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Matt Capps officially joins Nats

Now the deal is official. Matt Capps is a Nat. You'll have to forgive the Nats for their toned down celebration of the signing -- they invited a few print media members and bloggers to Nats Park for a sans-camera meet-and-greet -- if only because they knew where the Capps signing ranked on the Wednesday DC media priority list. (Now maybe if they'd named him closer and offensive coordinator ...)
But that said, GM Mike Rizzo tried his best to underscore the importance of the Capps deal.

"I just want to make it clear, we're in a little bit of an informal setting here just because of the other things that are happening today in DC, but this is a major, major announcement for the Washington Nationals," Rizzo said. "As important as Jason [Marquis] and Pudge [Rodriguez] in my opinion. This guy is a 26-year-old closer that we control that's gonna grow with us and grow with the franchise for a long time to come He encompasses everything we're trying to do here. Young. Character. Hard-nosed. Guts on the mound. Not afraid. A winning attitude. He's a guy we identified and we went after him hard."

Much of what Capps said he'd already touched upon in earlier conversations. Wednesday, though, it became apparent that a dogged recruiting mission brought him to D.C.

"When he became available," Rizzo said, "we went after him very hard."

"[Assistant GM] Brian Minniti called within five minutes of him becoming a free agent," Capps' agent, Paul Kinzer, said. "So them being that aggressive -- and they didn't let up, it was every day -- we got to know them too well. [Laughter.] But every day it was three to five phone calls. And they were persistent and they sold him on the team. He knew guys; they were calling him. They did a nice job recruiting him. You know, coming out everybody thought it was a slam dunk for the Cubs, and he loved the Cubs -- we thought that's where he'd end up. But these guys did a great job and they had the closer's role [to offer]. And with the Cubs and some of these other teams he would have been in the set-up role. They would have paid him more money and guaranteed him two years, but he would have been in the set-up role. Between Mike and Brian Minniti, they were aggressive and they wanted him and they helped win him over."

Turns out, the Nats have been in pursuit of Capps for months -- long before he was non-tendered by Pittsburgh. Washington tried to swing a deal for Capps toward the 2009 trading deadline. Capps is coming off a career-worst season (5.80 ERA), but Rizzo and his scouting department measured the risk/reward with other factors.
They recognize that his fastball flattened last year, but Capps thinks that is a mechanical problem that can be fixed.

In 2009, Capps allowed 10 home runs in 54-1/3 IP, a rate roughly double than what he was used to.

"Guys who pound the strike zone give up more home runs, I think, than guys who nibble on the corners," Rizzo said. "This is a guy who comes in the ninth inning who's gonna go right after hitters. And oftentimes those guys leave balls up and they get hit out of the park. I think playing in Washington is going to help that. I think it's going to be a point of concentration this year, a focal point of his preparation. And I look for that to not be the case this year."

A few other notes:
* The Nats haven't yet announced who will be dropped from their 40-man roster to make room for Capps. They still have a day or two to make the decision, before Capps' contract is formally approved by MLB, Rizzo said.
* Rizzo was vague when speaking about the Nats' remaining offseason priorities, but he began his answer by talking about pitching, and also said, "We need to improve our defense."

By Alexa Steele  |  January 6, 2010; 2:17 PM ET
 
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Next: Details for Nats winter caravan

Comments

Andre Dawson's in the Hall! Woo-hoo!

Posted by: BobLHead | January 6, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Wow, great news about Dawson. Good to see another Expo in Cooperstown.

Posted by: JohninMpls | January 6, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Did Capps cop his cap?

Posted by: joemktg1 | January 6, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Gotta hand it to the Nats, they bring a new guy in on the same day the 10 million pound gorilla is gorging on it legions of kool-aiders over in Ashburn.

Anyway, thanks Alexa for throwing us the bone, it makes for great theater. Now Mr. Rizzo please go sign Garland and O-Dog, then call a Presser when the fools in Ashburn are on vacation.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | January 6, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I was wondering why no presser, so thanks for the info, Alexa. Welcome to D.C., Matt. Seriously, welcome. Glad to have you here.

I imagine that the Ashburn coverage will end shortly after their playoff stint does. What? Oh. Never mind. hehe.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 6, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I certainly hope that Capps copped his cap. If he didn't, it would be pretty, er, crappy.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 6, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Swear to God....thought this was a jokes when I first saw rhe headline.

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/2010-01-06-luis-ayala-kidnapping_N.htm

Posted by: leetee1955 | January 6, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

======
I understand he can't hit his weight, but still.

***********
The Giants designated defensively-skilled shortstop Brian Bocock for assignment to make room for Juan Uribe, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 6, 2010 1:06 PM

====

maybe get him on some weight-gain 2000 like cartman and it won't be so bad!

Posted by: sec231 | January 6, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Allen introduces Mike Shanahan and Rizzo introduces Matt Capps. Therein lies the diff between 2 losing teams.

Newsflash Rizzo: The Redskins will dominate the headlines with every move Shanahan makes, beginning now and on through training camp. That includes April, May, June, July, August...you know, what other cities call a "baseball season."

As per usual, the Nats went little. Look for Nats news on page 5, next to the DC United stories.

Posted by: howjensen | January 6, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

One of my all-time favorite players, EVER!! The "Hawk" was a six tool player what was his sixth tool? the brutha looked good in his uniform.I've got one of his autographed gloves in my closet still in excellent condition and hopefully Miles my grandson will honor me one day by using it when he plays H/S baseball anyway congrat's to Andre Dawson for being selected to the HOF, some good news in light of Lord Stern comming down hard on Gil.

Posted by: dargregmag | January 6, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

@howjensen

The Nats could sign Jesus and Muhammad to be a double-play combo and Buddha to play catcher and they still would not get the coverage the Washington Football team gets. The Capps signing may not be the sexiest, but its a solid move and one which will pay dividends towards becoming a better team. Are there any players in your mind who are available that the Nats could have signed that would trump the NFL team's hiring of Shanahan? I doubt it, so why be so critical by suggesting the Nats are losers cuz they signed Capps?

Posted by: jfromPG | January 6, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

howjensen

they STILL work for dan snyder. nuff said.

Posted by: surly_w | January 6, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

This one's for you, dargramps.

Andre Dawson, The World's First And Only 7 Tool Player

Dawson has skill
And looks that kill
But really, 7 tools?
Can you list 'em? I will:
First is Speed, Second is Glove
Third we'll give that Arm some love
Fourth is Hitting, Fifth he's a slugger
Sixth: looks good and is a real good hugger
Seventh - now here's what's so special about Dawson -
He's just completely friggin Awesome.

Posted by: nationalsanthems | January 6, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Nationalanthems: Super Cool.

Posted by: dargregmag | January 6, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I predict the Nats will have their first winning season before the DC football team has its next.

And when John Lannan no-hits the Red Sox to win the seventh game of the World Series, the WaPo front page headlines will scream, "Redskins Fire Coach After Sixth Straight Loss."

That's assuming there still is WaPo when that happens.

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

Allen introduces Mike Shanahan and Rizzo introduces Matt Capps. Therein lies the diff between 2 losing teams.

Newsflash Rizzo: The Redskins will dominate the headlines with every move Shanahan makes, beginning now and on through training camp. That includes April, May, June, July, August...you know, what other cities call a "baseball season."

As per usual, the Nats went little. Look for Nats news on page 5, next to the DC United stories.

Posted by: howjensen |

-------------------

If dominating the headlines in the hometown press was a criteria in sports, the 'Skins would have 15 Super Bowl trophies in the past 10 years. And what did that get them?

My guess is that the Capps signing turns out to be more significant, in the long run, than the Shanahan signing. Capps will pave the way for Storen in a year or two.

Shanahan will pave the way for the next Redskins' coach in a year or two.

Posted by: js_edit | January 6, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

In terms of overall sports coverage from the WaPo, given the recent demise of the Times' sportsdesk, maybe it's time for them to re-think their coverage scheme.

There are five Major sports leagues to be covered in the city - MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL. But the WaPo has nearly as many full-time staffers assigned to coverage of just the B&G than to the other four sports combined!
NFL/B&G = (6+) Cindy Boren, Rick Maese, Mark Maske, Jason Reid, Barry Svrluga, Paul Tenorio, Gene Wang.
MLB/Nationals = (3+) Les Carpenter, Chico Harlan [gone in March, 2010], Dave Sheinen, Alexa Steele.
NHL/Capitals = (2) Linsey Applebaum, Tarik El-Bashir, Gene Wang (recent contributor).
NBA/Wizards = (1+) Michael Lee, Alexa Steele.
FIFA/MLS/United = (1) Steven Goff.

That's just 'beat' writers & blog contributors - It doesn't even take the columnists into consideration...
Maybe lighten up on the 7/24/365 saturation bombing of the B&G until they become relevant again & give some of the other sports their due; Just a thought.

Posted by: BinM | January 6, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm more hopeful and enthusiastic about the Lerners, Stan, Rizzo and Riggs than about Snyder, Allen and Shanahan.

As Ken Beatrice used to say: "Garbage at the top, garbage all the way through."

Posted by: Drew8 | January 6, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Remember a few weeks back when Rizzo went to see Aroldis Chapman throw? I haven't seen much since then to link the Nats to Chapman, but reports are that he expects to sign within the next few days. Some sources have the top contenders being the Angels and Blue Jays, while the Marlins, at one time considered a possible favorite, have conceded defeat. Do you all think Rizzo might have a surprise up his sleeve? I'm not sure about all this, but I wouldn't mind seeing Chapman in DC...

Posted by: thepostischeap | January 6, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

I look at it this way...

It took the Lerners about 2 1/2 years to figure out that they simply had to get a first class pro to run the club. They did and it will pay dividends in '10 and they will be a force to be reckoned with in '11.

It took Snider a decade to do the same thing and he still hasn't shown that he knows how to allow the pros to run the show.

The Wiz simply got a new shooting guard.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | January 6, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

@Drew8: The 2010 season may be the first test as to who is the quicker study in team-building - the Lerners' (five years) or Snyder (11 years). An NFL team is easier to "turn around" than an MLB team because of the shorter season, but my early money is on the Lerner group & the Nationals.

Posted by: BinM | January 6, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

It wouldn't really make a whole lot of sense for the WaPo to divert resources away from the team that is the more popular read amongst its consumers. As much as we would like to say that they should focus more on the sports that we hold to be more important, they wouldn't be dumping all that they do into the 'Skins if it wasn't in their best interest to do so.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | January 6, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

@CA50: You might have hit on a key point there - Both Abe & the Danny "loved" their team & their players, while the Lerner group was dis-associated, looking at it as just another investment.

The Lerners' bought in, took two+ years to learn the business & seek guidance (some of it bad), and are now spending money and looking for growth, while the Wizards & the B&G ownership were and are emotionally involved, so they spent money on their "personal" favorites (for Polin, out of loyality & trust, for Snyder, out of the search for the next new, shiny thing).

Posted by: BinM | January 6, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

@Cavalier83: All I'm saying is that I can't see how the WaPo is making good use of their Sports-desk team by having so many talented writers Permanently assigned to the B&G, particularly in the off-season (now until the draft in May). Leave the B&G/NFL beats to Boren, Maese, Maske, & Reid. Shift Svrluga, Tenorio & Wang to the other 'in-season' sports; They all have other experience (Svrluga-baseball, Tenorio-soccer, Wang-hockey).

Posted by: BinM | January 6, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Defense, Mmmm Defense...2nd base and a back up for 1st base??? who's available? Orlando Hudson. Is Guzman going to be a part of this team as a SS?

So, in less than one year, the DC sports scene has bid farewell to Bowden/Manny, Vinny/Zorn, Eddie Jordan/RIP Abe and what was the name of DC united Tecnico? Nameoff??? Who's next, Portis, Gil and Guzman?

Things are looking a little better for 2010

Posted by: boricuabopper | January 6, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Defense? Like I said:

Santa honey, I want balls caught and really that's not a lot
I've been an angel all year
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 6, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Recognition to Barry Svrluga's very fine coverage of the Deadskins - I know he's sharing the byline and that the other journalists are also good, but it sure reads like Barry is doing most of the writing.

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 6, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

I miss Barry but I don't tend to read about the pointy-ball team (bo-ring). ;-)

However, speaking of reading, the nats320 blog has a number of transcripts from the Capps presser today (side sessions as well as the MAAAAIN EVEEEENT - ooops, sorry, Nats Park flashback).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 6, 2010 9:47 PM | Report abuse

@BinM: I understand your point, but what I was saying is, perhaps they are making the best use of their resources. Ultimately, the WaPo makes money based upon the ad space they can sell. If they can get x number of hits on every 'Skins piece no matter how many of them they write, and .25x number of hits on every Nats piece, doesn't it make sense that they would produce 4 times as many pieces on the 'Skins in order to maximize advertising revenue?

Posted by: Cavalier83 | January 6, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see the Hawk in, too--no one looked better in blue pajamas. What's interesting, in a sad way, is McGwire getting nowhere remotely near. Not that I think he belongs in--he doesn't, and not just for the steroids--but not even 24%. And with Blyleven missing by five votes and Alomar by eight, those single votes for David Segui, Pat Hentgen, Kevin Appier, and 2 each to Eric Karros and Ellis Burks make you wonder.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | January 6, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Look I agree with everyone here that the Nats get undercovered. I am a washington sports fan like most everyone here. I love the Nats, love going to games, love the attitude of the players.

But the sooner the team accepts the fact of live that all team other then the skins have to earn their coverage the better.

The Caps have a great chance at a cup this year, and they still can't get off Comcast, and get preempted for Wiz games.

Posted by: alex35332 | January 7, 2010 7:27 AM | Report abuse

Former Nationals staff are now located in Cleveland (Acta) and Toronto (Brown). What trades can we cook up between the Nationals and those teams? Would Cleveland be interested Maxwell? Would either team take on Guzman (with or without the Nationals paying some of the salary)? What about Balester, Martis, or Mock? Do either of these teams have bad contracts that might be exchanged for Guzman's? Vernon Wells contract is probably too bad to take, but maybe there is something there. There's got to be someting to talk about.

Posted by: natbiscuits | January 7, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Jays re-signed John Macdonald, an absolute defensive wiz at SS, for basically back-up money. I'd go after him in a trade. Won't give us much offense but he's incredible defensively and one of those guys who busts his chops every second he's on the field.

Posted by: slopitchtom | January 7, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

@Biscuits -- I agree that trades are probably the next wave of Rizzo's offseason moves. I still would like to try and move Guzman to the Reds for either Harang or Arroyo. The Reds are so desperate to shed money that they may even be able to be talked into throwing in Brandon Phillips in exchange for some of our #5 starters (Martis, Balester, Mock, etc).

However, it may be harder to move Guzman than we think because I believe he is a 10/5 guy (10 years in the majors, 5 with the same club) which in essence gives him the right to veto any trades.

Posted by: erocks33 | January 7, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

@erocks: Your last line covers it.

Posted by: BinM | January 7, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

i presume the brandon phillips comment was a throw in joke...

Posted by: sec231 | January 7, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

On the other hand, it would seem that the new post, with winter caravan details, is no joke.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 7, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

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