January 29, 2008

Catch as Catch Can

First, Humberto Cota and Chad Moeller. Then Paulie LoDown. Now Johnny Estrada (maybe). How in the name of sweet, fancy Moses have Josh Paul and Kelly Stinnett not gotten in on this deal?

In their brief history the Washington Nationals have employed a cavalcade of truly awful backup backstops. With Brian Schneider entrenched in the top spot, perennial blogger obsession Gary "PB" Bennett started the trend. Matt "Stop or I'll Shoot" LeCroy popped in to provide some career lowlights, splitting time with "Where's Wiki" Gonzalez and Brandon "Remember Me?" Harper . Robert Fick was a recurring character until he found his true calling as Dmitri Young's caddy. Even Mike "Girl Burner" DiFelice had a spring cameo.

2007 brought a welcome measure of stability, with Officer Schneider and Rule 5 sensation "Come to Jesus" Flores splitting time behind the plate. But Brian's off to wake up in the city that never sleeps and Flores looks increasingly likely to wake up on Opening Day in Columbus, Ohio Harrisburg, PA. That would leave the Nats with a LoDuca/Estrada platoon, surely one of the most belligerent, defensively challenged catching tandems in recent memory. All for the low, low price of $6.25M and a new MLB record low for caught-stealing percentage.

At least they'll both be gone before 2009.

January 24, 2008

Catching up with #24

There's an article in the Post today about Nick Johnson and his rehabilitation process. I can't believe it's been 16 months since he was injured. I've always liked Barry's stuff but this is a great piece. Barry does a tremendous job showing both the personal and professional side of #24.

A Long Struggle To Get Back Up And Running

Baseball and boating

I found this link this morning as I was checking my email. (Thanks jetBlue -- an offer of items I can actually show some interest in).

Excitations Baseball & Boating Double Header

From the site:

"Batter up! Set your sights on a one of a kind sailing, sporting adventure. You and a friend will begin with a sail aboard the schooner, American Spirit, docked at the DC Southwest Waterfront marina. Bring some beer or wine to enjoy while sailing past our nation's monuments and memorials down to Old Town Alexandria. Return back to the dock right in time for the game, just a short walk up to the new Nationals stadium for a great night of baseball with the Nat's.

Enjoy an exhilarating afternoon of sailing teamed up with the excitement of a Nationals game in their new stadium
Begin by arriving at the Gangplank Marina docks and step aboard the American Spirit
After returning back to the Gangplank Marina, walk the half mile to the new stadium
Grab your mitt and take your seats - exclusive block of bleacher seats put you in the heart of the right field action
Head back to your car or the metro and go home with your memories of an adventurous, sports-filled day"

This is really exactly the kind of neat event I'm hoping will start to show up downtown.

January 21, 2008

Arbitration for Dummies

Major League Baseball salary arbitration is not fun. In essence, every arbitration case can be reduced to these four phases:

Phase I - Player X submits wildly unrealistic salary demand, sometimes double or triple previous year's league minimum salary. Team counters by submitting copy of previous year's W-2, with an increased indexed to the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment.

Phase II - Team attempts to cast Player X's achievements as A) a fluke, B) a statistical outlier, C) a prelude to his total collapse or D) all of the above. Team proceeds to further minimize Player X's value by listing, in detail, all of the negative aspects of his season. "Sure, he hit 25 home runs but that's more than offset by the four times he got thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double."

Phase III - Player X's agent sets out to demonstrate that Team is helmed by a degenerate collection of slack-jawed misanthropes who not only A) have not utilized any metric of player evaluation more sophisticated than batting average, but B) cannot count to ten if spotted eight fingers and two thumbs and C) failed to correctly identify Player X in a photo array.

Phase IV - Designated Arbitrator, ideally but not necessarily more knowledgable about professional baseball than your average Member of Congress weighs the utterly conflicting evidence before deciding that Player X is either A) the second coming of Joe DiMaggio or B) Felipe Lopez. Salary is awarded accordingly and Player X comes away convinced that Team does not appreciate his service, will never voluntarily pay him what he's worth and may in fact have been having him followed for the past six months.

That, in a nutshell, is why it's a good idea to avoid arbitration with players you don't want hating their team. With that in mind, I've come up with a simple 2-step plan for resolving the Nationals two outstanding arbitration cases. As it happens, the Nats are offering $300,000 less than the salaries being requested by both setup Wookiee Jon Rauch and infield placeholder Felipe Lopez. In the interest of resolving both cases amicably, I propose the following solution:

  1. Take the $300,000 that FLop wants;
  2. Give it to Jon Rauch.

January 11, 2008

It's Good to Be The Chief

Cardiac closer Chad Cordero snagged a 1-year, $6.2M contract from the Nats, thereby avoiding salary arbitration. The Chief would easily have been the team's biggest and most contentious arbitration case, just as he was last year when he won a $4.15M award in arbitration.

$6.2M is a healthy bump, but in an environment where Eric Gagne parlays a playoff implosion into a one-year, ten million dollar contract, it's hardly eyebrow raising. And it certainly shouldn't be cost-prohibitive for any team looking for a closer come the July trade deadline. In the meantime we're glad to hear the deal got done in advance of any arbitration acrimony. Hopefully Negotiator Jim can turn his attention to achieving a similar result with Cordero's caddy, Big Jon Rauch. As for arb-eligible SP Tim Redding? Eh, rake him over the coals, he's due for a regression anyway.

The bullpen is a position of real strength for the Nats, even with Luis Ayala's latest mishap. With Cordero (and soon Rauch) locked in for another season perhaps the team can look into the possibility of trading one of the Chief's many right-handed setup guys.

January 4, 2008

Reason #924 to Reform Immigration

United States immigration policy figures to be a key component of the upcoming Presidential election. Immigration impacts national security, the economy, the perception of America in the world and many other facets of American life. But beyond those macro-level issues there are hundreds of good individual reasons to reexamine our country's immigration practices. Reason No. 924: Keeping Luis Ayala healthy.

In March 2006 Luis was pitching for the Mexican national team in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. He was also rehabbing from offseason elbow surgery. One fateful semi-sidearm pitch spelled the of Ayala's 2006 season. He needed surgery to repair a ligament in his right elbow. Flash forward to the day after Christmas 2007. Luis was on a hunting trip in Mexico with a friend (whereabouts of VP Dick Cheney unconfirmed). Luis's companion apparently mistook the pitcher's left arm for a tasty game bird and clipped him with an errant shot.

Side note:
Ayala's friend's "quick-triggered gun" deserves a place in rhetorical history very nearby Sen. Larry Craig's fabled "wide stance".

By all accounts the injury was minor, poses no long term danger and Luis will be fully recovered in time for Spring Training. But please, for the love of God, can we institute some sort of North American Hunting Visa system, pronto so that Luis can be shot in the face in a proper American hunting accident? The ball's in your court Governor Huckabee.