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Dukes, Lannan, Bard

Manny Acta made it very clear today that left field (Adam Dunn) and center field (Lastings Milledge) are settled. The only starting position up for grabs remains in right field, where either Elijah Dukes or Austin Kearns will win the job.

Now add this to the equation: Dukes, Acta said, "is struggling right now. Period."

Today, in a 7-6 loss against the Blue Jays, Dukes went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, and afterward spent extra time in the cages with hitting coach Rick Eckstein. Dukes, according to Acta, is pulling his head when swinging and failing to use all parts of the field. This spring, he has struck out 19 times in 47 at bats, a pace that makes Adam Dunn look like Paul Molitor.

*

Random, possibly surprising trivia: John Lannan has never faced the Marlins. Never. The Nats and Marlins played 18 times last year, but somehow, the guy who started 31 games for Washington never took a turn in the rotation. Lannan started five games against the Mets, four against the Phillies, three against the Braves. Finally, he faces Florida on April 6.


*

When Lannan was talking about his outing today, he wrapped up the interview by saying, in response no question whatsoever, "By the way, Josh Bard was really good today. He really helped me out. There were times when I was really erratic, and he came out and he settled me down. He's a great catcher. I thought I'd throw that out there... I have a great relationship with all the catchers, but just today, he just battled with me. He told me, You have to go out there with confidence and trust yourself. And he got my confidence up in certain situations, like in the third inning or the fourth inning, when I gave up a couple runs, I settled down a little bit and got out of it. He was right there with me. I wanted to mention it because he's new, and it was pretty cool to see that."

This is the second time a starting pitcher has given the unsolicited Bard approval. Scott Olsen did it after a start in Jupiter. The more I'm thinking things over, the more I like Bard's chances to make this team -- even if it's as the third catcher on the roster. He can be a decent pinch-hitter off the bench, capable of batting from either side, and this team has a dearth of left-handed depth. Today, Bard smacked two doubles.

*

Oh, and I gotta tell you about how this game ended. Entering the ninth this afternoon, the Nationals trailed 7-2. Toronto sent somebody named Tim Collins onto the mound. Immediately, the Toronto scribes in the press box started getting excited, telling the tale of the 5-foot-7, 155-pound left-hander who looks either like a 12-year-old, a certain beat writer, or the Mini Me version of Tim Lincecum. Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi signed the guy as a free agent after getting a tip from... well, Mr. Ricciardi -- J.P.'s dad. You can read more about the crazy tale here. So far, actually, Collins has put up dazzling numbers. Today, things didn't pan out quite as well.

The Nationals strung together four hits, and actually crept within a run. Two were out. Lastings Milledge, just about the last everyday player in the lineup, came to bat.

That's when things got funny. The Dunedin scoreboard started behaving like some sort of stock ticker, throwing up new numbers every few seconds. At one point during the Milledge at bat, the scoreboard incorrectly stated the count (it was 1-0, not 3-0), the outs (there were 2, not one) and, yes, the score (it was 7-6, not 7-7). Then, just as Milledge was getting ready for the next pitch, the scoreboard changed again. The Nats "took" an 8-7 lead. The crowd booed. Milledge had to step out. He clearly was peeved.

But it all ended simply enough. Milledge walked, and Collins exited. Michael Barbara recorded the final out and got a save. Collins' ERA now stands at 54.00.

By Chico Harlan  |  April 1, 2009; 4:08 PM ET
 
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Comments

Chico - there is always the chance Flores starts the year on the DL, to punt the catcher cut down the road.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | April 1, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Willingham?

Posted by: NatsNut | April 1, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Detwiler goes 2 1/3 and only gives up 1 hit. I knew he had it in him.

Get in there Detwiler. Get in there.

Posted by: Brue | April 1, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

News flash Acta: Dukes is not the only guy struggling. Explain to me one more time why Milledge is given a position while others have to compete. If Acta was running the team properly, as he should, CF would also be an open competition. In terms of center fielders on the team , Dukes is better than Milledge in both fielding and hitting. In terms of right fielders, Dukes is superior to Kearns but Kearns has won the job in Acta's eyes because he hit a home run last night. Big @@#$ing deal. I have seen Kearns play this year and it is the same BS with him. He cannot hit an inside pitch.

The only guy who does not know this is Acta.

Posted by: mjames0 | April 1, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I will pray 3 times a day for the next week that Austin Kearns does not win a starting job... and I'm not religious. Agree with mjames - this is the same old Kearns when you watch him hit. So he had an OK spring. Don't make the team suffer because of it.

Posted by: kfisher32 | April 1, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

"Is anyone else worried about how poorly Milledge and Dukes are hitting?"

They both started slowly last year too, IIRC. As does Zimmerman each and every year. Dukes I think was under .200 for quite a while last year, like into June even (although he was on the DL some of that time.) Yet they all eventually turned it around. So I don't really see any cause for worry about them yet. The difference this year too is that there are other hitters in the lineup who can take some of the pressure off of them (i.e. last year if they didn't do it, there was no one else who would) or in the case of Dukes put some pressure on (i.e. Kearns and Willingham).

Imagine what things would be like if we had Teixeira and his traditional slow starts here right now.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 1, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see AK play a little bit in the beginning to see if this spring thing was just a mirage as some have suggested. Also, I want to see how Dukes might react. He needs a little work to get his bat straignted out also, plus, Kearns is a good fielder with an above average arm., so, all would not be lost.

Posted by: cokedispatch | April 1, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Acta is betting his job on Milledge......his ST stats are worse than Dukes. I for one will be glad to see a new manager next year. No Kearns, No Young, No Milledge No Acta, No Jimbo.....Stan and a New GM and a New Manager....should be interesting.

Posted by: JayBeee | April 1, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

I fail to see how spring training performance can outweigh performance over the entire 2008 season. Dukes, when healthy, was the best hitter on the team. Kearns, healthy or not, was absolutely terrible. Indeed, Dukes' healthy performance last year was better than Kearns has ever performed in his entire career. I will be frustrated if Kearns gets the job.

Posted by: jcj5y | April 1, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Hi Guys,

... I have a question to ask of those of you who are very good at predicting the rotation.

... because Atlanta's Peachtree TV is part of my local cable lineup, I will be fortunate indeed to get TV access to the Nats/Braves games on April 10 and 11.

... so my question is: if John Lannan pitches the opener on the 6th, and if the 9th is an off day, who do you expect will take the ball on the 10th and 11th?

Posted by: natscanreduxit | April 1, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I couldn't give a freak if Dukes strikes out every at bat for the next 3 weeks. He should be starting in RF. Case closed.
And if he isn't, Acta shouldn't let the door hit him on the way out. Kearns? Are you freakin kidding me? This guy is still in the conversation??!!

Posted by: dovelevine | April 1, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

It obvious Acta hates Dukes...just like I hate Acta!!! I can not wait til' next year, when we have a NEW manager. Besides, we all know Kearns will revert back to his old "Mendoza Line" ways!

Posted by: Lipty | April 1, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

10th...Martis...11th...Lannan

Posted by: cokedispatch | April 1, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Who is expected to pitch opening game at home on the 13th?

Posted by: dovelevine | April 1, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

I'll be very happy for Kearns if he wins the job. I really believe he can hit. He was hurt last year. Ron Shandler who puts out a fantasy baseball/sabermetrics book maintains that while Kearns power numbers were dramatically down last year, his "skill" numbers which measure such things as batting eye, contact rate, expected batting average, etc.... were actually pretty good. He projects Kearns to bounce back. Similarly Bill James offers a more optimistic projection than posters here seem to expect. Kearns has a top-5 range factor among rightfielders. His arm was noticably weaker last year, but that appears to have been directly related to the injury. He's a plus baserunner. The only thing he has not been able to do historically is hit for high average.

As for Dukes, you have to wonder if it is a given that he will make the 25 man roster. I would like him to, but one could make the case that he should go down and play his way out of the mechanical issues he is having.

Posted by: natbiscuits | April 1, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Yes - I've never been a "fire Acta" guy, but if he starts Kearns over Dukes I might become one. I do believe ther is a bit of a personal issue between the two, although Dukes isn't exactly Mother Theresa. When Dukes is "right", though, he is our best hitter (including Dunn) and you do not take that out of the lineup because of spring training slump.

Posted by: kfisher32 | April 1, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

"this is the same old Kearns when you watch him hit"

Of course the same old Kearns hit over .250 in 4 of his 8 seasons, including every one with over 113 games, SLG over .400 every year except last, 25 doubles every year with over 100 games, and so on.

It's not a superstar outfielder, but if he's the "same old Kearns" instead of last year's Kearns then I think most of you would be clamoring for him on the team.

Ah, but there's no history, is there? That would be too Marxist.

Posted by: Section506 | April 1, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Home opener is projecting to be Cabrera pitching. D'oh!

Posted by: nunof1 | April 1, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

bisquit, thanks for the input. all analytical projections have Kearns rebounding from his injury-plagued year last year, but most of the folks that read NJ are better talent evaluators than to look at the statistical side of it.

but there's no way the Nats send Dukes to Syracuse. they need him here to keep an eye on him. unsupervised in triple-A he'd be a nightmare.

seriously, all you Manny-haters need some perspective. Acta has his hands tied with Milledge. it's an organizational thing.

the only thing Manny needs to know is that OBP wins baseball games.

Posted by: bottomfeeders10 | April 1, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

No mention of Willingham in OF? He has had some pop in his bat in spring training.

Lannan has had a great spring until today. Maybe it was good that he pushed around today to get it out of his system before the season starts. Also, nice for him to say kind words about Lard. He has also said nice things about Nieves many times too and when Nieves caught for him in the other spring outings, he pitched much better than today. Possible Lannan thought he should say something good about Lard so that he wouldn't it wouldn't effect team's decisions about cuts. John is classy like that.

Crazy that Lannan has never faced the Marlins!

Posted by: ilovethenats | April 1, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

So we're going to bench our best player because Kearns hit a few HRs this ST? Good. Maybe after Acta gets canned after this next 100 loss season we won't have to be complete slaves to the pitch count too.

If Dukes loses out based on an average ST by Kearns Acta will be exposed as the favorite-playing joke he is. With our OF depth Kearns shouldn't even be on the roster let alone starting. This is absolutely infuriating.

Fire Acta

Posted by: RickFelt | April 1, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Home opener is projecting to be Cabrera pitching. D'oh!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Posted by: dovelevine | April 1, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I agree about the OBP. If Manny is looking at that for catchers, Nieves wins the job. Nieves has .357 OBP for spring while Bard has .200.

Posted by: ilovethenats | April 1, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

--Ron Shandler who puts out a fantasy baseball/sabermetrics book maintains that while Kearns power numbers were dramatically down last year, his "skill" numbers which measure such things as batting eye, contact rate, expected batting average, etc.... were actually pretty good.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAH!!!!
Hey i don't need some fancy math to figure out Kearns. I got eyes.
Kearns was "actually pretty good"??
Maybe in the bizarro baseball league.

Posted by: dovelevine | April 1, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

I finally get tix to a home opener and end up with this bum pitching. What am i back at Camden Yards? Cabrera stinks. I don't care if he loses all his games like he's done for most of his career. Just give us a break. Just down throw him opening day. Cmon

Posted by: dovelevine | April 1, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

No one is firing Acta!! He finally gets a chance to do his job. He wants to put the best team on the field and no one knows this team better than he does. And Manny wants to win. Give him a chance! Jeez.

Posted by: ilovethenats | April 1, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

What's with some of you guys? The venom that comes out of your keyboards toward Austin Kearns is nasty and unwarranted.

You must have been something on your little league teams -- sitting on the bench, no doubt, booing your teammates.

Posted by: Natsgal | April 1, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Man, I must have missed something. When did Acta decide that Dukes would sit and Kearns would start? You all are freaking out over something that hasn't happened yet (and I'm hoping doesn't happen ever).

Chill. Relax. Keep your heart rate down. It's a long season coming up in 5 days. Pace yourselves.

Posted by: erocks33 | April 1, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

@natbiscuits: I also don't need the magic math to tell me what has been obvious the last two years: Kearns is VERY AVERAGE defensively. Couple that with his awful offense and you can begin to discern him as the AAAA player he once was with the Reds and should still be with us. I, frankly, am a little disappointed we are wasting a roster spot on him.

Posted by: kfisher32 | April 1, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

>Acta is betting his job on Milledge......his ST stats are worse than Dukes. I for one will be glad to see a new manager next year.

Yeah for a sabermetrics guy, Acta plays a lot of hunches. I think it boils down to the fact that they're really not sure what they've got in Milledge, and they're going to give him a chance to play himself out of something instead of wondering whether or not he could it in the first place. Looks to me as if he just shortens his stroke, try to hit singles, he could hit around .300 with some line drive gap power. But that takes a lot of discipline to stick with. I guess we'll find out one way or the other.

Posted by: Brue | April 1, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Who are these guys?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 1, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"I also don't need the magic math to tell me what has been obvious the last two years: Kearns is VERY AVERAGE defensively"

What the hell games were you watching?

He was a bit off last year (and still above average), but two years ago, he should've won a gold glove.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | April 1, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Dovelevine. I got eyes too. And Kearns is worthless. He can't hit the inside pitch, and really has never learned to go the other way with an outside pitch either. He hits pitchers' "mistakes," and then only rarely. His power numbers, for you statheads, were greatly inflated by playing Great American Ballpark. But basically, this guy is a 4th outfielder, at best, on a mediocre team and probably doesn't make the roster on 80 percent of big league clubs. Only here, under this manager, with a FO pressuring him to play him to justify his $8 million salary, can we be having this discussion over whether Elijah Dukes or Austin Kearns is our starting rightfielder. Every place else it's as obvious as the accent in Acta's voice: Dukes plays, Kearns sits.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | April 1, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

>Man, I must have missed something. When did Acta decide that Dukes would sit and Kearns would start?

Yeah Kearns just hit one about 430 feet. Maybe he's getting the bat head around quicker now. It's hard to tell when you can't see it. Willingham's the odd man out, but they already know what they have with him. Kearns needs regular at-bats imo. It's a tough call. Dukes will probably spell Milledge as well as work in right. He may be spelling Mills a couple of times a week, who knows. If he plays CF twice a week, that's 40% of his playing time right there.

Posted by: Brue | April 1, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and the fix is in behind the plate too: The Bard stays, Wil goes. Tis a shame too because all this talk about The Bard being a good handler of pitchers is nonsense. Nieves was Lannan's personal catcher last year and part of the reason, I think, for the rookie's success. But the fix is in there too:

Opening day lineup:

Last night's Milledge, 8
Gooz, 6
FoF, 5
DUNNNNNNNNNNN, 7
Kearns, 9
NJ, 3
Belly-hard, 4
The Bard, 2
Lannan, followed by a cast of thousands, 1

Posted by: jdschulz50 | April 1, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Here is SI.com's appraisal of your 2009 Washington Nationals.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/baseball/mlb/03/31/nationals/

Posted by: leetee1955 | April 1, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

It is a strange world when Kearns has a good spring and has the chance to show how last season was an abberration and half the people commenting here can not abide that prospect. I think that you find joy in wallowing in negativity, gleefully predicting another 100 loss season. If the Nats do manage a respectful season I would be surprised to see the same folks admitting how far off base they were.

Posted by: driley | April 1, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

I still think there's a chance that Flores starts the season on the 14-DL because of the elbow - teams were running on him early & fairly often since he came back.
Start the season w/Nieves & Bard behind the plate & let Javier work himself back slowly.

Same thing w/Hernandez at 2B - platoon Belliard & Harris to start the season, and don't rush him.

Posted by: BinM | April 1, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

"it's as obvious as the accent in Acta's voice"

Yeah, it's really annoying the way that Manny puts together all those articulate sentences and then ruins it with that obviously fake accent. Why couldn't they have gotten us some semi-literate ex-jock who speaks plain ol' 'merican? Surely that'd be worth another 10 or so wins per season.

Posted by: burke2 | April 1, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Ah, bleep. That's my comment above as "burke2".

Posted by: joebleux | April 1, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

It is precisely because we DON'T want to lose 100 games again that we need Kearns to take a seat. Do we really need to give him a THIRD chance when he wasted the first two? I think not. Time to give someone else a chance. Oh... and LOOK. We just happen to have someone with some of the best raw talent in baseball to use instead. Let's give Dukes a chance to develop it rather than waste another year on Kearns.

BTW, anyone who thinks Kearns should have EVER won a gold glove either ONLY watches the Nationals play or has been drinking too much of Bob Carpenter's kool aid.

Posted by: kfisher32 | April 1, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

For all the statheads & the Kearns-bashers as well; unless a trade is made, all five of the current OF candidates are going to come north with the team.

Dunn is a lock in LF, Milledge is "sink-or-swim" in CF for now; Dukes/Kearns can both play all three OF slots. Willingham is good off the bench (for now), but needs PA's to maintain his value to the team.

I've got to believe one of these guys will be gone by sometime in May, either by option or trade. Manny, Mike & Stan will need to sort it out & make moves before the All-Star break, at the latest.

Posted by: BinM | April 1, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

"Kearns is VERY AVERAGE defensively"

I call shenanigans. Prove it.

Posted by: Section506 | April 1, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

>Lannan has had a great spring until today. Maybe it was good that he pushed around today to get it out of his system before the season starts.

It's a classic spring scenario where you have at least one dead-arm start before the season begins. They'll just give him an extra day's rest before the Opening Day start and he'll be back to what he did all spring. Get in there Johnny Boy.

Get in there

Posted by: Brue | April 1, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

@section506...

To see the proof, watch the next game he plays. Then, for a reference point, watch about 7-10 other RFers in baseball and you will see that about half of them will make plays Kearns could not.

Posted by: kfisher32 | April 1, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

So it's 5 days before OD and you're calling for Manny's head...because of his lineup...BEFORE THE FIRST GAME! No one's swung a bat in a real game yet.

Oh sheesh...my bad. It's Aprils Fool's!

Posted by: pwilly | April 1, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

kfisher -- your scouting report differs from just about everyone else who's ever watched kearns play defense. and it's against what the stats say.

The majority of people -- professional and amateur -- say he's good fielder. All the stats do.

What are you seeing that everyone else is missing? Specifically what types of plays does he miss?

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | April 1, 2009 7:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm not taking a position, I'm just saying:
http://tinyurl.com/v6bgx

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 1, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Kearns is a very good outfielder. He can play all 3 positions and has a very strong and accurate arm. He makes good decisions and where to throw and hits his cut off men. Gold Glove.....no but top 10 in the NL yup......Problem is he can not hit inside pitch. Every catcher and pitcher in the NL knows it. He tries to pull outside balls and hits into a ton of Double Plays.......Biggest Problem he is has no future with the Nats. If we are lucky he will be gone before the end of the season, but more likely he will walk without being offered arbitration so he is really one of many poster children for Jimbo's huge blind spot for players he drafted with the Reds.


Posted by: JayBeee | April 1, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

"They'll just give him an extra day's rest before the Opening Day start and he'll be back to what he did all spring. Get in there Johnny Boy."

How they gonna do that? He pitched today (Wed) and OD is Monday, the fifth day from today. Normal rest, unless there's some way they can change the calendar.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 1, 2009 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Prediction: Manny will be the first manager fired. Probably by May 15, no later than June 1. Team starts its usual 9-and-20, StanK gives his usual non-committal vote of confidence by May 1, and Acta's gone by May 15, never to be more than a bench coach ever again. By then, Kearns is hitting his weight, Milledge is in the 220s, the kid pitchers have lost all their confidence and, Boz's sunshiny prediction of 70 to 77 wins is shown to be the hokum it is. This is the worst team in baseball, run by the worst owners with an ineffective StanK overseeing the whole operation, playing the angles only so the whole mess reflects as little on StanK as possible. Prediction: 50-112. Yeah, worse than last year.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | April 1, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Oh, WTK, I'll take a position. Were you people weaned on pickles or something? Geez, the bile in here is reaching Fargo-esque levels. Yeah, yeah, they lost a lot of games last year, didn't sign an(other) obnoxious jock who throws hard, and basically aspire to mediocrity someday, maybe. Lighten up, Francis, it's only a game.

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 1, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Lets scrap the Kearns defensive prowess argument. Okay he can catch a ball. He can not hit an inside pitch. I have seen this guy in three games this year. It is the same as last year. He takes the first two inside pitches for strikes and then whiffs at the third. If you watch him he bails on all inside pitches as he assumes they are balls. They are called strikes. If he swings he is late most of the time. I have no ax to grind with Kearns. He is a sub at best.

If Acta was serious about winning he would have Dukes in CF, Willingham in right and Dunn in left. You could have Milledge in right to spell Willingham.

The reason why they are going with Milledge in CF is because he does not hit enough with power to be a RF or LF (at least that is what the FO believes). The only problem he is not good enough defensively to be a CF'er. The best we have for CF right now is Dukes.

Posted by: mjames0 | April 1, 2009 7:33 PM | Report abuse

I'd debate the Kearns haters and the idiot who made a comment about Acta's accent but their arguments are not based on rational thought or facts. So, for my good friends here who are more positive, here are a few more facts as the season approaches:

Kearns career numbers include .260 avg .354 obp and .435 slg. His 07 numbers while playing a full year at RFK were .266/.355/.411. His range factor which measures ((total putouts plus assists)*9) divided by innings played) was 6th best in the majors last year and was third best in 2007.

Last year he suffered from both a foot injury and an elbow injury. His throws from rightfield last year were visably different than the previous 2 years in DC with balls arcing and lacking zip. The previous years his throws were crisp and on target.

I also like Dukes as a player but his range factor in rightfield was by comparison 2.16. He was better in RF than an injurred Kearns last year, but he does not appear to be a better defender overall. He is much more prone to mistakes and sometimes seems slow to react. Still he's very talented and I hope he wins a starting spot sometime this year.

If Kearns is selected as the opening day starter it will be because he earned it this spring. Why wouldn't everyone be happy with that?

Posted by: natbiscuits | April 1, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

@jd50:

Don't wade into the pool of cranky - By all means, just Cannonball into the deep end; Be our guest.

Acta = 1st MGR fired in 2009 & 50-112 final record. Really? You honestly think that some other team isn't going to drop a ____ in the punchbowl to begin the season, and that a better assembledge of players than the last two Nationals' teams have had will bomb out completely?

I want no part of the vinegar being passed off for wine that you drink, thank you very much.

Posted by: BinM | April 1, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

I think why so many people are angry with Acta and the team tonight is that we have seen this crap before. Chico's write up of Acta's lineup reminds us so much of the Crap we had to put up with last year. Lopez, Lo Duca, Estrada....they played even though they did not give us the best chance to win the game on that day. I think people are tired of not playing the people who give us the best chance to win. Kearns is playing because of the $8 Million Jimbo gave him and hopes he gets hot and we can trade him......Sound familiar?????? Milledge in CF.....sounds just like Lopez.....he has the skills if he just would hustle and focus.....A OF of Dunn, Milledge, Kearns is not the best OF.

Dunn, Dukes and Willingham is the strongest OF.....play the best players Manny.

Posted by: JayBeee | April 1, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

I agree, Jaybee, but Manny is powerless. He's a pawn. He is, as he says, just happy to have a job. He's being told to play Kearns and The Bard Man because the FO tells him too. On Milledge, he's just blinded by the guy. So we have an ineffectual manager afraid to stay up to his own FO, and a guy who is a poor judge of talent (which explains his unadorned love of Milledge). Plus, he's a killer of bullpens. Again, gone by May 15. I'm not staying there will not be a bigger disappointment in the majors than this team, but JayBeee hit it squarely: we've been fed this same crap before: PLoD, FLop, Nook, Estrada, et all. And, Please, please don't let Casto anywhere near a major league clubhouse. I don't even think he's AAAA material; more like AA.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | April 1, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

If Casto makes this team I will send back my opening day ticket.

Posted by: JayBeee | April 1, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

LOL

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 1, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

@JayBeee:

Set aside salary for just a second. Without researching PECOTA or defensive rankings, the best overall balanced (Offensive / Defensive) OF the Nationals could put out there is probably Dunn/Dukes/Kearns. Dunn/Milledge/Dukes or Kearns is a compromise, based on the players on the team, and who can possibly fill lineup slots.

Acta set an early goal for Milledge = be our lead-off hitter; If he doesn't deal with it, option him when Hernandez comes back from the DL, or start Harris @ 2B & put him in the #1 slot in the lineup.

Posted by: BinM | April 1, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Did some local bar have a special on haterade today?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 1, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Why would I take any glee in watching a team I waited for my entire life descend further into complete obscurity? You're acting as if 100 losses is a ridiculous prediction. Not that much has to go wrong for it to become a reality...again. If we have an average number of injuries AND Kearns starts half the games in RF I am predicting 65 wins. It's not gleeful hating, it's realism.

Posted by: RickFelt | April 1, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Clearly it is time to start the season. Enough crappy lineups......I will wipe the slate clean with Acta on opening day. If I hear one "teach and preach" or "guys are young and just here to learn" or "I wanted to take our young pitchers out with a lead so I pulled in the 5th inning" we will know Acta is not a Major League Manager but a Single A Manager.

Posted by: JayBeee | April 1, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Wow!
I really don't like the tone. I still have almost a week of optimism before I have to face to cold hard truth of a won-loss record that MAY prove me wrong.
Last year we had a pitching staff by audition.
This year it is one born of competition.
Last year our coaching staff were observers of the game.
This year we have professional baseball instructors.
Last year we had 6 different starters at each of the infield positions.
I'm hoping for better.
Last year we had no legitimate HR hitter.
This year we've got Dunn.
We've had addition by subtraction in the FO.
Despite a ridiculously hard schedule (NL East and AL East) I look for a minimum of a 12 game improvement to 71 wins.
I'd sure welcome other positive comments.

Let's play two!


Posted by: SlowPitch63 | April 1, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Wow. A lot of crankiness today. Makes me long for the good ol days of Lerners are cheap arguments.

Posted by: CountDemoney | April 1, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

"If Casto makes this team I will send back my opening day ticket."

Then you're even stupider than I thought you were. On my OD ticket it says "No Refunds", so if you just send yours back you get nothing for it. That's one of the few games in the season that you'd have a chance of reselling for face value or maybe even a profit. Way to leave money on the table, JayBeee. And if you're not there, who's gonna boo Milledge and Acta? Remember, you only have until May 15th to do that now, if the bozos on this board are to be believed.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 1, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Okay, okay.. so lets dwell on everything that is going well. No more negativity and god forbid we actually DEBATE something! It might be viewed as hatred. Okay, so the positive: ... .... .... ... Zimermann... ... ... ... maybe Dunn ... ... ... Martis looks good... ... Nick hasn't broken anything yet.

Posted by: kfisher32 | April 1, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm still waiting for an explanation of what one of the board's resident scouts sees in Kearns's defense that nobody else sees.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | April 1, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Once again, I don't understand the bile that people are spewing around here. If you don't like it, vote with your wallets or your feet. Don't buy Nats stuff, don't go to games, and the Lerner's might get a clue. However, stop spewing non-stop negativeness, it's not good for your health.

As for me, I'll continue to cheer for my home town team, despite having been exiled to San Francisco for the entire time they've been in DC.

Posted by: swang30 | April 1, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

@uncle - This same discussion occured last year on Needham's site and every time someone would defend his defense, lo and behold Kearns would make a gaffe in the field the next night. I DO NOT buy the range factor. The stat is bogus. Too many other variables could account for an increase in putouts. It is plain to see just by WATCHING (yes, remember, you CAN form your OWN opinion too) that Kearns a sluggish going to the ball, he rarely catches it unless he can do so fully upright (i.e he does not dive or slide for balls), he can jump about as hight as my 5-year-old daughter, and he has trouble with balls around the wall. All of these OBSERVATIONS tell me that your "range factor" stat is better explained by variables such as OFer positioning.

As for his arm, I grew up watching OFers with great arms, the more recent of which were Dawson and Guerrero. They had great arms. You can have a good arm and not be THAT good, but Kearns' arm is nowhere close. Again, not sure how many RFers you have watched in your day, but Kearns' arm is certainly nothing to get excited about. Very average. Note: I'm not saying he is a BAD defender, just not one to get your juices flowing over.

Posted by: kfisher32 | April 1, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Here's a little more good news, although I have a feeling some will still find something nasty to say about it...

http://tinyurl.com/cpj7gz

Posted by: NatsNut | April 1, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

To the angry mob (or individuals), as suits your purpose:

The season starts in less than a week - the team we all rant about has an improved (but still imperfect) lineup, and a more professional FO to begin 2009.

Let's all (haters & lovers alike) take a deep breath, and then regale in the fact that we once again have a Major-League team in DC to slice, dice, and analyse endlessly, and a minor-league affiliate just 30 miles away in PW County, where we can watch part of the future take hold.

Hurray Baseball!

Posted by: BinM | April 1, 2009 8:59 PM | Report abuse

I have to admit I don't have the energy tonight to wade through the muck of this conversation. The season just needs to start. It is actually pretty difficult to put the 9-20 record predicted above, and I hope it doesn't happen.

If the team can get off to a respectable start, perhaps folks will calm down some.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | April 1, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

... thanks cokedispatch, for the heads up about April starters.

... as for the rest of the evening's festivities, I guess I'm glad I chose to entertain an insurance agent for an hour instead of scanning NJ. Our conversation was more civil if the 'Manny rants' (above) are anything to go by.

(Sorry to all legitimate insurance salespersons out there.)

Posted by: natscanreduxit | April 1, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse

A few other notes:

- Last year in 35 games, Nick Johnson made zero errors
- Ryan Zimmerman had the 4th best range factor among starting 3B
- Christian Guzman had a better range factor and fewer erros than both Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes.
- Baserunners were caught stealing 48% of the time when Scott Olsen was pitching last year
- Of the Nationals starting pitchers Olsen had the best batting average ast year at .125
- Adam Dunn only grounded into DP 7 times in 107 opportunities last year
- Nick Johnson grounded into DP 2 of 23 opportunities
- Joe Beimel allowed only 20 of 60 inherrited runners to score last year (33%). That would have been best on the team last year except for Hinkley (1 of 7) and SHell (29%)
- Rivera led with 17 holds last year; Beimel had 12
- Lastings Milledge batted .272/.344/.425 against righthanded pitchers last year
- Christian Guzman batted .354/.380/.525 against lefthanded pitchers last year
- Righthanded batters batted .150 against Steven Shell last year
- Lefthanded batters batted .187 against Scott Olsen

Posted by: natbiscuits | April 1, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Ah, case in point. Does anyone truly believe Guzman is a better defensive shortstop, with better range, than Jose Reyes. Probably not. But he had a better range factor. Range factor is a stat invented by some number-crazed geek with too much time on his hands trying to prove a point and is largely meaningless.

Posted by: kfisher32 | April 1, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Jeez...almost 75% of all posts sez "Manny is an idiot!"
I never realized that the vast majority of Nat nation were baseball experts as well as arm chair Nat fans.

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | April 1, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Here's a little more good news, although I have a feeling some will still find something nasty to say about it...

http://tinyurl.com/cpj7gz

Posted by: NatsNut | April 1, 2009 8:56 PM
____________________________________________________________

NatsNut,

You're a riot. Thanks for your attempt at trying to lighten the mood.

A lot of piss and vinegar in here tonight. Things had been relatively positive in here lately. Where did it all go wrong?

Acta states the obvious that Dukes is struggling and everyone jumps to conclusions that Kearns has won the job already and Acta will be fired in May.

I would rather see Dukes starting in RF myself but hey, if Kearns is playing better right now then ride it out. Competition folks, it's what makes teams better.

As for backup catcher, I like Bard over Nieves. I like what Nieves did last year, but face it, he is very limited offensively. This team is going to need to score runs because, our young staff is going to struggle at times.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 1, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Well, this pretty wildly far afield from the current topics, but you can check out the MLB preview issue from April 14, 1969 over here:

http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com (click on the link underneath the cover that says "view every page...).

In American League East preview (page 80), starts off with a discussion of the Senators, noting that they're in a newish hitter's park known as RFK with rookie manager Ted Williams. There's some concern about lagging attendance, though: "The real problem is home attendance. It slipped to 542,052, and teams have cut and run from towns that drew many more people than that".

(And if you're enough of a nut to page through the entire issue, the "Faces in the Crowd" section at the end notes a promising 8th grade tennis player named Chris Everet...)

Posted by: joebleux | April 1, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

kfisher -- thanks for responding.

I won't argue about his arm. Last year he was terrible. When he's healthy, though, he's average. Though, I would argue that unless he's putrid out there with a complete rag arm, there's not much of a difference in terms of runs scored between an average guy and someone who's pretty good.

Range factor isn't really a good stat to use for defense. There's a lot of noise in the stat. If you want something that's a bit more 'accurate', try zone rating, which is on hardballtimes.com or UZR, which is on fangraphs.com.

Yeah, they're made by statheads, but there's a kernel of truth in some of them. And this is a case where they jive with everyone else's scouting report.

I won't argue that he was a bit down last season. But the years before, he was as good as any RFer in the league. His problem is that he makes a lot of plays look easy. You don't see him make as many sliding catches because his jump means he's getting to the ball before other fielders would've.

As far as Guzman, I think if you look at any other more modern defensive stat, they'd show him as average, at best. Which also sorta jives with what most people's eyes say.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | April 1, 2009 10:00 PM | Report abuse

@uncle - I have tried, when watching Kearns, to consider that what you say - that he is just making it LOOK easy - might be the case. I still do not necessarily agree that is the case, but will crack my mind back open - BUT JUST A CRACK - when I next watch him. ... which hopefully will be for a different team (sorry, had to get one last jab in there).

Posted by: kfisher32 | April 1, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

I'll give ya that he shouldn't be starting for the team. Although, if they're going to bury Milledge (and let's not give Jaybee any ideas -- he's probably got the shovel ready), I'd rather they play AK there than risk losing Dukes's legs.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | April 1, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Agree with Section 502503 that Bard is probably better pick as #2 catcher than Nieves. Yes, we all appreciate Nieves's work ethic and enthusiasm, and his HR against the Cubs was one of the biggest highlights of 2008, but Bard gives us a pretty decent lefthanded bat with some pop when a tough righty is going against us and he is by all accounts a good handler of pitchers.

More to the point, why, if you like Nieves, is it necessary to trash Bard? They are two solid citizens and pretty decent ballplayers fighting for the same job (perhaps). If two pitchers independently and spontaneously praise Bard, why can't we accept that as prima facie evidence that Bard is, well, a pretty good handler of pitchers? Not to say that Nieves isn't also....Isn't this all pretty obvious?

Posted by: CapPeterson | April 1, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Looks like Danny Boy is going to make another splash in the DC sports news headline dept. Hmmm, seems to always coincide with anything that might take away from his bottom line, ie. Caps win the division and get ready for the playoffs. Nats opening on Monday. Ya gotta figure any Redskin move will be good for what...., 5 + days of WAPO coverage, line-em up (Kornhole, Wilber, Jenkins, Wise, etc,etc,etc).

Posted by: TippyCanoe | April 1, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

For all the non-confrontationalists out there dithering over the debating going on (a.k.a. "piss and vinegar"), look at the bright side. At least we got through an entire thread without a food reference (I think). LONG LIVE CHICO! (getting late and the kegerator is nearing empty)

Posted by: kfisher32 | April 1, 2009 10:27 PM | Report abuse

A kegerator and you didn't invite us over???

what the hell kind of message board poster are you???

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | April 1, 2009 10:38 PM | Report abuse

I agree that range factor is not the best defensive measure, but it has some value. Reasons why it is misleading include that it is highly influenced by the pitcher. Groundball pitchers drive up numbers for infielders and flyball pitchers drive up munbers for outfielders. Bad pitchers drive up numbers for all fielders.

Still you can clearly see supporting evidence in the numbers. Had Willie Harris qualified as a starter last year he would have led all major league leftfielders in range factor. That is consistent with what your own eyes would tell you. Hunter Pence and Nick Markakis had good range factors in right; Bobby Abreu and Maglio Ordonez did not. Troy Tulowitzki and Yurnel Escobar had the best range factors among shortstops. Derek Jeter was in the lower tier.

I certainly would not argue that Guzman is a better player than Ramirez or Reyes, but ask most observers if Ramirez is a good fielding shortstop and they will tell you he is not. Range factor tells only part of the story. I do not maintain Guzman has good range, but I do think it is better than some of the star shortstops in the league. BTW, Zimmerman - as expected - is top five in range factor for 3B. David Wright was in bottom tier.

Mostly, I just wanted to put some positive stuff out there tonight. The Nats were a very bad defensive team last year - partly because of injuries (Paul LoDucca played 1B and LF for Pete's Sake - not to mention catcher). But with health - Kearns, Johnson, Zimmerman, and Hernancez can help to repair the defense.

Posted by: natbiscuits | April 1, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

I have a question. Exactly why is Flores our #1 catcher. Yes I know he is young and plays okay on part time basis but what makes him #1.

Posted by: mjames0 | April 1, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Dammit, mjames, he is #1 because he came from the Mets and his first name is Jesus! He MUST be great, and how dare you question it!

Actually, I think they saw the makings of a great defensive catcher and a potentially "solid" offensive one. Boone and Pat Corrales (sp?) seemed to sign on pretty early. Not sure if he will live up to it, but he is still young.

On the flip side, I wouldn't mind seeing Bard mixed in a bit this year.

Posted by: kfisher32 | April 1, 2009 11:26 PM | Report abuse

Well as it's the last little bit of April Fool's, and seeing Joebleaux (aka Burke2)'s comment about accents, I thought it'd be fun to see what this post and subsequent comments would look like "redneckified" So if you want to see it, copy this post's url and go here:

http://rinkworks.com/dialect/

Paste the url in the field on the left, select "Redneck" (or any of the other "dialects" in the drop menu), and click "Dialectize" Sure makes the vitriol much more fun to read, I'll tell ya!

Cheers, and happy baseball

Posted by: HotNats | April 1, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Anyone read Boz's story?

He doesn't understand English. This is from his piece:

""We do not have to shed payroll. If we find a good baseball trade, we will make it." That means the Nats might keep on paying much or all of a contract, like Johnson's $5.5 million deal, to get a young Arredondo."

"We do not have to shed payroll" does not mean the Nats will be willing to move someone like Johnson and still pay a big chunk or even all his salary. "If we find a good baseball trade, we will make it" -- that means just what it says and nothing more.

The Nats are saying they won't move someone just to get rid of his contract. They'll only move someone if they can improve the quality of the on-field product -- that talent and need will drive any deals, not finances.

They aren't saying they're prepared to trade someone and still pay him to play somewhere else. How Boz makes that leap is beyond me.

Posted by: fischy | April 2, 2009 12:56 AM | Report abuse

Also -- you gotta love Roger Bernadina's numbers this spring. His OBP is actually lower than his batting average. That's really hard to do. The saving grace for him? Joel Guzman has also managed this feat.

Posted by: fischy | April 2, 2009 1:18 AM | Report abuse

This was hilarious:

Wow. A lot of crankiness today. Makes me long for the good ol days of Lerners are cheap arguments.

Posted by: CountDemoney | April 1, 2009 8:27 PM

Posted by: Section506 | April 2, 2009 7:59 AM | Report abuse

It didn't go wrong, 505203, as it's not the usual suspects for the most part. Perhaps the I-Hate-Acta club got bumped from their usual venue, or decided to march on NJ in hopes of sparking confrontations with their belligerence. Whatever, dudes.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 2, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

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