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Let The Road Trips Begin

Baseball has a long, rich history of exhaustive bus rides, most of them involving buses with far fewer technological bells and whistles than the one used by the Washington Nationals. But let's just say that in the next days, that team bus -- it's outfitted with television monitors up top -- will get a lot of exercise.

Though the next three games all occur in the central or west side of the state, the team is maintaining Viera as its base and going back at forth. It will save the team money, but not time.

"Yeah, just the perfect way to get us ready for the season," one player said, rolling his eyes.

Here is the team's road-crazy schedule, starting with today's game:

March 31 -- versus Detroit, at Lakeland, Fla. (97 miles one way)
April 1 -- versus Toronto, at Dunedin, Fla. (151 miles one way)
April 2 -- versus Philadelphia, at Clearwater, Fla. (147 miles one way)

Then, the Nats, to close out the exhibition season, actually go north before flying back to Florida for the April 6 opener against the Marlins.

April 3 -- versus Baltimore, in Norfolk, Va.
April 4 -- versus Baltimore at Nationals Park

To give most of the regular players a break, the Nats are going to take their "B team" on the road to Dunedin while the starters play back in Viera against the Nats' Class AA team. "Most of those guys are not going to go to Dunedin," Manny Acta said. "I mean, we are sorry if we're not bringing our A-team to Dunedin, but for our own good we just can't afford to bring all those guys to Dunedin and the back over here and then back to Clearwater the very next day... It will be a little tough but hey, there are tougher things in life."

By the way, here is today's print story about the first month on the new job for Mike Rizzo. I'll post again once I arrive in Lakeland.

By Chico Harlan  |  March 31, 2009; 5:35 AM ET
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Next: Lineup From Joker Marchant


It was satisfying to read about a direct dividend paid from Bowden's resignation. May there be many more.


Posted by: kevincostello | March 31, 2009 6:47 AM | Report abuse

"Welcome to the Majors"

Posted by: BoteMan | March 31, 2009 7:44 AM | Report abuse

"It will save the team money, but not time."

Wow - that's a BIG hunk of red meat to throw out so early in the morning isn't it Chico?

Didja get it, y'all? The Lerners are too CHEEEEEP to pay for a hotel - they're going to make their players ride the BUS!!!! Just think, all that sitting might cause NJ's necrotic hip to act up, or Milledge might get into a knife fight with Dunn over whether "Bend Yo Knees" is a better song than anything ever written by Billy Ray Cyrus, or DY might eat the last three rows of seats, and all because the Lerners are too CHEEEEEEEP to pay for a hotel!!!!


Or - they'll just send a bunch of guys who will spend most of the year riding a bus anyway, and it won't matter.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | March 31, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Dunedin and Clearwater are right next to each other on the Gulf Coast. Why make them ride all the way back and forth across the state?

Posted by: frog7694 | March 31, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

The one's right down the middle of the plate...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 31, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

"Dunedin and Clearwater are right next to each other on the Gulf Coast. Why make them ride all the way back and forth across the state?"

Because paying for gas is less money than paying for hotel rooms. Because the Lerners are CHEEEEEEEP!!

Posted by: Section506 | March 31, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

uh, *that* one, rather

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 31, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Not to mention per diem!

Posted by: dclifer | March 31, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

An odd, semi-off the subject note:

In watching the ST games, it was easy to notice that the Arizona fields seem to be in much better shape than the Florida fields. I'm not saying that the Nats should move to AZ, but if I were running a midwest team, there would be no question about where I would have Spring Training. Also, the facilities seem to be much more clustered. Less bus rides, less hotel rooms, etc. Maybe it's time for teams like the Nats, and others that have gradually moved up the coast to evaluate location. Clustering much closer to Miami would ease some of the logistics. Also, with condo prices being in the dumper, I would suspect that a team could simply purchase a whole section of a half build complex to house players. Just a random thought.

Speaking of random thoughts, and I don't usually do this, but maybe it's time that we made SF an offer for Emmanuel Burriss. I know that my posts have always expressed doubts about a player coming "home", but this may be the exception. The Giants list him as behind Kevin Franzen, at 2nd, on the depth chart and behind Renteria at SS. While he is not the hitter that Renteria is, his numbers show that he is already a better player than Franzen, with whom the Giants seem enamored. I don't know if we have any trade bait that they want (not sure if they know what they want, as they seem content to sit behind LA and AZ, on cruise control). Getting Emmanuel would do a number of things (besides adding local interest). It would give us a natural leadoff hitter, put good defense in the middle of the infield, give us a choice of developing a good young second baseman and moving Emmanuel over to SS (his natural position), when Guzman's contract is up, or keeping him at 2nd if a prime candidate for the SS position is drafted.

Posted by: Catcher50 | March 31, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

You've got to be real careful about per diem, as this informational video clip proves:

Posted by: Section506 | March 31, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Highway - that was one hell of a funny comment man, appreciate the laughter.

Posted by: natsfaninjapan | March 31, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

The article about Rizzo was well written, well thought out and one of the best stories I have read about the Nationals since the team moved here in 2005.

I was one that supported Jim Bowden through the tough times (essentially, since day-one) and was very upset that he lost his job over what he may - or may not have - done over Smiley-gate.

However, I never knew just how much he was disliked, though to be fair, most people don't have to like you to do business with you.

That said, Jim Bowden left us with a major league team that could - assuming a meteor doesn't hit the bus as it travels to Lakeland - make a real push towards .500 in 2009.

His fingerprints are all over the team:

1B-Nick Johnson (holdover)
2B-Ronnie Belliard* (signed as minor league free agent)
SS-Cristian Guzman (not Bowden's best move, though 2008 helped)
3B-Ryan Zimmerman (The three players taken before him, Justin Upton, Alex Gordon and Jeff Clement, have yet to have to succeed at the major league level)
OF-Adam Dunn (signed for just $2 million less per year than Cristian Guzman did)
OF-Josh Willingham (along with Scott Olsen, cost the team a light-hitting second baseman and a couple of middling prospects)
OF-Lastings Milledge (The Mets looked to trade Brian Schneider over the winter because his defense wasn't as good as they hoped & Ryan Church battled injuries, just like he did here)
OF-Elijah Dukes (Cost the team just Glen Gibson, who went 4-8, 7.44 at 'A-ball' for Tampa)
C-Jesus Flores (Rule V draft pick, cost the Nats nothing)

The rotation, so full of promise, is more of the same.

John Lannan (2005 11th round pick)
Scott Olsen (Bonifacio trade)
Daniel Cabrera (F/A -- still not sure if this was a good signing)
Shairon Martis (traded Mike Stanton to get him)
Jordan Zimmermann (2007 2nd round pick)

Regardless of who Jim Bowden the man was, Jim Bowden the GM did a pretty good job putting the team in a position to win.

Bowden's removal as GM, though good in the long term, is still bittersweet to me.

* I'm listing Belliard as the starter becasue of the health status of Anderson Hernandez.

Posted by: rushfari | March 31, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

While it would be great to have Burriss on the Nats, I cringe at what SF would ask for in return. It's true that he doesn't have the highest ceiling, but the fact remains that he was a first round pick a couple years ago and has developed quickly. Plus, I've read some reports that he will beat out Fransden. They will announce soon. But regardless, if you were them, who would you ask for in return? In my eyes, the price is fairly steep.

Posted by: dclifer | March 31, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

The long bus rides and the unpredictable FL weather (windy, cold and rainy) are the reasons why MLB teams are moving their spring training operations to Arizona.

Posted by: bupbups | March 31, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Agreed about the great story on Rizzo. My only comment: Get Rizzo a thesaurus. I'm sick of hearing him call his players inventory.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 31, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

It just seems crazy to be hustling all over the state of Florida, then to Norfolk, DC, and back to Florida the week before the season begins. They'll be ragged out before the opener in Miami. At least, it appears, the trip to Dunedin and the trip to Clearwater appear to contain two entirely different groups of players. I think I'd give the ST schedule maker a piece of my mind.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 31, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Folks over at MLBTR have the Nationals mentioned as a possible suitor for Rays pitcher Jeff Niemann, who they are looking to trade. Strkeout pitcher with impressive minor league numbers. Not sure what the Rays would want from us, however. They obviously don't need OF. I'm guessing we would have to give up prospects.

Posted by: kfisher32 | March 31, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Niemann? he'd fit right in with those double-Ns at the end of his name.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 31, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Maybe they'll take Belliard or Dimitri?

Posted by: soundbloke | March 31, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse


I suppose Rizzo could call the players "stock," "resources," "units,"
"headcount," or "cogs."

I find his use of the word "inventory" odd, but it at least is not as flamboyant as Gambler Jim's use of the word "chips".


Posted by: kevincostello | March 31, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I agree, this morning's story on Rizzo was really illuminating, Chico. Great job.

Posted by: Section109 | March 31, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Do we have any type of projected opening day linup yet? Not from us guessing but officially from the team? Any1 heard anything yet?

Posted by: dovelevine | March 31, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

The Rizzo terminology seemed like typical GM speak to me. It's impersonal, but I don't think that such usage is unique to him.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 31, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

For all who didn't get a chance to read the Rizzo articule, this little dity sums it all up.

"Nationals now operate with less carnival color but more corporate predictability. Within the clubhouse, players talk with appreciation about the change. Their general manager no longer walks into their domain, coffee in hand, cracking barbs about a guy's latest 0 for 5".

How many AB's in the "Show" did PTBowdoin ever have? That guy was/is the consumate a-hole, hard to believe a well greased business machine like the Lerners let this guy destroy their good names. In my line of work we respect our work force because without them our organization goes no where, guess Bowdoin never figured that out!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 31, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Inventory is an asset except when you use the Lower of Cost or Market approach and your market value is a negative so let's hope he doesn't start calling them liabilities! Well then again, there are a few liablities out there.... ;>)

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 31, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Bit of a discussion over at on "lusting for jeff niemann." Can I do a post with "lust" in it on the WaPo?

Again, from MLBTR, San Diego supposedly did not want to give up the prospects TB was asking for. I don't know if they were askign for multiple prospects.

They will not take Dmitri, even if we ate the cost. They have Burrell as DH and Pena at 1st, with Wily Aybar as Pena's backup. As for Belliard, again Aybar as well as Ben Zobrist, with a great middle infield prospect, Reid Brignac, behind them.

Better shot at an outfielder. Lastings should get more than Niemann.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 31, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

A proper food writer would have let us know what kind of coffee Bowden was drinking when he would wander into the clubhouse to hang with the inventory. Fair trade? Gas station swill? Says a lot about a man the cup of coffee he drinks. Surprising that Chico Escoffier Harlan would miss such a telling detail. There goes the Pulitzer!

Posted by: spamcastin | March 31, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

editors: home page still has this link on the front page: "For Nationals, Crowded Outfield a Concern."

There are more recent interesting stories you could link there.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 31, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse


Sorry, the Dimitri suggestion was snark.

Posted by: soundbloke | March 31, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

"Better shot at an outfielder. Lastings should get more than Niemann."
Posted by: jca-CrystalCity

@jca - I disagree. I would be ecstatic to get Niemann for Milledge straight up. I think the Rays would want more. Don't see why the Rays would want an outfielder at all, though. Upton-Crawford-Burrell-Gross-and Zobrist can play OF...maybe could use Milledge as insurance for Upton's injuries... ?

Posted by: kfisher32 | March 31, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

nice post, Rushfari.

humble and respectful.

Posted by: longterm | March 31, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Ok I just read the Rizzo article and someone please tell him that yes, in fact you can over pitch Tavarez, there are limits to what the human arm can do!

Posted by: skippy1999 | March 31, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I believe Jimbos coffee of choice was chock full of nuts

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 31, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

They're not going to trade Milledge.

Posted by: nunof1 | March 31, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Sadly gents, I think we are bumping into the same problem the front office has been having for years. We have a thin roster which means our only movable pieces are also vital (Zimmerman, Zimmermann, Lannan, Flores). Anyone we could happily ship (Kearns, Willingham, Belliard) is so flawed they would be a long shot for the team acquiring them, and therefore we would only get a long shot back.

Posted by: soundbloke | March 31, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Good ridance to Bowden. He needed to go 2 years ago.

Posted by: ridgely1 | March 31, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

spouting off "this guys sucks, trade him for someone awesome!" is standard fan speak though. it comes in waves here.

Posted by: longterm | March 31, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

It sounds like the entire environment is more professional from Rizzo down to the new coaches.

All of this must help to add a few more wins this year.

Posted by: derwink | March 31, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

How about a 17 year old Dominican infielder on the organization's top ten list for Neimann? :)

Posted by: natbiscuits | March 31, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Joker's line-up is up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 31, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I think the painful reality is that three of those four valuable players you mention, longterm, should probably be traded in exchange for more prospects. I would add Dukes, Milledge, Balestar, and Martis to our list of things people might want.

I can't get around it. Can anyone think of any other way to up our amount of young talent? We can't wait indefinitely for the draft.

A microscopically more cheerful question: which player on our team would you say should not be traded at any cost? You only get one.

Posted by: Section506 | March 31, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

"His fingerprints are all over the team"

He was the GM for almost five years, so what do you expect?

Posted by: JhonnyBheGhood | March 31, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Soundbloke - sorry, missed it.

Kfisher - I was thinking they may want another option besides Zobrist as an RF platoon for Gross while Upton and Matt Joyce (LH bat, RF platoon) were hurt. He'd be an upgrade over Zobrist, bat and speed, but Zobrist also is the #2 backup infielder. with only 3 backups + a #2 catcher, there is a bit of value to position flexibility. They have Kapler, who is coming off a good year and brings leadership, but I'm thinking they rather go young and cost controlled.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 31, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey, pay me a couple million bucks too and I'll ride the bus all day long - you won't find me complaining. And like the Nats, I can't hit a ball either. :-)

Posted by: schrute | March 31, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

@nunof - If you're going to trade an OFer, I don't see anyone being interested in Kearns at his salary and Milledge is going to excite people more than Willingham. He is younger and has more tools. IMO, to say they are not going to trade Milledge is to say they are not going to make a trade... which might be the case, but it would be unfortunate, as this team still needs to stockpile pitching prospects IMO and we have a glut of OFers.

@longterm - I actually like Milledge, but also recognize that the reasons I like him (potential to get much better) are the same reasons he is the one that probably will be traded if any of the OFers are traded.

Posted by: kfisher32 | March 31, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

They are not going to trade Milledge. They could easily trade someone else (okay, maybe not easily) but it's quite clear that they are not going to trade Milledge.

Posted by: nunof1 | March 31, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

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