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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Offseason needs

Once again, the results of my poll surprised me. The vote was overwhelming. Starting pitching is the Nats' biggest offseason need.
It got 32 votes out of 46 cast. Relief pitching was "runner-up" with eight. A middle infielder got four, a big bat got 1 and a catcher got 1.

I think starting pitching is a need. I think relief pitching is a bigger need.

Right now, I have Lannan, Detwiler and Hernandez in the rotation (yeah, I know, but I'm assuming/hoping they'll keep Livan around). Lannan is an obvious lock. I think the Detwiler we saw in September earned that, I was much more impressed with the way he carried himself upon his return. Livan is Livan - he'll get rocked now and then but keep you in it more often than not.

This free agent they talk about will be in the rotation and who knows what player will fill that slot? They'll get someone. Is Tim Hudson worth a look? Are the Marlins really looking to trade Josh Johnson? Can he be had without sacrificing the entire farm?

The fifth spot? Let the rest of them battle it out: Mock, Balestar, Martin, Martis, Stammen, anyone else.

Clippard, Burnett, MacDougal as bullpen holdovers - probably Bergmann, too. At least at the start. Will Storen be ready that soon? Even if he is, there's a couple of spots available. I'd love to see the Nats sign or trade for some proven relief help. Who is out there worth pursuing? I must go look. I will report back later.

I'll take another season of MacDougal as the closer if Storen isn't quite ready. What we saw with him is what we'll get. Some nights he'll be unhittable and other nights it will be ugly. He's not a long-term answer but he'll do for one more year. Storen is certainly the guy in 2011, you'd think. You'd hope.

Can Flores catch 130 games next year? What are the available options? Will Guzman handle a move to second base? Is it worth pursuing Orlando Hudson? Oh, I could go on and on and on.

But get some relief pitching first.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Manny to the Indians

Manny Acta is back in a manager's office - in Cleveland. Apparently had his choice of that or Houston.
He must give one heck of an interview.

Renew? Yes or no?

Waiting for me when I got home last night was my 2010 season ticket renewal package. I guess I have to make a decision pretty soon. If I choose to keep my seats and do it on the same payment plan I did last year, the first chunk is due next weekend.

I don't understand the points, the free ticket availability or any of that stuff. I like it simple. This is what I pay. These are the seats I get (the same I had in 2009, which I loved). These are the games.

Friends I've discussed this with are split. Some are, some aren't. There doesn't seem to be any pattern or underlying reason why on either side.

What to do, what to do? I ended up using more of my plan games in 2009 than I did in 2008. The exchange program was much better last year and it was easier to use tickets we'd otherwise have to eat to make a weekend out of other games later in the year.

I can't wait to see who becomes the manager. I can't wait to see what free agents are signed, what trades are made. Well, I can, but I risk losing my seats and my payment plan if I do. So I can't.

What's everybody else doing?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Terry Pendleton

Had a great dinner with my brother at his house last night - stopped by on my way home from the CAA media day festivities at the ESPNZone. Check out my coverage at - how's that for a cheap plug?

As usual, our conversation veered quickly to the Nats and managerial choices. We've heard a lot of names as I'm sure everyone else has. One name that I've not heard yet with regard to this opening - Terry Pendleton. I'm sure it has come up elsewhere and I just missed it.

My brother thinks he may be waiting a year to step into Bobby Cox's job and that may be true. He's worth trying to talk to, at the very least.

I don't know what he knows about the hit-and-run or the double switch or the intracacies of covering the bunt. I suspect a lot. What I like about Terry Pendleton is he's one of those people who is a natural leader. While his MVP season meant a lot to the Braves so many years ago, his presence and personality meant a lot more. He helped change that team from a crew with a loser's attitude to a crew with a winner's attitude. He may well be reason No. 1 why that changed happened.

A personal story that means nothing in terms of managing ability but, at least to me, speaks well of him: Back in those days, newspapers had money and mine used to send me to Atlanta regularly to do updates and stories on the many players who spent time with the Richmond Braves (may they rest in peace).

I approached Pendleton in the clubhouse before the game and said I'd like a few minutes to get his thoughts on some things I was writing. He was very polite but begged off because he had to take care of something - hitting cage, trainer's room, I can't even remember. He'd find me afterward.

Yeah, I'm thinking. That's the ultimate player dodge. Most in my experience at least try to be polite. I wouldn't see Pendleton again that day.

About 20 minutes later, I'm in a group interviewing another player and there's a tap on my shoulder. Pendleton. "I'm ready now so stop by my locker when you're done." I did and he gave some of the most thoughtful answers I've ever received. Before or since.

Big deal. I know. Think about it, though. It's bigger than you may think. Dealing with people, all kinds of people, is something a manager has to do above just about anything else. Some common courtesy curried a lot of favor for Pendleton in at least one corner.

Surely he knows the game. He's patient. He's a presence. He's a winner.

He's probably the next manager of the Atlanta Braves but I hope the Nats at least inquire.

Also, here's an interesting update from the Times' blog about Don Mattingly. I have a personal story about him, too (you expected any less), but I will save that for another day. I would be in favor of his consideration, too. Pendleton, Mattingly - if you aren't going to keep Riggleman, give me someone new or someone with a previous track record. Please.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Managerial musings

Latest poll results are in - 18 for NO to Riggleman as the permanent manager, 10 for YES. That's about the direction I thought it would go, though I figured the numbers would be a little higher. So much for getting 100 votes one week.

Anyway, I forgot to vote and that's probably a good thing. Not sure what I would have done. My heart says yes - I like the guy, they were better when he took over (as much as they could be given what he had to work with) and it's hard to complain about the finish. Having Nyjer Morgan around, though, probably made as much of a difference as having a new manager. If the team decides to keep Riggleman, I won't howl in protest. It won't be the dealbreaker as I decide whether to renew my tickets.

I do sort of think with all the other changes going on, a fresh start for manager IS coming. I won't howl there, either, though the eventual choice could be a dealbreaker.

There's a theory out there that the Manny Experience will dissuade the Nats from trying to find the Next Great and Bright Young Thing. It worked out for the Mariners with Don Whatshisname and that leads me to ask who is the next Don Whatshisname? Well, Manny Acta was the first Don Whatshisname and that didn't go over too well.

So I'm sitting here expecting a retread and hoping it is at least a high level retread. Showalter, Valentine, someone like that. A friend indicated Ned Yost might be a candidate. No way. C'mon. If that's really the best they can do, I'll take Jim Riggleman a thousand times over.

I still know a few people in baseball. I may nose around some and see if there's any buzz about this hire. Is Washington considered a good job or a place to go to get Acta-ed? Do you find someone with a rep for bringing along lots and lots of young pitchers? Do you need a drill sergeant type?

Too many questions, too few answers. I suspect we will all be watching this one very closely.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Nats bullpen in pads

Thank you, Redskins, for taking my mind off how bad the Nationals were in 2009. You just may top that.

Did they bring in Jesus Colome and Logan Kensing when they went up 17-2? How do you blow that lead? Of course, it took drives of like 10 yards and 1 yard to get those two touchdowns. Otherwise the offense did just about nothing.

Who is the Jim Riggleman of the NFL? Is he on the Redskins' staff?

Here's another question to consider: What will happen first? Mike Shanahan takes over the Redskins or the Nationals have a permanent manager. My money is on Shanahan.

Friday, October 9, 2009

It never really ends

Any of you like me? You adopt a team for the playoffs because it's always more fun when you have a rooting interest?

For me, my adopted teams are the Twins and the Cardinals.

I listened to the Twins "extra" game against the Tigers on a drive home from Blacksburg on Tuesday. The radio crew there is very much into the homer mode but they're fun and it was quite a game. Plus, I have a couple of friends who are Twins fans. Plus, the Yanks and Red Sox are automatically eliminated and I won't cheer for Mike Scioscia out of some misplaced loyalty to Frank Robinson. That made the Twins a pretty easy call.

So they get to New York and get whipped on Wednesday. It can't be that tough a place to play. The Nats won two games there (saving Manny for about three weeks).

As for the Cardinals, that's another pretty easy call though I have no real hatred for the other NL entrants (even the Phillies). One of my best friends in the world is a Cardinals fan. My kids call him "Uncle Steve." We went to St. Louis together in 2006 for the entire Cards-Nats series (saw the return of Zach Day and Mike O'Connor's debut). We saw two games in 2005, too, and are making plans to go to each city next season. He was in a ticket lottery for Sunday's game and we were going to try to get to that but he didn't win. Alas, there may not be a Sunday game anyway.

So how 'bout that ninth inning last night? How Nats like was that? One out away and a fly ball is completely butchered (glove down Matt, on a ball that low). One strike away and it never comes.

I can pick 'em, can't I?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More bad luck - Norris injured

Great scoop by Brian over at Nationals Farm Authority. This is why he IS the authority on matters relating to the farm system.

That said, I would have been quite fine if he had no need to post such a scoop. If this truly is the first week of 2010, we're not off to a good start.

Top prospect Derek Norris will have surgery tomorrow for a hamate bone injury in his left wrist. All goes well and we'll never even notice. He'll be fine by spring training.

But I know from years of dealing with players who have those injuries: Rarely are they simple. The Hamate can be a real bear of an injury. Here's hoping all goes well and Norris is there in February.

Again, great work Brian. Thanks for ruining my day!


The results of the latest poll shocked me.

23 thought the team would be a .500 operation, 10 said it would be a threat to win 90, two thought PLAYOFFS! and three thought it would be right where it is now.

As much as I love my faithful readership - even though we never did get to 100 votes on any poll - I'm surprised by this. I voted for a threat to win 90 and make the playoffs (87 worked in the Central). After five years, I think that's reasonable.

Heck, though it seems SO long ago, this team was a .500 operation right out of the gate. Remember the 50-31 start? Much sweeter than the 31-50 finish but it added up to .500 and I thought the team should build from there.

Luck has had something to do with it. John Patterson. Shawn Hill. What could have been with a little health. But I assure you every team could put up such a similar list. Bad luck hasn't made the Nats what they are today.

Let's see if I have this straight:


I'm still on board. My mind is already racing with things I want to see in 2010. I've about made up my mind to renew, though some outside factors could affect that. I'm guessing I'll be all in again.
But I am far from satisfied with the current state of affairs and I'll make this promise right here and now: A third 100-loss season will be the death of me.

Seattle made great strides this season, I don't think it is unreasonable to expect the Nats to do the same. Am I demanding 86 wins next season? No. Am I demanding a reasonable run toward that? Yes, yes I am.

It's time for this team to step up and move in the right direction. It's beyond time, actually, but what's done is done. Ownership has been in place a while now, so that excuse is kaput. The bad GM is gone, there's no more interim. So that excuse is gone. A major overhaul is not needed. Everyone involved with the team says it is closer than the record indicates. So bridge whatever gap needs to be bridged. Now, please.

Monday, October 5, 2009

IBWA Award Winners 2009

Many thanks to Dave Nichols at Nationals News Network for spearheading this effort - and for including a relative blogging newcomer in the voting process.
Here is a link to the awards announcement so you can read a little more about the process and how they were named.

Here are the awards:

Goose Goslin Most Valuable Player
Player most valuable to the success of the Washington Nationals:
1st: Ryan Zimmerman (92 points, 16 first place votes)
2nd: Adam Dunn (41 points, one first place vote)
3rd: Nyjer Morgan (25 points, three first place votes)
Others: John Lannan (19), Josh Willingham (3)

Walter Johnson Starting Pitcher of the Year
Excellent performance as a starting pitcher
1st: John Lannan (96 points, 18 first place votes)
2nd: Jordan Zimmermann (42 points, two first place votes)
3rd: Craig Stammen (22 points)
Others: J.D. Martin (6), Garrett Mock (4), Livan Hernandez (3), Ross Detwiler (2)

Frederick "Firpo" Marberry Relief Pitcher of the Year
Excellent performance as a relief pitcher
1st: Tyler Clippard (80 points, 13 first place votes)
2nd: Mike MacDougal (55 points, six first place votes)
3rd: Sean Burnett (29 points, one first place vote)
Others: Jason Bergmann (6), Joe Beimel (5), Ron Villone (3),Saul Rivera (1)

Sam Rice Hitter of the Year
Excellence in all-around hitting, situational hitting and baserunning
1st: Ryan Zimmerman (81 points, 14 first place votes)
2nd: Adam Dunn (39 points, two first place votes)
3rd: Nyjer Morgan (26 points, three first place votes)
Others: Josh Willingham (14), Nick Johnson (9, one first place vote), Cristian Guzman (6)

Frank Howard Slugger of the Year
Excellence in power hitting
1st: Adam Dunn (100 points, 20 first place votes)
2nd: Ryan Zimmerman (46 points)
3rd: Josh Willingham (27 points)

Joe Judge Defensive Player of the Year

Excellence in fielding
1st: Ryan Zimmerman (88 points, 14 first place votes)
2nd: Nyjer Morgan (69 points, six first place votes)
3rd: Willie Harris (12 points)
Others: Alberto Gonzalez, Elijah Dukes, Nick Johnson (3), Wil Nieves (1)

Mickey Vernon Comeback Player of the Year
Player who overcame biggest obstacle in the preceding season to contribute on the field
1st: Nick Johnson (50 points, 10 first place votes)
2nd: Mike MacDougal (20 points, one first place vote)
3rd: Ryan Zimmerman (18 points, three first place votes)
Others: Jason Bergmann (16), Josh Bard (9), Ron Villone (8), Josh Willingham (7), Mike Morse (7), Justin Maxwell (5), J.D. Martin (4), Nyjer Morgan, Livan Hernandez, Ross Detwiler, Elijah Dukes (3), Adam Dunn, Ian Desmond, Jorge Padilla, Sean Burnett, Garrett Mock (1)

Josh Gibson Humanitarian Player of the Year
Player who meritoriously gave of himself to the community
1st: John Lannan (72 points, 12 first place votes)
2nd: Ryan Zimmerman (44 points, four first place votes)
3rd: Wil Nieves (21 points, three first place votes)
Others: Josh Willingham (9), Nyjer Morgan, Willie Harris, Elijah Dukes (3), Tyler Clippard (1)

Minor League Player of the Year
Minor league player most destined for big league success
1st: Derek Norris (54 points, nine first place votes)
2nd: Ian Desmond (53 points, nine first place votes)
3rd: Drew Storen (41 points, two first place votes)
Others: Bradley Meyers (16), Chris Marrero (7), Mike Morse (4), Daniel Espinosa (2), Ross Detwiler, Jorge Padilla (1).

And here is NationalsFanboyLooser's ballot:

Goose Goslin Most Valuable Player
First: Ryan Zimmerman
Second: Adam Dunn
Third: Nyjer Morgan

Walter Johnson Starting Pitcher of the Year
First: John Lannan
Second: Jordan Zimmermann
Third: Livan Hernandez

Frederick "Firpo" Marberry Relief Pitcher of the Year
First: Tyler Clippard
Second: Mike MacDougal
Third: Sean Burnett

Sam Rice Hitter of the Year
First: Ryan Zimmerman
Second: Adam Dunn
Third: Cristian Guzman

Frank Howard Slugger of the Year
First: Adam Dunn
Second: Ryan Zimmerman
Third: Josh Willingham

Joe Judge Defensive Player of the Year
First: Ryan Zimmerman
Second: Nyjer Morgan
Third: Elijah Dukes

Mickey Vernon Comeback Player of the Year
First: Nick Johnson
Second: Mike MacDougal
Third: Josh Bard

Josh Gibson Humanitarian Player of the Year
First: John Lannan
Second: Ryan Zimmerman
Third: Josh Willingham

Minor League Player of the Year
First: Derek Norris (the C - I think I have the name right)
Second: Drew Storen
Third: Danny Espinosa

Sunday, October 4, 2009


What a beautiful day here 125 miles south of "Nats Town." It's a crystal-clear blue sky morning, with a slight chill in the air. Just enough to make things comfortable.

It's not even 10 and I've already been productive. Work has been done. Coffee has been consumed. Laundry is churning. The dogs are worn out from chasing their "ballie" that they dropped on my sleepy self at 7 a.m. I whipped the kid's fanny in our latest cribbage tournament and will do so again tonight before we watch the season finale of Entourage. Last night, I had the best brisket I've ever had at a place called Q Shack in Durham, N.C. It was made better by the scores that showed up on the good ol' BlackBerry (I've quickly become an addict).

Yet with so much positive going on, I'll probably be crying a little in a few hours. OK, a lot. Yeah, I'm a sap.

I hate today. The season can't really be over, can it? Wasn't it just last weekend the kid and I went to Atlanta for his Christmas present and watched the Nats roll over three times for the Braves? And then rushed home to catch the Home Opener (loss No. 4 in four days with me there)? It's over? Already?

Sure, this team drives me nuts. We're talking about a squad that could finish with seven straight wins and still not win 60 games. They make me scream and shake and beat my head against the wall.

But that's just it. Even in these bad times (and please let's not see them get worse), they're MY team. They blow games in all ways imaginable and I still put on my Curly W hat or shirt or both and wait for the next game. I set my schedule around theirs, as much as I can. My brother referred to me as a professional Nats fan earlier this year. He may not be wrong. I saw 33 games this year in four cities (D.C., Atlanta, Baltimore, Pittsburgh). I've now seen the Nats in 10 different cities since 2005 and we'll look to add at least one new city a year.

I DON'T WANT TO WAIT UNTIL SPRING. I want another game tomorrow and then another one Tuesday and then another one Wednesday.

Sure, I'm curious about what will happen between now and whenever it is that pitchers and catchers report. A year ago, would anyone have guessed Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen would be Nats? What surprises await? Who will be the manager (more on that later)? Who will be the second baseman? Will Livan Hernandez be back? Who is going to be The Pitcher That Rizzo Wants?

We can't get all those answers and keep playing?

As much as I want the meter reset on this disaster of a season, I just don't want it to end. Besides, Adam Dunn needs more games. That streak can't end. I'll cry about that, too.

UPDATE - I hate today even worse now that I've seen the lineups. Going to be tough for Dunn to hit two home runs when he isn't playing. Guess Zimmerman and Willingham need that extra day of offseason, too.

UPDATE II - I guess they felt my pain and wanted to give me an extra game's worth of action today. I would have been just fine, though, with something other than that weak at-bat by my new hero Ian Desmond. You know those guys just hate playing this long on the final day.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Desmond and Maxwell

This should probably wait until my next poll but why wait? Let's discuss it now.

Do Desmond and Maxwell fit in with the 2010 Nationals?

I've seen enough to be comfortable with letting Desmond start the season as the regular shortstop. He's made six errors, which seems like a lot to me, but maybe we have to live with that. I like his bat, like the way he carries himself out there. Here's the key: If it doesn't work out, where do you go? If you start the season with Desmond as your regular SS, Guzman is either the 2B or gone. My bet would be gone. Someone who knows the system better than I do (and that's just about everybody) can answer the question about how far away the next prospect might be. Is it Espinosa?

I've never been anti-Guzman and I'm fine with him there another year. But does Desmond really need another year in the minors? I think the time to make that move is now.

As for Maxwell, is he a fourth OF or is he better than that? I really don't want to see Willingham/Morgan/Dukes broken up as the regular outfield. Is Maxwell a Morgan with more power? Can you make a change like that after what Morgan showed? I think not. Does Maxwell become trade bait in an attempt to upgrade the bullpen? Do you move Willingham or Dukes and create an everyday spot?

Do you start next season with a bench of Harris/Maxwell/Morse/Orr/Backup catcher? If so, I guess that leaves 2B as the only position to be decided (are you listening Orlando Hudson)?

I'm just full of questions, among other things, this morning.