November 26, 2008

We Give Thanks...

For a pimpin' new stadium...

An unforgettable Opening Night...

A true American Hero...

And GUZMANIA!, the ineffable faith that sustains us in these troubled times.*

Happy Thanksgiving, from our dysfunctional family to yours!

*Also, for our family; friends; pets; two remaining readers; cold beers, warm nights and a breeze off the Anacostia.

November 24, 2008

Josh Willingham Thinks He's An Outfielder

So says Chico Harlan. But hey, Soriano thought he was a 2nd baseman. And Da Meat Hook thought he was small, earth-orbiting satellite.

Preston Redux?

Beyond the Box Score calls new Nats RHP Preston Larrison "Chris Schroder deluxe." Perhaps the Christmas play is saved after all. But the last Preston in DC didn't work out so well...

November 21, 2008

Frank Wept

Courtesy of Nationals Farm Authority, meet the new manager of your 2009 Hagerstown Suns!

For those of you with short memories, Matt LeCroy is perhaps best known throughout the Natosphere for causing the unsinkable Frank Robinson to spring a leak in late May 2006.

Details of that unforgettable incident here, photo here:

Let me be the first to welcome Matt back into the fold. A word of warning to the Hagerstown faithful: You probably better just start lining up now for Dollar Hot Dog Night. And God help you if Da Meat Hook hits town on a rehab assignment.

November 20, 2008

There Goes the Christmas Play

Free agent and former Nats reliever Chris Schroder signed a major league deal with the Athletics. Terms weren't disclosed, but you better believe it includes a shiny new toy piano. Lucy was unavailable for comment.

Schroder was a pleasant surprise in 2007 and a mild disappointment in '08. His last arm in the bullpen-role seems likely to be occupied by Garrett Mock, Marco Estrada or even Jason Bergmann in 2009.

November 16, 2008

The Whitney - Young Bridge

The Nats signed Cleveland farmhand and former Rule 5 pick Matt Whitney to what shall henceforth be known as the "Pete Orr Special", a minor league deal with an invite to spring training and a promise that, "Gosh, of course you'll be in the mix to make the big club." Riiiiiiiight. Akron's decidedly non-slugging 1B hit .268/.356/.404 at AA last season, production that suspiciously resembles Larry Broadway's .266/.354/.410 line at AAA Columbus.

Perhaps no one has mentioned this to Jim Bowden, but making over a terrible team usually doesn't involve resigning a bunch of role players who were on that team at some point last season. By my count, the roster of potential Opening Day first basemen in the Nats system now includes:

  • Nick Johnson (brittle)
  • Josh Willingham (outfielder)
  • Dmitri Young (fat)
  • Kory Casto (bad)
  • Ronnie Belliard (short, fat, 2B) and
  • Matt Whitney (worse)
Notably absent from the list:
  • Larry Broadway (minor league free agent)
  • Bill Rhinehart (Larry Broadway, Jr.) and
  • Mark Teixeira (not enough money in Congressional bailout package)
Buck sez Matt and Meat are fighting it out for the honor of Opening Day starting 1B in Syracuse, at which point the Chiefs demand a mulligan on this whole association thing. In the meantime, if Trader Jim has his heart set on putting the band back together he could at least bring back Langerhanscendentalism!

November 13, 2008

Poaching Fish

Real life has intervened to keep me from weighing in on the recent acquisition of OF Josh Willingham and LHSP Scott Olsen. In the interim, evaluations have ranged from cautiously praise for Trader Jim's ability to find the slightly burnt bargains at the latest Marlins fire sale to outright hostility to any deal that takes from the still-rebuilding farm system in exchange for a pair of question marks.

To get it out of the way almost right up front, I applaud this deal. Though it is almost the inverse of the Milledge for Church/Schneider deal from last season, I believe it will be another net plus for the team. If the 2008 cavalcade of injuries taught Nats fans anything, it is that there is no substitute for depth and flexibility. This is every bit as true for a pitching staff as for the position players.

Take the 2008 Nationals first basemen. (Please!) Option 1 was OBP-machine Nick Johnson, well known to be only slightly less sturdy than your average Fabrege Egg. Option 2 was man-planet Dmitri Young, coming off a resurgent 2007 campaign, but with chronic illness waiting just around the corner. Even then, the odds of both those guys being sidelined for overlapping extended periods of time? Still, when the entirely thinkable happened, Nats fans got to experience the wonders of Option 3 (Aaron Boone), Option 4 (Kory Casto!) and Option 5 (Ronnie Belliard?!?)

Similar experiments took place at second base (Lopez/Belliard/Bonifacio/Harris/Hernandez) in the outfield (Pena/Milledge/Kearns/Dukes/Harris/Langerhans/Bernadina) and to a lesser extent catcher (He Who Shall Not Be Named, Estrada,Flores, Nieves, Montz). Of course, another run of injuries like last year would devestate the deepest and most flexible roster. Having a guy like Willingham who can play LF, be a credible Option 2 or 3 at 1B and fill-in respectably as an emergency third catcher all while knocking out 20 homers and a .360ish OBP should make the big league club easier on the eyes in 2009. And there's real value in that.

As for Olsen, 24 year old lefties with major league credentials don't grow on trees. Even if he is a headcase, I have near-mystical faith in Randy St. Claire's ability to keep him in line. Again, if all he does is repeat his 2008 he'll be in the running for most valuable starter on staff. You can never have too much starting pitching, and if Opening Day was tomorrow I'd take Olsen over every starter not named John Lannan.

Yes the Nats gave up value to get these guys. That is generally how these things work. Maybe Emilio Bonifacio will be the next Luis Castillo (all OBP evidence to the contrary). Maybe P.J. Dean is the second coming of Greg Maddux. Maybe Jake Smolinski will have 4 fully-functional knee ligaments at some point next season. That's the risk you run. The kids wouldn't be called prospects if they didn't have talent. On the other hand, they wouldn't be called prospects if they'd done something with that talent either.

November 4, 2008

A Great Weight Has Been Lifted

Dmitri outrighted to AAA Syracuse. $5,000,000 buys a lot of BBQ.

November 3, 2008

Reassembling the 2005 Cavaliers

The Nats made a minor move today, swapping pitchers with the Cubbies. Leaving the farm, 21-year old lefty reliever Ryan Buchter, who pitched 24 good innings between Rookie and Low-A ball this season, but has otherwise been unremarkable in 70 innings over 3 seasons. In exchange the Nats get 25-year old righthander Matt Avery, who's put up a pedestrian mid-4 ERA over two stints at AA the last two seasons.

Normally I don't like minor league pitching swaps that make the Nats older and less left-handed, but I'll make an exception in this case because it stocks the minors with another member of the 2005 Virginia Cavaliers. Avery played with Zimm at UVA and was the next Wahoo drafted in '05 after Dutch. And that was a pretty good Virginia team, reaching the regionals at the College World Series that season.

Still needed to complete the set: Jeff Kamrath, Mike Ballard, Tom Hagan (also a punter for the footbawlin' Hoos), Sean Doolittle (tearing up the A's minors), Brandon Guyer, Casey Lambert, Beau Seabury, Mike Mitchell and Pat McAnaney (an Arizona draftee). Go to work boys.

In other news, NFA has the goods on the disturbingly undersized 2008 class of international signees. Apparently, "The Plan" is not valid in the D.R., Venezuela, or the Far East. Dang fine print.