April 26, 2010

What Have the Phillies Dunn?

In case you somehow missed the news, Philadelphia today inked their star first baseman to a 20-year, 50 bajillion dollar contract extension. (Okay, it was 5 years, $125M, as though that makes it better.) It's rare to see a deal immediately and universally deplored, but that appears to be happening here. I'm sure someone, somewhere is lauding this as a great deal for the Phils, but I sure haven't seen it yet.

Now, as a Nats fan I'm perfectly content to see the Phillies misallocate resources on an epic scale. Perhaps Philly GM Reuben Amaro, Jr. thinks he's undergone some sort of Freaky Friday body exchange with Brian Cashman, or maybe he figures he'll be out of the picture long before Ryan Howard goes full-Albert Belle on this contract. That's fine. Philadelphia certainly has the money now, and if this is how their front office chooses to spend it, bully. But here's the problem with teams throwing that kind of money around; the repercussions impact everyone.

Craig Calcaterra has a pretty good run-down of the immediate winners and losers in Howard's new deal. Among the winners are Ryan himself, and the free agent first base class of 2011, including Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez. Not mentioned by Calcaterra but slated to be a free agent first baseman this offseason? Our own Adam Dunn.

Howard's new contract extension complicates things for the Nats on a couple of fronts. One, it raises the market rate for defensively-challenged slugging first basemen on the wrong side of 30. This will make it more expensive to retain Adam, if the team is inclined to go that route. I'm not suggesting that Dunn will get, or even ask for, $25M/year, but it's not unreasonable to think that the price range for an extension may have gone up from $12-15M annually to $15-18M.

Second, and probably more important, if the Nats let Dunn walk, the cost of replacing him has also gone up. Even leaving aside Pujols, Fielder and Gonzalez, all of whom will likely command salaries equivalent to or greater than Howard's deal, a rising tide lifts all boats. Second-tier first basemen like Carlos Pena will have a new benchmark, and if Adam Dunn goes, the Nats are going to have a big void to fill.

Unless Chris Marrero shows something in AA Harrisburg pretty soon, the farm system's cupboard at 1B is more than bare. It's not just Dunn's offensive numbers that will have to be replaced (no easy task), it's the man himself. For better or worse he is the Nats most experienced first baseman. The idea of inserting Josh Whitesell or Chris Duncan as a stopgap can hardly be encouraging for a Nats franchise angling for a return to respectability over the next few seasons.

So feel free to chuckle at the Phillies today, but reserve a few tears to weep at what their profligacy may well mean for the future of your team.

April 21, 2010

Everybody Hurts

I know this is just the way things are done in baseball, but that doesn't make it any less aggravating. Jason Marquis has been scuffling since Spring Training. All the while, everyone from Rizzo to Riggleman to McCatty to Marquis himself swears up and down that it's mental, or mechanical, anything but physical. Then, all of a sudden they examine him and, lo and behold, his pitching elbow is chock full of grape nuts and ball bearings. Needless to say, he's DL-bound.

Okay, things crop up, I get that. Pitchers are used to a certain amount of pain, soreness and discomfort. Maybe it's hard to separate that from a new and different pain. That's why teams have trainers, team doctors, outside specialists, physical exams and MRIs. I'm no doctor, but floating bodies in the elbow doesn't sound like something you wake up with one morning after an ill-advised 3 am convenience store egg salad sandwich. After all, this is the same Jason Marquis whose 6.05 ERA last September got him left off the Rockies playoff roster.

Over the winter this franchise gave Jason Marquis more money than any pitcher in Nationals' history. I really hope they did their due diligence. This isn't Vinny Castilla for Brian Lawrence. There were a half dozen guys roughly equivalent to Marquis available this offseason, and somehow the Nats ended up giving $15M to the guy with the bum elbow. Seems like this has the potential to be another big black eye for the team's none-to-highly-regarded medical staff.

For all I know, "floating bodies" is the 2010 equivalent of Dontrelle Willis disorder. Jason Marquis certainly looks like a guy who could use a few weeks off and a low pressure rehab assignment. I'm not sure how time off is supposed to cure miscellaneous junk in the elbow though. Maybe it's a conservation of energy thing: floating bodies at rest tend to stay at rest? I guess we'll see. Is it June yet?

On a related note, I'm ignoring Zimmerman's cramp in the hopes that it will go away quietly. If he misses any significant time expect a remix of my post on how this team's vaunted "versatility" really won't be of any use in replacing key offensive production.

April 19, 2010

Won't Somebody Please Think of the Children?

Children's National Medical Center is hosting a benefit at Nationals Park this Sunday, April 25th when the Nats host the Dodgers. One third of every ticket sold through this link will be donated to the Pediatric Diabetes Care Complex in DC. The Nationals have been involved with this project through their Dream Foundation for several years.

If you're going to the game anyway, get your tickets here. If you weren't going, now you have an excuse. It's for charity! Once they knock out childhood diabetes, CNMC can start trying to figure out what ails Jason Marquis.

The link to order tickets is: www.nationals.com/childrensnational

Speaking of the youngsters, Past a Diving Vidro has a thoroughly depressing look back at the Nats stars of the future past, circa 2005. If this really is the first in a series we may all need medical care before Kevin makes it to 2009.

I love it when a post title works on multiple levels.

April 18, 2010

Did Rizzo Keep the Receipt?

"Jason Marquis is no ace, but he'll give you 200 innings of league average pitching, sparing Nats fans from the 2010 version of the "Daniel Cabrera Experience"."
- Nats Triple Play
, December 27, 2009

That, Nats fans, is a swing-and-miss. (Also known as that thing Jason Marquis generated exactly none of today.) Frankly, Daniel Cabrera v. 2009 would be considered a rotation stabilizer at this point. So, if you've ever wondered why I'm typing in a darkened basement and not heading up a major league scouting operation, now you know.

Tony Armas, Tomo Ohka, Zach Day, Tim Redding, Ramon Ortiz, Pedro Astacio, Ryan Drese... this is just a sampling of the notable names who have started at least 10 games for the Washington Nationals. None of these guys managed to lay an egg the size of the one that Jason Marquis produced on Sunday. That said, a blowout loss doesn't count for any more than a squeaker, so there's no particular reason to dwell on today's result.

There are reasons to be concerned about Jason Marquis. He hasn't looked right since coming to DC. From day one of Spring Training to his 28th and final pitch this afternoon he's been completely ineffective. He's a sinkerballer who's not getting ground balls, a pitch-to-contact guy who can't find the strike zone. For now we have to take the team at its word that the problem isn't physical. Unfortunately, that means the issue is somewhere between his head and his arm. It's time for Steve McCatty to earn his money. Otherwise, don't be shocked when Marquis comes down with "dead arm" and needs a trip to the disabled list and a minor league rehab stint just about the time Garrett Mock is ready to come off the DL.

That's right, as of today Garrett Mock is officially a better option for the starting rotation than Jason Marquis. June can't come soon enough.

April 17, 2010

Livan Hernandez: An Appreciation

It is fitting that Livan Hernandez returned the Washington Nationals to winning baseball. No pitcher better represents the spirit of this team. Even when he's been with other clubs Livo has remained close to the heart of Nats fans - a feeling that's clearly mutual. We should savor every inning, because it's unlikely that we'll get to enjoy a pitcher quite like Hernandez again.

If you didn't get a chance to see today's performance, you missed out on the Nationals' most complete game of the season. The bats were working up and down the lineup, but Livan's complete game, 4-hit shutout was the story. Working off his standard 85 mph fastball, changeup and ridiculous 63 mph curve, Hernandez kept the Brewers off-balance all day without breaking a sweat. This performance follows on the heels of seven shutout innings against the Mets last week in Queens. 16 shutout innings by a starter to start the season is, no surprise, a DC franchise record.

More than anything else, it's just a joy to watch Livo pitch. He never looks like he's laboring, he never pays undue attention to the guys on base and he's perfectly willing to throw a 3-2 strike and make the batter do something with it. Hernandez provides a blueprint to success for every other pitcher on Mike Rizzo's pitch-to-contact staff. Hit your spots, mix your pitches and trust your defense. It's even possible to strike a few guys out if you slip a fastball by them while they're looking for a 73 mph changeup.

Livan won't pitch seven scoreless every time out, and if he has a game where he's getting squeezed or missing his spots, he'll just as likely give up as many runs as innings pitched. Nevertheless, if you have a chance to take in a Nats game this season before Saint Stephen of Harrisburg makes his debut, I highly recommend aiming for a Livo start. You haven't lived until you've seen a big fat guy lobbing baseballs into home plate and making major league hitters look silly.

April 16, 2010

Nats - Dunn = .500

Thanks to tonight's 5-3 victory we can say with a fair degree of certainty that Adam Dunn knows the strike zone better than the umps, but tossing your helmet will get you tossed every time. Also, Josh Willingham can wear the hell out of a silver Elvis wig. On the other hand, there are all sorts of bad lessons that Jim Riggleman could draw from this win over the Brew Crew.

Bad Lesson #1: Zimmerman and Dunn are sort of superfluous. Willingham and Nieves are all the offense any team needs.

Bad Lesson #2: Batting Guzman and Gonzalez 3-4 is the key to victory. Slappy and scrappy beat OBP and SLG any day.

Bad Lesson #3: Ian Desmond should sacrifice bunt more often!

Bad Lesson #4: Brian Bruney is exciting and should be employed to liven up any ballgame.

One day the lack of secondary power on the roster (aka hitters other than Dunn, Zimm and the Hammer) will come back to bite this team. Fortunately, today was not that day. Instead, a solid performance from John Lannan and just enough timely offense was enough to get the Nats back to break even.

Tonight's win should give the Nats new journo-bloggers some good material. In general though, I'm with Kevin and Chris on this issue. Until someone with credentials kneecaps Dibble, that is.

In other news

April 11, 2010

The Great Roster Panic of '10

Zimm out, Mock down, Bernadina up, Morse to DL. So much for lazy Sundays. On the heels of an exciting 4-3 win over the Mets, one (hopefully) minor run of injuries has exposed everything that is wrong with the way Rizzo and Riggleman constructed the season opening roster. Much ink has already been spilled on the "versatility" of the 2010 Nats, but the dark side of versatility is having a bunch of guys playing out of position. Let's look at the two most glaring omissions:

1. No backup corner infielders.
After Zimm, guess who has the most experience at 3rd base? Adam Kennedy. All of Adam's experience actually came last season with Oakland, so at least he's fresh. After him it's Willie Harris, Mike Morse and the couple of innings Guzie played at 3B during the All Star game. First base? Don't ask. Past polished veteran 1B Adam Dunn, you've got Morse's 85 innings and 23 from unsuspected utility guy Kennedy. Oh, and The Hammer has 4 innings on the infield. So we've got that going for us, which is nice.

2. No right fielder.
Willie Harris? 10 innings in right before this season. Mike Morse? 87 innings from 2005-2009. "Natural" right fielder Willy Taveras? 1 inning in right (in 2004!) before this season. That's without even bringing Guzman into the conversation. FWIW, Rog Bernadina has also primarily been a CF in his five seasons in the minors. That's not to say that any or all of these guys can't play an acceptable right field, just that they'll all be learning on the job.

On the surface neither of these is really a big deal. After all, if Zimm or Dunn miss any significant amount of time the Nats are pretty well screwed regardless of who's covering for them off the bench. And you can live with one outfielder learning a new position on the fly, though only Morse really has the bat to play in RF.

The problems arise when, as happened yesterday, you get a spate of minor injuries. Mike Morse tweaks a hammy, no big deal, you've got a little more playing time for Taveras, Guzman and Alberto Gonzales. Ryan Zimmerman tweaks a hammy the same week as Morse? All of a sudden you're shuffling either your starting right fielder (Harris) or starting second baseman (Kennedy) to third, starting a career shortstop (Guzman) at second or in right, or counting on a guy who was supposed to be your 5th outfielder/defensive replacement/pinch runner (Taveras) for significant innings.

Of course, some of these problems could be avoided in the Nats carried an extra bench player, but to do that they'd need to jettison a reliever. Seeing as how the team is currently carrying an 8-man bullpen, you'd think that shouldn't be a huge issue. It certainly wouldn't be if the starters could be counted on for more than 4 innings. Which brings us Garrett Mock's well-deserved, one week overdue demotion.

Getting Mock out of the starting rotation was the right thing to do, but it's unlikely to solve the problem. After all, if there were somebody (not named Strasburg) who was head and shoulders better than Mock, they'd have been with the team to start the season while Garrett savored spring time in Syracuse. So you see, all the Nats' problems, from Zimmerman's hamstring to Willy Taveras' continued employment, flow from a lack of quality starting pitching.

If only there was something to be done about that...

April 10, 2010

About That Pitching Depth

This is a largely meaningless piece of early season fluff from new WaPo beat writer Adam Kilgore. I'm not ripping Adam, pieces like this are inevitable when every beat writer has blogs to fill and chats to host in addition to the standard gamers and traditional longer-form stories. When you have to find something to talk about other than how the team's front office, pitching and roster construction all suck eggs, you get a one-off post on the Nationals' improved minor league pitching depth.

The article is accurate, as far as it goes. Matt Chico, who started 31 games for the Nationals in 2007, is currently assigned to AA Harrisburg as he continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery. Lots of guys come back from TJ surgery these days, and some even come back stronger, so there's reason to think that we might see Chico in the big leagues again one day. But here's the thing: even as a fully healthy 24 year-old Matty was maxed out as the "workhorse" on one of the worst pitching staffs in modern baseball history. Could a now 27 year-old Chico really be expected to improve on his 2007 performance (10 H/9, 4 BB/9, 5 KK/9, 91 ERA+)?

Chico is at AA because the AAA roster is chock full of MLB "veterans." Scott Olson, J.D. Martin, Colin Balester and Shairon Martis all have experience as major league starters, though experience shouldn't be confused with success. The truth is, if any of these guys were good enough, Messrs. Stammen, Hernandez and Mock would not be a serious impediment to their promotion.

In truth, the Nats don't so much have improved pitching depth as they do improved pitching breadth. From Stammen and Hernandez, to Olsen, Mock, Martin and the rest the Nats have eight or nine guys who could be fairly interchangeable below average starters. Some are a little bit older, some are more flyballers than groundballers, most have only a rough idea where the ball is going when it leaves their hand. None of these guys can be counted on for six or more innings on a regular basis, and having more than two of them in the rotation would quickly burn out even an eight man bullpen.

Does this constitute an improvement? I suppose that's a matter of perspective. In 2010, Matt Chico no longer has a clear path to the front of the Nats rotation. Unfortunately, that's because he's competing with a half dozen Matt Chico clones.

April 7, 2010

Stan to Fans: Come Back When We're Good

"[A]s anyone who has watched bad teams turn into good teams, in any sport, these problems dissipate as teams improve, as home teams followers get more numerous and more enthusiaistic."
- Stan Kasten, President, Washington Nationals

Good news, Nats fans: you can stop caring now! The team is lousy, so it shouldn't bother you that your stadium was overrun by barbarian hordes from the north, or that the ticket office is more interested in selling blocks of tickets to opposing fans than they are in providing single game tickets to locals, even season ticket holders. My only gripe with this Adam Kilgore piece is the headline. Phillies fans didn't have to infiltrate Nationals Park; they were invited in.

"We get the attendance we deserve."
- Kasten

Sure, they somehow ran out of hot dogs and beer on Day 1 of the season, but you shouldn't care because you shouldn't even have been there! Given that they've done nothing to deserve DC fans showing up, it's no wonder they're both surprised and unprepared when we do. Really, it's a little rude for us to just show up uninvited. For all you know, you could have been gatecrashing one of Stan's prized special events.

"We sell season tickets and book groups all winter long. For every game of the season." - Kasten

Nothing personal, just business. Opening Day is just another game, Phillies fans are just more paying customers. But if that's the company line, why did they suddenly pull the plug on customers from the Jersylvaniware market in February? Did someone stop to consider the optics of having 25,000 booing, battery-tossers serenading the President on Opening Day in the Nation's Capital? Did someone think of the children?! Or did someone in the organization realize that they set the stage for a massive clusterf#$k, but it was too late to do anything about it.

I think our proudest accomplishment gets measured every home game during the season, when we see fans enjoying themselves at Nationals Park.
- Mark Lerner, Principal Owner, Washington Nationals

To be fair, he didn't say, "when we see Nationals fans enjoying themselves at Nationals Park." It's undeniably true that lots of fans had a great time on Monday. Lerner and Kasten have always aspired to make the Nationals more than just another local baseball team. Lerner talks about the Nationals as "America's Team" (a moniker that any DC sports fan could tell you has serious negative connotations.)

As I've noted before, Washington, DC is perhaps uniquely suited to become baseball's great neutral site, everybody's house and nobody's home. A Nationals' game could easily become another must-see item on every tourist's agenda. The danger with that aspiration is that you run the risk of turning the home team into the Washington Generals. You'll be world renowned, make millions of dollars and everybody will leave the stadium happy, having seen their hometown "Globetrotters" demolish their opponent.

If that's ownership's vision for the franchise, so be it. But they should tell us so now, so the locals can adjust their financial, and more importantly, their emotional investment accordingly. On the other hand, if the Lerners and Stan Kasten really want to make the Nationals into a world-class franchise, they have to make the team a success for DC, not just a success in DC.

April 5, 2010

A Complete(ly Embarrassing) Game

Though I live just 150 miles from the city of Philadelphia, I have never been to a baseball game at Citizens Bank Park. And yet, I feel that I can say I have, because I attended Opening Day 2010 at Nationals Park. If the crowd was less than 70/30 Phillies fans I will eat my Replica BP Hat, hundreds of which probably ended up in trash cans immediately after being distributed to the Philly faithful. I'm not sure GEICO's going to be thrilled with that particular marketing expenditure.

The Phillies have a large and vocal fanbase (larger and more vocal since their recent run of success, but c'est la vie.) A good number of transplanted Pennsylvanians live in the DC metro area, and of course it's a relatively easy three hours down I-95 from the City of Brotherly Love itself. So it's not surprising that Philly baseball fans come to DC to take in a game. What rankles is when Washington fans feel like visitors, even interlopers, in their own park. From booing Ryan Zimmerman's awards presentations to serenading the visitors with nicknames and chants, the auditory experience of today's game was all Philly, all the time.

To quote the guy who threw out the first pitch, "Let me be clear." I don't blame the Philly fans. This is what they do. At home, on the road, on their couches, and for all I know, in their sleep. They're loud, boorish, not infrequently drunk, and at least as prone to pick fights with each other as with opposing fans. They've found a home away from home on South Capitol Street, and they treat it that way. The responsibility for the present state of affairs rests solely with the ownership and management of the Washington Nationals.

It was just last year when Stan Kasten went on the radio in Philly and all but begged the locals to turn our stadium into CBP-South. I'd say today's showing means it's Mission Accomplished. In the six seasons since baseball returned to Washington, DC I've been to every home opener and 100 more games besides. I was at two of the three games the Yankees played at RFK and the crowd there was much closer to 50/50. Maybe the Red Sox games were as lopsided, but hell, the Sox do that everywhere.

This was Opening Day. The game that was supposed to showcase Mike Rizzo's rebuilt, revitalized Nationals. I've seen a lot of embarrassing things on and off the field over six years of Nats fandom, but I was never embarrassed to be a fan of this franchise until today. I understand that Washington is a city of perpetual transplants, and local sporting events are always going to be forums for showcasing divided loyalties. I also accept that DC is a front-running town that loves to claim winners as its own. (I grew up here, I'm a big boy, I know the score.) But none of that provides an excuse for what I saw in the stands at Nationals Park today.

From a purely financial perspective, what matters is that tickets are sold, not who fills the seats, or even if the seats are filled. Ted and Mark Lerner and Stan Kasten can probably run a perennially profitable operation catering to transplants, tourists, visitors and everyone but DC baseball fans. Because those folks won't care that the right fielder is a light-hitting career utility man, or that the back half of the rotation is a cobbled together mess for the fifth year running. They won't notice that the farm system, for all the hype and blather about "building from the ground up", really hasn't produced anything all that remarkable. Why should the Philly fans of the world care that while the owner talks about spending money to compete, it never quite seems to happen? Those folks come to enjoy a nice stadium they didn't pay for and root for the visiting team to whip the Nats. More often than not, they leave happy, having deposited a few more dollars in Uncle Ted's alabaster piggy bank.

It's a system that works great, for everybody but the fans of the Washington Nationals. And if there are fewer of us every year, well, can you honestly be surprised? Half the time you can't find this organization with a compass and a map. They've buried a great radio team on a hit-and-miss AM signal. The TV rights are held hostage to an agreement that ought to be a case study on how not to negotiate a media contract. Advertising, to the extent that there is any, is mostly confined to these outlets. I'm not a marketing guy (I leave the flashy stuff to Dave) but it sure looks to me like the Nats are doing everything possible not to broaden their appeal to a wider audience, at least not if that audience is local.

I write this with no particular hope or expectation that things will change soon, or even at all. Lest you think that I'm simply a bitter crank, I'm happy to report that today on the banks of the Anacostia, the sun was warm, the beer (when available) was cold, and an afternoon at Nationals Park still beats a day at the office 100 times out of 100. But if we don't expect more, we certainly can't complain about never getting it...


Also, what he said. And Needham expands on why we're all probably just talking to ourselves. $2,000,000 buys a lot of ear plugs.

NTP Season Preview: WTF Happened Here?

2010 is supposed to be the season that the Washington Nationals climb back into contention, competition, the conversation in the National League. Zimmerman, Dunn and Willingham anchor the middle of a lineup sparked by Nyjer Morgan. John Lannan leads a staff that just has to hold it together long enough for the second coming (of Stephen Strasburg) to arrive. Matt Capps and Brian Bruney were brought on board to round out a bullpen that almost literally couldn't be any worse. So why does it feel like the summer of 2010 will be another wasted season on the banks of the Anacostia?

1. The Future is Now... Early June

There are good and sensible reasons to let Stephen Strasburg cut his teeth in Harrisburg for two months, but there's no denying it makes the 2010 squad both worse, and more importantly less interesting. It's probably the right thing to do, but it's a tough pill to swallow for a franchise that hasn't had a really compelling storyline to sell since June of 2005.

2. This Wasn't Part of "The Plan", Man!

On the eve of the 2009 season Nats fans were hoping that the addition of Adam Dunn would help Ryan Zimmerman rebound from a sub-par 2008. But three players were expected to build on promising 2008 campaigns: C Jesus Flores, CF Lastings Milledge and RF Elijah Dukes (all 24 on Opening Day). Flash forward one year. Flores has played just 23 games, Milledge lasted all of 7 games before being shipped to Pittsburgh by way of the minor leagues and Dukes' departure was even more abrupt. More on that later, but the lesson here is twofold: 1) Even the best prospects are still just "prospects", and 2) two out of the three have been replaced by older, less talented players for 2010. That's an unorthodox take on rebuilding.

3. A Little Less Talk, A Lot More Action

The Nats were "in" on Aroldis Chapman but balked at the ultimate price. Sure, Chapman isn't the Cuban Strasburg, but he got uniformly rave reviews this Spring. The Nats "talked" to a number of other veteran starters after inking Jason Marquis, but ended up "solidifying" the rotation with (old friend and fan favorite, but c'mon... really) Livan Hernandez. Orlando Hudson apparently actually wanted to play in DC, just not at the price the Nats were offering, leaving the team with Adam "Plan B" Kennedy. But really, what's worse than any of those things in isolation is the creeping suspicion that either this team's owners are stupid, or they think the fans are.

4. Passing Over Elijah

Now that some time has passed, this deserves much more comment. I don't care if Mike Rizzo doesn't like Elijah Dukes, doesn't trust him, doesn't think he'll ever learn to stop swinging at that breaking ball low and away and will never be healthy enough to play 150 games in the field. You don't cut your 25 year-old de facto starting right fielder without having a plan in place to replace him. Clubhouse chemistry does not win ball games, guys that can take a pitch 400 feet the other way do. It seems to me that the last Nats team that was lauded for its clubhouse chemistry was the 2005 squad, and their right fielder was a certified lunatic.

To be any kind of competitive in 2010, the Nats need to make up for Elijah's offense. Harper pretty much had Dukes pegged as the Offensive Key to the season, so you can see this is more than just a passing concern. Maybe Ian Desmond can take up some of that slack, but don't hold your breath hoping for a renaissance from Pudge Rodriguez or Adam Kennedy. Zimmerman, Dunn and Willingham just don't have much room for improvement, and Nyjer Morgan was already playing over his head. In the post-steroid era we probably shouldn't expect to see new RF Willie Harris pull a Brady Anderson either.

Speaking of new right fielders, I need to address this headline briefly. Willy Taveras did not "earn" a job with the Nats. Willy Taveras cannot earn a job in major league baseball, he can only be given one. If you'd like this rant with a side of number, go here or here. As for how anybody could hand Willy Taveras a job in 2010, maybe it's...

5. The Ghost of Jim Bowden

Toolsy former Reds outfielder on the roster (and in the lineup) for no apparent reason? Check.
Multi-year, multi-million dollar contract for a washed up catcher? Check.
Overvaluing veteran relievers off the scrapheap? Check.
Roster constructed to leave a surplus at one position and a deficiency at others? Check.
No discernible progress on the international scouting front? Check.
Ian "Jeter" Desmond at shortstop? Check.

So tell me again how everything's going to be different once Mike Rizzo's in charge? Yes, I know, it's still too soon to judge Rizzo. But that time is coming, and it's coming in months, not years.

And finally...

The End of GUZMANIA!

You'd think I'd be upset about this. But here's what you don't understand. Cristian Guzman was trapped at shortstop like Napoleon on Elba. Mike Rizzo and Jim Riggleman have freed him to rampage across the diamond. Before you could be pretty sure where Guzman would be. Now he's gained the element of surprise. That, along with a fanatical devotion to never drawing a walk, will be his greatest weapon! (In other words, Nationals fans are so deeply screwed in 2010 that Cristian Guzman's problems don't amount to a hill of beans.)

Oh well, at least the Redskins are finally showing some signs of returning to the land of competent, professionally managed organiz... WHAT THE F@&%?!