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End of road trip thoughts

When John Patterson beat Jake Peavy on April 30, the day this road trip started in San Diego, there was some reason for optimism. That night, Patterson won his first game since last April, and he was able to maintain his velocity late into the game. Chad Cordero, the beleaguered closer, worked a perfect ninth inning that night and picked up his fourth save.

With those two pitchers -- the presumed No. 1 starter and the established closer -- perhaps returning to form, the Nationals might have seemed stable. They started the year 1-8, but that win made them 8-9 for the next stretch. If Patterson and Cordero were getting better, even before the offense got going, the prospects for some stability were better than they had been since spring training.

That was eight games -- or what seems like -- an eternity ago. Since then, Patterson has come out of a start in the third inning in Chicago and gone on the disabled list. Cordero has dealt with the impending death of his grandmother, blown a badly needed save Sunday in Chicago, and since left the team on bereavement leave, not likely to return till early next week.

In the meantime, the Nationals haven't won again. This isn't a stretch like the beginning of the season, when the Nationals lost by 7, 6, 1, 6, 6, 2, 8 and 5 runs, an average of 5.1 a game. These eight losses have been by 3, 4, 2, 2, 1, 3, 2, and 2 runs, an average of 2.4 runs. So are the Nationals half again better than they were then?

"It's encouraging," Manager Manny Acta said after Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Nationals.

This is what you're going to get from the 38-year-old first-year manager -- eternal optimism. That doesn't mean he won't criticize his players. But he is fairly realistic about what he has here. I asked him before Wednesday's game if he would do anything kind of artificial to stir things up, or if he'd let the losing streak play out? Here's his reply:

"What am I going to do, start yelling and screaming at guys? That doesn't help either. We just got to keep on working and we're going to snap out of it. We're not the only team that is on a losing streak right now. Obviously we're in no position to keep on getting in long losing streaks, but hey, we got five months to go. So if you're going to go crazy in the first month, then we'd be in trouble."

In the interest of accuracy, the first month is over. This is now 34 games, a workable sample. Does it tell the story of the whole season? Certainly not. But it is too large a chunk to dismiss. As much-improved as the starting pitching is, it still has an ERA of 4.90, and who knows how long Patterson will be out? The rotation now is Shawn Hill, Matt Chico, Jason Simontacchi, Jason Bergmann and Jerome Williams, not exactly a lineup that strikes fear in anyone.

We have been told -- time and again -- that all of 2007 is about the future, that there is a plan in place to get out of this. But that plan can't take off without players. As much as this team is focusing on the farm system, there is a long, long, long way to go. The only hitting prospect above Class A is Kory Casto, and he's struggled in the major leagues. Josh Whitesell, the first baseman at Class AA Harrisburg, is hitting, but scouts don't think he has a defensive position. You have to go deep into Class A -- to Chris Marrero, in his first full professional season -- to find someone with serious up-side, and even Marrero was selected too high in the draft for some scouts' preferences.

So as you watch these 2007 games -- and you have an opportunity during this upcoming 10-game homestand, which the team badly needs -- try to pick out the players you believe will be contibuting to this team in 2010, by which point there will be no excuses if the team isn't contending (barring catastrophic injuries).

Ryan Zimmerman? It's interesting, because I think he's a no-brainer, but there were dissenting voices in my chat today.

Austin Kearns? Jason Bergmann? Cordero? Patterson? Jesus Flores?

And as an off day discussion, rank those players in order of how important and productive you think they'll be in 2010. Feel free to use minor leaguers, though I think we're all aware that any assessment of minor leaguers is made not by what you've seen but by what you've heard. If you have actually seen the minor leaguer in question, let us know why you think there's hope. Here's a sample.

1. Ryan Zimmerman
2. Jesus Flores
3. Shawn Hill
4. Colin Ballester
5. Austin Kearns

That's it from the Milwaukee airport. I'll get in touch with you Thursday about any news. I'm off Friday and Saturday of the homestand, but will be back in my chair Sunday. And I'm interested in your thoughts.

Take care.

(Oh, and some late editions for folks checking this after they get to work. Here's the assessment of the road trip that ran in the $.35 edition (with some thoughtful words from Ryan Zimmerman on what he and the team are going through right now), as well as some interesting stuff on Jason Bergmann's stats in the notebook. And for those who have headphones at your desks, here's the podcast. Or the page for it, which would let you subscribe if you want. Again, endure my babbling, and you'll enjoy it.)

By Barry Svrluga  |  May 9, 2007; 7:53 PM ET
 
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Comments

I was just thinking about this today...

The two players that float to the top of the list are Zimmerman and Kearns. We (meaning the fans and the organization, and the press has reported) have pretty much assumed that Zimmerman is the going to the Cal Ripken of the Nats... Not in the sense of the quality of player (though he certainly is more like Ripken than unlike), but in the sense of the person around whom the franchise will rotate... I watch the Nats on MLB.TV, and almost every play-by-play team refers to him as "The Face of the Nationals..." That seems to me to be a lot of pressure for a 22 year old kid, though he's handled it well so far. As for Kearns, I was imagining him sitting there thinking to himself that he's found himself in some terrible career dilemma, with a long-term obligation to the Nats, and nothing to look forward to except 100 losses a year. I think those two guys are the keys to the future, and it has been interesting watching them both, especially Kearns... I get the sense that he really has the constitution to be a team leader... but I can't help but picture him slapping his forehead every time he thinks about 2009 and 2010.

By definition, pitchers have to be on the list, and it is really a question whether Hill and Ballester are the real deal. We saw in 2005 how impressive some guys are, but the next year they're lame... I think we just got lucky with our 2005 staff. I can't imagine either of them being the perennial 200 inning 4 ERA guys, but I just don't know. If we could get 4 years of Hill pitching like he is now, it would be, as the kids say, sa-weeeet!

Just because I put Flores last doesn't mean he isn't important. He might turn out to be one of Bowden's greatest legacies in Washington, if he becomes the catcher he is predicted to be. His presence in 2007 solves a problem we would have otherwise had -- Robert Fick as the backup catcher... his presence also solves a problem in 2010, and that is, the catcher of the future. He hasn't shown a whole lot with the bat, though his first two hits (doubles) showed that there's something there... Lets see what happens down the road.

The problem with this question, though... is that there aren't 15 guys on the list... which is really what we need... 15 guys, from whom 5 or 6 become the core of a contender.

Posted by: Wigi | May 9, 2007 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, but I can't get beyond Zimmerman and Kearns, maybe just because I see this for the fool's errand that it is. I'm old enough to remember when Greg Jefferies was a "future Hall of Famer" while he was still in the Carolina League. Now, I can't remember for sure how to spell his name.
I was living in Norfolk at the time and saw a lot of Jefferies in AAA. He was very talented but he always seemed to me to lack the spark that makes good ball players great. I think Zimmerman might have that spark. It's hard to define -- probably some combination of emotional make up and baseball intuition -- but eventually it becomes apparent.
Kearns simply seems the sort who will be a very solid major league ball player for a long, long time. He was traded from a contender (sort of) an hour's drive from his hometown to a cellar dweller more than 500 miles away and, after a brief period of disbelief, got back to going about his business. He is, in a word, a pro. And, in several words, a very talented pro will has several more years of improvement ahead of him. He will contribute for as long as the Nagtionals hold on to him.

Posted by: salty dog | May 9, 2007 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Well, we all have to be patient - the media won't cover the team until they win and wins could be a few seasons off - but you never know.

I want to not be a fair weather fan so it will be sweet one day in the future when 1000s upon 1000s said they always loved the Nats and the Redskins are still 5-11 and Danny still won't hire a GM.

One winning, playoff season and everyone will be marveling at what a great baseball town DC is...NO town, not even the Cubs, has consistently supported losing teams, you could look it up.

Posted by: natswriter | May 9, 2007 9:41 PM | Report abuse

I would definately argue that the core of the team isnt even in the nationals system right now. Personally i think the only position players who will be on the first NL east team the nats assemble will be: Zimm, Merrero, Flores, maybe kearns or lopez. That's it.

As for pitchers it could be more but i would say: C Williams, C Ballester, S Hill, Z Zincola, could be more but that's all im willing to predict with any confidence.

That being said, here's my list:

1. Ballester
2. Williams
3. Zimm
4. Zincola (Every good team has a good closer, here's hoping)
5. Merrero

Posted by: Nats fan Down Under | May 9, 2007 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Notice that all of these guys are young, there are only 2 current major leaguers in my list of top 5, and in my list of players who will still be on the team, the only ones with more then 2 years experience in the majors are "maybe" going to be around. Basically, this is hoping the Plan works, and the only day that will matter from 2007 after this year is june 6

Posted by: Nats fan Down Under | May 9, 2007 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Real quick:

1. Colin Ballester
2. Ryan Zimmerman
3. Smiley Gonzalez
4. Jesus Flores
5. Chris Marrero

Posted by: BrianH | May 9, 2007 10:54 PM | Report abuse

I agree that Zimmerman and Kearns are the only ones that I could list right now, because we know from experience they are major league quality. I saw Josh Wilson hit over .300 in spring training and have scouts following the Nats all up and down the east coast, then when the season starts he looked....well, the way he looked. Flores looks very solid in the few ABs he's gotten here, but I don't know if anyone's seen enough to know if he's going to sustain in the long haul. And there certainly is no way to know if and how Marrero and company are going to develop.

Interesting how the MASN announcers kept pointing out to viewers that the Brewers were winning with home grown talent and were patient with young players. That Brewers comparison really isn't very reassuring. The Brewers haven't had a winning team in 15 years (at least)...I hope that all this patience doesn't mean we are going to suffer 90 loss seasons until the year 2022.

Posted by: Ray | May 9, 2007 11:03 PM | Report abuse

Well part of having a winning team is a large group of prospects who come up at around the same time. This normally takes a few years of top picks to get a good core of young guys. Lets all hope that these past/next few years are those years we need. Here's hoping we make the most of these GREAT picks we're going to have and can take advantage when the time comes.

Posted by: Nats fan Down Under | May 10, 2007 1:59 AM | Report abuse

At the rate things are going, Zim will look to leave when his free agency kicks in.

Posted by: swanni | May 10, 2007 5:01 AM | Report abuse

I like Barry's list as well as any, but I will leave the prognosticating to him and my other fellow bloggers, since I am a poor picker of stocks and ballplayers.

Not to worry, Swanni. If Zim gets an offer -- and he'll still be arbitration-eligible in 2010, so barring catastrophe, he will -- he'll be here. The only question is whether the front office will start to buy out arb years or will go year-by-year into the indefinite future.

Posted by: Hendo | May 10, 2007 6:41 AM | Report abuse

Despite the horrendous offensive start, I'm encouraged by the potencial quality of the team, and I mean for sooner than later. Top six, barring injury, Zimmerman, Kearns, Hill, Ballister, Johnson, Flores. But I also like Church, Lopez, Bergman, Chico and possibly, Fruto. With the addition of a good hitting center fielder (sigh! Andrew Jones) and a top free agent pitcher, next year could be interesting.

Posted by: j. campbell | May 10, 2007 8:01 AM | Report abuse

... well said all of you. But for the life of me, I'm having a really difficult time understanding why Austin Kearns is on anyone's list. Do any of you want to try to explain why he is considered to be ... good?

... as for the future winning Nationals - the team which other teams don't want to see coming - I don't think we see any of them on the present roster. (I have no access to A, AA, or AAA teams and how they're doing, so I can't comment on those guys.)

... I think one of the most intelligent comments came from 'swammi' who predicted that Ryan Z. will hightail it out of town just as soon as he becomes a UFA. I'd certainly agree with that.

Posted by: david f watts | May 10, 2007 8:35 AM | Report abuse

1. Zim
2. Flores (he ought to be playing more now--look at Schneider's lifetime record aganst LHPs). Looks like the real deal with the glove.
3. Hill.
4. Kearns (can be complimentary part of good team, but not the anchor).
5. Lopez (looks like he can play 2B & this is one position with a current shortage of outstanding players).

I see Church walking when he's a free agent & not sure if Nats would be interested in arbitration next year or 2009 (not sure when gets 3 years in with partial seasons). Bergmann would be on my list if we could have a sixth.

Posted by: Section 418 | May 10, 2007 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Re: Smiley Gonzalez--where is he this year? Anyone see him play?

Posted by: Section 418 | May 10, 2007 8:47 AM | Report abuse

"Ryan Z. will hightail it out of town just as soon as he becomes a UFA."

Of course, and Zimm won't be the only one. Can you imagine any quality pitcher volunteering to spend his best years with what Lerner/Kasten/Bowden promise to assemble on the field?

If you want to envision what the Nats will be like in 2010, 2015, etc. you don't need to look as far as Milwaukee. There's a mirror image team available for viewing 40 miles north of RFK.

Thanks for another excellent post, Barry.

Posted by: JohnR (VA) | May 10, 2007 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Even Tom "Screech" Boswell today wondered out loud whether things could get even worse.

Although, Boz's column was pathetic. You could tell that his head was telling him that the Plan wasn't working, but his heart kept him from really letting Nats management have it.

And still no discussion of the problems behind the scenes: Owner penny pinching and GM immaturity.

Posted by: swanni | May 10, 2007 9:23 AM | Report abuse

I sympathize with Boz, but when you lay out the words of Kasten as he did, you can understand why Boz was more distressed than vitriolic. At least he and Barry care about the public face of DC pro sports -- unlike, say, Wilbon and Kornheiser.

Having said that, I am a season ticketholder and remain unapologetically and unashamedly on board with The Plan. Investing in infrastructure to build a contender seems a much better use of funds than adding millions to payroll to amass an extra 10-20 wins now, with no guarantee of return later. (Which strikes me as pretty much the approach of the team up the road.)

Posted by: Hendo | May 10, 2007 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I'm sold on the plan as well. Regardless of how the Nats do in the future, its a solid business practice being executed well. We have the second lowest payroll, but the 5th highest payroll in player development. Everyone seems to forget about next months draft as well. With 5 picks in the first 71, we should be able to pick up some quality college players that are somewhat groomed. They think this is looking like its going to be a deep draft as well!
They will offer Zimm as much money as he wants, and he will stay. I'm super excited about Flores, he's the real deal. When his bat comes around, he's going to be awesome. If Hill stays healty, he's going to be a great addition to this rotation. I thought it was also very interesting that Glavine had such glowing comments about Chico. Given some time to develop, he could be really good. I remember when I lived in San Diego about 5 years back and Jake Peavy wasn't all that much to look at. I'd say he's improved a bit...

Posted by: G-town | May 10, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

My problem with the Plan: Why was it necessary to spend so little on payroll this year? Are the Lerners so strapped for cash that they had to save up for the future?

Couldn't they afford $7.5 million a year for the 29-year-old Juan Pierre? Someone who could have six good years left?

Or 8-9 million for Gil Meche? A #3 pitcher who could offer three or four years of decent service.

Where does it say that rebuilding requires you to spend as little as possible? Seems to me that they have cut payroll so close to the bone that it will take even longer to rebuild.

Posted by: swanni | May 10, 2007 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I don't see how anybody can say The Plan is not working; we're barely into the first year of it. Granted, I am distressed and confused over the team's lack of offense but am pleasantly surprised about the pitching. If it keeps up, I still think the Nats can turn this around before the year is out, but I'll be among the first to complain if next year is this bad. I think that if anyone expected miracles in the first year they were delusional, particularly when one considers what Selig and his boys did to the franchise.

Posted by: Dancer13 | May 10, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I'm both on board with the plan and think it's working. I don't really get the complaints (Boz, others) about spending a little more for a decent pitcher/hitter, etc. I can see how the front office thought they could get by on the current budget. Obviously they couldn't foresee our current offensive slump, but we all agree that it's an anomoly. So a reversion back to our "normal" hitting expectations and I'd say the gamble on such a low budget will have paid off pretty nicely.
Re: Zimm. I liked hearing some of the details on what's going on at the plate with him. No excuses! And it sounds like 1) the league has figured him out and pitches around him and 2)He's trying to cut down on strikeouts and is patiently learning some savvy subtleties at the plate. Though I've had some nagging misgivings about his performance so far, this has put my mind at ease.
I agree with Watts to a certain extent about Kearns. I think he'll be a long-term, steady performing guy in MLB, but not necessarily the core of the team. I see him bolting before I see Zimm leaving (I suspect Kasten will be paying for FAs by then and Zimm would 1st on his list). Kearns is good but just doesn't sparkle for me. I'd put Bergmann in Barry's list before Kearns, to be honest.

Posted by: NatsNut | May 10, 2007 11:27 AM | Report abuse

No excuses?

There is rarely a second year player hitting third in a lineup with no protection. These are real issues, not excues and it will take some adjustment. But he's starting to come out of his slump and as the season drags on, he'll figure it out. Baseball is a long season and there is no reason to jump all over Zim now. He should use this year just like Hill or Chico to improve his game to be a real force in the new stadium. It's frustrating to see a team strand runners constantly and lose close games because of it, but that's the way it's going to be and we all need to be patient. At the end of 162 we'll have a much better idea of who we have.

What I think we'll see in 2010 is:

1. Zim
2. Marrero
3. Flores
4. Lopez
5. Smiley Gonzalez

1. Ballester
2. Mock
3. Hill
4. Zinacola
5. Chico

If the plan is to work like it's supposed to then prehaps some people on this list are still in high school or in other organizations. This year's draft is huge so hopefully we can find a good mix of high school talent and college experience, like Zim and Cordero, so that help can trickle in sooner than later.

Posted by: Court (DC) | May 10, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Following up on Boswell's column and similar concerns expressed here and elsewhere, this is what the Nats should do to keep fans upbeat:

Have Stan Kasten conduct an interview with a local TV guy in which he promises to start spending on free agents next year. He should acknowledge fan concerns over this year's low payroll but say they needed to cut expenses this year to get ready for 2008 and beyond.
He should make it clear that starting next year the Nats will be as competitive as anyone in acquiring new players.

Anything short of that type of pledge (not your allegiance), and season ticket holders will begin to question whether they should renew next year.

Posted by: swanni | May 10, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Nick Johnson.

Posted by: Ashburn | May 10, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Nick Johnson:

... he is far too fragile. He can't put in a full season. When he came to the Expos, he already had that kind of reputation with the Yankees. I hope I'm wrong; I hope he turns the kind of corner that will see him become a star in the league. But today? I'm not convinced.

Posted by: david f watts | May 10, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Paying one dollar for free agents this year or next makes absolutely no sense at all, as Kasten has clearly explained. Why would the Nats pay 7 mil a year for a player now, when they are nowhere near ready for contention. Kasten has clearly laid out that the team will start going after free agents when the team infrastructure is in place and they are ready to start purchasing free agents to fill the holes that their farm system can't provide. I certainly don't want them wasting money next year in the already overpriced free agent market. Why? So the Nats can win 10 more games and finish 3rd or 4th? Dump that money in the Farm system like they're already doing. We'll be fine as far at ticket sales go, did anyone watch the Brewers series? They're in first place and were still pulling only 17K to 21K fans, thats close to what we get now, now imagine if we're actually winning!

Posted by: G-town | May 10, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I remain dedicated to the Plan. I also go back and forth over the spending a little bit now just to make it easier on us fans. I disagree with Boz on Traschel as an example. He got 15 wins last year with a lineup that makes ours look like AA. His ERA was far from fantastic. I dig our starting pitchers as is.

In regards to the 2010 roster, I see the impact players being something like this:

1) Zimmerman - He's in his sophomore slump, he has no protection, and he's adjusting to new approaches at the plate. I'll be surprised if he's not hitting .300 next year.
2) Hill - I see him as the next Brandon Webb. Maybe not Cy Young contender, but a nasty sinkerballer pitcher that gives you a great chance to win every five days. Ideally, he'll be a No. 3 starter.
3) Colin Ballester - I don't know the timeline for player development. He could be higher up on this chart. I think we need to take our time with this kid though, by 2012 he should definitely be our ace. 2010, maybe our 4th starter? I want free agent signings to impact the starting rotation to give kids like him time to grow.
4) Kearns - I disagree with Mr. Watts and others who don't think Kearnsy can be a big time player. He has a cannon in right field, plays great defense, has enormous power and currently plays without any protection in the worst lineup in the Majors. Put Zimms and Church around him for protection and I bet you his numbers skyrocket, even this year.
5) Flores - I haven't seen enough of this kid to really gauge how he'll be. The scouts seem to really love him, and Catcher is not a position you usually see guys stacked with talent. I'm excited to see him grow.

And if I could do 5 more:
6) Lopez (great two spot hitter)
7) Church
8) Marrero
9) Bergmann
10) The Center Fielder We Do Not Have Yet

Posted by: NattyDelite! | May 10, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse

My top five contributors for 2010 (which begins just 3 short years from now) based on who is in the organization today:

1) Zimmerman (in 2010 at the age of 26 he has an MVP caliber year)
2) Church (who by 2010 will be the reliable old pro that leads by example and plays 155 games per year)
3) Marrero (the 2010 ROY playing 1B)
4) Hill (in 2010 the teams 3rd best starter but pitching leader)
5) Flores (a power hitting C with good game management)

I predict that S. Gonzalez will not arrive until 2011 but will have benn traded in 2009 for a starting pitcher who helps the Nats stay in they playoff race through most of September 2009.

As for Boswell's column, he is a superb writer, a good advocate for the fans, and presents a perceptive and reasonable risk analysis of The Plan. Whether we agree with Kasten/Lerner plan or not, it is absolutely clear that they have one. Are the potential benefits outweighed by the risks? Well, raise your hand if you ever ran an organization that made a MLB playoff a appearance. And, now keep your hand up if you did it 14 years in a row.

Posted by: NatBisquit | May 10, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Why doesn't Lopez get any love? He's the only person delivering consistent performance this year at the plate and in the field. No, he's not the best of the best, but having someone you can count on in baseball is just as valuable as having a superstar.

Posted by: Patrick | May 10, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

What am I, chopped liver?

Posted by: Ryan Church | May 10, 2007 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I tend to totally agree with NatsFanDownUnder "the core of the team isnt even in the nationals system right now". Bowden has totally stripped the cupboard bare and hasn't brought in anyone other than Belliard or Dmitri Young (both of whom fell in his lap because nobody else in MLB wanted them or were that desperate as we are). My only solice is that he will probably be fired (or in jail) after this season and won't get another MLB job, after this team loses >100 games. Poor Acta has to just stay positive while thinking "if I only had the talent my former NY Mets could buy!"
At least in Arizona, they spent money while they were waiting for their farm team to develop. I just hope some of the good players like Zimm, Lopez, Hill and Kearns actually want to stay here in the Kansas City of the East. (Am I the only guy who thinks Kearns carries himself and acts as if he is just miserable about being here) I think guys like Merrero, Flores, Smiley, Hinckley, Booker, Hanrahan, and Fruto will be here by that time. The real question will be if the fan base will care by that time... (We are now seeing why Atlanta had trouble selling out in playoff games despite their long division champion run, they turned off the fan base) The only plan I see working is the one that cuts costs, raises our prices, overpromises, and underdelivers (see how that has helped KC now that it has to overspend to get decent pitching to come there). I don't understand how people could say the plan is working if you just cut payroll, and only get high draft picks because you lost guys the first year. What about next years draft? If you didn't pay anyone to come this year, how are you going to get any good picks for next year other than your normal picks for finishing last. I hope they get something of value for Belliard and Young who both fell in the Nats lap.

Our AAA team is pathetic and has almost no YOUNG talent on it worth saving other than Pitchers Booker, Fruto, Hanrahan & maybe Anastacio Martinez (who had a good outing Tuesday). Brandon Watson is the lone position player worth keeping. Right now Restovich, Jimenez, Abraham Nunez, and Josh Wilson are all down there surrounded by Larry Broadway and a bunch of Never-Will-Be's, and clearly they weren't the answer when they were up here. Most of them aren't young either.

The AA team has 1B Josh Whitesell .344 (who should be in AAA now that Broadway is on the DL instead of Jennings batting .111), Pitchers Hinckley, Zinicola (who is stinking up the joint) and Balester and recently promoted Alex Morales. Maybe OF Frank Diaz or OF Roger Bernadina can develop more.

Our Hi-A team has OF DEE BROWN who is SLUMPING AT .333 (why doesn't this guy get a chance at the next level? I'm convinced there is a story here.) Brandon Powell and Pitcher John Lannan.

So we will have to wait to June to see how our plan is doing. Hopefully they draft ALL PITCHERS or SS. :) Ah who am I kidding we need EVERYTHING BUT 3B.

Posted by: erichardman | May 10, 2007 2:17 PM | Report abuse

The Plan is grand, and, in fact, the only rational approach. We do not need a Redskins/Orioles style "this is the year" every year scenario. What remains unexplained is why spending say $15 million on a front line starter and a significant bat would not be part of "development"?

The pitcher would have allowed Patterson to approach his come back season thinking he needed simply to get back to being a solid #2, poised to take over as the "ace", a role he filled before he got hurt.

The bat would have allowed Zimmerman to hit #5 or 6, learning situational hitting without the pressure of trying to hit a 5-run homer each time up.

We concede that this team is developing at the Major League level. Why not spend the money to protect and develop key assets?

Posted by: Section 314 | May 10, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Top 10 Reasons FREE AGENTS Won't come to Washington now

10. Traffic is bad

9. Not tax friendly like Texas or Florida

8. No protection in the lineup or you are immediately considered the "ACE"

7. You will have to comment about RISP avg and will be continually asked about your counterpart on the 62 Mets.

6. Tom Boswell will immediately love you like a little puppy and will hug you and never let you go (this gets annoying after a while)

5. From innings 1 through 3 and 7 through 9 your home games are played in front of mostly fans from the visiting team. Thanks to "The Plan" and the fact the DC fans show up late and leave early.

4. You have to put up with Bowden hollaring at you in practice, but at least your manager will always stay positive by not saying anything to you. Of course he won't ever argue a call for you either.

3. You can't use the cliche, "I wanted to come to a contender"

2. You can't drink away the teams problems now with the new MLB drinking policy.

1. If you come: Nobody else wanted you!

Any others?

Posted by: Any Free Agent | May 10, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

"4) Kearns - I disagree with Mr. Watts and others who don't think Kearnsy can be a big time player. He has a cannon in right field, plays great defense, has enormous power and currently plays without any protection in the worst lineup in the Majors. Put Zimms and Church around him for protection and I bet you his numbers skyrocket, even this year."

Nice player, but does anyone think that a team could win a pennant if he's the best player on it? Pluses: Above average defense, decent power, hustles. Minuses: Swings & misses too much, doesn't consistently hit hitters pitches,* breaks Nick Johnson's leg too often.

* Compare him to consistent RBI guys who can be pitched to but if you make a mistake, they'll kill you (e.g., Joe Carter). Kearns not in that category.

Posted by: Section 418 | May 10, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

To Section 314:

I think the issue is the return on investment. The free agent pitcher market this past winter was outrageous, and there are few credible choices that you could have made at a reasonable price. As for hitters, there are always hitters, but by getting one or two, you're going to take playing time away from kids who need to play every day... but lets say you do that, and increase your annual payroll by $10 million... what are you getting? Well, we're finding out that as far as starting pitching goes, you'd be getting nothing, and perhaps less than nothing, because you'd be hard pressed to find a 2007 free agent pitcher that is making $4 million this year that is doing better than any of our rookies... and for a position player, where would you play them?

Boz made a point this morning that I've believed all year... and that is, the seeds of this crappy year were sown in Montreal... Short of spending $100 million, there's pretty much nothing that could have been done to avoid this. Sure, Lerners could have bought a 75 win team but it would have been at the expense of the development of our younger players, and from a practical/fan perspective, not really any different from what we're getting, and it almost certainly would have cost more than $10 million in payroll to achieve.

This totally sucks... Blame Bud and his cronies.

Posted by: Wigi | May 10, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Hey Any Free Agent, that s**t was funny.

Posted by: NatsNut | May 10, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Re: Section 418

Did your heart stop too during the play in outfield when Kearns was careening towards Church?

Posted by: Heartstopper | May 10, 2007 3:12 PM | Report abuse

During the Cubs game on Sunday, that is.

Posted by: Heartstopper | May 10, 2007 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I agree, give Lopez & Church some appreciation. And Watts, remember that Nick played all season last year until he & Kearns collided. That wasn't an injury due to fragility.

Posted by: Section 406 | May 10, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Even I would have broken my leg in that collision.....

Posted by: Superman | May 10, 2007 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Needed to add a couple more cents... to quote myself:

"Boz made a point this morning that I've believed all year... and that is, the seeds of this crappy year were sown in Montreal... Short of spending $100 million, there's pretty much nothing that could have been done to avoid this. Sure, Lerners could have bought a 75 win team but it would have been at the expense of the development of our younger players, and from a practical/fan perspective, not really any different from what we're getting, and it almost certainly would have cost more than $10 million in payroll to achieve.

"This totally sucks... Blame Bud and his cronies."

As much as missed baseball in Washington for 34 years... the whole process of securing the Expos/Nationals for the city, I thought was a miserable case of the seller not acting in good faith, and it angered me no end. MLB was worse than just cheap with the Expos/Nationals... they allowed the team to become the NAPA of baseball... where you went to get quality spare parts. They knew exactly what the impact of their policies would be, and intended for the Expos/Nationals to emerge from the process as nothing more than a (dysfunctional) organizational shell and no player assets. They basically converted them back into an expansion team... and not a threat to compete for five to ten years.

Greedy pigs...

Posted by: Wigi | May 10, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

MLB had a payroll of $20 million more than the current management. Who's the cheap one here?

Posted by: swanni | May 10, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Swanni, how much of that did you take with you when you were fired?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 10, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I am willing to wait out Stan the man's plan till his first deadline....but the minute he starts talking in Friedman Units, I'm bailing. [because I don't want to get into politics on this site, if anyone needs a definition of the F.U. -- no, it's not THAT "f.u." -- , google it !]

Posted by: one of Barry's Babes | May 10, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

And $20 million in payroll more would maybe mean we'd have gone 2-7 or 3-6 on the last road trip instead of 1-8? Is that what we want?

Keep the powder dry, Stan.

Posted by: Wes Mantooth | May 10, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Wigi said: "They knew exactly what the impact of their policies would be, and intended for the Expos/Nationals to emerge from the process as nothing more than a (dysfunctional) organizational shell and no player assets."

... and don't forget. The MLB plan was for the Expos to be contracted, not sold, until they were faced with a court challenge.

Section 406:
... as for Nick's fragility. Yes he played last year and I sincerely hope that means his glass jaw is on the mend. But his label still sticks. And in pro sports, it's a hard one to dislodge.

Posted by: david f watts | May 10, 2007 4:06 PM | Report abuse

I support the plan, but the ticket and parking increases to watch a team the owners told us would be bad upsets me!

Posted by: fburg | May 10, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Swanni:

Pay attention here... it isn't what you pay, it is WHO you pay... The Nationals COULD spend an additional $10 to $20 million, but get essentially nothing for it in terms of record, and HURT their player development in the process. My criticism of MLB is not what their payroll was, but the way they allowed the team to be managed while in their care. If MLB had been just cheap, they would have kept the rookies like (insert your current MLB star here) just to save payroll... but instead they traded the low payroll guys so that today there is no significant Expo-developed talent in the system... the only ones left are playing on the Nats.

Why did they do this? So none of the other NL East teams would have to be in the cellar for the rest of this decade. Helps their gate...

Posted by: Wigi | May 10, 2007 4:21 PM | Report abuse

"Re: Section 418

Did your heart stop too during the play in outfield when Kearns was careening towards Church?"--Heartstopper

Now we know Nook's true role on the team--keeping Kearns away from Church!

Posted by: Section 418 | May 10, 2007 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Which great young player would have been denied a chance to blossom if they had signed Juan Pierre? Gil Meche? Alfonso Soriano? All three players would have helped this team win for several years -- including this year -- as well as provide more entertainment on the field. They could have been part of the rebuilding process.

But when you decide to be cheap...

Posted by: Swanni | May 10, 2007 4:32 PM | Report abuse

When an upbeat, see-no-wrong guy like Tom Boswell starts to question 'The Plan,' you know there's a serious problem.

Posted by: swanni | May 10, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Here's a poll for you guys:

If Stan Kasten was introduced at RFK Stadium on Friday night would the crowd:

a. Boo
b. Cheer
c. Throw Screech dolls at him

If Jim Bowden was introduced at RFK Stadium on Friday night, would the crowd:

a. Boo
b. Cheer
c. Throw the six-pack Miller cooler at him.

Posted by: Pollquestion | May 10, 2007 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I think Bowden would be booed. Kasten, maybe a few boos, but mostly polite applause.

Posted by: swanni | May 10, 2007 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Can Bowden drink in the GM booth?

Posted by: Ray King | May 10, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I too have wondered why this Swanni keeps trying to stone the people who paid $650 Million for a team. Was he fired? Was he part of a failed ownership drive? Did Bowden fail to hold the door open for him at the bar? Did he cry alot when he was a small child? What makes a man (or woman?) so bitter? Is it attention seeking?

How exatly is is cheap to pay $650M? How is it bad management to invest in the future over short term gratification? How is it an entitlement to have Gil Meche on your team? The Orioles (see antonym: the plan) have bought plenty of exciting young free agents (see also: declining attendance, fourth place, hopeless). What makes the plan better than the anti-plan? Why that would be chance of success (see: Twins, Marlins, Diamnondbacks).

And, if I read Boswell correctly this morning he did not exactly say that he disagreed with the plan. I believe he implied that he would find it difficult to risk following the plan. Whatever the interpretation of his words, there is more evidence in favor of the plan than against it.

Posted by: conspiracy???? | May 10, 2007 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Where on earth do you get the $650M figure?

Posted by: swanni | May 10, 2007 5:56 PM | Report abuse

And I am a season ticket holder -- the equivalent of a shareholder -- who wants to be assured that his money is being well spent.

Posted by: swanni | May 10, 2007 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Problem with the plan is we are being forced to watch Young, Fick, Tony B, Jimmerez (thank god not any longer) Ronnie B, Josh Wilson Ditto above).....not any players who are part of the long term plan.

So what is it, a plan to give young players a chance to develop or a plan to win the who can pay the least for washed up Vets?

I think the true plan is to finish dead last without spending any money. Get the #1 draft picks for a few years and then try to be like the Marlins....good young players that cost nothing (Zimmmerman makes less than anyone) then trade them before you need to pay them. (This will result in Zimmerman being traded before he reacher his prime.)

This approach will win games eventually but the goal is clearly to max profit for Lerners, not win World Series (that part is just to sell tickets).

Posted by: JayB | May 10, 2007 6:10 PM | Report abuse

The plan is the plan. We have no control over it. We must decide whether it is worth it to spend major league prices now on a team and a facility and food etc. that is at the bottom of major league quality...if that...

If attendance at home to this point (I mean fans in the seats) is any indication, Stan may not have his financial windfall to spend in the upcoming years.

Posted by: still missing florida | May 10, 2007 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Firstly, i dont know what the obsessions with juan pierre and gil meche are, but theyre hardly better then current jason bergmann and ryan church. Why not give a cheaper alternative a chance. If meche had been signed, bergmann would be stuck in AAA maybe his confidence would be shot, and we'd never hear from him again. What if nook logan gets a hit in his next 20 at bats? Im saying it will happen, but if it does then i'd like to see you keep crying about juan pierre who is hardly joe dimaggio.

Secondly, the Plan is the only thing we can do. Even if we spend $100 mil per year on high priced free agents, you still need a farm system to keep things going. Yes it would be nice to see some money spent now, but i'd rather see that money spent in the future when it can really make a difference (or perhaps on better concessions, more fan appreciation nights, or cheaper parking)

Keep in mind that those who are complaining are not the only ones hurting. I average attending 15-20 nats games a year (which i think is pretty good for a broke college kid who is only in town from june-august) And it kills me to watch my team get embarrassed every day. What keeps me going is that they are doing the exact opposite thing as my other love (the skins) and planning towards the future as opposed to looking at the NOW. If we followed the mold of the cheap marlins, hell i'd love it. Keep in mind the marlins won 2, count 'em 2 World series over the last 10 years. If the nats win 2 in my lifetime i'd be overjoyed. I want instant gratification as much as the next guy but i can be reasonable enough to realize that juan pierre and gil meche are not the answer. So i look to the plan with hope, and with some doubt, but if we, the fans, arent going to believe then who will? All i know is that there will be a seat in the nosebleads that i will sit in as long as the nats are here. Even if we break the loss record every year for the next 10. I dont care if we go 0-162 as long as i can hop on the metro and go see a ballgame.

Posted by: Nats fan Down Under | May 10, 2007 7:28 PM | Report abuse

"...we followed the mold of the cheap marlins, hell i'd love it. Keep in mind the marlins won 2, count 'em 2 World series over the last 10 years."

Or we could follow the mold of my beloved and moneyed RedSox, and win 1 Series in my lifetime :)

Posted by: one of Barry's Babes | May 11, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse

I am very predictable so here are the 5 players I think will be here and making an impact in 2010:

1. John Patterson
2. Brian Schneider
3. Austin Kearns
4. Nick Johnson
5. Shawn Hill
5a.Chad Cordero.

This is, of course, barring trades - Bowden likes to trade the best players and fan favorites, so it is possible none of these will be here in 2010.

Posted by: thunderstrucknatsfan | May 12, 2007 9:00 PM | Report abuse

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