Monday, February 27, 2006

Early predictions broken down by position

So SuperNova and I had a debate today where we tried to break down each position on the Nats and deduce how many games the Nats would be better or worse with the 2006 version of x fielder/batter/pitcher than the 2005 version. From that we could extrapolate how the Nats would do compared to the 81-81 record of last year. Here's the results:

Catcher: Brian Schneider and Gary Bennett vs. Schneider/LeCroy/Fick.
SNV and I both think that Schneider will take a slight bump down in his offense (and I would say slightly in defense) from last year. The bat of LeCroy/Fick breaks even or a slight upgrade over the loss of Bennett's defense (but see bench rating). Overall, SNV and Dexy both say -1 game.

First Base: Not much comment here, as we both think Nick will stay relatively even. Dexy has 1B as a straight Even while SNV has -0.5 games.

Second base: If Vidro is truly healthy, it goes up more than this, but that is hard to know. This assumes Vidro playing second at moderate-good health. Dexy: +1 game; SNV: +1.5 games.

Shortstop: I have to believe that while Guzman will still be positively awful, he will a) be better than last year and b) they will get someone else in there if he is as bad. Dexy: +2 games; SNV: +1 game.

Third base: This is where we had a big difference. I think that Zimmerman will post an OBP in the .355-.360 range with a little upside above it. Add in a .445-.450 slugging and you get a guy with an .810 OPS (I'd say .800-.830). SNV sees Zim's stats at more like: .330 OBP and .420 SLG. Dexy is being way bullish and saying: + 4 games. SNV says Castilla wasn't horrible and Zim translates into: +1 game.

Left Field: Soriano (if he even plays) vs. Church/Byrd/Wilson platoon: I hate the Soriano signing, but I have this position staying relatively even (i.e. we could have saved $10 million) for this position. SNV says Soriano will definitely be worse than if we had the 2005 platoon in there. Dexy: Even; SNV: -1 game.

Center field: Another big difference of opinion here. I see Ryan Church, IF he gets most of the playing time, as being a slight downgrade from Wilkerson. SNV sees the Church/Byrd/Watson CF platoon as being disasterous compared to Wilky. Dexy: -1 game; SNV: -3 games. So, note that even if Soriano wasn't being paid $10 million, just Wilkerson money, Dexy views the Soriano/Wilkerson trade as costing the Nats 1 game total and SNV sees it costing the Nats 4 games. If Church rides the pine, it gets even more negative for me.

Right Field: SNV and I both worry about Guillen's injuries. Dexy: -2 games; SNV: -1.5 games.

Offensive bench: We did get better in this area, especially now that the lefty-killing LeCroy will see a lot of pinch hitting opportunities. Dexy: +1 game; SNV: +1 game.

Total offense: Dexy: +3 games; SNV: -3.5 games.

Starting pitching:
SP #1: Livan 2005 vs. Livan 2006. SNV sees this as a wash. Unfortunately, I think second half 2005 Livan was more like the pitcher we will see in 2006. Not that bad, but closer to that than first half Livan. Dexy: -2 games; SNV: Even.

SP #2: Patterson vs. Patterson. He's our real ace now. We both think he will come a little back to Earth this year though. Dexy and SNV both: -1 game.

SP #3: Ortiz vs. Loaiza: You go from a guy who was league average, maybe even slightly better, to a guy well below. We are assuming Lawrence is out for the season (or any real Brian Lawrence is). Dexy: -3 games; SNV: -4 games.

SP #4: Ohka/Carrasco/Armas to Armas: Ohka and Carrasco had some nice starts for the Nats. Armas didn't. We now get to see a guy that barely held on to a major league spot last year operate as a #4 pitcher. Dexy: -3 games; SNV: -3.5 games.

SP# 5: Armas/Drese to Drese/Rauch: It's hard to know what will happen here. I suppose there is a chance that Drese could be better, that Rauch will be as good or better than Armas and I am being too negative. That being said, this isn't going to be pretty (and I will be thrilled to apologize if I am wrong). Dexy: -3 games; SNV: -1 game.

Relief pitching. SNV didn't go position by position and says that the bullpen overall will be -1 game worse than last year. I wish I could believe that. With this starting pitching, I see them being overworked even faster this year. I'll say Eichen: Even; Ayala: -1 game; Majewski: -1 game; more use of Stanton: -1 game; Cordero: I hope I am wrong but can see him coming down a bit off his great 2005: -2 games. Total relief prediction for Dexy: -5 games.

After all of that, BOTH Dexy and SNV get to a total of: -13 games. We got there in different ways, with SNV thinking the offense will actually be a bit worse than last year and me thinking that Zimmerman will be a bunch better and the Soriano trade will only hurt a little, but that the bullpen will suffer more this year. We both believe that the majority of the Nats' decline will be due to the starting pitching. Take our 13 game prediction from the 2005 base of 81-81 and you get a 68-94 record assuming, of course, we start the season with the same info we have today.

Here's hoping we are completely wrong.

Maybe Kevin Towers Wasn't So Dumb

So I come back from a weekend of playing Abraham Lincoln - chopping down trees with an ax, "bucking them" and splitting some old logs - to find out that the Nats lost Brian Lawrence to a torn labrum. Estimates are that he is out at least until the All-Star Break and possibly the whole year.

When I heard that the Nats lost Lawrence (from our anonymous poster), it was a real bummer. The guy who would be our fifth third starter being out for four months is bad in its own right. But oh, no! Not the dreaded torn labrum.

As a cradle White Sox fan, I know a bit about torn labrums - the Sox suffered a rash of them in the 2000/01 time period. In fact, the Sox's most painful torn labrum was suffered by one of our Nats - Jon Rauch.

It is inestimable what his torn labrum did to Jon Rauch's career. He was the 2000 Minor League Pitcher of the Year after putting up a 16-4 record with 187 strikeouts in 166 innings between the Carolina League (high-A) and the Southern League (AA). He walked only 49 against those 187 strikeouts and looked like a top, top prospect.

Then he was found to have a torn labrum in 2001 (an injury also suffered by Jim Parque), and did not pitch at all. He was a shell of his former self in Charlotte in 2002 and 2003, putting up ERA's of over 4.00 and his strikeout rate declined from 10 per 9 innings to less than 8 per 9 innings. He gave up a lot of hits and a lot of homers.

Now, at 28, Jon Rauch is something of a journeyman looking for, at best, a swing-man spot on a last-place team's roster. His luster has faded, and, what could have been his free-agent season in a lucrative career, is just another season of hanging around the bigs.

Will Carroll has written some excellent stuff on the torn labrum, including this piece in Slate from 2004, subtitled "Why the torn labrum is baseball's most fearsome injury." Here's the most ominous part:

But if pitchers with torn labrums were horses, they'd be destroyed. Of the 36 major-league hurlers diagnosed with labrum tears in the last five years, only midlevel reliever Rocky Biddle has returned to his previous level. Think about that when your favorite pitcher comes down with labrum trouble: He has a 3 percent chance of becoming Rocky Biddle. More likely, he'll turn into Mike Harkey, Robert Person, or Jim Parque, pitchers who lost stamina and velocity—and a major-league career—when their labrums began to fray.


Yeah, yikes. Mind you, Rocky Biddle's "prior form" that was regained was a high-walk-rate, high-homer-rate, borderline pitcher (who, by the way, was Les Expos
closer in 2003. I shudder to think and thank heavens for the Chief).

So things do not look good for Brian Lawrence. One wonders whether Lawrence's injury was known or could have been known to Kevin Towers before he made the trade for Vinny Castilla. One thing is for sure - that trade is not looking as lopsided as it once did.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Jim Bowden and Isiah Thomas: The Trade

There are some things in sports that are arguable and some that aren't. Well, I think it is getting to the point where one can't argue against the proposition that Isiah Thomas and Jim Bowden are the two worst GM's in sports, with Thomas having the clear edge (Yay for the Nats, we're #2--I guess one could currently argue Jim could be anywhere from #2-#4, but he's our Jim, so I say #2).
Then... it hit me today. The trade that could put these guys on the map and solidify their 1-2 positions as the worst GMs in sports.

Steve Francis for Alfonso Soriano.

Just think about it. The possibilities are endless. Especially when Soriano demands to play point guard and Francis says he wants to play second base alongside Vidro "just for the hell of it." Oh, Jim, Isiah, please make this happen. We're talking about history here. The only part to iron out will be when each guy demands that he be allowed to give up cash in the deal as well.

Sportstalk with Little DM

Here's today's pre-preschool conversation:

Little DM: Dad, how many baseball teams would there be if you took two away?
DM: 28. Why?
Little DM: Then I want 28 baseball caps.
DM: Which two teams don't you want?
Little DM: Pirates and Rangers.
DM: You know who's on the Rangers now?
Little DM: Who?
DM: Brad Wilkerson.
Little DM: I like him a little bit. But I wish he would switch back to the Nationals.
DM: Me too. But we now have Alfonso Soriano.
Little DM: I don't really like him. I only like Chad Cordero, because he's a rookie!
DM: Well, he's not a rookie anymore. After your first year is over, you can't be a rookie.
Little DM: But if he switches to football, he would be a rookie, right?
DM: Umm ... yes.
Little DM: When I grow up, I'm going to play for the Dodgers, then the Marlins, then the Ravens and then the Seahawks.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Trying SOOO hard not to vent

but our fair team...is a joke. I mean, it really is a running joke right now. Our second year in the league and already as DM reported, folks are considering not going to games to punish the team? Why not just change our name to The Kansas Bay Devil Royals? And hey, it's not far off as a concept considering MLB probably could get the rights to that, something they failed to do regarding the Washington Nationals--and speaking of that, who doesn't acquire the rights to a name before giving it to your team? MLB says they had an oral agreement with the trademark owner of the name "Washington Nationals." Really? When was the last time you had the feeling "oh that MLB, it's all a matter of trust with them, they don't get contracts in writing"?

So, now we are a team...without a stadium....without a lease on a stadium....without an owner...and without a name. A team whose two highest paid players play the same position. A team where many of the team's employees STILL WORK OUT OF MONTREAL!!! (I love how moving the team's operations to DC is on Tavares's "to do" list.)

If you or I did something as moronic at our jobs as the way Jim Bowden has handled this Soriano/Vidro fiasco, most of us would be fired in a heartbeat. But the beat goes on for Jim B. Adding to the list of ridiculousness this has compiled (I can't say twists and turns as it has been constant incompetence from the get go) was the nonchalance of the participants since Spring Training started.
Said Frank Robinson about Soriano while being interviewed by George Michael two nights ago: It's not like I can force him to play. If he doesn't want to play left, I can't make him.
Really?? I can think of exactly 10 million reasons why you can make him play whereever the heck the Nats choose.
And then the press conference today with Bowden, Robinson and Soriano (and his agent), where no one wanted to talk about what position he'd play.
Again, really? Why do you think any of us care if there is a press conference with Alfonso unless you are going to talk about that? I certainly don't care whether he had a nice winter. I want to know whether we are paying $10 million for him to ride the bench.

The following quotes are taken from the Washington Post transcript (although when I watched the video, I wasn't sure they were exactly right--what I was amazed at is how much these three guys were either (and I hate to cross a line here into pure insult but) playing dumb or really were dumb).
Soriano had this to say: "I'm so happy to be here. I have nothing to say about second base.
I am not thinking of outfield right now. I have time to think about it. I'm not thinking about the outfield. I have one week to work out at second base before going to the [World Baseball Classic]. We have time to work it out when we get back."
Read: I'm not even considering working out for the outfield yet.

Robinson's reaction to the question on Soriano's position:
"We'll get it done. It's not about what position he's going to play. We're going to put the best 25 players on the field. It is not a competition at second base. Who knows what will happen. These decisions will be made. They will not be made today. [Jose] Vidro will get his work in at second base just as Soriano will get his work in. Soriano is playing second at the [World Baseball] Classic."
A couple of notes here, Frank. You don't get to put "the best 25 players on the field." (In fairness, I'm not sure the video reflects that quote exactly, although the overwhelming push of the video was that we'll play as many people at second as we can). Last I checked, you get nine, eight assuming we aren't talking about Soriano pitching. Furthermore, you get one at each position. So...you aren't saying that our two highest paid players are going to compete for a position, are you?
When asked if Vidro could potentially move, Frank answered:
"No. Where is he going to go? We're not making a decision today."
What does that even mean? No he isn't moving or he could, but we won't decide today. My guess is it means 'he can't play anywhere but second and this whole thing is making my head hurt. Please make this press conference end."
Frank also admitted that he hasn't even talked to Vidro about any of this, but IF he happens to see him today, he'll talk to him. Otherwise, maybe tomorrow.

This situation is so screwed up. Jim, Frank, MLB...you can't have fans in a new city tearing their hair out (and I have little left) before the second season even starts. Please stop making this team a laughing stock. We're asking you as fans who want to love this team.


Update since this post first issued: More of the press conference has surfaced and is quoted more thoroughly in this article. And this makes the situation look even worse. Vidro is clearly pissed (as he SHOULD be) and even after a two hour meeting with management, Soriano, when asked by the press whether "if Robinson asked him to play left field, would Soriano respect the manager's wishes?
'Who knows?' Soriano said."
Well, that's peachy. Robinson apparently also described both Vidro and Soriano as "tradeable commodities." For a $7+ million guy with bad knees and a $10 million guy who can't get on base, I don't see us getting anyone nearly as good as...well... Brad Wilkerson.

What We Are Missing

Here's what teams with real owners and real TV deals do: the Yankees' YES cable network will offer interactive content to viewers in July. Among the new features is a "StarCam" that "zeroes in on a particular Yankee player each inning."

If the Nats were a real organization, we'd be enjoying StarCam footage like that -- close-ups of Soriano stewing in left field, Guillen mumbling incoherently to himself after a strikeout, Guzman getting a late jump on a grounder, Robert Fick tripping a baserunner -- and interactive stats like "Innings since last Nats homer in RFK: 46.1" and "AL Notes: Brad Wilkerson has just hit his 29th home run -- most for a Ranger before the All-Star Break." I can't wait!

Why They Play The Game

In my last post I questioned what exactly as fans we were seeking to receive from all the time and attention we spend on the Nationals. Marginal Revolution has a good post on a related topic: how would would financial incentives tied to wins affect players in the NBA? It is good food for thought on the question of what teams, players, fans and others are trying to get out of each game.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Voting With Your Wallet

Earlier this week, over at that other triumverate Nats blog, Nats Triple Play, Dave dropped a bomb that exploded into 32 little comment pieces. The catalyst of the incendiary device was that Dave thinks people who are chucking their season ticket plans in protest of Jim Bowden, Bud Selig, the non-existent owner and the fiasco that is Nats' front office situation are whiners who are ultimately hurting the team. He is committed to some pretty expensive seats for 81 games (as we are) and he thinks he's investing for the long-term, which is what he thinks real Nats fans should be doing as well. Somewhat inconsistently, though, he also argues that chucking your 20-game plan is also futile because MLB teams don't really care about individual ticket-holders because the real money comes to them from the big boys like advertisers, broadcasters, luxury box holders, sponsors etc.

I think Dave is wrong, in two fundamental ways. First, each and every one of the real "revenue drivers" he mentions depend heavily on the public's attention on the Nats, which largely consists of, and is almost universally measured by, game attendance. If the crowds are small, everything he cites is less valuable -- advertisers seek lower prices or more ads per buy, broadcasters aren't willing to pay as much to show a quiet, empty stadium, Johnny Jaguar is less likely to bring Senator Schmooze to an empty house. So if disgruntled fans stop showing up, it will hit the team bottom line eventually.

Second, and more important, his focus on the "season ticket buy" and its effect on the value of the team is too narrow. Although tickets sold is a significant way that fans convey a benefit to the Nats, it is not the only way, and fans can provide benefit in addition to or in lieu of plunking down dollars for a ticket package. Obvious examples of other such benefits include concession purchases at the game, buying a hat or other licensed merchandise, and watching televised games and patronizing advertisers. Another important and often overlooked item is generating and maintaining buzz about the team. A good example of this comes from that season-ticket chucking, commie-agitator Yuda, who most forcefully objected to Dave's post. Though he has declined his season tickets this year, he still hosts a blog on the Nats farm prospects and chat area where many of us waste time and attention on the local nine. I've written before how things like that and other blogs have increased my enjoyment of the Nats and therefore made me more likely to go to games. Indeed, Gameday chat has been instrumental in getting people to use our seats that would otherwise go unused.

In other words, each Nats fan can offer of package of benefits to the ballclub, of which ticket purchase is only one part. Mine is pretty extensive, as it consists of a 1/4 share of expensive 81-game season tickets, 12 games attended (parking, concessions, etc.), XM radio subscription, DirecTV subscription, MLB.com subscription, watching/listening to games, this blog, and some merchandise. The important thing is that our most effective way to communicate to the Nats about our satisfaction with the product they provide is to adjust this package of benefits. Most of us offer an extensive package like this -- we have pretty high demand for baseball, probably in the 90th percentile. If they piss me off too much, I'll stop blogging (lord knows I can do that easily), go to fewer games, cut back one of my subscriptions, etc. It is the only voice we have, really, and it is the kind of reciprocity that makes any marketplace work.

It makes sense that people like Dave and me, who have made the decision to support the club with a lot of money and time, also want others to do the same. We've bought in and need to make the best of it. But any good investor should diversify, so that we don't lose all leverage relative to the club -- otherwise our voice can be ignored more easily. It's a true paradox -- we should both support the team but remain wary, and drive a hard bargain at all times. Trust but verify, in a sense.

How much influence we might have, if any, is an open question. Ironically today I also ran across this quote, which is apt:
Most of the vocal people on the mail lists, blogs and wikis are more fans
than creators. It’s as if we confused baseball players with people who sit in
the stands watching a baseball game. Sure, both wear caps and want their team to
win, but one actually does something about it, while the others expresses an
opinion. There are a lot of fans, but relatively few people who actually do
anything.

We are probably delusional to think any of this matters much. And Dave's post raises interesting questions about what we actually expect to receive in trade for all these benefits we give to the Nats -- I don't think it is simply a winning team. Or, more accurately, I think the trade may be very fair even if the Nats don't come close to winning. But that's a post for another day.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

More Thoughts From My Head

The Post has a bunch of notes up about the Nats' spring training, and I thought I would download some of my own thoughts on the upcoming March to 2006 Glory.

1. If you are going down to Florida to watch the Nats in Space Coast Stadium, for goodness sake, have a meal at Conchy Joe's. Try the fried alligator, it's scrump-diddly-icious.
(Conchy Joe's Seafood Restaurant, (321) 253-3131, 1477 Pineapple Ave Melbourne, FL 32935)

2. The Fielding Dutchman, Ryan Zimmerman, has a PECOTA projection of .289/.334/.462, with 13 homers and 37 doubles. That's a very promising start in its own right. I have a sneaky suspicion that Dutch with have a bit more OBP than that. His 28.3 projected VORP is second only to Soriano's 31.5. Of course, Soriano's .271/.321/.504 line creates that VORP because he's projected as a second baseman. By the way, are we still calling him Dutch?

3. OK, so who is on the Nationals this year? What have we lost from the 2005 season, and what have we gained?

Lost: Esteban Loaiza (A's), Hector Carrasco (Angels), Vinny Castilla (Padres), Jamey Carroll (Rockies), Brad Wilkerson (Rangers), Terrmel Sledge (Rangers), Preston Wilson (Astros), Junior Spivey (Cards), Gary Bennett (Cards), Wil Cordero (out of baseball), Jeffrey Hammonds (out of baseball), Rick Short (Japan), Endy Chavez (Mets), Keith Osik (unknown), Matt Cepicky (Marlins)

oh good grief....

Tomo Okha (Brewers), Zach Day (Rockies), John Halama (Orioles), Sun Woo Kim (Rockies), Claudio Vargas (D'Backs), Matt White (Phillies)

Obviously, some of these guys were traded or released mid-2005, but that just shows you the turn over from one season to the next.

Found: Brian Lawrence (Padres), Marlon Anderson (Mets), Ramon Ortiz (Angels), Felix Rodriguez (Giants), Bob Fick (Padres), Bernie Castro (Orioles), Damian Jackson (Padres), Matt LeCroy (Twins), Alfonso Soriano (Rangers), Michael Tucker (Phillies).

Anything you notice here? The Nationals seem to be some sort of repository for fringe major league talent? Has beens? Never weres? The amount of roster movement is extraordinary for a .500 team that is, for all intents and purposes, not going to go places with a little extra depth. It looks like a lot of roster movement for roster movement's sake. I can only think of one reason why. (By the way, have at Trader Jim's wiki page on baseball-reference.com).

4. Is it just me or is the schedule funny this year? You know, funny. The Nats seem to have a bunch of good games against quality teams on the weekend, while leaving the weekdays with some dreck. It's just me, isn't it? OK, just drop it.

5. If I were the new owner of the Nationals, I would ditch DC and get a stadium built by Tim Kaine in Northern Virginia. They are pretty much crazy in the DC City Council. I don't blame Bob DuPuy at all for not wanting MLB to do business with these folks. Just my opinion, folks, you can have yours, too.

6. The outfield is a mess. I mean, an utter disaster. It's a shame, because Church-Wilkerson-Guillen wasn't half bad, when it was healthy.

7. A year later, the Nationals logo and jersey isn't getting any better. I just can't keep getting the fact that it's a throwback to the early 1980's out of my head. What's next, Asia concerts on non-game days? Joe Theismann back in the spotlight?

It's just me, isn't it. OK, just drop it.

Carroll for Cash, and Two Guzmans

Bill Ladson let us know yesterday that Jamey Carroll, 32, had been traded to the Colorado Rockies for $300,000 in cash. Prior to the 2005 season, we at Nats Blog were enthusiastic about having Jamey Carroll on our home town resident team. After all, he was someone who had posted a .378 OBP in 2004.

I think we learned a little about Jamey Carroll in 2005. We learned that, when asked to play on a more frequent basis, he doesn't hit as well. I'm sure it is because he is exposed to better pitching, more right-handers, or some other reason, but he just does not produce as an everyday player. His defense at shortstop was passable - he even was perfect in 21 starts at the position in 2005, but was -1 runs saved above average - but he was not going to be a solution at any position.

What we learned most is how far we will go to embrace a player who is Not Cristian Guzman (NCG). Any NCG player is going to be loved and respected while manning the shortstop position and putting up replacement-level production offensively. Royce Clayton, added about a week ago, is the next player who will likely take advantage of being NCG.

My assumption is that I'm going to like Royce Clayton, but only because of the NCG status. I hated Clayton during his two years with the Chicago White Sox, in which he managed to alienate fans with his indifferent attitude, while putting up lines of .263/.315/.393 and .251/.295/.365 on offense. Sound like anyone you know?

Oddly enough, here are your competing 2006 PECOTA projections for Messers Clayton and Guzman:

Clayton (as a D'Back) - .256/.319/.359
Guzman - .245/.290/.324

Adjust Clayton's numbers for RFK and the NL East and, boom:

The Nationals have two Cristian Guzmans.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Musings on New and Potentially New Nats

No, I have little interest in blogging on the comedy of errors and politicking that went on in the DC Council the other night--despite my thought while staying up to watch the council meeting that I would try to pay the $600+ million myself if I could just hear Marion Barry, who sounded completely unintelligible, utter the sentence: "Excuse me, Ms. Chairman, where's the line item in the budget for crack?"

My favorite part of the night was when they had to hold a vote on whether they could hold a vote on whether they could hold a vote (seriously, I'm not kidding on that one--the argument was over whether when a call for a vote to end debate and have a vote on the proposal was rejected, how little time could pass before someone could ask for a similar vote).

Basically, MLB will a) agree to it and there will be a hundred stumbling blocks down the road, especially when the bond issuers demand that DC guarantee cost overruns, which under the deal struck, DC would "have to" abide by, and we can all watch Councilman Catania blow a vein in his head, or b) won't agree to it, and...well, let's wait on that one because I don't have the heart to discuss it.

Today's topic is about three players: Alfonso Soriano (and no, I don't really WANT to make him my new whipping boy--it's not his fault Bowden was on hallucinogens when he made that trade); Matthew LeCroy; and Sammy Sosa.

1) Soriano: Last year, Alfonso Soriano was paid $7.5 million by the Texas Rangers. I think that would probably be about right for this year--and I think I am being somewhat generous given the fact that the guy was simply awful outside the cozy confines of Arlington (a staggeringly low .639 OPS, and for those of you not statistically minded... a .224 batting average with almost no walks, little-medium power, and very few RBIs), and there is the possibility that he could be just dreadful in RFK since he gets on base only slightly more often than Cristian Guzman.
However, the Nationals have offered Soriano $10 million in arbitration, and if you think that sum isn't staggering enough for a guy who doesn't even have a position on this team, Soriano has asked for $12 million. Either figure would be an arbitration record.

Do I think Soriano could get $12 million.? No, not really. But does it concern me that one of the arbitrators deciding the case is Richard Bloch? Yes. You might remember the name Richard Bloch, because unless there are two sports arbitrators named Richard Bloch, this is the same man who was recently fired by the NFLPA for finding against Terrell Owens in his claim against the Eagles. One could argue that Bloch finding against Owens shows that he is reasonable and can side with owners. One could also argue that Bloch wants to keep his job as a baseball arbitrator and might feel that siding with the Eagles so publicly and then with the Nationals is the fastest way to a pink slip. I'd be nervous if I were the Nats, because if Soriano isn't untradeable at $10 mil, he certainly is at $12 mil.

2) The Nats did make one good signing this week and that was the $850,000 contract of Matt LeCroy. LeCroy isn't a splashy player, but he is one that makes our team better. He plays catcher and first base (although with all our first basemen, we'll just focus on his catching), is a righty to compliment Brian Schneider, and is a significant offensive upgrade from Gary Bennett, who did a reasonable job for the Nats, but was no Matt LeCroy. Let's look at how LeCroy hit last year against lefties (since he will probably get 80-90% of his at bats against them). In 144 plate appearances against lefties last year, LeCroy hit .306 with a HUGE 1.025 OPS. Now one drawback is that he hit way worse outside the Metrodome than in it, but for $850,000, this is a really great signing.

3) Sammy Sosa. It appears the Nats have made a major league contract offer to the juice-deprived slugger. I'm not going to go crazy criticizing that because we don't actually know the details of the offer yet, and some say it is very incentive-laden, which I am fine with. But if it really is the close to the $1.5-$2 million rumor out there, and worse, if it really is simply because Bud Selig wants Sosa to stay in the game and none of the "real" owners want him, I'm going to be pretty fired up. ESPECIALLY, if the "hey, we have Sammy Sosa, come buy a ticket and see him strike out" tour takes away at-bats from up and comers like Ryan Church. Let's wait and see.

Monday, February 06, 2006

How to Win at "Buck Says"

Read Dan Agonistes.