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The 10 Biggest Nats Developments of 2009

I like year-end lists. They make you reflect, and reflecting is good. Also, kind of fun. For the Washington Nationals, 2009 was almost impossibly counterbalanced by destruction and progress, by embarrassment and accomplishment. The franchise circa January 2009 looks almost nothing like the franchise of December 2009. Jim Bowden is gone, and so are the carnival proclivities that permeated the organization. The players Bowden touted at the December 2008 winter meetings as two-thirds of his nucleus -- Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes -- have been, in order, traded and marginalized. Shawn Hill is gone, Wily Mo Pena is gone, Daniel Cabrera is gone, Anderson Hernandez is gone and Odalis Perez never even showed up. Another 103 losses came and went. Stephen Strasburg arrived. I could go on and on. For the Nats, this was a year of franchise-reshaping upheaval. There are many ways to interpret the year's biggest developments -- I'd love to hear your take on the matter -- but here is my list.

THE 10 BIGGEST DEVELOPMENTS OF 2009

1. THE GM CHANGE -- The change in leadership was messy. Jim Bowden lost his job amid scandal, and Mike Rizzo replaced him with incremental steps, surviving interim status and a league-wide GM search to finally become the full-time successor. But once all that happened, the Nationals, perhaps for the first time since moving to Washington, established a semblance of stability and predictability. Rizzo established better relations with agents and other GMs across the league. He was more cautious about the characters he added to the roster and smarter about building a well-rounded team (with a bullpen!). He was, in short, the perfect antidote for an organization in need of a new image. The era of hideous long-term contracts, second-chance reclamation projects and ex-Cincinnati Reds is over.

2. THE SIGNING OF STEPHEN STRASBURG -- By inking this phenom, the Nationals acquired (they hope) a future ace, the rarest commodity in the sport. But they also did more. The do-no-right organization, mocked everywhere for all the things you're sick of reading about, played the delicate Strasburg negotiations exactly right. The front office kept quiet during the staredown, made a fair offer, and signed Strasburg at the 11th hour. So goodbye, jokes. Goodbye, Lerners-are-cheap talk. Now, the Nats have a centerpiece player and much more respect.

3. THE SMILEY GONZALEZ FRAUD -- Yes, this deserves its own category, even though its biggest repercussion led to Development No. 1. Even when you take that out of the equation, the revelation about the age fraud of Dominican prospect Smiley Gonzalez dominated storylines for weeks ... and it prompted the Nats to fire Jose Rijo, backtrack from their failed academy in San Cristobal and start totally from scratch (with new headquarters and new leadership) in Latin America. I'll never forget hearing Stan Kasten describe Smileygate as a "deliberate, premeditated fraud." As he predicted in February: "No teenager executed this fraud. There were a number of people involved in it. I can assure you, this is going to have serious repercussions."

4. ACTA OUT; RIGGLEMAN IN -- Most years, for most teams, a managerial change would rank atop the list. And certainly the team's decision to remove Jim Riggleman's interim tag this offseason will go a long way to determining the success/failure of the Nats in the next few seasons. But I'm keeping this out of the top three on my list only because it happened so gradually. There was never any sort of seismic shock. Manny Acta started the season as a lame-duck, without a contract for 2010, and the team's hideous start made his firing inevitable. Even though it took weeks longer than expected. Riggleman, in turn, was the obvious short-term replacement. And then he managed well enough to keep it.

5. RYAN ZIMMERMAN'S CONTRACT EXTENSION AND BREAKOUT SEASON -- Since this organization relocated from Canada, it's had little success with homegrown position players. Zimmerman is the exception, and though folks likely knew that before '09, there were still fair questions about his ceiling. Would he ever be more than a .280-20 HR guy? Well, now we know. He made an all-star game. He won a Gold Glove. He showed consistency month-to-month. All along Zimmerman was touted as the face of the franchise, but in 2009 he showed that he's worthy of such building block distinction. Plus, he has a long-term contract to go with it.

6. ANOTHER 100-LOSS SEASON -- Oh yeah, stuff happened on the field too. And it was brutal. Especially in the first half of the season, the Nats played baseball with a beer league-style cartoonishness. They muffed grounders and lost flyballs in the sun. Their pitchers got shelled. They lost games even when they hit five homers. For all the steps forward this organization took in 2009, the on-field product remains, obviously, the prime concern. How much longer can a fanbase tolerate such incredibly poor performance? And when will things improve?

7. THE REBUILT FRONT OFFICE -- Where once the Nats had just a handful of front office lieutenants, now they have a dozen. After the '09 season ended, Rizzo added well-respected scouts, former GMs, and numbers-crunchers from all across the league. By mid-November, once the braintrust was finally established, Rizzo called it the "most important part of our offseason." For the first time since coming to D.C., the Nats feel like they have the foundation of leadership.

8. THE WINTER SHOPPING SPREE -- Washington needed a catcher and got him. Washington needed a veteran pitcher and got him. Washington needed a closer and got him. On Opening Day, don't be surprised if Jason Marquis takes the mound and Pudge Rodriguez gets the start at catcher. And if the Nats have a late, close lead, don't be surprised if Brian Bruney pitches the eighth and Matt Capps pitches the ninth. What does it all mean? Washington's 25-man roster is already about 20-percent better than it was two months ago.

9. JORDAN ZIMMERMANN'S TOMMY JOHN SURGERY -- Young starting pitching is the chief currency of Washington's rebuilding plan. In the good ol' dream scenario, Strasburg was the No. 1, Zimmermann the No. 2. Though Zimmermann's reconstructive elbow surgery doesn't kill that possibility, it certainly delays it and makes the odds of it far less likely. Zimmermann was halfway through a promising rookie year when his elbow started feeling funny; now, the rest of his career is a mystery.

10. THE JENNIFER LOPEZ QUOTE -- Just because. I'm still surprised the Nats didn't cut Julian Tavarez on the spot.

By Chico Harlan  |  December 30, 2009; 2:11 PM ET
 
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Next: Q&A with Matt Capps

Comments

I think it's kind of funny that even though Bowden technically resigned, everyone knows it was more him "losing his job."

Posted by: NatsNut | December 30, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Yea, that Tavares quote was pretty bold. (and funny).

But if I were to pick a legitimate #10, it might be Dunn's signing. At the very least for the boost he gave Zimmy in the lineup and the havoc he DIDN'T wreak when he moved to 1B.

Posted by: NatsNut | December 30, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

bowden "resigned" about as much as cerato did...

Posted by: sec231 | December 30, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

By keeping Tavarez we just reminded everyone that we were a joke and were desperate for a man, even if he hated himself for being with us.

Bye bye Julian. How's things going for you now?

Posted by: soundbloke | December 30, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I will agree with the Dunn signing. He pulled the offense into the next level and showed that the team was willing to start paying for talent.

BTW, where is old "Smiley" these days? Still in our system?

Posted by: jmurray019 | December 30, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

i think tavares was a bit self-deprecating with that comment a bit, too.

Posted by: sec231 | December 30, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

The fact that Bowden was allowed to resign reflected badly on the team at the time. He had done more than enough to get himself fired and the inertia made us look clownish. Stan and Rizzo have done an amazing job reversing that perception.

We all joked about how Stan was basically a salesman but, now he has a baseball man by his side it is a lot more forgivable. Of course all this is dependent on us having a much better season next year which will be a hell of a challenge. This roster is full of guys who are not good (Guzman), guys who have a skill but are deeply flawed (Dunn) and Ryan Zimmerman.

Posted by: soundbloke | December 30, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Can't understand how this failed to make the cut. It's at least as funny as the Tavares quote. And say what you will about Tavares, dude at least wanted to do the job he was hired to do.

http://www.washingtonian.com/blogarticles/people/capitalcomment/11866.html

Posted by: section309 | December 30, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Dunn is not deeply flawed. The totality of his stat lines - HR, OBP, even fielding - over 2009 and the course of his career are comparable to two guys who are currently receiving serious HOF discussion, namely Mark McGwire and Edgar Martinez, and for that matter are right up there with that Ryan Howard guy up in Philadelphia. Are those guys deeply flawed?

Posted by: section309 | December 30, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang....Happy Almost New Year....a question for all of you web researchers: any info or rumors on where our late lamented rf'er Austin "I Stunk" Kearns is heading..or already is? Last I saw was a piece from a Seattle blog site recommending him as a cheap defensive addition. I actually hope he has a bounce back year.....by all accounts he was a great teammate and while I never thought he was a great defensive player, he was certainly above average. Just seemed like he forgot how to hit. It was painful to watch him struggle. I hope wherever he lands the change of scenery gives him a new lease on his baseball life.
On a side note, I have a feeling that JayBay is gonna be a big disappointment for the Mets.
And here's hoping that Elijah has a MONSTER, breakout year.
And J. Zimm comes back sooner-and better-than before.Flores, too..
Well, Gang...those are just a few, but I'd love to hear/see your New Years Nats resolutions/wish lists.
Finally, in that Riggs interview I was happy to see the Mariners brought up.I hope the team says "why not us"?Also interesting to hear Desmond referred to as a "special" player(from Foli).
And....one more time, to ALL of you who contribute here:thanks for making my Naddiction so much more enjoyable. You really add to the already immense pleasure of having a home town team to root/revile for.I look forward to hearing from every one of you in the upcoming year..hopefully the start of a Nationals Decade of Dominance!(Although at this point I'll take decency!)
Go Nats!
Go Nats!
And Go NJ'ers!!!

Posted by: zendo | December 30, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I think the Zimmerman signing, plus his breakout season, should be #2. It's hard to remember that Zim is just 25. He was coming off his worst season. If he continues to produce 30 HRs and Gold Gloves for the life of the contract, the Nats get an All-Star player at a bargain price.

Posted by: jcj5y | December 30, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang...and oops-last bit was a repost before I saw Chico sorta asking you all for the same thing I was.
But while I thanked you guys, I neglected to say thanks, Chico. Whatever your knowledge is about baseball, your skill as a writer is terrific. I have enjoyed your WRITING-the style, the sly wit, the metaphors..and your willingness to not gild the turd, so to speak.Hope that word is suitable for a family publication!It's the...er, gentlest I could come up with! I don't figure our NJ family here will object....
Best wishes, everybody.....and
GO NATS!!!!

Posted by: zendo | December 30, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Sec309

Yes, Dunn is flawed. He can't field his position. He hits for low average. Have you noticed that we were one of the few teams in on him last season and that Willingham gets mentioned more in trade rumours.

Dunn leaves a huge hole in the right side of the infield which is a problem if you have young ground ball pitchers and is limiting our search for a second basemen to glove-only guys.

Posted by: soundbloke | December 30, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse


################################################
Dunn, Morse, and Desmond: Birds of a Feather.
Espinosa, on the other hand ...
Posted by: periculum | December 30, 2009 12:56 PM
-----------------------------
BinM: It would seem that periculum's summer bromance with Morse has ended; How fickle, how sad.

Natsnut, i think he's suggesting that they're birds of a feather defensively.

the difference is dunn is a HR/OBP machine and the others can't hit for power or walk.

Posted by: sec231 | December 30, 2009
#################################################

** Sec231 is CORRECT ... but I would add that IMHO Morse and Desmond may turn out to be better power-hitter/clutch types than Willingham. However, if all (Willingham inclusive) are basically DH types? That may not bode well? ****

Posted by: periculum | December 30, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Chico,

I would replace your last item with this:

The 2009 "pitchers" draft (sans Strasburg). Plus the trades for pitching (Aaron Thomas etc.) that Rizzo made. Perhaps Kobernus
will make an impact. But I am betting more than one of those pitchers drafted (other than Strasburg) will make an impact for sure!!! Yet, it still remains to be seen.

Posted by: periculum | December 30, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

i still don't see how you figure morse to be a guy who can hit for power and put better numbers than willingham, he has a career minor league 753 OPS in 2700 ABs.

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/M/Mike-Morse.shtml

Posted by: sec231 | December 30, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

The list of ballplayers who have no flaws would be a short one. Dunn's average, especially when combined with his on-base percentage, was more than respectable for somebody with his consistent power numbers. All in all, he did better than I expected in the field at first base after NJ was traded. I don't recall him costing Zim much on throws. And I agree with others that playing there every day in '10, he'll get better.

Posted by: nats24 | December 30, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

soundbloke, you are officially relegated to left field. Dunn fielded .986 at 1B with 576 total chances. That is NOT a "deeply flawed" player in the field. At .267 BA (which was the highest of his career), an OBP higher than his career avg, I have NO IDEA what you want from the guy. Kindly please explain to me, like I'm a 5 year old, what is "deeply flawed" about that?

Posted by: dand187 | December 30, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

My list of top ten would have included the Dunn signing and the Morgan trade. Also on a perhaps controversial note, I would include the addition of Rob Dibble to the Nationals broadcast team. Love him or hate him, he has made daily conversation of the Nats a national topic on his XM radio station. This may seem like a small thing, but in baseball circles I think it is pretty big. It may by giving them some exposure, make DC a less fearful destination for future free agents. (Bowden does not have the same impact - at least not in the same way - he makes it a better destination by not being here).

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 30, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Dunn's fielding at first base is surely not brilliant, but in no way is it flawed. Basing your opinion of his fielding on that dubious pseudostatistic UZR is what's flawed. (If it's the "ultimate" zone rating, how come we never hear about any other zone ratings? Surely there are some, or is the UZR just puffing up its flimsy reputaion by self-applying the "ultimate" tag?)

Posted by: section309 | December 30, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

He has a reasonable fielding percentage because he never even looked at a ball that was not hit/thrown straight at him.

His UZR (admittedly not the best stat for 1b) is terrible. But frankly you only had to watch him to see that his range was that of a statue with one leg. And surrounded by the laughable fielding, and after watching him lumber around LF expectations were so low that naturally he was a pleasant surprise. The bar was so low that he could have fielded the ball with all the skill of Richard Nixon and it would been a pleasant surprise.

I'm not saying he is terrible, I'm saying that he is average. Talented but flawed.

Posted by: soundbloke | December 30, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

This roster is full of guys who are not good (Guzman)
Posted by: soundbloke | December 30, 2009 2:51 PM

***

Boswell says if Guzman moves to 2B, he will instantly get a LOT better.

Posted by: NatsNut | December 30, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Also, while OBP is useful, it doesn't get a man home when he is on second or third. A very useful skill in a No. 4 hitter.

Posted by: soundbloke | December 30, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Ah, so in the space of an hour or so Dunn has gone from "deeply flawed" to "talented but flawed", eh soundbloke? By the end of the day, he'll just be "talented".

Posted by: section309 | December 30, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

986 fielding percentage wouldn't put him in the top 25 in baseball at 1B if he qualified with enough games at 1B to be ranked.

you may not be enamored with UZR, but it's accepted (with a grain of salt, as are all defensive metrics) as a legitimate tool. you have to use it with other statistics, along with good scouting if you're an MLB team, but it's still valid.

btw, i think it's called UZR because there was already a ZR (zone rating). if you look at ESPN's stats line for fielding, they list ZR.

it's amusing to try to bash it like that, but if you really don't know what it is, how can you say it's not valid?

Posted by: sec231 | December 30, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I would have to put the Morgan/Burnett for Thrilledge/Hanrahan trade in the top 10 somewhere. At one fell swoop, it had at least half the impact of the "winter shopping spree," (improving 10% of the active roster), it re-established credibility as a trade partner in other MLB FOs, and it made the strongest statement possible about the change in FO philosophy from JimBo to Rizzo (character and performance IN, attitudes and tools/potential OUT).

Most importantly, it gave long-suffering NJers a mid-season dose of the tonic known as Tony Plush.

Posted by: natinbeantown | December 30, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Section 309

Sorry. You can have talent and a deep flaw all in one person. Dukes, big talent, big flaw. Anyone who can hit 40 home runs is obviously talented. Anyone who can't move from side to side is obviously flawed. Deeply.


Sorry to ruin you 'Ha-Gotcha!' moment but it was spurious and you know it.

Posted by: soundbloke | December 30, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

And don't forget that one time Dunn dove for the ball.

natbiscuits, of course! OMG, I knew I was forgetting something major. The Morgan trade should be WAY up there. Some people think it was Nyjer who got Riggleman his job (i.e, winning percentage). Not me, but some people.

Posted by: NatsNut | December 30, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

natinbeantown: jinx. buy me a coke.

Posted by: NatsNut | December 30, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

"Dunn is not deeply flawed. The totality of his stat lines - HR, OBP, even fielding - over 2009 and the course of his career are comparable to two guys who are currently receiving serious HOF discussion, namely Mark McGwire and Edgar Martinez, and for that matter are right up there with that Ryan Howard guy up in Philadelphia. Are those guys deeply flawed?

Posted by: section309 "


1. You'd have to say, yes, Mark McGwire is "deeply flawed" If by that you mean "complete fraud." His HoF balloting does not appear to be "serious discussion" (>20% pro and not budging)

2. Edgar Martinez hit over .300 over 18 seasons. Dunn is not comparable to that (even as a different kind of player)

3. Dunn is not Ryan Howard. Please.

the analogies are inapt. deeply flawed even.

Dunn hits for power consistently over time. In exchange for that, you can live with his limitations - usually only hitting .250 and very limited fielding (there's a reason you put him in the least vulnerable positions after all, even then he is below average 1B, though improving hopefully).

Posted by: malcolmyoung1 | December 30, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

"Also, while OBP is useful, it doesn't get a man home when he is on second or third. A very useful skill in a No. 4 hitter."

Yet somehow the "deeply flawed" Adam Dunn managed to get 105 runners home last year. Ryan Zimmerman only had one more than that. Is he deeply flawed too?

Posted by: nunof1 | December 30, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I am a little surprised that neither the Dunn signing nor the Tony Plush/Burnett for Lastings/Hanrahan were included (though the latter, somewhat elliptically is mentioned). Zim didn't get those numbers just on his own. Dunn's presence in the line-up was a factor in the pitches Zim saw. Not saying Z man doesn't deserve accolades, but the huge boost in the offense's production had a lot to do with Dunn and (at least for a few magical weeks), the new CF'er. No doubt Plush's attitude/love of game rubbed off, the team played SO MUCH BETTER once Nyjer came over (and not coincidentally, SO MUCH WORSE after his season ender in Chitown) and Burnett was at least "servicable."

All the off-season work Rizzo and company have done will pay off with a much better product on the field come April and I for one CANNOT WAIT!

Posted by: terrapin31590us | December 30, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Have to agree with those that mentioned Dunn and Morgan. Thoses were monumental additions. Dibble as well should be mentioned. Dude brought a fresh honesty to the job every game.

Posted by: dovelevine | December 30, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Bowden should have been removed in 2008.

His deals for Kearns, Lopez, Pena, Milledge, Dukes, and others failed miserably to produce any on-field results.

He added bit players and guys with problems, Dmitri Young and Paul LoDuca, that no other team in baseball wanted any part of.

He failed to get a multi-year deal in place with Ryan Zimmerman, something Kasten and Rizzo were able to do soon after Bowden was shown the door.

Bowden was a huckster. He talked up the 'prospects' he had acquired and promised stardom from them, even though it became apparent very quickly that he had been sold snake oil.

If Milledge was that good how come the Mets gave him up for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider?

If Dukes was that good how come the team was able to get him for Alaniz?

In the end, character means something.

And despite being good athletes neither Milledge nor Dukes are good BASEBALL PLAYERS.

Posted by: leopard09 | December 30, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

blah blah blah everyone knows dunns strengths and weaknesses can we please move on to another subject.

how about this, if Rizzo is only half way done after one trade and 3 free agent signings, what do you think he has in store for the other half?

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | December 30, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the post, Chico, and Happy New Year (a little early). As others have noted, I'd be inclined to factor in the Dunn signing and the Morgan/Burnett trade as well. Definitely an eventful year, at any rate!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 30, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

10 -- Big developments not mentioned -- not saying they all should be on the list, maybe they are honorable mention or contenders for that No. 10 spot:

1. Dunn signing and big year (38 HRs, including career No. 300).
2. Trade for Morgan and his dynamic play until he was injured.
3. Collapse of our early season bullpen (highlighted by Hanrahan blowing three straight saves against the Marlins).
4. Lightening fast fizzle of our opening day starting center fielder -- Lastings Milledge.
5. Decline and fall of Bowden's proudest acquisitions -- Austin Kearns and Dmitri Young.
6. Injury to Jesus Flores.
7. Collapse of our mid-season bullpen -- Kip Wells, Julian Tavares, and Logan Kensing.
8. The Kiddie Corps pitching rotation -- Lannan, Zimmermann, Martin, Stammen, Detweiller, Martis, and Mock. Yikes.
9. Seven game losing streak to start the season and seven game winning streak to end it.
10. Teddy's Barbecue opens.

Posted by: Section222 | December 30, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Section222,

Nice list. I would add StanK's shocking Philly radio interview and invitation for Philly fans to come on down, tickets for opening day are still available.

The man has no soul.

Posted by: Section505203 | December 30, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

In retrospect, the year seems more positive than negative (despite the W-L record), in my mind at least. Handing the reins to Rizzo & allowing him to make the changes he deemed necessary has given me far more hope as the calendar flips to 2010 than I had in April or May of '09.

The FO is no longer a one-man show, and the 'Big Club' looks to be more competetive. Even the farm teams are coming into focus with young, rising talent, rather than the backfill FA signings we've seen in years past.

Individually, I hope for more gains over the coming months, and feel that most of the commenters here on Planet NJ look for the same.

To all who have been a part of this, from the Pollyanna's (hopelessly optimistic) to the Cranks (endlessly pessimistic), and the staff at the WaPo who make this blog available, thank you & Happy New Year. Might 2010 find you all happy, healthy & still rooting for the Nationals.

Posted by: BinM | December 30, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Thanks BinM, you too.

222, love the separate entries for collapsing bullpen (LOL). Also Teddy's BBQ and that Flintstone side of meat. Good call.

Posted by: NatsNut | December 30, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Adam Dunn's signing has to be in the Top 10 and Ian Desmond's strong September would be in my Top 15.

Jordan Zimmermann was amazing in Spring Training and was so promising prior to the elbow injury. The accolades he received from the competition is what can really get you excited. Jordan learned quickly from his MLB mistakes. I expect Jordan to be back to form quickly in 2011.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | December 30, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

1. THE GM CHANGE: Significant, but not really the biggest deal in the world as Rizzo was the Assistant GM and he has not yet done much that is really thought provoking. The Morgan/Burnett for Hanrahan/Milledge trade the only move that’s really interesting. The style change is significant. I guess that I don’t buy Jim Bowden as the sole responsible party for all that is bad in Nats Town.
2. THE SIGNING OF STEPHEN STRASBURG: Big, big deal as the kid looks like the real deal. Hope he matures FAST.
3. THE SMILEY GONZALEZ FRAUD: Not much of a story after all was said and done. Clubs get rooked like this a lot and it had nothing to do with the MLB club. Bowden may have lost his job over the DR problems, but he was going to lose his job sooner than later anyway. JimBo hitting the exit sooner is the only real repercussion from Smileygate.
4. ACTA OUT; RIGGLEMAN IN: I am so glad that the Zen Master Sleep Walker is gone, but changing managers on a club that loses 100 games every year is not so big either.
5. RYAN ZIMMERMAN'S CONTRACT EXTENSION AND BREAKOUT SEASON: Zim was under control and there was really no rush to ink the guy long term, so the contract itself is not so huge. The breakout performance sure is.
6. ANOTHER 100-LOSS SEASON: Huge deal. It is hard to lose 100 games twice in a row.
7. THE REBUILT FRONT OFFICE: It is nice, but I don’t get why we should consider this so important. The FO was stocked with all kinds of baseball people of good reputation before (Rizzo included). And those new FO guys do not hit and play the field much.
8. THE WINTER SHOPPING SPREE: Not to discount the improvements that have been added to the roster, but given how horrid they were last year getting marginally better is pretty easy. The off season shopping needs to be viewed in context to what the club needs and how much they have to spend. The Nats should not do much more.
9. JORDAN ZIMMERMANN'S TOMMY JOHN SURGERY: JZ was a bit of a find for the Nats in that no one really expected him to be in MLB as soon as last year. So, losing the kid to surgery for 12-18 months certainly hurts.
10. THE JENNIFER LOPEZ QUOTE: How perfect was that. I so wish the guy had played better b/c he was fun. Fairly similar career ERA and W/L record to Jason Marquis BTW.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 30, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Yikes -- in No. 8 I meant to say that the Nats should do more.

Adam Dunn coming to town had to be a top 10 item.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 30, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Can't see Dunn as hugely flawed at all. Won't be a gold glove threat for sure, but he is decent at 1B and is really exciting at the plate. Without question, Zim owes part of his breakout year to Dunn (as Z has said himself). If the Nats do not sign him to a longer contract they are screwing up big time. Given recent history, I do not think they will screw up.

While I would not rate Dibble's arrival as a top 10, there were times when all that made watching my beloved but awful Nats possible was Dibble. He was interesting, funny, and played well off of Carpenter. Look forward to listening to them next year when (PLEASE!) the Nats themselves might be worth watching.

Posted by: NatsFly | December 30, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

>>Can't see Dunn as hugely flawed at all.

You my friend are forgetting the first half of the season when Dunn played primarily left field. And beginning with his disorientation there on opening game in Florida, until he finally moved over to 1st, it was always an "adventure" whenever a ball was hit to him in the OF.
However, like you, I expect much better results from him at 1st.
I also credit him with Zim's outstanding offensive year as well as Zim's streak.

And it wasn't coincidental that Zim's streak ended on a day when Dunn didn't play. Acta should never be forgiven for that. What a bonehead move.

Posted by: dovelevine | December 30, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

I remember Dunn playing a lot of RF in the beginning of the year. Taking a lousy defender and moving him from postion to position was looking for trouble. He seemed to start to look comfortable at 1B in September. Who knows maybe he can be an average to not terrible fielder, if he can, he's gonna get very very rich.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 30, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

@dfh21: Dunn in RF "a lot" - No, not so much as you may think (62GP in LF, 22GP in RF); The problem was, he was horrific at both positions in 2009. At least at 1B, the defensive 'damage' was minimalized.

God love him, but the big galoot will probably never have a good glove; We just have to hope that he becomes adequate at 1B (mid-pack in ErrR & UZR/150) & live for his 'slash' numbers & run production.

Posted by: BinM | December 30, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Times has officially turfed its daily sports section, meaning another outlet for daily Nationals news is no longer available. I think competition is good in the news business and will miss the OP's coverage. Mark Zuckerman, who I'm hoping will be picked up by the Post as a baseball writer, says so long for now on his last blog entry. The Post should keep lights on for Mark and Ben Goessling as the paper's new tandem baseball writers.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/weblogs/chatter/2009/dec/30/farewell-and-thanks/

Posted by: leetee1955 | December 30, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

25% of his OF play in RF is a lot in my mind. And why was he playing RF to begin with? Who played LF that could not field RF better than Dunn?

Anyway, 1B is the place for the guy. He's athletic and though his gigantic size will make it tough, I think that he'll improve to the point where it is not some glaring wekness to have him out there.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 30, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

I think it's too early to say that getting Morgan was huge development. However, if he keeps playing the way he played when he was with the Nats last year, then that might be a top 5 development.

The Smiley saga was not entirely inconsequential as it was the final nail in Bowden's 'coffin', but really it was just a blip. It was too soon to be penciling him in the lineup, based on what he did in a Rookie league, and the rest was just good headline fodder.

Posted by: fischy | December 30, 2009 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Zuckerman really did write a classy entry in the Washington Times blog that leetee linked above. He's a real baseball guy. I'd love it if the Post hired him.

Posted by: Baldino | December 30, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Smiley wasn't the third-most important development in the season.

Wearing those uniforms that said "Natinals" was.

Two words, Mike Rizzo: Quality Control.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | December 30, 2009 9:28 PM | Report abuse

First the Times Sports Section is gone and now DCRTV posts this, just when you thought things couldn't get any worse:

Nats & WFED Launch Riggleman Feature - 12/28 - The Washington Nationals and Bonneville announce the addition of a new segment to their sixth season of the "Nationals On Deck" pregame radio broadcast - "The Manager's Show" featuring Jim Riggleman. In his first full season as the Nationals manager, Riggleman will join Nationals play-by-play hosts Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler for a five-minute conversation during each pregame radio show airing on Bonneville's WFED, Federal News Radio, 1500/820 AM. WFED also features "Nationals Insider" and "Nats Talk Live".....

Bonneville please boost the juice so us folks in the hinter-lands of Woodbridge can hear the station after 6PM!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | December 30, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Zuckerman's last post is definitely worth reading. May I humbly suggest that as many NJers as possible register and comment there to let him know we appreciate him. I just did.
http://washingtontimes.com/weblogs/chatter/2009/dec/30/farewell-and-thanks/?c=226423

Posted by: Section222 | December 30, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Mark Zuckermans final post was gut wrenching to read, the man has talent. He really enjoyed the Nats beat and is a "baseball" fan! Its absolutely amazing that serious guys like Zuckerman and Gosseling will probably be left out of the mix while no-talent geeks like Holden Kushner, the Junkies, LaVar Arrington, Mike Wise, Andy Pollen, Steve Czaban, John Thompson, Kevin Sheehan will spew endless hours of nothing on the radio 5 days a week.

WAPO I hear Chico Harlen is moving to Japan. A few "baseball" writers from the now defunct #2 are looking for work.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | December 30, 2009 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Cheers to Zuckerman and Gossling of the Times. Best of luck. I hope one or both of them end up at the Post or MASN or the radio.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 30, 2009 10:54 PM | Report abuse

@TippyCanoe

What would be even better would be to hear Riggleman on a static-free FM signal that can be heard outside of the District line at night.

Posted by: leetee1955 | December 30, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

leetee

what would be better than having the nats on FM would be having either zuckerman and/or goessling hosting nats- and baseball-related programming outside of game broadcasts since neither of the other alleged "sports talk" stations have any interest in covering or promoting the team.

Posted by: surly_w | December 30, 2009 11:05 PM | Report abuse

The problem with Dunn as a "big event" is that they still suffered another 100 loss season with him? He and others were enough of a defensive liability to have a fairly decent effect on the pitching?

The same is true for Morgan, mostly because his time before injury was so brief.

The top 10 events I suppose should be about future potential. Is Dunn a first baseman or an AL DH? Only time will tell. The same may be true for Desmond at shortstop or anywhere else on the field. It seems like the pitchers selected in last year's draft will have more of an effect over time. A few progressed fairly rapidly with little 'regression' probably due to the fact most were just out of college as opposed to high school. Its not just about potential starters or relievers but also trade potential for position players with bats. I expect that they will surprise more than a few next year and into the future.

Morse hit for good power in Syracuse ... had tremendous power before the steroids debacle. Not just homers but doubles and triples. Look at the power Desmond surprised everyone with when he made it to the big club. We'll have to see.

However it can't help to have so many very weak fielding bats. They have to find positions and get good at playing them. Its one reason I believe Espinosa has a shot ... and Guzman could end up as a part time player.

Posted by: periculum | December 30, 2009 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Pravada on the Potomac is now the only game in town. They are free to spew as much Redskins and far left crap as they wish without another voice for Nats fans and right wingers to go to.

Posted by: Section505203 | December 31, 2009 12:24 AM | Report abuse

best moments for 2010, chico lands in seoul, south korea, zuckerman's first post on nationals journal

Posted by: formerlylove1 | December 31, 2009 2:11 AM | Report abuse

505, please.
1) I thought we agreed to keep random, gratuitous political axe-grinding out of here.
b) Oh, like the Times ever stopped the Post from printing anything...
iii) You do a huge disservice to actual pinkos by comparing us to the Post.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 31, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Hope Chico isn't going coach for that really long 20 hour flight to Tokyo. Its pretty miserable outside of 1st class or business.

Posted by: periculum | December 31, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Hope Chico isn't going coach for that really long 20 hour flight to Tokyo. Its pretty miserable outside of 1st class or business.

Posted by: periculum | December 31, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Dunn's middling batting average doesn't get a runner home - nor does his walk laden OBP... But, he did slug .529, that get's runners home and since pitchers know that he's not a free swinger and is willing to take a walk, they have to throw him a pitch in the strike zone. And I'm not disputing his defensive shortcomings at 1B or in the OF. I do think that he does less damage at 1B.

Dunn isn't the reason that the Nats lost 100+ games. Again. Blame the 211 plate appearance that Kearns used to produce a 641 OPS. Blame the 255 plate appearances that Anderson Hernandez used to produce a 630 OPS. Blame the 310 plate appearances that Alberto Gonzalez used to produce a 650 OPS. Blame the 301 plate appearances that Josh Bard used to produce a 655 OPS.Blame the 316 plate appearances that Wil Nieves used to produce a 612 OPS. Blame the manager that played those guys. Blame the old GM who gave the manager so few weapons... But don't blame Dunn.

Posted by: comish4lif | December 31, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Dunn's middling batting average doesn't get a runner home

Posted by: comish4lif | December 31, 2009 10:21 AM

**********
huh? His RBI total was 16th in all of baseball.

Posted by: NatsNut | December 31, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

And he had the 3rd lowest # of at-bats among the other 15.

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

While looking at RBI rankings.

Guess who had 14 more RBIs in 15 fewer at bats than Dunn? Jason Bay.

Guess who had 1 more RBI than Dunn but in 64 more at bats? Zimmy.

Posted by: NatsNut | December 31, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

oh, wait. commish. All that work and that wasn't even the point of your post. LOL

Posted by: NatsNut | December 31, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

The Blame Game

Interesting question: Who is to blame
For the last 2 seasons losing 100 games?
The guys who played? Or the guy who let 'em?
Or the guy who decided to go out and get 'em?

For my money it's the old man Ted
Who let his son Mark get in his head.
Mark, who was friends with the old Segway-er
And bought his lies and worked out with the players.

Mark, who blocked Stan and his plan to promote
Rizzo in '05 and kick Bowden off the boat.
Mark, who wanted "fun" as a privileged Lerner scion.
Ted - you're the patriarch! Keep your scions in lion!

Posted by: nationalsanthems | December 31, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

@ Anthems, come on, admit it - you made that whole thing up just to be able to show us the last line (which is brilliant!)

Posted by: Traveler8 | December 31, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Cornish- that second paragraph is awesome.

But also sad. Very, very sad.

Posted by: natinbeantown | December 31, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

FYI, for folks like me who would like to better understand the more advanced sabermetric stats and measures out there, Yahoo!s MLB blog is going through each of them in turn with pretty good explanations. The Wins Above Replacement (WAR) entry is a good one:

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/Everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-WAR?urn=mlb,211211

It does highlight one amusing nugget--former Nat Emilio Bonifacio was one of only 8(!) players BELOW replacement value last year. The Hammer/SO for EBoni ranks as JimBo's crowning achievement, IMO.

[oh, and Comish, sorry I called you cornish... I need reading glasses.]

Posted by: natinbeantown | December 31, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

(periculum)Morse hit for good power in Syracuse ... had tremendous power before the steroids debacle. Not just homers but doubles and triples.(/periculum)

wha? come on.

again, he has a career minor league *753* OPS (with more than 2600 ABs, this isn't an isolated stat). this is not "good" or "tremendous" power by any measure, especially in the minor leagues. he's never hit more than 30 doubles (and hasn't done that since 2003) or 5 triples (once, 2004). his career high in HRs is 11.

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/M/Mike-Morse.shtml

read the stat line yourself. he's not what you're making him out to be. yes, the last couple of years he was a good minor league player, but his numbers in the PCL last season were almost identical to ryan langerhans. anyone wanna project him to have "tremendous" power?

this isn't a guy you "project" to be good. this is a guy you hope can fill in short-term if someone gets hurt. and if you get really lucky, something might click and make him a late bloomer. but if you're trying to give this guy a chance to bloom, you're pulling a jimbo with him. he's not a real prospect.

Posted by: sec231 | December 31, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

let me correct my power numbers there, i didn't add a couple of lines together a couple of times (baseballcube doesn't do cumulative season lines). he had 19 HRs last year and 16 once before. and had 29 doubles in 2007.

still, the overall numbers tell the tale.

Posted by: sec231 | December 31, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

my top ten list, FWIW

1. Get the L outta here! 103 Losses
Maybe not a surprise, but this Did. Not. Have. To. Happen.

2. And take the Segway with you!
Rizzo's foot--ok, his whole leg--in the door is all that keeps the doorknob from hitting Bowden. #2 on the good news side, only because it took so long to happen, and then finalize.

3. Strasburg drafted, signed for big, but not crazy, money
#1 on the Good News side. 3b. Storen. Watch this kid.

4. Roster churns towards mediocrity, fails.
A sequel to #2, the GM change. Not entirely Rizzo's fault this didn't work better than it did.

5. Attendance? What attendance?
I almost made this #1, since it *is* the reason MLB exists, after all, but this is really a 2006-2009 issue, with a long, long shadow deep into the 20th c. Five years in, and we STILL don't know whether this is a baseball town. I think it may be, but we can't say it until we see it.

6. Smileygate
Another reason to cut Rizzo some slack--this is the kind of [mess] he inherited, the kind of operation he starts with.

7. Washington Times sports section walks the last mile
Didn't start in 2009, isn't limited to DC, and it's not like it's the Post, but still. Part of a sea change in how professional sports fans interface with the teams and the sports. I don't think you can overstate what "no newspapers" is going to mean.

8. Milledge, Hanrahan for Morgan, Burnett
Not for the personnel involved, so much as for the message it sent: new sherrif in town.

9. Zimmerman extended.
It's not like they weren't going to pay him eventually, right? Right?

10. Acta out, Riggleman gets foot in
Wake me when they hire the next guy.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 31, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Upon first reading, I thought this might be about someone being 86'd. :-)

---

1. Get the L outta here! 103 Losses
Maybe not a surprise, but this Did. Not. Have. To. Happen.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 31, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

But seriously, nicely done, and I agree that reduced sports coverage is significant. Hope that all of the sports guys from the Times will land on their feet (maybe one or two of them at the Post - I hear that they have an opening for a beat writer).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 31, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

505, please.
1) I thought we agreed to keep random, gratuitous political axe-grinding out of here.
b) Oh, like the Times ever stopped the Post from printing anything...
iii) You do a huge disservice to actual pinkos by comparing us to the Post.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 31, 2009 9:17 AM
__________________________________________________________

Lighten up, Francis. No need to get your undies all bunched up.

Posted by: Section505203 | December 31, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Slow day on the wires / internet sites, so I've done a little 'navel-gazing' to think about the NL East. Looking at the current rosters, here are some thumbnail thoughts, FWIW.

Atlanta Braves: Well-balanced lineup (2 left-handed, 2 switch-hitters, 4 right-handed), but no 'big gun' in the lineup; Average defensively, but aging or inexperienced at 1B/3B & soft in LF. Starting five is very good, but lopsided (all five are RH). Bullpen looks solid, nicely balanced if healthy.

Florida Marlins: Heavily skewed to a RH-hitting lineup (7 of 8); Has some soft spots defensively (2B, RF). Starting five is skewed as well (4 of 5 throw from the right), but 1-3 looks very good. Bullpen is balanced, but seems soft in the middle innings.

New York Mets: Well-balanced lineup for position players (4 RH-hitters, 3 switch-hitters, 1 LH-hitter) when healthy; Seems weak at CA, LF & 1B defensively. Starting five has good L-R balance, but looks 'beatable' beyond top-two. Bullpen is experienced, but skews to the right (only 1 LH in back-end).

Philidelphia Phillies: Solid starting eight for position players (3 LH, 2 SH, 3 RH); Good balance of power & speed as well; Solid defensively except in LF & 1B. Starting five is balanced, and should be very good. Bullpen skews to the right (3 of 4 are right-handed), and looks like a possible weak spot.

Washington Nationals: The starting eight skews to the right (2 LH, 1 SH, 5 RH); Possible defensive problems at numerous positions (1B, 2B, SS, LF, RF). The starting five shows balance (3 RH, 2 LH arms), but is relatively inexperienced. The bullpen made gains in the off-season, has L-R balance, and is improved over 2009's opening-day version.

Posted by: BinM | December 31, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Based on 12/31/09 thumbnails = Philidelphia, Atlanta, Florida, Washington, NY Mets. If the Nationals could only figure out how to beat FLA, they'd be in third, IMO.

Posted by: BinM | December 31, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I did not read all the comments, so I'm sure these are mentioned by others, but the items that I would say should at least be considered for the list are:

-Adam Dunn coming in
-Austin Kearns leaving- maybe combine this with the Bowden departure as a sign of the changing times. We finally got rid of an awful contract for an under-performing fetish of the former GM.
-Nick Johnson trade- for the first time, this franchise identified the player it wanted and negotiated to get him for the price they were willing to play. Also, I think it was a huge (and over-looked) step for the Nats to pay the salary of a player they traded away.

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | December 31, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

In other news, I wonder whether at least one writer from the OP may end up on the beat here. (No, I haven't been reading tea leaves, just one of the blogs over there.)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 31, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

one might have to guess that is a strong possibility, natsfan, since they've held off naming a replacement thus far. the post had to know this was coming. why break in another new guy if there's an experienced beat writer who knows the team and has the contacts that you know will become available before spring training?

Posted by: sec231 | December 31, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

btw, in more former nats news, marlon byrd signs for 3yrs, $15m with the cubs...

Posted by: sec231 | December 31, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

No use beating around the bush, here's the nugget at issue from Goessling's very nice valedictory blog post:

"This won’t be the last you hear from me on the Nationals beat. I can’t say where I’m headed quite yet, but I’ll have some news soon on my new employer. Suffice it to say I’ll be around this spring, grateful it’s not my time to get off this ride yet."

Could it be? That would be sweet.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | December 31, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

CiL: For once, you & I see things in the same light - Were the WaPo to hire Goessling to replace CHarlan, "Life could be a dream, Sha-boom, sha-boom".

My hope is that both Ben and Mark Zuckerman land on their feet somewhere, continuing to write about a sport they clearly care about (baseball). As for the rest (Lovarro in particular), good luck & best wishes; Write home when you find work.

Posted by: BinM | December 31, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Undies are fine, thanks for your concern. Just hate to see a long-time poster lower yourself, is all.
****************
Lighten up, Francis. No need to get your undies all bunched up.
Posted by: Section505203 | December 31, 2009 1:47 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 31, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Ouch.

That would have been #11, though.
*********************
Upon first reading, I thought this might be about someone being 86'd. :-)
---
1. Get the L outta here! 103 Losses
Maybe not a surprise, but this Did. Not. Have. To. Happen.
____________
Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 31, 2009 1:34 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 31, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

CiL, that would definitely be sweet, and I wish happy landings for Zuckerman, too, BinM.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 31, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Observation: Goessling has worked with MASN via their partnership with the Times. It would be delightful if he went to the Post, but he could also enhance the televised coverage of the team. I suppose it would be too much to ask that both Goessling and Zuckerman ended up covering Nationals news.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 31, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

That would be super, natbiscuits!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 31, 2009 11:02 PM | Report abuse

Happy new year, all! 39 days to pitchers and catchers reporting?

Posted by: Traveler8 | January 1, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Traveler: Feb. 18th is the 1st day pitchers & catchers can report, so that's 48 days.

Posted by: BinM | January 1, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

BinM: "Washington Nationals: The starting eight skews to the right (2 LH, 1 SH, 5 RH); Possible defensive problems at numerous positions (1B, 2B, SS, LF, RF). The starting five shows balance (3 RH, 2 LH arms), but is relatively inexperienced. The bullpen made gains in the off-season, has L-R balance, and is improved over 2009's opening-day version. "

Agree with this ... substituting 'Possible' with probable. Personality issues associated with potential superstar Dukes creating additional problems. Desmond and Espinosa are the wildcards. Either bringing desperately needed help or faltering due to lack of seasoning as happened last season. Morse needs to learn to play 3rd and 1st better as a stop gap against injury. Another young catcher needs to rise from the minors sooner rather than later. As pitchers become more 'seasoned' they will rise to help out from Harrisburg and Syracuse.

Posted by: periculum | January 1, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

I think the Morgan trade has to factor in to the top ten. For several reasons.

1. It signalled that there was actually a difference in the FO between Bowden Rizzo. Milledge was a classic Bowden high-risk / high-reward reclamation kind of choice, that like many of his choices, didn't pan out. Morgan at the time at least represented a more steady veteran presence in CF.

2. The excitement he brought to an otherwise dismal season as a legit leadoff hitter, and his scary speed on the basepaths.

3. The attitude he seemed to bring to the clubhouse. Combined with Dukes demotion to Syracuse, it was partly proof to the rest of the players that the inmates were no longer running the asylum.

4. The great and exciting D he brought to CF, stabilizing the outfield D, and providing some confidence to a shaky pitching staff that the defense might actually back them up.

Hopefully he comes back fully healthy in 2010 and picks up where he left off.

Posted by: ts35 | January 1, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Sec 231 Morse hit *** 17 home runs *** in 2 leagues in 2004? In only 366 at bats. That's usually considered pretty good. His power potential upside was considered fairly high then? I'm not sure where you get your stats from but they appear to be INCORRECT? That year he also hit 19 doubles. BUT SIX TRIPLES?

In 2007 he hit 27 doubles.

In TWO Leagues in 2009 Morse hit 16 home runs. SIXTEEN? 26 doubles. THREE TRIPLES. In the majors in almost exclusively pinch-hitting situations he hit 3 home runs in 52 at bats. He appeared to be reacquiring his power stroke.

Posted by: periculum | January 1, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Periculum: I think you're getting a little ahead of things, but that's nothing new.

My thumbnail mentioned "possible" defensive problems at five positions because 1) Dunn was learning to play 1B "on the fly", and 2) Guzman has never taken balls at 2B, and will have to learn the position in Viera. SS could be a problem regardless, given the current options. I don't mention (or count on) anyone who is not on the current 40-man in my evaluation; no wildcards until spring training is under way at the earliest.

Morse is more than adequate defensively at 1B & 3B, and is solid in the outfield corners as well. You don't want him as an everyday starter, but he's good off the bench.

As for 'potential superstar' Dukes, I hope that was a joke. He's a replacement value corner outfielder that can't stay on the field for an entire season; This will be a make-or-break season for him.

Posted by: BinM | January 1, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

@periculum,

I appreciate your interest in Espinosa. I do agree he has a lot of potential. I just worry that if he is pushed this year before he is quite ready, it will really screw him up. They did the same thing to Desmond in 2005 and he is just beginning to get it back together. The Nats are not going to be contenders in 2010 so give the kid a little more time in Harrisburg this year. I feel the same about Storen. There is some good talent in the minors. I know everybody here hates hearing this, but it requires patience to let it develop. Impatience can stunt the growth of these players.

Its good to see some professionalism in the FO that probably realizes this and is giving the talent as much time as possible to develop.

Posted by: natsguy | January 1, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Contract offers have been out since what, mid-November? I'd personally like to start hearing about some signings (both MLB & MiLB) in the next couple of weeks.

Posted by: BinM | January 1, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

"As for 'potential superstar' Dukes, I hope that was a joke."

@BinM, clearly "joking" as I don't see any other reason why he is still there? Other than the upside potential? He appears to be more trouble than he is worth at this point? But they do seem to have a dearth of position players now. Morse or Desmond could end up in the outfield as a result? Be nice if one or both had left handed bats or were switch hitting.

Posted by: periculum | January 1, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

With the New Year, let me throw out some 'top-3 teasers' for who is in the pipeline for the Nationals, by position. Most of these players are a year (or more) over the horizon, but they could be names of interest; Age noted is for 2010 season.

Catchers:
Rooney, Sean (24YO)- POT-HAR in 2009; Fair "slash" #'s [.275/.330/.407], subbed for Norris in AFL.
Norris, Derek (21YO)- HAG in 2009; Very good "slash" [.286/.413/513], but had 18E in 126GP.
Solano, Jhonathan (25YO)- HAR-SYR in 2009; Weak "slash" line [.228/.257/.315], but decent defensively.
First Base:
Marrero, Chris (22YO)- POT-HAR in 2009; Good hit [.284/.358/.452], no field [20E in 135GP]. Hit very well in AFL [.349/.402/.542].
Moore, Tyler (23YO)- HAR in 2009; Good hitter [.297/.363/.447], decent fielder [9E in 111GP].
Newsome, Brett (24YO)- GCL-HAG in 2009: Solid hitting [.333/.436/.579] in short-season leagues as an undrafted signee from 2008.
Second Base:
Lombardozzi, Steve (22YO)- HAG in 2009; Decent hitter [.296/.375/.395], with only 8E in 128GP.
Soriano, Francisco (23YO)- VT in 2009; Decent hitter [.291/.398/.387], but needs work with the glove [16E in 60GP].
Kobernus, Jeffery (22YO)- VT in 2009; Knee injury/surgery limited work [.220/.273/.244 over 10GP].
Third base: No real prospects currently at this position, IMO.
Shortstop:
Espinosa, Michael (23YO)- POT & AFL in 2009; Good numbers offensively [.264/.375/.460 & .345/.434/.460], fair defensively [25E total in 157GP].
Nicol, Sean (24YO)- VT in 2009; Fair on offense [.269/.375/.323], needs work on defense [14E in 54GP].

I'll post an outfield / pitching summary later.


Posted by: BinM | January 1, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

@periculum: I don't think Dukes is "more trouble than he is worth"; He has talent, but I would think that 2010 is critical for his future as a MLB player.

Morse is what he is (a good bench player, nothing more), while Desmond could become an adequate SS, or as I've said before, a homeless man's version of Robin Yount in CF.
------------------------
Correction to 5:38 post - Moore played 1B at HAG in 2009, not HAR.

Posted by: BinM | January 1, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

BinM: You mean Danny Espinosa.

Posted by: big_game_lannan | January 1, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

@big_game: Oops, you're right.

Posted by: BinM | January 1, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Peri

I think Dukes is here because our idiot exGeneral Manager traded for him, no one else will trade for him and we don't have any other options. Sad supporting a rubbish team eh?

Posted by: soundbloke | January 2, 2010 12:35 AM | Report abuse

I post this only because not much else is going on, and a few of us on NJ go back at bit to the Senators, although it's highly unlikely that anybody posting here goes back even to the Nats' last real pennant run in 1945 (I don't, for sure)

There was a 22-year run when Washington's team was not a joke. In 1912, soon after the time Clark Griffith took over, until the team's last pennant in 1933, Washington was 1795-1533, .539, mostly due of course to one Walter Perry Johnson, but he had help from the like of Goose Goslin, Bucky Harris, Joe Cronin and Heine Manush.

Three AL pennants, 3 second-place finishes and 5 third-place in this span. Five fourths also when finishing in the first division of an eight-team league meant something.

It might be just living in the past, but as the hundredth anniversary nears, perhaps the Nats can start a new streak.

I dearly hope it happens in my lifetime.

Posted by: nats24 | January 2, 2010 1:19 AM | Report abuse

What about the Domenican players? A couple of those look like they may be able to move up fast?

Posted by: periculum | January 2, 2010 5:00 AM | Report abuse

Another way of looking at Dukes is that we got him for nothing (Glenn Gibson, already released by Rays) and that he represented an upgrade over AK in RF last year. But it is sad that the outlook for RFers in the farm system is bleak (as BinM's list should show). Major questions surround Michael Burgess (who hit .235 with .325 OBP in a full season at Hi A last year). The situation is so bad that Baseball America, ludicrously, projects Adam Dunn as the starter in RF in 2013!

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | January 2, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

To continue from yesterday, here is the remainder of my 'top-3 teasers' in the pipeline for the Nationals, covering the outfield & pitchers. Most of these players are a year (or more) over the horizon, but they could be names of interest; Age noted is for 2010 season.

Left Field:
Destin Hood (20YO)- GCL & VT in 2009; Hit for a .279/.335/.442 slash line, but committed 6E over 63GP.
Ramirez, J. P. (21YO)- VT in 2009; Fair slash line [.264/.306/.407], but shaky in field [6E in 72GP].
Rodriguez, Elvin (21YO)- DSL in 2009; Decent hitting [.293/.366/.414], but only 31GP.
Center Field:
Daniel, Mike (26YO)- HAR-SYR in 2009: A .253/.316/.376 line last year might have him topped off in SYR.
Plasencia, Francisco (26YO)- POT-HAR in 2009; Decent offense [.266/.341/.413] & solid defense [2E in 120GP]. A little old for a double-A prospect.
Perez, Eury (20YO)- GCL in 2009; Absolutely raked last year, hitting .381/443/.503 over 47GP. No errors, splitting time between CF & RF.
Right Field:
Lowrance, Marvin (26YO)- HAR in 2009; Fair offense [.241/.323/.438], but may have topped out.
Burgess, Michael (22YO)- POT in 2009; Hit a less-than-stellar [.235/.325/.410], with 5E in 131GP. Still young.
Higley, John (22YO)- VT-HAG in 2009; Had a decent line [.276/.338/.414], only 2E with 64GP between RF & CF.

Starting pitching:
Mandel, Jeff (25YO)- POT-HAR & AFL in 2009; Solid year as SP, posting a 3.38ERA & 1.21WHIP in 151.7 innings. Turned it up a notch as a reliever in AFL [14.3IP, 10:0K-W ratio, .259BAA, 0.98WHIP].
Meyers, Bradley (25YO)- POT-HAR in 2009; Very good numbers [1.72ERA, 1.05WHIP] over 136.3 innings.
Milone, Tom (23YO,L)- POT in 2009; Not overpowering, but durable & gets people out [151.3IP, 2.91ERA, 1.19WHIP].

Relievers:
Storen, Drew (23YO)- You've already heard about this kid, and a few of us have seen him as well. Here are the numbers [37IP, .162BAA, 6.1:1K-W] over 28 games in minors; [13.7IP, .286BAA, 4.3:1K-W] in AFL.
Dill, Clayton (24YO, L)- VT-HAG in 2009; Nice numbers coming up from short-season [33.3IP, .194BAA, 3.8:1K-W].
Bronson, Evan (23YO, L)- Draft pick, VT in 2009; Overpowering in Vermont [49.3IP, .161BAA, 12.6:1K-W].

Posted by: BinM | January 2, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Dukes has the tools, you have to give him a full season and see if he sticks. If not, there are always FA outfielders like Nady available we can buy next year.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | January 2, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

BTW, Birthday best wishes to John D. Martin on his 27th.

Posted by: BinM | January 2, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Happy New Year, folks. You might not have to put up (with) your Dukes for long.

This is from a Draft America profile of Bryce Harper. The pertinent, tantalizing part is at the bottom.

"He’s such an incredible collection of tools, it’s important to remember that he should just now be entering his junior year of high school, as opposed to his first year of junior college. The talent is there to hit for average and big power while providing above-average defensive production at a premium position. Should he need to shift out from behind home, he could get a shot at third base. If his actions were to prove too stiff there, HE HAS THE FOOT SPEED TO PLAY A GOOD RIGHT FIELD WHILE SHOWING OFF ONE OF THE BEST ARMS AROUND."

Posted by: Drew8 | January 2, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Is it already a given that Harper should be the pick? The Nats have pressing needs for position players (outside of 3B) and especially a player with power. From what I have read the other top considerations in this coming draft are pitchers so if its Harper or another arm, I say take Harper.

Posted by: jfromPG | January 2, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Harper is what, 17? If he's as good as, say, Hanley Ramirez (a big IF), it'll be four or five years before we see him up here.
Still, they'll need good players in five years, too.
They've put a lot of money into scouting--this is where it's supposed to pay off.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 2, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

periculum, you can see the source of my statistics right in my post, i gave you the link. i obviously mistyped (or poorly added) when i said in my correction "16" instead of "17."

regardless, he may have had an outlier year here or there, but he still has a career OPS in the minors around 750 (career slugging around 425). which usually translates to lower numbers in the majors. this is the kind of trap people get themselves into when they look at their own players in the minors or breaking in and try to extrapolate numbers with purely a positive outlook.

there's really no reason to expect his numbers in the majors to be any better than they were in the minors (or his current major league numbers).

majors (2695 ABs):
.293 .355 .409 764

Minors (352 ABs):
.271 .329 .424 753

sorry, i find it difficult to look at his history and get excited. especially if he's purely a bat with little defensive prowess. more especially if he's purely a corner IF/OF guy, where offensive numbers are even more important.

if he succeeds, more power to him and i'll be happy for him and the team. i'm not rooting against him, i'm just having what i think are more realistic expectations. to expect him to be anything more than he already is seems foolish to me.

Posted by: sec231 | January 2, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

btw, here's the link to his stats that i used (it's up above twice).

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/M/Mike-Morse.shtml

Posted by: sec231 | January 2, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

It's not that rare for a guy with #1 pick talent to play in the big leagues at 18 or 19 - particularly position players. Harper could be starting in DC by 2011 if he's as good as advertised.

#4

Posted by: db423 | January 2, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Maybe less common than you think:
[As of 2005]
Only nine teenagers have broken into the majors since Rodriguez in 1994. Why the precipitous drop? Although baseball is relying more on foreign players who often sign at 16 or 17 (like the Mariners' Hernández), that is more than offset by more youngsters attending college before turning pro.

Moreover, having invested millions in signing their prospects, teams take greater care with them..."

http://tinyurl.com/yjrwc87

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 2, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Tree-falling-in-the-deserted-forest-dept.:
I'm sure most here remember Jose Guillen's bellyaching about the dimensions at RFK (altho it never bothered Hondo, or Fonzi for that matter), but if you want to talk about the worst home-run park of all time (save for the last four years when the fences were moved in), it was right here: own Griffith Stadium.

In 1945, when the Nats actually made a serious run at the AL pennant, nobody on the team hit a ball over the fence all year. This was not by any means the dead ball era, except in DC.

The only home run hit by a Nats player in 72 home games at Griffith Stadium that year was an inside-the-park job by Joe Kuhel. You can look it up.

Makes you happy the fences at Nationals Park are where they are.

Posted by: nats24 | January 3, 2010 1:18 AM | Report abuse

Well Sec3... that's about one per year, (9 from 1995-2005). That's actually more than I expected. We are talking about a #1 overall pick after all - and a position player no less. If Harper has Griffey/Yount/Kaline/ARod skills, seeing him in the big leagues at 18 or 19 is probably a 50/50 proposition at least.

#4

Posted by: db423 | January 3, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

If Harper is who we think he is("and we let em off the hook"couldn't resist), but anyway he could be up here at age 19/20 Kaline did it at 19 but he was special Harper, from all reports has the skills to ba a star,a superstar if you will let him play and do we "rush" him look a pitcher should not be rushed but a position player is different Harper will be fine start him at HI A ball and see what happens. Dukes i'm hopping, reports as early as possible and in shape and ready to have a good year (280/25-30/90) i know i'm dreamin but hey we elected Obama so miracle's can happen.

Posted by: dargregmag | January 3, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

@Dargregmag,

I hate to bring politics into this blog. But that Obama thing hasn't exactly been a miracle for many of us so far.

The Nats haven't even drafted Harper yet. All draft choices are a crap shoot. As good as he is, his chances of making it to MLB are low and stardom much lower. Relax, watch, and enjoy. Getting all hyped up about things that might happen are not worth the stress when they don't.

Posted by: natsguy | January 3, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I know that September stats are overlooked, but here's something that jumped out at me...
In the Nationals 7-game win streak to end the season, all seven games were won by the bullpen. The starters had seven straight no decisions, BUT had six quality starts; The only pitcher who didn't get credit was Detwiler, who threw 5 innings of one-hit shutout ball, but was on a pitch count.

Posted by: BinM | January 3, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

One more bit of navel-gazing on the 2009 season - If Bowden & the Lerners' had signed just one "inning-eating" replacement-value pitcher in 2009, the team could have avoided the following:
1) Signing Daniel Cabrera, he of the 0-5 record in eight starts (I know, he was supposed to be the player i'm referencing, but this is in hindsight).
2) Burning an option early on Ross Detwiler (1-6 overall, 4 of 14 in quality starts over two periods).
3) Burning an option on Collin Balester (1-4 in seven starts, 1QS).
4) Burning an option on Marco Estrada (0-1 in one start).

That's a 2-16 heartbreak that, in hindsight, could have been avoided last year. Hopefully, Rizzo & Co. have noted this and will learn from it.

Posted by: BinM | January 3, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Okay guys, new question for a slow end to a holiday weekend...say the market for a second established free agent starter gets drier than it currently is. You're Rizzo --- what trade are you making and for who? Who's included from our end?

Posted by: ontheblack84 | January 3, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

@ontheblack: Here's four possibles, imo.

FLA - Josh Johnson (SP, R)
WSH- Eury Perez (OF), Justin Maxwell (OF), Shiron Martis (SP, R) + lo-A prospect.

CIN - Aaron Harang (SP, R)
WSH - Josh Willingham (OF), Garrett Mock (SP-RP) & cash.

PIT - Zach Duke (SP, L)
WSH - Ross Detwiler (SP, L), Chris Marrero (1B), + AA RP + cash.

KC - Luke Hochevar (SP, R)
WSH - Luis Atilano (SP, R), either Shairon Martis (SP, R) or Justin Maxwell (OF), + prospect.

I may have undervalued Duke & Hochevar, but that's a good starting position.

Posted by: BinM | January 3, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

@BinM:

Interesting possibilities. I don't think FLA does that deal though. Johnson is a total stud young pitcher. I think the Duke deal would be good for both sides, although I agree with a slight undervalue. I do wonder if Huntington in PIT would give him up for fear of a complete fan revolt worse than they already have there. I think they'd have to get some kind of major league talent back to show their fans they're trying to be competitive sooner rather than later. (Sound familiar?)

One little known fact from the '09 season: Detroit lost a CRAZY amount of money this year trying to keep a winner on field for the fans during the economic devastation in the city. But they can't maintain that amount of red ink for much longer and are allegedly looking to unload one of their expensive corner outfielders to the Yankees. Assuming they do, out of left field, and as an admittedly overly bold move am I crazy to say...?

WAS - Josh Willingham (OF), Ross Detwiler (SP), Tyler Clippard (SP) + AA prospect or cash considerations
DET - Justin Verlander (SP)

Okay...I might be crazy. It's cold outside and I'm trying to kick up trouble.

Posted by: ontheblack84 | January 3, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Nice try, but IMO,

1- Florida does not make that trade. Not realistic.

2 - Seems reasonable from Cincy side, but not sure the Nats would want to make that trade.

3 - Zach Duke is not that good. I can't imagine the Nats would want to give up either player straight up for Dukes.

4 - KC does not make that deal.

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 3, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

If we are going to make a trade with Detroit, can't we get Scott Seizmore?

Posted by: soundbloke | January 3, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the Mariners might trade Yuniesky Betancourt for a player like Colin Balester?

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 3, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I was off base on the Zack Duke thing. I did not realize how significantly he improved from 2007 and 2008. Still, I'm not sure he is better than Detwiler can be.

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 3, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

@ontheblack, bisquits: The PIT FO might not want that deal right away, but Duke is due for an Arb-2 hearing in February.

Regarding any deal with DET, I don't think the Nationals are ready to eat that much salary - Verlander is good, but that's a lot of $$$ per win share, imo.

Posted by: BinM | January 3, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

@bisquits: Umm, Betancourt is with KC, not SEA. And the offer of Balester would probably get an "And who else" from even Drayton Moore.

Posted by: BinM | January 3, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Happy New Year! Trying to catch up. What was the Jennifer Lopez quote?

Posted by: Nats_Lady | January 3, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

@ontheblack: Here's an additional 'tease' for the Duke trade - Washington offers to scratch the AA RP for either Mock or Martis. The cash offer stands, but can be no greater than the total ML salary for the two pitchers sent to PIT (roughly $900k).

Posted by: BinM | January 3, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"Why did I sign with the Nationals?" Tavárez said on Sunday. "When you go to a club at 4 in the morning, and you're just waiting, waiting, a 600-pounder looks like J-Lo. And to me this is Jennifer Lopez right here. It's 4 in the morning. Too much to drink. So, Nationals: Jennifer Lopez to me."

http://tinyurl.com/yg9mawx

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 3, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

@Nats_Lady: Somebody will explain it better than I can, but I think it was a quote from Taverez right after signing in Feb. 2009, equating signing with the Nationals to using 'beer goggles' at closing time in a bar to decide who to go home with.

Posted by: BinM | January 3, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Hence the nickname: "Beer Goggles"

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 3, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

@sec3(sofa) - You nailed it!

Posted by: BinM | January 3, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

^5, BinM!

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 3, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

"Why did I sign with the Nationals?" Tavárez said on Sunday. "When you go to a club at 4 in the morning, and you're just waiting, waiting, a 600-pounder looks like J-Lo. And to me this is Jennifer Lopez right here. It's 4 in the morning. Too much to drink. So, Nationals: Jennifer Lopez to me."
---------------------
That was the point when the Lerners' turned to Kasten & said "Do we really want Bowden running our team"?

Posted by: BinM | January 3, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

So, in that scenario, the Lerners would be "J-Lo look-alike"'s current boyfriend?

***********
That was the point when the Lerners' turned to Kasten & said "Do we really want Bowden running our team"?
Posted by: BinM | January 3, 2010 6:19 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 3, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

NatsLady, we bring you great (?!) moments in NJ history (and Happy New Year back at you):

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/nationalsjournal/2009/03/the_nats_love_dont_cost_a_thin.html

sec3, your link didn't work for me, so please to excuse if I duplicated it above.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 3, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Or would the Lerners/Nationals be the look-alike, and Bowden be the boyfriend they were dumping for treating them like ... [cheap dates]?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 3, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/15/AR2009031501580.html?sub=AR

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 3, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

@sec3(sofa): I'm probably way out of the loop, celebrity-wise, but where would the Nationals best fit w/JLo: Ben Affleck, PDiddy/Puff Daddy/Sean Combs, or Marc Anthony/Skeletor?
No, wait - that last one was Cristina Aguilera; my bad.
Maybe Blake-whatshisface-Fielder; No, that's Amy Winehouse; Damn.
Umm, Tiger Woods, anybody?

Posted by: BinM | January 3, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

A kind of interesting matrix of favoured trading partners for NL East GM's posted here: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/gm_trade_history/index.html

Posted by: BinM | January 3, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Ah, the dead of winter. No news from the Nats, no posts from the Post, no comments from the NJ gang.

Time to organize those spring training trips and season-ticket draft parties!

Posted by: shepdave2003 | January 4, 2010 5:46 AM | Report abuse

Two years ago today:

http://clarkconstruction.oxblue.com/clarkhuntsmoot/

Posted by: BobLHead | January 4, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, BobL. That made me smile. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 4, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Concur with 1a.

Also, good to see ya, Nats_Lady. Been wondering where you'd got off to.

Posted by: Scooter_ | January 4, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

in case you thought it would never come, new post

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 4, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I doubt that I'll have been the first to mention it, but the trade for Nyjer Morgan and Burnett should be on the list. As it was the first significant harbinger of Rizzo moving the club in the right direction.

Posted by: mgilham | January 5, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

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