Where Do the Marlins Go From Here?

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This Marlins group is not a “team”. It’s a glued together collection of individuals whose mutual interests—of the front office and players—mixed together to create a toxic mess that’s being dismantled as hastily as it was built. A plan that changes when it doesn’t reap immediate dividends is not a plan at all and with the decision to start clearing the decks and apparently listen to offers for anyone and everyone on the roster, where they go from here is unclear.

It began yesterday with the Marlins trading righty starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante to the Tigers for three youngsters including top pitching prospect Jacob Turner, catcher Rob Brantly and lefty pitcher Brian Flynn.

Turner, the 9th overall pick in the 2009 draft, appeared to have fallen out of favor with the Tigers and his status moved from untouchable to gone, but he’s only 21, has a great curve and a prototypical pitcher’s body. The Marlins have gotten torched in dealing for Tigers’ prospects before as Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin didn’t pan out after they were acquired in the Miguel Cabrera trade, but Turner is more polished than Miller was.

Sanchez is a free agent at the end of the season and, when he’s on, is very difficult to hit. He’s had a history of arm problems that he’s overcome in recent years and is going to be more of an immediate help to the Tigers than Turner. Infante is a reliable veteran who plays good defense at second base and has some pop.

Getting Turner is a positive for the Marlins, but does this signal a housecleaning? The construction of the 2012 Marlins wasn’t about putting the best possible pieces in place, but about buying stuff to stick in their gaudy new home. Like the impulse purchases of an instant millionaire, aesthetic and functionality were placed on the backburner in the interest of generating headlines. They needed a manager who was going to spark buzz and had a history of winning? Trade for Ozzie Guillen. They needed a closer? Heath Bell’s out there and he’s a closer. Let’s sign him. They needed a third baseman? Sign Jose Reyes and move Hanley Ramirez to third base. They needed starting pitching? Sign Mark Buehrle and trade for Carlos Zambrano.

It’s simple in the George Steinbrenner sense and actually sometimes works. It did for the 1970s Yankees and the 1997 Marlins, among others. But it’s also failed as it did with the 1980s Yankees and the 1992 Mets.

Who knows what would’ve happened this season had Guillen not caused an immediate uproar by fulfilling his mandate by ranting (mostly incoherently) to draw attention and idiotically said that he admired a loathsome figure in the Miami area, Fidel Castro? If they’d made sure Ramirez was onboard with the move to third base and was committed to being a Marlin, playing hard every day and behaving himself? If Logan Morrison spent as much time concentrating on playing and not expressing his freedom of speech rights on Twitter? If Zambrano was, as Guillen apparently expected, reachable to a countryman and friend who knew him well?

There’s no room for wouldas, shouldas and couldas with the Marlins. Owner Jeffrey Loria and the baseball people act quickly when they’re building and demolishing so this concept of being ready and willing to talk about the entire roster is not foreign to them. The attendance at their new ballpark is 12th in the National League. They’re not cohesive nor do they appear to like each other very much. It’s understandable to give up on the season and try something else, but what is there to try? Who stays and who goes? And what’s going on in the heads of the free agent signees Reyes and Buehrle? They presumably had it in mind that the Marlins couldn’t care less about promises they may or may not have made at contract time and that the organization will dispatch them at a moment’s notice, sending them to live out the remaining time on their deals in a locale that they wouldn’t have chosen on their own. They signed with the Marlins knowing their history and they have to deal with the fallout.

As rapidly as this was tossed together, it’s being taken apart with the only question being where they go from here. Since it changes so rapidly and without remorse or introspection, I don’t think anyone can provide an answer because not even the Marlins know.

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The Twins’ Unique Pursuits

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One of the bigger head-scratching rumors over the weekend of the MLB trading deadline revolved around the Twins and the Nationals talks to send Denard Span to the Nats.

Various stories had the Twins wanting Drew Storen; the Nats offering Tyler Clippard; the Twins demanding that Roger Bernadina and Stephen Lombardozzi be part of the deal—then things falling apart.

Who knows how close they came and how accurate the reporting was?

But the Twins desires were indicative of the unique way they run their club.

They have a plan and a template, but often appear to have their judgment clouded by insignificant aspects such as designation of “closer” and organizational connections.

You could make the argument that, financially, they’d be better off with Storen over Clippard; Clippard is arbitration-eligible after this year and due for a big raise; Storen has one year of service time. There are also the questions about former Nats manager Jim Riggleman‘s overuse of Clippard affecting him negatively going forward.

But the money isn’t as big a problem as it once was for the Twins; they can’t justifiably be called a “small market” team anymore with a 2011 payroll hovering around $113 million. They’re upper-mid-market, if anything.

I get the impression that they wanted Storen because he’s a “closer” as if the appellation of the term means something. He’s got great stuff, but has been shaky in the role and allowed 7 homers; Clippard is dominant with plenty of strikeouts and a funky, over-the-top motion that is sneaky fast and unusual for hitters to have to face. Clippard gives up his share of homers too, but all things being equal, I’d rather have Clippard.

Why they wound demand Bernadina is a mystery. But Lombardozzi is the son of former Twins infielder Steve Lombardozzi who was a part of the 1987 championship team. The legacy aspect can’t be ignored if a player who was a 19th round draft pick is so fervently desired by a club with family ties. The younger Lombardozzi has put up solid minor league numbers, but is he someone to hold it up on either side?

Ancillary issues are at play with these talks. Span is signed inexpensively through 2015, but was just activated from the disabled list after a concussion. Could the continued problems with post-concussion syndrome suffered by Justin Morneau have influenced the Twins to try to get something for Span now before any after effects show themselves? Ben Revere is younger and cheaper and can catch the ball in center field.

The way the Twins run games under Ron Gardenhire makes it imperative that they have a deep bullpen; this was why they made the trade for Matt Capps last year surrendering top catching prospect Wilson Ramos; and why they would presumably want Storen.

The trade was never completed and I have to give credit to the Twins for holding true to their beliefs.

That said, maybe those beliefs need some tweaking because they’re causing them to do things which make little sense in theory and probably won’t be smart in practice either.

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MLB Trade Deadline Stories 7.30.2011

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Beware GMs/Managers on the hotseat…if they’re your employees.

The Tigers acquired Doug Fister and David Pauley from the Mariners for minor league third baseman Francisco Martinez; outfielder Casper Wells; and LHP Charlie FurbushMLBTradeRumors.

Fister’s a pretty good pitcher and, as the linked story notes, is under team control; Pauley has use and the Tigers are a veteran team with a veteran manager and a veteran GM who are under the mandate to win now; owner Mike Illich has said he’d be “extremely disappointed” if the Tigers fail to make the playoffs.

That’s the problem.

What motivation is there for GM Dave Dombrowski to hang onto any of the Tigers top prospects or think of the long-term if it’s basically known that he’s gone if the team doesn’t make the playoffs? And manager Jim Leyland can barely stand rookies to begin with.

When a GM/managerial tandem is on the hotseat as the Tigers duo is, they’re going to do whatever they can to win and keep their jobs; that could cause them to sabotage the system by making a trade that they normally wouldn’t make if they were working under long-term contracts.

Dombrowski isn’t going to save the Tigers youngsters so Al Avila has a strong base to build from when he takes over as GM; this might cause him to do something the club will regret long after Dombrowski and Leyland are out of town.

Nationals trade Jerry Hairston Jr. to the Brewers.

I guess the acquisition of Jonny Gomes made utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr. expendable for the Nationals.

Yes, I’m being sarcastic.

The Nationals appear to have gotten themselves a good prospect for Hairston in Double A outfielder Erik Komatsu, so it’s a smart move in exchange for a mediocre player.

But I have to ask again: why did they need Jonny Gomes?!?

There’s no evidence of a plan in place in Washington unless not having a plan is the plan.

Are the Nats rebuilding? Are they trying to bring in veterans and win simultaneously to developing youngsters? Why sign Jayson Werth and trade for Gomes while acquiring younger players still in the minors?

They’ve got some excellent talent in the organization now, but winning and developing is very, very hard to do. The Nationals haven’t exhibited any type of comprehensive plan to turn things around apart from being terrible year-after-year and getting terrific players in the draft.

That—with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper among others—is working.

The concerns with Heath Bell.

Much is being made of Heath Bell’s declining strikeout rate.

It could be something significant or it could be a matter of circumstance. He’s only allowed 1 homer this year and that’s a stat I’d be more interested in than his strikeouts.

Teams coveting Bell have to look at his location and consider the possibility that the hitters are squaring him up better than they did before; that, more than his strikeouts, would be an indicator as to whether he’s “lost” something.

The fewer k’s could be due to any myriad of factors like pitch selection or the types of hitters he’s facing and if they’re trying harder to make contact.

If Bell’s velocity and stuff are similar to what they were in prior years, there’s nothing to be overly panicky about when trying to get him.

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Amaro’s Mirror Trades

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In certain deals, it seems that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. takes a sensible trade proposal, holds it in front of the mirror and does what the reflection says.

In short, he does the opposite of what he should do.

It was evident in the Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay trade (since rectified with the twin-acknowledgments that it was a mistake with the acquisition of Roy Oswalt a year ago and the re-signing of Lee as a free agent last winter), and it is so now with the trade for Hunter Pence.

Pence is a good player and he’ll help the Phillies; but when you’re trading two of your top prospects along with two other young players, I’d think you could do better than a “good” player.

I’d think that such a swap—tweaked when necessary—would bring back a star player along the lines of Hanley Ramirez.

But Amaro focused on Pence and got him. I give him credit for doing what he thinks is right in execution, not in theory.

If you compare what other clubs have acquired when they’ve traded their top prospects—specifically the Red Sox with the deal they made last winter in getting Adrian Gonzalez—reason dictates that the Phillies could’ve gotten a better player than Pence in a deal centered around Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart.

Pence is under team control for the next 2 1/2 years and he fills a void in the Phillies lineup; Gonzalez was a free agent after 2011 before the Red Sox signed him to a $154 million extension to prelude free agency, so the Phillies have more certainty with Pence, but you can’t place the two in the same category on the field.

Amaro targets and acquires.

Sometimes that’s good as it was with Lee and Oswalt.

Sometimes it’s okay as it was with Raul Ibanez and the lateral move for Halladay (as great as he’s been) at the expense of Lee.

Sometimes it’s wrong as it was when he traded Lee for Halladay.

And sometimes it’s questionable as it is now with Pence.

No matter what happens with the Phillies from here on, they could’ve gotten more for Singleton and Cossart if they’d looked elsewhere and/or waited.

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You All Do Realize It’s Hunter Pence, Right?

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The packages I’m seeing bounced around as being offered for Hunter Pence are mind-boggling.

The Phillies are ready to give up two and maybe three prospects for him including Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton and/or Domonic Brown?

The Braves are supposedly in on Pence as well but aren’t going overboard with the prospects as the Phillies are.

As I’ve said repeatedly I don’t put much stock in rumors—they could be smokescreens or outright fabrications—but use your own mind. Check this link on MLBTradeRumors regarding Pence and what do you see? You see about 10 different versions of the same story all changed within a very short timeframe. I don’t blame MLBTradeRumors—they’re a clearinghouse for this stuff putting it all in one place; I blame the sources and purveyors of this nonsense, all of whom are in cahoots to scream “fire” in a crowded theater.

But one thing is being missed in all of this.

It’s Hunter Pence.

He’s a pretty good player. That’s it. He’s consistent in his power and overall game; he can run; he’s good defensively with deceptively strong and accurate arm considering the fact that he throws like there’s something wrong with him physically (he’s awkward) or mentally (his eyes are deer-in-the-headlights wide).

He doesn’t strike out an absurd amount and doesn’t walk. Pence is arbitration eligible after this year and a free agent after 2013. He’s a useful piece and a good guy.

He’s not worth the Phillies offer.

If the Phillies hold off until after the season, the packages that are being discussed could yield a superstar player who may be too costly for his current team or is disgruntled and wants out. Of course that type of player will be more financially expensive than Pence, who they’ll have under team control for the next 2 1/2 years, but it’s a lot to give up for a supporting player. That’s what Pence is.

If I were surrendering that package, I’d approach the Marlins about Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison or Mike Stanton before going after Pence; go to the Rays and ask about Evan Longoria—who knows what they’ll say? How about the Orioles and Nick Markakis? The Dodgers about Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp?

Any of these players would be preferable to Pence and might be obtainable with the package of Singleton, Cosart and Brown.

Much like the decision Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. made in December of 2009 to trade Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay and “replenish” the Phillies system, it wasn’t well-thought-out, nor was it smart.

You’ll notice that none of the young players the Phillies got in that trade—Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez—are being discussed in these Pence scenarios.

The Phillies need to step back and think before pulling the trigger on a good bat when what they’re giving up could get them a great bat if they wait.

They’re making a mistake. Again.

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MLB Trade Deadline Stories 7.28.2011

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Update: Click here for a new posting with video and analysis of the young players traded to the Astros for Pence.

Are you buying this? I’m not buying this.

Some of these rumors are so ridiculous that they couldn’t possibly be true in any business enterprise other than baseball.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re not accurate.

According to MLBTradeRumors, the Phillies offered top prospects Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton and possibly even Domonic Brown to the Astros for Hunter Pence.

Pence is a good player, but he’s not worth two top prospects, let alone three. Ruben Amaro Jr. has done some stupid things in his time as GM, but he’d redeemed himself in my eyes with his fearless recognition and correcting of the mistake he made in trading Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay. If he sells the farm for Pence, it’s a stupid thing to do because that package could get essentially whatever the Phillies want now and definitely after the season—better players than Pence.

I’m not buying this story and if I’m the Phillies I steer totally clear of Ryan Ludwick as well. They really don’t need a bat to that desperate degree.

Speaking of Ryan Ludwick…

If I were the Braves, I’d forget Ryan Ludwick too. Josh Willingham, yes. Ryan Ludwick, no.

And speaking of Willingham…

I’m getting a “we don’t care anymore” vibe out of Oakland.

The team is atrocious and the lukewarm defenses of Billy Beane are becoming even more ludicrous. Please don’t think silly stories that are popping up of Beane “figuring it out” are anything more than those still invested in the validation of Moneyball.

Without that book and forthcoming movie (which has nothing to do with the text of the book—you’ll see), Beane might’ve been fired long ago. The team’s a disaster. Don’t tell me anything different and don’t remove blame from the man in charge—Billy Beane. He gets credit for the good, he gets blame for the bad. That’s the way it works in reality; not in Michael Lewis’s fantasy world.

On a related subject…

Can we bag the growing talk about the brilliance of Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos? It’s ballooning into the eventual designation of “genius”—something that is easy to anoint and nearly impossible to achieve, especially in baseball. It’s too fleeting; too dependent on perception and story-framing; too reliant on the last move that might or might not have worked.

He’s a good, gutsy GM whose team is hovering around .500 and probably has a bright future.

Let’s leave it there for now.

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Cardinals Concession?

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The Colby Rasmus trade is being chalked up to a blame-game on either Colby’s father Tony Rasmus, manager Tony LaRussa or both.

Tony Rasmus went on another tangent yesterday, mostly aimed at LaRussa.

Who’s to blame is largely irrelevant. Colby Rasmus is no longer a Cardinals player; Tony Rasmus is no longer a Cardinal gadfly; everyone can move on.

In the middle of his tirade, Tony Rasmus brought up an interesting point with the following from the linked piece in the Toronto Sun:

Jeff Luhnow, the Cards’ vice-president of player procurement, made Rasmus his first pick in the 2005 draft, causing La Russa, according to Tony Rasmus, to “make cracks how Colby was Luhnow’s boy and that led to (former GM) Walt Jocketty leaving.”

There was a known rift between the Cardinals front office and LaRussa when Luhnow’s stat-based influence began to take hold. No longer did the organization defer to the teachings of LaRussa and his pitching coach Dave Duncan; ownership wanted to head in the direction of the stat “revolution” and eventually forced Jocketty out because of it.

LaRussa has had to play politics since then to get everything he wanted—something that would’ve been relatively automatic under Jocketty—and he’s been quite adept at it.

So you can understand the Rasmuses being a pawn in this struggle.

One has to wonder where the Cardinals are going with this as they’ve traded their most marketable young position player for a somewhat questionable return.

Are they going all-in now with the looming possibility of Albert Pujols leaving? With LaRussa going year-to-year and his continuing as Cardinals manager likely tied to Pujols staying or going? Are they consciously saying to themselves, “Look, if Pujols and LaRussa leave, we’re more than likely gonna hafta tear the whole thing down anyway and we’ll be terrible for 3-5 years, so let’s go for it now,”?

They’d never admit it publicly, but judging by the decisions that are being made now, it’s not a hard assessment to make.

In a way, it makes sense, but I’d have an ominous sense of foreboding for 2012 and beyond if I were a Cardinals fan. They’d better win in 2011 because if the worst case scenario happens, they’re not going to be a contender for quite awhile after this year.

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Colby Rasmus And Daddy Issues

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During the Mets series against the Cardinals last week the broadcasters Keith Hernandez and Gary Cohen were discussing Colby Rasmus, his father’s perceived interference and his relations with the club. To paraphrase Hernandez—whose own father was heavily involved with his career from beginning to end—it was basically, “my dad’s involved; my dad’s gonna be involved; deal with it”.

The Cardinals are apparently listening to offers for Rasmus. It’s largely irrelevant whether his father Tony’s interference in Colby’s career is a major part of that; that they feel trading him is their best possible bet to improve immediately; or that they simply don’t feel he’s as good as they thought he was when he was drafted.

The perception is that it’s because of his dad.

Teams are aware of a parent’s involvement when they draft him. Sometimes it works as it has with Tim Lincecum; other times it doesn’t with Eric Lindros and Gregg Jefferies.

Because Lincecum has been so tremendous, it’s somehow okay that his father set such ironclad decrees as to his the handling of his son. I’ve always been curious as to what Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti says to Lincecum on a trip to the mound when the pitcher is struggling. Do they talk about the weather? Lincecum’s shampoo of choice for his long, lustrous hair?

The Giants allowed Lincecum to be separate from the rest of the group because he did well and they had a lot of money invested in him. If he was bad in the minors or was in danger of becoming a bust, how quickly would they have started to tweak his perfectly honed mechanics from which he was never supposed to deviate?

Rasmus has been up-and-down in his brief big league career; manager Tony LaRussa appears to have had enough of him; Albert Pujols publicly called out the youngster a year ago. He seems isolated and worn down by the public spitting contest between his stage-father and the team.

But the Cardinals had to have known all this when they drafted him. If he was hitting as he did earlier in the year, it wouldn’t be an issue; but he’s slumping, so it’s a problem.

Like Hernandez said, the dad’s involved—deal with it.

And the Cardinals may deal with it by dealing Rasmus. Then someone else will have to contend with his dad. They too will know what they’re walking into and accept it as a matter of course for getting the young talent of Colby Rasmus. Just like the Giants did with Lincecum and the Cardinals should have—and presumably did—with Rasmus.

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Mets Have To Check In On Colby Rasmus

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So deep into Tony LaRussa‘s spacious, entrance only doghouse; so far out of favor with the Cardinals has fallen Colby Rasmus that it’s being said that they’re shopping him.

There are different levels to “shopping him”. In extreme cases, the phrase means “we gotta get this guy outta here”; in some, it’s “let’s move him now before he declines any further; in others, it’s “we need ‘X’ to compete for a championship now and the easiest way to get that is by dealing ‘Y’ and worrying about the consequences later”.

Whatever the reason, Rasmus is available and the Mets have to check in on him.

What would it take? With the statement from none other than Joel Sherman in the above-linked piece (grains of salt at the ready) that the Cardinals are asking for a “ton”, Rasmus won’t be easily attainable; but what are the Cardinals asking for?

Could the Mets convince the Cardinals that Carlos Beltran, Bobby Parnell and Fernando Martinez for say Rasmus, Bryan Anderson and Maikel Cleto would be a sufficient return?

Beltran could mean the difference between a playoff spot in 2011 or 4th place for the Cardinals.

It’s no guarantee that Beltran would want to leave St. Louis once he’s there nor ask for an absurd contract to stay—many players have been traded to the Cardinals and taken short money to preclude free agency because they enjoyed it so much; plus he’s a LaRussa-type of player. Beltran would also be a viable fallback/threat to Albert Pujols‘s prospective free agency. They could keep Lance Berkman and shift him to first base and install Beltran in right field with Jon Jay in center in the unlikely event of Pujols leaving.

After his breakout season in 2010, Angel Pagan has reverted into being, well, Angel Pagan. A flash of brilliance here; an injury to keep him out for weeks there; and a rockhead play like the one he pulled against the same Cardinals in which he tried to double a runner off first….by throwing the ball to Cardinals first base coach Dave McKay.

He’s not the long-term solution in center for the Mets.

Maybe Rasmus is.

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Your Idiot Rumor/Stupid Idea Of The Day 7.24.2011

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It was a close call. The near winner was the rumor that the White Sox and Cardinals were discussing a trade that would sent White Sox pitchers Edwin Jackson (a pending free agent) and reliever Matt Thornton to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus.

Supposedly the White Sox were also going to send young players to the Cardinals or a third team was going to be recruited to help facilitate matters.

Do the White Sox even have any worthwhile young players past Gordon Beckham, Chris Sale and Dayan Viciedo? And why would the Cardinals want to rent Jackson and take Thornton, who was a total disaster as the White Sox closer for Rasmus, who’s taken up residence in Tony LaRussa‘s entrance only doghouse?

Rasmus is 25 and under team control for the next 3 years. If they’re going to trade him, they’d better get a substantial amount more than Jackson and Thornton and don’t do it in a fit of pique for a manager like LaRussa who’s going year-to-year and is notoriously prickly with anyone—especially a young player—who dares rub him the wrong way.

It’s lunacy.

But there was another rumor that was even more deranged.

The worst of the worst is reserved for the Nick Cafardo weekly piece summed up here on MLBTradeRumors.

Here’s the relevant bit:

Some Nationals people believe a change of scenery would greatly benefit B.J. Upton, and are considering “offering the moon” for him.

The “moon”? For B.J. Upton?

The same Nationals organization that thought they were going to straighten out Lastings Milledge, Scott Olsen and Elijah Dukes is going to somehow get through to Upton?

Have they learned from their mistakes in the attempted nurturing and maturing of the aforementioned problem children and the failures? Do they have a new strategy that the Rays haven’t tried?

The Rays have benched, yelled at, physically challenged and fined Upton. They’ve had leaders like Troy Percival, Jason Isringhausen, Gabe Kapler and Evan Longoria in their clubhouse and not one has gotten through to Upton. Joe Maddon is probably the easiest manager any player is ever going to play for while according him a modicum of respect. Short of sticking him in a room alone with Kyle Farnsworth and telling Farnsworth to do whatever he has to do short of killing Upton to get him in line, I don’t know what else they can do.

So what gives the Nats the idea that they’re going to unlock the secret to Upton’s massive talent? Who came up with this concept and why would they surrender the “moon” to get him? Is this the same line of thought that spurred them to give Jayson Werth $126 million? Because if it is, maybe they should do the exact opposite of what they think is a good move now.

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