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John Wooden, Smiley, Odie

Right now, Manny Acta is giving his troops the official John Wooden spiel -- his speech that precedes the spring's first full-squad workout. We'd have some live blogging from the event, but attendance at this meeting is limited exclusively to only one blogger, Collin Balester, who probably isn't even wearing a press pass.

(By the way, Acta said he doesn't put too much planning into his speeches. But he does like John Wooden, who he called his favorite coach.)

"I just go into certain specifics that we need to get better and what we need to do in spring training to address that," Acta said minutes before the meeting. "And clear [up] everything that might not be clear to them, go over the team rules, and just rally the troops."

Just a few other morning notes here.

* You can read today's Smiley story here.

* I spoke yesterday with Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis about what happens now to Smiley the prospect. Just a month ago, BA ranked Smiley as the 10th-best prospect in the Washington organization. Given the new information about the player's age, Callis said, Alvarez would probably earn a ranking within the organization somewhere between No. 20 and No. 30. (BA, in its handbook, goes 30 deep with its rankings for every team.) In other words, Alvarez is a marginal prospect at best. His numbers from 2008, Callis said, "are meaningless."

* Just at the very end of the conference call yesterday, the assembled media also asked Stan Kasten about his absent pitcher, Odalis Perez, who is currently holding out in hopes of a better contract.

"Our understanding is that he has an agreement which both MLB and the union considering binding, and we think the best course would be for [Perez] to come in and honor the agreement. I've known Odie a long time, he came up with me in Atlanta and he's had a nice career for himself. I think this would be a very ill-advised and foolish way for him to conduct the next part of his career."

By Chico Harlan  |  February 19, 2009; 8:56 AM ET
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Next: Smiley: What I Saw


new posted.
We could use a good picher back for NJ, but Washburn just isn't that guy.

Posted by: estuartj | February 18, 2009 9:42 PM "

Well - the As have a surplus of starters and relievers, although they may be stretched for rotation innings a bit without Harden, Blanton, and Smith. But they have one pitcher with a really cool name (I don't mean his first name Josh). How'd you like a to here an announcement at Nats Park:

"Now pitching for the Nationals - Outman!"

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 19, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

In a conference call with the media Wednesday afternoon, team president Stan Kasten refused to speculate whether it was an inside job: "I'm not gonna say anything right now while the investigation continues … I'm gonna let all conclusions be reached; I want it pursued to the very end. The chips will fall where they may. I just want to cover everything I can possibly uncover."

It seems obvious to me that nothing will be done to Bowden or Rijo until the investigation concludes. I think Kasten wants it to be unequivocal evidence against them both before he moves since especially JB has the "ins" with one of the Lerner's. I think that situation of the Lerner "love" for JB has made the situation tenuous at best and made this the only option for Kasten to oust JB.

Believe me, I want JB out, but I think it's going to take some time.


Posted by: Dizzy_Dean | February 19, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

"Now pitching for the Nationals - Outman!"

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 19, 2009 9:20 AM

So was it you that asked this question of Collin Balester in his recent chat?

"20003: Thanks for doing this Collin.

Joe Torre was recently asked if an active major league baseball player could safely come out as gay and said "I just hope that an active player, if that's the case, can feel free to do that."

What do you think? As a young player breaking into the bigs whose peers will set the tone on this issue for the next 20 years, your view would mean a lot to me."

(Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Posted by: nunof1 | February 19, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

"Right now, Manny Acta is giving his troops the official John Wooden spiel . . ."

In my mind's eye it includes a boombox and cassette tape of the theme to "Casino Royale".

Posted by: Ted_Striker | February 19, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Well played, nunof.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 19, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse


I dunno - even in the quote you cited "Let the chips fall where they may" doesn't sound like "we're moving forward ... we look forward to putting this behind us" kind of language. When the reports of folks who were in the call (to include Steinbog) reference Kasten as "seething mad" and when he says "I'm angry. I'm very angry" and when he so clearly (for Kasten) draws a line between the "we" who are new and who are clearly blameless and the "they" who pushed this deal on "us," I just don't know. I agree, they won't move till it's "concluded" but I highly doubt they'll want to head into the regular season and especially the high draft season without having some resolution to this.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | February 19, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Nice to see that you've added the web links (though I might be inclined to list them in alpha order).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 19, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Again I'm inclined to agree with Hwy 295's impression that there will be consequences.

Also, aside from the question of Nats organizational involvement, I find it rather interesting that the initial MLB investigation turned up no red flags and that, according to Kasten, MLB continued to indicate that there was no problem his repeated requests that they delve deeper. Wonder whether the investigation includes not only clubs but also MLB office types.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 19, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

That should have read " problem *despite* his repeated requests," and by MLB office types I'm referring to the overall MLB organization rather than to team FO types.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 19, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

So If Manny thinks that the contract with OP was valid, then why isn't it in the MLBPA database? Or did it get there and I just didn't hear about it?

Posted by: swang30 | February 19, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

So If Manny thinks that the contract with OP was valid, then why isn't it in the MLBPA database? Or did it get there and I just didn't hear about it?

Posted by: swang30 | February 19, 2009 11:12 AM

I'm thinking it's because it was a signed terms sheet, which is considered binding, but not a signed contract, which would go in the database.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 19, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse


I hope you are right, that they do something now rather than later, but as you mentioned, with the season so close and the draft as well, it would be hard to fire JB and any of JB's scouts/staff with it so close and get somebody else in here and up to speed. That's one of the reasons I think it's gonna take a while.


Posted by: Dizzy_Dean | February 19, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Manny doesn't think that the contract is valid (and I'm reading between the lines here), Manny thinks that the Nats and Odalis agreed to terms - probably verbally. And that the verbal agreement is binding. But a proper contract has not yet been completed. Odalis changed his mind after he gave his verbal OK to his agent about the proposed terms.

Posted by: comish4lif | February 19, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I also think that this in the end of Bowden, again, reading between the lines and about the language that Stan used about "us" and the deal that "they" brought. And I have a strong feeling that Rijo was waist deep in this one. He's absolutely done.

Posted by: comish4lif | February 19, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

With all the understandable attention being given to the details of l'affaire Smiley, let's not lose sight of the big picture of the Nats' international scouting activities (or lack thereof): of the Nats' top 30 prospects according to Baseball America, 2 were international signings--PTBNL and Bernadina (signed in 2001 by Expos). Basically, we've done zippy on the international front--nothing in Asia, nothing elsewhere in the Caribbean, only Jose Rijo's highly dubious training complex in the DR.
What are you going to do about it, Stan?

Posted by: CapPeterson | February 19, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me to be a good time to fire a manager, isn't it? drafts and trade deadline are a ways out yet. ST has started with a full roster. Only thing big going on right now is Zim's contract but his hearing is tomorrow so that's over in a minute.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 19, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Um, a manager or a general manager?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 19, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

oh right. I meant GM.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 19, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

The kid was obviously involved. Therefore, I think that when he shows up for the Gulf Coast League, he should be met by a U.S. Marshal or Homeland Security Agent and placed under arrest. This is how you create a deterrent so that people think twice before trying to pull this kind of stunt in the future.

If this kid were doing 20 years in the pen, I bet he wouldn't think what he did was such a great idea.

We could be spending some money on our own youth leagues and not supporting the lieing, thieving organizations in 3rd world countries who send baseball players to this country to make big bucks. Why don't we develop our own kids and pay them the big bucks, instead of investing south of the border? They should stop granting work VISAs -- this work could obviously be done by a U.S. citizen.

Posted by: rb-freedom-for-all | February 19, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Yeah lock the kid up as an example, that will stop other under-educated kids from thrid world squaller from trying to support their entire family for decades; that approach sooo works with in the war on drugs.

Note that MLB teams cannot run into the living rooms of American kids like this and negotiate for the rights of 16 yr. olds, the draft system is in place here. MLB clubs don't have to go to the "wild, wild west" of the DR as Kasten calls it, they elect to do so -- the clubs take risks and they get burned on occasion. The Nats are not a very special case, though the amount of whining they are doing is pretty unusual.

Posted by: dfh123 | February 19, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

"What are you going to do about it, Stan?"

From his presser yesterday:

"Q: Does this make you reevaluate any of the team's protocols for doing business down there, or any of the relationships that the team currently has there?

I have to tell you, I've been chasing this for almost two years now as I told you, and it has caused me to be more circumspect than I have in my whole career in our dealings down there, frankly..."

Rule number one of what to do when you find yourself deep in a hole: Quit digging. You and others complain constantly about the Nats not doing anything internationally, despite their promises to. But they have been doing something, for two years now. They quit digging. Digging the hole, that is. They're still digging for answers, obviously. Once they find them, they'll re-assess the situation, make improvements and go at it again. What else would you have them do?

Posted by: nunof1 | February 19, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Third World Squallers would be a good name for a rock band (so would Third World Squalor, for that matter).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 19, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse


So, just let the kid off with no punishment? That approach hasn't worked real well either.

I'm not saying we should put him over the rack or lock him up and throw away the key but, I do have a problem with him being let back in the country so easily.

I'm reluctant to pass blame onto anyone in the Nats organization until more facts come out. This torch and pitch fork mentality doesn't do any good until the truth comes out and I'm sure it will.

Posted by: Section505203 | February 19, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

As I've mentioned before in these comments, I've done some baseball coaching and reading tutoring in the Dominican Republic. As part of one of those trips, I and my group visited a retirement home for indigent men. The guys in there could not have been more friendly and talkative, huge American and Dominican baseball fans. One of them was very excited because he had just celebrated his 100th birthday. To prove it, he pulled out his national ID card to show us his birth date. Without missing a beat, my friend leaned over and whispered in my ear, "He's actually 105. He's just trying to get signed."


Posted by: db423 | February 19, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse


Stan's comments in his presser seem to refer exclusively to "down there" (DR). Nothing wrong with "digging for answers", reevaluating situation, etc. on the DR front. But do all other aspects of international scouting and development have to be put on hold until the mess in the DR is cleaned up? If anything, the need to regroup in the DR would seem to argue for greater involvement in other countries.

Posted by: CapPeterson | February 19, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

nunof1 - just because I'm here recruiting him does not mean I'd milk the joke about someone for our 'pen.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 19, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

New post, from an old hand.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 19, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

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