BOTTOMFEEDER BASEBALL BLOG

Dedicated to the constructive criticism of the Washington Nationals.

ALL ARTICLES AND PICTURES UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED ARE (C) DAVID W. NICHOLS

E-mail us at: natsnewsnetwork@gmail.com

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Probably a bad time to be doing this, but...



This blog will now be known as...NATS NEWS NETWORK!

Please click on the link above to go to our new site. All the archived posts are there, and any new content is going up over there. I still have some tinkering to do, but I don't want to maintain two sites anymore. Besides, I think when you visit the new site you'll be as happy with it as I am.

Please let me know of any comments or critiques once you get over there.

I really liked the format I used for my Caps Blog, so I utilized it for the new Nats blog. Also, one of the big questions I heard all last summer was "What's bottomfeeders have to do with it?" or "Did you name your blog bottomfeeders cause the team stinks so much?" So I wanted a more Nats-centric name and feel and I incorporated the team colors as well.

Please feel free to let me know how you feel about the new site. E-mail me at the new e-mail address (you'll see it over there) or leave a comment in one of the posts.

Thanks, see you on the new site.
Best,
Dave

Nats Select Reliever in Rule 5 Draft

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.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Is Eight Years, $160M Enough?

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.

I Usually Don't Get Worked Up Over These Things, But...

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.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jumping On The Hondo Bandwagon

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.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Speak of the Devil (or something like that)

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Spring Training Blues

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.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Nats Fans!

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!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ryan Wagner--Nats Property or Not?

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!

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!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Happy Birthday Junior!

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!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

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

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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Griffey becomes American Public Diplomacy Envoy


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.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Nats Sign Matt Whitney to Minor League Contract

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.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pete Orr Returning to Nats?



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



Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Meet the Press with Willingham and Olsen

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.
_______________________________________________________

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.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nats Add Willingham, Olsen

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.

Nats Add Three to 40-Man Roster

The Washington Nationals announced today that they have added OF Leonard Davis, SS Ian Diamond and RHP Luis Atilano to their 40-man roster, thus protecting the three players from the Rule 5 draft of eligible minor league players. If selected, a player must remain on the selecting team's 25-man roster the entire next season or offer that player back to his original club. Jesus Flores was a Rule 5 pick of the Nats from the New York Mets.

Davis, 24, is the reigning Nationals Minor League Player of the Year. He hit .310 with 28 doubles, 25 home runs, 76 RBI, a .365 on-base percentage and a .567 slugging percentage in 122 games for the top three affiliates in the Nationals’ system in 2008.

Diamond, 23, with Harrisburg this season, hit .251 with 14 doubles, 12 home runs and 44 RBI in 93 Eastern League contests. Desmond has tallied 74 extra-base hits (45 doubles, four triples, 25 home runs) the last two regular seasons.

Atilano, 22, began the season in the Single-A South Atlantic League and finished in Double-A with Harrisburg. At the three levels this season, Atilano went a combined 5-2 with a 2.50 ERA (26 ER/93.2 IP) in 24 games (15 starts). He posted a .248 batting average against and walked just 2.2 batters per 9.0 innings pitched.

BOTTOM(FEEDER) LINE: None of these three players figures to be a significant contributor to the Nats, but since they had the space on the 40-man roster they are worth protecting. Davis and Desmond are playing in the Arizona Fall League with decent results though, and could bear watching as the season progresses as low priced alternatives should injury or ineffectiveness rear its ugly head on the Nats 25-man roster as the season goes along.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nats Unveil New Unis

I'll have more updates later when we can load all of the pictures we took today, but the Nats had a fashion show of their new uniforms today at ESPNZone.

As you can see, Lastings Milledge was more than happy to get up and model with the models.

The changes are pretty significant to the road and alternate jerseys. The Road Grays get a curly W and script "ashington" across the chest, the Sunday Reds get white piping, the curly W replaces the interlocking DC on the left chest, and the DC goes on the left sleeve.

As for the Alternate Blues, well, what can I say to accurately describe them? The white piping on the blue looks great, but the logo is an interlocking DC is "Stars and Stripes". They'll wear an accompanying blue hat with red bill and interlocking stars and stripes DC logo. The team said they would wear these monstrosities for July 4 and other military appreciation days. Honestly, they would have been better off wearing camo like the Padres, cause that logo is just plain terrible. The above picture doesn't do it justice.

More pictures to come tonight.
----------
UPDATE:

Here are the pictures we took yesterday at the unveiling of the new unis.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Holy Cow (no pun intended)--Young Sent To Syracuse

This just in, a single sentence press release from the Nats:

First baseman Dmitri Young has been outrighted to Syracuse of the Triple-A International League. The Nationals’ 40-Man Roster now stands at 35.
Bottom(feeder) Line: I guess that's how they move Young off the roster. He obviously won't decline the assignment, cause where else is he going to get a $5M major league contract? So he accepts and becomes the highest paid minor leaguer. Either way, it's pretty cold.

How bad does this look right now? This is a guy that the GM and the team heralded in his all-star comeback player of the year season of 2007, then grant him a HUGE two-year reward contract for $10M. And now, half-way through that contract, flat demotes back to Triple-A. That's just great roster maintenance (noted with sarcasm). For a team that has upper management preaching fiscal responsibility, how many more of these terrible reward contracts do they have to see before they do something about the guy handing them out?

Young got a big raise, now he's sent to Siberia (ever been to Syracuse in April?). Guzman got a new contract and promptly went out and got hurt. Belliard got a two-year deal. Willie Harris' new deal has to pop up any day now. At least Willie is in shape. But here's still more evidence, if any more are needed, of Jim Bowden's ineffectiveness. Here's a team that loses their first round pick over $700,000, but is paying their Triple-A first baseman $5M.


Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Much Ado About Nothing

Now that the World Series has thankfully passed and gone away, we're onto the Hot Stove portion of the baseball season. The GMs are collecting in Dana Point, CA this week for their annual meetings to discuss free agents and trade markets over pina coladas.

Nats' GM Jim Bowden (yup, still here) has a lot of work to do in overhauling what was the worst team in baseball last year. Garnering the #1 pick in next year's amateur draft is nice, and since it's doubled up with the tenth pick for failing to sign last year's first rounder Aaron Crow, the Nats' scouting department (Now With More Scouts!) had their work cut out for them. But the fruits of next year's draft will only be realized down the road, not benefiting next season's big league squad.

That's where Jim Bowden -- for better or worse -- comes in. It's his job to put together a major league squad in the off-season. And if you're a season ticket holder like me (who has already, by the way, received my invoice for next year), you'll want to know what Bowden does to improve the squad. If you objectively take a look at the Nats 40-man roster and project an opening day roster the answer, unfortunately, is probably not much.

After essentially waiving Chad Cordero, Pete Orr and Ryan Wagner last week, the Nats have six players eligible for arbitration: Ryan Zimmerman, Tim Redding, Saul Rivera, Willie Harris, Jesus Colome and Shawn Hill. They still have control over Zimmerman, so don't expect the team to open up their pocketbooks any earlier than they have to. They'll extend the least amount possible to renew Zim, further alienating him and his agent to the possibility of along-term deal. But that's another column. Guess that they offer Redding, Rivera, Harris and Colome arbitration. Hill's a big medical question. Anyone heard anything about him lately? I haven't.

So where does that leave the squad? Here's one blogger's impression of the opening day roster:

OF (5): Milledge, Dukes, Kearns, Pena, Harris
INF (6): Zimmerman, Young, Johnson, Belliard, Guzman, Bonifacio
C (2): Flores, back-up (Nieves hopefully)
SP (5): Redding, Lannan, Balestar, Martis, Free Agent
RP (7): Hanrahan, Rivera, Hinckley, Bergmann, Colome, Mock, Shell
Players on 40-man left out: Bernadina, Maxwell, Montz, Hernandez, Casto, Gonzalez, Chico, Clippard, Detwiler, Hill, O'Connor, Estrada

So where, exactly, does that leave the Nats room to ponder new players, either by free agency or trade? Obviously, first base needs to be upgraded, but the team is on the hook for both Johnson ($5.5M) and Young ($5M) at a significant rate. They both come off the books at the end of 2009, but can/will the Nats eat either of these contracts?

There's a lot of speculation right now, about what the Nats may or may not do this off-season about upgrading the offense next season. Adam Dunn is the rumor that won't go away. But the bottom line may be: nothing. The infield is set, unless they eat either Johnson or Young's contract. They have three candidates for the second base job as it is, and Belliard is the back up all over the infield. If they re-sign Harris, the outfield is set too, with Wily Mo Pena blocking up a roster spot for someone. So if the offense improves, it will probably come from the internal players improvement.

As for pitching, well, here is the glaring spot that the major league roster needs help. Yes, there's a lot of good young pitching in the farm system, but someone has to pitch until then. Even if you pencil in Redding (not a given) with 24-year old Lannan, 22-year old Balestar and then 22-year old Martis, there's another spot open.

The GM said Jordan Zimermann will compete for the spot, but is that fair? He has just 187 innings pitched in 38 minor league games between Vermont, Potomac and Harrisburg. Granted, his 2.74 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 205/65 strikeout-to-walk rate all look pretty good. But will that translate into a spot in the opening day rotation? Other candidates are Hill, O'Connor, Mock, Bergmann, Clippard and Detwiler. Mock and Bergamnn will probably be pressed into duty in the bullpen, leaving the competition pretty thin.

This leaves the Nats with the option of filling a spot with a veteran if they so choose, much like they did this year with Odalis Perez. Who might that candidate be? Well, it won't be Sabathia, Dempster, Lowe or Burnett, that's for sure. There's no way the Nats spring for someone that will take a multi-year contract. Some guy at SI.com says the Nats will sign Pedro Martinez! Fat chance. IF the Nats decide to sign a free agent pitcher, it will very likely be of the bargain basement one-year variety right before--or during--spring training, a la Odalis. Among the group that might be left could be Randy Wolf, Brett Tomko, Steve Traschel, Jason Jennings, etc.

Not very inspiring, but any of these fine gentlemen would allow Zimmermann, Detwiler, et al to get some more minor league time under their belts. Remember, all these scenarios envision Redding re-signing, AND Balestar AND Martis in the rotation. That, my friends, is an awful lot of conjecture.

And the bullpen, for better or worse, looks set. Hanrahan will close. Rivera and Hinckley will set-up. Bergmann, Mock, Shell and Colome pick up the slack. Estrada and a host of others in AAA Syracuse (enjoy April up there fellas) will be at the ready. It's entirely possible the team signs a moderately priced free agent to help out. Someone like Jeremy Affeldt would probably be too expensive, but would be a great addition. He's a quality lefty that could also close should Hanrahan falter. But the market will be flooded with free agent relivers looking for work.

An objective eye into the 40-man roster sees very little opportunity for drastic improvement. The team has stated on many occasions that their primary objective is to re-build the minor leagues and strive for the future. So far, they've stuck to "The Plan". Will this off-season bring deviation to The Plan? GM Jim Bowden has gone on record saying he'd like to acquire a middle-of-the-order slugger that meets the team's stated goals. Here's what he told season ticket holders last September as part of a public Q&A:

"Ideally we'd like to have a controlled player, in his 20s, that can be part of the solution."

Wouldn't every team like that player? In the same widely speculative article that MLB.com's Bill Ladson published yesterday about Adam Dunn, he also mentioned Prince Fielder and Matt Hollday as possible trade candidates. Fielder is arbitration eligiable, but generally fits the description above, while Holliday is only under contract for 2009 -- basically a rent-a-player, much like Alfonso Soriano.

So as the GM meetings evolve into the winter meetings, and the holidays give way to spring training, ask yourself this: What has the team and GM done today to make the 2009 major league roster better than the 2008 model? The answer, quite possibly, could be absolutely nothing.

Photo by Getty Images

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween, Nats Style!

Courtesy of Cheryl Nichols

Courtesy Danielle and Denise Kloke

Courtesy Kristen Hudak (We've Got Heart)

We'll see how the players will dress up next week at the unveiling of the new uniforms! The Nats will unveil their new jerseys for next season on Thursday, Nov. 6 at noon at the ESPN Zone. Manny Acta, Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge will be there and after the jersey presentation, there will be a 30-minute autograph session. The event is open to the public.

Very Scary!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nats Waive Cordero; Pena Re-ups

From the Washington Nationals this afternoon:

NATIONALS OUTRIGHT THREE PLAYERS TO SYRACUSE, ANNOUNCE WILY MO PENA HAS EXERCISED OPTION ON 2009 CONTRACT

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. The Nationals also announced they have rejected a $5 million club option on outfielder Wily Mo Pena, who subsequently exercised a $2 million player option for the 2009 season. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcements.

Pena, 26, has batted .241 with 10 doubles, 10 home runs and 32 RBI in 101 games with the Nationals since being acquired from Boston on August 17, 2007 in exchange for a player to be named (first baseman Chris Carter). He is a .253 hitter with 77 home runs and 225 RBI in 560 big league games spanning seven seasons with Cincinnati, Boston and Washington.

The 26 year-old Cordero pitched in only six games last season and had season-ending right-shoulder surgery on July 8. Cordero’s 128 career saves rank second on the franchise’s all-time list behind only Jeff Reardon (152). He departs having pocketed 113 of the 157 saves recorded by the Nationals since 2005.

Wagner, 26, did not pitch in the big leagues in 2008 while working his way back from June 5, 2007 SLAP repair surgery on his right shoulder. He is 11-9 with 30 holds and a 4.79 ERA in 148 games with Cincinnati and Washington.

In 2008, the 29 year-old Orr batted .253 with seven RBI in 49 games in
his only season with the Nationals.

BOTTOM(FEEDER) LINE: This was totally predicted. Cordero couldn't return to the team for any kind of guaranteed money with his injury, and after Bowden told the media before Cordero about their intention to non-tender him, Cordero certainly wasn't going to do any favors for the team. Hopefully he gets healthy and someone gives him a fair shot, but I think it'll be into the season, just like Freddie Garcia this year, before someone signs him.

Wagner never fully recovered from his labrum surgery, like most who have it done. I will be shocked if he's ever a useful MLB player again. Orr will sign somewhere for organizational depth.

Pena, however, is another story. The Nats are stuck with him, and he with them. If it really was the injury keeping him from producing last year, the $2M salary won't look so bad. Then, the Nats will give him a two-year, $5M per deal just like Young and Guzman. I kid. Seriously though, if he still looks terrible in spring training, it'll be interesting to see if the Nats eat his salary, since outfield is one place on the team that they actually have some talent, and it'll be tough to carry Pena's dead weight all season, unless they hide him like they did Meathook this summer.

Photos (c) C. Nichols 2008.

Interesting Dates to Keep In Mind

Doing some light reading this morning I ended up at Cot's Baseball Contracts. There's some very interesting stuff in this website about player, manager and front office contracts. Also, he's published a timeline of important off-season dates, which I'll excerpt from here.

Close of 2008 World Series--The day after the end of the World Series marks the beginning of the 15-day period during which eligible players may elect free agency or demand a trade. Former club retains exclusive negotiating rights until 15-day filing period expires. A player who has filed for free agency may engage in general discussions with other clubs but may not discuss contract details or sign with them until the filing period ends. CBA, Article XX (B).

4th day after 2008 World Series
--Last date to request waivers on draft-excluded players until 25 days prior to the opening of the 2009 season. MLR 10 (e) (6).

16th day after 2008 World Series
--First day Major League free agents may negotiate and sign with a club other than their former club. Article XX (B)(2)(c).

November 3-6, 2008
--General managers' meetings, Dana Point, California.

November 10, 2008
--End of waiver period (August 1 - November 10). Waivers secured on or after August 1, 2008, expire at 5 p.m. EST. MLR 10 (c)(4).

November 11, 2008
--Beginning of new waiver period (November 11, 2008 - February 15, 2008). Waivers secured on or after Nov. 11, 2008, remain in effect until February 15, 2009. Exception: special waivers.

November 20, 2008--Deadline day for clubs to file reserve lists for Major League club and all Minor League levels. Last date to make an off-season outright assignment of an injured player to the Minor Leagues if the player does not meet the requirements listed in Article XIX (C) (b) of the CBA.

December 1, 2008
--Last date (midnight EST) for former club to offer salary arbitration to ranked XX(B) free agents in order to be eligible for compensation if those free agents sign elsewhere.

December 7, 2008
--Last date (midnight EST) for player who declared XX(B) free agency to accept offer of arbitration from his former club.

December 8, 2008
--Deadline (5 p.m. EST) to outright a player off the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft.

December 8-11, 2008--Winter Meetings, Las Vegas.

December 11, 2008--Rule 5 Draft.

December 12, 2008
--Last date (midnight EST) to tender 2009 contracts to unsigned players.

January 5-15, 2009
--Salary arbitration filing. CBA, Article VI (F) (5).

January 19 or 20, 2009
--Exchange of salary arbitration figures between MLB Labor Relations Committee and MLB Players Association.

February 1-21, 2009
--Salary arbitration hearings, Phoenix. CBA, Article VI (F) (5).

February 14, 2009
--Voluntary reporting date for pitchers, catchers & injured players (moved up from Feb. 20 for WBC). CBA, Article XIV (A).

February 15, 2009
--End of waiver period (November 11 – February 15). Waivers secured on or after November 11, 2008, expire at 5 p.m. EST.

February 16, 2009
--Beginning of new waiver period (February 16 – May 4). Outright waivers secured on or after February 16 remain in effect for 7 days or until 5 p.m. EST, May 4, 2009 (the 30th day of the season), whichever is earlier. Optional waivers secured on or after February 16 remain in effect until 5 p.m. EST April 28, 2009. Exception: special waivers. MLR 10 (f).

February 17, 2009
--Voluntary reporting date for other players (moved up from Feb. 25 for WBC).

February 22, 2009
--Mandatory reporting date. CBA, Article XIV (A) (moved up from March 5 for WBC).

March 2-11, 2009
--Clubs may renew contracts of unsigned players. Paragraph 10 (a) of Uniform Player Contract.

March 15, 2009
--Last day to trade a player who has exercised his right to demand a trade before he is declared an unrestricted free agent. (A player has the right to demand a trade if he signed a multi-year contract before October 23, 2006, then was subsequently traded.)

March 18, 2009--Last day (by 2 p.m. EST) to place a player on unconditional release waivers and pay only 30 days’ termination pay. CBA, Article IX (B). (For split contracts, the Major League rate of termination pay is owed if Unconditional Release waivers are requested after 2 p.m. EST. However, the requirement for split contract termination pay does not apply for players who may not be assigned to the minor leagues without their consent and for players selected in the preceding Rule 5 draft.)

April 1, 2009--Last day (by 2 p.m. EST) to request unconditional release waivers on a player without having to pay his full 2009 salary. (Only 45 days’ termination pay is due.) CBA, Article IX (B).

April 5, 2009--Official opening of 2009 season. All clubs must reduce their active rosters to 25 players before April 5, 2009.

May 4, 2009--End of waiver period (February 16 – May 4). Waivers secured on or after February 16, 2009, expire at 5 p.m. EST.

May 5, 2009--Beginning of new waiver period (May 5 – July 31). Waivers secured on or after May 5 (the 31st day of the season) remain in effect through 5 p.m. EST July 31. MLR 10 (c)(4). After May 5, outright assignments to the minor leagues may be made only with outright waivers in effect.

May 15, 2009--Earliest date a club may re-sign a player it unconditionally released between midnight Aug. 31, 2008 and April 5, 2009. MLR 8 (i) (2).

June, 2009--First Year Player Draft. MLR 4.

June 16, 2009--First day a club may trade a player who was signed after the expiration of the 15-day free agency election period. A Club may assign the contract prior to this date for other player contracts and/or a cash consideration of no more than $50,000 if the player gives his written consent. CBA, Article XX (B) (6).

July 14, 2009--All Star Game, Busch Stadium, St. Louis.

July 31, 2009--Deadline (4 p.m. EST) for trading players without waivers in effect. MLR 10 (b)(1). End of waiver period (May 5 – July 31). Waivers secured on or after May 5, 2009, expire at 5 p.m. EST. Major League Waivers in effect between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. EST may only be used for optional assignments.

August 1, 2009--Beginning of new waiver period (August 1 – October 4). Trade waivers secured on or after August 1, 2009, remain in effect until 5 p.m. EST, October 4, 2009 (the last day of the 2009 season). Outright waivers secured on or after August 1, 2009, remain in effect until midnight EST, August 31, 2009. MLR 10(c)(4)(iv). Players may be traded only after Major League waivers have been secured in the current waiver period. MLR 10 (b) (1).

August 15, 2009--Last date (midnight EST) to sign players selected in June Rule 4 Draft, except for college seniors, who may sign at any time.Last date to bring player up for "full trial" to avoid draft-excluded status.MLR 6 (e).

August 31, 2009--Post-season eligibility lists are established at midnight. MLR 40. To be eligible, a player must be a bona fide member of a qualifying team on Aug. 31 and must remain a bona fide member until the end of the applicable post-season series. Any player unconditionally released between midnight August 31, 2008, and Opening Day of the 2009 season may not be re-signed to a Major League contract by the releasing club until May 15, 2009. MLR 8 (i) (2).

September 1, 2009--Active Major League rosters expand from 25 to 40 players.

October 4, 2009--Close of the 2008 regular season.

December 7-10, 2009--Winter Meetings, Indianapolis.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More Front Office Hires

The Nationals today named former big leaguer Devon White Special Assistant, Player Development and Pat Corrales Special Consultant to Senior VP and GM.

Here's the pertinent info from the press release:

DEVON WHITE NAMED SPECIAL ASSISTANT, PLAYER DEVELOPMENT & PAT CORRALES NAMED SPECIAL CONSULTANT TO SENIOR VP AND GM

The Washington Nationals today named Devon White as Special Assistant, Player Development and Pat Corrales as Special Consultant to the Senior Vice President and General Manager. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made these announcements.

White, 45, spent last season as the Nationals’ roving outfield coordinator, his initial assignment in coaching after retiring from his 17-year playing career following the 2001 season. A three-time All-Star outfielder, White earned seven Gold Gloves during his career, a total surpassed by only 11 outfielders in the history of the game. He stole 30 or more bases five times and won three World Series Championships.

The 67-year-old Corrales begins his new appointment after serving as Manny Acta’s bench coach for the past two seasons. The upcoming campaign will be Corrales’ 51st in professional baseball, including 40 seasons as a big league manager, coach or player. Prior to joining the Nationals, he spent 17 seasons as a member of Bobby Cox’s staff in Atlanta, the last eight as bench coach.

BOTTOM(FEEDER) LINE: Well, no one can say the Nats don't have enough input from baseball people in the front office. They must have one of the largest staffs of consultants and special assistants in the majors. White was a defensive whiz in center field, and presumably will will work with the Nats outfielders in that regard, along with new first base coach Marquis Grissom. Corrales is a good soldier, and he'll be another sounding board for GM Jim Bowden.

With all the entrenching going on in the front office around Bowden, it's becoming evident he won't be going anywhere before the beginning of next season.

Monday, October 27, 2008

In Case You Missed It

Friday MLB.com announced that former bench coach Pat Corrales will be a "special consultant" to the club for 2009. Specific duties were not elaborated on, and an official announcement would come "as early as next [this] week," according to the story.

Also, the Nationals are scheduled to unveil their new uniform modifications Thursday, November 6 at the ESPN Zone in downtown DC. Preliminarily scheduled to appear are Manager Manny Acta, Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge, though again, no formal word from the team was provided.

Stay tuned for details on both of these topics. Let's hope this isn't the biggest news of the Nationals off-season.

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Nats Name Coaching Staff

This just in:

NATIONALS COMPLETE 2009 COACHING STAFF


The Washington Nationals today announced that bench coach Jim Riggleman, first base coach Marquis Grissom, third base coach Pat Listach, hitting coach Rick Eckstein and bullpen coach Randy Knorr will join returning pitching coach Randy St. Claire on the club’s 2009 coaching staff. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden and Manager Manny Acta made the joint announcement.

Riggleman, 55, adds nearly eight seasons of managerial experience to the Nationals’ bench. Riggleman, who has skippered San Diego (1992-94), Chicago-NL (1995-00) and Seattle (interim, 2008), returns to the National League, where he has either managed or served on a coaching staff in 14 of the last 20 seasons. Riggleman’s managerial career is highlighted by the 1998 Cubs, who went 90-73 (.552) to claim the NL Wild Card.

-snip-

The 41 year-old Grissom accepts his first job coaching at the professional level and returns to the organization that drafted him in the third round of the 1988 First-Year Player Draft. In 17 big league seasons with Montreal (1989-94), Atlanta (1995-96), Cleveland (1997), Milwaukee (1998-2000), Los Angeles-NL (2001-02) and San Francisco (2003-05), Grissom batted .272 (2251-for-8275) with 386 doubles, 227 home runs, 967 RBI and 429 stolen bases and garnered four Gold Glove citations in center field (1993-96).

-snip-

Listach—who won the 1992 American League Rookie of the Year award after hitting .290 with 54 stolen bases for Milwaukee—joins the Nationals after spending the previous three seasons compiling a 231-189 (.550) record managing in the upper levels of Chicago-NL’s system. In 2008, Listach’s Iowa Cubs went 83-59 (.585), claimed first place in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League’s American Northern Division and he was named PCL Manager of the Year. Listach, 41, managed the Cubs’ Double-A affiliate to winning records in both 2007 (Tennessee of the Southern League) and 2006 (West Tenn of the Southern League) and coached in the Arizona Fall League in 2001.

-snip-

A September 2008 addition to the Nationals’ coaching staff, Eckstein has established relationships with various Nationals, including Ryan Zimmerman, Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes and Cristian Guzman. While serving as Columbus’ hitting coach last season in the Triple-A International League, Eckstein gained invaluable exposure to young hitters such as Jesus Flores, Roger Bernadina, Emilio Bonifacio and Alberto Gonzalez. Eckstein—who served as Davey Johnson’s bench coach during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing—has coached in the Nationals’ chain four of the last five seasons, and draws on three seasons of experience as a Triple-A hitting coach.

-snip-

Knorr, 39, returns to Washington in a familiar role, as he served on Frank Robinson’s coaching staff as bullpen coach for the final three-plus months of the 2006 campaign. Knorr is fresh off guiding Potomac to the Single-A Carolina League championship, which came in his fourth season managing in Washington’s chain. During his three-year stint with Potomac, he has managed numerous current Nationals pitchers, including John Lannan, Garrett Mock and Shairon Martis.

BOTTOM(FEEDER) LINE: All in all, it's hard to argue with many of the choices. It's Grissom's first coaching gig, and you suppose in addition to coaching first base he'll work withthe outfielders and base running. Obviously, Jim Riggleman brings a wealth of experience to the bench for Manager Manny Acta. Listach has had much success managing in the Cubs minor league system. Randy Knorr is solid as the bullpen coach, and his success at Potomac last year certainly won't hurt his credentials. And the organization loves Rick Eckstein, and he also served as Davey Johnson's bench coach for the Olympic team last summer. Hard to argue with Davey Johnson.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Nats Add Another Young Gun to Scouting Department

Here's the press release from the Nats:

NATIONALS HIRE DERIC LADNIER AS NATIONAL CROSSCHECKER AND SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO GENERAL MANAGER

The Washington Nationals today announced the hiring of Deric Ladnier as a National Crosschecker and Special Assistant to the General Manager. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcement.

Deric is among the elite talent evaluators in baseball and we are excited to add him to our staff,” Bowden said. “Deric has a proven track record in the industry, encompassing both scouting and player development.”

An 18-year veteran in scouting and player development, Ladnier joins the Nationals after serving the last nine seasons as Senior Director of Scouting with the Kansas City Royals. During his tenure with the Royals, he oversaw eight drafts while restructuring and stocking the organization’s player development system with prospects such as 24-year-old Alex Gordon (Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year and named J.G. Spink Award winner as the Topps/Minor League Player of the Year in 2006), 25-year-old Zack Greinke (Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year in 2003), 25-year-old Luke Hochevar (first-overall selection in 2006 First-Year Player Draft), 22-year-old Billy Butler (named best power hitter and second-best prospect in Royals organization by Baseball America entering 2006), 27-year-old Mike Aviles (seventh-round selection in 2003 First-Year Player Draft, hit .325 in 102 games this season and is candidate for American League Rookie of the Year), 20-year-old Mike Moustakas (second-overall selection in 2007 First-Year Player Draft, hit 22 home runs in first full professional season), and 18-year-old Eric Hosmer (third-overall selection in 2008 First-Year Player Draft).

Ladnier began his scouting career as an Area Supervisor with the Atlanta Braves in 1991 and advanced within the organization until he was named Director of Minor League Operations in 1996, serving as a Regional Supervisor and Assistant Director of Scouting and Player Development along the way. During each of his eight seasons with the Braves, they were recognized as having one of the top six player development systems in baseball as ranked by industry-expert Baseball America. They were credited with the top minor league talent pool in four of those seasons.

The 44-year-old began his career in baseball as an infielder in the Royals organization. He was selected in the eighth round of the 1985 First-Year Player Draft and remained with the Royals until his seven-year playing career was cut short by a shoulder injury in 1991. Ladnier played collegiately at the University of Mississippi.

BOTTOM(FEEDER) LINE: Here's another bright young baseball mind to add to the collection of talent pooling underneath general manager Jim Bowden. Ladnier got his start in Atlanta, which makes this a Stan Kasten hire. Hopefully this is more evidence of Kasten's deeper involvement with -- and commitment to -- the organization, keeping the conspiracy theorists at bay this week.

Ladnier has a good track record as Director of Scouting with the Royals, and has been on the "hot list" of future GMs in the game.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Shameless Self-Promotion

For those of you interested in what The Hockey News recently described as "The Most Exciting Team in Hockey", I have started a Washington Capitals blog, cleverly titled Capitals News Network.

I have been a fan of the Caps since their inception, and wrote a couple of game stories last year for DC Sports Box, so I figured that made me qualified enough to start a blog. It's pretty 'nuts and bolts' right now, but I'll be doing game previews/reviews, features and community news.

So if you Rock the Red, click on the link and check it out.

And don't worry, it won't interfere with the content in this space.


Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Roster News

Text of press release issued today about Nationals roster moves:


NATIONALS OUTRIGHT RYAN LANGERHANS & LAVALE SPEIGNER TO SYRACUSE, CHARLIE MANNING CLAIMED BY CARDINALS

The Washington Nationals today announced that outfielder Ryan Langerhans and right-handed pitcher Lavale Speigner cleared waivers and were outrighted to Syracuse of the Triple-A International League. The Nationals also announced that left-handed pitcher Charlie Manning was claimed off waivers by the St. Louis Cardinals. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made these announcements.

The Nationals now have 36 players on their 40-man roster, not including five players on the 60-Day Disabled List.

Langerhans, 28, batted .234 with three home runs and 12 RBI in 73 games with Washington this season, and hit .310 with three home runs and 31 RBI in 62 games with Triple-A Columbus. Speigner, 28, appeared in seven games with the Nationals, going 0-1 with an 11.25 ERA, and went 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA in a combined 35 games (one start) with Columbus and Double-A Harrisburg. Manning, 29, had a 1-3 record with a 5.14 ERA in 57 relief outings with the Nationals, after beginning the season with Columbus where he had six saves and a 1.95 ERA in 19 appearances.

BOTTOM(FEEDER) LINE: Of course Manning would get claimed. He's left-handed and has a pulse. Langerhans and Speigner are solidly in the category of "organizational depth" right now, and hopefully will have a solid season in up-state New York next summer, because if either one of them are in DC for any extended period of time, that means the Nats have been killed by injuries yet again.