National Catastrophe In The Making

  • A non-partisan nightmare:

The factional disputes inherent in Washington politics are generally put aside when a true catastrophe occurs. Of course there are always—-in every situation—-those who will take any kind of disaster and twist it to suit their own needs, truth be damned.

In a baseball sense, the Washington Nationals have the potential to be just such a calamity.

What are they doing?

You can debate the Jayson Werth signing; call it an expensive mistake; say that they’ll be paying a good player great player money until he’s in his late-30s. But the fact remains that at least Werth is a good player. The assertions that he’s a “player who’s never driven in 100 runs” as if that’s the barometer of the contract are absurd.

But it’s the other moves the Nationals have made that are going to exacerbate the hellish fate that awaits them.

They desperately need pitching. Their current number 1 starter is listed as Livan Hernandez; they re-signed Chien-Ming Wang after Wang missed the entire 2010 season recovering from shoulder surgery and hasn’t pitched at all since mid-2009; they have the middling likes of Jason Marquis, Scott Olsen and John Lannan on the roster; they’re looking at Carl Pavano; and appear to be waiting—-again—-for Stephen Strasburg to arrive, yank open his shirt, show the “S” on his T-shirt and rescue the franchise.

That didn’t exactly work the last time.

As for their offense, are they better with Werth? Perhaps they would be had they not traded Josh Willingham to the Athletics for outfielder Corey Brown and RHP Henry Rodriguez.

This exacerbates the overall point.

What are the Nationals?

What’s the plan?

Are they trying to win immediately?

Are they rebuilding and trying to compete simultaneously?

Do they have the young personnel to justify the aggressive, expensive and risk/reward decisions that are currently being made?

The latest is Rick Ankiel.

Rick Ankiel?

Like Werth, I have to ask the question: is he going to pitch?

Ankiel can play the outfield; he’s better than what they currently have on their depth chart beside Werth (Nyjer Morgan and Roger Bernadina), but he’s not better than Willingham. Willingham’s abilities have long be underappreciated and he was inexpensive for everything he did. When he was with the Marlins, all the focus was placed on Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez, but the hitter I most feared in a big situation was Willingham. And they dispatched him for the future.

But are they playing for the future or making the mistake of being several things at once?

Well-run teams who are successful are learning the error of their ways as they use dual strategies of winning and maintaining the pipeline. They’re correctly altering their strategy. But the Nats? A franchise that has had one .500 season since 2003 (when they were still in Montreal); they’re not good. They’re not in a financial position to be making such prohibitive signings as Werth for that amount of money.

But they are.

One thing that’s glossed over when players are signed to deranged contracts like that of Werth isn’t that it’s an overpayment for a limited player; it’s that it hinders what the club can do to fill out the roster.

Such is the situation the Cardinals are going to face with Albert Pujols as they come to grips with the prospect of a contentious negotiation with the Joe DiMaggio of this generation; can the Cardinals maintain competition with Pujols taking up a massive percentage of their payroll so they can barely afford anyone else?

Jayson Werth is not Albert Pujols.

The only answer to my question as to whether there’s a plan is this: there is no plan. They’re just doing things. Things that aren’t going to assist in a leap to contention; things that are going to keep the club in the netherworld of mediocrity and worse. They’re in a vicious division, they have no pitching and they can’t really hit.

So where’s the improvement?

It’s not there.

  • Viewer Mail 12.22.2010:

Matt writes RE the Yankees and Zack Greinke:

If I were the Yank’s I’d take Derek Lowe off the Braves hands, presumably for little more than his salary commitment. He’d eat innings per usual and with their offense I could easily see him being a 15 game winner. For what it’s worth (not much) I was at Fenway this summer and watched Grienke throw a 1-run complete game loss against Clay Buchholz‘s gem and obviously came away impressed. I think he’d have thrived in NY or anywhere else.

I actually—-and this is 100% true—-had mentioned Derek Lowe as an option for them and deleted it. I don’t see the Braves moving him now with the Phillies as loaded up with pitching as they are; the Braves are a Wild Card favorite with Lowe; they’d need to bring pitching back to replace him and dealing him makes no sense now.

I love Greinke’s talent. What impresses me most about him is the way he can amp it up when he gets into trouble, raising his fastball from 92-93 to 96. His control, command and stuff are undeniable. The big issue is his mentality and handling the pressure. There won’t be as much pressure in Milwaukee as there would’ve been with the Yankees, but he couldn’t deal with pitching for a rotten team in Kansas City; there’s always a chance of those issues recurring.

I do hope he handles the off-field stuff and shows what he can do on the field in a pennant race.

Max Stevens writes RE the Athletics:

Prince, have you noticed that the Oakland A’s have quietly made themselves a much better team this offseason, perhaps even the team to beat in the AL West?  They already had pretty solid pitching, and the addition of Willingham and Matsui brings some much needed thunder to their lineup.  There’s a lot of ‘ifs’ involved in my thinking about this, but let’s say the A’s get Beltre, the Rangers don’t re-sign Vald or find a suitable replacement for him, and the Angels fail to upgrade their offesne significantly.  If all this happens, Oakland will win 90 games or so, which would probably be enough to take the West.  What say you?

I think the A’s are going to be really good next year. Their pitching is young, but they have a lot of it; I would hesitate to expect young pitchers to repeat their work from one year to the next, but the extra firepower in their lineup will give them the leeway to fall back and still bound into legitimate contention; that division isn’t particularly great either, so they have a giant opening to dive through.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE yesterday’s posting:

“Understandable but mistaken.”


Jeff, I bring it sometimes. I….bring….IT!!!!

I was on with Sal at SportsFan Buzz last Wednesday talking about Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and all the other stuff that’s gone on in baseball. Go to Sal’s site for the I-tunes link or click The SportsFan Buzz: December 15, 2010 to listen directly.


5 thoughts on “National Catastrophe In The Making

  1. A couple of mistakes in your post. Scott Olsen is not longer a National, he signed with the Pirates on 6 December and the Nationals had a .500 record in their first year in Washington (not in Montreal). Only time will tell if the rest of your post has any merit. I would only point out that they do have some decent young prospects for pitching within their organization. Pitchers such as Jordan Zimmermann, Colin Balestar, Garrett Mock, Aaron Thompson, Yunesky Maya, and Ross Detwiler all have some potential to become good starters.

  2. I really don’t understand the Nat’inals either. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really feel sorry for Ryan Zimmerman. He’s loaded with talent and promise… talent which is wasted, and I assure you that THAT ain’t promising.

  3. Jim’s right about Olsen. I checked and Olsen is still listed with the Nats, but that’s no excuse. I’ll correct that tomorrow when I answer the mail. Regarding their status of not having finished with a .500 record, I meant over .500. I’ll respond to the other stuff tomorrow as well.

  4. Paul – As a guy who has watched Werth closely during his tenure in Philadelphia, I agree that this was a pretty ridiculous contract for a guy who is a complementary player being asked to be a core player. Still, to not mention Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann or #1 pick wunderkind Bryce Harper while excoriating the Nats for a guy who they don’t even own anymore tells me you have a lot of homework to do. Willingham is arbitration-eligible and would have been a lame duck on a market-value one-year deal. No, the Nats have no shot in 2011, and with Strasburg also out rehabbing, any guys on a one-year deal are absolutely trade fodder. I don’t know if this will all pan out, but the Nats remind me a bit of the Rays with their multiple #1 overall picks. The core players are where it’s at. Which makes the Werth signing look like a knee-jerk reaction to losing Adam Dunn and based on fear of losing the gains they made in attracting fans of late, more so than a wise on-field move.

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