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Brief Comment

What we are seeing here is the impact of Mike Rizzo and Stan Kasten making decisions. And a lot of them. With Jim Bowden gone. The collective wisdom of baseball humanity claims that this should be a significant improvement. Just anti-Jimbo bias? We'll see.

Excellent that Ryan Zimmerman has signed. That goes to Kasten. It's his deal. The price is fine -- $9-million/yr. He hasn't proved he's a star. But if he has five years in a row that are no better than his first two years -- 100 RBI, 70-or-more EBH, hit .280 and fine defense -- then it will be a bargain, assuming normal baseball salary inflation. If he gets better, it's a steal. If he gets hurt...hey, they can all get hurt. That's not part of the equation when you make decisions about the young star. Zim wanted $55M for six years. So, $45M for five shouldn't make him unhappy.

This is all of a piece with the sense that ownership got the penny-wise message over the winter after 102 loses (and seeing what would happen to ticket sales). If they'd bought into all of this two years ago, as virtally everybody -- outside and inside the organization told them to -- this Sunday's crowd of 16,000+ (and all that it symbolizes) might have been avoided. Both Kasten and Bowden, in different ways at different times, tried to deliver the message that they should have added a front-line (not superstar) player or two after '06 and '07. By the time they got Adam Dunn and Joe Beimel this year, they were at least one, and perhaps two offseasons behind. Those are the kind of players -- one (Dunn) very good, but imperfect and available; the other (Beimel) very useful but not flashy -- that they should have added BEFORE they entered a new park. But sometimes we have to Learner our lessons the hard way. But maybe they have been learned. And in time for the No. 1 pick.

Okay, we all screamed all winter that the Nats were TWO arms short in the bullpen, not one. They lost Chad Cordero, Jon Rauch and Luis Ayala since last April. A strong bullpen became a thin and weak one. Beimel was necessary, but not sufficient. Ever since the Nats came to town, they have been a continuous tryout camp for reclamation projects and late-bloomers and long-shot high-ceiling Wily Mos. Last year, Shell, whose entire career says he's a AAA sidearm slopballer -- and your eyes tell you the same thing -- had uncharacteristically perfect mechanics, hit spots like he never had and put up excellent numbers. The Nats just felt that he deserved the chance to prove (and they were curious to see) if he'd "found it." Or if he'd go back to his old self. Ledezma's always driven everybody crazy -- power lefty arm, no control, implodes. Same with him. "Let's find out."

The "Natinals" -- I will never forget those uniforms on Zim, Dunn and Dukes, we can only pray it symbolizes a low point, not an eternal state of being -- have been a kind of AAAA team for the last three years. And with some good reason. If you can steal a few diamonds in the rough at low cost, then who cares whether you lose five extra games a year while you hold your "MLB tryouts" in Washington?

But, once again, the experiment, like the low-low-budget '08 team, blew up in their faces. Pitchers who were both better in Florida in March and who simply had better stuff/command/career numbers were sent to Syracuse because they had options while Shell was given a chance to duplicate '08 and Ledezma was given his Last Chance. That's fine if your record is 5-6 or even 4-7. But the Nats just never get lucky when they try to skate on thin ice, do they? When you're 1-10, it turns out to be a big mistake to give away even one or two wins that your Best 25 Players might have provided.

Sorry to see Saul go out in the purge. Sure, a 3.72 ERA in 215 games in three years isn't stellar bullpen work. But it's valuable, especially when you're durable and give up few home runs. But he's messed up. More likely mechanics that his arm. His stuff and movement looked normal today. Just no command at all. When he started HBP-HBP-HR against the Phils, that wasn't him. That was somebody who'd stolen his uniform. It will be a lot easier for him to find himself at Syracuse, not facing Ryan Howard.

Everybody in the so-called New Bullpen has been a starting pitcher -- and fairly recently, too. Mock, Bergmann and Wells. This gives you more bullpen length in extra-inning games. Twice this weekend, Acta has been in danger of running out of pitching by the 11th inning or so. And this is April! Now he has arms he can stretch out for 2-to-3 innings, if needed.

That's far too much for now. Looking forward to Jordan Zimmermann on Monday night, if it doesn't rain. The "Natinals" finally have both Zimmerman and Zimmermann. With all the different uniform styles that all teams use now (to try to sell more team merchandise), how long can it be before the names on the back of their jerseys get reversed? I give it a month.

By Thomas Boswell  |  April 20, 2009; 10:28 AM ET
 
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Posted by: Juan-John | April 20, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

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