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Careers going up, going down

Potomac left no doubt about this one. The P-Nats (Washington's Class A affiliate) won the Carolina League championship last night -- it's called the Mills Cup -- with an 8-2 victory against Atlanta affiliate Myrtle Beach. And with that, Potomac claimed the best-of-five series, three games to one. 1B Andrew Lefave, LF Dee Brown and 3B Stephen King each had two hits as Potomac scored runs in each of the first four innings. Starting pitcher Erik Arnesen went 6-2/3, limiting the Pelicans to two runs to get the win.

Potomac won six of its eight playoff games, claiming the first-ever full-season league title for a Nats' affiliate.

Meanwhile, another pitcher who was in Class A only two years ago, made his second big league start yesterday. And he looked strong; real strong. Manny Acta and Randy St. Claire don't normally offer such effusive reviews after such short time. Read here.

There, there's the story of somebody at the other end of his career.

Paul Lo Duca.

He actually pinch-hit last night for the Marlins, getting a hit and then getting thrown out at second trying to advance it into a double. (Elijah Dukes now has nine outfield assists, to lead the team.)

Anyway, that play was fitting, because it's somewhat symbolic of what Lo Duca is trying to do: He's trying to advance his career when, really, he's a long-shot to get where he wants. The Nationals' organization no longer sees him as somebody who can be a starting catcher, even when healthy. Lo Duca clearly feels otherwise -- and hopes to find a team for next season that will make him an everyday catcher.

Here is what Lo Duca said yesterday, before the Nats-Marlins game.

Q: This is the opportunity you wanted?

I felt like I could still catch. I understand the situation over there; I wasn't healthy the whole time I was there. They brought me in to be the catcher and then I got injured, and Jesus stepped up and did a good job and they're going with you. I understand where they're coming from. This was a chance for me to go back to catching, and I have. I really feel like I can still play every day, and hopefully that will happen some time next year.

Q: Was it tough for you to go to Albuquerque (where he was sent after signing with the Marlins?

Well, it was tough. It's always tough to take a step backward. But I knew I had to go there to get at bats and get back in shape. I didn't have a problem with it at all.

Q: What are you looking for for next season?

I want a chance to start. I haven't played much. Usually I sit down at the end of the season and don't do much, but I'm gonna get right back in the gym and get into the best shape I can and be ready. I really feel that... that's my approach. I understand some teams won't be [interested], but my job is to go out and prove them wrong in spring training.

Q: You look back on your time with the Nationals - what do you take from it?

Well, it's just, for me, and for them, and I said this before I left, I apologize. I mean, I had knee surgery, I broke my hand, and I never had a chance to show the organization and the guys there that I could play. It's just an unfortunate situation, but sometimes you have years like that. I was fortunate to catch on here, and I've played well since I've been here. It's one of those years. Every guy has one.

Q: One of the reasons you wanted to come here was the team was in the race.

The team was in the race, plus I'm familiar with a lot of the guys here. That had a little bit to do with it. I liked playing here when I was here before. That was one of the main reasons. Yeah, and we had a chance. Obviously we've lost some tough games, but we have a lot of young kids, still learning, and you're not out of it until you get the asterisks by your name. So, keep playing.

Q: Were there any times this year where you thought I'm not gonna get another opportunity?

I think you always go through that, but I'm very, very optimistic, and I know that when I'm healthy I can still play. I still feel like I can play a couple more years and play at a high level. I will prove that next year. I can promise you that.

By Chico Harlan  |  September 13, 2008; 8:48 AM ET
 
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Comments

Good for you, Paul. I hope it works out.

On the other hand, wasn't Martis spactacular? 9 strikeouts in 5 innings is one way to keep the infield errors from ruining your game. If it was not for the Nats inability to get a clutch hit he probably would have been left in for another inning. Kudos for the bullpen for showing up tonight.

Posted by: Dale | September 13, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the P-Nats item, Chico. It was a fun series (we were at both of the home games)!

The Potomac News had a couple of nice pieces:

http://www.insidenova.com/isn/sports/

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 13, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Chico,

According to the box score on milb.com and the press release on the Nats website, SS Dan Lyons, 1B Andrew Lefave, OF Dee Brown and 3B Stephen King each had 2 hits, not 3.

http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=milb&t=g_box&gid=2008_09_12_myrafa_potafa_1

Posted by: NatsFan7 | September 13, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Link to several audio clips, including Boomer's dinger below. Just before he hit it, the guy next to me was saying that (at 5'10'' and 170 lbs.) he didn't much look like a Boomer, and I concurred. After Boomer went sonic, we agreed that he'd proved us wrong...

http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080912&content_id=457593&vkey=news_milb&fext=.jsp

Posted by: natsfan1a (one of 1314) | September 13, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Nice piece in the Star as well (we did not see the victory lap - perhaps it's just as well).

http://www.fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2008/092008/09132008/410138

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 13, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Another strong outing by Martis last night,tough luck that he had no run support for the second game in a row but he has loads of upside and i can see him contributing as soon as next year hopefully "they" can't screw this up.

Posted by: Dargregmag@aol.com | September 13, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

One thing I will say for the Pelicans - they have some cute home run pups:

http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/724/gallery/395414.html

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 13, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I am starting to really dislike Acta. I used to feel he was just over matched for the job but steady steam of quotes like this one from last night is just pointing out he is clueless and has very low standards for his players....Acta says....

"It's part of the learning process," manager Manny Acta said. "The kid should've never thrown the ball. He should run to Hanley, make him commit either way, and then make the throw. For the most part, you always try to throw to the third-base side, so that if Hanley comes back, he's going to be safe on the preceding base.

"But, he's 21. He's here to learn those things."

Hello Manny.....He is the major leagues to learn what we mastered in High School and learned in Little League?

Acta has such low expectations of his players, and every sentence begins with that is what they are here to learn....our local High School charges is $3 to watch players who know what to do when you have a runner between bases frozen.....

Why am I expected to pay over $55 a ticket to watch players who know nothing about baseball, and listen to a Manager who thinks this is the right level for them to learn basic baseball?

@ Dale from last post.....Dukes blew a kiss to the Mets Dugout....that is when he should have been taken out....all the stuff 5 separate "mistakes in judgment" after than all should have never happened, is Acta had any control of the team.

Posted by: JayB | September 13, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

In Acta's defense, he has to work with what he has. I don't think that it's his decision whether or not to have developing players on the roster.

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 13, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

"Why am I expected to pay over $55 a ticket to watch players who know nothing about baseball, and listen to a Manager who thinks this is the right level for them to learn basic baseball?"

JayB, I don't think Manny Acta has any input on the setting of ticket prices. Nor is he telling you to pay over $55 for your seats when there are thousands of seats in the ballpark that cost $25 or less, with even more of those coming next year.

Posted by: maybe that's why your water was cut off - you sent your payments to PEPCO! | September 13, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

... rant rant "why am I expected" rant rant rant "players who know nothing about baseball" rant rant rant...

Well, they know that it's not All About Them as individuals.

And they know how to take it when they do screw up. Or how to stand up and apologize like a human being when they don't take it well.

Sadly, not everyone has those skills. And even more sadly, of those who do have those skills, not everyone chooses to exercise them.

Posted by: Hendo | September 13, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

JayB, don't you know that this is the blog where it's not acceptable to criticize the Nats' play? This is the blog where bonehead play is tolerated, and criticizing their play is "ranting" and it is showing a sense of entitlement to expect a major league team to actually play like major leaguers. Come on, get with the program.

Posted by: Lerners ARE Cheap | September 13, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I just wanted to pose a couple of questions based on some of Boz's comments.

From Beijing Boz argued that getting Strasburg would be a boon to the Nationals. Since then he has qualified those comments by adding that Boras is the agent and that could pose problems for the Nats. He also pointed out that the Lerners are cheap. Not in those exact words, but he suggested that it was made clear by the fact that they signed those two guys (I don't feel like going back to do the research to get their names) at the last minute with the money they could have spent on Crow. He also pointed out that Strasburg only hit 95 not 101 in the olympics.

My question is EVEN if the Nats get the first draft pick will they select Strasburg? If so will they sign him? How much will they pay? 12 mil? I doubt it and I think that could be Boras' offer.

Will they go after some international players from the DR? Japan? wherever?

Why is it that when I read about prospects from Japan I NEVER hear the Nats as potential buyers? Do we not send folks to japan? too $?

Are we going to platoon hernandez and bonifacio at second next year? (we sort of have to don't we? We don't know who will pull it out... (hernandez, bonifacio, or even gonzales)

Are the Lerners going to pony up for a major free agent? (this of course is the eternal question of CC, Sheets, Tex). Would the Lerners be willing to overpay for one of them? I personally think no even though Tex is a perfect fit.

Boz also suggested in his chat friday that Bowden hasn't had such bad deals. This is a freebe for SOCH. Some of them undoubtedly have turned out bad (FLOP). Wily mo?

I think Bowden is here next year UNLESS the Smilin Gonzalez scandal breaks him. aside from that his head won't roll. thoughts?

Speaking of wily mo... could he find his stride next year and be our left fielder? I recognize that this insults the willie harris crowd, but he is only hitting 250. (and yes an AMAZING fielder). Could Wily Mo do hit with a decent avg next year with 30+ homers? or is he done? will he play regularly next year if he heals?

or could we go for Holliday as out 3rd outfielder?

i assume we play milledge next year and hope that he continues to improve and learn to wear super duper sunglasses. If that doesn't work out do we have other options?

and nieves... do we hold on to him? or see if he has some value and see if we can get more youth? I like the guy, and think he's great.

who else is potential trade bait?

I forget if Belli's contract is up or not.
redding?
would we trade pitching prospects for a hitter?

sorry this is so long. and that I gave up on capitalization and grammar. I'm having some difficulties getting used to this new computer.

Posted by: clueless (and lazy I suppose) | September 13, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Clueless-

We still have Belli under contract, and Redding under control for another year. I can't imagine that the Nats really have anyone left to trade, so it looks like a bad year unless the team stays strngely healthy, or the Lerners shell out for a good free agent.

I was so excited last offseason that I counted the months and then days. I was excited with the trade for Milledge, and then the trade for Dukes. I am going to keep my expectations on the very low side this time, and hope to be surprised.

In the meantime, I will doubt The Plan, unless international signings can make me forget the Crow debacle.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | September 13, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I also wanted to thank the NJ community in general this season. I've been reading the comments regularly and I've learned a lot from the discussions you guys have had and the links that you have posted. I have one other question.

On MLB Trade Rumors estuartj said:

Also, the Nats don't need to worry about losing picks to compensation for signing a FA, FLA's win last night guaranteed their pick will be before #15.

uh... hence my moniker what does that mean? At what point do you not lose a draft pick for signing a top tier FA? Is there a link that explains this?

Thanks again

Posted by: clueless | September 13, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

darn it i said you guys. I meant y'all. no disrespect to the ladies particularly natsfan1a, who tried to help me with my videos. I can see them on mlb.com now i have no idea why. It might have had something to do with a recent update to firefox 3.0

Posted by: clueless | September 13, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

If you have one of the top 15 picks, you cannot lose it for signing a big free agent. I don't know how the rules stand now, whether the team losing the FA gets a "sandwich pick" after the first round, or if the Nats lose their 2nd round pick to that team.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | September 13, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

So, JayB, when in these players' development was it Manny Acta's turn to coach them? If he gets dumped w/ a bunch of idiots who don't know the fundamentals, well, they'll have to learn in the majors, won't they? Sucks, I know, but it's not Manny's fault.

Posted by: mrm0to | September 13, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

It does suck I agree.....What I would expect Manny to send the follow message his team......On the plus side he showed great pitches tonight, he has good stuff and pitched well. On the negative side he made a dumb play that cost him the game. My expectations for a player at this level are they know how to handle that situation correctly. He did not and that is troubling to me. The advice I would give to all my players is to study the game at every, because I am not impressed by talent alone. Baseball takes talent and fundamentals, work at your craft from both sides. What that play tells me is he should have been studying the game more on his off days over the past few years in professional ball.

This statement makes it clear that these players are responsible for learning the game at all levels and if you come up the MLB level and show you have not learned basic baseball fundamentals, it reflects poorly on the player. It tells them Acta as a manager takes note of that and it hurts their chances to make a team. If that was the message sent do you think Bergman would have learned to bunt before August 2008?

Posted by: JayB | September 13, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

The Nationals would lose a second round pick if they signed a type A free agent. The top pick is protected, but they still give up the next pick.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | September 13, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

@clueless--

Even I didn't think Boswell's comments in his chat were worth replying to. It's so obvious the guy hasn't watched a ballgame in months its painful.

But I don't think he said Bowden hasn't made that many bad moves. He said that there were so many injuries this year that it was impossible to evaluate Bowden, as if a) this team would have contended if healthy and b) the last 100 or so games are the only data available to evaluate Bowden's effectiveness as a GM. We were terrible even when healthy this year, and Bowden's been a failed GM for 15 years.

He also said:

So, after seeing all the enthusiasm of '05 in RFK, you shouldn't risk losing the "buzz." The Lerners and Kasten disagree. (Bowden, ironically, doesn't. He always wants to get better faster.) They think, and say, "When we win, they'll come."

This comment is so ludicrous I can't even see the point. Yeah, right. Stan and Mark want to get better slower. Bowden wants to get better faster. That's the difference between their strategies. Thanks for the insight Boz.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | September 13, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Clueless-

We still have Belli under contract, and Redding under control for another year.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | September 13, 2008 12:03 PM

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

What is Tim's salary for 2009? thanks

Posted by: Jim B | September 13, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Re: Acta: If he wants to manage a bunch of learners, last night should have been an opportunity vis-a-vis the lack of run production. After the gqme in the clubhouse, he should have thrown anything he could get his hands on and reinforced his displeasure with whatever curse words he thought appropriate. I sometime wonder at his judgment during the game.

Posted by: jburns | September 13, 2008 4:17 PM | Report abuse

JayB, why do you think that the only things Manny Acta ever says to a player are what he chooses to tell the gaggle of reporters that surrounds him for the post-game press conference? It's pretty clear if you've ever watched those press conferences on MASN that Acta doesn't have much use for them. And really, should every aspect of his managing be subject to explanation at a press conference? Does he need to call a player out in public every time a mistake is made on the field? I would think that doing that might even retard rather than help the development of young players, wouldn't you? Remember, managing a team through a long, tough season is reality, not a reality show. Don't rely on reality show style sound bytes from the press to form your impression of how anything is done off the field with this team. Did you ever notice that the quotes from Manny and the players are EXACTLY THE SAME in all press sources? This indicates that Chico et al are doing reporting by press conference, not real in-depth investigative reporting.

Posted by: so why get so spun up over it? | September 13, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

One thing that I agree with JayB on is the incredible lack of fundamentals in some of the players on the major league roster. The lack of even contact when trying to bunt, throwing to the wrong base on "hot box" situations, misplaying easy fly ball outs, not sliding right, etc. We have the second most errors in all of baseball and we don't have a Manny Ramirez type player making them. So that tells me that it is carelessness and mental drowsiness that are contributing to that total. I would have thought that a team without a real powerful lineup would have concentrated on preventing runs so as to keep the score close. This can be blamed on the coaches and they should be strident in correcting the problems, mainly because it is their job to make the team play with the correct fundamentals.

Posted by: Dale | September 13, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I do not think my suggested approach for Acta was blasting a player. It should be just calm statement of what he expects from a professional baseball player.

Yes I have seen the Acta press conference and yes it as you present it. What I can say is that what Acta says in private with players is not working over the two years he has been here. We are still getting players who can not bunt; they have no clue how to play the game. If Acta is sending a private message as you suggest it is not getting through to the minor leaguer who are going up. They can not hit cut off men, they can not call the ball, and they do not know how to hold on runners, they do not know how to work a run down. Acta has time to send your private message to the organization about what he expects. My view is what you get on TV is what he says in private....."Just try your best and learn the game the basics of Baseball 101 here in the Major Leagues.....to me that is just the wrong message to send the whole organization.

Posted by: JayB | September 13, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

"Bowden wants to get better faster. . . ."

Makes sense to me, SoCH. He's always convinced there's a magic bullet out there that can turn the team around just like that.

The hell of it, it's entirely possible that, practicing his long-failed methodology, he and Adam Dunn may just stumble into each other's arms, upping the Nats' win count and buying himself a few more years in the big chair. Sigh...

Posted by: Hendo | September 13, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Arbitration eligible in 2009: Cordero, Colome, Redding, Langerhans, Zimmerman. Whom should we tender?

Posted by: Jim B | September 13, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

JayB, Manny Acta is the manager of the major league team, not the player development coordinator for the Nationals organization. If players are coming into his dugout without the necessary fundamentals as part of their game, that's not on him. (In addition to spreading his gospel to every player coming up through the organization as you suggest, should he also do the same with players in the other 29 MLB organizations just in case the Nationals acquire any of them in trade some day?) If players start regressing in their fundamentals after they arrive, I suppose you could blame Acta for that. But I'm not aware of any player who has regressed under Acta in the long term. Nearly every player will have slumps and other mental lapses from time to time, and again you can't blame Acta for that. If players aren't learning fast enough for your taste, why do you jump so quickly to blaming the teacher for that slow progress and not blaming the player?

Posted by: surprised you can't understand this | September 13, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Harris is arbitration eligible too, isn't he?

Posted by: tender all but Colome | September 13, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I do blame the player for not learning the game after several years of professional baseball in all cases. I also blame the manager who put them in the line-up and then makes excuses for their failure to learn after at least 3 years in professional baseball. Acta only part of the problem, yes, but he could be a big part of the solution by making it very clear to those who follow in the coming years.....learn the game, be a professional and study the game now and when you get to the MLB level I will play you, if you come up the MLB level without working on your fundamentals.....you will have a problem with me and getting playing time. Simple solution....Acta should be setting the tone and participating in the solution. The quote in question about learning simple baseball 101 at the MLB level makes him part of the problem, and yes it is a big problem effecting many organizations, but if we are after excellence and I for one am, we need to lead a solution not accept the problem.

Posted by: JayB | September 13, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Who says Acta is "accepting the problem", JayB? If he sat a player down every time he makes a mental misjudgment as you advocate, pretty soon he'd have a hard time finding nine men off the 25-man roster left to take the field. Don't think that players don't know when they screw up. Don't think they aren't hearing about it from the manager and coaches. They are. But being sat down is not the only way to deliver that message. It might work for your little league team, where you just go down the street and bring in the next kid. It might work for organizations like the Red Sox, Braves, etc, that have been doing it in a common organizational way for years upon years. The Nationals are neither of those. They are a new team, still, even in their fourth year. Don't expect them to operate like your little league team or like the Red Sox.

Posted by: you may not like it, but that's the way it is | September 13, 2008 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Dick Williams, HOF'r and manager of several successful Teams indicated in an interview that when he ran his clubhouse the same way. He emphasized fundamentals. It didn't matter if it was first day in the major leagues or you've been playing for years and a superstar. All players would go thru the same drills in practice.

Why all of a sudden when you reach MLB do some players think they don't have to work on fundamentals? You have to work twice as hard to stay there in my opinion.

Posted by: CALSGR8 | September 13, 2008 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Also Chico, why wasn't the Mills Cup given some priority by the Post? I think the playoffs by a minor league team should get more attention than the middle of HS Football (page 3 of Friday's paper)!

I see articles on Wieters in full page spreads. Why not articles on the players of this NOW Championship Team of the Carolina League (HIGH A)!

The P-Nats had some fantastic hits and outstanding plays (Lyons) that will be missed by the sports media because it wasn't covered.

Congratulations P-NATS!

Posted by: CALSGR8 | September 13, 2008 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Also, the P-Nats swept the first round, meaning they won six of seven(7). Could you possibly be a little more sloppy?

Posted by: Wooden U. Lykteneau | September 14, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Glad that you were able to get mlb.com videos to work, c'less.

I second calsgr8 on the P-Nats great play and achievement - a big attaboy to them!

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 14, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

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