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An Invitation

If you're seeking an escape from the woes of the past 40 hours or so -- and as we await Chico's first post of the day from Miami, where he has a 12:10 p.m. first pitch today -- I'd like to invite everyone over to Baseball-Insider for a fun exercise in nostalgia.

(Actually, before we do that, let me just say this about the Nationals' two unseemly losses: Let's not go overboard, like this guy did. Amazingly, Andrew Johnson manages to hit for the hyperbole cycle, by getting "mess," "festering," "ugly" and "brutal" in his first four paragraphs. And that's not to mention "disaster" in the headline. Hey: It's two games, people!)

Anyway, at B-I we've got the season debut of The List, and our topic is Favorite Obscure Ex-Nats. So if you're so inclined, head over there and weigh in.

By Dave Sheinin  |  April 8, 2009; 9:42 AM ET
 
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Next: New Swings, New Lineups, Etc.

Comments

Thanks, Dave, for the perspective and the invite. Who the heck *is* Andrew Johnson, anyway?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 8, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

The 17th President of the United States?

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 8, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

"Zimm throwing to Dunn has the potential to be oh so very very scary."

It's hard to imagine it any scarier than throwing to Johnson. All the throws were right to him or way off and The Stick has lost some of his superb glove skills in his time off.

Posted by: Section506 | April 8, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

From Chico's story, Marquis Grissom on Lastings Milledge:

"'He just needs to practice more,' Grissom said. "Practice, practice, practice.'"

Jaybee, is that you?

Posted by: tmp2234 | April 8, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

He must have located the fountain of youth, JiM. ;-)

Also, hitting for the hyperbole cycle = funny. Some of us fans have potential in that regard as well, methinks.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 8, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Oops, meant from Amy Shipley's sidebar.

Posted by: tmp2234 | April 8, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

From a couple of posts back:

"I agree with sitting NJ today, but Dunn at 1B??? Why not Willingham at 1B, Dunn in LF"

Because Willingham is not a first baseman. He's played a whopping total of 3 innings at first in the majors. Dunn's played 890.

Posted by: joebleux | April 8, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

And while we're going through this exercise in not getting carried away, let's also not read too much into today's lineups.

Johnson went 3 for 4 last night. He's not out of the lineup as punishment for poor production. Acta is trying to do a few things here. He's trying to get ABs for the extra outfielders and he's trying to keep guys like Johnson healthy by limiting his games.

Likewise, this really isn't a referendum on Milledge. Acta needs to play Willingham and Dukes, and this is one way to make that happen.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 8, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Dukes in CF...Where have I heard that before?

From JayB's mouth to Acta's ears?

I think it's a good move. Shake it up a little and see what happens.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 8, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

"Because Willingham is not a first baseman. He's played a whopping total of 3 innings at first in the majors. Dunn's played 890."

This is accurate? I thought I read here that Willingham had played games at 1B. In any case, how many games had LoDuca and Belliard played at first before last season. (I'm kidding)

Posted by: dclifer | April 8, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

"This is accurate?"

Ummmm....well, it's as accurate as the stats at baseball-reference.com. Maybe they just make this stuff up to confuse me.

Posted by: joebleux | April 8, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

But I would note that Willingham also played no innings at first in spring training, so that seems like a pretty good indicator that the team's not planning on using him there.

Posted by: joebleux | April 8, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

It's a good thing I'll be listening to the game on the radio.

Posted by: dclifer | April 8, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

According to baseball-reference.com, Willingham played 68 games at 1B over four seasons in the minors. So I would expect his 1B prowess to be beyond LoDucaesque but not quite Dunntastic. BTW, he actually played more games at 3B and C in the minors than he did at 1B, and fewer games at LF and RF. So maybe it's the slumping Zimmerman he should be bumping today.

Posted by: RickDotSalt | April 8, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

if Dukes is competent in CF, Milledge should ride pine until he gets a clue.

Posted by: MrMadison | April 8, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: MrMadison | April 8, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

"if Dukes is competent in CF, Milledge should ride pine until he gets a clue."

Dukes needs to get a clue at the plate today if you want that to happen.

Posted by: RickDotSalt | April 8, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm pretty sure at the moment (maybe I'll calm down) that all of my tickets this year for Phillies and Mets games are going through the shredder and I'm sending them to Kasten. They may have already taken me for $40 per game, but they're not getting any concessions or merchandise sales from me after his blasphemous Philly radio appearance yesterday.

In case anyone isn't aware of what I'm talking about: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/2009/04/stan_kasten_sings_a_hymn_to_ph.html

Posted by: fuglynats | April 8, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Great quote from coach Marquis Grissom in today's Post about Milledge's performance in CF so far. "I don't know if its the lighting or he's nervous, or what it is."

That's a good one, lets blame the lighting. One day game and one night game so far. That's about all the lighting condition options we have in baseball, Marquis. Maybe Milledge would play CF better in the dark since that is the only option left.

As for Kasten, somehow I can't picture Ted Leonsis inviting all the Flyers fans to come on down to DC even when the Caps were losing. Why don't we throw in a complimentary cheese steak voucher and a six-pack of beer for each Philly fan as further inducement for them to come and ruin our Opening Day experience.

Posted by: HistoryBoy | April 8, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

"I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm pretty sure at the moment (maybe I'll calm down) that all of my tickets this year for Phillies and Mets games are going through the shredder and I'm sending them to Kasten."

The only reason he's having to do this is because all the so-called "real baseball fans" in DC who were really just ticket resellers the last 4 years have cancelled their season tickets now and aren't catering to the Philly fan market on StubHub. From his perspective, if you shred your tickets or sell them to a Philly fan it's the same difference - the team gets its money. If you really want to send Stan the right message, you should show up at the game with a bag over your head or an anti-Kasten T-shirt and root for your team despite it all. That's what real baseball fans - like those in Baltimore - would do. Ticket shredding and b*tching on the internet is all so very much spineless DC behavior. No wonder the Philly fans can steal our lunches every time without even trying hard.

Posted by: RickDotSalt | April 8, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I don't think today's line-ups are a sign of a change, it's way too early for that, but it is good to know Acta has it on his mind.

IF Milledge continues to struggle and Kearns either continues to hit like a real player (though maybe not a starting corner outfielder!) then Dukes plays CF and Willingham and Milledge split time backing up Dunn at LF until either one is traded or Nick Johnson is hurt (or both).

My question to the board; who would you rather have playing LF (besides Dunn), Milledge or Willingham?

Posted by: estuartj | April 8, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Anybody have an email address for Kasten? I wish to voice my displeasure at his loathsome desire to be accommodating to Phillies fans on opening day.

Posted by: trezmartin | April 8, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

"I don't know if its the lighting or he's nervous, or what it is."

Or you keep having him play shallow center, Mr. Grissom. Manny Acta, who played no doubles defense just about the entire game, is the only positioning coach Milledge has ever had as a centerfielder. Is it a wonder that every hard hit line drive he starts running in?

Posted by: Section506 | April 8, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I sure see a lot of those "real baseball fans in Baltimore" when the Red Sox and Yankees fans pack Camden Yards every year. How many of those tickets that Sox and Yanks fans purchase on Stub Hub are from "real" O's fans? What would the O's annual attendance be if it weren't inflated by those basically 20 guaranteed sellout home games vs. the Sox and Yankees?

Posted by: HistoryBoy | April 8, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

"That's what real baseball fans - like those in Baltimore - would do"
__________________________________________________________

O's fans are not exactly the greatest baseball fans. Have you ever been to a Yankees or Red Sox game at OPACY? Let's just say it's a Home game for the Visitor's.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 8, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Try stan.kasten@nationals.com since every other Nats employee has e-mail addresses like that. I can tell you from experience Leonsis answers almost every single e-mail he gets.

Posted by: HistoryBoy | April 8, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

We have the right guy on the mound today (and I can't wait to see him swing the bat). DCab doesn't know where the ball is going most of the time, and neither will the Marlins.

So let's set a tone, with our new lineup? After all, the Marlins will be in our park soon, and we do NOT want to get swept in this fashion. Let's get swept in another fashion?

PITCH INSIDE, PITCH HIGH AND TIGHT, PITCH UP AND IN, BRUSH BACK, PLAY CHIN MUSIC, THROW A LOOSENER, SEND A MESSAGE, STRAIGHTEN UP, BACK OFF, BUST INSIDE, RUN IN ON, CLAIM THE INNER HALF, FLIP, SPIN AROUND, GIVE A CLOSE SHAVE (“BARBER MAGLIE”), NIP THE CHIN, BEND IN HALF, BLOW DOWN, SEPARATE THE HEAD FROM THE SHOULDERS, PITCH BEHIND THEM, PITCH AT THEIR RIBS.

Do it DCab! Do it!

Posted by: nova_g_man | April 8, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Yeah...my guess is that there's no way Stan will respond to a fan's email to him about this Philly BS, regardless how civil the email is. If he does, please let us all know.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | April 8, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"...if you shred your tickets or sell them to a Philly fan it's the same difference - the team gets its money. If you really want to send Stan the right message, you should show up at the game with a bag over your head or an anti-Kasten T-shirt and root for your team despite it all. That's what real baseball fans - like those in Baltimore - would do."

Wrong. It's not the same. The team ALREADY GOT its money for the tickets. If a Philly fan goes and buys 47 beers, then they get more. I suppose if I go to the game like some asinine Baltimore fan with a stupid t-shirt on and don't buy a single item, then they won't be getting more money from me... but the team still views a ticket scanned and a butt in a seat as success.

Posted by: fuglynats | April 8, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

estuartj.

To answer your question: I would say Willingham.

I'm not ready to give up on Milledge just yet but, I would like to see Willingham get plenty of AB's this year.

Right now, Milledge needs to work on CF and getting better. Hopefully that happens but, JayB may be right on this one.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 8, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

CiL, I saw your post yesterday about squandering goodwill, and I think you are right. At least, that seems to be the result up to this point, even if it was not intended.

It's worth noting that the 2006 roster had 14 guys that at the time looked like they might form the core of a contending team: Livo, Patterson and Hill in the rotation; Cordero and Rauch in the pen; Schneider, Nick, Vidro, Felipe and Zimmerman around the infield, and Soriano, Church, Guillen and Kearns in the outfield. This is what Stan looked at and said gee, we have more pieces than when we started the rebuild in Atlanta.

Well, they banked on that being true, and it wasn't. It's not that we expected all of those guys to stick around, step up and contend in 2009. Some would age, some would fail, some would be dealt for other assets. But the idea that out of all 14, only one (Zimmerman) would still be regarded as a "keeper" 3 years later has to be a bit of a shock in hindsight.

Posted by: BobLHead | April 8, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Ironic that this post is entitled "An Invitation."

To step away from Stan Judas Kasten for a moment...

Here's what irritates me with Milledge right now... 3 points:

-He's obviously struggling both on offense and defense. He struggled in spring training, and he continues to struggle now.

-Grissom & Acta keep saying all he needs is time, hard work, more practice, and to learn how to do it all the right way.

-Even with those last two facts, Milledge continues to disobey unwritten rules of baseball by not showing up early for extra work like everyone else, and continuing to insist that he "do it my way."

Posted by: fuglynats | April 8, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Nova,

I was thinking the same thing last night. I was hoping that Olsen would put one right in Uggla's ribs. They're diving out of the plate and our pitchers need to take control of the inside part of the plate.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 8, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"We have the right guy on the mound today (and I can't wait to see him swing the bat). DCab doesn't know where the ball is going most of the time, and neither will the Marlins"

He threw at Dustin Pedroia's head a couple of years ago and while it looked like there was going to be a brawl the person who came over and calmed him down was none other than Julian Tavarez. Hopefully he can keep DCab calm for you guys, he could be a good pitcher if he can stay focused.

Posted by: skippy1999 | April 8, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

505/203, I think I agree - though a Milledge/Dukes/Kearns outfield looks pretty good defensively, almost enough to make up for Dunn at 1B instead of Nick.

If Milledge isn't starting in CF or LF I think you need to trade him, he has more value than Willingham and we have other viable (and perhaps better) options for 4th outfielder including Willie Harris or either Bernadina or J-Max in AAA.

Posted by: estuartj | April 8, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Continuing ...

So, should Jimbo, Stan and the Lerners have done something different? The answer has to be yes. Almost none of the moves they have made have paid off longterm (meaning now, as viewed from 2006). On the other hand, they can't be blamed for all of the injuries; both the Kearns/Felipe deal and the Schneider/Church/Milledge deal looked like steals at the time (ummm ... kinda like the Olsen/Willingham deal?); resigning Livo/Guillen/Soriano would not have been the answer to anything; etc.

It's been a rough stretch, no doubt, particularly when you add in the ballpark issues (service, food, neighborhood, rent); the lack of marketing (except to Phillies fans); and the crappy announcers, MASN feed and radio reception.

So yes, much goodwill has been squandered. I guess my point is that they may have had more control over some things than others.

Posted by: BobLHead | April 8, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

"I sure see a lot of those "real baseball fans in Baltimore" when the Red Sox and Yankees fans pack Camden Yards every year. How many of those tickets that Sox and Yanks fans purchase on Stub Hub are from "real" O's fans? What would the O's annual attendance be if it weren't inflated by those basically 20 guaranteed sellout home games vs. the Sox and Yankees?"

Yeah, that may be the way it is now in Baltimore, but keep in mind that's what it's become after what, ten straight losing seasons? Baltimore fans have been fighting the good fight against the out of town intruders for years, so naturally their numbers have diminished. DC's so-called "real baseball fans" have rolled over and played dead to all out-of-town fans since day one. Don't deny it. Even in 2005 most people came to the park to either check out their hometown team or "to try out this new baseball thing we have in town". Now those front-runners are gone and all that's left are the out-of-town fans and the so-called "real DC baseball fans" who expected to have a pennant-winner handed to them on a platter and when they didn't get it are just pushing their so-called team away like a baby pushes the mashed broccoli away from the high chair tray. Meanwhile the big bully from next door is eating their dessert. Kasten is like the mother who's finally decided what the hell, just give the kid next door the broccoli, sell him the dessert and cut out all the drama. Eventually her own kid will figure it out or starve to death first.

Posted by: RickDotSalt | April 8, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Either it's a rule and you're penalized for breaking it or it's not and you're not penalized. No unwritten rules.

If Acta and Grissom think he needs to be there earlier, they need to make a rule.

Posted by: Section506 | April 8, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Right, BobL--intent or blame is not the issue here. It does seem to me though that Stan took a lot for granted with respect to this fan base, and now they are where they are.

There was real fan enthusiasm for the Lerners and Kasten when they took over. People were excited about the Plan, and the ownership, even with the understanding that there would be losing along the way. The Lerners did a great job coming in during Summer '06, making some improvements to RFK, holding the post-game picnic on the field for STHs, talking about their intentions for player development both domestically and internationally. People were excited. Now, not so much. All that goodwill is gone. And I really don't think it is just the losing, and the setbacks to the Plan, that has fans feeling that way. It is all the other stuff on top of it.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | April 8, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Don't shread your tickets, go to the game with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the entire section. Bring solo cups and encourage everyone to use the water fountains. That'll show'em!

I do get pissed with all the "Phillies" chants and "Let's go Mets/Cubs." It seems an inevitable and unpleasant part of life (for now). What I wish is that the Nats fans would develop some sort of other chant, different from the resounding "booooo" and competing "Let's go Nats."

Posted by: dclifer | April 8, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Here are the facts. Try using them sometime before you post and enjoy your brocoli and apple pie. (see link below)

"Baltimore fans have been fighting the good fight" after 10 losing seasons.

O's attendance 1997 3.7 million. 2008, 1.9 million.

I may not be good at math but that looks like your attendance has been cut about in half over the last decade and all your "front runners" are gone too. And AGAIN take out the Sox and Yankees fans for 20 games and what is your "real O's fan" attendance?

We were handed a joke of a team in the Expos with no farm system or scouts and MLB owning the team and spending no money. We played in a dump for 4 years.

Big difference, your owner ran your team into the ground, while the Nats had to build from the ground up. Nobody that I know expected a pennant winner in 5 years. I'm just happy to have a team to watch.

Other than 2005 (81-81), we've had a losing team yet the Nats outdrew the O's 4 out of the 5 years they've been here.

http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com/2000-03attendance.htm

http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com/1990-99attendance.htm

Posted by: HistoryBoy | April 8, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

HistoryBoy, your stats make my point. It took eleven years for the front runners to leave the Orioles, with only the diehard fans and the Fenway/Yankee Stadium South crowd left in the 1.9M. Nats attendance dropped to 1.9M in only the third year. 5,000 season ticket holders gone after year one when they realized they weren't going to make money reselling to out-of-town fans after all. Another 4,000 gone the next year because the team was going to be "historically bad". What did they expect in the third year of basically an expansion team? Some fans hung on for the new park, but now even they are bailing. The only constants through the five years here have been big support from out-of-town fans. Why shouldn't Kasten cater to them now?

Posted by: RickDotSalt | April 8, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

One last point, RickDotSalt. Look at any franchise in any sport. With few exceptions (Redskins, Maple Leafs) attendance usually tracks, or lags a little behind, on-field performance.

Perfect example is the Washington Caps. Three years ago they had one of the lowest season's ticket bases in the NHL because they totally sucked for a number of years, plus the strike. For 2009-10 they have already completely sold out and have a waiting list. Funny how getting the best hockey player on the planet helps attendance.

The Orioles, until the last 10 years, have had a proud 50-year+ winning tradition to draw on and community roots. And, you play in one of the best ballparks in MLB.

The Nats had to start from ground zero in 2004. No farm system. No scouts. The former owner Loria even took the computers with him when they left. They probably played in the worst stadium in MLB (RFK). The Expos traded away all their best players to save $$. (Imagine the Nats now with Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Cliff Lee). MLB spent nothing on them while they were in caretaker status. They were literally running the ticket and marketing operation out of a trailer in the RFK parking lot. They had no TV deal and got screwed by that horrible MASN arrangement with Angelos where half the time you can't even find the game on TV.

Comparing the Nats and O's is like comparing apples and oranges. On top of all the stuff I cited above we got owners (the Lerners) who have no idea how to market a team or engage in customer service. I have Caps season's tickets too and believe me the Nats customer service is like night and day with the Caps. The only time I have ever talked to my Nats ticket rep over the past 5 years is when I call him with a problem and he usually acts like he is doing me a big favor to take my call. My Caps guy calls on a regular basis just to see if I'm happy.

People have only so much disposable income especially in a bad economy and they are not going to spend it in a place where they get a crappy product and horrible service from the front office to the concession stands. You make this into a reflection on "DC fans" when it is not. If you had a lousy meal at a restaurant or your car broke down after you got it fixed somewhere, would you go back? Are you going to spend $15-20K on four season's tickets to watch garbage?

Posted by: HistoryBoy | April 8, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

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