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Wednesday Morning Reading

I'm back from my weekend, Chico's taking the day off, and Philly native Zach Berman is philling in (pause for groaning). Meantime, Dave Sheinin's List this morning on Baseball Insider deals with the Expos' legacy.

I am so So SO excited to report that I have received a bit of a freelance budget windfall. If I told you what my budget was for freelance baseball stories at the start of the year, you'd laugh yourself sick. Okay: $400. For a month? No, my dears, for the year. However, stuff happened and now I have a bit of scratch to play with. So stories are a'comin'. A little P-Nats, a little Chiefs to start. Whee! I'm very pumped.

Confidential to VelocityAtrocity: "Sugar" is showing at Shirlington, Bethesda, Cinema Arts and Gallery Place, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. I'd check the Friday listings to be sure. I'll post a link to Ann Hornaday's review on Friday. But I can give you a sneak peek right now, and I quote: "I *love* this movie!!!!!"

Danny Knobler of CBSsports.com asks the Nats how they'd feel about a potential big payday for Strasburg. (Link via mlbtraderumors.com)


jca asked, so here is the link to a piece about Zim's streak.

Brian has your latest farm report right here.

Suppose you all saw the news that the draft has been moved to 6 p.m. on June 9 in Secaucus. Poor planning on my part; I fly back from Kansas that day. I assume they've done that for television; just hope they don't drag it out a la the NFL draft. On the other hand, the Nats will make their two biggies by 7 p.m.

Joe Strauss, the Cardinals' beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has a chat today at 1 p.m. (Central); might be worth checking out on a rainy day, to see what's new with the upcoming competition.

Bart Hubbuch of the NY Post says Oliver Perez is throwing batting practice this morning at Citi Field. Interesting...

By Tracee Hamilton  |  April 29, 2009; 10:56 AM ET
 
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Next: Guzman Reinstated; Gonzalez to Syracuse

Comments

The Nats will draft Strasburg on the same day Zimmm hits in consecutive game #56.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | April 29, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Tracee! I'm definitely seeing it this weekend. I'm very surprised it's in 4 theatres.

Posted by: VelocityAtrocity | April 29, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Cool about the freelance budget and MiLB coverage, Tracee. Maybe they could eke out a Hagerstown trip as well (yes, I realize that they're not doing that well)?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 29, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

We'll hit 'em all. And then in June, the interns come ... I gotta sit down, I feel faint.

Posted by: traceeh | April 29, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Tracee, when you "freelance" to Hagerstown I'll set aside some free, good tickets for you. Got to see what the A ballers are up to even though it's pretty ugly right now.

Posted by: bendersx6 | April 29, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

If the Nats lose tonight and fall to 4-16, Manny's job has to be in serious jeopardy, whether it's his fault or not(how often is it the manager's fault, anyway?)
A team can't just go merrily along, especially after a 100-loss season, as the laughing stock of baseball without somebody's head rolling.

Posted by: nats24 | April 29, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

"If we had better performances out of our bullpen, we'd be close to .500 (9-10, or so) at this point, and right in contention. I can think of at leaset 5 games we definitely should have won, if not for our 'pen (3 against FL, one against ATL at home, the 13-11 debacle the other night, not to mention the home opener)."

Kind of amplifies my question to 506 in the last thread. Where in the world is it that this bullpen is very well rated?

Same could be said about the defense that has cost this team several games already this season. Very well rated? By who?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 29, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

"I may be a neanderthal, but tell me. Where are the Nationals very well rated in either bullpen or defense? That's a serious question, "nice point, 506" or not. I haven't seen anywhere that rates this team highly in either of those aspects. Have you? If so, where?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 29, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse "
------------------------
nunof1 - Zimmerman, Johnson, and Kearns historically have been regarded as plus defenders and performed as such. Sure, FotF will occasionally have a throw that needs a good 1st baseman to dig it out, and I remember at least one Johnson muff throwing this year, but do you seriously consdier them to be bad defenders? AH, too, should be a good defender.

The Nats principal problems in the field this year have been AG's snowballing miscues (I think is more a confidence/ concentration thing than a real defensive ability issue) and CF (first Lastings, then Dukes readjusting to the position after 1.5 years out of it). Dunn, of course, but he's in a far less critical defensive position.

I'm not expecting more than middling defense from Guz, but he should be steady and not press himself into mistakes. Dukes I think will get better over time.

If the same players stay here and play, don't you think that over the next three months they'll revert closer to their capabalities and historic norms?

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | April 29, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Even better, Tracee. FWIW, the P-Nats have a fireworks show after their July 4 game. Past shows have been excellent, IMO.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 29, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

nunof1 - by the way, you don't see me taking on the bullpen comment. It is a horror show. For a good laugh, check out some of the comments on Julian as a potential closer at "Welcome to NatsTown. Population: You" on SoSH. The comments are around page 14 -16 of the thread:

http://sonsofsamhorn.net/index.php?showtopic=44144

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | April 29, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Okay, jca, you named three "plus defenders" who have all been underperforming so far this year. That leaves six other guys who are out there too, and the defensive expectation for them is meh at best. So how does all that add up to a very well rated defense in anyone's book?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 29, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Great news, Tracee, looking forward to the stories. Speaking of coverage, for draft day this year I hope you guys have the space allocated for at least one story on the Nats' draft, and one for the game. Unlike the screwup last year, which Mr. Garcia-Ruiz admitted to after-the-fact.

By the way, is Matt Vita more of a baseball and Nats fan than Emilio? Here's hoping.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | April 29, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

"By the way, is Matt Vita more of a baseball and Nats fan than Emilio? Here's hoping."

Would be hard to be worse, wouldn't it? (But then again, that's the same thing I said about this year's team vs last year's 59-102. Turns out it's not that hard.)

Posted by: nunof1 | April 29, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

nunof1

Lets give Dukes his credit. In RF he has a superb arm and very good range. The total lack of CF's is forcing us to use him as a middling center fielder. Hernandez is reputed to be a plus defender too.

Posted by: soundbloke | April 29, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

"I haven't seen anywhere that rates this team highly in either of those aspects. Have you? If so, where?"

You're confusing "well rated" with "highly rated." If I had said they were highly ranked in either area, I would have been dreaming.

But I didn't. And they are not rated to be this poor in defense or bullpen, and past performance indicates they should not be this poor in defense or bullpen, and certain games have shown that they are not this poor in defense or bullpen.

Posted by: Section506 | April 29, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

From this morning's Washington Times on Jim Bowden:

Jim in L.A. also talked about other issues of interest to Nationals fans - such as spending money on players.

"We didn't have the resources to ever have a competitive payroll, or we weren't able to sign our first-round pick because we weren't given the dollars to finish that," he said. "But the reality is it is going to be a gold mine. It is just going to take some time."

Jim in L.A. said the money will be there for Strasburg in this year's draft.

"Washington is going to draft Strasburg," he said. "The decision has already been made. It was made when I was there. That is who they are going to take. ... This is the best amateur pitcher since I was born. He is that good - his delivery, his stuff, 100 miles an hour in the eighth inning, his makeup. He's got the entire package. ... Strasburg is going to be drafted by Washington. You think they are going to sign him early? No, it's going to be Aug. 15 at 11:57 p.m. It will end at around $15 million, about under $35 million of what Scott [Boras] wants, but that is where it ends up. It will be record-breaking, and he will be pitching in the big leagues in September. He is that good."

Posted by: dovelevine | April 29, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Still not convinced that any of this "should be" or "reputed" stuff translates into the Nationals having a very well rated defense, except in the dreams of some folks here. Face it, guys, it is what it is. Defense and bullpen are the two glaring weaknesses of this team.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 29, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

"And they are not rated to be this poor in defense or bullpen, and past performance indicates they should not be this poor in defense or bullpen, and certain games have shown that they are not this poor in defense or bullpen."

Very well rated, highly rated. You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to. Before the season, no one was saying that the defense or bullpen of this team was anything more than marginally adequate. And they both have underperformed even those less-than-lofty expectations.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 29, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

"Oliver Perez is throwing batting practice this morning at Citi Field."

Oliver Perez is throwing batting practice whenever he pitches.

How did the Nats ever miss signing this gas-can thrower?

Posted by: jdschulz50 | April 29, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

@Tracee: Don't explode that freelance budget all in one lump by, say, having the writers eat more than once a day. That's what Marriott Residence Inns and Hampton Inns are good for: buffet breakfast line opens at 6:30. Eat, read papers, eat, read more papers, eat, read more papers and leave by 10. You don't have to spend a dollar the rest of the day on food. Trust me on this. I'm one-fourth Scotsman. Thrifty is my middle name. But that doesn't mean I can't spend other people's money. Nats, sign Strasburg. Now. JimBo sez so.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | April 29, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I'd give Flores an above average rating in the field too.

So that leaves Dunn in left as below average, and Guz's range as average (on ground balls; he has excellent range on pop-ups).

I don't know how you come with a "marginally adequate" when most of the guys out there are above average.

Posted by: joebleux | April 29, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Where are the preseason assessments that would have ranked either defense or bullpen as anything other than adequate for this team? Haven't seen them. I can guarantee that no one listed either of them as a strength, and I'd be willing to bet that more than a few cited one or both as a liability. None of that translates into "very well rated" by any definition.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 29, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Nunof,

Though I can't cite chapter and verse on Nats defenders, there have been numerous accounts by scouts and league officials that have rated Zimmerman, Johnson, Kearns, and Hernandez as superb defensive players. If they're having sub-par seasons in 2009 that doesn't discount the talent that has been recognized by experts (not uneducated, ill-informed bloggers!) over the course of several years. Though David Wright has won the last 2 NL Gold Gloves at third, many writers feel Zimmerman has been robbed because Wright plays in NY. Flores is considered a very strong but raw young catcher who, on another team, would probably be learning his craft in the minors. But he's very highly regarded. Guzman and Dukes are considered solid -- not great -- defenders, though Dukes is playing out of position. Maxwell and Bernadina are considered superb outfielders who lack offensive pop. Dunn is an abomination on the field but generally offsets his gaffes with a superior stick and on-base savvy.

In short, this team is really only missing a true CF with a bat. Everywhere else they're quite solid or better. People look at the abyssmal record and criticize but the truth is this team is CLEARLY moving in the right direction. You're right, the bullpen is horrible and needs re-working... nonetheless, this team is only 2 or 3 key players from being in the conversation in what is arguably baseball's toughest division.

Posted by: outsider6 | April 29, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

RANDY ST. CLAIRE is doing a FANTASTIC job! Keep up the fine work!

Posted by: richs91 | April 29, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

richs91: "RANDY ST. CLAIRE is doing a FANTASTIC job! Keep up the fine work!"

I hope that's sarcastic. Indications are he's bringing along a very young rotation, which, with a few exceptions, has provided a high number of quality starts.

As for the relievers, a coach can only do so much. They need a stronger staff, not a different coach.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 29, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

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