Spring Training Blues

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, December 02, 2008 | , | 5 comments »

I had a few moments this morning and since the Nats have failed to release their Spring Training schedule yet, I compiled what is publicly known about it by visiting the other teams websites in the Grapefruit League.

Eight of the the teams (BAL, FLA, BOS, ATL, PHI, TOR, TB and NYY) have released their tentative schedules. Seven (NYM, STL, MIN, HOU, CIN, PIT, DET) have not. The Nats don't play against BOS, TB or NYY.

The Nats have only 10 games with the eight teams that have released their schedule. With ST starting 2/25 this season (to allow for the stupid World Baseball Classic) and running through 4/3, that leaves a possible 39 dates, of which the Nats have filled 10. So the possible 29 dates will be filled with the seven teams that haven't released their schedule yet. Of those seven, MIN, CIN, PIT and DET play on the other side of the state (I'll get to this), meaning that the bulk of the 29 remaining dates will be filled with JUST NYM, STL and HOU.

Now, here's the quirky part: the Nats have games scheduled with TOR and PHI, who also play on the gulf coast, on APR 1 & 2 respectively, with dates open March 30 and 31. It doesn’t take a big leap to guess that the Nats will play the ENTIRE LAST WEEK OF SPRING TRAINING ON THE ROAD, come up to DC for the "fan fest" or whatever they're calling it, then travel BACK TO FLORIDA for the season opener!!!

Here's the complete schedule as announced by other teams so far (all games 1:05 pm):

MAR 6 @ BAL
MAR 12 @ ATL
MAR 16 @FLA
MAR 18 FLA
MAR 19 BAL
MAR 24 @ BAL
MAR 25 ATL
MAR 29 @ FLA
APR 1 @ TOR
APR 2 @ PHI

Say Mar 30 and 31 they play at DET (Lakeland) and PIT (Bradenton) on their way across the state to play on the gulf coast. They probably won't play MIN (just too far in Ft. Myers) and let's just guess they get one in against CIN (they never have before, but let's play along). And say they have a home and home with Houston (Kissimmee). That's still just five more games removed from 29 OPEN DATES!!! Let's guess they have four off days (the O's have four). That leaves 20 games made up with just two teams.

So I'm here to tell you, get used to seeing the Mets and Cardinals in your spring training box scores, because that's all that’s left. Unless they're just going to intrasquad for the bulk of Spring Training.

Happy Thanksgiving Nats Fans!

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, November 27, 2008 | 0 comments »

I'm thankful for all of you that read my blog on a regular--or semi-regular--basis.

Thanks for all the comments and kind words along the way, and the criticism where warrented

I'm also thankful for my fellow Nats bloggers--All Of You--for providing a healthy and diverse forum for discussion about our shared passions: Baseball and the Washington Nationals.

Best wishes for a happy holiday weekend. Hope everyone ate too much turkey and pumpkin pie!

Ryan Wagner--Nats Property or Not?

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, November 24, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

Checking out all the info about the upcoming Rule 5 draft, most lists have Ryan Wagner listed as a Washington National. According to the Nats press release of October 30:

The Washington Nationals today announced they have outrighted right-handed pitcher Chad Cordero, right-handed pitcher Ryan Wagner and infielder Pete Orr to Syracuse of the Triple-A International League. All three players elected free agency.

But in the transaction section of MLB.com, the transaction was listed thusly:

Washington Nationals: Sent RHP Ryan Wagner and INF Pete Orr outright to Triple-A Syracuse. Orr refused the assignment and is a free agent. Activated INF Nick Johnson, OFs Justin Maxwell and Wily Mo Pena from the 60-day disabled list. Activated RHP Chad Cordero from the 60-day disabled list and sent him outright to Triple-A Syracuse. He refused the assignment and is a free agent.

So did Wagner indeed refuse the assignment becoming a free agent, as the Nats press release clearly stated, or was the transaction report in MLB.com legit and Wagner accepted his demotion to Triple-A Syracuse? Now we know Pete Orr has subsequently re-signed this the Nationals, per MLB.com and (and other sources):
Washington Nationals: Signed INF Pete Orr to a Minor League contract.
But no mention of Wagner resigning anywhere, if he ever was a free agent in the first place. Even Natosphere minor league resident expert NFA is confused on Wagner's standing:
RHP Ryan Wagner (heard he re-signed … trying to confirm)
Since Major League Baseball doesn't post a list of players eligible for the Rule 5, this type of situation is tough to fact-check. It's not like it's a tremendously huge deal, since Wagner's velocity had not returned by September, and any team claiming him would be taking a big risk on holding a roster spot on a guy that last time he pitched competitively was only throwing 83-84 with his fastball.

But it would be nice to know the facts going into the game.

Glad to be back, and much thanks to staff photographer Cheryl Nichols for turning this once-proud Nats blog into a Ken Griffey Jr. tribute page in my absence. Just kidding, she did a great job and I have expressed my gratitude to her in person, you can rest assured.

Ryan Wagner--Nats Property or Not?

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, November 24, 2008 | , | 3 comments »

Checking out all the info about the upcoming Rule 5 draft, most lists have Ryan Wagner listed as a Washington National. According to the Nats press release of October 30:

The Washington Nationals today announced they have outrighted right-handed pitcher Chad Cordero, right-handed pitcher Ryan Wagner and infielder Pete Orr to Syracuse of the Triple-A International League. All three players elected free agency.

But in the transaction section of MLB.com, the transaction was listed thusly:

Washington Nationals: Sent RHP Ryan Wagner and INF Pete Orr outright to Triple-A Syracuse. Orr refused the assignment and is a free agent. Activated INF Nick Johnson, OFs Justin Maxwell and Wily Mo Pena from the 60-day disabled list. Activated RHP Chad Cordero from the 60-day disabled list and sent him outright to Triple-A Syracuse. He refused the assignment and is a free agent.

So did Wagner indeed refuse the assignment becoming a free agent, as the Nats press release clearly stated, or was the transaction report in MLB.com legit and Wagner accepted his demotion to Triple-A Syracuse? Now we know Pete Orr has subsequently re-signed this the Nationals, per MLB.com and (and other sources):

Washington Nationals: Signed INF Pete Orr to a Minor League contract.

But no mention of Wagner resigning anywhere, if he ever was a free agent in the first place.

Even Natosphere minor league resident expert NFA is confused on Wagner's standing:

RHP Ryan Wagner (heard he re-signed … trying to confirm)
Since Major League Baseball doesn't post a list of players eligible for the Rule 5, this type of situation is tough to fact-check. It's not like it's a tremendously huge deal, since Wagner's velocity had not returned by September, and any team claiming him would be taking a big risk on holding a roster spot on a guy that last time he pitched competitively was only throwing 83-84 with his fastball.

But it would be nice to know the facts going into the game.

Glad to be back, and much thanks to staff photographer Cheryl Nichols for turning this once-proud Nats blog into a Ken Griffey Jr. tribute page in my absence. Just kidding, she did a great job and I have expressed my gratitude to her in person, you can rest assured.

DAVE IS BACK!

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, November 24, 2008 | 0 comments »

Good news to the followers of the Bottomfeeder Baseball!

My husband and founder of Bottomfeeder Baseball blog is back from vacation and I am happy to turn the reins back over to him. I did my best under my time constraints to get a few posts done while he was out, however, wish I could have done more. It was a busy 10 days for me. Not a ton of Nats news to report, however, I fully enjoyed making a few "fun posts." :)

Thanks for continuing to check back even though you knew he was out of town. He does a great job and hope you keep reading.

Go Nats!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Birthday Junior!

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, November 21, 2008 | | 0 comments »

HAPPY 39TH BIRTDAY GEORGE KENNETH GRIFFEY JR!



It has been a joy to grow up with Junior and watch him play the greatest game on earth.

Since being selected as the first overall pick by the Seattle Mariners in 1987, Griffey has been one of my absolute favorite players of all-time (and I have a lot of favorites so that means something!).

Griffey Jr. has another job to keep him busy in the off-season which is a great honor. I am very proud to have him represent the game and our country.

"The Kid" has played major league baseball for twenty seasons. I sure hope that I get to see him play another season because it would not be the same without seeing that big smile, effortless swing and name on the scoreboard.



Special Highlights and Memories for Me:

09/14/1990 - First, and only, father and son to hit back-to-back homers

07/14/1992 - All-Star Game MVP (Hit single, double and home run in San Diego)

07/12/1993 - MLB All-Star Game Home Run Derby - Griffey was the first and only player to hit the warehouse at Camden Yards in Baltimore

1997 - Griffey Jr. was awarded the AL MVP (.304 BA/56 HR/147 RBI)

06/27/1999 - Jr. hit the final home run at the Kingdome, a three-run homer off of Rangers' Aaron Sele in the first inning

07/15/1999 - Safeco Opens - "House that Griffey Built"

09/26/1999 - Junior's last home game in a Mariners uniform (I was there!)

06/22/2007 - Junior's return to Seattle for the first time since trade to Reds


And my absolute favorite memory.....
10/08/1995 - Griffey Jr. buried underneath his teammates, having scored from first on Edgar Martinez's epic double off Jack McDowell in the 11th inning of Game 5 against the Yankees to win the A L Division Series!!! (I start tearing up every time I was this!). My Oh My - The Miracle Mariners!

John Lannan named to Topps Major League Rookie All-Star Team

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, November 20, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

CONGRATULATIONS JOHN!
Photo (c) Cheryl Nichols 2008

Press Release from the Nationals:

Washington Nationals left-handed pitcher John Lannan today was named to the
50th Annual Topps Major League Rookie All-Star Team. Lannan was one of 10
players to earn the citation, which annually recognizes one rookie for each
position on the field, as well as the top right-handed and left-handed pitchers.

The 24-year-old turned in one of the top rookie seasons in franchise
history, going 9-15 with a 3.91 ERA in 31 starts. Lannan led all big league
rookies and tied for eighth in the NL with 21 quality starts, which represented
the third-highest total ever by a Washington Nationals (2005-08) pitcher and
tied for the fifth-highest rookie total in the past 23 years, beginning with the
1986 season. He finished among this season's freshman leaders in wins (tied for
sixth), ERA (fourth) and starts (tied for third), while also ranking among the
top rookies with 182.0 innings (fifth), 112 strikeouts (fifth) and a .252
batting average against (third).

Lannan has a career mark of 11-17 with a 3.95 ERA in 37 starts. He was
selected by the Nationals in the 11th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft
out of Siena (NY) College.

Griffey becomes American Public Diplomacy Envoy

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, November 19, 2008 | , | 0 comments »


This blog is dedicated to the Washington Nationals, however, in the absence of breaking news like Teixeira is now a Nat, I am posting something that has impact on baseball and Washington so seemed fitting. Besides, Dave is unavailable and said that I could post whatever I'd like and Griffey Jr. is one of my favorite baseball players of all time. Congrats Ken!



The following is the AP press release:

WASHINGTON -- Ken Griffey Jr. has joined a new team.

The star outfielder became the newest American Public Diplomacy Envoy, introduced Tuesday by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Griffey is set to make his first baseball-related trip for the State Department to Panama in January. In his role, he'll represent the "values of the United States, not the government of the United States," Rice said.

"When Ken Griffey travels overseas, one of his greatest objectives will be to talk to young people and to spark their interest in America and in our culture," she said.
Griffey said he was eager to get going.

"When Dr. Rice called and said that she would like me to do this, I didn't really have to think about it," he said.

"After a certain age, you pretty much set your ways. But if we can reach out to young children about our culture and also about our pastime, which is baseball -- not those other sports like football," he said, drawing laughs in a State Department ceremony.

Griffey, who turns 39 this week, is sixth on the career home run list with 611. He played for Cincinnati and the Chicago White Sox last season, and later filed for free agency.

Griffey joined former baseball star Cal Ripken Jr., figure skater Michelle Kwan and actress Fran Drescher as envoys.

On the same day Griffey was introduced in the role, a baseball clinic Ripken was to give for kids in Nicaragua was canceled by its sponsors because protests surrounding local election results were causing travel problems.

Ripken became an envoy for the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in 2007.

Nats Sign Matt Whitney to Minor League Contract

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, November 17, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

Matt Whitney signed a minor league contract with the Nationals on November 15th which includes an invitation to spring training, according to MLB.com.

Whitney was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 1st round (33rd overall) in 2002 and the Nationals claimed in Rule 5 draft from Cleveland in 2007.

Whitney, 24, spent all of 2008 with Triple-A Akron, where he hit .268 with 10 home runs and 56 RBIs.

BOTTOM(FEEDER) LINE: He is normally a third baseman, however, can also play first. He will most likely not have a job out of spring training.

Pete Orr Returning to Nats?

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, November 14, 2008 | , | 0 comments »



According to Mark Zuckerman at The Washington Times, Pete Orr will be returning to the Nationals.



Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008.

Meet the Press with Willingham and Olsen

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, November 11, 2008 | , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Nationals held a press conference today at Nationals Park to introduce OF Josh Willingham and LHP Scott Olsen, acquired Wednesday night for 2B Emilio Bonifacio and minor leaguers RHP P.J. Dean and SS Jake Smolinski. General Manager Jim Bowden, Assistant GM Mike Rizzo and Special Assistant Bob Boone were also in attendance.


Some highlights:
  • Willingham on his position:
    "I'm a left fielder as far as I know."
  • Bowden on Willingham's position:
    "We acquired him as a corner outfielder, not as a first baseman."

  • Olsen on his fluctuating velocity last season:

"I missed a week and a half of spring training which kind of set my throwing program back which might have been arm strength that wasn’t able to get built up like it had been. "

  • Bowden on the message this trade sends to the fans and to the team:
"This is a huge message to send to the Washington Nationals' fans."
__________________________________________
Here's the full transcript. If you just want my commentary, it's at the bottom.

Bowden: The Washington Nationals want to wish everyone a happy Veteran's Day. We chose to trade three minor leaguers for two veterans on Veteran's Day. Last Wednesday at the General Managers' meeting we completed a five-player trade with the Florida Marlins. Late last night we concluded the trade: the Washington Nationals acquiring 24-year old left handed pitcher Scott Olsen and outfielder Josh Willingham. This continues our plan to build an organization for the long term. We believe Scott, a young left handed starting pitcher that pitched over 200 innings last year, 190 the year before, continues to improve, developed a third pitch this year, his changeup, to go along with his fastball and his slider and certainly we feel he has the chance to be a major part of our rotation for a long time. Josh Willingham gives you a tremendous at bat every time up, in fact he's sixth in the major leagues for right hand hitters with 4.1 pitches per at bat. He can hit the tough pitcher and the tough pitch. Really knows how to give a good at bat. Both these guys are winners. We're very very pleased to introduce them to you today. And we'll start with Josh Willingham.

Willingham: I'll just say that I'm happy to be a Washington National. Florida was the only organization that I knew. I was drafted in 2000 by them and had developed good relationships and they gave me the opportunity to play at the big league level for the first time. So I have a lot of good things to say about that organization and very grateful for the opportunity that they gave me. Moving forward this is a brand new opportunity that I'm looking forward to. I know some of the guys on this team, met everybody, everybody's been great. I'm really looking forward to moving forward with the Nationals. You talk about the plan they have for this team and I'm going to believe in it. You know what you'll get from me. I'm going to play hard every day. I love playing the game, I think that's the most important part. Just to have an opportunity to play in this stadium of this caliber, it's brand new and think it's going to be a good opportunity and I'm looking forward to it and I appreciate the opportunity.

Olsen: Very similar story to Josh. I got drafted by the Marlins and that's all I've ever known. I've never been traded before so this is all new for me and meeting all the new people here, everybody's been great. It's the same game no matter where you're at and I look forward to playing here and being a National and try to win. That's the bottom line is you want to win ballgames. And with the group we have we're going to go out and play hard and hopefully we're going to be able to do that.

Olsen (on confidence): I developed a third pitch which helped tremendously. Coming into 2005 and 2006 I really only had a fastball/slider and it worked well for a year. I never had enough confidence in the changeup until about half way through 2007 and then in 2008 I started throwing it a lot. I finally found a grip I liked. A lot of it was just having confidence in the fact that if you throw it where you want to threw it you're going to get a good result. My confidence got built up with that pitch and it really turned things around for me.

Olsen (on being the ace): You want to be the ace no matter where you're at. I think that at least for me I apply myself so that I can be out there every five days. I don't like missing any starts and as part of an ace that's what you've got to do. I'm sure I'm not the only one of people in the rotation that want to be that. I expect an open competition and we'll see in spring training what happens since it's not my decision.

Olsen (on what it will take to get to the next level): I hope there's another level. I would like to think you're never satisfied with the year. As a pitcher you pretty much aren't going to go 33-0 so there's always room for improving and you just try to do that. You watch tapes and you try to improve on any small aspect or big aspect of the game to help you win. But I hope there's another level up there.

Olsen (on his fluctuating velocity last year): Honestly, I have no idea. I got a lot of questions about my velocity early on in the year. I was pitching pretty well early on and it didn't seem to affect anything. I missed a week and a half of ST which kind of set my throwing program back which might have been arm strength that wasn’t able to get built up like it had been. Over the course [of the season] by September your arm strength is there so the velocity comes back. I think, presuming we stay healthy, I don't think that'll be an issue.

Willingham (on his position): I've played a lot of positions. I'm a left fielder as far as I know. The past three years that’s where I've played exclusively. I've done some catching before and was in infielder before that. I'm comfortable in left field now. I can play other positions but that something I haven't discussed.

Bowden (on Willingham's position): We acquired him as a corner outfielder, not as a first baseman.

Bowden (on trading for vets): It shows the commitment from ownership and from Stan Kasten, our president. We're really determined on winning for our fans. This is a huge message to send to the Washington Nationals' fans. But remember, these guys are still very young, they’re in their 20's so we control them for three more years. This was not a trade and rent-a-player for a year. These are two players that can spend a long time playing here. We're all embarrassed by the season we had last year. Its strictly unacceptable. You want to talk about injuries or lack of depth or whatever it was--it's embarrassing and except for the first pick overall we're getting in June, we don't ever want to have that happen again. We're on a mission to continue the plan and bring winning baseball back here to Washington.

Bowden (on 2B job): Manny Acta will make that decision. Those decisions will happen once we get to spring training, not now. There's a lot that can happen between now and then. Certainly we were impressed with what Anderson did here in September. He hit over .300 for us (ed. .333/.407/.383 with no home runs and 17 RBI in 81 at bats for DC last season), drove some runs in. He's gone to winter ball and he's hitting .400 over there (ed. .404/.432/.629 with one home run and 15 RBI and four steals in 89 at bats). Our reports are tremendous on what he's done there. We remember that he led the Pacific Coast League in hits the year before. So maybe he's just starting to mature, come into his own and he's certainly someone that's going to be given consideration.

Bowden (on OF sorting out): I'm always a big fan of competition. Whenever you have depth you also have means to make other deals to make your team better in other areas. Those are decisions Manny will make when we get to spring training and have our team set at that point.

Willingham (on trade rumors): You knew there were going to be some deals made because of the significant number of players that were going to be going to arbitration. As far as who, you didn't know who. I think they [the Marlins] made it pretty obvious that they were going to make some deals. I didn't have a clue if I was going to be in it until last night.

Olsen (on trade rumors): I had a pretty good idea that I was going to be moved, just based on the situation and all the starting pitchers that they had in Florida. I had a feeling, it was just a matter of where and when it was all going to be finalized.

Olsen (on maturing): I knew something had to change. It just started off slow and you just try to keep yourself out of situations where there might be a problem. I think that's the biggest thing with this maturing and everything that everybody claims that I've done. It think it comes down to one thing and that's just don't be in a situation where something might happen.

Rizzo (on Bonifacio): He's an exciting player, but you have to give to get. To get a 24 year old starting pitcher and an established power corner player you have to give up some things to get them and Bonifacio was certainly something that was painful to give up, as were the two young players. But in this industry, to land a position player and a pitcher of their ability levels you have to give up something.

Bowden (on financial flexibility): We have flexibility. There's no question that Stan [Kasten] and ownership want to build an organization that can win not just in the short term but the long term, and we're continuing along that same plan--that's not going to be changed because one year that we had. If there was a free agent that fit into those long-term plans, that’s a possibility. I think our preference is always to build through the draft and trades. All of us agree that’s the best way to do it, but will we look at other avenues and free agency, of course. It would be stultifying not to.

Bowden (on team morale): It shows that you have a commitment to winning. A commitment that we're going to continue to go in the right direction and we're not just going to wait for the farm system to develop players here. We said when we were building up our development and scouting that one of the means of using it would be for trading, and we've lived up to that. Without that great scouting…this trade doesn't happen for us.

Willingham (on his back injuries): The back is good. It's been good since I was able to come back and play, I guess late June -- I don't know the exact day I came back. I was healthy, it just took me a little while to get going when I came back and it's been good every since. You never know what's going to happen, but it's something that I'm a lot more comfortable managing myself. I met with a lot of doctors and it's something that we've got definite plan when something flares up.
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So there you have it, for better or worse. There's already a lot that's been written about this deal, and I'm sure that there will be many more volumes as well. The deal makes next year's team better and I don't think they gave up all that much to accomplish that. Bowden's larger message is that the organization realizes that the fan base is going to shrink and that they HAD TO address the talent level on the major league roster, what Nats fans pay to watch.

Are Willingham and Olsen all-stars? Probably not. We pretty much know was Willingham is, barring a Ryan Ludwick-type explosion. Olsen? He's just 24. He's got three full seasons in the bigs. His velocity returned in September. He still hasn't entered his physical prime.

I'm not going to harp on the team for deviating from "The Plan" like some of my brethren. They didn't trade anyone away that was going to be part of the "first great Nats team". They aren't blocking anyone that should be playing. To the contrary, Olsen will allow Martis and Zimmermann to stay in the minors where they belong for another season.

The Nats got two completely average major league players for a utility infielder and two fringy low minors prospects. Love it or leave it.

Nats Add Willingham, Olsen

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, November 11, 2008 | , , , | 0 comments »

Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden made his first significant move of the off-season, acquiring OF Josh Willingham and LHP Scott Olsen from the Florida Marlins for 2B Emilio Bonifacio and low minor leaguers RHP P.J. Dean and SS Jake Smolinski.

Willingham and Olsen are both arbitration eligible, so their big league salaries will increase this off-season. This marks a major acquisition for a team that has been practicing patience and rebuilding through the draft and the minor leagues.

Willingham, 30, appeared in 102 games last season and hit .254/.364/.470 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI. He hit 26 and 21 homers in 2006 and 2007, and he has a lifetime .361 on base percentage He's a corner outfielder by trade, and the deal will have repercussions throughout the lineup. If Willingham plays in the outfield, something will have to give with Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes or Austin Kearns. Willingham could also play first base, which would displace Nick Johnson, who is recovering from wrist surgery.

Olsen is a 24-year old left hander. He went 8-11 with a 4.97 ERA in 2008 over 33 starts and 201.2 innings. Last year's numbers were somewhat of a regression from his rookie season, and Olsen has a history of physical confrontation with teammates and a drunk driving arrest. But he represents a major upgrade over most of the other candidates for the Nationals 2009 rotation.

Bonifacio, acquired from Arizona at last year's trade deadline for reliever Jon Rauch, was slated to be the Nats starting second baseman and lead off hitter, but was outplayed down the stretch by Anderson Hernandez and Alberto Gonzalez.

Dean, 22, pitched for Class A Vermont, going 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 10 starts. Smolinski, 19, played for the Gulf Coast Nationals, Vermont and Class A Hagerstown, and hit .271 with four home runs and 33 RBIs.

BOTTOM(FEEDER) LINE: So Stan Kasten and Jim Bowden think the Nats aren't that far away and acquired a couple of major league parts for what will be a utility infielder for Florida and a couple of low-level prospects. As soon as I saw this, I thought to myself, "What's the next domino to fall?" This only makes me think MORE that the Nats will sign either Teixiera or Dunn this off-season.

With as bad as the team was last season, and season ticket holders dwindling, the organization HAD TO do something to improve the quality of the major league product. This obviously gives them two more major league players. With a legitimate cleanup hitter, their everyday lineup won't be all that indistinguishable from anyone of eight or ten teams that consider themselves wild card candidates. The starting rotation needs another veteran, but at least Nats fans will watch major league baseball this summer, without -- and this is the key -- giving up the farm.

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008.