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Video: Acta on Hill, Johnson

Today's video clip is Manny Acta discussing the injuries suffered by Shawn Hill and Nick Johnson.

By Tracee Hamilton  |  February 9, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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We've discussed Hill elsewhere so I'll not get into that aspect.

I love Nick, I really do. I wish the best for him and I'd love to see what he could do given a full season of good health. But given past injuries I'm not comfortable with the idea of going into the year relying on his and Dmitri's good health, and that's what this sounds like to me.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 9, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse


The concerns with NJ's health may be part of why Whitney & Eldred got tickets to Viera as well.

Posted by: BinM | February 9, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Let's be optimistic at least for the next 5 weeks. If Hill and Johnson both return and are healthy then the club has already greatly improved its roster over last season. If not, then the major gap will once again exist at first base and more desperate measures must be taken. I sense more than the usual drama taking place at Spring Training this season, with the entire outfield being in flux along with first base, two or three SPs and second base. At least catcher, ss and third have some stability. Lots and lots of stories will develop before our eyes.

Posted by: driley | February 9, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

BinM, I agree, and Manny did mention taking a look at some other players. But this still strikes me as a scaling back of team goals/expectations when we were originally hearing that the FO did not want to rely on a healthy Johnson/Young as Plan A.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 9, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

I don't think the 2009 FA or trade market has played out the way the Nationals' would have liked or expected to-date. Let's hold out hope that some actions will be taken while the team is in Viera.

Posted by: BinM | February 9, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

What is Dmitri's health status? I have not heard one word about him I sort have written him off.

Posted by: mintbucket | February 9, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Its still not too late to acquire additional players. As we've already seen this winter, the thirst for long term contracts has disipated for all but the biggest of stars. Locking up players in long term contracts seemed to make sense when everyone expected payroll to keep going up, but now that payrolls are being reduced some teams will be eager to move players that were signed at the old market prices. Players like Paul Konerko, Adam LaRoche, Travis Hafner, and Carlos Guillen may get moved for less talent in return than might have been required last year. There;s nothing wrong with bringing in an older player if they don't cost you big prospects in return. If they were blocking another player at 1B, we wouldn't be looking for one.

Posted by: natbisquit | February 9, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I understand that, BinM. My hope is that the FO is still looking at other possibilities rather than reverting back to a Johnson/Young plan.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 9, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

is that felipe lopez on the wall behind him? tear down that poster!

Posted by: longterm | February 9, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Willingham seems to be the contingency plan at 1B. Also, while it's preferable they acquire another 1B by Spring Training, they can contuinue to work the trade market during the season.

Posted by: AshburnVA | February 9, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Just another reason this team is completely hopeless. Honestly, I feel sorry for Acta. They are trying to make him play major league teams with minor league talent.

I think we should all thank the baseball gods if this team goes 70-92, but I think that is pretty big stretch.

Posted by: hackeynut | February 9, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

The focus is on the 102 losses, but Manny must be a superb manager to get 59 wins out of that team, with the top power hitter (Milledge) getting just 14 HR and 61 RBI, and the top pitcher (Redding) getting just 10 wins, the only one in double digits.

By the way, the MLB average OBP is about .335. The Nats had only one guy exceed average last season (Guzman at .345). If you say 300 or more bats, then you can add one more (Harris, .344). Tough for Manny to manufacture runs. Nick would help if healthy in OBP.

Posted by: EdDC | February 9, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I just saw on MLBTR that the Rangers might be looking to move Catalanotto. He's no Teixeira by any stretch, but he' in the last year of his contract and due $6mil. I'm not sure what he would cost, but he might make a better stopgap option than Willingham.

Then again, maybe not.

On the plus side NFA has a great discussion going on the June draft. Long and the short is don't expect Strasburg to sign before 11:59:59 on 8/15 and it's looking more and more like it will be another college pitcher with the 9a pick (my money is on Andrew Oliver, lhp, Oklahoma State - currently rated #11 by BBA).

Posted by: estuartj | February 9, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

EdDC makes an excellent point on the Nats' ineptitude at the plate. In addition to posting a team OBP of .323, they posted the a .373 team SLG, the worst of any NL team by far. A little Nick Johnson (knock on wood) and a better team approach at the plate might (just might) boost the OBP, but the Nats will also need a significant increase in extra base hits to improve their pathetic run production.

Does anyone have a particular player he or she feels has a good shot at 25+ HR or +40 2B? It's probably the fanboy in me, but I'd like to think that out of Zimmerman, Willingham, Dukes and Milledge, two of them could break out this year.

Posted by: NattyFan | February 9, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I have a question for the more astute denizens of this group:

In the NFL, the team with the first pick can negotiate with a prospective first overall pick, so as to avoid any long term holdouts.

Is it possible for Boras and the FO to negotiate prior to the draft. One would think that, given the fact that Boras represents Tex as well, maybe some preliminary numbers have been bantered about?

I also wonder if any goodwill has transpired between the FO and Boras as a result of the Tex negotiations? Boras was highly complimentary, but who knows what will transpire once the Draft happens.

Posted by: TimDz | February 9, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

All well and good to hope for the best for Nick, but the fact that he's not "100 percent" yet has got to set the old alarm bells ringing. Assuming his normal glacial rate of recovery, when will he be 100 percent? Before the All-Star break? And if so, of course, for how long?

My guess is that they've brought Marrero to MLB camp this spring to determine whether he is indeed the 1B of the future. If they think not, rather than look for a FA 1B, they might try to trade for a MLB-ready prospect.

Posted by: CapPeterson | February 9, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Boy, this is a pretty good read:

The title of the blog entry, "Why the Orioles May Be Poised For A Breakthrough." Fantastic read.

Of course, what's really funny is that you don't see anyone (even in the Expos' hometown paper The Post) writing anything with a title "Why the Expos/Nats May Be Poised For A Breakthrough."


This year the Nats may even be worse considering they've signed 4 Oriole's cast-offs. Also, notice the Rays didn't get good until they got rid of Dukes and Milledge (2 players some of you all are hoping to have "big" years).


Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | February 9, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

"By the way, the MLB average OBP is about .335. The Nats had only one guy exceed average last season (Guzman at .345). If you say 300 or more bats, then you can add one more (Harris, .344). Tough for Manny to manufacture runs. Nick would help if healthy in OBP."

True enough, Ed. Let's have a little fun. Would you please post the post all-star stats? How many of the returning regulars under 24 had an OPS of > .800 and an OBP > .350 in the second half? I'll spare you the effort - 3 of 4 (ED .417, RZ .370, LM .355). But young hitters don't improve with experience, do they?

We have 3 potential second basemen on the roster - AH, RB, and WH. What were their OPS and OBP in the second half? Again, I'll spare you the effort - AH - .789 /.407 (with the Nats), WH - .792 / .351, RB - .897 / .423.

First base might be a problem, but for fun, just what are Johnson and Willingham's career OPS and OBP? .853/ .396, .833 / .361.

This is Washington, and the home of exagerated extremes. We love to attach a "st" at the end of every adjective. Can anyone here accept that, with reasonable health, we probably have a middling offense?

Let's do a test - I'll put down a lineup, and you tell me who you expect to be above average offensively for their position, who below, and who about average for the NL?

2 Flores
3 Johnson/Willingham
4 Willie / Belliard
6 Guzman
5 Zimmerman
7 Milledge / Willingham
8 Dukes / Milledge
9 Kearns / Dukes

I count 2 below, 3 above, and 3 average.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 9, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Would you settle for VORP?

Posted by: CEvansJr | February 9, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

JCA, I see that lineup and I want to cry. With the exception of Guzman, that is just a lineup of misery.

Posted by: hackeynut | February 9, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

"JCA, I see that lineup and I want to cry. With the exception of Guzman, that is just a lineup of misery."

Then why the hell does everyone want to lock up that Zimmerman guy long-term? To prolong the misery?

Posted by: nunof1 | February 9, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

CEvansJr. - use whatever metric you want. In my mind, I was thinking OPS based on consensus projections, but VORP or some sort normalized number is probably better.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 9, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I've already put myself on the line that if NJ can start 100 games (and 20 starts for Shawn Hill) we'll win 82 games.

I see 1B remaining a problem if NJ can't do that, the drop off from NJ and league avg for 1B to what we fielded last year was shameful.

Even if NJ isn't stating 100 games I think Willingham/Milledge/Dukes is a dramatically improved outfield over the Harris/Pena/Kearns variety we saw at the corners way too much last year.

A line-up is a group effort and one or two new or improved guys can make a world of difference for the other 7. So I see a 100% healthy Zim having a breakout, I also see Flores improving dramatically and I think Milledge and Dukes both have huge season if healthy. This might also we the year we see J-Max break through (again I guy that just needs to stay healthy!) and maybe Marrero. I think CM gets the September call up if he can put together a good season in AA, which I think is very doable if he can stay healthy (where have I heard that before?).

Posted by: estuartj | February 9, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

hackeynut sees this line-up as 90 percent empty. I prefer to see it as 10 percent full! How's that for optimism?

Guzman may not fall back to his career numbers, so let's say he can maybe be average, with luck. I guess Zim will have a good year and be above average. Dukes can have a breakthrough and be average or maybe above with luck--I like his potential. I would rather have a kid at 2B, although they are below average. My guess is that the rest are below average by MLB standards, which doesn't mean they are bad players.Pitching is below average.

Here is a good article:
Ladson says Dunn and Hudson "exceed the Nationals' price range" but a LH hitter can be added at a "reasonable price." He then reminded us that Belliard was obtained at a reasonable price in 2006!

Posted by: EdDC | February 9, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

"Is it possible for Boras and the FO to negotiate prior to the draft. One would think that, given the fact that Boras represents Tex as well, maybe some preliminary numbers have been bantered about?"

@TimDz - Yes,it's possible and unofficial discussions will take place with the #1 pick in the weeks leading up to the draft. But I don't think it will be very likely to get done until the last possible minute.

Assuming it's Strasburg. Boras and the agents for other high prestige first rounders typically wait until the last minute to get every possible concession from the signing team. If the Nats are willing to pay $10 million on June 15, why wouldn't Boras let it linger until August 15 in hopes of getting $11 or 12 million (with the assumption that the $10 million is likely a done deal).

Strasburg gets some time off after the college season, still gets his big bonus, still likely added to the 40-man immediately with a major league contract, still gets a September call-up, and still starts to accrue service time.

Posted by: Brian_ | February 9, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

>Ladson says Dunn and Hudson "exceed the Nationals' price range"

Well, that may be true. But if so, they must exceed all of MLB's price range too, because no one else has signed them either, have they?

Posted by: nunof1 | February 9, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

@ Brian_: Thanks for the input.

My guess is that Strassburg signs at about the deadline for $12 million )and a ML contract) and we see him in September.

If the FO eff's this one up, there will be a whole lot of angry Nats Fans...

Posted by: TimDz | February 9, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

One other thing to keep in mind for our offense is that in the post-steroids era we are likely to see a dramatic deline in team OPS. IMO defense is going to be a much larger focus in player evaluation that is has been the past 20 years.

I forget who the HOF pitcher was who said this, but his stance to his manager was "you have 4 guys to win the game and I need 4 guys to help me keep them from winning it". Basically the corners are for offense (1B, 3B, LF, RF) and the middle was for the pitcher (CA, 2B, SS, CF).

Posted by: estuartj | February 9, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

And you know what? I exceed my employer's price range myself, yet I'm still working here. Why? Because I exceed the unemployment line's price range by even more.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 9, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Not that any of you want to have the ol' chicken versus egg discussion again, but look at the most recent Baseball Insider post bloating with responses.

It's not all intelligent conversation, but there's a lot to be said about the amount of traffic a front-page headline can garner.

No one ever whispered, "We will build it if they come."

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 9, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

EdDC - so you think a Nick / Willingham combo would be below average offensively?

You may be right if you factor in health for Nick and Willingham's desire to be in left, but if those two did split the bulk of time at 1st, how would they fare offensively?

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 9, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

SDSU opens their season Feb. 20 (time TBD), I'm trying to convince NFA to do a weekly update on how the top draft prospects are doing...

Posted by: estuartj | February 9, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

"I've already put myself on the line that if NJ can start 100 games (and 20 starts for Shawn Hill) we'll win 82 games."

Now, that folks, is what I call optimism.


I hope you are right but, that is setting youself up for some heartache.

With health, this team will surprise but, I was thinking along the lines of 70-75 wins.

I like it though, think big, think positive.

Posted by: Section505203 | February 9, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

You know, about a week ago, there were a few posters saying 110 losses. Then there were a lot of "they're not better, so 102 or worse losses seems right." Now it seems a lot of the predictions are 72 - 75 wins, or about 90 losses, maybe less.

See how brilliant JimBo is - he's able to improve the team 20 wins just be signing Alex Cintron and Javy Valentin!

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 9, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse


Josh Willingham was a good pick-up, a pretty steady producer whose power numbers and batting average may be a little low to project him as MLB average. Of course, he could do it.

Nick is a favorite. His power numbers are slight for a 1B but he makes up for it with OBP + defense. Yes, Nick's health concerns make this duo less than average going in.

Really, no one in the line-up is necessarily a projected above-average guy. Who could be above average? I agree with estuartj that Zim, Dukes, Milledge, in that order, could be. But you won't get all three to be above average. Just guessing, who knows?

All Guzman has to do is drop down to .285 to be below average, given his historical OBP. That's not far a drop.

Posted by: EdDC | February 9, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

EdDC - I'll say that, offensively, either Dukes or Milledge are likely to have an above average year in CF. Zimmerman many projections have blossoming. As for Nick, give me 2006 again, please. I'll write in Milledge for average in LF, but that might be a stretch.

I'll water down previous predictions about Guz and my hypothetical platoon to average. I like the platoon splits / OBP of a Willie/Belli and think they should have one of the top of the order slots, while I believe Guz really needs to hit .310+ to be a top of the order guy due to his refusal to take pitches and walk.

I expect some improvement from Flores with a year's more strength and perhaps a better backup combo, but I'll still say below average for him and AK. So I've got 2 below, 2-3 above, 2-3 average. A middling offense. Coupled with an "experimental" starting staff, we could use a strong bullpen (that I don't see yet).

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 9, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

A sure sign Spring is almost here, when Nats' fans predict 82 wins and Belli/Willie are MLB average.

Posted by: EdDC | February 9, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry to some of the commenters above, but I don't see Rayn Zimmerman as a star or something to build your franchise around. At all.

With the exception of his average, his number tailed off across the board in 2008. As a fielder, he is generally serviceable, but doesn't have star power. He makes the plays he should and rarely makes one he shouldn't.

In short, he is an above average utility 3B. A good guy to have on a team with a bunch of other weapons, but not the player that is going to strike fear into another team.

Posted by: hackeynut | February 11, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

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