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Tolman explains thought process

There has been much discussion over the last few days in the comments section of this here Journal about the effectiveness of one Timothy Lee Tolman, who serves as the third base coach for the Washington Nationals.

Let's give some background on Tolman. He's 52. He played collegiate ball at USC, where he was the captain of the Trojans in 1978, was named Pac-10 player of the year and helped USC win the College World Series, beating Arizona State for the title.

He ended up playing parts of seven seasons in the majors, five with Houston, two with Detroit, but never appeared in more than 43 games. His career stats: .168, 5 HR, 24 RBI.

Tolman managed at every level in Houston's minor league system from 1991-96. In 1991, he was managing in Burlington, Iowa, in the Class A Midwest League. He had a young infielder there named Manny Acta. That started a mentor-friend relationship. It was Acta's final year as a player.

After managing (career record of .375-.446), Tolman worked in the Astros' scouting department for six seasons. Joined Cleveland in 2003, coordinating the minor league system for four seasons. He has also managed in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic in winter ball, and joined the Nationals when Acta was hired. Last year, he had an extremely rough start to the season, and was booed loudly at RFK Stadium after having a couple guys thrown out at the plate. He got better in the second half of the year.

Which brings us to this week. Tuesday night, Ryan Zimmerman was thrown out at the plate by Houston right fielder Hunter Pence. Wednesday night, Wily Mo Pena was thrown out at the plate by Houston center fielder Michael Bourn.

I asked Tolman about the Pena play.

"Two outs, he got a pretty good jump," Tolman said. "The problem is, a situation like that, sometimes you know if they execute the play perfectly he's going to be out. But with Oswalt pitching and in that situation it just felt like we had a chance to score, and we wanted to try to take advantage of it. It just didn't work out that way."

When you go through a stretch where guys get thrown out, how does it affect you and how you do your job? "It's almost like you can kind of compare it to an NFL cornerback," Tolman said. "You got to have a short memory. I really feel like if we hold Wily right there, there's a good possibility we'll have two guys on third with Boone running from first to third thinking we're going to score him.

"There's so many other things that go into the equation. You can't take it personal, that's the first thing. You just try to do the best you can. You get all the reports you can on the opposition, what the situation is, who's coming up, who's pitching. It's a learning process, too. Every ballpark plays different. There's a lot of things that go into it. Honestly, the main thing is you can't really let it affect the next decision. You just can't.

"I'm the same guy that sent Guzman on a bang-bang play three days ago, and he was safe. It just goes with the territory."

He was speaking of the play against the Pirates last week at home, when Guzman scored with a nice slide after Austin Kearns's base hit.

Last year, when he was struggling, Tolman said he was learning the league and the arms and the angles of the ballparks. I asked him yesterday if he felt more comfortable this year.

"There's no doubt about it," he said. "I feel like the decisions that I've made, I feel good about of them. You're going to have ones where you think about them. Of all the situations, if I could take back one of them, it would be the one in Atlanta where Felipe got thrown out at home where we were down by six runs. All the other ones I think were well within the parameters of good baseball."

I also asked Tolman if he sought reinforcement/analysis from anyone on his performance. "There's times I've asked Manny if I should've sent a guy," Tolman said. "He's such a great third base coach, and that's who I answer to, when it comes down to it. He'll tell me right away."

Tolman is being watched by Nationals officials. But it sounds as if he's comfortable with his decision-making. Thoughts?

By Barry Svrluga  |  May 9, 2008; 6:15 AM ET
 
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Comments

very fine, very fair reporting on a topic on many people's minds, namely, "who *is* this guy?" your making sure to do this piece reminds me of the undertaker in "huck finn" who, when the backwoods country funeral is interrupted by a huge noise of dog barking in the basement, sidles around three walls of the room to go downstairs and kick the cur so it shuts up and runs off. then he comes back up and whispers over the organ music, "it had a rat," to the everlasting satisfaction of all present...

Posted by: natty bumppo | May 9, 2008 6:53 AM | Report abuse

This post reminds me a failed experiment I witnessed back in the mid 80's when the company I was working for decided they would base pay raises on self evaluations.....you can guess how effective that mess was.....Tolman do not see any problem.....give him a raise!

Posted by: JayB | May 9, 2008 7:14 AM | Report abuse

The only thing Tolman should feel comfortable about is using the wanted ads in the paper. This man sounds like a nice guy who loves baseball, but he cannot coach third base.

Comfort does not equal skill. I'm comfortable playing basketball.

I could be the single worst basketball player in recorded history.

Posted by: NattyDelite! | May 9, 2008 7:24 AM | Report abuse

His page on baseball-reference.com is still unsponsored. $5

As a player, he played left, right, and first. He's managed, coordinated, mentored, scouted ... sounds like he's done most everything except GM and sell beer. Yet coaching third base seems like a verrrrrry different position from any of those. He may well be a great baseball guy, just in the wrong role right now.

I don't know... this seems like a position that should be occupied by a pillar of the team, like a catcher or a 1B. But if we're letting our CF learn the game through on-the-job-training, there's no room to argue that the third base coach shouldn't be allowed to do the same. By the time it is his call to send the winning run home in the 42nd inning of a playoff game, he'd BETTER know the angles, arms, parks, and the brand of shin guards on every catcher in the league.

Actually, I'm less concerned that he CAN do it, but if he can do it fast enough to be effective in real-time. We can office-chair-3B-coach all the next day talking about the situation after it has happened, but putting all that information into an equation while Willy Mo Pena is trucking full steam right toward you and trying to calculate if Berkman is going to cut off Pence's throw and yadda, yadda, yadda ... you don't have time to go look up fielding statistics on the internet.


And now that I mention it, neither do I if I have any hope of getting out of here in time to get a grandstand seat. Here's to a well watered TerraNatstra (did I use that term correctly, Flynnie?).

Posted by: i hate walks | May 9, 2008 7:49 AM | Report abuse

By the way, Barry, this is awesome, excellent information. Maybe you're just showing off in front of Chico. I don't know why this article is just relegated to your blog instead of the dead-tree version but whatever. I like it.

Posted by: i hate walks | May 9, 2008 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I was just thinking I hope Chico is taking notes. Barry has set the bar very high, NJ needs to keep this up. Great post Barry!

I don't understand why we have to have a coach learn his job?? There are no experienced 3B coaches that we could hire? I mean if we're going to let someone learn it, now is the time but why are we in this mess?

On the other hand, I don't buy for a second that two guys getting thrown out means he is doing a bad job. Let's look at the whole first month. I can only remember maybe three plays where I thought he shouldn't have sent guys. Meanwhile, I remember like 4-5 plays where I thought, "oh boy, this is going to be close" and they were safe.

Granted, first half '07, he wasn't getting it done but I think he's fine this year. Every 3B coach gets some guys thrown out by a mile. If we get another 3-4 of these in the next month, then we can re-visit it.

Posted by: Avar | May 9, 2008 8:08 AM | Report abuse

This will be a test for Manny: does he have it in him to let go his mentor-friend?

Posted by: joemktg | May 9, 2008 8:32 AM | Report abuse

I thought he should have help WMP, but it was a great throw by Bourn.

Posted by: Section130 | May 9, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Really informative post, Barry. I'm glad Tolman is comfortable in his decisions - unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily make them the right decisions. That said, in the interest of full fairness, I thought the call last night to send Zimmerman on a relatively short Kearns signal (the 4th run) was a good one, and had the fielder played it perfectly he could have been out. I'm not saying Tolman has to be fired, but he doesn't really seem to have the skill set for the job - maybe bench coach or 1b coach is better for him. But, fundamentally, on a team that doesn't score much, every runner gunned down at home feels like a knife in the back.

Posted by: Ryan Dylan | May 9, 2008 8:47 AM | Report abuse

He might be the greatest guy in the world, but if he sucks at his job, he sucks at his job. I'm a jerk, but my boss likes the product I produce.

Barry, you should've mentioned not just that he managed in Winter League, but that he was fired mid-season by his team, which later went on to go to the World Series. Hmmm... I wonder if that would hold to form in the majors?

Posted by: Chris | May 9, 2008 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Barry. It's nice to see there is an actual thought process behind Tolman's bone-headed mistakes, and not just that he is waving people through when the mood strikes him. I have no doubt he's fully rationalized his decisions; I spent my college years rationalizing LOTS of my decisions, most of them made in bars after several beers which ended up with walks of shame the next morning. I could at least blame the alcohol for my thinking. What's Tolman's excuse?

Posted by: Deep Fried Screech | May 9, 2008 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Bottom line the Nats are not loosing games because of our 3b coach.

Coaching third base is the most difficult coaching position in all sports because it is the only coaching position that actually gets involved in the action on the field as it is happening. At every level below MLB you will usually find the head coach coaching third base because of the importance of this involvement. If you have ever coached even a little league team and coached third base you will understand. There is so much going on and the third base coach has to make a split second judgements as the traffic cop. The only harder job in baseball coaching is coaching a T-Ball team and trying to explain everything that is going on when a ball is hit to a team of six year olds (and their parents) who only want to hit the ball.

Finally, how about discussing all the other duties Tolman has besides coaching 3B. How's he doing there? Pretty good I'll bet. Barry left all that out of his blog.

Posted by: Tom | May 9, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

That's fine, Tom. I don't think anyone expects runners to never be thrown out. But with Tolman, it's been a lot of runners thrown out, and a lot of runners thrown out by 15 feet.

He's like Nook Logan. He might know what he has to do and the decision process to get there, but if he's not able to just react and do it right on the fly, he's not helping the team.

Posted by: Chris | May 9, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I still think Tolman goes into slumps of judgement more often than most 3B coaches, but his explanations do not come across as defensive. I'm glad he understands he needs to forget the bad ones and call them. I know I have sent runners based on my belief that the outfielder was unlikely to make the throw - and been wrong. It can make you feel pretty stupid.

But here's the thing: If you take a risk/reward approach instead of trusting the next hitter to do the job you will run into some outs and this team runs into too many outs. Not just when trying to score, but also from 1st to 3rd and from home to 2nd. And of course when stealing and failing to execute hit and run/run and hit.

Posted by: NatBisquit | May 9, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Easy, Tom....I've been kinda upset with Tolman too but everybody is a Monday morning quarterback.

The thing that costs us games is not the 3rd base coach - it is Ronnie Belliard booting a groundball in the late innings while trying to preserve a lead, it is our pitchers not mixing up their looks to the plate so that runners have a perpetual green light, it is throwing pitches over the heart of the plate in 2-strike counts, it is not having confidence in your stuff for that situation so you try to do to much and end up balking in a guy, it is outfielders not getting good reads off the bat, and (up until the past 2 weeks) it is not having smart at-bat's in clutch situations. Those are things that cost us the game. Those are things that you learn in high school ball.

Walking back to the metro after the Pittsburgh series on Sun. afternoon I told my better half that 1-win in Houston would be sufficient, 2 would be amazing, and 3 would be holy crap....well they got that one win. Tuesday and Wednesday night's losses were bad but I'd much rather see us be in late ballgames instead of being out of it in the 3rd while Manny calls in the 4th guy from the 'pen.

On to the Fish back at home - a great opportunity to win another series (especially with the pitching match-up's for tonight and Sunday) and chip away some more.

Posted by: Corey | May 9, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Whoops, sorry Tom - total brain fart. Hey, it's Friday and we got a ballgame tonight.

Posted by: Corey | May 9, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse

"Finally, how about discussing all the other duties Tolman has besides coaching 3B. How's he doing there? Pretty good I'll bet. Barry left all that out of his blog."

As I pointed out yesterday, he does a damn good job carrying the lineup card out to the umps before the game. Always nice and congenial, shaking hands with the umps and the opposing manager or coach. Someone else pointed out that he often gets escorted by hotties while doing this job, delegated to him by Manny as a gesture of respect, I'm sure. It's to his credit of course that the hotties are there in the first place, and even more to his credit that he doesn't let their presence distract him from the task at hand. Not once has he failed to hand over the correct lineup card for the game of the day, and never has he fumbled in a discussion of the ground rules. Like you, I wonder why Barry has never once mentioned this in his blog or in print. Armando Gallaraga I can understand. Where's the news value in that? But Tolman taking the lineup card to the plate, why there's an underappreciated task of pure sublime beauty if there ever was one. Hopefully Chico will pick up on this once he arrives.

Posted by: An Briosca Mor | May 9, 2008 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Actually I was thinking he was more like Milledge. Great athlete, but slow instincts.

There was at least one time when i thought it was a bad decision to send the runner and they just got really lucky. Nick Johnson running on Francoeur, for instance, on opening night. You just don't run on Francoeur, even if the ball's still rattling around the corner when you touch third.
_____________
He's like Nook Logan. He might know what he has to do and the decision process to get there, but if he's not able to just react and do it right on the fly, he's not helping the team.

Posted by: Chris | May 9, 2008 9:13 AM

Posted by: NatsNut | May 9, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I think the mere fact that we're discussing the performance of the third base coach in detail is indicative of the fact that his performance in that role has been questionable. It's a hard job. He's a good guy. Fine. Let's give the job to a jerk who can do it right. Maybe a jerk like Chris, who has some extra time on his hands now. ;)

Posted by: Bob L. Head | May 9, 2008 9:30 AM | Report abuse

And now that I think of it, since he does do such a great job with hot babes nearby, why not station a few of them with him in the third base coach's box? It might improve his performance there. Or stopping to take a look might keep a few runners from being thrown out at the plate at least. Is there any MLB rule against having hot babes out there with the third base coach? I'm sure they'd need helmets of course, but beyond that, why not?

Posted by: An Briosca Mor | May 9, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Maybe it's because Barry doesn't have room in the blog after posting releases from the Nats PR department verbatim.

Posted by: @ABM | May 9, 2008 9:33 AM | Report abuse

"Bottom line the Nats are not loosing games because of our 3b coach."

Wily Mo Pena and the go-ahead run he was carrying when he got thrown out by at least 15 feet would beg to differ.

Posted by: Ryan Dylan | May 9, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

The only thing that bothers me about Tolman's thought process is where he talks about sending a guy knowing that a perfect throw will get him but you're trying to make something happen.

I've coached 3rd at a few levels from slow pitch softball to high school varsity, and I played college ball. The difference at the big league level is these guys are Major Leaguers and I think at this level you have to defer to the level of skill that more often than not the throw will be perfect, because these guys are the best in the biz!

Now of course there are exceptions like Johnny Damon or our very own Lastings Milledge who have rag doll arms and those guys you challenge 10 out of 10 times.

I totally get the - make them make the play - mentality and I adhere to it often myself but I just think at the big league level you are going to get burned by that more often than not because, to steal a line from the PGA, these guys are good.

Posted by: Ryan | May 9, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

When you have this much discussion about the 3rd Base coach, then you have a problem. If he does his job well, nobody notices him. That's the bottom line - too many people are noticing him.

As for the catchers (from the previous post): one thing to consider. Yes, Flores is ready and should play. However, for the $6.25M cost for Estrada and LoDuca, there was a chance that one or either would be a potential target at the trading deadline and the Nats could have brought in more prospects. Clearly, that isn't going to happen now and these 2 guys won't be here next year. But, considering where the Nats are today and the reasonable price of $6.25M, this was a reasonable bet for the Nats to make.

Posted by: Nats fan in NJ | May 9, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse

"If you take a risk/reward approach instead of trusting the next hitter to do the job you will run into some outs and this team runs into too many outs."

I see your point, and I completely disagree. Trusting the next hitter to do the job thus far hasn't gotten the Nats anywhere. Running aggressively is all the more important when there's no guarantee that the next guy will do anything more than squib one to short. I'd rather see pressure put on the defense to make the play at home, and take the couple more outs that come along with that, than see yet another guy stranded at third.

Posted by: Matt | May 9, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

ok geeks, scoring question: last nights game:
astros runners on 2nd and 3rd 1 out. routine grounder to guzman. for some reason he looks the runner back to 2nd who isnt goin anywhere and then nonchalantly throws to first and the runner beats the throw. everyone safe.
scored a hit. and carpenter sez well thats the only way you can score it.
why?
i thought it had to be an error. theres no way you can justify not gettin the guy at first.
your thoughts?

Posted by: dk | May 9, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

And Tom, been there on the t-ball experience. You forgot to mention the boys eating grass, hitting each other and climbing the cage, and the girls sitting together in a circle around second base.

(My daughter, of course, is the shortstop. And later, probably the catcher, once there is a need for one. And after that, a third base coach.)

Posted by: Bob L. Head | May 9, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

tolman was a career .168 hitter. he most certainly was a better hitter than he is a third base coach. he should be fired.

Posted by: mike hunt | May 9, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

"I'd rather see pressure put on the defense to make the play at home, and take the couple more outs that come along with that, than see yet another guy stranded at third."

That's fine if it's a bang-bang play at the plate. You don't want to be passive at third. But at the same time, we've seen 2 or 3 runners where the catcher had time to set up a card table, put a nice tablecloth down, and grill a steak while waiting for the runner to come.

That's not pushing it. That's being dumb.

Posted by: Chris | May 9, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I think nattybumpo is drunk

Posted by: Jose Hossenfeffer | May 9, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse

I don't think anybody is saying "hold every runner" - at least, I'm not. I also understand and tend to agree with the "make them make the play" mantra - the problem is the judgement involved in the decision. Too often, Tolman sends guys when even a routine major-league throw will result in the guy being out (and it not even being particularly close). Last night, the decision to send Zimmerman was a good one because it was going to have to be a perfect throw in order to make it close. I think trying to send folks on the idea that "Heck, the next guy will probably make an out anyway," is a good way to run yourself into a lot of guaranteed outs while trying to avoid the unknown.

Posted by: Ryan Dylan | May 9, 2008 9:46 AM | Report abuse

There's a "breaking" story about Ryan Zimmerman and the Nationals on the sports pages of The Onion; it's linked to from the front page of The Washington Post's website, but you can reach it directly at:

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/nationals_book_it_after_foul_ball

Can somebody ask Zimm and the other Nationals quoted in The Onion's story how they feel about the coverage?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Chris- Of course there have been some dumb plays. WMP is a freaking tug boat, and I think Tolman should have realized who he was sending on that particular play. There are others as well.

But the idea that aggressiveness in and of itself is a bad thing for this team is just plain wrong, IMO.

Posted by: Matt | May 9, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Matt, I thought the same thing at first, but then there is a difference between getting thrown out in a bang-bang play, and being out by five feet. This isn't softball on the mall where the chances of your secretary catching the ball at the plate are someplace between "highly unlikely" and "maybe the moon really is made of cheese." You have to pick the right spots. And Timmy Lee T's not picken 'em.

Posted by: Bob L. Head | May 9, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

As for the catchers (from the previous post): one thing to consider. Yes, Flores is ready and should play.
___________________

Well, we're going to find out, but I don't think anyone knows the answer as confidently as this.

I'd be interested if anyone has a theory or explanation on what has happened to cause us to change our mind about Jesus since December, when we signed LoDuca because we didn't think Jesus was ready, that being thrown into the deep end would/could retard his development, and that he needed time in the minors? Surely it's not the .153 BA he's posting at AAA.

For the PLAN, it seems to me that you either think Jesus is ready to play every day and compete and develop in the bigs, or you don't, in which case there's a risk of him regressing, and you go sign a 1-year rental (or 3) to cover the time he needs. If you think he IS ready, then you don't do that, and you hand over the reins. I'm not a scout, so I don't really have opinion about whether he's ready or not, but this just seems erratic, like we're making decisions prioritizing the short-term over the PLAN.

I worry that the .153 at AAA becomes an .093 in the big leagues and it takes a year to rebuild his confidence.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Hey Chris--be careful with your criticism. Planet NJ is a LOT closer to Nats 320 than Capitol Punishment. The rah-rah homer police will turn on you quick.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I hate it when people use my name... guess I need to find an more original one.

Posted by: The original Matt | May 9, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

DK you could also have scored the play a fielder's choice, which is how I would have scored it, as opposed to an error or a hit, even though I agree Guzman should have gotten the guy at first. An out does not need to be recorded to score it a fielder's choice. Guzman made the slight attempt at the runner on second, which allowed all runners to be safe.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | May 9, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

How about me at 3rd base coach. It would at least be entertaining to watch me waddle around and try to windmill around my belly!

Posted by: Ray King | May 9, 2008 10:02 AM | Report abuse

OK, so we've all had the experience of being "newposted" where you hit submit only to discover that your thoughts have been launched straight out of the Natosphere on account of Barry's prolific post rate.

But what do you call it when you spend time crafting a post and then find that three other people have said the same thing before you have managed to get your message up? It's the blogging equivalent of being scooped. Blooped? As in, I just got blooped by Chris and Ryan Dylan. Double blooped, if you will.

Posted by: Bob L. Head | May 9, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

@ Jose Hossenfeffer

thanks for noticing the non-linearity. it was just a writer joke. don't worry about it.

Posted by: natty bumppo | May 9, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

"For the PLAN, it seems to me that you either think Jesus is ready to play every day and compete and develop in the bigs, or you don't, in which case there's a risk of him regressing, and you go sign a 1-year rental (or 3) to cover the time he needs. If you think he IS ready, then you don't do that, and you hand over the reins. I'm not a scout, so I don't really have opinion about whether he's ready or not, but this just seems erratic, like we're making decisions prioritizing the short-term over the PLAN."

As I said last night, when out-of-the-ordinary events happen, like having two catchers go on the DL on the same day, you have to be flexible and adjust, even if it means you end up doing things differently than you had originally planned to. That's not being erratic, it's being pragmatic and smart. Whenever there's a short-term crisis, it's always going to trump any long-term plan. It has to. There's a game tonight, someone has to play. Sure, there's a risk of Flores regressing, but there's also the opportunity for him to step up. What if Wally Pipp had been the Yankees' plan, and they had stuck to it at all costs?

Posted by: An Briosca Mor | May 9, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

My problem with Tolman on the WMP play was that Bourn was charging a ball hit directly at him that was not very deep. All of his momentum was headed directly toward the plate. Given the distance, even Johnny Damon would have been able to get something on that throw. To me, it is one thing to send a guy knowing a perfect throw gets him. It is another knowing a routine throw gets him by 15 feet. You can't count on big leaguers botching throws. You can test them to make a perfect play from time to time.

I will concede on the WMP play that there were two outs and Oswalt was pitching so there was always a question if Guzman would get a hit there. Not that it is comparable or that it even matters, but Guzzy did make out leading off the next inning.

Posted by: Dick | May 9, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Let me begin with the disclaimer that I get to "see" very few games so I can really speak with little authority (if any at all) about Tolman's decision-making process. That said, I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with a 3B coach with a "short-memory." And Boone would only have run into Pena if he wasn't paying any attention at all (At what point as a baseball player do you learn that if you have a slower runner ahead of you you might be a bit more cautious) - all of which makes me even more uncomfortable with management of the basepaths. But I tend to think that Tolman is subject to the same disease that has affected Zimm and Kearns and all the rest from time to time - he is just trying to do too much.

Thanks for personalizing the post Barry, it is all to easy to villanize someone by objectifying them. In reading Tolman's biography I did find myself wondering, however, how many times he got thrown out at home as a player :)

Posted by: lowcountry | May 9, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I get that, and clearly you have to adjust your plan at times.

But there's still a matter of setting priorities. If the priority is the long term, as Manny and Kasten are VERY clear about, while Bowden seems torn, then you play it safe with Jesus. The Yankees have had injuries, but still stuck with prioritizing not overusing Joba. I'm not saying they are doing the right thing necessarily. As a non-scout, I'm not really in a position to offer an opinion about either player's developmental pace.

Maybe it's a matter of Jesus really is just on the cusp, and really there isn't THAT big a risk of regression in the bigs. Then why the 6 mil to cover this year?

It would be less of an issue if he wasn't already hitting a buck whatever in AAA.

Anyway, I really don't know if this is an issue or not, but I'm waving a red flag now, and if Jesus is clobbered and goes down in 3 weeks, then I'll definitely say it was a bad idea, and no one can defend the bad move with the Condi Rice defense--"no one could have imagined this could happen."

Posted by: @ABM | May 9, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

ABM, you're wrong on this. Why should a team that's not going anywhere this season sacrifice their long-term plan due to a "short-term crisis"? They shouldn't. If they have to call up Flores for a couple days while they sign someone off the scrap-heap, fine. But it makes no sense to have him play up here for a prolonged time before he is ready--which is what the team itself has decided about him.

Deviating from a long-term plan due to a short-term crisis is exactly how long-term plans fall apart. Unless a team is in contention and desparate for help, there's no reason to do it.

As for using Wally Pipp and Lou Gehrig as a basis for comparison, come on dude, get real. That's not even valid in the world of exaggeration. Gehrig certainly wasn't the 1920s equivalent of a Rule 5 guy like Flores.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | May 9, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

ABM: Good post! Nothing says they can't sign an Humberto Cota-type FA tomorrow if needed to stick to the PLAN.

Posted by: Dick | May 9, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Maybe part of the reason the team said that Flores isn't ready was as a justification for why they were sending him down in the first place, instead of being their true belief? PR more than baseball.

It certainly makes sense to let him polish off his skills a bit in the minors than to have him waste service time in the majors while learning on the job for a team that only aspires to be .500.

Posted by: Chris | May 9, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Jesus (the exclamation, not the catcher).

How hard is this to figure out?

Flores was called up because he and Nieves are the only healthy catchers in the organization that the Nats feel are ready to start or backup in the majors.

There's absolutely nothing about this that should come as a surprise to anyone; it's been the plan the entire time that Flores needs a season of full time duty (preferably in the minors, but as events have forced, now in the majors).

Posted by: joebleux | May 9, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

The PR angle is always possible, but in this case I think it highly unlikely. Pat Corrales said publicly that Flores needs a lot of work on his defense; Corrales is a former catcher who rarely talks to the media and is not a Bowden PR spinner. And Manny was also critical of Flores's defense during the first few games of the season when he was up here. I really don't think that was all for PR.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | May 9, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I actually think Flores is going to be OK playing with the Nats while Lo Duca and Estrada are out... First, I think Flores WANTS to be in the bigs... he may understand spending the season in AAA, but would prefer to be in the bigs. Second, he showed last year, in limited doses, he can handle the momentary pressure of getting a hit in a clutch situation, or throwing out a runner.

The issue for the Nats was whether it would be good for Flores' development to be growing as a player with the very high expectation of playing every day in the bigs. That pressure isn't there this time, because the expectation is for him to go back to AAA... so he has a an opportunity to perform without affecting his standing with the organization. If he hits .170 playing every day while he's up, it will be rough, but not the end of the world, at least, not the way it would have been if he was your starting catcher for the season in the bigs.

My prediction: He rises to the occasion, and puts the organization in a bad spot when Lo Duca and/or Estrada get back.

Posted by: Wigi | May 9, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I agree Wigi. I think Lo Duca has played his last game for the Nats (even if Flores hits below (.220)
__________________
My prediction: He rises to the occasion, and puts the organization in a bad spot when Lo Duca and/or Estrada get back

Posted by: lowcountry | May 9, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

"And Boone would only have run into Pena if he wasn't paying any attention at all (At what point as a baseball player do you learn that if you have a slower runner ahead of you you might be a bit more cautious)"

Pena is a big guy, but that doesn't mean he's slow. Have y'all ever seen him run the bases? (In person, not on TV - because speed is something you don't really pick up all that well on TV.) He's not as fast as a Nook Logan, but he's no plodder. Dude can run. Also, don't judge the way he moves on the bases with the way he moves in the outfield after a fly ball. There he IS a plodder.

But as fast as he is, the throw on that play still beat him by a good ten feet. He never should have been sent home by Tolman.

Posted by: An Briosca Mor | May 9, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

For all the conflicting analysis folks are offering about how bringing Flores up fits into the plan or doesn't fit into the plan, I think you have to ask a fairly simple question. Which pair of catchers you'd rather have on the Nats: Flores and Nieves or Lo Duca and Estrada?

My vote is for Flores and Nieves.

Posted by: Section 133 | May 9, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

From MKevin's post yesterday...seems appropriate:

It's the Tim Tolman nickname game. Vote for your favorite:

1. The Windmill
2. Dead Meat
3. See No Evil
4. Corey Hart
5. Rally Killer
-------
In a very close race, my vote is Corey Hart by a nose over Rally Killer. (Incidentally, that song is definitely on my iPod!)

And, before anyone attacks me for being insensitive or uncompassionate (incompassionate? non-compassionate? whatever...), we're just jokin' around! Just pokin' a little fun at li'l Timmy Tolman. A little levity, right ABM?

Oh and ABM, I really like the hot babes suggestions. And not those little Nat Pack girls, either. I'm talking like the Swedish Bikini Team (remember THOSE commercials?)...tastefully clad, of course. Maybe the Sports Junkies would loan us a couple of their Junkettes.

Of course, I'd have to explain that to my daughter ("NO, it's not appropriate for YOU to dress that way...only those girls.") Yeah, maybe we'd better skip it.

Posted by: Can't See the HD | May 9, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

And (irrespective of the fleet-footed WMP) the play was in front of Boone - he should have seen that Bourne was quick to the ball. I'm not buying the story that he would've run into Pena.
____________
But as fast as he is, the throw on that play still beat him by a good ten feet. He never should have been sent home by Tolman.

Posted by: An Briosca Mor | May 9, 2008 11:16 AM

Posted by: lowcountry | May 9, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of that Pena play: I loved the way Ausmus backed away from the plate as Wily Mo neared. He was clearly scared to death of being plowed into oblivion. As it was, WMP was very nearly safe because Ausmus had to reach so far to tag him.

Posted by: joebleux | May 9, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Wigi I don't think it is an issue of pressure or expectations. Instead, the issue is really a question of where will Flores best be able to *learn* how to be an everyday catcher. If a player is overmatched at a level--or struggling to stay above water--then it is very difficult for that player at the same time to learn the lessons of how to play his position every day. The Nats have already said that they believe Flores has a lot to learn about playing catcher.

As an example, think about a really smart kid who is a high school freshman. That kid is trying to do well in his classes, and he's also trying to learn how to be a good student--i.e., how to study, organization, etc. If the kid takes classes that are easy for him, he will get good grades, but probably he won't learn much about how to be a good student because he can coast. If he takes classes that are really hard, by contrast--say AP math with high school seniors--then he will struggle to get good grades, and is less likely to learn how to be a good student. The key is finding the level where you can challenge the student or the player to get good grades, and also give him the opportunity to learn how to be a better student or player. This situation with Flores is like putting the freshman in a class with seniors.

So, even if Flores does OK as a call-up, consider this a lost learning opportunity for him--by the Nats' own admission. That's a strike against the Plan.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | May 9, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure he needs a nickname MKevin. I was at a Little League game the other night and when a kid got thrown out at the plate the kid's father yelled at the 3B coach for getting his kid "Tolmanned." (warning: this story might be apocraphyl)

________________________
It's the Tim Tolman nickname game. Vote for your favorite:

1. The Windmill
2. Dead Meat
3. See No Evil
4. Corey Hart
5. Rally Killer

Posted by: lowcountry | May 9, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Lacking: fine, so who are you calling up instead of Flores? Or do you think the Plan should have acquired three catchers in the off-season instead of just two, foreseeing that two of them would wind up on the DL early in the season?

Keeping in mind that you have a young staff that needs to be handled by a reasonably competent MLB caliber catcher.

Posted by: joebleux | May 9, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Lo Duca and Estrada should be Pattersoned.

Glad to have Flores up, he never should have been Schrodered in the first place.

Posted by: Bob L. Head | May 9, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"My vote is for Flores and Nieves"

Flowers & Snow...it really is giving me a feeling of peace and tranquility. It's very Zen. Like going to my happy place.

I hope my happy place has rifle arms, pinpoint accuracy, and can gun down Hanley Ramirez at second.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

"My vote is for Flores and Nieves"

Flowers and Snow...it's calming, isn't it? It's giving me a peaceful feeling...very Zen. It's like going to my happy place.

I hope my happy place has rifle arms, pinpoint accuracy, and can gun down Hanley Ramirez despite our pitchers' ponderous windups.

Posted by: Can't See the HD | May 9, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

It would be pretty funny to see swedish girls in bikinis at third base, wearing batting helmets. I'm a girl and even I would like that.

Posted by: NatsNut | May 9, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the double post...my browser locked up and I couldn't tell if it went or not.

Posted by: Can't See the HD | May 9, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Joebluex do you know whether they even gave Estrada a physical before signing him? Recent accounts are suggesting he never recovered from his off-season surgery, and his play in the field certainly suggested as much. In that light I don't think it's so surprising that he and LoDuca are both DL'd. As to who I'm calling up, that's JimBo's job, it's his Plan. I expect other teams have their Moellers and Cotas who they cut in spring training, go after one of them if need be.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | May 9, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

It would be pretty funny to see swedish girls in bikinis at 3B, wearing helmets. I'm a girl but even I would like to see that.

Posted by: NatsNut | May 9, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

sorry for double post.

Posted by: Oops! | May 9, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

"So, even if Flores does OK as a call-up, consider this a lost learning opportunity for him--by the Nats' own admission. That's a strike against the Plan."

No one is keeping score on the Plan, except for people with axes to grind one way or another on message boards or blogs like this one. You do know that, don't you?

And as for calling strikes against the Plan, folks here and elsewhere in the blogosphere are probably about the worst umpires you could ever find. Steven may be the Mayor of Clueless Hill, but he's far from its only resident. (And before y'all jump all over me, I've spent enough time on Clueless Hill myself to qualify to cast an absentee ballot from there every so often.)

Posted by: An Briosca Mor | May 9, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

yeah, i'm not buying the "boone would have run into him on third" argument either. (a) a runner should never plow headlong into the next base with a runner ahead of him w/o checking where that runner is first and (b) as he rounds second, he should be paying attention to tolman as well.

i'm all in favor of aggressive baserunning. it's better to force the other team to react to you than to be passive and react to them. that said, 'aggressive' is not the same as 'blind.' you have to give the runner a *chance* to be involved in a bang-bang play at the plate. you can't leave it up to WMP scaring the catcher into getting out of his way.

Posted by: 231 | May 9, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

ABM, if by "axe to grind" you mean I want The Plan to succeed and for the Nats to become a winning team, then by all means count me in. Moves like this disappoint me because I think they undermine the team's long-term progress and prospects for success.

If you mean something else, then I don't get it. This is after all a blog to comment on and express opinions about the team. You do understand that, don't you? As to your bizarre Clueless Hill statement, just because people post on a blog doesn't mean they don't know what they are talking about.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | May 9, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

The crux of it is how do you evaluate Jesus. We all agree that he's the most important piece of this puzzle since Nieves (good looking player, bad looking numbers), LoDuca (old, bad, hurt, unlikeable), Estrada (old, bad, hurt), and Humberto Cota (who needs a punchline for this?) aren't part of any future that we want.

Here's the 4 possible theories I have for what's happening:

1. They think Flores is an important piece for the future but needs to be babied now, hence you send him down and spend 6 mil on stopgaps. If that's the case, bringing him up now is a mistake because it doesn't make sense to risk his development when this team wouldn't be going anywhere if it had Johnny Bench in his prime back there.

2. They don't think Flores really needs to be babied, but they think that LoDuca and Estrada are better now, and therefore give us a better chance of winning this year in the new stadium. If this is the case, then it's fine to start Jesus for the next 2 months, but I think it would have been better to just play him from the start and spend the 6 mil on (gulp) Kyle Lohse or some other guy who's going to give you near league average ERA for 200 innings and thereby help keep Manny from going all Ron Gardenhire on Saul and Luis or worse yet force Bowden to rush Ballester when Hill breaks down.

3. They don't actually think Jesus is that good at all long-term, so whether he stays up or goes down, whatever, it's not like there's a big risk. This is the "he's not Joba, he's Tyler Clippard" theory.

4. They don't really have a plan at all. The "PLAN" is PR. They're just kind of bumbling along Bill Bavasi-style, never really committing to youth or winning now, just signing a guy here, calling one up there, hoping maybe things will work out, and looking at the revenue and thinking things are working out just fine now with a perennial 70-win team.

None of these makes me feel real good, but I guess I'm hoping it's #2.

Posted by: 4 possible explanations | May 9, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

as far as estrada's physical, since he was in early recovery from the surgery, i don't think there's a lot chance the physical could have told them he'd have issues with that recovery in the future. unless they could uncover that the surgery was botched.

Posted by: 231 | May 9, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

CiL - I'm not sure I dig the math vs baseball analogy. Regardless of the level, single A vs MLB, it's still baseball. In math it's Algebra vs Calculus -- it's not the same game or set of rules. Learning HOW to study is more apropos though. How to handle performing in the spotlight...

Posted by: N@sfan | May 9, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Dunno if this applies, but y'all remember when Soriano was first beginning to play left field for us, and a lot of opposing teams didn't seem to think he had a strong enough arm to throw them out trying for either an extra base or going for home plate? He gunned them down a lot more than people thought he would. In some cases that would be the opposing base coach having a runner keep going, right?

Posted by: Juan-John | May 9, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

The reason people care about the PLAN is because the team is terrible now and all we have is hope for the future. It's really hard to judge individual moves, but it undermines confidence when the team is making seemingly erratic, contradictory decisions (spending 6 mil on stopgap catchers instead of SPs so you can bring a guy along slowly, the ditch that as soon as your aging veteran catchers, who all have red lights on the Will Carroll scale, predictably get hurt).

Posted by: @ABM | May 9, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

"Tolman explains thought process. In other news, mental patient explains why dirt tastes so good."

Really, is there any need to try to explain?

Posted by: The original Matt | May 9, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I'm not ready to pile on Tolman until we get actual stats. The basic stat is, how many outfield assists at home does he opponent get as a percentage of tries? Also, how many runners score from second base on a single (or from first on a double)? I don't know that anyone has tracked such numbers and compared him to the league average.

Remember, his failures stick in our minds, but his successes does not. We may be jumping to conclusions here.

Posted by: SF Fan | May 9, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and with regard to Flores, there's a huge psychological difference with "Let's catch you everyday, you're supposed to compete in the Bigs." and "Oh, our starters went down, let's fill you in in the Bigs, and hopefully you can compete well."

The expectations and the impact, whether or not Flores REALLY can compete in the Bigs, is vastly different in the 2. With the first, if you fail, it's "you suck, go back down to triple A and learn how to play." In the other, it's "It's ok, you tried hard, and gave a good go of it, go back down to triple A and work on it some more."

So I may have drank the kool-aid, but I don't think that bringing Flores up right now is against 'The Plan'.

Posted by: SF Fan | May 9, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the Flores thing is any great mystery. He went straight from A-ball to the majors last year because we had to keep him up all year or else give him back to Team Choke East. There was no question in anyone's mind at that point that he wasn't ready to catch every day in the majors. He did pretty well in the backup role, surprisingly well perhaps, but The (original) Plan was for him to catch at AA for most or all of the year. Then the powers that be decided that maybe he was a bit closer to being ready for the majors than they thought, so The Plan became for him to catch every day at AAA instead. They went out and signed two veteran catchers to 1-year deals in order to fill the gap. But when those folks were injured to start the season, our major league catcher was ... Jesus Flores! Now, both guys are injured again, and our catcher, again, is Flores. It's fine. No, it's more than fine. It's good. It's the beginning of something great.

(And yes I'm a plan apologist. They pay me well though.)

Posted by: Bob L. Head | May 9, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

But N@sfan even if you don't dig my analogy, it seems like you got my point in talking about learning how to study. When a player is overmatched physically he struggles physically to keep up, and so he isn't able to master the little things and how to play the game the right way--how to handle the grind of a season, how to handle slumps, etc. Even as he matures and his physical skills catch up to the level he's at, he is still missing those little things he should have picked up and learned playing in the minors.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | May 9, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

J-J,

I don't think the Soriano example really applies. The issue isn't whether or not guys get thrown out at home *at all* - indeed, I think I'd say that if Tolman never got anybody thrown out at home that I'd be just as critical as I am now because it would mean that he's not being aggressive enough. The issue is being smartly aggressive. If you think Soriano's got a noodle-arm, and you run on him to test him, and he proves you wrong, that's a smartly aggressive play. If you test him again and again, and every time he proves you wrong, that's Tolman.

Posted by: Ryan Dylan | May 9, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse

thx, ryan, makes sense.

Posted by: Juan-John | May 9, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

So if this is the start of something great (I hope you're right), then why did it make sense to spend 6 mil on stopgaps? Especially when we're so desperate for competent innings eaters that Manny's basically scheduling Ayala's next TJ for something next month...

If playing Flores every day for 2 months makes sense, then signing LoDuca and Estrada didn't. They can't BOTH be smart moves.

Posted by: @Bob | May 9, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse

SF Fan, it's not tolman's overall numbers that i'm worried about. it's possible those aren't all that far off of the league norm. but sometimes you have to trust your eyes over the stats. numbers can lie. my eyes tell me that, at least sometimes, when tolman makes a mistake, it's not just a little mistake, it's a doozy (a la WMP recently).

as has been said before, if he gets a bunch of people called out on close plays, i won't hate on him for those. that's just being aggressive and i have no problem with that.

what i *will* hate on him for is the egregious mistakes, where the catcher has the ball long before the runner gets to the plate and it's not a "bang-bang" play, just a bad decision all around. those kinds of mistakes need to be uncommon. and right now, they're all-too-common.

Posted by: 231 | May 9, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Remember, his failures stick in our minds, but his successes does not. We may be jumping to conclusions here.

Posted by: SF Fan | May 9, 2008 12:24 PM
-----
that's because he's being held to an unreachable standard - anything less than 100% is a failure. Next up, let's excoriate the Meteorology profession...

Posted by: N@sfan | May 9, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

My song "Brick" just came on the old XM. This is the perfect background music for Nats talk.

Posted by: Ben Folds | May 9, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

CiL - yep.

Posted by: N@sfan | May 9, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

actually, i remember some of his successes, too. the key is understanding which failures are reasonable and which ones aren't. like i said, it's not reasonable to expect every player he sends to make it home safe. it *is* reasonable to expect that the vast majority at least have a chance to make it.

Posted by: 231 | May 9, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

@Bob --

If my eternally optimistic spin is right and Flores ends up Pipping Lo Duca and Estrada then yes, in retrospect, signing them will have proven unnecessary. But we didn't know that neither of them were going to be able to play. There was nothing wrong with signing league-average vets to hold the fort while Flores developed for a year in the minors. And there is also nothing wrong with calling up Flores to start in the majors when your two MLB catchers go on the DL. SF Fan had it right above -- if he is lights-out, it's great, and if he hits .215, it's still fine and you say thanks, go work on some stuff in Columbus and we'll see you again next year.

Posted by: Bob L. Head | May 9, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

OK then you're just saying that this wasn't the plan, but we might luck out anyway. Maybe you're right, but hardly something that instills confidence in our leaders' ability to create a winning strategy. Seems more like Bill "let's just try a bunch of things maybe something will work" Bavasi.

Posted by: @Bob | May 9, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Tonight's line-up should be;
Lop
Guz
Mil
NJ
Zim
Pena
Flores
Kearns
Redding

But it will be;
Lop
Guz
Zim
NJ
Mill
Kearns
Flores
Pena
Redding

Posted by: estuartj | May 9, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

My apologies if this was posted earlier, but there's a piece in the new issue of ESPN the mag on Elijah Dukes. Yes, we all know the story already, but it's an interesting take:
http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3382818

Also interesting is the "Behind the story":
http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3385579

Posted by: nook logan circle | May 9, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Bens Fold, are you or your other four going to catch our boys Drive By Truckers at 9:30 club this weekend?

Of course the only nexus to the NJ discussion is that it sounded like back in Spring Training that our favorite WP sports guy has DBT on his running playlist...plus I haven't commented on planet NJ since the "methinks" flameout so I thought it was about time to reenter the fray.

Posted by: MountieNatsFan | May 9, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

some1 said it earlier, when youre having discussions about a 3rd base coach, thats a problem. they are to be seen not heard and not discussed. tolman should be replaced. period.
2 runners out by miles in 2 consecutive 1 run decisions? i think not. the guy simply cant read the field.

also this whole fiasco with stumpy estrada and lapuca is sick. theres no excuse for this entire ordeal. the nats look incredibly silly in a bunch of their signings and moves now. what are they doing? and who is running the ship. where does the buck stop.

Posted by: dk | May 9, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Here's an interpretation of the way the plan was laid out at the beginning of this season:

When a catcher is what a team needs, nothing else will do. Catching is dangerous work, and those guys can go from everyday to DL in a blink.

The $6M+ on PLoD and Estrada mean that if/when someone's catcher gets hurt we can trade out a serviceable catcher for a key piece to OUR puzzle. In the meantime, we're going to make sure Flores gets 4 ABs every day, all summer long. Better at AAA than here, but he's almost ready.

So far, so good ... but then the surprise comes when the Nats are the team with two hurt catchers, not Minnesota or Cleveland or Cincinnati. So we bring Flores up now and proceed without showing any signs of worry.

The main thing that sucks about this turn of events is that we don't get anything for PLoD and Estrada (except rid of them).


On another note, it has finally stopped raining out near Dulles, so I'm optimistic that we'll get a game in tonight.

(Of course I'm optimistic! I'm a Nationals fan!)

Posted by: i hate walks | May 9, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

O. Cabrera--6
Phillips--4
Vladdy--9
Grady--8
Zimmerman--5
Nick J.--3
Bay--7
Schneider--2

Posted by: No, tonight's lineup SHOULD be | May 9, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

wait... now that zimmerman's finally starting to hit (multi hit games the past two games, 6 for his last 14, 3 of those 6 extra base hits), you want to swap him with milledge (who isn't hitting better than zimmerman, even with zim's slump)? that doesn't seem like much of a reward for starting to hit better.

Posted by: 231 | May 9, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

SoCH, shouldn't just sign your own name to that lineup? and if that wasn't you, who's channeling you?

Posted by: 231 | May 9, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

CiL: But since Flores is already on the 40-man roster, wouldn't signing a Moeller or Cota type necessitate cutting somebody else? (Not that there aren't candidates, certainly -- just trying to understand the roster implications).

--------------

I expect other teams have their Moellers and Cotas who they cut in spring training, go after one of them if need be.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | May 9, 2008 11:45 AM

Posted by: Capitol Hill | May 9, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I just skimmed through the comments section, so forgive me, but did anyone mention the stats-gut divide?

When we discuss managers we often debate those who manage by using statistics to make the right call and those who go with a feeling or hunch. It seems to me Tim Tolman is a guy who runs third base on his hunches. Not my cup of tea, but at least I'll know why he does things that statistically seem idiotic.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | May 9, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Tell the truth.

If the Nats are 7 games over .500 right now and looking like they'll be in the mix for the playoffs thru September, Capitol Punishment still exists.

Yes or no?

Posted by: @Chris | May 9, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

N@sfan - I'm not holding him to an unreachable standard.. Mistakes will be made, and I think his approach of "make them, then forget them" is not all bad. My problem is that he seems to make a lot of mistakes, and in forgetting about them, doesn't seem to learn the lessons. Like I said, sending Zimmerman up 3-1 on Kearns' short single last night was a good call. It would have been too conservative to hold him up there, but a good throw would have had him - had he gotten thrown out, it still would have been the right decision. The problem isn't that people get thrown out - it's that his decisions often put runners in a place where they are far more likely to get thrown out.

Posted by: Ryan Dylan | May 9, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

@231--Even my mom doesn't talk about me as much as you do. The topic is baseball. Stop talking about me.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | May 9, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

sheesh, can't even take a joke. maybe you should take yourself a little less seriously, SoCH.

besides, i didn't think i talked about you that much. maybe your mom doesn't really care about you enough to talk about you very much. ;)

Posted by: 231 | May 9, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Cap Hill, I believe the Nats are only carrying 38 players on their 40-man right now so they would have space.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | May 9, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Moeller, I believe, is with the Yankees. Cota, I believe, is playing for Colorado's AAA team. The only other "veteran" catchers that are available that I'm aware of are Mike Piazza, Javy Lopez and ... Robert Fick! I think I'll take my chances with Flores and Nieves for now ...

Posted by: e | May 9, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse

@231--Even my mom doesn't talk about me as much as you do. The topic is baseball. Stop talking about me.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | May 9, 2008 1:19 PM

-----

"Son, behold thy mother"

Posted by: IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDAEORUM | May 9, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

ok geeks, scoring question: last nights game:
astros runners on 2nd and 3rd 1 out. routine grounder to guzman. for some reason he looks the runner back to 2nd who isnt goin anywhere and then nonchalantly throws to first and the runner beats the throw. everyone safe.
scored a hit. and carpenter sez well thats the only way you can score it.
why?
i thought it had to be an error. theres no way you can justify not gettin the guy at first.
your thoughts?

Posted by: dk | May 9, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Robert [RF]'n Fick!

Thanks, I feel better.

Posted by: i hate walks | May 9, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse


10.12 Errors
An error is a statistic charged against a fielder whose action has assisted the team on offense, as set forth in this Rule 10.12.
(a) The official scorer shall charge an error against any fielder:
(1) whose misplay (fumble, muff or wild throw) prolongs the time at bat of a batter, prolongs the presence on the bases of a runner or permits a runner to advance one or more bases, unless, in the judgment of the official scorer, such fielder deliberately permits a foul fly to fall safe with a runner on third base before two are out in order that the runner on third shall not score after the catch;
Rule 10.12(a)(1) Comment: Slow handling of the ball that does not involve mechanical misplay shall not be construed as an error. For example, the official scorer shall not charge a fielder with an error if such fielder fields a ground ball cleanly but does not throw to first base in time to retire the batter.

Posted by: Why it's not an error | May 9, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Because it was a strong hit up the middle that Guzman would have had to zing over right away and would have been a hard throw to guarantee.

When you're at home, you get the hit. Away, it might be an E6 on the throw, though I probably still would have given the H, since errors are almost always physical, not mental.

Someone who knows the rules, are errors always for physical mistakes, or can you get one for just being a bonehead?

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | May 9, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

There you go.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | May 9, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Zimmerman has 8 hits in his last 14 at-bats, raising his average from .217 to .252 over that span. It's still early.

Posted by: Bob L. Head | May 9, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Also, dk, you're officially now known as "parasite" since you rely on the "geeks" (a term which I assume you are making an effort to be affectionate with) instead of looking it up. Consider it affectionate!

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | May 9, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

List of cognitive biases
http://tinyurl.com/4pxyse

Posted by: While I'm at it | May 9, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

And i hate walks, the radar's looking good. C'mon out to the new bar in SouthCap tonight!

Posted by: Bob L. Head | May 9, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, CiL. Should have counted. Currently, the Mets are carrying 38 players, the Braves 39, the Phillies 36 and the Marlins 40. In general, do teams leave that room on the roster in order to fill if need arises during the season, or is it primarily an economic decision (i.e. pay structure for players on the 40-man is different than for others in the system)?

Posted by: Capitol Hill | May 9, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Rule 10.12(a)(1) Comment: Slow handling of the ball that does not involve mechanical misplay shall not be construed as an error. For example, the official scorer shall not charge a fielder with an error if such fielder fields a ground ball cleanly but does not throw to first base in time to retire the batter.
Posted by: Why it's not an error | May 9, 2008 1:41 PM

bullseye. ok that explains it. thanks. though i personally disagree. failing to throw out a runner on a routine grounder without mishandling the ball is as much if not more of an error in my estimation because you really have no excuse except for personal screwup.

Posted by: dk | May 9, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Bob L. -- I'm thinkin' you're right! If it's not raining I'll be callin' balls and strikes from the beerpen (at least I think that's what they call that standing room only area with the marble tables right above the batter's eye). If you stand there long enough you'll hear me: "AWWW C'MON BLUUUUUUUE!"

If it sprinkles, I'll be hiding somewhere near a Majorca coffee stand that's open. It shouldn't be too hard to find me, since there's never more than one!


Also: did anyone notice that in his chat Barry referred to the people that Chico will have to keep informed as a "rabid constituency"? ;)

Posted by: i hate walks | May 9, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

The only finite thing in baseball is the OUT. Never, ever, give them away.

Posted by: 6th and D | May 9, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

dk, i think the reason the rule is worded that ways is to keep it simple for the scorers (and to be consistent). it's far more difficult to judge whether they made the right call mentally than it is physically. and while some might be fairly obvious, a lot of them aren't.

Posted by: 231 | May 9, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

ihw, just make sure you bring more than an t-shirt.

I caught the "constituency" reference as well, almost as good as the "without further ado" from yesterday's post. Let's hope Chico knows how to play.

Posted by: Bob L. Head | May 9, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

That's why it should have been scored a fielder's choice and not a base hit. Hit and error are not the only 2 choices the scorer has.
------------------
dk, i think the reason the rule is worded that ways is to keep it simple for the scorers (and to be consistent). it's far more difficult to judge whether they made the right call mentally than it is physically. and while some might be fairly obvious, a lot of them aren't.

Posted by: 231 | May 9, 2008 2:35 PM

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Nook@lc, thanks for pointing out the Dukes article. Interesting quote from Jimbo buried in there:

"There are people you try to help," Bowden says, watching his biggest gamble pull a ball over the leftfield fence. "But if they still go in the wrong direction and don't help you win, you cut your losses and move on."

So apparently, if they continue to go in the "wrong direction" AND they help you win, you just look the other way.

Posted by: joebleux | May 9, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

If that's the lineup, then the game would be at Olympic Stadium, right? And you'd be posting under the moniker Stephen à la colline Capitol?

Seriously, though, that's just ridiculous. Even if MLB had not assumed ownership of the team and run it into the ground, you simply cannot assume that any - let alone all - of the players in that system would still be a part of the team.

Guerrero, for example, pursued free agency. I think it stands to reason that there's a good chance he would have ended up in LA/Anaheim regardless of who was running the franchise at the time. He didn't just pick the Angels over the Expos, after all.

Oh no, I took the bait! Arrrrrrgh!

-----

O. Cabrera--6
Phillips--4
Vladdy--9
Grady--8
Zimmerman--5
Nick J.--3
Bay--7
Schneider--2


Posted by: No, tonight's lineup SHOULD be

Posted by: John in Mpls | May 9, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

4PE: How about a 5th? Both catchers got hurt and there is a game tonight so we had to call up a catcher?

Posted by: 5 Possible Explanations | May 9, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

No, Jim Bowden should have anticipated that both his catchers could go on the dl on the exact same day. He should be fired.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | May 9, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Zim has a lame blog:

http://comcastsportsnet.tv/pages/blog/zim

Posted by: Scott in Shaw | May 9, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Pena with a small conservative lead from 2nd.

Sharp single to right field.

Is the grass wet?
How much will the grass slow up the ball?
Which way is the wind blowing and how hard?
Did Pena get a good jump?
Is his abdomen still hurt?
Is Pena confident?
Does he handle pressure situations well?
Does Pena take a wide turn rounding 3rd?
Are the basepaths slow or wet or loose for slow running?
Did Wiley Mo stay up late last night?
Did the right fielder get a good break on the ball?
From the video tapes I studied on the right fielder can he throw? Has he been hurt? Is he a proven clutch thrower?
How bad do we need this run?
Whats the score? How many outs? Will the other team bring in its shutdown closer and will this is our last real chance to score?
What will Manny think if Pena gets in?
What will the other coaches think of me?
What will National Journal think of me?
Will I still have a job?

SEND HIM

SAAAAAAAAfe AT HOME!!!


Posted by: D Brown | May 9, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Me, too. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more, say no more. :)

---

I caught the "constituency" reference as well, almost as good as the "without further ado" from yesterday's post.

Posted by: natsfan1a | May 9, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

@John--

I'm talking about what SHOULD be, not what is.

If things were the way they should be, there would be no anti-trust exemption and the Natspos would have exercised their free-market judgment years ago and moved to the DC, where there would have been more than enough revenue to resign their own free agents.

Or there'd be some kind of REAL revenue-sharing system that would allow teams to compete on something resembling a level playing field.

Or you could just not sweat the details and think that it's screwed up that small market teams can't keep their good players.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | May 9, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

well we were having kind of an interesting conversation before I stopped posting anonymously. now you're just obsessed with me again. nevermind. back to anonymity. hopefully then I can find some peolpe interested in talking about baseball, rather than obsessing over me.

Posted by: @506 | May 9, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

wait... do you want to talk baseball or antitrust exemptions?

Posted by: 231 | May 9, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I must have missed something there...

Posted by: natsfan1a | May 9, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

well we were having kind of an interesting conversation before I stopped posting anonymously. now you're just obsessed with me again. nevermind. back to anonymity. hopefully then I can find some peolpe interested in talking about baseball, rather than obsessing over me.

Posted by: @506 | May 9, 2008 3:14 PM

-----

Eh? How did I get dragged into this? Is this the ol' 506 mis-attribution curse?

I've posted 6 times today:

*Gut v. stats for Tolman
*Trying to answer dk's question (3)
*Joshing dk for calling us "geeks" while asking for our knowledge
*Snarking about firing Bowden, which is actually pretty fun

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | May 9, 2008 3:25 PM | Report abuse

"Zim has a lame blog:

http://comcastsportsnet.tv/pages/blog/zim

Posted by: Scott in Shaw"

He sure knows how to use !s (sigh)

Posted by: OldGuy | May 9, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

easy on Zim now. It takes time to get your blogging engines warmed up.

Posted by: NatsNut | May 9, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Yikes. I think someone is very, very paranoid.
____________________

well we were having kind of an interesting conversation before I stopped posting anonymously. now you're just obsessed with me again. nevermind. back to anonymity. hopefully then I can find some peolpe interested in talking about baseball, rather than obsessing over me.

Posted by: @506 | May 9, 2008 3:14 PM

Posted by: NatsNut | May 9, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

new post

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Zimm is traditionally a slower blogger coming out of Spring Training. Don't worry . . . it's early.

Posted by: lowcountry | May 9, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

"Zim has a lame blog"

Lame is putting it politely. Very politely. Polite to an extent I've never seen on NJ before.

Memo to Zim: Don't quit your day job. If Chris Needham can't hack it as a blogger, there's absolutely no hope for you.

Posted by: An Briosca Mor | May 9, 2008 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Rob M just did an interview on radio that was very telling. He said this team has a lot of talent at 5 PM during batting practice but has not been able to turn that into MLB baseball at 7PM.

This is the Jimbo Factor many have been pointing out for sometime. I recall when Barry wrote about the wonders of Spring Training BP sessions, posting that BP does not make for wins.....oh well maybe someday we will get a proven CFer.....not just a young talent that takes a good round of BP to impress the writers and his single minded GM.

Posted by: JayB | May 9, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

If Chris Needham can't hack it as a blogger, there's absolutely no hope for you.

---

Yeah, well I'd like to see him take a few hacks on the field.

Posted by: NR Zimmerman | May 9, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

sweet, if I leave now I can get there for 5pm practice ;)

Posted by: i hate walks | May 9, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

NB "attempts to put out" does not mean "looks at."
*************************
Official Rules: 2.00 Definition of Terms
....
FIELDER'S CHOICE is the act of a fielder who handles a fair grounder and, instead of throwing to first base to put out the batter-runner, **throws** [emphasis added] to another base in an attempt to put out a preceding runner. The term is also used by scorers (a) to account for the advance of the batter-runner who takes one or more extra bases when the fielder who handles his safe hit attempts to put out a preceding runner; (b) to account for the advance of a runner (other than by stolen base or error) while a fielder is attempting to put out another runner; and (c) to account for the advance of a runner made solely because of the defensive team's indifference (undefended steal).

Posted by: it's not a FC either. It's a hit, period. | May 10, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

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