Early Season Underachievers: Washington Nationals

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Just a note: these “underachievers” are based on what the majority of the prognosticators thought prior to the season and not what I thought. For example, I had the Phillies at 79-83 in my book (which, for the record, is now available on I-Tunes). The majority of the predictions I saw had the Phillies as contenders. I had the Nationals winning 103 games.

For a team as loaded as the Nats to have a .500 record after almost 20% of the season is unexpected. Is it something to be overly concerned about though? The answer is no.

Both Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa are proven players who are batting under .200. That won’t continue. The starting pitching and bullpen are deep and diverse and as the season moves along, GM Mike Rizzo will find a lefty specialist somewhere—Wesley Wright, Mike Dunn—because several will eventually become available.

That’s not to say there’s not potential for things to go wrong. They’re leading the Major Leagues in errors and manager Davey Johnson made a typical Davey Johnson managerial move when the Nats were playing the Mets two weeks ago and it neatly summed him up for better or worse. With the Mets leading 2-0 in the top of the eighth inning Mets reliever Scott Rice gave up a single to Steve Lombardozzi, walked Denard Span, and went to 3-0 and Jayson Werth. Werth was given the green light, swung at a low, outside pitch and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. The Mets won the game.

That’s Johnson. It’s always been Johnson. It always will be Johnson. With the Mets in the 1980s, the lack of discipline, overaggressiveness and arrogance in believing that the fundamentals would be unnecessary as long as they pitched and hit home runs cost them playoff spots multiple times to teams like the Cardinals who were schooled in playing the game properly. Whitey Herzog’s hardline treatment of his players was well-known and if they didn’t do what they were supposed to do when they were supposed to do it, they didn’t play.

Is it a problem for the Nats? Yes and no. One of the reasons he’s been so successful is that the players love him and know he’s going to put the game in their hands. There wouldn’t be a debate if Werth hit the ball out of the park. It’s not the strategy that was the issue, but the execution. Werth was overanxious and swung at a bad pitch and criticizing him or Johnson won’t matter because telling Johnson what he did was wrong is only going to accomplish one thing: he’s going to do it more just to prove how smart he is and how dumb his critics are.

The Nats are too talented and deep to play in so mediocre a fashion for much longer.

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R.A. Dickey’s Story is Meant for Paperback

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How much more money has R.A. Dickey made for himself with his story?

I’m not talking about his baseball contract. The Mets have him signed for next season at $5 million and if his second half goes as well as his first half, I’d expect them to approach him about a reasonable extension. It won’t be 5 years (knuckleballer or not, he’s going to be 38 in October), but 2-3 years with incentives and options is a realistic starting point.

The extra money I’m talking about is with the paperback release of his book.

It’s doubtful that Dickey got a large sum of money in the form of an advance for the hardcover version of his book, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball.

You can read my review here.

Knowing how the publishing industry works, he’s getting a 10-20% royalty off the cover price on every copy sold and that has to be shared with his collaborator Wayne Coffey. It’s possible that Coffey got paid upfront and isn’t getting a piece on the backend. Bad luck for him if that’s the case.

The cover price is $26.95. It’s currently #58 on Amazon’s bestseller list; #1 for religious and spirituality; #2 for baseball; and #4 in sports and outdoors.

Just for context, if I sell one copy of my book, my rankings rise from say 400,000 on Amazon to 200,000. For my 2001 novel I received a standard entry level author contract. The royalties were such that I got 10% of the first X number of books sold and 15% for anything after that. It didn’t amount to a massive series of paychecks for me, but for a book like Dickey’s that can mean a lot of money just from sales alone.

With the number of books that Amazon stocks overall, Dickey’s book is selling rapidly and it’s been boosted greatly by his performance. The book was interesting before Dickey’s sudden rise to All-Star/Cy Young/MVP status. He pulled no punches and made personal revelations that have rarely been seen from an athlete. The storyline of going from where he was to where he is now is exponentially multiplying the fees his representatives are going to be able to secure for the paperback rights. That Dickey is—I guarantee this—keeping a diary of his 2012 season for the “new chapter” in the paperback and that this new chapter will include everything from the attention he’s received to the Mets’ surprising vault into contention to the way he’s pitched will all combine to make him money that few first time authors and almost no athletes make.

It’s a stunning leap for Dickey on the field; a cathartic and gutsy display of naked self-revelation in his book; and now, a financial windfall.

And that’s before getting to the movie rights. They’re coming too.

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