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A few notes...

If you are all holding your breath as the Nationals try to avoid their 10th-straight loss, here are some notes from before the game to occupy you as you clench your fists...

- The X-Rays for Jesus Flores' strained right calf were negative, but Manager Manny Acta still gave the catcher the day off. No injuries to worry about with Ryan Zimmerman and Austin Kearns. Routine days off for the back-of-the-clubhouse locker duo.

- The reason the story on this morning's Luis Ayala trade identifies Anderson Hernandez as the player to be named is because Hernandez needs to go onto waivers. The Nationals, as the worst team in baseball, will claim him and can then work out the deal. Therefore it is merely a formality.

- Hernandez can play both shortstop and second baseman. Acta said he's a natural shortstop who plays even better at second.

Unfortunately, Hernandez does not hit too well. Although he batted .301 for Class AAA New Orleans last season, he is batting .203 in New Orleans this season and .183 in his Major League career. He gives depth, defense and is a solid AAAA player to have on the roster. It is unlikely the Nationals could have obtained anything more for Ayala.

- Ayala insists he is healthy -- and General Manager Jim Bowden made the same promise -- but other factors might be contributing to his poor year. Ayala mentioned a divorce and there was also a hunting accident during the offseason.

- Expect another roster move later today. Marco Estrada will join the team from Class AAA Columbus, where he is 3-3 with a 3.58 ERA in 12 starts. Estrada will take Ayala's spot, and then the Nationals will need to adjust once Hernandez arrives.

Back to the game, which the Nationals are keeping close. Could the losing streak end before it reaches double digits?

-- Zach Berman

By Chico Harlan  |  August 17, 2008; 3:08 PM ET
 
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Next: Off day

Comments

wouldn't it be poetic justice if crow is drafted by some pitching-poor team like cincinnati, houston, philadelphia, or texas that plays in a bandbox and regularly gets his brains beaten out? that would be sweet.

Posted by: natsscribe | August 17, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

That "God Bless America" was AWESOME

Posted by: res21 | August 17, 2008 3:55 PM | Report abuse

@res21: Agreed!! Give that kid a contract.

Posted by: BIM | August 17, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I want one of those "DC" logo jerseys that guy was wearing while wailing "God Bless America." That's the only one I've ever seen that's my size!

Posted by: leetee1955 | August 17, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

@leetee: carryover from last string - I hope (for his sake) that Crow isn't couching an injury, but based on the reported (to date) negotiating strategy by the agents of record, it does raise the question.

Posted by: BIM | August 17, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

@BIM,

I've never been a JimBow apologist, but could you imagine the ire on this board if Crow had signed a major-league contract and then was found to have a serious shoulder or arm problem? That's why I'm not to disappointed that his agents apparently steered him away from here. If he's a significant injury risk, let some other team deal with it. The Nationals have had enough of those types of problems.

Posted by: leetee1955 | August 17, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Walking away from $3.5 million is a good indication that he is not worried about injuries.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 17, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

The Lerners are smart to field a losing team for the next few seasons. Look at Florida. If you win right away, the fans expect you to always make the playoffs and will desert the team when they struggle. If you start out with a losing team for the first dozen or so years, the fans will be conditioned to accept their lot as lovable losers and will appeciate it more when the team finally makes a playoff run. Stay the course!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 17, 2008 4:17 PM | Report abuse

@leetee: Understood & agreed. It's just the histrionics, moaning, wailing & general discontent on this board that has me most concerned. Peeps - he's just one player, let's get over it & move on.

Posted by: BIM | August 17, 2008 4:17 PM | Report abuse

I would not say he is just one more player - he is a high talent high ceiling pitcher, and we don't have enough of those. Missing on him, however it happened, sets the organization back.

But it is not the end of the world and it is not the reason to fire JimBlow - as I have said before, there are many other reasons to fire him, just not this one.

Posted by: Other Marc with a C | August 17, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

got Newp Osted, so am reposting:

walt whitman's day job was as a clerk in the interior department. oddly enough, monday aug. 18th is the 143rd anniversary of his being fired in 1865 by Interior Sec'y Jas. Harlan for the sin of keeping a book of poetry on his desk.

as for not signing a draftee, yeah, the nats are sooo bad they need to change ownership and the entire front office in order to do absolutely everything perfectly or else utter disaster will become the norm and nobody will want to watch them play baseball ever. right.

Posted by: natty bumppo | August 17, 2008 4:16 PM

Posted by: natty bumppo | August 17, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

@Anonymous 4:12 p.m.

One thing that a lot of people forget is that professional sports because of the draft system restricts players from initially playing where they may want to be. If you wanted to work in Baltimore rather than in Washington for whatever reason, you would be free to pursue employment where you desire. Maybe Crow and his agents didn't want to come to Washington and the only recourse is to withhold services and gamble that the next team that selects the player is more palatable. Given what has been learned since the signing deadline that seems to be a plausible scenario. Remember, Scott Boras has held out some of his high draftees like J.D. Drew and Jason Varitek for such reasons.

Posted by: leetee1955 | August 17, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

newposted:

BIM, you did mention me in your "missive." Anyway, as I've stated, I have no problen with how they handled Crow. But if they really consider Ramirez a "first-round talent" as Bowden said, the idea that signing him was contingent on not signing Crow is completely indefensible. The issue with him was not whether the deal was fair from the Nats' perspective. The issue was only whether the Nats had the money in their "budget."

How can you defend that? Make an argument. Remember, the Nats spent around $8 million in signing draftees last year. How much more are they spending relative to some other teams when the Nats have committed to building through the draft? $2 million? $4 million (doubtful)? And how many teams are spending $20, $ 30, $40, $50, $60 million or more than the Nats on big league payroll? The point isn't that they should sign guys whatever the cost. But when they aren't signing guys at a cost they are comfortable with because it's not in the budget, that's a serious problem and shows the "Plan" is bogus.

Posted by: Lerners ARE Cheap | August 17, 2008 4:09 PM

Posted by: Lerners ARE Cheap | August 17, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Chico wouldn't Estrada take Ayala's spot on both the 40 & 25 man rosters? Duh.

Posted by: Tom | August 17, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

@natty: You overstate (even if it is toungue-in cheek), my friend. There are those on this board who would have you believe that either 1) Jim Bowden is an imcompetent boob, 2) the Lerners' are the the lowest of low, and Jim Bowden is their voice in the real world, 3) Stan Kasten is the devil incarnate, manipulating both the Lerners and Jim Bowden at his will, or 4) the entire FO is filled with money-grubbing dirtbags & sycophants, and that the on-field management of the Nationals is comprised of yes men & knuckleheads.
While from moment-to-moment that may seem true at first blush, I believe that all of these people are trying to bring the best possible product to those of us who care about the Washington Nationals.

Posted by: BIM | August 17, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

44-81 after today ... if we can win out the next 37 games we'll salvage a .500 season.

I like their chances. Who's with me?

Posted by: There Goes the Chance at a winning season | August 17, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

the nats have to win 19 more game just to avoid 100 losses.

Posted by: natsscribe | August 17, 2008 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Sheeeeeeeeeeet. The best we can hope for is to finish 19-18.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 17, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

NatBisquit @ August 17, 2008 12:36 PM:

"Once the money was clearly free, they signed the player. We don't know that the Nationals would not have signed Ramirez and Crow if Crow had come in at $3.5M. That has never been stated. In fact since both offers were on the table at the same time 11:59, you have to assume that they would have signed both."


Jim Bowden @ August 16, 6:17 PM:

"He was done at one minute 'til midnight at the end. Here was a guy that, we were holding on to that because we didn't know if we had enough money in our budget to get Ramirez. We had enough money to get Ramirez because we didn't sign Crow. So that was done right there at the end. Because, OK, the money is sitting there and he's a first-round talent."

"At the end of the day, we didn't think there were enough dollars. We wanted to save our money in case we could save Crow. That was what we were trying to do. Our scouting budget that we had to sign players - we were saving it for Crow. When he fell apart, we picked up the deal and closed it at the last minute."

Posted by: Stop making stuff up | August 17, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Couple things:

1) Re: Signing Crow - once the ML contract was off the table, couldn't the Nats have come up a bit higher than the $3.5M, since he'd be a minor league pitcher until they decided he was ready - lower risk to the Nats IMO. Comparing a minor league contract w/a larger signing bonus to a major league contract w/a smaller bonus, need to consider the value of the major league contact as well. Haven't seen anybody take that position yet.

2) Re: Crow - having been in on many contract negotiations, I find the Hendricks brothers' tactics ridiculous. I suspect a deal could have been done if they'd have made their final overpriced-but-less-than-obscene demand a couple hours earlier. Also conducting negotiations via e-mail = I don't give a snot. This should have been handled better by BOTH sides. But the big loser is Crow who will fall in the draft, loses his leverage, and spends the next year on an IL joke team where the pitching instruction (if any) is likely to be a joke.

3) Re: Lerners and cheapness - for a long time I held out and refused to drink the LAC kool aid, but this insistence on a budget is moronic at best. I read on this board - dunno if it's true - that the Nats are among the league leaders in income (if not #1), they get a new stadium handed to them on a platter, and yet we have the lowest payroll in all of MLB. Somebody tell me why that is acceptable. Why is it O.K. that small market teams like Milwaukee and St. Louis are outspending us by a significant number while they are operating on less income. By all indications the Lerners don't know jack about owning and operating a MLB team and we are seeing the results of their inexperience - although Kasten should be advising them better.

4) re: Bowden - not a huge fan here, but blaming him for decisions made prior to "The Plan" is lame IMO. Before Lerners bought the team, Bowden's boss was MLB and I'm pretty sure he was following orders to put the best team on the field he could even if it meant trading away young talent. Why? A better performing team would fetch a better price and benefit all the other owners. So the damage done the first couple years is as much Selig's fault (if not more) than Bowden's.

Mainly a lurker here, but I've had some thoughts bottled up and ranting in print form is good therapy for me.

PS Love all the baseball insights here - I've learned a lot.

PPS Front office really does need to get its act together and soon, before it's too late. Nobody wants to pay Bentley prices to drive a Yugo.

Posted by: Desert Nat | August 17, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Jim Bowden has said from the start if we dont sign the first round pick we well sign a international free agent i would really like to see if they sign anyone good cause if they dont they are begging to look like a low class organization that should have stayed in montreal. any thoughts

Posted by: j-dog | August 17, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Crowwas not obligated to take the Nats’ offer - be it $3.5 million, $4.4 million or whatever = just because the team drafted his negotiating rights. The Nationals only had the exclusive right until August 15 to make an offer that did not have to be accepted.

Posted by: leetee1955 | August 17, 2008 5:45 PM | Report abuse

"I read on this board - dunno if it's true "

If you read anything on this board, there's a good chance it's not true. Especially if it's not written by Chico Harlan or one of his intern alter-egos.

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 17, 2008 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Except in this instance, RKGF, it is true. Nats in Desert, see Forbes online from April 2008, their annual "business of baseball" analysis pegged the Nats' income as #1 in baseball. I am writing this from my blackberry otherwise I would give you the link here.

Posted by: Lerners ARE Cheap | August 17, 2008 7:15 PM | Report abuse

I agree re. the GBA performance. That, and my first helmet sundae, may have been the highlights of my day at the park. Adios to Ayala, one of the few remaining Expos (I think that leaves Nick Johnson and Shawn Hill?). Hope that he is able to pull it together somehow.

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 17, 2008 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for posting, Desert Nat. Now that you've broken the ice, perhaps you'll do so again!

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 17, 2008 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Desert Nat,
Good post, give us more.
We're harmless...intense but harmless.

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | August 17, 2008 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Chico, like Barry before him, seems to do his due diligence before posting, so I wouldn't worry much about credibility there, Desert Nat. But I can't vouch for the rest of us. :D

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 17, 2008 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Also, thanks to Zach for the feedings to occupy us!

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 17, 2008 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Who is Zach?

Posted by: ubi est chico? | August 17, 2008 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the claim of the Nationals having the number income in baseball...

The report showed an "operating income" of 47 million, which at first glance is impressive, however it also showed the NY Yankees to have the largest deficit. It is not clear if the figure includes the millions that the Lerners put into the new stadium as infrastructure. In fact, I believe that it said taxes, amortization and depreciation et cetera are not included. The article lists only a barebones chart with no depth of figures to judge how the money is being spent or where the sources of revenues are from. I believe that the devil lies in the details so I wonder about brandishing a battleflag depicting the Nats as the most profitable franchise when leading the "Lerners are cheap" charge.

Posted by: Dale | August 17, 2008 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Would have posted once earlier today, but for some reason my one comment was referred to the Board moderator (?). Never happened before.

LAC - liked how you picked up the Ramirez would have blown the budget point, which is the real story in the JimBo 3700 interview. Budgets are budgets, true, but a building team focused on value would not invoke a signing budget if it meant leaving value on the table.

You recall that the Lerners have said they will not take a dime out of this team for the first ten years. I wonder if there is a corollary at work - they will fund the team internally over the next ten years. The Forbes estimate of operating profit I think was around $50 million, which is also fairly close to the amount the Lerners kicked in for stadium extras. For accounting purposes, that isn't really an operating expense, but for cash flow purposes, it is money out the door this year. I wonder if the Lerners said to Stan, "Spend the money as you see fit, but we are not kicking in more money. If building stadium extras makes sense, do it, but it comes out of payroll or other expenses." Pure speculation, but flimsier conspiracy theories flourish on WaPo political boards.

I'm not really in the LAC camp. I have said before that, by at least a couple of measures, the Nats aren't particularly cheap in terms of their overall budget. First, I've mentioned before Eric Van's post on SoSH and a Hardball Times (may have been BP) article that shows a correlation between team spending and years in town. Teams new to towns tend to have lower budgets. Second, when the Republic of LernerStan received independence from MLB, the state of the franchise was a disaster. Blame it on the previous rulers. If you follow the growth in budgets for similarly positioned teams like Detroit, Milwaukee, etc... the Nats are in line with a similar stage in the building cycle.

I still believe the proof of cheapness will not be clear until they start letting home developed stars walk (or dump them) in lieu of signing them. If Face of Franchise (#11 - FoF) ends up being dumped or vilified, then we might have some evidence. By the way, retaining Chad when his value was questionable in 2006 - 07 was evidence more of JayB's or SoCH's point, not the cheapness point.

Posted by: PTBNL | August 17, 2008 8:17 PM | Report abuse

A little lost here. I've been one of the biggest optimists on this blog,even stuck up for Bowden. But I, from the word go, was against the signing of Loduca at 5 million dollars. I always wanted Flores to start. Now they've failed to sign Crowe, (yeah, I know there seems to be a lot of arrogance involved, not to mention egos), and -the minor leagues, that produced so well for half a season are doing very poorly (except the Gulf Nats). There's no offense anywhere, not one player to get excited about.
Call me just plain discouraged.

Posted by: Jeeves | August 17, 2008 8:19 PM | Report abuse

"Except in this instance, RKGF, it is true. Nats in Desert, see Forbes online from April 2008, their annual "business of baseball" analysis pegged the Nats' income as #1 in baseball."

Ah yes, LAC, the Forbes article. As Bob Carpenter might say, how true is THAT one? Forbes made a guess at the operating income of MLB teams. A GUESS. They have no hard data behind it. Aside from the other valid point that operating income is an accounting concept that does not equate to profit, if Forbes makes a guess as to YOUR operating income some year, are you going to be willing to pay taxes to the IRS based on that? Or are you too cheap?

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 17, 2008 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Just how bad are the Nationals after 125 games at 44-81? That is by far the fewest wins of any Washington team in the expansion era. The previous low was 46-79 by the expansion Senators in both 1962 and 1963. Those teams were on the way to 61-101 and 56-106 records respectively. The previously worst Nationals team after 125 games had a 54-71 record in 2006 on the way to a 71-91 record. The winningest expansion-era Washington team after 125 games, not surprisingly, was the 2005 Nationals at 65-60 on the way to an 81-81 record. The best mark by an American League expansion team was 63-62 in 1969 en route to an 86-76 finish. Two other expansion Senators teams - 1967 and 1970 - were 60-65 at the 125-game mark. The 1967 squad finished 76-85 and the 1970 Senators ended up at 70-92.

Posted by: leetee1955 | August 17, 2008 8:30 PM | Report abuse

...more Nats stats.

The fewest games an expansion Washington team has won after the 125-game mark is ten - tied by the 1963 and 1970 Senators. The 1961 expansionistas went 11-25 en route to a 61-100 record. The Nationals were remarkably consistent following the 125-game mark in the team's first three years with 16, 17 and 17 wins from 2005 to 2007. If the current team manages to win 17 more games the season-ending record would be 61-101.

Posted by: leetee1955 | August 17, 2008 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Oh come on, RKGF, this is Forbes Magazine you're talking about, not some amateur blog. They have journalistic standards to adhere to and methods to follow that they have developed over decades of covering business. They performed an educated analysis based on all the data that they had at their disposal for *every team*. Can we be assured that it is 100% accurate? No, of course not. But that is the case for every other team also--the same variables were at issue for every other team, and it measured operating income for every other team. And somehow, the Nats came out as no. 1. So you really want to dismiss the fact that the Nats came out as #1 as meaningless? Hey, maybe they are actually only #5--still significant. In any case, you can only dismiss so much for so long before you are just denying reality.

Posted by: Lerners ARE Cheap | August 17, 2008 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Thought this was a great post:

http://farmauthority.dcsportsnet.com/2008/08/17/the-bigger-picture/

Posted by: great post | August 17, 2008 9:28 PM | Report abuse

@LAC,

What would you expect from him?

Posted by: RKGF + ABM | August 17, 2008 9:31 PM | Report abuse

The entire team will be speaking Spanish in about two years.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 17, 2008 9:31 PM | Report abuse

"They performed an educated analysis based on all the data that they had at their disposal for *every team*."

An educated analysis is the same thing as a guess. What data did they have? They don't say. You know that old saying "Garbage in, garbage out"? Guess what, it's true. So their story is interesting, I'll grant you that. But is it telling? Hardly. It's at most one small data point on the much larger "Lerners are cheap" question.

And another thing. You seem to think that it's a bad thing that Bowden was operating under a budget during the draft signing process. Not so. Back in the day when Edward Bennett Williams owned the Redskins, he very famously said of his head coach/GM George Allen "I gave him an unlimited budget, and he exceeded it." Two points lie in that statement that you are totally missing. (1) All sports teams, indeed all businesses, have budgets whereby they plan their yearly spending in different areas. It's how non-meddlesome, non-micromanaging owners let their professional staff run their businesses. Here's your budget, now go do your job. If you need a change, let me know. Which leads directly to (2) A budget is a plan, not a hard spending cap. Budgeted numbers can change at any time during the operating year based on unplanned-for needs. A change just requires approval of the higher-ups. So there's absolutely no reason to believe that if Bowden was faced with the need to sign both Crow and Ramirez for over-slot money he couldn't have called Mark Lerner to get approval to do that. And approval might well have been granted. We'll never know, though, because the obstinancy of Crow's agent prevented the situation from ever arising.

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 17, 2008 9:33 PM | Report abuse

The entire team will be speaking Spanish in about two years.

Posted by: your point would be? | August 17, 2008 9:43 PM | Report abuse

What is the better goal - to win 81 in 2008/2009 or to win the Division by 2010? If a major league GM thinks it is more important to win 81 each year then he will very likely succeed. You can buy 81 wins most years by spending on veteran free agents and trading away prospects for veterans. But if you think it is more important to win the division in the third year (and/or fourth, and fifth) then you may sacrifice short term pain for long term gain. More than this, you might even have to risk being fired, called names, and ruining your own reputation if success does not come soon enough.

In 2005 MLB gave Bowden some money and said go spend it on free agents so the new DC team would be interesting on the field. He did that and he was successful. He did it again in 2006. Then the new owners were selected and they said go develop a team according to a plan that will emphasize building a farm system, minimize free agent spending, accelerate the development of prospects, and only after building a foundation start spending more liberally on free agents. Bowden then went out and did that.

For their part the Lerners risked their reputation and despite being warned that people would call them cheap, they have (to date) followed the plan. And, people have called them cheap. This despite clear investment in stadium and player development.

Togehter the Lerners, Kasten, and Bowden put a manager in place who they hoped would not panic, would teach, and would establish a professional tone. Manny Acta has done his part.

I cannot recall a team that has ever started with less and built more in less time. Remember the Mariners, Blue Jays, Devil Rays, Marlins, Rockies, and DiamondBacks all had the benefit of major and minor league drafts to stock their expansion systems with players. The Nationals arguably had less coming from Montreal than any of those teams. But not even those teams were successful in 4 years (since 2005) and certainly not in 2 years (the Lerners came on board in mid 2006).

It takes time. More time. If the Nationals are competitive in 2009 and make the playoffs in 2010, they would have accomplished something none of those expansion teams ever did.

Posted by: NatBisquit | August 17, 2008 9:47 PM | Report abuse

RKGF, if you just want to disregard what Forbes Magazine has to say as "garbage," go ahead. I think you come out looking pretty foolish on that one.

On the budget issue and Ramirez, go look at what Bowden said. He absolutely said that he didn't have the money to sign both Ramirez and Crow. That is indisputable. He said he had to wait until Crow fell through to sign Ramirez. So we absolutely do know the answer to the question you pose--he could not have signed both.

So at least one thing about your post is true--you are definitely proving true your own warning not to believe the "facts" that people read on this blog. But by all means, keep ignoring reality if that's what floats your boat.

On the budget, the issue isn't that they need to have a budget--the issue is how much the budget is. The team justifies its paltry MLB payroll--tens of millions less than other teams--with the claim that they need to build the farm first. But on that front, they spent about $5 million on signings, and they're not outspending other teams by a long shot--and go take a look at NFA if you want more info on that. If they're really committed to player development, the budget would not have been an obstacle to them signing Ramirez at a price they agreed was fair. They are trying to implement "The Plan" on the cheap.

Posted by: Lerners ARE Cheap | August 17, 2008 10:20 PM | Report abuse

"RKGF, if you just want to disregard what Forbes Magazine has to say as "garbage," go ahead. I think you come out looking pretty foolish on that one."

By garbage in, garbage out I mean that their conclusion is only as good as the data they used to derive it. We don't know what data they used, because they didn't tell us. We do know that they didn't have access to the books of all MLB teams, though. So, not knowing what data their conclusion is based on, their conclusion has to be suspect. It may or may not be on the mark. We don't know. Certainly we do know it has as good a likelihood of being wrong as it does of being right.

"On the budget issue and Ramirez, go look at what Bowden said. He absolutely said that he didn't have the money to sign both Ramirez and Crow. That is indisputable. He said he had to wait until Crow fell through to sign Ramirez. So we absolutely do know the answer to the question you pose--he could not have signed both."

I see him saying that he doesn't have the money in his budget to sign both. I don't see him saying he couldn't ask for an increase in his budget to sign both of them. Why didn't he do that? Well, as I pointed out, he never needed to, because Crow's agent's refusing to negotiate never forced his hand. Sounds to me like he basically had Ramirez's agent on hold as he waited to find out what Crow would do. Mark Lerner was just a phone call away, and I doubt he would have dilly-dallied over a decision if Bowden had asked at the last minute to spend more than his budget allowed. But his first question would surely have been "How much more do you want to spend?" and Bowden couldn't have answered that until he'd reached a deal with Crow. So why ask Lerner for a budget increase if you don't even know how much you need? The question could have been asked and answered right at the deadline, but it wasn't because it didn't need to be.

Look, you obviously believe the Lerners are cheap. You've put it in your screen name. Nothing that happens or nothing that anyone says will change your mind. You've got blinders on. But that doesn't mean you're right.

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 17, 2008 10:42 PM | Report abuse

This winter is shaping up to be the watershed for this club in terms of demonstrating which road it is willing to travel to get to the goal of winning teams.
I think that not signing Crow has forced their hand to sign a top tier free agent for next year or risk alienating a lot of people who have been steadfast so far. I sense that people do not have the patience to see how next June's draft turns out. With the new stadium and decent crowds bringing in a boost in revenues for this year they should easily be able to increase their budget by tens of millions. The increase in the draft budget alone will likely be at least 12 million higher due to the two top picks. If they do sign one good free agent and both high picks next year that will buy a couple more years of grace. Indeed, the optimist in me is saying that the young players will all improve next year and that this rash of injuries is not am ever- repeating event. Time will tell.

Posted by: Dale | August 17, 2008 11:04 PM | Report abuse

"I see him saying that he doesn't have the money in his budget to sign both. I don't see him saying he couldn't ask for an increase in his budget to sign both of them. Why didn't he do that? Well, as I pointed out, he never needed to, because Crow's agent's refusing to negotiate never forced his hand. Sounds to me like he basically had Ramirez's agent on hold as he waited to find out what Crow would do."

RKGF, you can't spin this. Bowden wanted to sign Ramirez. If he could have asked for a budget increase to sign Ramirez, he would have gotten the budget increase and signed Ramirez before 11:59 when Crow fell through. Here is what Bowden said that makes this clear:

"Here was a guy that, we were holding on to that because we didn't know if we had enough money in our budget to get Ramirez. We had enough money to get Ramirez because we didn't sign Crow."
"We wanted to save our money in case we could save Crow. That was what we were trying to do. Our scouting budget that we had to sign players - we were saving it for Crow. When he fell apart, we picked up the deal and closed it at the last minute."


"Look, you obviously believe the Lerners are cheap. You've put it in your screen name. Nothing that happens or nothing that anyone says will change your mind. You've got blinders on. But that doesn't mean you're right."

You really think I want to be right about the Lerners being cheap? Hardly. I put it in my screen name as a joke because some people around here were making ridiculous comments (IMO) about the Lerners' commitment to the Plan, it stuck and I've enjoyed posting here on many issues. Maybe I should change my screen name like you did, huh? Anyway, I am a season ticket holder and spend thousands of dollars on this team and am fully committed to it as a fan. What about you? The last thing I want is for the Lerners to be cheap and fail to turn this organization into a winner. But facts are facts. I can't deny or ignore them, and I'm not going to let the Lerners try to skate by when they are selling snake oil to DC with their "Plan." You, on the other hand, seem to be fully committed to ignoring and spinning the facts and supporting the team's owners at every turn, no matter what happens. Why is that?

Posted by: Lerners ARE Cheap | August 17, 2008 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Why are you even a fan if you hate them so much?

Posted by: re: Lerners are Cheap | August 17, 2008 11:16 PM | Report abuse

It really isn't complicated. Thankfully, the owners don't play the games. And anyway, the owners can always figure things out and turn things around. Yom Kippur is only a couple months away.
___________________

Why are you even a fan if you hate them so much?

Posted by: re: Lerners are Cheap | August 17, 2008 11:16 PM

Posted by: Lerners ARE Cheap | August 17, 2008 11:24 PM | Report abuse

RKGF - While Forbes didn't have all the data, I'm willing to bet their figures were close enough (I haven't read the article) to at least place the Nats in the top third, middle third, or bottom third of baseball and do it fairly accurately.

What we *DO* know is that they have the lowest payroll in all of baseball.

What we ALSO know is that Lerner promised to plow all the profits back into the team. So, although the Hendricks were total jagoffs in their negotiations, the Nats *should* have signed him for the $4.4M especially since Crow backed off of the major league contract. The fact that there was a hard budget cap ("We waited to see what Crow would do before signing Ramirez") is total crap for a team allegedly committed to rebuilding.

I'm following the team from here in AZ (being a transplanted Washingtonian who remembers the heartbreak of the Senators being moved to Texas) so I could give a Nat's ass what Lerner spent on the stadium improvements. Personally, Clint, Screech, Racing Presidents, and video games have sod-al to do with the product on the field.

Very good rant on NFA about what should have been spent.

Posted by: Desert Nat | August 17, 2008 11:26 PM | Report abuse

If we were going to pick up Hernandez, I wish we wouldn't have traded a good young arm in Johnny Nunez for Alberto Gonzales. Getting something for Ayala is remarkable though. Maybe if we acquire all middle infielders then teams will have to trade with us when they need one.

Posted by: doh | August 17, 2008 11:39 PM | Report abuse

"You really think I want to be right about the Lerners being cheap? Hardly. I put it in my screen name as a joke because some people around here were making ridiculous comments (IMO) about the Lerners' commitment to the Plan, it stuck and I've enjoyed posting here on many issues. Maybe I should change my screen name like you did, huh?"

Screen names are barely worth the characters they're typed with in terms of identifying who a poster is. Who cares how many screen names anyone uses anyway? Comments and opinions should stand on their face value, not on who says them. I mean we're all just blowhards here anyway, aren't we? No one can be assumed to be an authority on anything unless they identify themselves irrefutably as that person, and hello, no one does that in the blogosphere, except for Chico Harlan, Screech's Best Friend, Chris Needham and a few others. Who are you? As far as I can tell, you're someone who thinks the Lerners are cheap, because you say so every time you post here.

"Anyway, I am a season ticket holder and spend thousands of dollars on this team and am fully committed to it as a fan. What about you?"

I am also a season ticket holder, and spend money like a crazed fanboy.

"The last thing I want is for the Lerners to be cheap and fail to turn this organization into a winner. But facts are facts. I can't deny or ignore them, and I'm not going to let the Lerners try to skate by when they are selling snake oil to DC with their "Plan." You, on the other hand, seem to be fully committed to ignoring and spinning the facts and supporting the team's owners at every turn, no matter what happens. Why is that?"

I don't see myself as either supporting or not supporting the owners in an overall sense. I'm willing to look at what they do on a case by case basis and let my opinion evolve over time. There are decisions they have made over the past two years that I don't like, and others that I do like. But the so-called Plan they are following (and keep in mind, the whole "The Plan" thing is totally a creation of the press, as the team has never spelled out any of these promises you accuse them of breaking) is a long-term thing. Two seasons is too short a time to declare success or failure on it. I don't like watching losses any more than you do, but I will say this: It sure beats not having a team here at all for 34 years.

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 17, 2008 11:39 PM | Report abuse

I think the Nats strategy of building through the farm system is a good one. But you have to give us better free agents than Lo Duca, Estrada, Machowiak, Boone, etc. We need something to root for before the kids make an impact. This year has really been a major step back from a fan's perspective.

Crow is just another problem in a bad year. Bring on 09 season

Posted by: methinks | August 17, 2008 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Are you related to Peter Angelos?

Posted by: re: Lerners are Cheap | August 17, 2008 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Amazingly, all these screennames actually spell the same thing: Assho1e

Posted by: re: RKGF/419+1/ABM | August 18, 2008 12:09 AM | Report abuse

It takes time. More time. If the Nationals are competitive in 2009 and make the playoffs in 2010, they would have accomplished something none of those expansion teams ever did.


This might be the funniest thing I've ever seen on this or any website. Right up there with discussions on which top tier free agents we will sign.

Posted by: Rick.Felt | August 18, 2008 12:14 AM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it be better for Crow to pitch again in college rather than for the Independent League?

I wonder if Aaron Crow is wondering why the hell he is now pitching for the Fort Worth Cats.

Sounds like a bad negotiating ploy gone wrong. I hope he gets shelled

Posted by: Question about independent league | August 18, 2008 12:24 AM | Report abuse

I don't care what anyone says. There is no excuse for this team at this time for failing to sign ANY top picks. None. They HAD to get it done. They didn't. End of story.

Posted by: Bob L. Head | August 18, 2008 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Even if the player doesn't want to be here? or is unreasonable in his requests? or won't seriously start negotiating until the final 15 minutes?

He never wanted to be here.

Posted by: re: Bob L. Head | August 18, 2008 12:48 AM | Report abuse

RKGF @ August 17, 2008 11:39 PM:

"But the so-called Plan they are following (and keep in mind, the whole "The Plan" thing is totally a creation of the press, as the team has never spelled out any of these promises you accuse them of breaking) ..."


Mark Lerner @ Jan. 25, 2007:

"People will get tired of hearing about 'The Plan,' but it's the truth," Mark Lerner, Ted's son and one of the club's principal owners, said in an interview. "We know we'll get little hits from people who are a little impatient. But we're very enthusiastic. . . . We're not going in [to this season] with a negative attitude. It's quite the opposite."

Posted by: Stop making stuff up | August 18, 2008 1:01 AM | Report abuse

Congratulations, Marco! Welcome to the Big Show!

For those interested in the differences/nuances between major league & minor league deals for draft picks, here is a pretty informative article from Keith Law:

http://tinyurl.com/33u5dy


Anyone catch Holden Kushner's draft signing day wrapup on XM? Pretty enlightening, especially in relation to Bowden's comments.

Kushner interviewed Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus right after the deadline. Kevin basically said the agents he spoke to over the summer view the Nats front office as difficult and confusing to deal with. He stated difficult front offices arent really a huge issue, because many offices are difficult to work with but they get things done. But, immediately after the draft in April, the Nats approached all the agents/advisors for the picks they selected and told them the Nats werent paying over slot. Some players signed within a week, as they generally do. As negotiations progressed over the course of the summer, the agents ended up dealing with multiple members of the Nats organization sometimes with conflicting positions. No specifics were cited, just generalizations based on conversations with agents.

I wonder if there was a change in drafting or negotiating philosophy this year. While Hood signed in mid July, Nieto, Hicks & Espinosa all sign above slot deals less than a week before the deadline...and Crow doesnt sign.

Last year, Detwiler, Burgess, Smolinski, Souza, Norris, Meyers and Zimmermann signed relatively quick. Only Smoker and McGeary were late, above slot deals. Plus the guys that did sign in 2006, except for King & Gibson, signed really early. I realize overslot deals are generally announced late. That very well could be the reason. I just find it interesting the Nats ended up drafting players in rounds 1-5 that would only sign above slot/announced late deals, thereby eliminating any chance for meaningful minor league instruction in 2008. Seems to run counter to previous drafts, even under MLB ownership.

FWIW, Kushner thinks missing out on Crow was the final straw for Bowden.

Posted by: Los Doce Ocho | August 18, 2008 1:15 AM | Report abuse

For the reporter: How do they determine the draft budget?

I'm willing to bet that the Nats determine their draft budget this way (though this is a complete guess).
1) Add up all of the slot values
2) Add to this amount some percentage (10%, 20%?)
Keep in mind that the team won't sign all of their draft picks. Some are "unsignable", a few will get injured or the team will find out other things they don't like (liable to get injured, substance abuse, jerk, etc.) and don't want to sign. Also, there are only so many minor league spots, so if the team signs too many players, they will end up cutting some of them. So the sum of the slot value will be higher than the sum of the slot value of who they will sign. But its clear that the team is willing to spend a bit over slot on plenty of players.

But its a draft. It's a crap shoot. Take a look at any first round draft and look at how many players fail to make it (or furthermore live up to expectations). Is it really wise to invest a lot of resource in one prospect as oppose to investing in multiple options?

It's a business. There has to be accountability for expenditure. The cost in failing to sign Crow is negligible from a long term prospective. Its about talent from the instructional league through the majors.
You get 25 player in the major league. An organization needs to produce 2-3 major leaguers each year (If 2 a year, they need to last for ~12 years each, 3 a year, ~8 years each).
I think that the Nationals are getting close to producing 2-3 solid major leaguers a year. Agree?

Posted by: Sactown | August 18, 2008 2:35 AM | Report abuse

Why? What would be different today if they HAD gotten it done? Is this some tipping point, some point of no return? And if it is, how can you make that judgment only 48 hours after it happened?

Posted by: just curious | August 18, 2008 7:39 AM | Report abuse

@Sactown - I agree in general with your goal of producing 2-3 solid major leaguers per year but the Nationals have a larger issue than that. There farm system still has too many minor league free agents and guys too old or experienced for their level. When their low-A team in Hagerstown is starting 24 or 25 year olds, it's an indicator that they still need to work on the depth of the organization.

A team with a healthy farm system can view the draft as you suggested, but the Nationals are not a healthy farm system ... yet.

I know Baseball America ranked them as #9 this past offseason. Their top level talent has improved (whether it's top 10 or not is debatable). But they are still behind the curve when comes to assembling a true pipeline in the minor leagues.

Posted by: Brian | August 18, 2008 7:47 AM | Report abuse

The whole Crow situation smelled fishy from the beginning. One player, even a top tier, is not going to make that much difference later on. The thing with the farm system is that it's kind of a crapshoot. You can look for talent, performance and personal make- up but in the end we really don't know if anyone will develop or stay healthy. Same with the minors right now.I am hearing complaints about noone standing out - but they are in the minors to learn - a process that takes a long time. We don't know exactly which ones will "click" or fall by the wayside. God bless the minor league coaches - tough job. And how many bottles of tums does it take Manny and St. Clair to get through a game at this point?

Posted by: masnstinks | August 18, 2008 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Mark Lerner @ Jan. 25, 2007:

"People will get tired of hearing about 'The Plan,' but it's the truth," Mark Lerner, Ted's son and one of the club's principal owners, said in an interview. "We know we'll get little hits from people who are a little impatient. But we're very enthusiastic. . . . We're not going in [to this season] with a negative attitude. It's quite the opposite."

Did Mark Lerner actually direct the reporter to capitalize and put the quotation marks around 'The Plan'? Or did he just say this: "People will get tired of hearing about the plan, but it's the truth." Because there's a big difference, you know. Of course the Lerners have a plan. They'd be foolish if they didn't. But whatever their plan is, they've only revealed it to the public in snippets. They've never published a "Contract With America" or a Unabomber Manifesto laying it all out for us. (Or if they have, it has somehow gotten lost in the flood of other e-mails and mailings I constantly get from the team. Did you know they have T-Shirt Tuesdays, Friday Fireworks and Saturday Movies, and kids can run the bases on Sundays?) There is no list of "promises" out there that they are cynically breaking, one by one. The Plan, capital T, capital P, is entirely a creation of the press. It's the press's reading of the tea leaves, nothing more. Yet many people look at it as if the Lerners published a plan and are now deviating from it. There you go - that's the power of the press.

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 18, 2008 7:57 AM | Report abuse

And if they'd signed Crow, that all of a sudden puts them ahead of the curve? Care to explain? After all, didn't they sign an overwhelming majority of their picks this year? What's the REAL problem in your mind, that they failed to sign one or two picks, or that the picks they did sign are substandard?

Posted by: just curious | August 18, 2008 8:01 AM | Report abuse

"I know Baseball America ranked them as #9 this past offseason. Their top level talent has improved (whether it's top 10 or not is debatable). But they are still behind the curve when comes to assembling a true pipeline in the minor leagues.

Posted by: Brian | August 18, 2008 7:47 AM"

And if they'd signed Crow, that all of a sudden puts them ahead of the curve? Care to explain? After all, didn't they sign an overwhelming majority of their picks this year? What's the REAL problem in your mind, that they failed to sign one or two picks, or that the picks they did sign are substandard?

Posted by: just curious | August 18, 2008 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Amazingly, all these screennames actually spell the same thing: Assho1e

Posted by: re: RKGF/419+1/ABM | August 18, 2008 12:09 AM

Posted by: So True | August 18, 2008 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Went to yesterday's game. Had a swell time, as always. Sat in the right-field bleachers, so a fair amount of action came our way. Too bad it came from the wrong team.

We were hoping that the wild applause for God Bless America was from people who were glad that it was finally over, but the comments I've seen here seem to indicate that no, people actually enjoyed it. Eesh. Bad enough that I have to listen to an Irving Berlin pop song at a ballgame, but does it really have to drag on so?

Posted by: Scooter | August 18, 2008 8:13 AM | Report abuse

"Kushner interviewed Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus right after the deadline. Kevin basically said the agents he spoke to over the summer view the Nats front office as difficult and confusing to deal with."

Well duh. It's a well known fact that Kasten hates agents, so no surprise that they'd find his organization difficult to deal with. But Patty and Selma down at the DMV hate me and are difficult for me to deal with, yet if I want to get a driver's license I've got to go through them. There's no other way. If these agents want to get their clients signed, they have no other way to do it besides dealing with the Nats FO, tough as that might be. All but Crow's agent got it done this year, didn't they? If agents blame the lack of their client's signing on having to deal with difficult front offices, isn't that the same thing as a team blaming its being shut out twice on "Well, we had to face Sabathia and Sheets back to back, and they're difficult pitchers." Why do you all accept one set of excuses and decry the other?

Posted by: just curious | August 18, 2008 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Does Ray King's Gut Feeling ever get nauseous from all the spinning he does?

Posted by: just curious | August 18, 2008 8:46 AM | Report abuse

"What's the REAL problem in your mind, that they failed to sign one or two picks, or that the picks they did sign are substandard?"

It's actually more the former if I had to pick one of those options. But in general, it's that I do not believe they budgeted enough overall for the draft. Back of the envelope estimate is roughly $5 million on bonuses. For a team that has stated it's plan is to rebuild the farm, that's too low.

Posted by: Brian | August 18, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Oops - I forgot Cordero...

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 18, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

"Back of the envelope estimate is roughly $5 million on bonuses. For a team that has stated it's plan is to rebuild the farm, that's too low.

Posted by: Brian | August 18, 2008 9:06 AM"

But if they'd coughed up only another $700,000 and signed Crow, all would have been right with the world? If they'd budgeted five times as much money and still failed to sign all their picks it would be okay because their budget was high enough? But if their budget was slot money and they still managed to sign all their picks, that would be bad because their budget was too low?

All of this posturing over draft-signing budget or size of payroll is crap. The bottom line is either the players are good or they're not. How much or how little they're paid is irrelevant. Yet all the spinners here who say that the Lerners are failing on the execution of their plan are basing their argument solely on them not spending money. No one yet has pointed out whatever the unique skill set is that is irretrievably lost to the Nats now that Crow will be employing it for the Fort Worth Cats instead. If you want to say that the Lerners are bad evaluators of talent you might have a point, but to say that the whole problem is that the Lerners aren't spending enough money just shows that you're totally missing the point.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 18, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

My opinion has little to do with them not signing Aaron Crow. It is based upon a limited budget on this year's draft and a lack of anything concrete about their work internationally in 2008.

Whether they like it or not, the Lerners made it be known they were rebuilding the farm system and that requires an investment of resources. Not just an investment in signing the players but an investment in identifying the players, evaluating the players and developing the players. So far, their track record is spotty at best.

Posted by: Brian | August 18, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

"My opinion has little to do with them not signing Aaron Crow. It is based upon a limited budget on this year's draft and a lack of anything concrete about their work internationally in 2008."

I don't really follow the international market for players, so could you enlighten me a bit on why you think the Nationals haven't done anything concrete in 2008? Obviously, they haven't signed anybody. But who has? What players from the international market that the Nationals should have signed have been signed by other teams instead? Who *is* doing concrete things in the international market?

And again, am I reading you right that you think they'd be doing things right if only their budget had been higher for draft picks, even if they still hadn't signed Crow because obviously either he or his agents had no intention of signing a realistic deal here?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 18, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

There have been quite a few international signings thus far. Michel Inoa, Yorman Rodriguez, Adis Portillo, and Alvaro Aristy just to name a few. I'm not suggesting the Nationals should have signed thse specific guys, it's more the point that they have not signed anyone (or at the very least let it be known they have signed anyone) internationally.

I am not going to get into the merits of whether Crow actually wanted to come here because neither I nor you know the true story there.

As for the higher draft budget, yes, I hoped they would have had a higher ceiling. When I read comments from Bowden that state outright that JP Ramirez was signed because they had "extra" money that wasn't going to Crow tells me their budget was not what I would have hoped/expected.

Using the numbers we know for bonuses, the Nationals spent roughly $4.5 to $5 million on draft picks. If you take Ramirez $1 million out and add in the reported $3.5 million they offered to Crow, you are still at roughly $7 million. I would have hoped they would have had enough money to sign Crow AND Ramirez.

And if they were going to use the reasoning that they had this "extra" money, why did they only have these alternative deals for just Ramirez (and Jones)? Why not have these contingencies for several other players?

Posted by: Brian | August 18, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

"And if they were going to use the reasoning that they had this "extra" money, why did they only have these alternative deals for just Ramirez (and Jones)? Why not have these contingencies for several other players?

Posted by: Brian | August 18, 2008 10:27 AM"

So you're saying that if they only chucked the "Nuts about the Nats" song and replaced it with "We Shall Overpay" (sung to the tune of "We Shall Overcome") all would be well? Going to the draft and selecting 30 players from what's available in the pool without knowing what any of them will cost is a lot like going to the grocery store and grabbing 30 things off the shelf without looking at the price. You're saying that when you get to the checkout line you wouldn't ever reject one or two of those items because once you found out what it would cost you, you realized its price was not commensurate with its value?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 18, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Where did I say overpay?

You have your agenda and that's fine.

Moving on.

Posted by: Brian | August 18, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

There are two different issues at work in this year's draft - the issue of a budget, and the issue of what to offer Crow... and I will demonstrate the fallacy of linking them with a story.

If I asked one of my kids to run to the store and get a list of items, and hand him $20, he will go to the store, and when nine of the ten items cost $6 total, he will go and find the last item for $14, no matter what it is... or in reverse, he'll grab the most expensive item first at $14, and then try to get the other nine for $6.

This is how a teenager thinks... and a version of this argument is being made about the draft. Crow was unreasonably expensive (and additionally, his agents were either incompetent, or more likely, doing their best to keep their client from playing in DC), and even with an unlimited budget, the result should have been the same. As for Ramirez, we can't know, but my guess is that despite what Jimbo said, he would have been signed at that price regardless of the outcome of the Crow negotiations.

What is probably true about the interrelationship of signing Ramirez and Crow is that once Crow fell through, there wasn't much point in a counter offer just to save $100k one way or the other. If you're that close (with Ramirez) that deal was getting done no matter what. What probably isn't true is that if Crow had signed, that Ramirez wouldn't have been signed.

Posted by: Wigi | August 18, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Smells like a new post ...

Posted by: fresh, but not like bread, more like... nevermind | August 18, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Heard that the RedSox had signed x number of players (all the top draftees) for $10 mil. Saw a questioner earlier asking what was the budget for the draft. Our budget should be greater because of need, and higher drafting order. Just an FYI

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