Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Stadium Deal -- My Take

I tend to agree with El Gran -- stadiums do not provide net economic benefits to a city (I'm sure SuperNova will make a cogent argument why we're wrong, and I look forward to it). They provide other, intangible benefits, though, such as civic pride in the teams that play in them, and a place for citizens to come together and experience community. To me, it should be enough that the city finds that those benefits are important and worthwhile to spend the money on them.

Ideally, the stadium should be financed as much as possible by private funding. But if that can't be done, then the public money should be raised as much as possible from those who will directly benefit from the stadium, such as the fans who go to the games and the team(s) that use it. My review of this deal seems to accomplish that, in that a good portion of the money is raised from taxes on tickets, concessions, and activity directly related to the use of the stadium. The only component that is not is the tax on large businesses, which apparently was cut back a bit today. That also does not seem unreasonable to me. In the end, I think the D.C. stadium deal is a very reasonable and fair approach to the solving the problem.

Arguing that the stadium will create economic benefits is to me a case of wanting to have it all. Like initiation of recycling programs 15 years ago, many locales said the recycling would pay for itself or make money based on the reuse of materials like paper, aluminum, etc. The reality is that it is a net cost to the locale to recycle. But to me, if recycling is the right thing to do, then the community should incur reasonable cost to do it. Why do we always want to have our cake and eat it, too?

Council Approves Stadium

Youppi!.

I'm selfish, I admit it.

So, I was reading semi-frequent commentator El Gran's blog today and I saw that he is anti-public funding for the stadium and hates that people make untrue arguments that baseball will help the city, etc. and wishes someone would come out and say:

"I don't care if it's a bad deal for DC. I want baseball here. Baseball is important to me. If it costs the city tons of money it doesn't bother me, because I'll gain a lot from having a team here and I won't be cognizant of where the money was being lost from anyway"

Well, I'll go you one further Gran. I live in Northern Virginia, probably 10 minutes from where the NoVa stadium was proposed to be. I was soooooo against that. Well, for one, my only altruistic reason: baseball belongs in DC, not the suburbs. But, frankly, I didn't want my commute affected. I didn't want my taxes affected. I didn't want the horrendous economic results/neighborhood blight in my neck of the woods (even if that scenario was supposedly going to be more private funding, they would have found a way to get a bunch of public funds). There I've said it. Everyone with any business/economics education knows that bringing teams in and paying for stadiums with public funds is an economy killer and sucks for the locals. But now, I get a baseball team nearby that I can love from the start...and I don't have to pay anything more than the price of my ticket.

You want honesty? You've got it.

D.C. City Council Meeting

Can be watched live here, now.

Meet Gary Bennett

As the front page of the Washington Post sports section will tell you, the Nats signed Gary Bennett to serve as their backup catcher in 2005. Mr. Bennett had recently refused a minor league assignment, so his obvious next stop was the Nats.

Now you may be concerned with his career .645 OPS. Sure, I am too. But look at how hot he's been in the last 7 days! A .444 OBP! Good gravy, if he could just keep that up, we may have something here.

Don Money may have some experience with Bennett - he came up through the Phillies organization. He later made a brief appearance with Dexy's Mets, where he excelled - a perfect 1.000 OBP and a 1.000 SLG! This shows you what kind of decision making is going on in the Mets organization; they got rid of a guy on a hot streak like that.

Bennett also managed to scrape up a .260 or so average in his time in Colorado, which (according to Baseball Prospectus) translates to a .437 average in the Arlington Men's Monday Night C League in which I play. In fact, Mr. Bennett, if you want to hang out at the Crystal City Sports Pub, we can probably get you on a team. Make sure you go to the Sports Pub, though. The Crystal City Restaurant might get you in trouble with Coach Robinson's curfew.

Hall of Fame vote--first timers

I have been reading a bunch of things today talking about the first timers on the HofF ballot and who should make it and who shouldn't. Is it me or is this just a case of nothing better to write about? Isn't the list of first-timers: one? Wade Boggs and that's it.

The most ridiculous statements have been made about Darryl Strawberry and Willie McGee, especially the former. Let's get this straight, Darryl Strawberry may have wasted his talent, but he will not lose a hall of fame bust because the voters will punish him for off-the-field activities.

Here's why Darryl Strawberry and Willie McGee will not make the hall, in plain stats.

Strawberry: .259 BA/.357 OBP/.505 SLG
HOF Standards and HOF Monitor are Jamesian creations (I believe) to show how a player stacks up with prior Hall of Famers and how likely he is to make it, respectively. The average HOF Standard score for a HOFer is 50, and a player is HOF likely if his monitor score is over 100.
Strawberry's Standard score is 29.6 and his Monitor score is 56.5. A 56.5! I'd try to tell you if there are any current HOFers lower, but baseball-reference's list doesn't go lower than 80. To give you an idea of others higher than Straw....Boggs is a staggering 268. But more common players whose scores destroy Straw? Benito Santiago: 93; Mo Vaughn: 86; Dante Bichette: 82.

In addition, Strawberry really only had 9 full seasons, so he gets no longevity bonuses; he led the league in homers once, RBIs never, OPS and OPS+ only once and 3 times total in top 5, OBP never better than 9th, MVPs none, top 10 four times, SLG once and 3 times total in top 5.
That is not a Hall of Fame resume.

Willie McGee: .295 BA/.333 OBP/.396 SLG; HOF Standards: 22.9; Monitor: 77.5.

McGee had one quite good season: 1985, in which he won the MVP. Nothing dominant about that season, but yes, he does have an MVP. What happened for the rest of his career other than 1985? 3 times an all-star, 2 Gold Gloves, 1 batting title. Outside 1985, never in the top 10 in his league for OBP, SLG, OPS, Runs, RBI or times on base. Now, I was never in the top 10 in those stats in the National League either. But I'm not on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Oh, and in the list of "Top 10 similar batters career-wise" to McGee (on the bottom of his baseball-reference page), not one is a Hall of Famer.

Boggs, on the other hand, while mostly a singles hitter is clearly a first-ballot Hall of Famer. His 268 Monitor number is in the top-20 all-time and if he didn't make the Hall, the next highest player on that list not to make the Hall would be Ryne Sandberg (assuming he misses this time, but I think he'll make it) at 157, then Jim Rice3 at 146, and Don Mattingly at 133.

In addition his overall stats (.328 BA/.415 OBP/.443 SLG) are things voters love: 3010 hits, 12 all-star appearances, 2 gold gloves, 5 times led BA and 11 in top 10; and stat guys like: 1513 runs (surprisingly over 100 runs 7 straight years at the start of his career and then never again), OPS leader twice, 6 time OBP leader, 11 in top 10, 8 times on base leader, walk leader twice (even led the league in IBB 6 times). In addition, he led the league in doubles twice and was in the top 3 seven times, so it wasn't totally singles.

So, I'd be shocked if Boggs wasn't the one and only first-timer to make it this year.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Go To Hades, Chris Kahrl!

So Chris Kahrl generally pans the Guillen trade (subscription required ... and enthusiastically suggested) and contends that, among other things, "Guillen's a temperamental rental who might just be the straw that breaks the back of an equally temperamental (if more crotchety) Frank Robinson."

Well, Mr. Senator Kahrl, if that is your real name (everyone knows that all the cool Karls spell their name without an "H") I'll have you know that Washingtonians love a good dugout argument. We love the kind of internecine battles that really characterized this town while the Democrats were in charge. I mean, what's a team around here if you don't fight with your teammates? Denny Hastert is boring us enough with this Republican unity thing. Let's get a little squabbling around here! A few leaks! It'll be great! Maybe even something juicy enough make it on to Wonkette!

The Vote (or maybe not)

Latest Post story on the D.C. Council vote tomorrow, which looks like it will be a non-event, but not in a good way. The mayor's plan has 6 supporters and 5 opponents, with 2 on the fence, Linda Cropp and Jim Graham. Graham used to be a supporter, but wants more guaranteed money for libraries. The key part of the story: "[Cropp] said she will continue negotiating until the council takes its final vote, which could come Dec. 14 or 21." In other words, nothing will be decided tomorrow.

Minors are very minor

As big a baseball geek as I am, I don't make it a common practice to follow the minor league developments...but, since we are diving full-on into talking about the Nats, is there any worry that they are inheriting essentially NO farm system? Only one of their minor leaguers is even on MLB's list of top 50 prospects and he just underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss all of 2005 and maybe more.

Seems to me like the new owners will have to completely re-vamp the scouting system at the same time that they are trying to build a team.

On an unrelated point, espn.com is asking which streak (linking that is too easy) is more impressive: Cal Ripken's consecutive game streak or Brett Favre's. Is there really any doubt about that one? Last I checked, a) Cal pretty much sucked his last few years and b) Cal never had 300 pounds on top of him on a regular basis.


Saturday, November 27, 2004

How Will RFK Play

This may be a fool's errand, but I thought there may be a way to quantify how RFK will play as a ballpark in the next two years. I figured that you could compare the way RFK played when it housed the Texas Rangers nee Washington Senators from 1962-1971 to the ballparks still in use. However, there are very few ballparks from that era still in use. Here are the candidates for the stadiums in use in the American League during that era:

Yankee Stadium
Fenway Park
Angel Stadium
Dodger Stadium (home of the Angels 1962-65)

You can pretty much throw out Yankee Stadium, since it was renovated in the 1970's and changed its dimensions quite a bit. Angel Stadium has gone through a number of renovations through the years, and plays as a somewhat different park.

I think the two best comparisons are Dodger Stadium and Fenway Park (which remains as it was in 1962-71, dimension-wise).

So I first compiled the Park Factors for RFK and Fenway from 1962-1971. Fenway averaged a 106.1 Batter's Park Factor during that time, while RFK average a 97.4 Park Factor. The RFK/Fenway ratio was thus 91.80 (97.4 / 106.1)

Then I compiled the Park Factors for Dodger Stadium as an AL stadium (it played slightly different for the Angels and Dodgers) for the 1962-1966 period. The average Dodger Stadium Batter's Park Factor was 94.8, while during the same 4 years, RFK's was 99.5, meaning that the RFK/Dodger Stadium ratio was 105.0 (99.5/94.8).

Finally, I adjusted the Park Factors for Fenway and Dodger Stadium (NL, obviously) in 2000-2004 using the RFK/Fenway and RFK/Dodger Stadium ratios. The RFK/Fenway ratio produced an RFK Batter's Park Factor of 93.9. while the RFK/Dodger Stadium ratio produced an RFK Batter's Park Factor of 96.8.

Whether the ultimate Park Factor is 93.9 or 96.8, RFK will clearly favor pitchers. A 94 park factor would be the lowest in the NL except for Petco Park and Great American Ballpark. A 97 would put it in a group of the 5 or 6 best pitcher's parks in the NL.

Just for kicks, the 1966-1971 Anaheim Stadium average Batter's Park Factor was 95.6, while RFK was 96. The RFK/Anaheim ratio would thus be 100.3. Using Anaheim's 2002-04 average Batter's Park Factor of 96.3, the RFK/Anaheim ration would put RFK's Batter Park Factor at 96.6. [I used Anaheim's 2002-2004 factors rather than 2000-2004 because Anaheim's 2001 factor was screwy at 107. It's never been even in the neighborhood of that level before.]

Now before the real sabermetricians among you chop off my head for comparing Park Factors across years, selectively chopping off 2000 and 2001 for Anaheim Stadium, and any number of other statistical mortal sins, this is just a thought experiment for quantifying how RFK will play as a park. And this analysis buttresses the old eyeball exam of RFK's baseball dimensions - 335 down the lines, 385 in the power alleys, and 410 to dead center. A big park by today's standards.

Nats Finances - A First Look

One useful thing to do is to analyze the potential revenue of the Nats in DC. Knowing the Nats' revenues will allow us to judge the ability of the team to compete in the NL East right away. This analysis one is going to have to be based on old data - the Commissioner's 2001 disclosure of financial data to Congress. But here goes.

National Revenues - These are the revenues shared among all 30 MLB clubs from the ESPN and Fox contracts and other national MLB revenue. In 2001, that figure was $24.4 million. Let's assume that figure has grown about 10% over the last three years (about the level of inflation), and is now $27 million.

Gate Receipts - Tony Tavares has expected average ticket prices to run about $25 per ticket. At an estimated 2.4 million fans (30,000 per game), that would equal $60 million in 2005 revenues.

Other Local Operating Revenue - Parking and concessions and in-park advertising generate additional revenues. I assume that the Nationals will generate revenues from these sources commensurate with the rest of MLB (although I'm not sure what the parking situation is for 2005- the city may keep those revenues). Call this another $24 million - a conservative 10% below the 2001 average for all 30 teams.

Local Media Revenue - This is the revenue from local broadcasting, cable and radio contracts. The Nats are likely to sign deals with, for example, WBDC or WDCA to broadcast 40-50 games, while allowing Comcast Sports Net (or a new regional sports network) to televise the rest. For an insight into the amount of money that will generate, we can look at similarly sized TV markets. The markets closest in size to DC (sans Baltimore) are Dallas and Atlanta. Atlanta is kind of funny because TBS, which is a national cable TV network, broadcasts 75 of its games. But we can still use these markets as a conservative measure of the potential media revenues. In 2001, Dallas and Atlanta averaged about $23 million in local media revenue. That seems like a reasonable starting point.

Altogether, these four sources would generate about $134 million in 2005 revenues for the Nats. That's comparable to the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals in 2001, and would put the Nats in the top 10 franchises in terms of revenues.

There are reasons to believe these numbers are conservative (e.g., the DC fan base is wealthier than other fan bases), but they seem to support the notion that the Nats have some room for reasonable expansion of the payroll (perhaps to $70 million or so) when the new ownership group takes over. I agree with the concept that payroll should not shoot up right now, because the new ownership group should be afforded the opportunity to build the team how they would like. Hopefully, they will like high OBPs and low WHIPs. But with a new stadium coming hopefully for 2008 and a new ownership group in place, the revenues available to the Nats suggest that they could field a very competitive team in the next few years.

Some Nats Bright Spots

Going through the roster as I did, I thought I'd fill your Saturday (or maybe Sunday or Monday, whenever you get around to reading this) with some hidden gems on the Nats' roster, as you familiarize yourself with our new DC9 (don't like that link? How about this DC9 link?). In no particular order, here are three:

(1) 30-year-old Jamey Carroll. Jamey made it into 102 games with the Ex-Expos last year and sported a .378 OBP, with 32 walks and only 21 strikeouts in 218 at bats.

(2) Luis Ayala is a helluva reliever. He appeared in 81 games last year, pitching 90 1/3 innings with a 2.69 ERA with 15 walks and 63 strikeouts. By Jeeves, we've got a reliever with a 4-to-1 K/BB ratio! How he was pinned with 12 losses, I'll never know. White Sox fan as I am, I'd never heard of this guy, but he's apparently good.

(3) Chad Cordero can pitch a little bit, too - 83 strikeouts and a 2.94 ERA in 82 innings. Not a big fan of the 43 walks, though, Chad.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Salary Thoughts

In the very same report announcing that the Nationals have sold 15,000 full-season tickets, Barry Svrluga (buy a vowel, please, Barry) notes that "The team's budget will be around $50 million, sources said, nearly 20 percent more than it was in Montreal."

That put me on considering the amount of spending room the Nationals have for the upcoming season. I figure this year's payroll thusly:

PlayerEst. Salary (K)
Tony Armas $2,700*
Luis Ayala $350
Francis Beltran $350
Chad Cordero $350
Zach Day $800
Scott Downs $400
Livan Hernandez $6,000
Joey Eischen $800
Tomo Okha $2,700*
Jon Rauch $350
Jon Patterson $350
Claudio Vargas $350
Brian Schneider $2,000*
Vinny Castilla $3,100
Cristian Guzman $4,200
Nick Johnson $2,500*
Jose Vidro $7,500
Brad Wilkerson $3,500*
Jose Guillen $3,500
Termel Sledge $350
Jamey Carroll $350
Endy Chavez $800
Total $43,300
* denotes estimated arbitration salary.

That leaves about $7 million to spend. The Nats need a backup catcher to Brian Schneider, and they can probably pick up someone like Brook Fordyce for $700k or so. That only leaves about $ 6 million to spend - not accounting for trades that might otherwise cut salary. With a starting rotation of Hernandez-Day-Armas-Okha-Rauch (a rotation of a #2 starter and four #4 starters), it might seem worthwhile signing someone like Matt Clement for $5 million per year.

I'm a fan of Matt Clement. He keeps the ball down - he's allowed 18, 22 and 23 homers pitching the last three years - and strikes a lot of guys out - more than 9 K's per 9 innings of work in 2002 and 2004. He's underappreciated because his win totals haven't been impressive- he's only been 35-36 in his last three seasons with the Cubs. He very well may excel in spacious RFK - I wouldn't be surprised to see his ERA drop into the low 3's.

By signing Clement, the Nats would also push someone like Tomo Okha out of the rotation and into the trading pool. As a cheap but effective starting pitcher, he could bring a solid hitter in return from a team with a lot of extra outfielders.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

15,000 Reasons to Move to Washington

Washingtonpost.com reports that the Nats have collected deposits on 15,000 season tickets. 15,000 full-81-game plans. At $300 each, the team now has $4,500,000 in new swag to work with in the offseason, which will go a long way to making sure that Tony Tavares and crew have enough laptops, software, and subscriptions to Baseball Prospectus to run a quality organization.

More importantly, it shows an excited and committed DC fan base. 15,000 full game plans (they haven't yet started sell popular 27-game plans, Sunday-only plans, etc.) equals guaranteed attendance of 1,215,000 fans. The Expos hadn't had 1.2 million fans since 1997. And they never had attendance of more than 2.3 million per season (1983). I would be shocked, shocked if the Nats didn't pull in 2.5 million or greater this year.

[Edit - 11/26/04 - 9:43 a.m.] Alert reader Anonymous (man, is that guy prolific- first this book, and then this and now commenting on this blog) points out that by selling 15,000 season tickets, and guaranteeing an attendance level of 1,215,000, the Washington Nationals, as of 11/25/2004, having never played a single game, have the highest single-season attendance in DC Baseball history. Check out the Twins historic attendance and the Rangers historic attendance for confirmation - the highest was 1,027,000 in 1946.]

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

TM 2004 - Nats Blog

Well, you heard it here first. It's official, according to Google, the phrase "Nats Pajamas" - the new, unofficial term for the Nationals' uniform - has never been uttered on the Internet before. You may now use this Web site as a googlewhack on that term.

If You Don't Read The Comments...

You are missing exchanges like this (in response to Dexy's post on Tom Verducci's article):

At 5:50 PM, SuperNoVa said...
Check the link - Diane Franklin is actually f***ing hot! I didn't like her much when Better off Dead was actually out, but she looks really good now.

At 9:09 AM, Don Money said...
Ah, the blog, where a solid analysis of potential pickups for the Nats is ignored in favor of an link to a website about a washed-up 80s actress. We are a bunch of distracted 3-year-olds.

At 9:13 AM, Don Money said...
Cormier -- For the love of God, please no Rheal Cormier! In addition to being a so-so pitcher, he takes FOREVER to pitch. I seriously cannot watch him pitch without TiVo.

At 9:35 AM, SuperNoVa said...
I like Rheal Cormier as a bit of nostalgia...a taste of Montreal. We took the Expos out of Quebec, but there's still a little of Quebec in the Expos.

DM, I'd be shocked, shocked if any of those 10 wound up in the Nats' pajamas. My case on that point is so strong that I feel that I can waste the blog audience's time rating the superhunks commenting on the attractiveness of 80's actresses.
(if you don't get that one, you're not so Money, Don)

At 11:27 AM, dexys_midnight said...
one of my all-time favorite lines and if Simpsons junkie, DM, doesn't get that, I'll be as shocked as Christian Guzman was after he heard his agent said "yeah! They're really going to pay you THAT much money!"

I must have soft spot for the cute, understated movie women who like sports and don't treat guys like crap--so I always thought Diane Franklin was way hotter than the blonde in that movie.

I kid you not, according to imdb.com, Diane Franklin got to sing the national anthem at Dodger Stadium this year.

At 11:38 AM, Don Money said...
Yep, caught the "rating the superhunks" line, nice work SNV.

My question is: Is there really a difference between "Better Off Dead" and "The Sure Thing"? Is it the same as the difference between David Dellucci and Matt Mieske?

A shoutout to imdb.com

So, SuperNova's link to Diane Franklin got me looking at imdb.com for a good hour. It is just amazing, even for a movie geek like me, the stuff you find out or re-remember on there.

During my tour of imdb....

I remembered thinking that Diane's character was hotter than the evil blonde, so I clicked on Amanda Wyss to check. Alas, no pic. So, since there was a Diane Franklin website, I checked AmandaWyss.com. Do you realize that there is a company that reserves hundreds of Z-list actors names for websites just in case they might want it some day?? There is also the implication that they do it out of the goodness of their heart (and to sell web design services).

So..back to Amanda Wyss. She was on Cagney & Lacey for 4 years? How did I not know this? What else don't I know about people from Better Off Dead? Well, it was written and directed by Savage Steve Holland. What's he up to lately? Funny you ask because apparently Howard Stern has hired him to write an updated version of Porky's, seemingly with the same characters and storyline. The big question is whether they bring back Kaki Hunter as Wendy and Tony Ganios as Meat like when Adam West wanted to be in the new Batman movies (is it me or does his imdb picture make him look ripe to play the lead in the David Stern story?)

Oh, I know--I agree. The original Porky's was just dying to be re-written. That led me to the re-realization that Kim Catrell was in the original. I also learned that the working French title was "Chez Porky." Which brings us back to speaking French and Les Nationals. So, in all...this was a highly relevant post to our blog.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Value picks?

Tom Verducci wrote an article today about 10 guys who are good and you can probably get cheaply. Except for brief periods of lucidity, I'd say he's mostly on crack. (Ahhhh, the blog, where you can criticize established professionals while having no credentials yourself).

Verducci starts off well enough blasting the signing of Sister Cristian Guzman, but then his list of 10 value picks seems way off to me. Here is my commentary as it pertains to les Nationals.

1. David Dellucci--seriously, he's already 31, yet has only had one season (1998) of more than 400 plate appearances. We need a career .757 OPS never-was outfielder about to start his declining years? No, of course not.

2. Odalis Perez--I actually am a fan of Odalis. He made $5 mil last year and might not make much more than that this year. His stats are helped by Dodger Statium (said in a french accent like the chick from Better Off Dead), but he will give you a solid 7 innings most games and is only 27. I'd be pretty happy if we made this signing.

3. Matt Clement--I also like Clement, but you'd have to a) make sure he wasn't much above his 2004 $6 million and b) teach this guy control! If he wasn't walking 3 batters a game, his WHIP would be highly respectable and I think that fact in a pitcher's park drops his ERA almost a solid run.

4. Steve Kline--all good and well, but probably not for the Nats. Kline is too specialized for a bad team--he's a put you over the top guy. Oh, also after watching the Pacers-Pistons brouhaha all weekend, if Steve Kline gave me the middle finger, I would have to take him down because I am easily influenced by the media.

5. Placido Polanco--no real need for him now, and he wouldn't walk to first if you told him his salary check was waiting there--would have taken him and put him at 3rd over Castilla if it was up to me though.

6-8 Kent Mercker, Rheal Cormier, Jose Lima--let's all say it together "YUCK!" (although we probably should have one guy with a french name).

9. Brad Radke--I like him, but I wouldn't sign him. He's going to be expensive and I see him as an easy 4+ ERA guy, not his one flash in the pan 3.48 of this year.

10. Steve Finley-- seriously, shoot a freakin' hole in my head if they pick up a 40 year old outfielder with a .787 career OPS who doesn't get on base, and can't run if he did.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Logo -- Not Bad, Hat -- Bad Sign

The new logo is not too bad. It actually stunned me with its traditional simplicity. It doesn't look like it was "focused group" at all. It looks very much like what you would expect from a Nationals logo. Which is a refreshing change from what we've come to expect in sports merchandizing.

But what is up with the hat?!?! Recycling the old bad Senators lid? SuperNoVa thinks the logo is a sign that baseball is coming to D.C. I think the hat is a bad omen. They didn't even take the time to invest in a new hat design yet. If it falls through, we won't even have a decent collectors item. All we'll be able to say is "Somebody tried to bring baseball to D.C. and all we got were these lousy T-Shirts!"

The Nats - It's Official

Brian Schneider is pumped about the Expos' new name and home. Quoth Mr. Schneider "Yes, I believe I would have a higher OBP if I was on a team named the Nationals. I mean, after all, if you're playing for a team with a silly name like the Expos, you just want to hack at pitches and get off the field as soon as possible. Now, with this new name and classy logo, I will be more patient at the plate, if only to show off how marvelous I look."

So maybe I am making that up. But I've already been on record as preferring the Nationals name. It's historic (it was the official name of the old Washington team, not the Senators); they do after all play in the National League; and Nats is a pretty cool short form. So I'm sure that Ball-Wonk isn't so pleased, but I like it.

Note also that the proposed 1974 Washington DC team - which got to bubble gum card phase - didn't get this far. I mean, we've got a logo now, and nothing can stop baseball coming back to DC.

Well, almost nothing.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Nats Gear

Washington Baseball Blog reports that Nats Hats will be available this
Monday at Union Station! May be a real collector's item after this
all falls through.

Jose Guillen - Me Likey

Okay, so Jose Guillen can be a bit of a nutjob. He got thrown off the Angels after screaming at Mike Scioscia for taking him out for a pinch runner. But I'm a forgive and forget kind of Christian, especially when the nutjob puts up a .294/.352/.497 line in the outfield and has a cannon for an arm and will make a Vinny-Castilla-esque $3.5 million next year. We are talking a Good Jim Bowden deal here. Moneyball factor - 3.5 balls out of 4.

Dexys, you've still got my copy of Moneyball. I do want that back.

Guillen's also 28 years old, meaning that he's still well in his prime. He was pretty piss-poor in the years 1997-2002, but came around in 2003 and maintained a pretty productive level in 2004. Moreover, Juan Rivera and the other player are just a few pieces of silver.

Here's the truth - the Angels wanted him out, and Bowden accommodated them, without overpaying. This is a good deal for the Nats.

Dexys, your lineup looks a lot better with:

LF - Sledge, CF - Wilkerson, RF - Guillen, 3B - Castilla, SS - Guzman, 2B - Vidro, 1B - Johnson, C- Schneider.

Thumbs up, Jim Bowden. We're off the treading water and now we've got our water wings moving in the right direction.

P.S., Curiousity of the day - why is it that when you search on "Guillen" at Baseball-Reference.com, Rey Ordonez pops up on the list? [OK, I obviously didn't see Don Money's post. Truly bizarre.]

Curious

When you type "Guillen" into the Baseball-reference.com search box, you get Carlos, Jose, and Ozzie, but also Mario Mendoza and Rey Ordonez. I take that as a bad omen.

We got a Guillen!

Alas, it is not Carlos, it is Jose. The first ever Breaking News I've received from dcbaseball.com. Dexys and SuperNoVa, please Moneyball this acquisition. My contribution to the analysis of this move is historical. The Nats are following in the Phils' footsteps: they have acquired the "wrong" Guillen. The Phils have a history of getting the wrong brother: Vince DiMaggio, Ken Brett, Mike Maddux, Jeremy Giambi. (I know Carlos and Jose are not brothers, but you get my point). At least they did not pick up Ozzie!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Baseball delays vote??

Um, I'm sure it's just a burp, but with no explanation and all expectations being that the move to DC would be voted through today, baseball decided to delay the vote with no word (outside Selig saying soon, which I believe is what he said 3 years ago) on when the vote would go through. Selig simply pointed to the "myriad of issues still in play." As Socrates once said: "Yeah, just freakin' great."

Dear Readers! (Cont.)

Please heed SuperNoVa's request for comments! You should know that each of us have ample experience in following teams that have had very down years, and can steel you for the experience. I am a Phillies fan, the only one of the original sixteen that has never had the best record in baseball, and were also the last team before the Expos to be owned by MLB. SuperNoVa is a fan of the White Sox, who now inherit the American League's "cursed team" mantle thanks to the BoSox win. Dexys is a Mets fan, and while they have won the Series most recently, there are always years like this. Also, if you would indicate what team you follow (or used to follow!), that would be interesting to us. I see the Nats as like America in the early 20th Century -- we are each coming to them as immigrants from some other baseball land, each with its own customs and experience, ready to be assimilated in the great melting pot of mediocre baseball!

Dear Readers!

We know you are out there, we've got SiteMeter. You come from strange and inviting domains like tiscali.de, unc.edu, epa.gov, af.mil (are you guys accepting bombing coordinates?), and fisheries.org.

Nats Blog is an interactive forum. Don't just read it, use it! We have included links for commenting on our posts (click on the little comment button if you have something to say). If you want to say it in an e-mail, send one to us at natsblog@gmail.com. We may even post it if it's clever. If it's really clever, we'll just steal the idea and post it like it was our own.

Listen, we aren't exactly getting the '27 Yankees here in DC. We are getting a team that has been dogged by a dozen years of poor attendance in a lovely, but not baseball-loving, French Canadian city. It's going to hurt the first couple of years. But we might as well have some fun, and simply share the joy of having Major League Baseball in town. Join us in having some fun.

What do we have to look forward to?

From what I can tell, the Expos lineup will go something like this in 2005 based on the current roster:

CF Endy Chavez .668 career OPS
2B Jose Vidro .837 OPS
1B Brad Wilkerson .838 OPS
LF Terrell Sledge .799 OPS
3B Vinny Castilla (until he is moved down in the lineup) .730 OPS (non-Coors) (although my calculation just by no Rockies years is .690)
RF Juan Rivera ,789 OPS
C Brian Schneider .720 OPS
SS Christian Guzman .685 OPS
P YAY! Livan could bat 7th in this lineup.

Pitchers:

Livan Hernandez (not bad)
Zach Day (not great, but potential)
Tomo Ohka (same)
John Patterson (not good, but with more than 1K/inning, you never know).
5th starter: Youppi!

so Bowden absolutely has to sign a decent pitcher and a stop-gap pitcher for this team to stay in a huge chunk of their games with this lineup. Since the Expos averaged just under 4 runs a game last year, and with the recent signings they won't get more offense, I would like to see a plan for the future as opposed to "treading water" to quote SuperNova, especially since they signed Guzman to a deal to tread water for 4 years (love the quote from the Twins GM saying that Guzman got himself a great deal since the Twins would have never offered him that--would have really liked him to go after Renteria (or Ben Grieve instead of Castilla)). The good news is that the offense is young, so maybe there are a couple of gems in there (and I think Wilkerson will have a decent career); we can hope.

So, will he go after any pitchers of value: I really doubt he would go for Pavano, but maybe Odalis Perez? The Cubs probably won't let Clement go.

Finally, can you believe Tony Batista is only 30....wouldn't you have said 41?


Joe Sheehan - Bad Manners

Mom always told me that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all. Well, Joe Sheehan hasn't been listening to my mother. But who can blame him? I mean, it's not his mother. And he's never been to my Mom's house, so how would they have been a position to talk to each other anyway?

Let's speak plainly. Joe is not enthusiastic about the signing of Guzman and Castilla. Among other broadsides, Joe mentions:
It's strange that the Expos, having employed Tony Batista for a year, managed to bring in a player who is of the same type, yet worse. That's not easy to do. The two-year commitment is baffling, although there was probably a market among GMs for Castilla based on his league-leading RBI total. There's a symmetry to that, actually, the point at which blind spots about the value of RBI and the effect of Coors Field on offensive statistics converge. If you squint, you can almost see art and beauty in it.

Well, as we've shown below...Vinny Castilla's career statistics away from Coors Field suggests that he should at least have a .002 higher OPS than last year's third sackers. I mean, isn't that an improvement?

Joe is less kind in discussing Guzman:
You know what this contract is? It's Pat Meares all over again. Meares, like Guzman, was the starting shortstop for the Twins until they didn't want to pay him any longer. They non-tendered him after the 1998 season, and the Pirates signed him to a minor-league deal, then quickly gave him a four-year contract in early 1999. Meares missed most of '99 and all of 2002 with injuries; when healthy, he was barely a replacement-level shortstop. The contract was a burden on the Pirates for years.


Mr. Sheehan, I knew Pat Meares. Pat Meares was on my fantasy team. Guzman is no Pat Meares.

In fact, in some places, calling someone Pat Meares is fighting words. I believe that Chris Mathews called Zell Miller "Pat Meares", leading Senator Miller to challenge Matthews to a duel. Do not use such comparisons lightly, Mr. Sheehan.

I think that Sheehan's mostly got it wrong. Castilla and Guzman '05 will be a wash with Batista and Cabrera '04, both offensively and defensively. They will be a wash salary-wise as well. So these signings are simply treading water, not a step in the wrong direction!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Nats Season Tickets Available!

SuperNoVa, on behalf of Don Money and Dexys, just put a deposit down on 4 season tickets next year. Although we'll all believe it when we're drinking a beer watching a game that counts at RFK, it certainly is an exciting development. We are hoping for the best tickets available (Infield Box), so we have our fingers crossed.

Here's how it went down. Those who signed up with the DC Baseball club for "additional information" on season tickets received an e-mail this morning at 10:33 a.m. (3:33 GMT) telling them that they had the opportunity to put deposits down on season tickets. SuperNoVa hopped into action, and, although the Web site was slooooooooow, eventually put a deposit down at 12:00 p.m. or so (5:00 GMT). We received an order number in the 1300's, which is very good if the order numbers started at 1300, but just OK if they started at 1.

Please feel free to share your order numbers (black out your last digit for security, I suppose) in the comments section

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

This Year vs. Last Year

Dexys and I just got off the phone to discuss the Castilla/Guzman signings. And during the course of that phone call, I actually convinced myself that the Castilla/Guzman signings do not make the Expos/Nats worse and arguably make them ever so slightly better. The proof is, unfortunately, in the woeful stats Les Expos put up last year from the left side of the infield:

Expos 3B, 2004:

.243 BA/ .277 OBP / .451 SLG - .728 OPS, with 32 HR (all Tony Batista) and 110 RBI.

Expos SS, 2004:

.242 BA/ .293 OBP/ .341 SLG - .634 OPS, with 9 HR and 53 RBI.

Ugh.

Now look at the career stats of the new Nats:

Castilla, career:

.280 / .324 / .489 - .813

Ok, you're right, I know. Now Castilla, career not at Coors Field:

.258 / .297 / .433 - .730

Hey, that's a slightly higher OBP than last year!

Guzman, career:

.266 / .303 / .382 - .685

Hey, that's marginally better (+.10 OBP and .41 SLG) than last year!

What's more, the salaries of Castilla/Guzman ($3.1 and $4.2 million) are $200k less than last years' salaries for Orlando Cabrera and Tony Batista ($6 and $1.5 million).

So Bowden picked up at least .004 in team OBP and perhaps .002 in team SLG while saving $200k over last year! This should at least translate into .05 additional victories this year.

Baby steps, Nats fans. Baby steps.




Expos agree to deals with Castilla, Guzman

Jim Bowden has drawn second and third blood by agreeing to terms with Cristian Guzman and Vinny Castilla. The contract with Castilla is a two-year $6.2 million deal ($3.1 million per) and the contract with Guzman is a four-year $16.8 million deal ($4.2 million per).

Ok folks, calm down. Vinny Castilla certainly will be 38 next year. No question. He certainly has a .324 career OBP. And he certainly has hit all but 65 of his 303 career homers while he was with the Colorado Rockies. But the upside is that Bowden didn't spend too much on him - $3.1 million a year is cheap these days. And if Castilla can match his 2003 numbers with Atlanta (.277/.310/.461), he will be a league average third baseman.

Guzman, well. He has range. The good news is that Guzman will not afflict any of the author's teams - the White Sox (Chris), the Phillies (Don Money), or the Mets (Dexys). And at 26, he is just entering his prime. Plus, Frank Robinson has shown a knack at convincing his players to take walks. If Frank can get Guzzie to walk 18 more times per year - just 3 walks per month! - he could rise to a .330+ OBP and be fairly acceptable. Work your magic, Frank.

Baseball Prospectus Chimes In On Bowden

If you haven't seen it, here's BP's look at the Nats first offseason moves, written by Chris Kahrl. Link. Kahrl tends to thesnooty (snotty?) side, so take his harshness with a grain of salt. A couple of key quotes:
Then there's the question of his genius with problem-solving and shopping. I touched on this in this past season's edition of the Prospectus. Faced with the very basic need to assemble a rotation, Bowden failed time and again to find adequate solutions, instead settling for wishful thinking, starting with Pete Harnisch, but also involving Jimmy Haynes, Ryan Dempster, and a cast of dozens. Rather than turn over modest successes, Bowden instead got more and more unrealistic as the years passed. Most of his turnover started to look like turnover for its own sake, smacking of indecisiveness at best, but more likely representing something less than his once-vaunted reputation for having a clever knack for finding talent.


Ouch. But if Bowden got fired, doesn't he have the failure he needs to temper his conduct. After all, a lot of people have been fired and said it's the best thing that ever happened to them, including Joe Torre and Michael Bloomberg and Larry King! Also, how many of Bowden's prior mistakes were related to the fact that Cincinnati is a small-market team with a small-market budget. DC is a heap-big market! Ask Dan Snyder!

Kahrl also considers the names in which Bowden may or may not have expressed an interest:
Finally, there's his announced shopping list this winter. The good news? So far, it looks like he has the sense to let Tony Batista walk, but his interest in Vinny Castilla has been telegraphed early and often. The other not-so-good news? He thinks he needs a right fielder on a roster crammed with too many outfielders. He knows he needs help on the left side of the infield, but the danger is that he won't leave space for Brendan Harris or Maicer Izturis or Josh Labandeira. Credulous reporting has him mulling offers for Endy Chavez, instead of recognizing Chavez as scrap.


Yes. Endy Chavez must go. Vinny Castilla must not arrive. Where are the names like Koskie, though? Chris Kahrl, you're no Peter Gammons. And why, Mr. Kahrl, are you interested in a an infielder named Izturis? Doesn't Caeser give you the willies enough?

Monday, November 15, 2004

The Bowden Record

Just as an FYI, I thought I'd compile some basic stats from the teams for which Jim Bowden was the general manager:
Year Record Avg. (Rank) OBP (Rank) SLG (Rank) ERA (Rank) WHIP K/BB
1993 73-89 .264 (7) .324 (7) .396 (8) 4.51 (12) 1.41 1.96
1994 66-48 .286 (1) .349 (1) .449 (1) 3.78 (3) 1.33 2.36
1995 85-59 .270 (4) .340 (3) .440 (2) 4.03 (4) 1.31 2.13
1996 81-81 .256 (10) .330 (4) .422 (3) 4.33 (8) 1.41 1.84
1997 76-86 .253 (14) .317 (13) .389 (13) 4.42 (10) 1.36 2.08
1998 77-85 .262 (7) .336 (6) .402 (8) 4.44 (10) 1.37 1.92
1999 96-67 .272 (6) .339 (8) .451 (3) 3.99 (4) 1.33 1.70
2000 85-77 .274 (4) .343 (7) .447 (5) 4.33 (5) 1.45 1.54
2001 66-96 .262 (7) .324 (10) .419 (10) 4.77 (14) 1.45 1.83
2002 78-84 .253 (12) .330 (10) .408 (11) 4.27 (11) 1.41 1.78
2003 69-93 .245 (15) .318 (14) .395 (13) 5.09 (15) 1.50 1.58

I report. You decide.

Nats News Break!

Peter Gammons devoted an entire column to our (nearly) beloved Nats! Among the interesting tidbits, Gammons quotes our new GM, Jim Bowden, as saying:
Bowden is looking for a shortstop, third baseman, right-field bat and veteran (180 to 200 innings) starting pitcher. If possible, he'd like to hold onto catcher Brian Schneider (who's sought by Boston, among many other teams, after having the majors' best percentage of runners thrown out), first baseman Nick Johnson, center fielder Brad Wilkerson and relievers Chad Cordero and Luis Ayala. Bowden tried to acquire Jose Guillen, whose career he rescued in Cincinnati, but the Angels insisted on getting Cordero back in return. Guillen may end up in Florida in a three-way trade that would send Randy Johnson to Anaheim, or he'll be moved to Kansas City.
The free agents on his list include third basemen Corey Koskie and Vinny Castilla and shortstop Cristian Guzman, as well as several pitchers. Philadelphia came asking for Endy Chavez, several teams have asked for rookie outfielder Ryan Church, including Tampa Bay, which has several veterans it's trying to move, Aubrey Huff and Jose Cruz Jr. among them.

So, shortstop, third baseman, right field bat, and veteran pitcher, hmmm?. I like the name Corey Koskie on the list (career .373 OBP), but do not like Guzman (career .303 OBP). That guy Orlando Cabrera plays a pretty good shortstop. Peaches and Herb anyone? As for right field bat, there will be any number of them on the market this offseason, including soon-to-be-cheap pickups like Richard Hidalgo (.847 career OPS), the surprisingly-only-30-year-old Jermaine Dye and Ben Grieve, who despite getting a lot of bad press over the last several years, managed to put up OBPs of .361 (2004), .371 (2003), .353 (2002), and .372 (2001). You can work with those numbers. You really can.

As for pitching, good luck, Jim.

First Item Of Business

Do we get rid of those awful Expos' colors? The Expos never recovered from the early 1980's, when light blue was all the rage. And what did the "elb" mean on the hat again?

It's time for some real colors for real men. The Nats should wear the proud colors of America. Red. White. Blue.

[Checking....Expos colors were Red, White and Blue]

Ok. So the colors should be Red, White and a Bluer Blue than that sad pewter blue that the Expos wore. Nothing lighter than 3333CC.

Why we're here (hopefully)

There is a chance that this blog will become the electronic version of a 1974 Topps San Diego Padres Baseball Card. It hopes to be devoted to the new Washington, DC baseball team, which likely will be known as The Nationals. Hence, The Nats blog.

However, it is far from clear that the deal between MLB and D.C. will go through, in large part because controversy swirls around the city's ballpark plan. The Washington Post has provided excellent coverage of the issue here.

So, if that falls through, this little piece of cyberspace will sit idle, like the VG(rounded corner) 1974 Topps Willie McCovey (Washington, Nat'l League). In other words, we ain't following the Expos to Las Vegas.