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Lo Duca and Acta

Your new starting catcher has arrived in Viera, safe and sound, and he just finished meeting with the media, including one reporter each from New York and Los Angeles. Lo Duca took some questions about the Mitchell Report, but dodged some of the most pointed of those. Here are some tidbits -- which will be admittedly brief, because I need to get to work on my story for the .35 cent edition, as Mr. Svrluga puts it:

*Why wait until now to address the charges? "There were different things I wanted to focus on. . . The offseason is my offseason."

*What exactly was he apologizing for in the statement? "Next question."

*Was the Mitchell Report accurate in regards to you? "I'm not going to comment on that."

*Did you feel like you were living with a big secret? "Yeah, it was a big relief [when the report came out]."

Once the Nationals' PR representative made clear the subject needed to shift to baseball-related questions, Lo Duca addressed his knee injury (a torn meniscus), saying his target date for playing in spring games will be March 15, which should give him enough games and at-bats to get himself ready for the regular season.

"I've done everything, basically, except run," he said.

Also today, Manager Manny Acta met with the media. Again, I'll keep this brief for now, but here are some of the highlights:

*There are "three or four" starting pitchers who, provided they perform the way they should, are penciled into the rotation right now. (I take that to mean John Patterson, Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann and Matt Chico.)

*As of today, he considers Dmitri Young his starting first baseman, Ronnie Belliard his starting second baseman and Cristian Guzman his starting shortstop -- and Guzman is his leadoff hitter, with Lastings Milledge batting second. But -- and Acta stressed this several times -- that is all very much subject to change.

*Felipe Lopez will be given "every chance to win a [starting] job" this spring, "whether it's second or shortstop."

That's probably going to do it for today, folks.

By Dave Sheinin  |  February 16, 2008; 3:06 PM ET
 
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Comments

Thanks, Dave, for the updates.

Posted by: natsfan1a | February 16, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I second that. Thanks a lot. I'm curious to see what the split at catcher will be during the season. Estrada has a history with Pat Corrales and I believe had his best year with him.

Posted by: John | February 16, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

"Hey anyone got their tickets yet?

Posted by: JayB | February 16, 2008 03:31 PM"

jayb, someone mentioned earlier that they were told by the STH representative that tix would be mailed the 2nd week of march. still seems late to me, i'd like to see them go out by the end of february. but if we get them two weeks in advance of opening day, that would be an improvement.

Posted by: 231 | February 16, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

"Felipe Lopez will be given 'every chance to win a [starting] job' this spring, 'whether it's second or shortstop.'"

If Lopez doesn't win a starting job, the Nats will be paying more to a healthy guy riding the pine than to either of the guys on the field. That doesn't seem like a situation they'd want to maintain for very long.

Posted by: Hendo | February 16, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

while it isn't the kind of position you want to be in financially, sometimes you're not left with a whole lot of options. i'd prefer that the paycheck not over influence who's playing... but we all know it doesn't always work that way.

Posted by: 231 | February 16, 2008 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Thanks 231....two weeks early beat two days early.....

On Lopez, this is the issue I think they made a big error on. He is not tradable or he would be gone. He costs way more than he is worth....Why did they tender an offer. $5 Million could have been sent better than Lopez sulking on the bench.

(for all those yelling at their PC screens now saying, he just had a bad year, he will be back to his Cincy numbers, hello Barry?, just ask yourself how likely that is, given his behaviors....is he in camp early working to repair relationships or is he home a miles down the road....only Dave knows but he's not talking about it.

Posted by: JayB | February 16, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

And yet, not knowing doesn't seem to have much correspondence with talking. Go figure.

********
is he in camp early working to repair relationships or is he home a miles down the road ... only Dave knows but he's not talking about it.
Posted by: JayB | February 16, 2008 04:34 PM

Posted by: ce | February 16, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

So in Manny's Mind, we're apparently looking at ?

Guzman - 6
Milledge - 8
Zimmerman - 5
Kearns - 9
Young - 3
Lo Duca - 2
Peña - 7
Belliard - 4
pitcher

OR If Lo Duca isn't hitting second, drop him all the way down to 8?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 16, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

that was me again, but rejected

Posted by: MIB | February 16, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

It's hard to understand why such a knowledgeable manager projects a proven low-OBA hitter as the leadoff man. Guzman is the number 8 hitter if he's in the lineup. That seems straightforward.

Posted by: GoNats2 | February 16, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

or he's basing it on guzman's OBP last year of 380. more than acceptable for a leadoff guy.

now, it may not be the best idea to presume he'll do that again, but given the lack of other options, it's not quite as straightforward as you make it out to be, gonats2. there's no true leadoff hitter on this team.

Posted by: 231 | February 16, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure what error you have in mind, unless it was going to arbitration in the first place. If they cut him outright, adios, don't let the doorknob hitya, that's about $4M with absolutely no possibility of recouping one cent of it. Since his chance of rebounding is better than a mathematical zero, I think it's too early to just eat $4,000,000.
So I'm not sure where you're getting the $5M that "could have been better spent," regardless of where Lopez sulks, on the bench, on another team (not likely), or at home in his pajamas.

*************
On Lopez, this is the issue I think they made a big error on. He is not tradable or he would be gone. He costs way more than he is worth....Why did they tender an offer. $5 Million could have been sent better than Lopez sulking on the bench.
Posted by: JayB | February 16, 2008 04:34 PM

Posted by: Mr IB | February 16, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Which reminds me: the Nats non-tendered Nook Logan last December. What's his situation now?
And Hendo, do they let you update the pages you sponsor on baseball-reference.com?
************
there's no true leadoff hitter on this team.
Posted by: 231 | February 16, 2008 05:27 PM

Posted by: MRIB | February 16, 2008 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Just what the Nationals need-a junkie on the team!! I guess it goes well with the Kasten management team thats in place. Thieves and junkies go together rather well- a mutual admiration society!!

Posted by: Just another Commie | February 16, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I would have cut him the day Manny benched him with 2 weeks to go in the season. If not cut him I would have offered him a contract for 2008 when nobody wanted him in trade this fall and that now would have saved Nats paying him what.....$4.9 Million. Now we are likely going to watch him sit and sulk.

Yes we get nothing for him but the opportunity cost of cutting him lose was to spend that (just less than) $5 Million this season else where, like on a all glove no hit SS in FA or even Jamey C who could have helped this team as a back up the middle infield and mentor the young infielders coming up behind Guz and Belliard how to play the game the right way.

Instead they took a risk that someone would want him before the season starts....could happen but I think just having him around is more risk then reward for the bucket of balls they may get in a trade.

Posted by: JayB | February 16, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

ops....make that NOT OFFERED HIM A CONTRACT (non-tendered him)

Posted by: JayB | February 16, 2008 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Lopez sucks! He doesn't smile! Cut him! He's never good! He doesn't smile! He stinks! Boooo! Cut him!

Posted by: Typical Nats Fan | February 16, 2008 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Just FYI, no association with the group:

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"Since all donations are tax deductible under the IRS charitable code, your sponsorship dollars will be well targeted to help talented girls who are dedicated to the game of baseball and who want to improve upon their abilities and represent their team in National and International competition.
"For additional information that you may require, please contact the coach at mcbarncats@hotmail.com"

Posted by: CE | February 16, 2008 6:06 PM | Report abuse

You can offer all you like, he doesn't have to accept it. At which point, I hear you say, you non-tender him.

I think Acta and Bowden (and fwiw me) think the odds Felipe will recover and have a decent year in 2008 are at least as good as the odds they can find someone else who will do better. You think that's naive, at best.

The good thing here is, I don't even have to ask "what's it worth to you to find out?" We will probably find out, regardless.

***********
I would have cut him the day Manny benched him with 2 weeks to go in the season. If not cut him I would have offered him a contract for 2008 when nobody wanted him in trade this fall and that now would have saved Nats paying him what.....$4.9 Million.
Posted by: JayB | February 16, 2008 05:50 PM

Posted by: MIB | February 16, 2008 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of smiles!! Lindsay Czarniak from Channel 4 will be reporting live from the big V starting Monday night. That's 2 great things. Video of Hot Florida and video of the beautiful Lindsay. I'm setting a reminder on my FiOS.

Posted by: 6th and D | February 16, 2008 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I just want you to know I am refraining from saying anything unkind about the TV sports version of Clint.

*************
Speaking of smiles!! Lindsay Czarniak from Channel 4 will be reporting live from the big V starting Monday night. That's 2 great things. Video of Hot Florida and video of the beautiful Lindsay. I'm setting a reminder on my FiOS.

Posted by: 6th and D | February 16, 2008 06:21 PM

Posted by: Whoopsie. My bad. | February 16, 2008 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Shame on you Whoopsie! Whoopsie must be the nom de plume for George Michael.!!:)

Posted by: 6th and D | February 16, 2008 6:46 PM | Report abuse

... I said last year that I thought Flippie was not happy in DC and I thought it showed. Nowbefore ST even begins, a/he's lost the arbitration case and b/he's not considered a starter.

... while I am no lover of the man, I'd like to see him work his way through this in a wildly successful manner. But for now it seems to me that he's found himself squarely behind the eight-ball. I wonder how his bruised psyche (if I'm correct) will respond..

Posted by: natscan reduxit | February 16, 2008 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Nook Logan, Mike O'Connor and Tony Batista are unemployed. Fick and Jiminez signed minor league contracts with San Diego and St. Louis respectively. So, those 5 plus Church and Schneider are who we lost. Did we gather 8 more wins in terms of talent in the off season? That will put us at .500 with 81 wins. 89 wins won the division last year. All of a sudden I am optimistic.

Posted by: 6th and D | February 16, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse

And Why the [RF] not?? It's Feb. 16, and SOMEBODY, at least, if not me, is in Florida, playing baseball.

Every year, somebody makes the Negatoristas eat [crow], without fail. For at least the next few weeks, nobody can prove it won't be DC!

WTF!
Wait Til Fall!
***************
All of a sudden I am optimistic.
Posted by: 6th and D | February 16, 2008 06:58 PM

Posted by: Nothing is decided. | February 16, 2008 7:23 PM | Report abuse

6th and D makes a good point,
I think another factor is the "Hometown advantage" will be a lot more like 2005 this year as the Nats will be playing in front of 40,000+ on a regular basis. I think this will definetely help in the call and player motivation department.

Posted by: NatsFan | February 16, 2008 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Or to put it another way: all those smart and smart-ass people thought the Nats would lose >100 games last year.
If they are at least that wrong again, there's 84 of your 89 wins.

Posted by: MIB | February 16, 2008 7:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm convinced the "home town advantage" in the first half of 2005 was simply in finally having a home town, but there should be some small bump from a new park after RFK.
I hope.

Posted by: Mr IB | February 16, 2008 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Well, 30K-35K, anyway. The place only holds 41,222, so I doubt they will get 40,000 bodies in there more than a couple of times.
But that's OK.
********************
... the Nats will be playing in front of 40,000+ on a regular basis.
Posted by: NatsFan | February 16, 2008 07:25 PM

Posted by: CE | February 16, 2008 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Not saying he's done a bad job..but is it just me or did Jimbo stop short of getting what our team has needed for 3 years. We've got our centerfielder, but we have needed a legitimate lead-off hitter and a top of the rotation pitcher.

Posted by: FFNatsfan11 | February 16, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

i would bash him if i thought there was a legitimate leadoff hitter or ace available at a price the team could afford to pay. there were no legit FA leadoff hitters or aces (feel free to peruse, http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/features/freeagents), so the only way to acquire one was in a trade.

santana, bedard, and haren were all way too expensive. not sure there were any leadoff guys traded, or even on the market.

it's a lot easier to know what we need than it is to figure out how to get them.

Posted by: 231 | February 16, 2008 8:12 PM | Report abuse

The pitching projections from baseball prospectus, discussed a couple of Sheinin posts before this, assume that the offensive improvement from moving to a new park will be matched by a pitching drop off.

Talent-wise, we've upgraded at 2 positions offensively - CF and probably catcher. Other than that, it's basically the same names. Even if it is Nick at 1st, he will not be an upgrade over Dmitri's performance from last year. The numbers for everyone else should improve due to the ballpark (although I am a skeptic about the effect of the hamate on Zimmerman's power due).

Pitching performance will depend more on who is pitching the innings. If we don't assume better health out of JP and Hill, we will slip. With about 150 extra innings out of those two, any slip in the bullpen due to the park will be made up better starting.

Oh, I'm assuming the ballpark plays more neutrally than RFK, which was an extreme pitchers park. If it is still an extreme pitchers park, then it probably affects Runs for/against equally.

Posted by: jon | February 16, 2008 8:17 PM | Report abuse

231 - you are right about the cost of pitching the past two off seasons. I would have liked to see the team be more aggressive for minor league FA middle infielders who had good OBP track records (we discussed a slew back in November /December). I like competition, and our depth is limited. We've also talked about high minors trade prospects, too, who figure to be good OBP guys.

On runs allowed, one thing I did not discuss was defense. Church (LF) and Logan/ Langerhans (CF) were actually pretty good last year. I don't know how Milledge grades out, but Pena will be a drop off, and certainly neither Lo Duca nor Estrada can come near last year's combo. That will also figure in more runs against.

Posted by: jon | February 16, 2008 8:30 PM | Report abuse

i think we'll have upgraded in LF, too, altho that remains to be seen. a full season of WMP plus dukes. remember, church wasn't FT anywhere, let alone in LF. he played PT in CF. so that meant we had some pretty poor starts in LF when he was in center.

if guzman plays anything close to what he did last year and stays healthy, that's an improvement. lopez can't be worse than he was.

there were a few MI FAs that were available, but none were necessarily significant improvements, all were just incremental. i like some of the young MI trade prospects we've talked about, but none of us knows whether JB attempted to get any of them and was either rebuffed or given outrageous trade demands. i seriously doubt he was sitting on his hands. i'm pretty sure the club is aware of the lack of MI prospects in the system and that we'll have nothing in 09 w/o any changes to the team.

for all we know he *did* miss out on a deal, but we really don't know for sure either way.

Posted by: 231 | February 16, 2008 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Mr IB - I am a bit confused. Are you saying if the Nats non tendered Lopez they would be on the hook for a 2008 salary?

If thats not what you mean, then please ignore below.

If thats what you were referring to, then you are incorrect.

If the Nats released Lopez prior to offering arbitration, they have no further financial commitment. He would have become a free agent without compensation and the Nats would have no further obligation. The $4 mil arbitration number would have been moot.

Personally, I agree with Bowden's decision to offer arbitration...CIN colored glasses or not. The reward, especially at the trading deadline, for a productive middle infielder in his prime years can be great.

Worst case, Lopez offers insurance for an injury prone Guzman and Belliard. Is it worth $5 mil? I hope so, but I have my doubts.

Also, Mike O'Connor resigned with the Nats in mid January.


Baseball America posted this cartoon....I think it relates to more than just baseball:

http://tinyurl.com/2txbc5

Posted by: Los Doce Ocho | February 17, 2008 12:05 AM | Report abuse

"And Hendo, do they let you update the pages you sponsor on baseball-reference.com?"

Yep, but I'll let Logan's stand. Frustrating as I found him at times, he could be fun while he lasted. (No, I will not renew it.)

Of course, if I had it to do over, I'd have grabbed the 2007 Nats lineup page. That one got hijacked by a Philly blogger, grrrr...

Posted by: Hendo | February 17, 2008 1:00 AM | Report abuse

Didn't O'Connor sign a minor league contract with the Nats?

---

Nook Logan, Mike O'Connor and Tony Batista are unemployed.

Posted by: natsfan1a | February 17, 2008 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Here you go folks. This Newsday article captures very well what Lo Duca was hoping for, and may have accomplished:

http://www.newsday.com/sports/baseball/mets/ny-spdavidoff175581459feb17,0,7643677.column?track=rss

Posted by: Positively Half St. | February 17, 2008 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Was there ever a more appropriate nickname than Flop? Even so, I like having him around to see how he responds and as a precaution for injuries. It's a really long season and in a couple months even if he's a .240 hitting sulking backup - some team that's in a pennant race with an injured middle infielder will make an offer. He still has value right now, but unless he changes his ways one way or another this is his last year in a Nats uniform.

Posted by: Bazz | February 17, 2008 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Glad I could link to this "Nationals Insider" blog from the Nats section on the Post website. Sigh.... NJ - the Rodney Dangerfield of WaPo blogs.

Lopez - I like the way Manny handled this. He couldn't give FL the starting nod or leadoff spot before competition based on last year's dud performance. But FL does have the highest ceiling of the 3 middle infielders offensively, and he could be a pretty good defensive 2b due to the less-demanding throws. If FL rebounds, Guzzie's eye surgery really was the big deal he said it was, and he hits a little, and Belliard is a super utility guy who gets 250 ABs, we are a better team than last year. Admittedly MI is still not fixed, and it's a lot of unlikely ifs, but it's the beginning of spring training. The time for silly hopes. Manny's drawing to an inside straight but he might as well.

Posted by: Geezer | February 17, 2008 8:46 AM | Report abuse

new post

Posted by: natsfan1a | February 17, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I stand corrected. Thanks.
**********
Mr IB - Are you saying if the Nats non-tendered Lopez they would be on the hook for a 2008 salary? If thats what you were referring to, then you are incorrect.

If the Nats released Lopez prior to offering arbitration, they have no further financial commitment. He would have become a free agent without compensation and the Nats would have no further obligation. The $4 mil arbitration number would have been moot.
Posted by: Los Doce Ocho | February 17, 2008 12:05 AM

Posted by: MIB | February 17, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for very interesting article. btw. I really enjoyed reading all of your posts. It's interesting to read ideas, and observations from someone else's point of view... makes you think more.
So please keep up the great work. Greetings.

Posted by: Natural Male Enhancement | March 11, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

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