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Through one month (almost), what do you think?

As the final day of April dawns, the time for the most common phrase in baseball's first month - "It's still early" - to go away has finally arrived. No, Ryan Zimmerman isn't likely to finish with a .236 average, nor John Patterson with a 7.71 ERA, but what they have experienced is one mediocre month, and the time for turning seasons around is quickly upon us.

[Late news that I really don't want to overshadow the discussion going on below, but it is D'Angelo Jimenez who has been designated for assignment with the recall of Kory Casto. Check out the $.35-edition notebook for Casto's impressive Columbus numbers. I thought Michael Restovich, 0 for his last 15, would be a contender to go down, but Jimenez doesn't have a single pinch hit in 13 plate appearances (0 for 12 with one walk) and had just one hit in 14 at-bats. Makes sense. Restovich, of course, will be in danger when Nook Logan returns perhaps a week from now.

Back to the much more important discussion below.]

With that, as I sit here at Gate C17 at Dulles awaiting United 229, it seems like this is an apt time to discuss the past month, and then broaden the discussion. I'm going to deal with some of this stuff in the $.35 edition of the paper tomorrow, and I'm not going to tip my hand too much here, but let's take a statistical look at things. Numbers don't lie, right? (Perhaps a discussion for another day, but let's lay out a few things anyway.)

All of these rankings and numbers are through yesterday, when the Nationals played their 25th game.

Offense:
Runs - 78, 16th (of 16 teams) in National League
Batting average - .234, 16th in NL
On-base percentage - .316, 13th in NL
Slugging percentage -- .334, 16th in NL
Runs/game - 3.12, 16th in NL
Doubles - 45, 11th in NL
Triples - 3, Tied-11th in NL
Homers - 12, Tied-15th in NL
Strikeouts - 174, 5th in NL
Walks - 95, 5th in NL
RBI - 75, Tied-15th in NL

A small sample size, to be sure, but this offense is struggling. It desperately misses Nick Johnson, who almost automatically increases the batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS and doubles, even if he's not going full-strength. Johnson's recovery from his broken leg will be something to monitor closely over the month of May, because it's still possible he could return in June.

And - don't laugh now, please - I do believe that the offense is hurt by the lack of Nook Logan and Cristian Guzman. In a way, I think that in backwards fashion: If those guys are in the starting lineup, the defense is definitely better, and all of a sudden Ronnie Belliard and Chris Snelling are dangerous pinch hitters. (I am so, so, so willing to listen to differing opinions on this matter.)

Pitching:
ERA - 4.70, 15th in NL
Opponent batting average -- .258, seventh in NL
Opponent on-base percentage - .347, 14th in NL
Opponent slugging percentage -- .427, 13th in NL
Strikeouts - 146, 12th in NL
Walks - 121, most in NL
Homers - 28, most in NL
ERA for starting rotation - 4.81, 14th in NL
ERA for bullpen - 4.53, 16th in NL

What exactly do those numbers show? Do they show that the Nationals' supposed strength - the bullpen - is actually a weakness? Well, to a certain extent, I suppose, though I would argue that a lot of those runs were tagged on to extend leads the opposition had already seized against the starters. But clearly, the two best relievers - closer Chad Cordero and setup man Jon Rauch - are struggling, Cordero having blown half of his six save opportunities and walked eight men in 12-1/3 innings, Rauch with a 5.79 ERA in his (mind-blowing) 15 appearances.

The rotation, obviously, has shored itself up since that horrendous first week, with the notable exception being Patterson (0-4, 7.71 ERA). He tries to get his first win tonight against San Diego's Jake Peavy. Good luck with that.

Defense:
Errors - 25, most in the NL (and no one else has more than 19)

The shocking number here is that Ryan Zimmerman - who made two plays Saturday night that are as good as you're going to see - has six already (but then again, so does Derek Jeter), and he committed just 15 all of last year and wanted to cut down on that number. But otherwise, I think this number is inflated because Dmitri Young (four errors, countless other balls not picked out of the dirt) and Ronnie Belliard (three errors) are in the lineup on an every-day basis (though Belliard does a nice job turning the double play and has also played a fairly smart second base in general). Throw in four errors from Felipe Lopez at shortstop (where he led the NL in errors last year) and four more from Josh Wilson at short (which is inexcusable for a guy who has played just 25 innings there and is barely hanging on in the majors).

Given all that, I'll give the defense some time to improve, because so many people are out of position. But there's no question it's hurting a pitching staff that needs all the help it can get.

So chew on those numbers for a while, and then, while I take the day to fly to San Diego, answer me this:

Thus far, through the first month (or just one game shy of the first month) has this season:
· Met expectations
· Exceeded expectations
· Been worse than your expectations

And then follow it up with this:

If signing up a Ramon Ortiz or a Tomo Ohka had meant, through 25 games, they would be 12-13 or 11-14, rather than the current 8-17, would it affect your view of the franchise? Do you agree with the approach of basically sucking it up for this season in the name of building for the future? And do you have faith in the front office/ownership that that future will, indeed, be bright?

Much to think about. I'll talk to you from Petco Park.

By Barry Svrluga  |  April 30, 2007; 7:24 AM ET
 
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Next: A new cleanup man, and a new left fielder

Comments

Actually I think despite their record they acutally in some cases are exceeding my expectations. They had a sweep of the Mets handed to them this weekend and politely turned it down. An out from thier "closer" on Saturday and a timely hit on Sunday, we are talking about a 4 game win streak heading out west. The major concern going into the season was starting pitching. Over the first month Hill and Bergmann have been great. If we can just get the "Ace" going this may turn in to being a very decent pitching staff. With Simontacchi on the verge of making his Nationals debut,and can pitch like he did in his last few starts in Spring Training who knows? I also read the Luis Ayala is making strides and will also be another weapon added to the arsenal in the coming weeks. Actually I think the pitching thus far has surpassed all the gloomsday pre-season reports. But right now with the exception of Ronnie Belliard, no one can come up with a clutch hit. The bottom of our order is as weak as any team I have ever followed. I totally agree that Guzman and Logan will help this lineup. Add Nick Johnson in a month or two and maybe we can start giving the likes of Bergmand and Hill (and Williams) some run support. I'm anxious to see how on this road trip Mr Patteson fares, maybe it's time that he goes to Colombus for a start or two and work on his mechanics?

Posted by: Bill Rogers | April 30, 2007 7:48 AM | Report abuse

The pitching has exceeded my expectations and the offense has performed under my expectations - quite the opposite of what I expected.

Posted by: misschatter | April 30, 2007 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Great post, thanks for all the data and surprised to hear from you so early. So far, they are below my expectations.

The bullpen was supposed to be good but, the numbers don't lie, is lousy. I think it has been inconsistent, brilliant many games, horrible many games, not much in the middle. That stat surprised me the most that they are last in bullpen ERA.

Rotation, everyone knew was a weakness. I definitely think they should have grabbed someone like Ortiz or Ohka, I'd like to see the accounting of how saving that moderate salary is actually making the future of the club better. Surely Patterson won't be THIS bad but I've never been convinced he was a proven big league starter and talk of him as an ace was insane. He has to get through a season with a sub 5 ERA before we get to solid starter, then go from there. Hill is total surprise, Chico is struggling but shows promise. I still don't understand why he is the one that is thrown in from AA to work it out in the majors...Bergman is a stud so far and should 3-1 but that will come. Williams finally had a good outing but needs several more to stick. At this point, I'd have to argue for sending Patterson down to make room for Simontaachi. But, Chico is probably the way to go there to be fair. So young, no AAA, let him figure it out down there this season and let's look at him next year as a potential 5th starter.

Lineup. Wow. Can't believe how horrible the line up is. Doesn't quite make sense, Lopez, Belliard, Zimm, Young, Kearns, Church, LF and Schneider...that should be a decent line up. It shouldn't be worst in the league. I think it's a funk and they will come out of it. But maybe the lack of a proven big bat or two (Beltran, Pujols, Cabrera, Jones) hurts them more than I thought it would. Surprise of the year has to be Church, he's really come through big and I think has proven the right to stick this year. Good timing as I think he's arb elgible next year.

For next year, if they could land one or two proven starters and two big bats for the middle of the line up and get to playing average defense, I think they could be a 2nd or 3rd place team right away, maybe even contend but that's probably a stretch, maybe in '09.

Hope the West coast is good to us, enjoy the nice weather, thanks again for all the work on the blog, couldn't live w/o it. Gotta love a beat writer who goes to the game on his own dime on his day off. That's a fan, not just a journalist.

Posted by: mlwagnercpa | April 30, 2007 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Hill and Bergmann have been great. Patterson and the Chief have been disappointing, but I think both of them will turn things around soon. The real disappointment for me has been the lack of any production by the offense. This is not a gifted group by any means, but I didn't think they'd be this bad. Barry's point regarding Logan and Guzman is a good one. In addition to leaving Acta with some quality bats on the bench, they'd bring speed to the table and help a team that is sadly in need of a few guys who can run.

Posted by: Hondo Lives | April 30, 2007 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Barry,

At this point, I am pretty happy with the Nats so far this year. They are playing a decent game right now, and continue to develop. They are 'in the game' against good teams. This year, that is all I ask for. But the bunting fiasco yesterday was pathetic and I AM concerned about Zimmerman. It's all downhill from the first pitch for him. I think him telling the world he was going to take more pitches this year hasn't quite helped.

EXCEEDED: Bergmann, Hill, Bowie, Lopez. Seriously, give Felipe some props. He switchese positions back and forth and does what he has to do. He is seemingly in the middle of everything that happens. Just needs a few more steals. The Nats are stranding runners anyways, might as well try to steal.

And hey...beautiful day at RFK yesterday and the concessions lines weren't even a disaster.

Posted by: Paul Lloyd | April 30, 2007 8:21 AM | Report abuse

So how come you didn't mention my re-promotion?

Posted by: Kory Casto | April 30, 2007 8:24 AM | Report abuse

The season has met my (low) expectations so far, although not in the way I thought it would - I thought we'd have a pretty scrappy lineup but that the starting pitching would be beyond abysmal. I have to believe that RZ is going to get hot and that Kearns will start hitting for power again.

Ryan "The One True" Church has been a nice surprise...for those who don't actually look at the statistics from last year, when he was hitting this well but got jerked in and out of the lineup by a capricious F. Robby. Now that the One True Church gets to display his magnificence every day, even former nonbelievers are shouting, "Testify!" So I'm glad that Church has had an opportunity to meet my expectations.

With all due respect for your superior baseball knowledge, Senor Svrluga, I think your idea that having Logan and Guzman in the lineup makes the offense better is insane. Both are demonstrably poor hitters. Presumably you mean that the lineup, taking into account both offensive and defensive value, is better, which is a little more defensible. However, from what I've seen of Church's CF defense, it's not bad, and he's such a better hitter than Logan that he's have to be Jack Cust out there to justify not playing him over Lil' Nookie. I'd be willing to see what Guzman can do because if he plays well, maybe we can trade him to Seattle.

If we had one mediocre starting pitcher, I probably would have attended the same number of games I have attended thus far (1). And I have to say that I like the Russian-roulette aspect of this rotation. You never know who'll be stepping up. But if nobody steps up for like two weeks in a row, as seems inevitable at some point, we'll all be ruing the fact that we don't have a Steve Trachsel out there to soak them innings.

Posted by: Lindemann | April 30, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

... I would have expected to see more offense by now, maybe less pitching success, but about right on for their position in the standings. As far as writing off the season, that's a negatively-charged expression. The reality - to me - is that as long as the building progresses in the direction the 'plan' requires, then the season can be considered successful.

... still and all, as I said last week: I want more wins, and I want 'em now.

Posted by: david f watts | April 30, 2007 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Everything is exactly opposite from what I expected. Bless 'em, the starters are really starting to impress me. Bullpen, especially Cordero, were supposed to be our strength and they're stinking up the mound. I thought overall we'd be in a slightly better spot by now because of our lineup and fielding, not in spite of those things.
And because of our sorry fielding and hitting, I'm not convinced signing Ohka or Ortiz would have honestly gotten us to 12-13 or 11-14.
I had low expectations but high hopes through spring training, so I'm a little disappointed, but not really. I'll trust the front office on The Plan, no problem. But I think they have but ONE chance to make up for this so they'd better, I mean BETTER, get this right. I don't expect to contend in 08 but, by gawd, we'd better see a marked improvement.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 30, 2007 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Seriously. What am I, chopped liver?

Posted by: Kory Casto | April 30, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Good topic, Barry. Overall, I think they've been about what I expected. Two (maybe heretical) ideas though:

- With NJ, the offense would be slightly better, but not much better. Keep in mind, he goes in in place of Young, who's been among the better hitters in the lineup (especially with the SLG). I actually think NJ's return helps the defense and pitching (for the reasons you stated) more than the offense. In Saturday night's game, for instance, I think if NJ's playing, he stretches out and catches Lopez's throw ahead of the runner, and Cordero doesn't blow that save.

- No way does an Ortiz (even as well as he's pitching) make the team four wins better this early on. As you point out, the starting pitching hasn't been all that bad - there's been a few blowouts, but by and large, there are at LEAST four losses that could be wins had anybody been hitting at all. You give me four homeruns to strategically place, and the team is 11-14, at least. That said, 11-14 would be nicer than 8-17, but it doesn't much matter at this point - or at any point. The team is mostly competitive, and are in the games they play.

Posted by: Marc | April 30, 2007 9:23 AM | Report abuse

... meant to mention this earlier: I'm willing to be pleasantly surprised, hoping for it even. But I'm still not convinced that Nookie and Guzman are going to be the saviours it seems everyone else thinks they might be. Nickie J. is a must (as long as his wonky body holds out) but when the other two get back, for me at any rate, it's close your eyes and whistle until you hear the roar from the crowd.

Posted by: david f watts | April 30, 2007 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Before the season, this looked like a 110 loss team to me and, lo and behold, that's the pace they are on. It's been different than I expected, though. The starting pitching has been better, the bullpen worse, and the hitting about as bad as I expected (Boswell should be ashamed for his "outstanding hitters at almost every position except first and left field" comment).

Probably the biggest surprise to me is that having the team play .320 baseball hasn't been as bad from a fan standpoint as I thought it would be. In that sense, maybe Stan and the Lerners are right that they can get away with not making any effort to win some games this year because fans like me will stick with it anyway. I do wonder, though, if they are ruining the team's standing in the sports consciousness of the more casual local fan by having such a collossally bad record this year. That could have long-term effects on the franchise in terms of the size of its fan base, so the jury's still out on whether it would have been worth it to try to be 11-14 instead of 8-17 by adding a couple of c-list pitchers.

Posted by: O'Connor | April 30, 2007 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Given these numbers, I don't see how signing The Ghost of Babe Ruth gets this team anywhere near .500, nevermind Tomo Ohka.

Posted by: cevans | April 30, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Seriously, would Ohka or anyone else they might have signed have pitched better than, say, Bergman, or even just gotten his bunts down? It's a false choice.

Posted by: cevans | April 30, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

It is what it is. I think any expectations for this team need to be tied to player development and digging up some diamonds, and not to wins and losses.

Through that lens, the team has been at least okay. Bergmann and Hill have been terrific and Church has done a nice job battling back after a tough 2006. It's the sort of thing that'll need to be evaluated as the year goes on, but I think the Nats will at the very least identify the people who will help and those who won't. This is a good thing.

As for signing Ohka or Ortiz, we should keep in mind that signing one or both may have kept someone like Bergmann out of the rotation. What a shame that would have been!

Posted by: Eric | April 30, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Having Guzman and Logan might help the offense, in that they would certainly help the defense, thus lowering the workload - better defense means they don't find themselves down 5-0 so much, which is demoralizing even for pros. So just keeping games close should help some.
Having a stronger bench might also allow them to carry more pitchers, taking some of the load off the usual suspects.

Posted by: Willie Gandebol | April 30, 2007 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Wow Barry, you have some super-smart bloggers up here. I was all ready to make a joke about the 'other 15 teams already chewing up those #s' but now after 10 or so legit comments, I had to bring some smarts to the table. (not really)

It is still too soon to judge the FO/franchise path to success. I think for most realistic fans, even if they went out and spent a lot of money, we'd still be 3rd in the NL East behind Atlanta and the Mets. Anyone who thinks we can spend some extra loot and take the NL East is disrespecting the Mets' piggy bank and the Braves' kung-fu death grip on the division. We've learned from other teams (Orioles, Blue Jays, and even to some degree the Yanks) that you can't solve your franchise problems by signing huge contracts and that building the farm system and patience (Florida, Detroit, Twins, A's) works wonders for smaller budget teams.

I could be wrong, but I'm willing to wait this year out. Just think how things would be if the Nats' first year they went 60-100? They really won our hearts at .500 and now we're emotionally invested so we are naturally inclined to have increased expectations. Let's do it the right way... if after a few more years we don't see progress, we'll sign the Gary Matthews Jr.s and the Barry Zitos. Stay the course. Hold fast.

Posted by: Dorf | April 30, 2007 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I'm the only guy in the lineup who hit .300 in April, had 7 hits in the Mets series, made numerous web gems appearances and you want to pull me from the lineup to put Christian "I flirted w/the Mendoza Line in '05" Guzman in?

Posted by: Ronnie Belliard | April 30, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

"...beautiful day at RFK yesterday and the concessions lines weren't even a disaster."

I'm surprised no one has mentioned that EVERY SINGLE ATM at the stadium did not work by the 4th inning. In the first inning, only TWO were working which ran out of cash or discontinued working as well. Unbelievable. Free parking pass, 2 free sixth row tickets, no cash. Yes, I've learned my lesson.

Posted by: Left in the middle of the 5th | April 30, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Amen to "Left in..."!! At one point during the game, the ONLY ATM that was working was on the 500 level. And even that one ran out of cash by the fourth inning.

With such a beautiful day, I was totally prepared to spend my money buying beer and hot dogs and stuff, but wound up spending ZERO dollars because none of the doggone concessionaires take credit cards.

Stan, if you read this, PLEASE make sure the concessions in the new ballpark (like the current Nationals store) are able to take advantage of 21st Century electronic technology and accept credit cards!!!

Posted by: Juan-John | April 30, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Who would've thought the Nats pitchers would hold down the Mets bats in all three games this past weekend? How much of this poor month is due to the TERRIBLE weather (that everyone played through) and people out of position. The team looks much more comfortable now - even though they still can't hit a lick. Belliard had a good last week, but it's amazing how many guys Zimm left on base. Missing a bat behind him...

Posted by: NatsFan | April 30, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

One of the biggest disappointments to me so far this season has been the way the (so-called) fans and sportswriters are so quick to give up on John Patterson, who is clearly still recovering from arm surgery last July. In fact, many have not only given up they have turned against him. I know that many people who call themselves fans are fickle and impatient, but this seems extreme. Do they honestly believe that Patterson wants to go out and pitch poorly - that he is not trying as hard as he can? Is there any way that that would be to Patterson' advantage? And there are many who seem to know nothing about Patterson. Someone said "He has to get through a season with a sub 5 ERA before we get to solid starter" What about 3.13 in 2005, and 4.43 last year even with a bad arm? He has a MLB total ERA of 4.09 which was under 5 the last time I checked. If you are going to criticise, at least get your facts right!

Posted by: thunderstrucknatsfan | April 30, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Forgot to take Barry to task for saying Logan Guzman will improve the lineup. You know we love you but I think you're either tired after a long weekend and early flight or are just trying to get a rise out of us.

Putting them back in would bench Belliard who is hitting .300, consistenly makes things happen w/ his bat and is playing respectably in the field.

Logan might help because the LF spot is a guaranteed out at this point so at least we'd get fantastic defense for a lousy bat whereas now we get good d for lousy bat.

Belliard off the bench would be nice but whose to say he could keep hitting when he only gets 1 at bat a game?

I say leave Guzman on the bench as the back up and put Logan in the lineup unless by some miracle Casto starts hitting this time around.

Posted by: mlwagnercpa | April 30, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Something struck me in Friday's $0.35 edition, a quote by Zimmerman regarding Shawn Hill's strong outing against the Phillies, it was along the lines of "that's a guy you want to play behind." I think you have to put the Nationals' early defensive issues in the context of the pitching and their propensity to issue walks. Can it really be a coincidence that a team with 95 walks in 25 games is also a team that leads in the NL in errors? I would like to see a Stats Inc.-like analysis of the correlation between pitchers' falling behind in the count and team defense. My assumption is there's a strong one. Want to see better defense, get the Nats pitchers to start throwing first pitch strikes!

Posted by: E. Capitol St. 9 | April 30, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

"Do you agree with the approach of basically sucking it up for this season in the name of building for the future? And do you have faith in the front office/ownership that that future will, indeed, be bright?"

No, and no.

The Nats have the third lowest payroll in MLB. If they DOUBLED it, they would barely be ahead of Milwaukee for the 18th highest payroll in MLB.

If you are going to charge MLB prices at the gate, you should put a major league quality team on the field. There is no excuse for the Nats, in this size market, to ever be below average on team salary.

This shows an inexcusable lack of the respect for the fans who are coming to the games this year and putting $$$ in the owner's pockets.

Why should we think that this cheapness will not continue ad infinitum?

What happens a few years down the road if the team gets competitive and needs to shell out a few million for a quality 4th starter and a few million more for some bullpen help?

I don't see it happening. This ownership group will never spend more than the bare minimum necessary to keep the money flowing in.

Say hello to Kansas City east.

Posted by: JoeBleux | April 30, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

One word for those who would sign the Ohkas of the world: ORIOLES. How has their strategy of signing second- and third-tier free agents worked out?
Church's walks: opposing pitchers are pitching around him! Who'd a thunk that would happen?
Expectations: About right overall. Sure, see what Nook and Guz can do. Will make it easier to toss them overboard when they don't produce.
Seems like Zim is working too hard on working the counts, hitting the other way. He's not turning on pitches like he used to. Probably a worthwhile learning process for him - develop all his batting skills in this season where wins don't matter.

Posted by: Geezer | April 30, 2007 12:18 PM | Report abuse

No sympathy from me for someone waiting on line at a ballpark ATM. Go to any stadium in the country and you find the same lines of people who A)can't plan ahead B)can't work an ATM quickly. That being said, concession stands ought to take credit cards. Duh. Here's hoping in the new ballpark they set up a NatsPass for Season TIcket holders that you can just wave to pay for crap.

Posted by: ATM City | April 30, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

The only reason I even noticed the ATMs were down was because it was the first time in 30-plus visits to RFK since '05 that I didn't "plan ahead."

As for "working the ATM quickly," ATM City is right on. ATMs at ball parks should be withdrawal-only. No other transactions allowed.

Posted by: Juan-John | April 30, 2007 12:58 PM | Report abuse

IT'S A CONSPIRACY!!

::adjusts tinfoil hat::

Posted by: ntr JoeBleux | April 30, 2007 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Ryan Church and Shawn Hill, as fantastic as they've been on this team of mediocrity, have only met my expectations. I need to qualify that, though, with a caveat: I had very high expectations for both of them. I've been a Church fan since the get-go, and I've been counting on him being able to step it up and produce given a real opportunity. As for Shawn Hill. How can you not love that adorable Canadian fellow? It looks like he took a nap over the winter and got his hair cut, and he's ready to go.
Patterson has definitely not met my expectations. And they were definitely not high for him. I think it's all well and good to say that he's still injured, but if that's the case, he needs to say so. I want to like Patterson, I really do, but his attitude just rubs me the wrong way. Also, I hate his hair. Shallow? Possibly. But when you're the "Ace" and you have no wins four starts in, well, it's all fair.
What gets me most about the Nationals is that I really believe that on any particular day, they have the talent to win. That might be naivete, and it certainly leads to some heart-breaking nights, but I do think that they, as a whole, are better than the way they've been playing. Maybe I just bought too much into the "They aren't going to be as bad as everyone says" talk. Doesn't matter. I'll still watch.

Posted by: Ignatiev | April 30, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Nook and Guz make the offense better mostly when you assume that the 2 who are replaced are Jimenez and Wilson who are both below .100, right?

Agree with the poster who wants to understand how not signing Ortiz makes us better in the future.

My main concerns are Chad Cordero....maybe its just me but seems like he has been blowing saves since midway throught 2005....and Nick...he's great when he's in there, but he's out for too many long stretches.

Posted by: pk | April 30, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

an upside to being the Kansas City East... you can say "hey, remember when so and so used to play for us...?"

With all the draft picks we'll get from being bad, they'll be plenty of talent for the Yankees to buy from us 5 years from now.

Posted by: Dorf | April 30, 2007 1:24 PM | Report abuse

This all dodges the question. Their purpose is NOT to win games, it is to entertain paying customers, who may or may not be fans, in the context of a season-long, live, reality soap opera. They need to win to some extent to do that, but they can do it without finishing in first place. Interesting contenders will suffice. For instance, Nook might not hit his own weight, but I think he's worth paying to see play defense. Church is competent in CF, and gets to most of the same balls, but I don't pay to see someone catch a can of corn -- I can see that in rec ball for free.

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 30, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I'd second the complaints about ATMs. My wife stood in line for two innings Saturday just to get cash. There's no need for a ballpark ATM to ask if you want instructions in Portugese, if you want a receipt, or anything other than how many $20 bills you want.

And I can't disagree more with JoeBleux on the future of the franchise. What is inexcusable, and what the "nattering nabobs of negativism" fail to understand, is the depth to which MLB allowed this franchise to fall. The 29 other owners had a vested financial interest in making this team lousy and they had several years to do it. This wasn't just neglect, it was active sabotage. You can't overcome years of that kind of abuse in one year, no matter how much money you spend.

So to answer Barry's questions, this season so far has met my expectations. But I'll tell you this: I've been to four games so far this year, and for the most part, I've enjoyed them. I'm worried about Zimm's hitting, but excited about Church (both are on my fantasy team). I'm worried about The Chief, but excited about Hill and Bergman. Ronnie Belliard may not be in our future, but he's fun to watch. And Dmitri "D-Money" Young is just plain fun, though I'd trade him in a heartbeat to have Nick back.

So yes, I'm on board with The Plan.

And no, Ohka and/or Ortiz wouldn't have made a lick of difference. Does the money we saved by not signing them make a difference either? Who knows. But after years of watching Angelos throw good money after bad, I'm glad to see an ownership group with some discipline.

Posted by: Section 426 | April 30, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Posted by: Bill Veeck | April 30, 2007 1:37 PM | Report abuse

They spent $4.5 M on Cordero -- and how's that working for ya?

Posted by: Willie Gandebol | April 30, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Thunderstruck called me out on Patterson. I checked the stats and OK, I concede that he had a strong year in '05 behind a lousy team. 198 IP and 3.13 ERS is fantastic. As for last year, sorry but 40 IP doesn't qualify for real consideration.

Plus, what's with the whole, "ooo we shouldn't criticize them if we're real fans"? What do you think fans do?? They criticize when the players don't perform because they're real fans and hate seeing the team lose.

I haven't given up on Patterson by a long shot but right now, he is the worst starter on the team and is supposed to be the ace. A real gamer would be pointing this out about himself so the fans don't have to then I would give him a break. He was happy to take on the mantle of ace during Spring Training and how he's THE WORST starter on the team. In fact, he is so bad he isn't even "qualified" in stats jargon despite having made all 5 of his starts. 23.1 IP w/ 5 starts, 7.71 ERA. That ERA ties him w/ the 2nd worst starter in the NL among those are qualified.

Dude, can we please agree that he has been awful and that we hope he turns it around?

If he is still recovering from surgery then let him do it in Columbus but if he takes the mound in the big leagues and keeps leaving in the 5th after giving up 4 runs, then I'll keep blasting him.

Posted by: mlwagnercpa | April 30, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I had hoped that the Nats would win around 72 games this year -- good enough to give hope, bad enough to get draft picks. So the team is under expectations. Lopez, Zimmerman, Patterson, Cordero, Rauch, and Kearns are under expectations. Church, Young, Hill, and Bergman over expectations. Schneider, Chico, Williams and Snelling at expectations. Acta and Bowden a little under. Kasten about where I expected him. Svrluga above already high expectations. Post below expectations because they did not sign up for a promotions night at the ballpark. Where's my 2007 rally towel, t-shirt, etc....

Posted by: NatBisquit | April 30, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Look at the schedule...the nats have had to face miguel caberara about 30 times already this season and he is having an april to match a-rod. we have faced the mets and played them close. atlanta and philly. lets face it this division made april what it was. for a team made up of unknowns (neil everett of sportcenter believes its "robert zimmerman") the nats are playing hard and taking some of the best teams in the league to the limit. i believe when september rolls around those same teams will be in for a real battle...and it could cost someone the division/wild card

Posted by: woody paige | April 30, 2007 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm in agreement with mlwagnercpa...

let those guys do some time in Columbus to get their rhythm/confidence/mechanics/legs/arms/skills back before showing up at RFK at having rough transitions.

Posted by: Dorf | April 30, 2007 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Barry, a very timely topic.

They're slightly below my expectations, but it isn't all that surprising.

I totally agree with your point about Guzman and Logan... and made a comment the other day in your blog about that. When you add in Nick Johnson, the return of those three players totally transforms the team. On defense, you get between one and two bases by opponents back (hits to the gap that Logan gets, or gap hits that are singles rather than doubles) and about .5 to .75 errors PER GAME by removing Young and Belliard, and perhaps fewer errors by Lopez playing second rather than short. Think about that... that's huge. That is probably worth almost a run a game... and that doesn't take into account the hits on dubious fielding plays or stuff that gets through the infield that might not otherwise.

On offense, adding Logan makes both Logan and Lopez better with regard to speed... Church replaces Snelling/Restovich/Casto, so you pick up offensively there. Johnson makes any team better offensively, and then suddenly you have Belliard and Young on the bench, both of whom are head and shoulders above anyone else that has been riding the pine as of late...

As for the pitching, it is quite a bit ahead of my expectation, but kinda where I had dreamt it might be. I keep my fingers crossed for Patterson, who showed something last time. I think Hill is the real deal... and I think Bergmann is the real deal, the way Hector Carrasco was the real deal in 2005... though he might be better than that. Simontacci sure looked good in spring training, and it sounds like his rehab is going pretty well. As for the bullpen, the bullpen wasn't as terrible early on, but the team leaned on them pretty heavily early in situations that were meaningless, and they're probably showing the stress now. But the starters are going deeper into the games, so maybe they'll catch their collective breaths. The only one in the bullpen that hasn't really been overused is Cordero... The bad news is the outcomes are not good... and the good news is, there are others in the bullpen that could in theory fill that role if it came to that. Getting Ayala back will help too.

For those that want to take swipes at "The Plan", this is exactly why "The Plan" is so important... servicable spare parts... that have a future with the team.

Posted by: Wigi | April 30, 2007 2:17 PM | Report abuse

For years while living out of the area I couldn't figure out why Atlanta didn't draw well. I think I've figured it out now... you see you get Stan "The Plan" into the franchise and he tears down the fan base by not even trying to compete. Then have your hard core baseball fans wonder why our players aren't doing well. Maybe the answer comes from looking at the top of the organization! From Stan I hear a lot of talk about how they care for the fans and don't see much change, if anything it is worse. I listen to all of the talk from the Nats in spring training about how well good they are and how they are the next Tiger rebuilding team and how they will be a surprise team like Florida. It turned out to be just a lot of talk. Once again looking at Stan we see someone who didn't try hard to win right now... Should we blame the players if they aren't performing. At this point we are lucky nobody else wanted Belliard or Young, who have been most of our offense other than Church or we would for sure be HISTORICALLY BAD.

I think it's sad that Manny Acta is our version of Alan Trammell. You know the Tiger Great who was the Tiger manager during the tiger rebuilding and then when the team decided to be good and spend money, they also decided they needed a guy who knew how to win now like Leyland.

Also, it bothers me that fans from the outside teams now enter washington and just make it their own home. Surely this must bother the players. This doesn't work out bad if you get and early lead and hold onto it for the whole game like Friday, but what about Saturday?
How many Nats fans were in the stadium Saturday night vs. Mets fans? By the end of the game it was nearly 100% mets fans. I didn't bother to go Sunday because I had enough of met fan on Fri. & Sat. I decided to save my money Sunday and go to THE WASHINGTON POST ONE DOLLAR NIGHT (Shameless Plug) in Potomac tonight where I can sit in a good seat and enjoy a win. If the nats don't want to spend any money then let fans of the other teams pay their money to see the better team win. The sad part is if people are leaving early for games now, then will they even bother showing up some time in the future.

Posted by: losing is bad for fan base | April 30, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I cannot see where Guzman and Logan are better than what is out there right now. Patterson is a wimp and I sure hope that loser Michael Restovich is gone; I'd go with Snelling in RF. Pitching is alot better than I expected it to be. I didn't expect anything from Patterson or Cordero so that's a wash. As far as I am concerned, when Cordero is called in, the game is over (a loss). Last year was frustrating because none of the pitchers could throw strikes, this year is more fun because the pitchers are getting ahead of the batters.

Leave the infield alone until Johnson comes back.

Posted by: Dancer | April 30, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse

The big problem with "letting" Patterson rehab in Columbus is that he would have to be put on the DL in order for that to happen and, so far, there has been no talk of doing that. He has no options left and , if placed on waivers, there are likely 29 teams who would claim him.

As far as what real fans are - I was a Senators fan from 1950 until the team left in 1971, and I believe that "real" fans stand behind the players as long as they are out there trying. It is not their fault if they are injured, in a slump, or in some cases, just not very good. That is also why I will support the Nationals as long as they don't give up.

Posted by: thunderstrucknatsfan | April 30, 2007 2:41 PM | Report abuse

"losing is bad for fan base" -- Imagine being a Red Sox or Cubs fan.

(Oh, and if you're going to Potomac to see a win, good luck.)

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 2:57 PM | Report abuse

... Section 426 has cut to the very quick when (s)he said "... the depth to which MLB allowed this franchise to fall..."

... as a fan of the Expos

- who sat and watched Claude Brochu, then Bud 'Light' Selig and his tiny munchkins, followed by that non-fan Jeffrey Loria and his boy wonder Samson literally murder my team;

- as a dedicated supporter of the Expos when all around me tried to designate Toronto as 'Canada's team';

- who in a screwed-up and perverse way, actually felt some relief when it was over,

I have to say this: as long as there is a team hitting the field every day, I'm that much further ahead from where I was.

... I don't subscribe to the conspiracy theories that would require Manny Acta to buy into a plan to dive when we all know he's just not built that way. To know there is a remnant of the Expos still playing ball for real leaves me no place to fit in any such notions.

Posted by: david f watts | April 30, 2007 2:59 PM | Report abuse

We're a little bit above expectations, with some bad luck and a tough early schedule.

Late in the Sunday Mets game, when we had --- how many? --- chances to get back in the game, the dismal crappiness of the bench killed us. In clutch situations against aces like Maine, we cannot send Fick or J. Wilson and expect results. Not even bunts!

What is this expectation that Nick Johnson will come charging over the hill like the cavalry in June? It makes a nice summer fairy tale but I don't buy it.

What we need: 1) Zimmerman to snap out of his slump, 2) Kearns, Church, Young and Belliard to keep performing, and 3) some luck in the clutch. Guz and Logan will be welcome --- mostly as bench support.

Posted by: Markus Kamau | April 30, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Too tempting not to opine. But JoeBleux said it all:

"Say hello to Kansas City east."

It's not just Kasten who's tight with money, it's obviously the Lerner clan as well. Apparently the spartan Lerners believe that offering a new stadium (courtesy of D.C, taxpayers) next year is all that will be needed to draw 2.5 million fans from 2008 onward.

When I see pinch hitters the likes of Fick, Wilson and Schneider approach the plate in the late innings, I'm not exactly filled with awe. Any pitcher worth his salt (and there may be a few in the starting rotation) will exit this town ASAP rather than place his career in jeopardy staying with "the plan."

Posted by: JohnR (VA) | April 30, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

"Josh Wilson ... is barely hanging on in the majors"

Look, if Wilson has growing to do (he does) then let him do that down on the farm rather than here. I'd rather see a cycle of new unknowns every week than any one player who has proved that he stinks (or at least hasn't proved that he can *not* stink at the major league level). And that goes for pitchers too.

Thanks for great numbers to digest, Barry. Look at that statistic for giving out bases on balls. Horrible. Horrible.

At least you can get in to most games for just $5

Posted by: i hate walks | April 30, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

A bit below my expectations. Patty's responsible for a lot of that, but with work he should improve. Chief's got some issues, but 3 days' work in a row can't be the right thing to do.

If one thing has to happen, it's for the guys to take some better at-bats. I haven't been at the park for the last few games, but the hitters need to get a piece of some of these pitches to stand a chance to get to the back of the opponents' bullpens.

I'd also like to see Snelling get some time higher in the order. He seems adequate in the outfield, and can be an on-base machine if he maintains his discipline.

Ortiz? Ohka? No. Emphatically, no. If I thought they would save some bullpen arms, I *might* feel differently, but I don't see that.

There are plenty of things that could be better, but this crew can put it together to better their record a bit and give us a chance to glimpse some things (prinicipally, now, improved bullpen performance) that can give us hope in the not too distant future.

Posted by: Hendo | April 30, 2007 4:10 PM | Report abuse

No matter how you slice it the Nats will lose 100 or so games this year. But, I gotta say, that there have been more plusses than minuses so far. Every starter (except Patterson) has pitched at least one terrific game and all give at least the hint that will be capable major league pitchers -- and Hill and even Bergmann may be top of the rotation type guys. And Patterson is coming off surgery. I hope (and expect) that he will warm up with the weather. Still, that's two more solid pitchers than they had going into the year, plus Chico who is young, lefthanded -- and a bulldog, which sometimes isn't a good trait in a young pitcher.

The defense has been just awful but Dmitri Young is a three ring circus at first -- and Ronnie Belliard plays the oddest second base I have ever seen. Not bad, exactly, but odd (everything; positioning, throwing, work around the bag. Weird.) The irony is that those are the two guys who have most saved the Nats' bacon in April, along with Lopez who is an OK big league shortstop but, I think will be a very good 2b. Put Guzman at short, Lopez at 2b, Nick at first, Nook Logan in cf, Church in left and not only does the defense look better -- but so does the bench. In fact, the bench goes from awful to pretty good.

OK, they aren't hitting -- and really, this is not a "good-hitting team." And the guys who are coming back from injury are not great hitters either (well, Nick is a terrific hitter, but not really a thumper in the middle of the lineup. And who knows with Guzman.) But I would be satisfied with a heads up team (which they aren't, see Lopez not knowing the count the other day) with pitching and defense -- and worry about the bats later.

They'll lose 100 but they are going to have their moments this year.

alan

Posted by: amb141 | April 30, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Interesting discussion. I'd like to hear the Lerners and Stan make the actual numbers case for why the "Plan" could not have co-existed with spending sufficient to make this team potentially 75-80 win competitive right now. How much money is actually being invested in scouting, teaching, and establishing a Latin America presence, etc? And how do we stand compared to other franchises in this regard? Answer these questions satisfactorily and I'll have more tolerance for paying major league prices to see AAA level players like Josh Wilson and Michael Restovich come out of the dugout to face Billy Wagner with the game on the line.

Posted by: Chevy Chase Fan | April 30, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

This is just fascinating stuff, folks. Keep it going. I expect this to be a 100-comment post by the time Jake Peavy and John Patterson take the hill tonight.

Posted by: Barry Svrluga | April 30, 2007 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Okha/Ortiz, etc. aren't any better than Chico/Williams & we might not have seen Bergmann. So the only thing they could have done was pitch into the 7th or 8th, since there would be no interest in saving their arms. But Manny would have had to hit for them earlier anyway, so the bullpen would still be ragged.

Give this round to Bowden & Kasten.

Logan makes the team better right away at two positions. Church is OK at CF but would be superior in LF. Restovich could be the worst outfielder in the league. Young, bless his heart, is fun to watch, but is the worst 1B I've ever seen & will be dealt to the first AL team needing a DH after Slick is back. Let's hope it's soon. Hard to see why moving him to the OF would be an improvement, unless Logan can't play.

Tough to see what Bowden & Kasten could have done differently at 1B. It could be argued that Broadway should be playing. Presumably, Ryan Klesko was available over the winter, but would he have signed?

Posted by: Section 418 | April 30, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm not exactly sure what to make of the team so far. Zimmerman has been off to a slow start for sure, but there's no way he will be this bad for much longer. Getting Johnson back will automatically improve offense, defense, consessions, everything that is currently going wrong, etc. The pitching to me is the biggest disappointment because Patterson, Rauch, and Cordero sinply need to do better. It's a domino effect behind the pitchers.

I think we need a spark to get us going and we'll be fine. Maybe 74-78 wins this year...I'm okay with that as long as The Plan starts working real soon!

Posted by: Kelly | April 30, 2007 5:13 PM | Report abuse

So how big of a bonus do you find in your check when a thread reaches 100 comments?

Posted by: Chris | April 30, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

The team has been below my expectations, because I thought it wouldn't be possible to meet the hideous predictions of most of the country. If we think that the addition of Nick Johnson will cure all ills, we are delusional.

As for Ortiz or Ohka- if neither cost a draft pick, it certainly would be worth having them now. But the question isn't really fair- why not ask about Tony Armas or Mark Redman, who were also available but have been awful? For that matter, if it is surprising that Chad Cordero has been bad, how much more surprising has Mariano Rivera's April been?

The fact that the Yankees are bad, too, does not make me think of the playoffs, but it does remind one a little better of the randomness of the performance of many teams month to month.

Posted by: Kevin Costello | April 30, 2007 5:56 PM | Report abuse

I think people are missing the point about the 2007 payroll and "The Plan."

The farm system is mostly bereft of players that are close to being ready to play in the big leagues... and we're seeing the effect of that now, with a bench that can't lay down a bunt, much less get a hit, when you get a few injuries and then call people up. Spending free agent money to fix spots 26-40 on your roster doesn't make sense, because they don't contribute all year, and if they do, you're hosed anyway because you have injuries.

Second, how much better could we expect a third-tier starter to perform than the starters we have right now? Not much, and if Hill and Bergmann are any indication, we're probably ahead of the game, because while Okha and Ortiz are doing pretty well, we don't know that they would do well HERE... when the defense gives a team 28-30 outs a game, that's tough to overcome with pitching.

I really believe that adding $20 million to this year's payroll would probably be worth 4-8 games... and unless that gets you into the wild card hunt, it is wasted money. Sure, the team looks kinda rough now, but we've been playing mostly in-division teams, all of which are in the hunt. We've been getting good starting pitching lately, and we're getting our rookies valuable big league experience. They will be a much better team with 25 games to go in the season.

Sure, you're alienating the fan base, to some extent. But if that is true, aren't the Redskins also alienating their fan base by spending a gazillion dollars and winning five games? Increasing payroll does not automatically lead to more wins, and in the case of the Nationals, it actually slows down the development of the young talent that you have, cause if you have free agents, you play the expensive guys instead of the up-and-coming guys.

I am sure the thinking is, OK, we can get rid of this criticism of the team, and sign a few free agents, but if it isn't going to make a difference, then I would rather have that $20 million back and not sign the free agents... especially if it makes us a better team down the road.

I don't think Lerners are cheap... I wouldn't expect them to be any less denamding of excellence with the Nats than they are with any other project they do. I think they want first tier, and they know first tier takes time. Their biggest challenge will be creating a corporate culture that demands excellence.

Posted by: Wigi | April 30, 2007 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Hey Barry,

If we are going to feed you 100 posts on demand....How about getting some basic answers for us. WE WANT TO KNOW.

Chevy Chase Fan at 4:30 asks the same basic question many of us have for months. How come you can not pin down Stan and get some hard numbers for us?

Where is all the money going. How much do our scouts make. How much does Jose Rijo's new backyard toy cost? How does this compare to other teams. What are we getting out of this plan.

As an old WP saying put it...."Follow the Money", Barry. Are we getting value or are we just paying for every Lerner family member to get a high paying job and enjoy the new toy that Uncle Ted brougth home?

Posted by: Jayb | April 30, 2007 6:35 PM | Report abuse

I don't remember anyone screeching at us like this last year when on April 30th we had the exact same record as the Nats do today. As Yogi said, "You can look it up:"
http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/WSN/2006_sched.shtml. You could have helped everyone out with that nugget, St. Barry.

Here's to hoping the 2007 Nats can rattle off a 22-17 stretch to be 30-34 on June 11th like last year (tied for 3rd with the Braves). And not be summarily swept 4 straight at home by a team like the Rockies and fade into oblivion thereafter.

Exhale people. The 2007 Nats ain't winning the World Series, but they are separating the wheat from the chaff. And they have even been entertaining while doing so the last 2 1/2 weeks.

Posted by: 2006 Nats | April 30, 2007 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Psst . . .

I didn't take credit cards for food in 2005 or 2006.

And my ATMs ran out of money or weren't working often then too.

You can't teach a 46 year old dog too many new tricks. C'mon, where is the nostalgic love?

You're gonna miss me when I'm gone.

Ask the folks in Raljon. They'll tell you.

Posted by: RFK | April 30, 2007 6:53 PM | Report abuse

ohka: 2-2, 5.02 era, oba .320, slg .460
ortiz: 3-1, 2.57 era, oba .266, slg .364

I dont see how this gives us 4 more wins. Even with both of them in the rotation, assuming that thier pitching would be the same with the nats defense behind them, its more then a stretch. Also, even though ortiz is pitching great right now, i'd count on regression to the mean to have his stats look more like a #5 pitcher then an ace.

That being said, theyre still better then what most of the nats have to offer. I havent been very dissapointed or surprised by the team at all this year. The bullpen is bad, but a lot of that comes with being drastically overworked (see NY Yankees) and when your starters can pitch it makes your bullpen look like studs (see Red Sox). Also, i dont know who thought that Kearns, Guzman, Church, and Logan (or even Lopez and Zimm) were all allstars. Even last year with our "future stars" we couldnt hit with the exception of a couple of guys. This really doesnt surprise me, I would have liked to see better, but watched DC area sports for too long to believe that we'd be any good at anything this year.


As for the additions of two impact bats and two solid starters (not to mention some bullpen help when we trade away anyone who actually does perform). I dont know what someone was smoking when they thought that was realistic. I think this rebuilding plan is better the trying the quick fix (see baltimore o's and washington redskins) but its going to take a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG time. Dont expect a decent product next year, what's going to wow us is the new ballpark. I just take comfort that i can get seats in the new park next year come June and July.

Posted by: DC sports fan (aka Realist) | April 30, 2007 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Chris, he gets to watch me get dunked into a water tank.

Posted by: Jorge's Lingering Aura | April 30, 2007 7:30 PM | Report abuse

I think Stan and company are on the right track!

Posted by: Nats Fan | April 30, 2007 8:34 PM | Report abuse

The Nats are definitley exceeding my expectations - then again my expectations are reliant on my usually morbid Pirates (though not as morbid this year!)

Posted by: Greg | April 30, 2007 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Barry, you fell a little short of 100 comments, but I'm sure you value quality over quantity.

I am TOTALLY on board with The Plan. In my twisted seamhead mind are 4 basic ways to staff a baseball team.

1. Spend money like a drunken sailor every year to realize The Future Now. (Yankees)

2. Spend money sensibly to acquire free agents for your contending or about-to-contend team, while maintaining your player development system. (Red Sox, recent Tigers teams)

3. Spend money year after year to acquire free agents for your out-of-contention team, at the expense of your player development system. (Pirates)

4. Spend money on a player development system; keep payroll youthful and sensible in the meantime. (Not-so-recent Tigers teams)

Which of these sounds most like Kasten? Or, if you are allergic to Kasten -- as it sounds as though a few of our partners might be --

Which sounds most like Branch Rickey?
Which sounds most like Peter Angelos?

Any other questions?

Posted by: Hendo | May 1, 2007 5:45 AM | Report abuse

Partners? Whoops, meant POSTERS. Jet lag again.

AFAIK all is well amongst all the partners in Casa Kasten. (As if I'd know otherwise.)

Posted by: Hendo | May 1, 2007 6:10 AM | Report abuse

I'm going to miss RFK. I'm not excited at all about the new park. RFK will doubtless have better sightlines for fans in the cheap seats (like me), it's next to a Metro station that's actually designed to accommodate lots and lots of fans (2 lines), and I'm betting there won't be $5 tickets to anywhere next year. If you know how to make and pack a sandwich and just want to watch a baseball game, RFK is underrated. We'll all realize this soon.

Posted by: Lindemann | May 1, 2007 8:22 AM | Report abuse

On May Day, I see no reason to cry "May Day!"

But at this point, the team has not met any of my expectations. It's all better or worse than I anticipated.

First, the starting pitching is completely upside down. Hill showed signs in spring training of being capable. But Bergman? Can this possibly be the emergence of a major league pitcher? Patterson, I had assumed was a given. But now, even after last night I am reluctant to assume he is back. Back to what? His few excellent months in '05? Even Chico and Williams have had a good start. Bob Dylan sang:

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'


The biggest disappointments are defense and fundamentals. I expected much much better. Dimitri is an awful 1B. The Zimman looks horrible as well. LF is a problem. We all know Lopez's limitations at SS. But fundamentals! Yikes!! King forgets to cover first. Church and Fisk can't hustle down to first. Very disappointing. Lack of talent is one thing but not being mentally in the game is another.

Ortiz and Ohka could have prevented the emergence (oh please let it me so!) of Hill and Bergman. I personally (and my season ticket cohorts) can deal with a 100-loss season if we are tempering some steel in the fires of defeat.

I have drunk the Kool-Aid. I am on board with the Kasten Plan.

Posted by: Section 214, Row 10 | May 1, 2007 8:38 AM | Report abuse

On board w the PLAN, but mostly as a matter of blind faith---and optimism. Meanwhile agree w the complaints about service. but here's a hint ---you CAN too use your ATM at least at some of the concessions...I buy the draft beer at one of the stands on the 2nd level concourse, 1st base side w my checkcard all the time. But still would like to see more vendors in the stands...most of the time i have to go hunting for stuff.

Posted by: pbk | May 1, 2007 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure if saving a little money was the thought behind not signing Ortiz, Tomo, et al. It seems to me that Stan is remembering that a central part of "the plan" was having a season (or two) on the bottom and be able to draft the top one or two picks for a couple of years. A couple of Ryan Zimmerman type players and smart drafting and work in the farm system will eventually produce some studs to build the team around. Right now, do what I do - as each game progresses, I try to imagine what National's mental or physical mistake will influence the outcome. This team plays like the ghost of the Senators right now. But then, I was blindly cheering for the Senators, not realizing they'd never get all that much better. Hope dies hard.

Posted by: Dana | May 1, 2007 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Hey Dana, the Senators did get better, but only in another town and with another name (Twins). I think it ironic that the Rangers won't give up the Senator's history and they have never amounted to much either - kinda like real senators.

Posted by: Dancer | May 1, 2007 10:55 AM | Report abuse

"I'm going to miss RFK...it's next to a Metro station that's actually designed to accommodate lots and lots of fans (2 lines)"

Yeah, I stopped by the Navy Yard Metro station on my way back from RFK on Sunday afternoon, and really wasn't impressed with the "improvements" that are underway. It's still way too small a station to be able to handle big crowds.

Posted by: Juan-John | May 1, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Sacrificing for the future sounded great before the Nats started playing games.

That was a theory.

The reality SUCKS.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm in the tank for the Nats. But competing in the present and building for the future are NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE! (Yes, I'm shouting!)

If management had signed an Ortiz or Okha, at least it would show me that they do not take my 2007 money and 2007 time for granted. At least they would be trying not to be the MOST EMBARRASSING squad in the majors.

Maybe the pitiful attendance will splash some cold water on Kasten's "sarcastic, New Yorker" face.


Posted by: BrianH | May 1, 2007 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Barry,
I think one of the most frustrating things is the lack of shuffling within the organization as we weed out players.

On the Way UP PLEASE!!!
Columbus Clippers-
Tony Batista -3B- .309 3HR 6 Doubles with 25 hits .519 in Slugging (why isn't he up as a pinch hitter? we could showcase him for trade bait? He is clearly not part of the long term plan)

Honorable Mention
Joel Hanrahan 1.69 ERA (Who do you send down though?)

Emilio Fruto (doing well but needs more time at AAA)

Harrisburg Senators
Josh Whitesell - 1B - .354 BA .447 OBP 4HR's (This is more of a PLEASE GIVE UP ON BROADWAY PLEA!!!) Broadway has still not taken his demotion well. Broadway is Batting .171 with a .298 OBP But does have 4 HR's

Rogeravin Bernadina - OF - .294 Avg 10 SB (this guy is fast and even got to play a spring league game with the nats... ) I would rather see him at AAA getting more development for MLB and either Bench or Release Abraham Nunez .204 or George Lombard .217 who are both 30 and not batting over the Guzman line...

Potomac Nationals

DEE BROWN -OF- Who did this guy wrong in a former life to still be at A ball? The only to POTOMAC NATIONALS that batted higher than him last year were JOSE VIDRO AND JOSE GUILLEN (while they were on a Rehab Assignment)!!!! Dee is batting .358 and my only knock on him is runners left on base...
John Lannan P 4-0 2.56 ERA Pitching well and would have a lower ERA if Knorr had a quicker hook.

Hagerstown Suns
Mike Daniel -OF- Could Replace Dee Brown in Potomac. .300 5 HR .400 OBP Has outperformed Higher Prospects of Chris Marrero (.286 1 HR), Justin Maxwell (.236 4HR), and Stephen King.

Posted by: Lack of Player Movement in Minors... | May 1, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Hard to believe that ANYONE is pining for Okha and Ortiz. Instead of who?

The upside for any of the 2007 starters is much higher than any possible upside that Tomo Okha or Ramon Ortiz could provide.

Patterson (who threw HIS terrific game last night), Hill, Bergmann, and (eventually) Chico can be four fifths of a darn good rotation. Jerome Williams (despite the 6 one-hit innings the other day -- How on earth did that happen) doesn't have the kind of stuff that the other 4 have but still the Senators rotation right now is young, balanced (one lefty) and (cross your fingers) healthy.

alan

Posted by: amb141 | May 1, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

ESPN has a rumor that Cordero's on the "trading block." We all know it's a possibility at some point, but have you heard anything recently, Barry? Thanks for the great reporting/journal!

Posted by: CJ | May 1, 2007 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Completely agree with Lindemann on RFK. The new ballpark will be cool, but I worry it will be too slick. I love being able to leave work at 5, decide right then to go to a game, pay $5 bucks and get a great view. No obscene ticketmaster fees, no jostling to get in. Leaving the park, I always get on the first train that comes. Sigh.
We already bought 6 tickets in the bouncy seats for September 23. RFK is just so raw and down-to-earth. I'll miss it very much.

Posted by: NatsNut | May 1, 2007 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Ack! Don't trade Cordero NOW. We won't get anything!!!!!

Posted by: NatsNut | May 1, 2007 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Starting pitching: exceeded expectations
Bullpen: worse than expectations
Hitting: worse than expectations
Fielding: worse than expectations

An Ohka/Ortiz signing would not have significantly affected my point of view.

I do agree with the Kasten approach (though I'll admit that it kinda hurts right now) and I do believe that the team's future is bright. I do not believe that spending like drunken sailors, as someone noted, would guarantee a contender. Koolaid, koolaid, tastes great! Koolaid, koolaid, can't wait!

I'm encouraged that the team has stayed competitive in games of late. I trust that fielding will improve with the returns of Guzman and Logan (and, I hope sooner rather than later, Big Nick Johnson). I trust that the bullpen will improve with time and the return of Ayala. I trust that the offense will improve with time (I hope, especially, with runners in scoring position!!).

I also agree with the fan who pointed out good points of the last year at RFK ($5 seats with good views, ability to bring in a sandwich, easy Metro access).

Posted by: natsfan1a | May 2, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Just for the heck of it, I checked the 2007 media guide (p. 280 if you're scoring at home) to compare the Journal entry for April 2007 with media guide stats for April 2006. The stats (tables did not include NL rankings) are below.

Offense (April 2007):
Runs -- 78, 16th (of 16 teams) in National League
Batting average -- .234, 16th in NL
On-base percentage -- .316, 13th in NL
Slugging percentage -- .334, 16th in NL
Runs/game -- 3.12, 16th in NL
Doubles -- 45, 11th in NL
Triples -- 3, Tied-11th in NL
Homers -- 12, Tied-15th in NL
Strikeouts -- 174, 5th in NL
Walks -- 95, 5th in NL
RBI -- 75, Tied-15th in NL

Offense (April 2006):
Runs -- 108
Batting average -- .257
On-base percentage -- .338
Slugging percentage -- .413
Runs/game - 4.32
Doubles -- 41
Triples -- 2
Homers -- 30
Strikeouts -- 157
Walks (TBB) -- 102
RBI -- 102

Pitching (April 2007):
ERA -- 4.70, 15th in NL
Opponent batting average -- .258, seventh in NL
Opponent on-base percentage -- .347, 14th in NL
Opponent slugging percentage -- .427, 13th in NL
Strikeouts -- 146, 12th in NL
Walks -- 121, most in NL
Homers -- 28, most in NL
ERA for starting rotation -- 4.81, 14th in NL
ERA for bullpen -- 4.53, 16th in NL

Pitching (April 2006):
ERA -- 4.93
Opponent batting average -- .256
Opponent on-base percentage -- .337
Opponent slugging percentage -- .438
Strikeouts -- 157
Walks (TBB) -- 112
Homers -- 31
No breakouts were included for starting rotation and bullpen ERAs and I did not run the numbers.

Defense (April 2007):
25 errors
Defense (April 2006):
15 errors

Posted by: natsfan1a | May 2, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

good stuff natsfan1a!!! This year's team is clearly worse, right now anyway...

Posted by: erichardman | May 2, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

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