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3-0? Why not a major shake-up?

I give this advice frequently, but let me repeat it: Deep breaths. Breathe easily. Serenity now. That's it. There you go. Aaaaaah.

To review:

Odalis Perez over Tim Hudson.

Matt Chico over Brett Myers.

Tim Redding over Cole Hamels.

That is basically like taking Western Kentucky, Davidson and San Diego all getting first-round wins in the NCAA Tournament.

Wait. That happened.

So what conclusions do we draw? Well, given that it's April 3, none.

This, however, is sports writing. So begging out of drawing conclusions isn't an option.

Let's start with this: The Nationals may be able to win different kinds of games this year. It make sense that, the same day I write in the $.35/$.50-edition about how the offense might be better, they respond with a one-hitter. They have now won a game they led 2-1, allowed the tying run on a passed ball in the ninth, then took in walk-off fashion; busted out for 11 runs, including five in the ninth; and taken a nail-biter pitchers' duel.

"I think we went through a lot of tests last year after that poor start that we had," Manny Acta said. "But then being able to play .500 over the last four months or so, I think we went through a lot of those different tests. I think these guys are ready for any kind of ballgame. We've gotten better defensively, and we're ready for it."

Two people won Wednesday's game - Tim Redding and Ryan Zimmerman. But consider one question: Would they have won 1-0 if Felipe Lopez had been playing left?

Chew on it for a while, because Lopez - according to GM Jim Bowden on MASN - will be playing left field Thursday afternoon. Never mind that the team is perfect thus far. Never mind that Lopez has never played outfield - at any level. Here's the notebook. And here's Manny Acta:

"He will be playing quite soon in left field," Acta said. "He's a very good athlete. We approached it about him. He's got a great attitude, and saying he has no problem with it. I think it will be good for him to get those at-bats."

Here's Lopez: "I'll catch if I have to." He just wants to play - anywhere. "My initial reaction is: at-bats," Lopez said. "I get to be in the game."

This could be interesting. To move an infielder to the outfield with basically no practice reading balls off the bats is risky at best. Alfonso Soriano at least had a reluctant spring training to get used to the position, and if you recall, he was horrid during the first two months of 2006.

No, Wily Mo Pena won't be back for a couple weeks. Yes, it looks like Elijah Dukes will be out four-to-six weeks. But do you think it's necessary to move a career infielder - with 55 games at second, 82 games at third, and 589 games at short - to the outfield?

Discuss that as we approach some afternoon baseball at Citizens Bank Park.

By Barry Svrluga  |  April 3, 2008; 12:35 AM ET
 
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Next: Lopez in left field

Comments

I don't write much on this forum, but I figure I'll chime in on this issue since I get to be the first post here.

I don't get this move with Felipe Lopez. At all. At least, not past the point where we say, "Gee, wouldn't it be great if we had a real left fielder to fill in while Dukes and WMP are on the DL? Yeah, especially if we just had a great LF sitting on the bench and begging for at-bats. You know what would be the best?? If Felipe Lopez could play left field." At this point, all participants in the conversation either chuckle wistfully or sigh despondently.

What I'm getting at here is, Felipe Lopez DOESN'T play left field. Does he? Can you just throw a guy in at a random position he's never played, and not expect to lose games as a result of it? Because I was under the impression that you can't.

As I understand things...
1. Last season, Felipe Lopez was miserable playing 2B because it wasn't his natural position, and it had detrimental effects on his offensive production.
2. Even reasonably established OFs have trouble reading balls off the bat and actually tracking down what ought to be routine outs (see complaints Re:Milledge on this forum in recent days).
3. Lopez has never (ever) played outfield. Ever. It's extremely foreign territory to him. (See Item #1)

How does this work out at all?? I'm very confused, although I assume Manny and Co. know what they're doing. But can someone try to fill me in? Thanks.

Posted by: lost in left | April 3, 2008 12:53 AM | Report abuse

If it ain't broke, don't fix it...

I can see him producing more offensively...but one hit isn't hard to top. Harris is here doing what Harris is here to do. Fill in on defense. Fundamentals, defense, and pitching are what keeps a team in a game. I think we have enough offensive prowess to tough it out until Wily Mo gets back.

Trust in the FO i suppose. Shall we sweep the Phils?

I find the boos to be soothing :)

Posted by: VT Mikey | April 3, 2008 12:54 AM | Report abuse

On top of all that...Felipe isn't exactly going to spray the park with hits. When he struggles defensively, he'll lose confidence at the plate. Willie got a hit today...let the man play.

Posted by: VT Mikey | April 3, 2008 12:58 AM | Report abuse

as much as i dislike lopez, i like this. its not meant as a permanent thing like the soriano move. this is a stop gap. get a fast switch hitter some at bats and raise his trade value. he wont win us any games in left, but how many games do you win with left field defense? also, different from soriano, lopez has played on the left side of the diamond, so he has seen how the ball comes off the bat from that side. i am not worried and if his desire to play matches his words, it may work out until WMP and Dukes are back, and may bring the nats that much more in a trade

Posted by: love | April 3, 2008 1:06 AM | Report abuse

as much as i dislike lopez, i like this. its not meant as a permanent thing like the soriano move. this is a stop gap. get a fast switch hitter some at bats and raise his trade value. he wont win us any games in left, but how many games do you win with left field defense? also, different from soriano, lopez has played on the left side of the diamond, so he has seen how the ball comes off the bat from that side. i am not worried and if his desire to play matches his words, it may work out until WMP and Dukes are back, and may bring the nats that much more in a trade

Posted by: love | April 3, 2008 1:06 AM | Report abuse

You can put anyone in left as long as Kelly Leak/Jackie Earle Haley roams center field...

"I got a Harley-Davidson. Does that turn you on? Harley-Davidson?"

Posted by: Boilermaker | April 3, 2008 1:14 AM | Report abuse

Look, its definetly a little premature to be making any analysis about the Nationals starting pitching. Granted, they did stun 3 great pitchers, but its a 162 game season!

I'll be curious to see how the Felipe Lopez in LF works out. I think they need to find a way to get him at bats, so if he can field somewhat respectably in LF, this will be a good move (imagine him as a 8th hitter... scary).

And Willie Harris has been playing well so fa, but he's realistically a backup player at best and a pinch runner at worst.

(http://ultimatesportsbreakdown.blogspot.com)

Posted by: Greg Young | April 3, 2008 1:18 AM | Report abuse

I don't see many negatives with Lopez in LF. Hopefully, it won't deter any potential at the plate.

The alternatives appear to be putting Cordero on the DL and bringing up one of Maxwell/Langerhans/Escobar/Dubois/G Guzman or exposing Willie Harris.

Langerhans/Escobar/Dubois may have to clear waivers when/if they were sent back to AAA.

Curious, why didn't Lopez play LF in spring training or even much 2B, especially if it could have enhanced his trade value?

Posted by: Los Doce Ocho | April 3, 2008 1:28 AM | Report abuse

well the idea that dukes and wmp would be hurt and that belli and guzie would so drastically outplay lopez wasnt really around during spring training. but i agree that it would have been smart, i think not enough cross training goes on, take 3 or 4 days and hit fly balls to lopez or having dukes or lo duca pick balls at first. i dont see anything but upside

Posted by: love | April 3, 2008 1:54 AM | Report abuse

Here is why some of us like the Felipe Lopez-to-left-field move:

As opposed to Lopez stewing about why he isn't playing, he gets an opportunity to show us why he should be playing, without taking out either of the two guys that beat him out on the field.

Lets see him get some hits tomorrow, and make a credible effort defensively. In the process, put another burner on the basepaths.

The downside (at least tomorrow) is almost zero. The worst thing that happens is that the Nats win two of three on the road over last year's division winner.

Posted by: Wigi | April 3, 2008 3:04 AM | Report abuse

3-0? YAWN.

The Kansas City Royals are 2-0. That's all that needs to be said to refute all Nationals fans of somesort of miracle season.

Now the O's. Boy did they show some poise, heart, and effot in their comeback win. This is a team going places and has already shown they'll be challenging for the AL East title all year long.

So, come on Nats fans, come on up I-95 to OPACY and see the young, exciting, WINNING Orioles take the AL East, AL, and WS title this year.

Plus the crabcakes so mouth-watering.

Posted by: O's Exec | April 3, 2008 3:12 AM | Report abuse

Can hardly contain my laughter on reading O's Exec most recent post. Oh my, what an optomist is he. On the Nats and Flop in left...ok, I'm up for the experiment, be it only a temporary look until the regulars return from the DL. I think he can play there, based on absolutely nothing more than his athleticism and desire. His attitude this spring seems to have done a 180, so, yeah, give him a chance to see if he can be productive.

Posted by: SC Nats Fan | April 3, 2008 5:23 AM | Report abuse

I do hope that if it is 1-0 in the seventh inning again today that Manny puts Harris in as a defensive replacement. I may be reading too much into the Lopez decision, but coupled with the sudden change of plan to start Lannan on Sunday I'm thinking that a trade may be in the works. Or perhaps desperation has simply set-in regarding Lopez. The timing of the move is very odd - if they wanted him to get some ABs they could start him at 2B/SS today - not uncommon even for infielders to sit one out on a day game following a night game.

Posted by: lowcountry | April 3, 2008 5:46 AM | Report abuse

Maxwell should be brought up to play left field. It's absurdly obvious. Yeah, I know, someone must be sent down and there are complications. But Maxwell's shown some good stuff at the major league level and he's a good fielder, might even prove to be better than WMP.
Great start-imagine when the bottom third of the lineup actually get a hit or, at least one that counts.
What's great to see is winning those close ones. In other years, I found myself waiting for something bad to happen that resulted in a loss. These are the games to win, where despite poor offense the pitchers pull it through and vice-versa.

Posted by: Jeeves | April 3, 2008 6:15 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't mind seeing Flores catching. Lopez in left? Nah. Lopez on the team? Nah. Maxwell in left? Yeah baby! John Lanahan pitching? Yes!! Cordero on the DL? YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Gaithersburg Pete | April 3, 2008 6:23 AM | Report abuse

Of course this gets complicated and we are still in the shakedown period...but FLop had problems at 2nd, while he was reasonable at short and (presumably) at 3rd. That says to me that he is much more comfortable on the left side of the field than on the right (and yes it really does make a difference).

LF requires less arm than right and, usually, less athleticism. If it's going to be 15 or more games before WMP gets back and more before Dukes returns, this gives you a hitter in left, still leaves a switch hitter on the bench and provides the obvious candidate to go to Columbus, when a pitcher is brought up to save a start on 3 days rest in April.

Posted by: Catcher50 | April 3, 2008 6:44 AM | Report abuse

I think that you are all really missing the big news: Reddding just one hit the Phils in a hitters ballpark! It has been a long time since you have seen this kind of pitching from starters. I love the way that the Nats are playing fearlessly and smart. Last year's team would have found a way to commit 4 or 5 fundamental errors and blown a good effort.

The defensive positioning is excellent, opposition runners are not advancing, the cutoff man is getting targeted and LoDuca is calling a very good game.

So, that leaves us wondering about Lopez in left. Harris has one hit in three games, I think that is the reason that this is happening. Acta is looking at generating more offense, knowing that in two of the three wins we have combined for 3 runs!

This team believes that they are winners. So far they have been steady while the Atlanta and Philadelphia make the mistakes. What great fun to behold!

Posted by: Dale | April 3, 2008 7:01 AM | Report abuse

I'm game to see FLop in LF. Why not. I'm a Billy Bean disciple and one of his key beliefs is that defense is overrated when it comes to winning games. Not to say it doesn't matter but it's overrated. LF is maybe the easiest defensive spot on the field. Soriano had a little trouble there but cost us few, if any games and that's the point.

What's smart about this is it gets FLop at bats. That means, if he hits we could actually trade him, especially if he can play the OF as well as 2B, SS, 3B. If he doesn't hit, you gave him a chance and then can bring up Maxwell.

It's still awful early in Maxwell's career, playing at AA is going to help him.

Amazing three games so far! Ready for a day game today, go Bergmann!

Posted by: Avar | April 3, 2008 7:02 AM | Report abuse

Concur with the poster who said "give it a try, but if it's 1-0 in the seventh bring in a defensive substitute" (or something to that effect). Also, I suspect the notion that Lopez has "never" played LF means "never as a professional" or some such. I can't imagine that a kid from Bayamon hasn't played every position at some time or another (probably sometimes playing two positions at once when the team was shorthanded) and hasn't continued to shag long fly balls in the outfield at times. Go with the better athlete/hitter. Why not give Lopez a try in LF to see if he can both manage it defensively and do something productive with his at-bats. Plus which, if he succeeds he's a more-more-valuable asset in any potential trade.

Posted by: Section 133 | April 3, 2008 7:15 AM | Report abuse

I'm lazy and didn't read all the comments, but the reason Lopez should play left is because he's a (sometimes) right-handed bat. If Wee Willie plays against some or all left-handers, fine. But Willie should NEVER face a left-handed pitcher. EVER.

Posted by: Chris | April 3, 2008 7:28 AM | Report abuse

Barry, I miss the podcast. Now all I have to listen to in the morning driving to work is the NPR news update and some crap from WTOP. ugh....

Posted by: derek | April 3, 2008 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Why not? Especially since his lifetime OPS at CBP is .813. Anyway, it's the least important defensive spot. I like Maxwell, but yo-yoing him back & forth this year is probably not in the club's longterm interest (either from a development or service time perspective). And it's not like Willie Harris is a great player or will be. Plus if they're going to deal him, it could enhance his value & lack of success is unlikely to make those prospects any worse than they are already.

Posted by: 307/418 | April 3, 2008 7:34 AM | Report abuse

"I think that you are all really missing the big news: Reddding just one hit the Phils in a hitters ballpark! It has been a long time since you have seen this kind of pitching from starters."

Good point. Very good point. :)

I was raised a Cubs fan so I'm going to enjoy our PERFECT RECORD for as long as it lasts. There's no reason to believe that any of this season's numbers are reliable to anything before Memorial Day anyway. That said, this weeks' games count just as much in the final standings as games at the end of September.


On Lopez:

First of all, I think this whole confusing situation becomes a lot clearer by, say, game time next Wednesday. That 20/20 hindsight might make us chuckle at some of the comments being made now.

Secondly, since when is it cool for the GM to muse and then announce where a player is going to play? Surely he and manager Manny chat about it, but isn't that Manny's call when it comes down to it? I have (blind? really-dim-vision?) faith in the plan, and I have plenty of confidence in our manager. Heck, I even have confidence in our GM to wheel-and-deal to stock the roster with good players. But it seems like someone is overstepping his bounds (and I doubt Manny will take him to task in public on this, regardless where Filipe is at 1:05 ET today).

If Lopez produces at the plate, and he's so itching to play, and he's got the arm to do it, and he won't lose the ball in the corner, and he won't break the wrong way and let line drive outs go over his head for doubles or triples, and with Milledge in CF ... this isn't an insane move. Of course I think that if we were really looking for the healthy LF in our organization that could really give us the best chance to win games this week (defensively, at least) we'd be looking at Maxwell. But obviously, there's a lot more going on here than just a skinny middle IF playing in the OF.

At least his attitude seems good according to the Ladson article dated today. At least.

Posted by: i hate walks | April 3, 2008 7:44 AM | Report abuse

"...first place in April is akin to winning the Iowa caucuses. Hello, Gov. Huckabee."

As has been discussed eloquently here in recent days (hat tip: SloPitch63), I'm not at all fond of mixing sports and politics, but this is a great analogy. :)

Posted by: i hate walks | April 3, 2008 7:52 AM | Report abuse

I do not like Lopez in left. He's never played the position and does not (if he hits) with any power. His ST stats were mediocre. Maxwell has played the position and has hit with power. I do not know why we can't bring Maxwell up.

Posted by: upperdeck4 | April 3, 2008 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Jimbo is trying to get some value out of his $4.9 Million pine warmer. If it works, Lopez is more valuable and potentially a tradeable asset. If it flops, we give up a few runs. I like the move.

Posted by: SFinch | April 3, 2008 8:09 AM | Report abuse

"We approached it about him." That is awesome. They didn't ask Felipe about playing Left Field--they asked Left Field about being played by Lopez. Brilliant!

Posted by: mrlogical | April 3, 2008 8:11 AM | Report abuse

This will be a short-lived experiment - unless somehow Lopez goes crazy with the bat. Why Cordero isn't on the DL is beyond me as it would ease the pain in LF.

Posted by: FearlessFreep | April 3, 2008 8:23 AM | Report abuse

I have to read this as a negative comment on Maxwell. If the Nats really believe in their kids they'd bring him up for 2 weeks. How could it possibly hurt him? He was up in September. Bring up Maxwell, give him some starts, let him get some at bats, and send him back down. He's on the 40 man roster and he has options, I honestly don't see a downside to the move.

Posted by: grf15 | April 3, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse

as unappealing as harris may be, he did actually outhit flopez last year (741 to 660 OPS, 349 to 308 OBP). and it didn't sink the braves to give him 300+ ABs.

yes, he outperformed expectations last year, but let's not pretend flopez is a huge offensive upgrade.

Posted by: 231 | April 3, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Given some of the surprises Bowden has delivered lately, I question:

Where will Willie Harris be on Sunday? Is trying Flop out in left Bowden's test to see if he can remove Harris from the roster?

Posted by: Wistful | April 3, 2008 8:41 AM | Report abuse

i'm willing to see lopez in LF. seems like phillies are loaded with lefthanders and maybe they are mostly pull conscious. i doubt lopez gets embarrased and the offensive potential just increased. i haven't looked at the individual matchups but i'd bet the team has. now if we tried lo duca in left with flores catching i would flip out. still lopez career offensive stats are better than wily mo/dukes/harris combined. let it ride.

reference guzman not hustling i say give him a break. last year he was hurt for that. it's a long season and i'd rather him take a low percentage play off once a week than miss 8 weeks on the DL so we can feel old school. it's not like he had the bat in his hand half way down the line or just turned back to the dugout. anyone who says they give 100% all the time is lying. it's not smart or even possible.

Posted by: longterm | April 3, 2008 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Reposting this for Nats Fan in KC (Barry could perhaps confirm?):

KC, last year's media guide says the Westin St. Louis (don't have this year's yet).

---

We are headed over to St. Louis this weekend to see the Nats (my wife and kids could not make the trip back to DC for the home opener). Any idea how I can find out which hotel the team stays at in a given city. We thought it would be nice to stay where the team was staying.

Posted by: natsfan1a | April 3, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

"Plus the crabcakes so mouth-watering."

I think O's Exec is not only Buster Olney, but that he is a very large investor in Maryland crab cakes. Think about it: in every one of his posts he's obsessed with us trying the mouth-watering crab-cakes. It's not about the Orioles, it's about hooking us on the delicious crab!

As for Lopez: Jim Bowden is either a baseball genius or an extremely lucky madman. Either way, I'm happy, let's try it out.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | April 3, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Buttermaker! Maybe next spring you'll teach me how to hit.

Posted by: Amanda | April 3, 2008 8:54 AM | Report abuse

"Freedom is just another word for nothin' left to lose."
We have the fredom granted by low expectations, so why not take advantage of a situation that, hopefully, will be short lived.
Move Flop to LF. You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket. If it works we have a very valuable utility guy. We can dump Harris, whose major accomplishments during ST were being caught stealing and getting picked off.
That would give us a roster spot for -------(you fill in the blank with your favorite, there are so many lovely possibilities).
Isn't this fun!
Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | April 3, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Ol Leatherpants is at it again. May we discuss religion instead of politics here? Because when I read about this move, it made me pray, which is a good thing, right?

Posted by: flynnie | April 3, 2008 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Serenity. Breathe. Go to your happy place, like this sentence from Barry's gamer: "Cognizant of the situation, Zimmerman said he didn't want to catch the ball on the fly. He dove to his left, smothered it in the dirt, then quickly rose to start an around-the-horn double play that finished with Redding pointing directly at Zimmerman, a combination of appreciation and admiration."

"The play of the game," Acta said.

Sweet!

Posted by: flynnie | April 3, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

I move that "O's Exec" should henceforth be referred to on this forum as "Crabbycakes."

flynnie, I suspect religion would be as much of a landmine as politics in this baseball-related forum (but, good one).

Posted by: natsfan1a | April 3, 2008 9:02 AM | Report abuse

From "Nationals Report" (washpost online)

PERSONNEL DEPT.

GM Jim Bowden expressed doubt that RHP Shawn Hill (forearm soreness) would make his first major league start on April 13, as had been scheduled

Posted by: NatsNut | April 3, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

I saw that, too, NatsNut. hmmmm....

Posted by: natsfan1a | April 3, 2008 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Bowden is obviously trying to find ways to increase Lopez's trade value. It wasnt going to happen if he continued to sit on the bench.

Hopefully he plays the LF well, I mean Willy Mo Pena isnt the greatest of fielders either..So I doubt he would be worse than him.

I also question the rational that playing an unnatural defensive position, effects the way you bat.

Oh ya, when are they selling Playoff tickets? GO NATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: The BigC from DC | April 3, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Good one Flynnie!

*******************

Ol Leatherpants is at it again. May we discuss religion instead of politics here? Because when I read about this move, it made me pray, which is a good thing, right?

Posted by: flynnie | April 3, 2008 08:59 AM

Posted by: Bob L. Head | April 3, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Gotta wonder how much crying FLOP did to get PTBowden to even consider him in LF.
Bad move JIMBO, team is on an early season roll, the more games you can win in April and May means the more interest you can generate thru Aug and in this town thats important. Don't like Harris at all as a starter, so its going to be rough watching FLOP drift in while fly balls are going over his head. JMAX is 24 years old, how much longer is he going to have to wait (unless they are going use him as future trade bait). Put Chief on the 15 day DL, bring up JMAX and let him play fulltime for the next two weeks, which gets you two weeks closer to the arrival of Willy-Mo.

As far as John Lannen is concerned, now that is a great move, maybe the Nats are finally looking at SHILL the same way they looked at JPAT, its either pitch now or its time to cut the cord. That might end up being the theme this season, especially when you can reach down to Columbus and have a suitable backfill.

Posted by: Tippy Canoe | April 3, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Who the heck are you, dude? I don't seem to recall your name and any posts by you disagreeing with me in the past. I don't have a problem with you or anyone else disagreeing with me. But maybe you should state what you disagree with me about, rather than taking a gratuitous personal shot at me that says nothing substantive.

* * * * *

CIL: I agree with you (for once). The N-A-T-S cheer is a copy, but it's good to see the crowds giving a holla'. Maybe something more unique will evolve later.

Posted by: BIM | April 2, 2008 08:46 PM

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | April 3, 2008 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Great to hear from you again, NatsFan1A! One more matter of urgency: What happened to the Giant Baseball at NatsField? It was whimsical. Why isn't it there? Not pompous enough? Too dangerous? If we can't have a Giant Baseball, what can we have? Please, God, not a Giant Corporate Logo! A huge Capital Dome so everyone can say they have a great view of the capital?

Posted by: flynnie | April 3, 2008 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Agree w/133 and others--great idea on Lopez for reasons given. Think Tony Phillips. But more importantly, what is up with Cordero? Us Who's have a hellfire Rotisserie League and I need the skinny.

Posted by: Cindy Lou | April 3, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

It's been reported, several times, that the baseball has been nixed. Not classy enough, I guess. I agree. It was cheezy.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 3, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone noticed that this is probably the longest that the comments to one of Barry's posts has stayed on the topic of Barry's original posts instead of drifting off onto something crazy?

To that point, how many options does Maxwell have? Is that perhaps why he's not brought up while we wait on Dukes?

And as Cindy Lou asked, why isn't Cordero going on the DL? Another sly move by Trader Jim to make Chad look long-term healthy on paper? Has he ever been on the DL in his Major League career?

Flynnie: We could discuss religion, that's certainly preferable to politics. However, the only priest in here who can give us definitive [sic] answers is St. Barry. So we might as well stick to discussing women. That's at least something we know as well as baseball, and have more in-house expertise (right, Jason Bergmann? right, catcher50? right, Hendo?) ;)

(the previous paragraph assumes that what goes on in the mind of god is as knowable as what goes on in the mind of Jim Bowden)

Posted by: i hate walks | April 3, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Uhm ... that previous attempt at humor didn't work. I wasn't trying to call Bergmann, Catcher50, or Hendo girls. I'm going to take a break and go fix network problems for a while now. At least until 1:05. sheesh.

Posted by: i hate walks | April 3, 2008 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I'm the minority here, I like Lopez. Even after his miserable '07. That said, Belliard clearly beat him out for the 2B job.

As for the Lopez in LF, I like the idea. Offensively, he offers more than Willie Harris or Mackowiak. And by keeping those 2 on the bench, it makes our bench stronger and more flexible.

Yes, Soriano was rough in the outfield. But remember, he never was a great defender, even at Second Base. Lopez is better with the glove, and I anticipate will fair better in LF than Soriano did initially.

Posted by: Sec 114 | April 3, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Trying to sort this out:

At the end of Spring Training, we decide we only need 4 starters. Then Dukes and Cordero get hurt. We put Dukes on the DL, but instead of calling up an outfielder, we bring in Schroder to shore up the 'pen. But, we say, if Cordero has to go on the DL, then maybe we'll bring in Maxwell.

Now, we call up Lannan instead of Maxwell, and put Felipe in left. What gives? I'll throw out a few ideas.

First, my initial reaction was that if they wanted to develop Lopez as a super-sub, they should have thought of this in Spring Training and given him time all over the field instead of playing him principally at short. But then I remembered that in ST we thought we had a glut of OFs -- now, not so much. So I'll give them a pass on that.

What else has changed in the past week or two? Well, if reports are to be believed, WMP is coming back sooner rather than later. So maybe, the thinking goes, we're not ready to put Chad on the DL yet since he said, after throwing yesterday, "Everything feels fine. It feels a whole lot better than it did." Thus, we don't have room for J-Max without sending somebody down, and we might not want to bring him up for just a week or ten days anyway since that could throw him off. And, once WMP and Dukes do come back, we have an outfield logjam again and have to send somebody someplace (probably Harris). If we use a week or two to try to figure out whether Lopez can play left while we're waiting for WMP and Dukes to come back, and the answer turns out to be yes, then that roster decision gets easier to make. This posture would also be consistent with taking it slow with Dukes. It's a way of avoiding giving away any assets early in the season.

Which, btw, is why they sent Lannan and Schroder down in the first place, despite saying both had earned a spot. So, my initial reaction to Lopez in left was "Noooooooo ..." but on further review I'm willing to roll the dice for a few starts.

But why the flip-flop on needing Lannan to start now to avoid the short rest problem? Two thoughts, both of which involve thinking that Lannan might be up for more than just a start or two. One, they're not sure about Hill. And two, while Chico survived his start, he did say he wasn't comfortable mechanically and that he was switching back and forth between his new motion and the old one. Maybe this gives them the window to say he needs to work out the kinks in Columbus for a few starts. So, in a nutshell, maybe the earlier thinking was that there was no need to have Lannan make a single start and then get sent back down, and the new thinking is that for one reason or another, it's likely to be several starts and maybe a lot of starts, so let's go ahead and bring him up and avoid the short rest thing.

Does any of that successfully rationalize what are seemingly some surprising moves? I'm not sure. (Can I use any more words beginning with the letter "s" in this paragraph? I'm starting to sound like Gollum. What has Trader Jim got in his pocketses?)

Posted by: Bob L. Head | April 3, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, flynnie. Likewise!

I've wondered about the giant baseball, too. A dome would be cool!

---

Great to hear from you again, NatsFan1A!

Posted by: natsfan1a | April 3, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Okay, but only if we gals get to share our thoughts on men as well. ;)

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So we might as well stick to discussing women. That's at least something we know as well as baseball, and have more in-house expertise (right, Jason Bergmann? right, catcher50? right, Hendo?) ;)

Posted by: natsfan1a | April 3, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

People, getting FLop at bats is all about trade value. In two weeks he show he can hit and we get something nice in return for him or two weeks from now he's gone for a ham sandwich. He's not going to be any better or worse then Willy H. Keep giving Maxwell at bats down in AA, put Willy and the bench and let's get rid of FLop.

Posted by: NiceNat | April 3, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

But a faux Capitol Dome would be great!

FLop to LF - This is how Chone Figgins and Tony Phillips (on one end of the scale) and Willie Bloomquist (at the other) started. Very surpised they did not try this in Viera, though. Felipe is 3 for 18 against Moyer, Harris 1 for 10. Not much to choose from there. Harris .217 v. LHP and 3 for 9 at CBP 2005 - 2007, Lopez .253 and 19 for 59. Edge Lopez. If this works, he gets some trade value back.

Lannan up, who down ? Probably it is Schroeder if Cordero is healthy enough to pitch. If he isn't, then DL retroactive to the start of the season. Keep Lannan up for two starts, at least.

Posted by: PTBNL | April 3, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I'm not crazy about putting Lopez in left. There's virtually no upside to this (he's either equal to or at best marginally better than Harris at the plate), and the downside is you lose a game 3-2 because he misplays a fly ball into a bases clearing, two-out double.

I also doubt very much that Manny would do this of his own choosing -- the prospect of Jimbo managing the lineup on a day-to-day basis is not appetizing.

Posted by: joebleux | April 3, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Quick question: why is Rob Mackowiak on our roster? 50+ posts and his name is mentioned once. If he isn't trotting out to leftfield ahead of Harris, much less the Lopez experiment, why is he taking up a roster spot? If/when WMP or Dukes are both healthy, he is the prime candidate to get released, so why not play him right now!?!

Posted by: Arlington Nats Fan | April 3, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Just watched the recap reel on the Nats site. Funny to see the height differential when Rauch and Lo Duca are celebrating the win at the end of the game. :)

Posted by: natsfan1a | April 3, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse

"Quick question: why is Rob Mackowiak on our roster?"

Because it's hard to remember how to spell his name.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | April 3, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse

To O's Exec:

It's unfortunate that the crabcakes will be the only good thing going for you this year. Yeah, your O's had a nice comeback last night, too bad only 10,505 (minus those that had already left by that point) "fans" witnessed it...the smallest crowd in Camden Yards' history! I hope you're prepared for a LONG season, because that is simply pathetic and all bets are that it will get even worse.

Posted by: BSG | April 3, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I don't think Lopez is going to play LF for more than 6-12 innings in this experiment. He'll play today until Moyer is pulled and then Acta will sub Harris in. Harris will make all starts vs righties and Lopez will be available to start vs lefties until a righty reliever come in.

I do like this move in that it first of all gives FLop a little playing time to keep his spirits up (he sounded sooooo excited to get the call!). Also, it protects Harris ego since he's slightly worse against lefties than I am...

As for the pitchers I think they'll make a decision on Cordero in the next 3 days so either Schroder will go down to make room for Lannan or Cordero will go on the DL.

I'm very curious what the timeline is for the final return of Hill, Pena and Dukes. Will Pena and Dukes need rehab stints before they come back up?

Posted by: estuartj | April 3, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

i'm glad they didn't try this supersub "experiment" with lopez in LF in spring training. they had legitimate competition in the middle infield without this hanging over the discussion. not saying he would have, but lopez couldn't gripe about not being given every opportunity to win the starting gig from the get go. no distraction, and now it's settled.

kinda nice that soriano was paid handsomely for doing what the organization asked of him. since a good amount of the players were there for that, lopez will do what the teams asks. i think they are going about this the right way. and mostly its making a lot out of a little anyway. lopez is right in that he just needs to keep getting at bats, wherever they are.

Posted by: longterm | April 3, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Moving Felipe to LF makes no sense in terms of winning. Jimbo is only doing it in hopes that Felipe will crush a bomb and raise his trade value. Today is a day game, why not just rest Belliard?

Is Bowden like Paris Hilton? If he doesn't hear his name in the papers for a couple days, does he do something stupid just to get press?? YES

Posted by: Stupidest mistake ever | April 3, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

"Moving Felipe to LF makes no sense in terms of winning. Jimbo is only doing it in hopes that Felipe will crush a bomb and raise his trade value. Today is a day game, why not just rest Belliard?"

How would benching Belliard make Harris a better option in LF?

Here are two basic truths;
1. Harris should never start against lefties
2. Lopez needs at bats wherever possible.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 3, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

FLop in LF today is a good move. Phils are trotting Moyer, a lefty, out there. Nats have no other righty bats in the OF. Harris and Mackowiak can't hit lefties. Why not try FLop (a switch hitter) for one game. If it works, great. If it doesn't, so what? IT'S ONLY THE 4TH GAME OF THE SEASON!

Before September, Maxwell never played above High-A in the minors. He did better than expected in his brief tenure in September. But, they should let him stay in AA and get used to hitting against better pitchers. No need to yo-yo him up here for a week or two until WMP gets back. And if they did call himup, who goes down?

I'll forgive Guz for not running hard on a hard comebacker to the pitcher. Hamels botched the throw to Howard (who last year would have kicked the ball into the dugout but did a decent job of picking up the ball last night). Also, Redding not running hard on his groundout late in the game? I wouldn't want him to try and beat it out. He needed to save his energy for the next couple of innings.

Paid Attendance at OPACY last night: 10,505. That was PAID attendance. Actual number of people in the stadium? My guess is less than 5,000. My reaction: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Posted by: e | April 3, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Ah, that would explain the drooling...

**********
Plus the crabcakes so mouth-watering.
Posted by: O's Exec | April 3, 2008 03:12 AM

Posted by: Go O's - and take the Ravens with you | April 3, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Barry has a new post up.

(Good one, Go O's.)

Posted by: natsfan1a | April 3, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I'm going to break out my crystal ball and say I think JimBow and Manny are hoping to keep Lopez happy by getting him at bats (even if just for half a game in LF) to keep his spirits up until...

Belliard is traded. I think he has more value on the market than Lopez, but that Lopez has better long term potential (he is only 26 or 27) as a 2nd baseman. It would also allow them to bring up Orr as the backup SS (much better option that Lopez at that position).

Posted by: estuartj | April 3, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I'm up!

Posted by: Nupe Ost | April 3, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

"But a faux Capitol Dome would be great!"

They're going to have to put something on top of the centerfield restaurant/loft bar eventually. The stadium architects have created a natural pedestal there, and in order to tie the whole structure together architecturally something needs to be placed on that pedestal. And whatever goes there needs to have a 360 degree presence, since that spot is integral to both the view from the seats as well as the view from the Half Street walk-up to the stadium. The baseball was the architects' idea of what to put there to fill in that hole in the design, but somewhere during the accelerated design/build process that was used during construction the baseball got nixed. It could have been a cost consideration, it could have been a construction logistics or scheduling consideration, or it could have been deemed to be too cheesy. No one has ever said what the reason was. But no one has ever said that something won't be placed there after this season, either. I'm almost certain something will be put there, and I wouldn't be surprised if it is indeed the baseball, as that's a 360-degree object. But a faux Capitol dome would work as a 360-degree object there too, and it would definitely have Washington written all over it. I think that's a good idea, actually.

Posted by: Section 419+1 | April 3, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

There goes crazy Uncle Jim again. You know, we think he is taking his meds so we let him out the basement and let him sit at the big table for Sunday dinner. But, then he starts throwing his mashed potatoes around the room again.

FLOP in left? I guess going 4-0 to start the season is not part of the plan.

Posted by: Nats Fan in KC | April 3, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I'll second - or third - this:

"I wouldn't mind seeing Flores catching. Lopez in left? Nah. Lopez on the team? Nah. Maxwell in left? Yeah baby! John Lanahan pitching? Yes!!"

But not this:

Cordero on the DL? YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: johnbear | April 3, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

MAXWELL MAXWELL MAXWELL MAXWELL MAXWELL MAXWELL MAXWELL MAXWELL MAXWELL MAXWELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: dk | April 3, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I don't get the Lopez experiment in left field. I think it is risky - no, I think it is a mistake. Why? Is the expected gain in offensive production by Lopez (which is certainly not guaranteed after what I've seen since he's been a Nat) worth the misplays that will occur in left field regardless of how good an athlete he is? I don't think so.

Posted by: Wallpass | April 3, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

It's not about left field, i.e. "we desperately need a good left fielder" so bring up Maxwell or make Mackowiak earn his roster spot instead of Lopez.

It's ALL about Lopez needing at-bats, needing to play. Period. Whether it's to showcase him for a trade or to keep him fresh, we don't know.

But make no mistake, it's not about the position. If it were about the position, they'd keep Harris there. He caught plenty of outs yesterday.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 3, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

If Lopez's bat is good enough, then his defense won't matter so much. I like the move. It's all about scoring runs, and if Lopez hits better than Harris, then it's the right move.

Defense in LF? My experience is with the Phillies, and they have punted defense out there by playing guys like Burrell and Luzinski.

Posted by: John from Philly | April 3, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

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