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The Morning Reading

Since taking the job as acting GM, Mike Rizzo has used competition as the most valuable sort of currency. He's talked about it in almost every interview. He's signed players like Josh Bard and Kip Wells, simply to add more people competing for spots. And, most interesting, he hasn't traded any of his five outfielders -- and yes, that's a decision determined largely by the trade market, but it also reflects Rizzo's willingness to keep them all, throw them together, and eventually let the best ones get the ABs.

Competition, though, has a complex ripple effect. The good: Players must meet a higher standard to keep their jobs. The arguably good: Few feel relaxed. The bad: You run the risk of a few very upset players.

Manny Acta, on the ground level, has the job of keeping everything together. You can read Sheinin's coverage of the RF battle here; you can read the account of the Nats' finalized 25-man roster here. It says a lot about the competition in this year's camp (at least in the bullpen and in the outfield) that arguably the team's most talented player will start the season on the bench, and that bullpen candidate Jason Bergmann (who allowed zero runs in 11-1/3 this spring) will start the season in Syracuse, which is a little like the bench, but colder and not as scenic. To be sure, nobody made this team by default.

Today, the Nationals fly back down to TommyBahamaland for an early-evening workout in Miami. I'll be writing and posting today about the team's final hours of prep. Tomorrow on the Journal: Predictions. Lots of them. We'll do them before the 4:10 p.m. first pitch.

By Chico Harlan  |  April 5, 2009; 8:31 AM ET
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Next: Some Fun With UZRs


"... Mike Rizzo has used competition as the most valuable sort of currency."

... competition = currency; players = inventory. C'mon Mike Rizzo; c'mon Manny Acta; c'mon you guys. This is baseball - America's pastime; the Grand Old Game. This is not the place for 'corpo-speak'.

... competition is a real and important part of the game, but it's not akin to cash, nor is it something you can use as barter. It's not currency. Likewise, a roster of players is comprised of real, live breathing humans, not widgets on a warehouse shelf, sitting around waiting to be shipped to some dealer in Peoria or Monterey or Saskatoon. They're ball players, not inventory.

... some might argue the use of these words is meaningless; that we all know what you mean. Well sure, we understand. The danger however, lies in the subconscious subtle shifting of attitudes when such terminology creeps into baseball - unless we take care, it stops being a game at all and becomes a business only.

Happy Sunday; Go Nats!

Posted by: natscanreduxit | April 5, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I'm Manny's mom, but that was an inconsistency in today's stories that bugged me.

His choice for RF was based on ST performance. The result of the competition for the position. I'll take it.

But Bergmann's ERA was ZERO!!! It was not competition that drove that decision, it was options.

I understand it. I know baseball isn't fair. But c'mon, it's so NOT FAIR.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 5, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

This "competition" business is all about corporate spin from the front office trying to make a weak roster look better than it is. Rizzo is turning out to be a company man, through and through.

If there's competition, it's among journeymen players few if any other teams care about. Dukes, Milledge, Kearns? Dunn and Wilingham may be major leaguers, but that's about it. And Dunn can't field. What competition is that?

If Manny's job is on the line this season, as some say, then I don't envy him. Look at what he's being given to work with.

Posted by: JohnRDC | April 5, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

I feel for for some of our bullpen guys. They come in and put up superior numbers but jobs are given to retreads such as Tavares and Ledezuma. Cabrera is given a starting position and he clearly did not win it. So much for competition.

If I hear one more writer say that Kearns had a great spring I will scream. He batted 273 and stranded a ton of runners. Acta talks about competition. Well if it was truly a competition Milledge would not be starting. Dukes and Willingham would be worked into playing. If we get off to a poor start, Acta is toast because of his refusal to field the best team.

One last thing concerning Tavares - After what this guy said about the Nats, I would have cut him. You do not disrespect your team. The Yankees would never have put up with that crap. Acta, Rizzo and the FO do. It says something about management. Players will not respect them. Just watch. This will not be a happy team.

Posted by: mjames0 | April 5, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

At the same time, Cabrera doesn't bother me. Zimmermann and Martis, in my mind, are really in the 3 and 4 spots and I think of Cabrera as the 5th guy--a "rookie" who is a little raw but who we'll take a few lumps from in exchange for his potential.

I think we can afford Cabrera. And lord knows nobody has any illusions about him. We knew what we were getting.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 5, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Lipty | April 5, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

I'm really struggling to understand the decision to start Kearns over Dukes. I've always liked Kearns, but I think you have to give Dukes all the playing time and at bats you can to find out what you have. Kearns had a better ST than Dukes - so what? It's not actually about this season.

Posted by: Section220 | April 5, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Roll back to the day after JimBo resigned, Stan K. said that signing Zim11 was a priority by Opening Day.

I had assumed Stan was referring to the Nats Opening Day against the Marlins which is now tomorrow which means in Space Coast Stadium code-speak T minus 29 hours 59 minutes on this one.

We probably all hope it gets done because the drama will continue into after the 2009 season has eneded as has been the case last year with no negotiations from Zim's side during the season......

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | April 5, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I'd be so furious if I was Willingham and saw that nothing piece of trash Kearns being rolled out in RF every game while I sat on the bench. I really hope he sticks it to us next year with whatever team picks him up.

Posted by: RickFelt | April 5, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Hi Guys,

... something else for a rainy Sunday morning. You might find this interesting, and possibly disturbing:

... here is my response to the writer:

... just a short response. I couldn't agree more with everything you say, right down to being more a baseball fan than hockey, to playing scrub, and games at Jarry Park.

... but beneath all my agreement with your list of negatives, there is one positive which supercedes all else, one which you either don't feel or didn't want to include. It's still baseball. And baseball, like all things good in life, has the innate ability to overcome all the negative stresses and pressure put on it from time to time.

... I hope and pray you will regain that sense of the game so that it will not be lost to you forever.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | April 5, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Competition my a$$. Cabrera, Milledge and Tavarez clearly did not have to earn there spots. It will probably work itself out though when Nick breaks down and Kearns doesn't hit.

Posted by: edr04 | April 5, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Moves are made for various reasons. Some are competitively won, others are a matter of options. The bottom line, options are used when another player has the possibility of being lost to another team because he has no options left, while a more deserving player has options left. I'm sure if they had a non-influenced choice, it would probably be to keep the player more deserving. Sometimes though, in order to maintain control of both players, it just can't be done. In the long run it will all work itself out as injuries and such take place through the course of the season. It aint always pretty.

Posted by: cokedispatch | April 5, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Manny's mom? Kearns's mom? NatsNut, how many children do you have on this roster? LOL!

Posted by: leetee1955 | April 5, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

NatsNut has 40 children, at least, and we love her for it.

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | April 5, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I'm NatsNut's mom. :-D

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 5, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

CHICO SAYS...."To be sure, nobody made this team by default"........could there be a more clueless line from a reporter who covers this team full time.....ops I forgot about Ladson.......HELLO CHICO.....take a look at CF.

Posted by: JayBeee | April 5, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

he he. good point leetee.

(and thanks slowpitch and 1a) ;)

Posted by: NatsNut | April 5, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Who is INVENTORY's mom?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 5, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

After Willingham's performance last night, I feel a little sick that he isn't playing. "We were there and he was spectacular," my boyfriend just said. I have more mixed feelings about Dukes/Kearns--Dukes hasn't been playing as well recently as he did last year, but I can see the "it's just ST" argument. And Bergman to Syracuse is a heartbreaker.

As for the stadium, it looked great. The dead cherry tree from last year has been replaced. Mayorga had a guy in the stands with a backpack of hot chocolate (I kid you not). My beloved gelato cart was in its usual place. The $7 hot dog/soft drink/bag of chips deal is a good gesture for the state of the economy. The staff (including food servers) all seemed friendly. And rest assured Screech can now take his hat off for the Natl Anthem.

Posted by: Section109 | April 5, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Trade Tavarez, one of the 3 catchers, and Milledge; get another arm.

After you trade Tavarez, call up Bergmann (who actually earned a roster spot).

Put Willingham in the starting lineup. Willingham's statements in this morning's print edition are right-on. He has proven himself, and he deserves to be playing.

Posted by: usmc53 | April 5, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Kearns is starting so that the team can showcase him for a trade.

My hope is that he has a good month to increase his value and then we dump him (and probably eat most of his salary). His country music pre-at bat song selection is the soundtrack of a rally's death.

Posted by: s129 | April 5, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

"Also, they weren't open yesterday but we spotted Kosher stands by the scoreboard pavilion and on the 300 level."

That's the problem with the kosher stands - they're too kosher. They shut them down on the Sabbath, which means every Friday night and Saturday. I went to 30 games last year, wandered the stadium looking for food before every game, and rarely saw the kosher stands open for business. Is it against Jewish dietary laws to have goyim serve food that was prepared in accordance with kosher standards on the Sabbath? Would doing that somehow violate those stands? Whole Foods manages to mingle organic and non-organic produce in order to sell both. Is there no way for the Nats to sell kosher food on the Sabbath?

And as for Mayorga, their coffee stand on the Gallery level was open even less often last year than the kosher stands were. Is Mayorga a kosher company perhaps?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 5, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

A lot of people on here are getting all worked up about the roster and who is playing and who should not be playing. Things have a way of working themselves out through injury, non-performance or trades.

I wouldn't worry to much about it now, when we still have 162 games to go.

For example, put me in the camp of folks who would rather see Dukes starting in RF. Thing is though, if he should be there, he will end up there. It is up to him to produce and show that, if he produces he WILL get PT.

Competition almost always makes a team better.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 5, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Sheesh, there is an awful lot of teeth gnashing in here for opening day. The sun is shining folks! Blogswell and Sheinin are dishing on NJ, in addition to Tracee and Cheeks. We have so much depth that we are complaining about good players being on the bench, and in AAA. Patty is right -- Cabrera is this year's Oliver Perez, an innings-eater on a one-year deal, holding down a spot while we wait for reinforcements from the minors (Detwiler, Smoker, McGeary, VanAllen). Except instead of a career journeyman, he's a former top prospect. Maybe the Saint gets him to put it together; if not, he's gone after this year, perhaps even by midseason. It's fine. And so is the outfield/first base situation. We have good hitters and plus defenders at every position. But only if we use seven guys to man those positions. I hope the story in the dead trees edition is wrong and that Manny intends to implement a rotation, even if it's not a starting rotation. Give all of these guys regular at-bats and the situation will sort itself out by midseason if not before, whether due to performance, injuries, trades or otherwise.

Posted by: BobLHead | April 5, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

For the record, here is what I said about the OF situation back in December, and I think it still holds true even after we signed Dunn:

What if the outfield isn't really that crowded?

Check out these numbers:


Those belong to our four starting outfield candidates.

The first line is interesting, more so when you learn that it belongs to a 24-year old with just two partial seasons in the majors, and who has the physical skills to play plus defense at any outfield position. So he's clearly a starter, right? Sure, as long as he can keep his personal demons in check and stay off the DL. Dukes was on the 15-day list twice last year, played in exactly 81 games and was limited to 276 at-bats. So, here we have one-half of a potentially very good outfielder. Do we have the other half? Jury's still out.

The fourth line looks like it might belong to the odd man out. But that line happens to belong to another 24-year old with less than two seasons in the majors, a potential five-tool guy with speed and a live bat. And as 506 alluded to above, our man Lastings hit .299/.355/.448 after the All-Star Break. He might have a ways to go in the field, but he doesn’t belong on the bench, or in someone else's clubhouse, for that matter.

That brings us to our two 30-year old veterans, whose lines appear in the middle. One of them is regarded as an offensive disappointment, particularly in the power department, but as a defensive ace. The other is an average defender at best, but one with enough pop in his bat that he’s an acceptable starter. These guys are two sides of the same solid, unspectacular coin. And both of them lost significant time last season to injuries (Willingham had 350 at-bats, Kearns 313). That’s right – two players that together add up to one solid major league outfielder.

So who sits? The answer may be nobody. And everybody. Need some pop in the lineup today? Go with Willingham-Milledge-Dukes (or possibly Milledge-Dukes-Willingham). Time for a late inning defensive switch? How about Milledge-Dukes-Kearns? Better yet, Harris-Dukes-Kearns. Facing a tough lefty? Sit Milledge, who struggles a bit, and play Kearns, who excels (.278/.386/.473), as in Willingham-Dukes-Kearns. Milledge as an occasional sparkplug pinch-hitter off the bench is not a terrible idea, as long as he gets 450 at-bats.

And that’s if everyone is healthy. Including our first baseman, if it’s not Teixeira or Dunn. If we’re left with Johnson and Meat, well then, perhaps Willingham is at first and the other three play every day. Bottom line: Our five outfielders give us a lot of depth, and a lot of options. We don’t necessarily have to get rid of anybody, even if we do sign a free agent first baseman.

Posted by: BobLHead | December 18, 2008 2:14 PM |

Posted by: BobLHead | April 5, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Inventory is the child of Invention, who was mothered by Frank Zappa, Terry Bozzio, Jean-Luc Ponty & others.

Posted by: BinM | April 5, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Could any of those guys play ball?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 5, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

It's a shame that Bergmann got caught in a numbers game - he pitched well enough to make the Opening-Day 25-man, imo.
I hope that he'll get the call-up when the first roster shuffle is made in mid-April (JZimm & a BP arm for Gonzalez & the 3rd catcher).

I'm a little worried about Willingham - he's a good hitter, a fair LF, but his attitude could sour quickly if he spends more than a couple of days a week on the bench.

Posted by: BinM | April 5, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Could any of those guys play ball?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 5, 2009 12:01 PM
No, but they could rock!

Posted by: BinM | April 5, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

@NatsNut and 1a

I'm willing to be adopted if there's room.

Posted by: leetee1955 | April 5, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

>Our five outfielders give us a lot of depth, and a lot of options.

That's the problem though - Acta isn't interested in a rotation. He's interested in starting someone until they fall on their face. He even admitted there wouldn't be any kind of rotation. So, if you're on the bench, chances are that's where you'll stay. And if say, these two guys get off the bench, do you then bench the two starters and treat them the same way? It's a blind approach because neither side is feeding the other.

Posted by: Brue | April 5, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

In the past Manny has done a decent job of finding playing time for bench guys, keeping them fresh. As I said, I hope the comments in the paper this morning do not represent his final word on the subject.

Posted by: BobLHead | April 5, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

We'll see what we can work out, leetee. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 5, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Lastings Mendoza leads off the season tomorrow (that whole setting the table business)! Ignites the offense, works the count, waits for his pitch, scores runs, avoids outs, has a sharp eye at the plate, draws walks, handles the bat well, has a great on-base percentage, and is aggressive on the base paths (once you are on the basepaths?). Will Lastings Mendoza work his way on with an eight-pitch walk? Bunt his way on? Big fly from leadoff, a la Ricky Henderson? Noooooooooooo! Jump at one of the first two pitches and pop it up! Yessssssssssssssss! 4 for 38, 1 BB, 8K, 2R .105, since the announcement of him as the choice for leadoff. He earned it! Sorry Willingham ya bum ya!

Posted by: nova_g_man | April 5, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

>Lastings Mendoza leads off the season tomorrow (that whole setting the table business)!

All he really has to do is keep his hands back. It's pretty simple. I guess that's the problem.

Posted by: Brue | April 5, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

>In the past Manny has done a decent job of finding playing time for bench guys, keeping them fresh. As I said, I hope the comments in the paper this morning do not represent his final word on the subject

No it's not his final word on the subject, I'm sure of that. He'll play it by feel. It just speaks to a level of sophistication that's required to keep pro athletes who make more than you do - relatively happy. They will ultimately only listen to you for certain reasons, and it's your job to figure that out imo. So it's the next step, dealing with talent and egos. First review is pretty static on Manny's behalf.

Posted by: Brue | April 5, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse


I'll accept honorary status.

Posted by: leetee1955 | April 5, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

curious question.

anyone here using Twitter?

does the Post have a Twitter account for Nats Journal? Or at all?

Posted by: MrMadison | April 5, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

After looking at the roster & roughing out the possible Games Started, it looks like Willingham needs to be traded, and Harris, Belliard, Nieves, Bard, or Milledge could be traded

Posted by: BinM | April 5, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

>After looking at the roster & roughing out the possible Games Started, it looks like Willingham needs to be traded, and Harris, Belliard, Nieves, Bard, or Milledge could be traded

Either that or trade Manny. It's pretty simple when you lay it out like that. It's his job to figure out who plays. What else are they paying him for?

Posted by: Brue | April 5, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Okay with me if it's okay with NatsNut, leetee.

Also (caution: O's related video), is it just me, or is this Boo Teixeira song pretty darned funny? Unlike O's fans, we'd have to take our booing act on the road this year, though:

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 5, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

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