Great first two games for the Nats so far. Let’s see if JZimm can keep pace with the rest of the staff and put goose eggs up there today.
Last night felt like a football game. I actually think I was colder last night than I was at any football game this past season. By the way, black mark for ownership on another promotion. They can never seem to get those right. If you are having dollar dog night, you should 1) start cooking them before the crowd arrives, 2) cook more than you usually do and 3) have additional staff since there will be a lot more business at those stands. If you don’t do that, it’s yet another addition to the long list of bait and switch moves by team ownership. Wouldn’t you rather have your fans in their seats rooting for their team instead of waiting on line in the concourse for 3 innings for a hot dog? If you did, last night’s situation wouldn’t have happened. But you want to give the appearance of a good promotion, without having to live up to the deal. I took a look at the lines and bought nachos instead. But really, if you’re going to do a promotion, do it right.
Joining Harper on the 2 homer game list already this season: Michael Morse. Yep.
Finally, it’s good to see that we re-signed Chris Young today. Nice to have someone like him stashed in the minors in case we need him.
The Nationals finish up their spring slate in Florida today vs the Mets, and return home to face the Yankees in their final exhibition game tomorrow at Nationals Park. It was great to see Zimmerman dial it in with 3 homers yesterday, and Ramos with 2. There is no need to talk in detail about Harper, as his stats this spring speak for themselves. A lot of the regulars have had solid springs. Some of the pitching has been rocky, but that’s not out of the ordinary for spring training. I won’t even freak out about the first start of the regular season for each if they are still settling in. But after that, I expect them to be true to form. Let’s hope Haren and our bullpen get it together pretty quickly.
I do think, or at least strongly hope, that we add a decent left-hander to the bullpen fairly early in the season. Maybe we can pick up someone that gets released during final cuts, and stash them at AAA until they are needed. No matter how good the big three are at the back of our bullpen, you can’t change the fact that they are all right-handed. We need a decent situational lefty. He doesn’t have to be an all-star. But we need one. And if Zach Duke (who has had a shaky spring) is supposed to double as our long man out of the bullpen, we can’t expect him to be the LOOGy all the time as well. We need another one, and he should not be that hard to find. I don’t think at this point that Romero will be the answer.
One final note: Michael Morse led MLB this spring with 8 homers, and is hitting .365. Go Mike. You deserve it, and I really do think at some point this season we’ll be sorry that we let you go. I hope I’m wrong and that we stay healthy, but either way, impressive start to the year for him.
As I feared, we traded Michael Morse away yesterday, or better yet pretty much gave him away to the Seattle Mariners. In return, we got back A.J Cole, whom we had drafted a few years ago and later included in the trade for Gio. Yes, we received another pitcher and a player to be named, but this trade was basically for Cole. In case you didn’t read the text of any articles about the trade, Cole started off the minor league season last year at 0-7. In Single A ball. He later got demoted to Low A ball. Like I said, we basically gave Morse away. The only redeeming thing about this deal is that it gives The Beast a chance to play every day, which he deserves. But that doesn’t change the fact that it was a bad trade. He was “cheap” salary-wise. He has lots of power, also hits for average, and is in his prime. He would have been great insurance in case someone got injured. And the money should not have been a factor, since the Lerners clearly are in a spending mode right now. He was also a very popular player, both in the clubhouse and with the fan base. Something to think about as you build the team in the future, Lerners and Rizzo. Part of the team’s appeal (beyond winning 98 games) was that they are for the most part all likeable. The fans felt a connection to them. A few tweaks to a team that led the league in wins is fine. When you start approaching too many adjustments, it become subtraction by addition. Good luck out there Michael. Hope you have a great season, and thanks for all you did for the Nationals.
I said i wouldn’t mention LaRoche again until he signed somewhere, so now I will open my trap again. I welcome him back, with a smirk on my face of course. What he may lose in productivity for being another year older, we will likely get back in continuity, defense, and locker room presence. Thankfully the initial reaction is that we do not necessarily have to trade away Morse. I really hope we keep him. Although he deserves to play every day, he will be a great asset to have in case someone gets hurt. Not to mention that he can spell both Werth and LaRoche fairly regularly, as they both have a lot of seasons on their bodies and can use some days off. Speaking of Werth, as clutch as that homer was in the playoffs, I’ll note again what an albatross that contract will be in the coming years. It would be interesting to see if we could get anything for him in a trade, then play Morse and/or Tyler Moore in that third spot. I realize that would upset team chemistry, but it would be yet another forward-thinking move by GM Mike Rizzo.
My last comment on Adam LaRoche for a while. Promise. I’ve come to the conclusion that I almost hope he goes elsewhere, such as the Rangers or Orioles. Why? Because 1) he’s not worth that third year and 2) we will get a first round sandwich pick from whichever team signs him. I know we’ve only been to the playoffs once in this reincarnation of a baseball team in Washington, but we do need to think long-term if we’re going to keep this success going. Let Morse and Tyler Moore play. There is a lot of pop in those 2 bats. Not as much glove, but definitely more pop. And younger pop.
That comment brings me to this: For the second time in the past few weeks, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post has penciled in Bryce Harper as the cleanup hitter for the Nats next season. I will eat crow if he is correct, but I do not think the Nats will put that kind of pressure on a 20-year old guy who has less than 1 full season on his resume. You can pencil in Morse (or LaRoche) as your cleanup hitter next season. Write that one down.
And that point leads me to one more thought. The Nats made a good move in acquiring Span to bat leadoff. But compare his last season to Harper’s first season. In 139 games, Harper put up a .270 average, 9 triples, 18 stolen bases, 56 walks, and a .340 OBP. In 128 games, Span had .283 average, 4 triples, 17 stolen bases, 47 walks, and a .342 OBP. Harper had significantly more strikeouts, but made up for it in HRs and OPS. Just think of what he’ll do with some more seasoning and better pitch selection. It’s scary. He could bat anywhere in the lineup, but my guess is it will be 2nd or 5th, not 4th.
A couple of things just give me a warm feeling. Mike Rizzo saying they’ve pretty much laid their offer to LaRoche on the table and are not changing it. We’ve come a long way from a few years ago where we had to way overpay to sign a ‘big’ free agent in Werth. Haren signed a 1-year deal to play here because he wants to win. Rizzo is now holding fast because he believes LaRoche feels the same way. With Loney and Napoli being signed and filling 1B needs for other teams, the market for LaRoche is growing smaller. I’d welcome him back, but again only for the 2 year deal.
If that happens, some baseball minds are saying that we’ll trade Michael Morse. I would hope that only happens if we get some solid value in return, not just a few low level minor league guys. Sure, he’ll be a free agent next year and if we lose him we’ll get nothing. But these are the new Nats. We don’t have to wring every piece of value at every turn. In past years, we did this to prepare for the future. Well, the future is here. I’d be happy keeping morse. There will always be injuries on any given team. Look at the outfield last year. Morse himself missed significant time, as did Werth. While I don’t wish for injuries, they do happen and it would be great to have Morse around for insurance. I really like his bat, and I believe he’s well-liked by teammates and an important part of the clubhouse. The biggest issue may be a roster crunch, with Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina both needing bench spots as well. But it’s still early in this process, and the roster numbers are a long way out from being detemined.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, so I figure I better get something up in November before the month totally passes me by. Been recovering from rotator cuff surgery, so typing takes twice as long as usual. I’m using Chien-Ming Wang as a little bit of inspiration, since my shoulder feels worse right now than it did pre-surgery. Eventually they say it will be much better, so I have to hope I’ll be 100% again at some point. Wang came back to pitch in MLB, so I’m optimistic that I can get back to a weekend warrior level.
Many fans are keeping their eye on the winter meetings in Dallas, to see if the Nats come out of there with a piece or two that would enable a playoff push next year. I’m all for finding the right pieces, but not at the expense of mortgaging the future. Like many close observers of the Nats, I think 2013 will be the year to make a serious playoff push. I’m not trying to be pessimistic, just realistic, while playing in the same division as a few other perennial playoff teams. I would like to see us acquire a front line starter, either as an innings-eater and staff leader, such as Buhrle or possibly Oswalt (with an incentive-laden contract) via free agency, if the price is right. Or, we could trade for a higher-caliber, entering-their-prime starter, if they are under contract for at least 3 more years. A center fielder with either leadoff capability or power would be great, and I acknowledge that need along with everyone else. But I’d like to see a 1-2 year solution there, barring a trade. In 2 years, we’ll have a glut of outfielders, and not enough room to play them.
As for first base, I’m not sure whether to laugh or be angry at those who suggest we sign some help at first base. I’d prefer to keep Morse at first, for no other reason that him playing there coincided with him hitting over .300 and 30+ home runs. But if the front office is intent on playing LaRoche at first, then Morse can shift there when LaRoche needs a day off, which also frees up an outfield spot for a bench player to get a spot start and some ABs. To use a roster spot on another 1B would be downright silly.
If we enter spring training with no major signings or trades, I’m fine with that too, as long as that means we get a long look this season at Milone, Peacock, Lombardozzi, and others to see if they are going to be long-term pieces of the puzzle. And my acquiescence to that plan in 2012 would be with the strong assumption that we would be major free agent players for the pieces we need going into 2013.