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Finally, a Healthy Catcher

Jesus Flores arrived from Venezuela on Saturday night and took part in Sunday's workout. Why does this matter? Because thus far, the Nationals' pitchers have had almost no on-field interaction with either of the team's top two catchers, veteran newcomers Johnny Estrada and Paul Lo Duca, both of whom are coming back from injuries. This isn't a huge deal -- there is plenty of time still for the pitchers and catchers to get to know each other from 60 feet 6 inches apart -- but it does matter.

As for Flores, he still appears headed for Class AA Harrisburg this season, unless the injury issues to Estrada and/or Lo Duca prove to be more than they appear now. But the Nationals view him as potentially their catcher of the future, so his presence here is important. Incidentally, Flores blamed the team for his tardiness, saying the team was late in getting him the form he needed to secure his visa in his native Venezuela.

Also today, John Patterson threw live BP -- the first time he had faced batters since walking off the mound last May in Chicago with an elbow injury. I watched him throw and didn't see many good swings against him, and afterwards Patterson said he was happy with how he threw and he felt.

By Dave Sheinin  |  February 24, 2008; 2:24 PM ET
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Next: Waiting For Svrluga


Thanks for another post!

Thrilled to hear JP threw to hitters...and looked good! Great news.

Thanks for the excellent scoop on Flores' visa issue. I assume you'll ask Bowden or Kasten or someone a) if they were in fact late and b) why they were late w/ this form. Maybe they had to wait to get something from INS (or whatever they're called now)?

Important questions for us NJ geeks.

Posted by: Avar | February 24, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the Lerners balked at paying for the Visa forms...

Posted by: swanni | February 24, 2008 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Man Dave you are going out strong! Barry please take note....these are the things that we spend hours debating and a few good questions and a post help us at least debate the facts.....

For example,

411, I think at least defended the Nats FO when I raised the issue (along with the regular crowd of Lerner defenders.....

"Flores blamed the team for his tardiness, saying the team was late in getting him the form he needed to secure his visa in his native Venezuela."

It seems there might have been something the Nats could have done better after all.....

Oh and Dave, could you please leave us with on more question much money have the Nats put into the farm system and how does it compare to the $30 Million or so they cut in salary last year? Do the Nats have more scouts than the Red Sox or Yankees? Do they have more coaches and instructors and the average MLB Team. Do they pay scouts more and how much does a Nats scout make?

I guess I am still hot about having to watch Fick and Jimmerez, Wilson, etc last year. If the Nats truly are outspending that money on the farm at a higher rate than the top teams then I am OK but if not...Fick was painful!..........

Posted by: JayB | February 24, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see somebody, somewhere discuss why MASN hasn't said [anything] about spring training telecasts. All that can be found is last year's press release on February 9th, 2007. Allegedly, this is a major market team, right? Even the O's fans are starting to wonder.

Posted by: Wooden U. Lykteneau | February 24, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I don't know what advantage accrued to Flores by tattling on his bosses about the visa problem. I am happy he arrived, in any case.

I have long since given up on MASN being of any use to us beyond the minimum of televising games. I am a bit surprised, honestly, since it is in Angelos's interest to make it a money machine, but whatever. As long as i can see the games. I don't even need HD until next year.

There was an interesting story that Florida Today ran on NRI Jorge Padilla:

Everybody is going to get teh same 5th or 6th chance to ask Nick how his leg is, or ask Detwiler to describe the stars in his eyes for his first camp. I would like to see a story or two on some of the long shots, most of whom will be gone in a week or two anyway. Some will end up on our minor league teams, some will completely fade awat, but this is the only chance we will really have to get a story or two from the fringe of major league dreams. These guys are good enough to have gotten close, but not to really make it.

That will be the story of some of the great prospects we are excited about now. We know that they don't all make it (right, Mike Hinckley?), but maybe a few will impress just enough to hang on for a possible call-up later in the year to fill an injury spot.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | February 24, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully once the ADP camp is really up and running, Barry will also give us some of the inside scoop assessments of how the future of the Plan is looking based on eyewitness accounts and not just Baseball America opinion.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | February 24, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad to hear about JP and Hill throwing well and looking healthy. I'm also curious about Matt Chico. I'm sure he's doing his thing with Randy St. Claire, but does how improved does number 47 look? Thanks for excellent coverage, Dave!

Posted by: VT Mikey | February 24, 2008 4:24 PM | Report abuse

The team could easily have been late getting Flores his visa paperwork because Flores was delinquent in letting them know the correct offseason mailing address where they should have sent the paperwork so he could fill it out and submit it himself in a timely fashion. Screw-ups can go both ways, and so can the blame that is laid for them.

And Flores is probably only discussing the situation now because he was asked about it by reporters. English is not his mother tongue, so I doubt he could create a coherent shift-the-blame explanation if he wanted to. He probably just said "I got the paperwork late from the team" or something like that, and the reporters and the blame-the-front-office-for-everything crowd were off and running. We'll probably never know exactly why he got the paperwork late, and at this point why should we care? He's in camp and ready to play.

Posted by: Section 419+1 | February 24, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse


Perhaps, if enough fans go to the MASN web page and send a comment about the Nats Feb-Mar schedule (or lack thereof), they MIGHT do something.

Now, MASN probably has lots of support from the college basketball fans, but nothing from us.

Dave or Barry -- how about a mention in the paper?

Posted by: Bethesda Fan | February 24, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Looking at the previous posts I see three very good questions:
1) How does a major league ballclub go through pitchers and catchers week with no catchers because they failed to get the paperwork together? It wasn't like the front office was busy working on Fan Fest.
2) How does the Nats scouting staff rank with the rest of the league, considering we have been told this is where all the money is going?
3) Is the MASN going to release a schedule for spring training? At least they could show the Nats v. Os next week.

Great news about Patterson, I'm looking forward to seeing him and Hill pitch some innings in the next couple weeks.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 24, 2008 5:45 PM | Report abuse

OK, I have my first serious complaint for Sheinen. Why didn't we know about the flush test at the new ballpark??? You mean, I could have volunteered to go to the new stadium and flush the toilets?? That would have been great! The NJ really let us down on this one. OK - I'm only half joking that I would have done the flush test.

Posted by: Avar | February 24, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I saw on JDLAND that the Nats decided not to put that dumb looking baseball on the roof of the "Red Porch" restaurant - yep, that's what they are calling it. Thank God! I was hoping for something in the form of that 50ft bottle of National Bohemian that was at Griffith Stadium. That big beer bottle was even in the movie Damn Yankees. But, nothing is much better than the spinning baseball.

Speaking of JDLAND, I was looking at her latest photos of the stadium interior. I can't imagine this place is going to be ready to go on March 30.

Posted by: 6th and D | February 24, 2008 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Hmm. I am trying to think of whether I would have liked that baseball or not.

Now that Flores in camp, I would like to hear from Matt Whitney and Garrett Guzman. I am sure they are both inspired by Flores's story.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | February 24, 2008 7:17 PM | Report abuse

"Bowden all but telegraphed the fact their offer to Zimmerman is more in line with the Tulowitzki/McCann/Sizemore deals (let's say six years, $25 million-$30 million)."

Dave: I think there is a little apples & oranges comparison going on with these contracts. The Sizemore deal is over two years old now so to say that is the current market is a stretch because salaries went up considerably in the '06-'07 offseason. The Tulo deal was to buy out 2 pre-arb years, while Zimmerman has just one year to go before arbitration. As noted yesterday, the Tulo and Cano deals look very similar through the 3 arbitration years ($17.5m v. $18m) and are identical for the first post-arbitration / free agent year, and the first option year. Shave a year off the 6 year offer you suggest, keep the money around $30 million, and add a $14 million option and you are closer to market.

As your post points out, had Wright waited until after 8/06, he probably would have been in better bargaining position because his agent would have seen last offseason's salary explosion. Tulo and Cano's contracts differ from Wright's by being about $5 million less in the arbitration years, $4 million in the first post-arb year, and by having the next year guaranteed.

Wright and Zimmerman reminds me of the calculations the Red Sox and Yankees made with Nomar and Jeter in the mid-90's. The Red Sox overpaid Nomar after 1997, buying out 2 pre-arb years, his 3 arb years, and getting options on his first two free agency years for about $23 million guaranteed and $45 million if the options were exercised in '03 and '04. The Yankees did not sign Jeter long term until '01 when he was entering his last year of arbitration. At that point, they had to pay a bit more than if they had signed him earlier - 10 years, $18 million / year.

Bowden / Stan might be making a mistake here, but it isn't unreasonable. I think the reluctance to step up for Zimmerman reflects some doubt about what sort of player he really is. The risk is that, with a good year, Cano money would be a starting point($30 million for 4 years plus 2 options at $14 and $15 million). If exercised, that's more than Wright's guarantee.

Posted by: jon | February 24, 2008 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Here's another bit of evidence for the "some prospects never pan out" portfolio:

In 2006, the Nats drafted Sean Black in the second round. He did not sign, opting instead to go to Seton Hall. He was the highest drafted player to go to college instead of sign.

Bad move. He went 3-3 last year, with a 5.66 ERA in college. He is the 38th best ranked _sophomore_ in college according to Baseball America now, so he is perhaps not even in the top 100 of college players. The chances of him ever sniffing 2nd round money again appear to be slim.

I can understand passing on lower levels for the chance to go to college, but a contract in the 500-700K rangeis pretty amazing. If baseball doesn't work out, you can save the money to pay for the education then.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | February 24, 2008 7:31 PM | Report abuse

I agree with 419 on Flores's "blame". Someone asked him why he was late, or if he's in trouble, and he says "the team sent the form late" to clarify the reason. Not a big deal at all, just worded a little strongly by Dave, I'm guessing.

I'm curious what kind of prank the other players played on him for being late.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 24, 2008 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Am I missing half a post or is everybody just rampantly speculating with no basis whatever on what Jesus Flores may or may not have said, in Spanish or was that English? several hundred miles away, to Dave, or was that some unidentified group of somebodies?

Posted by: Have Jesus and Jesus Flores ever been seen together? | February 24, 2008 9:54 PM | Report abuse

from the previous post:
A team trying to build a fan base that just moved into a brand new stadium, but only has 18K season tix holders in one of the largest, wealthiest markets in the USA needs to sign its marquee player - if nothing else than to get the fence sitters to buy some 20, 41, and 81 game plans. There's got to be an untapped market out there that is not being reached - heck, those 2.75 M people in 2005 came from somewhere - the Nats need to figure out how to get them -- and 500K more people (or at least sold tickets) into the fold ASAP. Signing Zim would help.
Posted by: natswriter | February 24, 2008 09:03 PM

Didn't we have this discussion about Livan, without consensus, that having/not having a fan favorite will/won't sell a significant number of tickets in the first year of a new park? And since Zimmerman will be there regardless, it's a much weaker argument for him than Livo.

Honestly, do you seriously think anyone will say, "I *was* going to go see a ball game, but darn it, that Zimmerman should be getting a lot more than just **12 times the median income for a family of four in DC** to play baseball, so I'm staying home out of solidarity with the Working Man."

OK, that was a little snarky, but still. Sales are low, but that's got bupkis to do with it.

Posted by: CE MIB | February 24, 2008 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Just win, baby.

Posted by: Al Davis | February 24, 2008 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Or to put it another way, if sports fans care about how players are treated, why does anybody pay to see boxing?

Posted by: CE | February 24, 2008 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Applause to CE. We're becoming a little too inside the beltway on this thing. We're analyzing motive, making judgment, etc. Let's stop watching McLaughlin, Russet, etc. It's a game (and I don't mean what is being played between the lines.) I strongly suggest that Zimm's agent really is not too anxious to cut a long term deal. The market changes and, if the Nats do as well as many of us hope and if Zimm is the 3 hitter, he can command much more than if a contract is signed now.

OTOH, re: MASN. This whole situation may be a truly spectacular example of PA's ego gone wild. It really has been suggested that MASN could easily become a serious regional player, doing college LaCrosse, some top end HS Basketball (State Tourneys, WCAC championship), some College football (Howard, Towson State, etc.) The field is really wide open for a creative area market. I don't know what to say.

Posted by: Catcher50 | February 24, 2008 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Link below to an ESPN take on the Nats from a fantasy point of view - which can be an interesting look even if you don't play the game. Some points I agree with but this line is totally wrong -

"This is largely the same cast of characters that yawned its way through 2007, so despite the opening of Nationals Park, it's tough to see spectacularly different results"

Posted by: Bazz | February 25, 2008 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Man, I hate not having internet at home. Worse, I hate having payed for internet at home and not having Comcast able to deliver. Grr, that stupid bunch of worthless providers with their friggin blinking lights that never quite make it to "Connected!" and their dumb slowsky commercials and their ridiculous customer service department that has bullet proof glass and a height scale by the door because they're terrified of another old lady with a hammer, and their damn phone help line that doesn't keep ANY record of your calls despite the warning that calls will be recorded for quality friggin control friggin purposes. AAERGHKH, it's Comcastic! And do you know where they're based out of..


But, I digress. I think both the Nats and Zimm are smart to not nail down a contract. If everyone says he is going to have a break out year, why should he sign before he gets that value? And why should the Nats sign him before they know he's worth the money that JimBo has probably already budgeted for him?

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | February 25, 2008 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I don't know if this was posted elsewhere, but there are new pics of the stadium's interior on JDLand now:

Posted by: Diz | February 25, 2008 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Awesome rant, 506. I was thinking that it was as good as some of your classic Philly rants and then (surprise!) I got to the part about where they are based. Figures, doesn't it? :)

BTW, new post up.

Posted by: natsfan1a | February 25, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

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