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'Send Mark to Viera'

This afternoon, Mark Zuckerman booked a six-week stay at a hotel near Viera, Fla., thereby confirming his intentions to cover Washington Nationals' spring training for the sixth consecutive season. As in previous years, Mark will be there to catalogue all those springtime rites, along with his media compadres. He'll be at the ballyard every morning around sunrise. He'll pepper the manager and players with questions. He'll probably, at some point, provide readers with an update on somebody's visa problems. He'll also, no doubt, write some very good stories.

But for now, Mark's trip down to Florida -- and the fact that he'll be covering the Nats this spring -- is a story all by itself. That's because Mark is no longer representing a newspaper. All in the last week, he launched his own Web site, identified a groundswell of reader support/interest, and lastly launched a campaign to raise $5,000 for a true honest-to-goodness people's-champion spring training reporting trip.

Oh, and then he raised the money in 29 hours.

Not sure what Mark thinks of this idea, but the next $5,000 should go to Dennis Quaid for the movie deal.

Now before we get too far along in this, here's some background. In December, along with the rest of the sports staff, Mark was laid off by the Washington Times, a paper that transitioned to a niche-political focus just in time to neglect the Mike Shanahan hiring, the Gilbert Arenas fiasco, the Caps' newfound invincibility, and the once-in-a-century snowstorm. And Mark, who had worked for the Times since 2001, was left to start anew.

I've known Mark as both a competitor and friend since 2008. Two years of shared time might not seem like much, but when a pair of writers is always on the road -- sitting side-by-side in the press box; splitting taxi rides; commiserating after a postgame interview without a single multi-syllable word -- the experience is intensified. You get to know a person. Suffice to say, Mark carried himself with absolute integrity, quick to laugh, always honest, perpetually upbeat.

Somehow, unemployment didn't change this. Whenever I crossed paths with Mark this winter, he never griped. (Though sometimes he joked how his cache of Wash Times reporter's notebooks were now collector's items.) Does everybody have such grace in brutal times? I doubt it. Heck, I fear I couldn't have matched it.

When I saw Mark two weekends ago at NatsFest, he shared an idea. He planned to start a Nats-related blog. Whether it was a good idea, time would reveal. But Mark sensed a void, and a hunger for extensive Nats coverage.

The Web site was born last Monday.

And the next idea was born a few days later.

Midweek, Mark started wondering if maybe, just perhaps, he could raise the funds for a spring training trip. He consulted with a few Nats bloggers, gauging the grass-roots interest. And most important, he talked to Trent Rosecrans, a former Cincinnati Post employee who now covers the team via his Web site, cnati.com.

This is how the "Send Mark to Viera" campaign, proposed by Zuckerman himself and seconded throughout the Nats' blogosphere, took hold.

Monday morning, at 8:30, Mark posted on his site the details of his proposal. The more a person donated, the more exclusive content he/she would receive.

And then ... Mark waited.

When a few thousand dollars rolled in during the first few hours, Mark worried the momentum wouldn't sustain itself. He didn't know how many people out there really had the willingness to pay. But in the evening, his fundraising got an additional boost from guys like Keith Law, of ESPN.com, who mentioned Mark's campaign.

"The way the system was set up, I get an e-mail every time somebody made a donation, so my Blackberry was pretty much buzzing all day," Mark said.

At 1 p.m. Tuesday, Mark met his $5,000 goal.

Now, he's at $5,460.60.

People have visited his Web site from Kenya and Japan. Strangers have written to him. Mark has no idea if his Web site is a long-term business model or just a short-term means to experiment, but for now, he's planning his life "week-to-week."

"What I want to convey is how overwhelmed and humbled I've been made by this," he said. "I really had no expectations at all at how this would go, and to see all the support I've gotten -- not only financially, but just the words of support -- it's been stunning and humbling."

Mark said his Web site will develop in stages. It's an experiment, after all, and it has some obvious downsides. For now, he's not making any money with the venture. (He's collecting severance pay from the Times, though.) He's also unsure about the tone, and extent, of his Nats coverage. Will he use some of the newspaper formalities? Will he travel with the team on the road?

"I honestly have no idea what I'm gonna do by the end of spring training," Mark said. "I have a lot of ideas, a lot of other people have contacted me and offered suggestions. The thing about it, as incredibly grateful as I am for all this support, it's still only covering my expenses. I'm not making an actual salary off this. By the time April comes around, the money that it would cost for me to make a salary and travel with the team is a lot more than $5,000, and I just don't now that there are enough people to fund that endeavor without really really expanding my readership to a much higher level. If there's a way to make that happen, I don't know. The idea of making this my full-time job is really appealing; it's just a matter of seeing if there's a way to make this work."

By Chico Harlan  |  February 9, 2010; 5:10 PM ET
 
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Next: Nationals like chances to land Wang

Comments

That is a great story on Mark.

From a couple posts ago:

section505203, what makes you think the offer to Chapman was't not 'nearly enough'? If we outbid all teams except one - which is certainly within the ream of possibility - is that 'not nearly enough', or is it more likely that the Nats, along with every other teams in MLB, just didn't think he was worth it? Again, just like with Crow, the idea of spending money just because you can isn't a sound plan - you decide what someone is worth and you make your play. It's easy to say we blew this one without seeing how Chapman progresses but to use this is an example of this franchise being cheap, IMHO, is ridiculous.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | February 9, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

The Nats have among the lowest payrolls in all of baseball. Why shouldn't they be able to outbid Cincy for Chapman? Cincy's payroll is significantly higher than the Nats' payroll, and our region is significantly bigger than Cincy's. What's ridiculous about it? Being second in the bidding means you spent no money at all--just like if you were 10th in the bidding.

And if they had said to Chapman or his agent, "We would like to have you as a Nat, so if the market takes you higher than our $25 million-five year offer, just let us know," then the Nats would have got another phone call and a chance to go higher and get the player. But I'll bet instead they said, "$25 mil over five is our best and final offer. Bye."

And not signing your top round draft pick because of a $500,000 difference is just not major league in any way. The Nats do need young, quality starting pitchers. If they had SS, Crow and Chapman in their system, they could address some other needs.

I will never understand why DC baseball fans favor saving money over adding young, quality players that build the Nats' future, unless you are a Nats' employee or something? The Nats have so many tens of millions of annual expenditures to go just to get up to MLB average in financial commitment. Why not push for being average, at least?

Posted by: EdDC | February 9, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: EdDC | February 9, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Yes, it would be way kewl if Mark Zuckerman could get into the season reasonable set up to do Nats coverage until a real employer with benefits etc. would come along ... hopefully M. Rizzo will help by making this a competitive franchise as he did with Syracuse?

@EdDC, the word from here (this blog) is that the representatives for Chapman did not permit the Nats to counter-offer against the Reds. Whether true or not? Perhaps worth an investigation by Chico and Mark Zuckerman, because that does seem like it could have been a key component to the future competitive franchise Rizzo is trying to build?

Posted by: periculum | February 9, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

This is great news on yet another dreary, snowy day. Hopefully this weather will be but a bad memory by the time the spring games start next month. I would like to have some words with that blasted groundhog.

Posted by: leetee1955 | February 9, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

For those who are worried about the signing of re-treads and also-rans instead of "real" talent for the Big League club:

Syracuse Chiefs
Nats sign Mench for Chiefs
The Washington Nationals signed veteran outfielder Kevin Mench as a free agent and assigned his contract to the Syracuse Chiefs. Mench, 32 last played in the major leagues in 2008 with the Blue Jays appearing in 51 games and batting...


Rizzo probably gave him the same promise as last year. Do well for the Chiefs and you get a big league call up later on.

Posted by: periculum | February 9, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

here's a novel idea, why doesn't the post just hire an experienced major-league beat writer who has extensively covered the home team the past six years? does this make too much sense?

Posted by: surly_w | February 9, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Great post, Chico. Now, who's the moron corporate suit in Chicago who thinks there's no market for a full-time Nationals reporter at the Post?

Posted by: sbiel2 | February 9, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

If Zuckerman was smart, he would have taken his severance pay from the Times as a lump sum instead of having it parceled out to him like it was a paycheck. Then he'd be eligible to collect unemployment insurance too, starting right after he was laid off.

How do I know? Been there, done that. Although I lived and worked in VA, and unemployment laws do differ from state to state.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 9, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I heard that the Post isn't hiring a beat writer because Chico's not actually leaving and they can't afford both.

So not only is Chico not writing about the Nats anymore, he's keeping anyone else from doing so as well. Thanks Cheeks.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 9, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Just saw this on the mlb.com transactions page - the Seattle Mariners have signed both Steven Shell & Levale Speigner to MiLB contracts for 2010, with at least Shell getting a non-roster invite to Spring Training. That makes four former WSH-MTL pitchers under contract with SEA (Cliff Lee & Chad Cordero being the other two).

Color me suprised.

Posted by: BinM | February 9, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Ladson is tweeting about the Nats being in the final running for Chien-Ming Wang.

Posted by: AtomicOvermind | February 9, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone see Ladsons tweet?

Looks like we're going to be in it right until the end with Wang.

Splendid news.

Posted by: soundbloke | February 9, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Also, can we start a 'Bring Mark to the Post' fund?

Posted by: soundbloke | February 9, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

slogan for 2010 - "nats baseball, we may not always close the deal but we're always in it until the end."

Posted by: surly_w | February 9, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang....yup, Ed. With you. And here's food for thought: The Post won't allocate resources -admittedly scarce these days for print media-on the Nats because as crummy as they've been, outside of kooks like us it's a waste of money(never mind all the sound reasoning behind "ya gotta spend money to make it)to really cover the Nats. The fan base is just too small. Now, as long as we stink, it'll STAY small-and there is correspondingly less media scrutiny on WHY we stink. Stank is not fond of reporters.The slow Lerners have yet to really demonstrate that they "feel our pain".I'm NOT saying spend wastefully...but way back in October I pointed to the Mariners, how they were only half a game better than us in '08 ....and now on top of their '09 campaign, look at the moves they've made THIS off-season...
Any who, less wins equals less fans equals less scrutiny equals the freedom to keep slogging along-a nice feedback loop if you wanna make money rather than really compete-without some pesky informed reporter asking pointed questions.
Now,I'm not saying that's the case-as I've said, I really do have a good vibe about the Riz. I'm still not convinced that the slow Lerners are cheap-just slow learners-and slow to recognize that if they wanted a guaranteed return they shoulda stuck with real estate....hmmmm, maybe not!
That owning a ball club is a whole different kind of business. That Ted really DOES want us to be a flagship franchise. Heck-that they'd make a ton MORE money-as well as be beloved-by giving the rest of the population a product to really get excited about. Seems that the Phils have recently figured that out....after years of being on the apparent Nats plan.
Sigh....look, there are no villains here. I see merit in pretty much all of your positions.But this is year 5, and while I want to believe in the plan and the prudence of patience, well I hope I'm not being fooled again. And in a market with TONS of available talent at reasonable prices-mostly mediocre, for sure, but when you're as lousy as we are, upgrading doesn't take much...and when you have a limited number of prospects who currently look like better than decent players.....
If I have to, sure, I'll wait and trust the Wiz...what else am I gonna do? I love baseball, and I'm a native of DC.But another of my themes has been that we are uniquely positioned to BE a franchise with a national following...and it's sad to see that window slipping by.Jeez, the world doesn't need another KC, Pittsburgh...or folks destined to emulate Cubs fans!
Well, my fingers are crossed (actually clenched:too much snow shoveling,and more to come)....but I look forward to the day when my 87 win prediction is regarded as rationally based, rather than an intuition.
And Oh Yea- way to go, Mark! Keep 'em on their toes!
Go Nats!!!!

Posted by: zendo | February 9, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

May be late to the party with this - my server has been sporadic since WhiteOut 2010 started, but ESPN.com Insider has a great feature on the defensive prowess of Tony Plush.

http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/hotstove09/insider/columns/story?id=4898304

Posted by: leetee1955 | February 9, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

NATS DELIVER SIGNING FREE AGENTS
The Syracuse Chiefs major league affiliate the Washington Nationals have been busy during the 2010 off-season signing many players at the major league level - catcher Pudge Rodriquez, second baseman Adam Kennedy and pitchers Jason Marquis, Brian Bruney, Matt Capps, Eddie Guardardo, Miguel Batista and Tyler Walker,

At the minor league level, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and his staff were busy replenishing the coffers at the AAA-AA levels. They include the signing of catcher Jamie Burke, 1B Josh Whitesell, infielders Eric Brunlett, Pedro Lopez and Chase Lambin, outfielders Chris Duncan, Jerry Owens, Pedro Powell and Kevin Mench. In addition they have resigned pitchers Andrew Kown and Logan Kensing and infielder Pete Orr from last years club.

Other players added by waiver claims and trades late in the year include pitchers Jesse English, Ryan Mattheus, Doug Slaten and Aaron Thompson.

Also expected to be in the mix is veteran lefthanded pitcher Matt Chico who looks to rebound after two injury interupted seasons.

Here is some brief tidbits on the players who could play in Syracuse this season:

Jamie Burke, 38 is a veteran catcher who split time last season between Seattle and AAA-Tacoma and also appeared in six games for the Nationals last season. Used mostly as a back-up and insurance at the major league level.

Posted by: periculum | February 9, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

NATS DELIVER SIGNING FREE AGENTS
The Syracuse Chiefs major league affiliate the Washington Nationals have been busy during the 2010 off-season signing many players at the major league level - catcher Pudge Rodriquez, second baseman Adam Kennedy and pitchers Jason Marquis, Brian Bruney, Matt Capps, Eddie Guardardo, Miguel Batista and Tyler Walker,

Josh Whitesell, 27, orignally drafted by the Nationals in 2003 he was claimed by the Diamdbacks in 2008 and batted .328 wih 26 HR and 110 RBI that season with Tucson-AAA. Last season he appeared in 63 games for AAA-Reno and batted .293 with 58 RBI before spending the remainder of the season in Arizona.

Eric Bruntlett, 31 spent the entire 2009 season with Philadelphia as a utility player appearing in 72-games.

Pedro Lopez, 26, split his 2009 season between Indianapolis-AAA and Altoona-AA. he batted .241 in 42 games for the Indians and spent the entire 2008 season in Syracuse with the Chiefs as their everyday shortstop.

Chase Lambin, 30, spent the 2009 season in Japan with the Chiba Lotte Marines and batted only .192 in 120 at bats. The season before he batted .300 with 14 HR and 54 RBI at AAA-Albuquerque (Marlins). He was originally drafted by the Mets in 2003 and played for Norfolk in 2005-2006. His best season coming in 2005 between Binghampton/Norfolk when he hit 24 HR home runs and batted over .300.

Jerry Owens, 29, lefthanded hitting outfielder with great speed played in only 12-games for the Chicago White Sox last season before being traded to Seattle and spending the remainder of the season with Tacoma. He batted .323 with 23 stolen bases in 100 games.

Chris Duncan, 27, batted .227 in 87 games for the St. Louis Cardinals last season before being released. He signed with the Red Sox and played in only 27-games for the Pawsox the rest of the way before being released again.

Pedro Powell, 25 began his career in the Pirates organization before spending the past two years as property of the Tampa Bay Rays organization. He has never played above the AA-level but has tremendous speed recording 268 career stolen bases in seven minor league seasons. 2004-60 , 2005-46, 2006-63, 2007-67, 2008-29 and 2009-28.

We will look at the new pitchers in the fold later on.

Posted by: periculum | February 9, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

@periculum

With your keen interest in all things minor league regarding the Nats, have you ever considered starting your own blog?

Posted by: leetee1955 | February 9, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

@EdDC, the word from here (this blog) is that the representatives for Chapman did not permit the Nats to counter-offer against the Reds. Whether true or not?
posted by periculum
---------------------
And why is that? Look no further than who he is currently represented by - none other than the Bros. Hendricks, the same clowns who helped produce the Crow debacle. This may be something to watch over the next 2-3 years, as the Nationals may start avoiding Hendricks' clients, since prior negotiations were seemingly not made "in good faith".

Posted by: BinM | February 9, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

@periculum:
If you're going to do a 'copy & paste" from either the Syracuse paper or Chiefs website, at least have the courtesy to credit the writer. Jeez...

Posted by: BinM | February 9, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

@leetee1955,

Heck no ... besides I am really mostly interested in SYR since I was born there. I get the rest of the stuff from the NFA ... and now with Zuckerman trying to put together the ultimate Nats blog?

I got that posting from facebook (I am listed as a fan of the Chiefs) and I thought it would help assuage some of the aggravation over the recent spate of Bowden like signings. Where Jim would try to put these guys at the major league level right away ... Rizzo sends them to Syracuse or Harrisburg with the promise that if they do well they will get to see the bigs. It appears to pay dividends for the Chiefs in terms of wins but not attendance? They are now offering free tickets plus an outrageous barbecue ALL FREE to generate support. Even with the potential for seeing Strasburg and Storen sooner rather than later there is still a dearth of interest in baseball up in the cold and snowy north ... okay so DC is like Syracuse this year? Who knew?

Posted by: periculum | February 9, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

@BinM,

Its from Facebook. No author. They are trying to get folks out to their games ... so it would SYR Chiefs publicity department ...

Sorry you don't know about Facebook ...

Posted by: periculum | February 9, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

@soundbloke:

I'm sorry, I just can't help myself - In it until the end + Wang = "Money shot".

Posted by: BinM | February 9, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Syracuse Chiefs: We're trying to gauge interest in hosting an Indoor Tailgate Party at the ballpark before the Crunch Outdoor Game. We'd provide food, transportation, and ticket (if you need one). Would you attend?

Anyone here interested .... ????

Posted by: periculum | February 9, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Early Strasburg and Storen potential sighting with the Chiefs ... when they say indoor it may mean in the early (still with cold and snow) months ... brrrrr ....

Posted by: periculum | February 9, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Man, I hope they land Wang. Even if the guy misses April, it makes sense. If he can deliver 180 innings of decent ball in 2010, that would be great for thei club. And he could be a 2-3 SP in 2011, something the Nats very much need. That 94 MPH sinker is something special. Guys can get the bat on it, but just cannot hit it hard.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 9, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Nice piece, Chico. Thanks.

Re. the groundhog. Words, heck. I'd like to go upside his furry little head with my snow shovel. But I have a feeling I'm gonna need it tomorrow. :-)

---

I would like to have some words with that blasted groundhog.

Posted by: leetee1955 | February 9, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 9, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

BinM: The Nats reportedly finished at least third in the Chapman sweepstakes (Oakland, accodring to Rob Neyer, I think), and the way it went was that after discussions with all interested parties the agents asked for highest and best final offers and took the Reds' offer. I can't see how the Nats would have a problem with the Hendricks Brothers over that. The Reds beat them and by a lot. Hard to point some finger at the agents as practicing dirty dealings or something like that when you are $1M per year short of the winning offer.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 9, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

@dfh21: You could be right regarding the Chapman sweeps, but it still leaves a bit of a stench, imo. At least Boras "made nice" on the Strasburg signing after pulling the rug out with Mark Texeiera.

Posted by: BinM | February 9, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

If Zuckerman's blog works out, he may be covering the Nats after the Post is history.

Posted by: markfromark | February 9, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

dfh21, if the Chapman signing did go down the way you say it did, then you really can't blame the Nats for underbidding, since basically they were bidding blind. Just because they never had the chance to raise their offer doesn't make them cheap - much as you and your ilk would like to claim they are. They'd have looked just as bad if they had grossly overbid in order to get him. Remember, this is a totally unproven pitcher we're talking about. Basically equivalent to Strasburg, when it all comes down to it. THeir bid was considerably higher than what they paid Strasburg. Nothing cheap about it.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 9, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

"Mark was laid off by the Washington Times, a paper that transitioned to a niche-political focus just in time to neglect the Mike Shanahan hiring, the Gilbert Arenas fiasco, the Caps' newfound invincibility, and the once-in-a-century snowstorm."

That isn't 100% correct. Mark and the rest of the staff were laid off, but the Times has scrapped up some cut rate bottom of the barrel replacements in order to run stories on the storm, Caps, Redskins, etc.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 9, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Oh the irony of the guy from one paper who no longer wants his job covering the Nats writing about the guy from the other paper who's willing to cover the team for free.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 9, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

@PowerBoater69: Unless the Times is just running 'wire feeds' for their sports reporting, I would think that the folks terminated from the Sports Desk would have some kind of a case against the paper; I mean, can they really just let everybody go in a Dept., then replace them with a cheaper, in-house source without incurring the wrath of both the Unions & the Government?

Posted by: BinM | February 9, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

BinM: Their Nats news is wire feeds but they do have some original sports coverage.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 9, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Reporters at The Washington Times are/were not unionized. And, no, wise guys, they're not Unified, either.

Posted by: Drew8 | February 9, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

"I mean, can they really just let everybody go in a Dept., then replace them with a cheaper, in-house source without incurring the wrath of both the Unions & the Government?"

Of course they can. All they have to do is say they were losing money, which they were. The Times has NEVER made money, it was always subsidized by the Unification Church. Some reports have said the church pumped nearly a billion dollars into the paper in the years since they founded it. There's no law that would force them to keep doing that if they decide not to. And I seriously doubt that Zuckerman and the other fired reporters were unionized in any way that would help them. By all indications the Times played by the rules in its layoff, giving advance notice and severance pay. The laid off folks really had no leg to stand on.

The cynic in me says that Zuckerman, Goessling and the rest should have known what they were getting into when they signed on with the Moonies. Even if the church never made any moves to recruit them - as it apparently did with some editorial staff - they still should have realized the deal with the devil they were taking to work there. But hey, if you need a job sometimes it's any port in a storm. Especially in a declining industry like journalsm.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 9, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Probably Irritating BinM again ...

Something positive excerpted From RJ Anderson and Fangraphs ...

It isn't just Nationals fans who think highly of his abilities. Ultimate Zone Rating, one of the most accessible advanced defensive metrics that baseball has today, is in love with the man who calls himself "Tony Plush". Developed by Mitchel Lichtman, a statistical analyst who once served as a consultant for the Cardinals, UZR produces an above- or below-average rating, measured in runs saved, for each player drawn from multiple defensive aspects -- including range, throwing arm, and errors. By this metric, the 29-year-old Morgan is off the charts.

Morgan started last season with Pittsburgh (where he played left field), but was traded to Washington (where he played center) on July 1. Over the course of the season, his total UZR was an absurd +27.8 runs above average. Many analysts agree that Franklin Gutierrez was the best full-time defensive centerfielder in baseball last season, with good reason: his centerfield UZR was +29.1, but in nearly 400 more innings than Morgan played in center. For cases like these, we can use UZR/150, a playing time-adjusted figure which calculates the player's defensive contributions pro-rated to 150 games, and therefore gives a fairer outlook to players with disparities. Gutierrez's UZR/150 of +27.1 is just fantastic, but doesn't look quite as impressive when compared to Morgan's absurd +40.5 UZR/150 in his half-season in center. A half-season's worth of data is not enough to definitively judge a player, but Morgan's career numbers tell a similar story. For his career, Morgan's UZR/150 in center is 39 runs better than average.

Don't trust UZR? No problem. Baseball analyst Tom Tango organizes the Fans Scouting Report on a yearly basis, getting input from those who watch the players on a daily basis. In 2009, fans voted Morgan as the best defensive left fielder in the game by a fair margin, and he earned an even higher rating than Gutierrez did in center. And in case you think that this was the result of playing for teams with rabid fan bases, remember that Morgan suited up for the Nats and Bucs.

Need more proof? Morgan made a substantial impact on both his current and former teams. Through the time he was traded, the Pirates had allowed 16 unearned runs and had a 4.24 ERA against. In the 82 games thereafter, they allowed 29 unearned runs scored and the team ERA bloated to 4.92. Conversely, Washington allowed 43 unearned runs and held a 5.21 ERA through its first 77 games. Those numbers shifted to 40 unearned runs and a 4.80 ERA after Morgan's arrival.

If his UZR is to be believed, and Morgan is the best defensive player in the game, then he should be expected to take between 15 and 25 runs off the scoreboard per season compared to an average centerfielder. On the high end, that would be the pitching equivalent of going from Braden Looper's 5.22 ERA down to Chad Billingsley's 4.03 ERA.

Posted by: periculum | February 9, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

@PB69, Drew8, & nunof1: Wow; Thanks for the responses regarding unionization @ the Times; I'm honestly stunned, and saddened that those folks didn't have a bigger buffer.
---------------
@periculum: I don't get irritated by quotes, so long as they're accredited.

Posted by: BinM | February 9, 2010 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Yeah Zuckerman would have made at least 5 grand if he had started working at McDonald's in October when he knew his goose was cooked. He should look into straight broadcasting - he can do minor league ball for a paycheck and then see what happens there. But if he works on his mike presence and his delivery, he might be pretty good. But I ain't payin for his unemployment.

Posted by: Brue | February 9, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Classic Brue. Lots of people didn't donate I'm sure. But it takes Brue to announce it to the world, and give a detailed reason why.

Thanks for the update champ.

Posted by: soundbloke | February 9, 2010 9:09 PM | Report abuse

You need to work on your mike precense.

Posted by: Brue | February 9, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

@Brue:
And you need help with your spelling (and social skills).

Posted by: BinM | February 9, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

There seems to be some confusion about a promotion the Syracuse Chiefs are undertaking. A week from Saturday, 2/20, the local hockey team, the Crunch, has an outdoor game at the NYS Fairgrounds vs. their I-81 rivals, the Binghamton Senators. Upwards of 20,000 are expected, and they hope to break the existing American Hockey League attendance record. The Chiefs are putting together a package which would include a meal at the ball park before the hockey game, followed by transportation to/from the game, and tickets to the game. Sounds like a good idea to me, though they should have jumped on the bandwagon earlier.

February will be a great month for sports in the Cuse. The Orange are in the top 5 nationally and have already sold a single-game record number of tickets for their game against Villanova on the 27th. The game is a total sellout. The hockey game a week earlier will only add to the excitement.

Hopefully the Chiefs will have a good year on the field and at the box office. The 2009 team was the best team they'd had in many years. It's refreshing to see the Nats believe in the importance of winning in the minors. That is an attitude the Chiefs never saw in their 31 years as the AAA affiliate of the Blue Jays.

Posted by: TucsonDave | February 9, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

With any luck, maybe the Nats can finish second or third in the Wang sweepstakes? That will show us they are trying!

PS How about first?

Posted by: EdDC | February 9, 2010 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Unless the Times is just running 'wire feeds' for their sports reporting, I would think that the folks terminated from the Sports Desk would have some kind of a case against the paper; I mean, can they really just let everybody go in a Dept., then replace them with a cheaper, in-house source without incurring the wrath of both the Unions & the Government?

Posted by: BinM

Can Moonie Inc. do this? Yes. Did they? Yes. Is there anything the unions and the government can do? No.

What can we do? Never put a quarter in another one of the stupid orange Washington Times boxes ever again.

Unless you like right-wing Moonie crap, that is.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | February 9, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Wang could really make the staff respectible and allow some of the young arms to remain in Syracuse and get the seasoning they sorely need. I still find it hard to believe Rizzo would put faith in two rebuilt pitchers (Wang and Olsen) but I think it would send a great messsage to the team - and tha fans - if they could get him to sign here.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | February 9, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

"What can we do? Never put a quarter in another one of the stupid orange Washington Times boxes ever again.

Unless you like right-wing Moonie crap, that is."

Some of us adopted that policy way back in the early 1980s. Ahead of our time, I guess. Just because the Moonies were plying us with so-called "normal" news and sports coverage doesn't mean that their primary mission all along wasn't to disseminate right-wing Moonie crap. Anyone who wasn't predisposed to lean right had to realize that the Times was never a viable newspaper. Maybe it looked like a real newspaper, but that was only because the Moonies spent a boatload of money keeping it afloat. People who paid money for the paper were really doing nothing but putting a small dent in their deficit. If they did that because they wanted to support a right wing voice, of course that's their right as citizens. But they might as well have contributed directly to the Republicans or the Teabaggers. They'd have gotten more bang for the buck that way.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 9, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse

"The Orange are in the top 5 nationally and have already sold a single-game record number of tickets for their game against Villanova on the 27th. The game is a total sellout."

Posted by: TucsonDave | February 9, 2010 9:53 PM
___________________________________________________________

They may be in the top 5 but, they didn't beat LeMoyne. Go Dolphins!!!

Posted by: Section505203 | February 10, 2010 12:59 AM | Report abuse

What can we do? Never put a quarter in another one of the stupid orange Washington Times boxes ever again.

Unless you like right-wing Moonie crap, that is.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me

But they might as well have contributed directly to the Republicans or the Teabaggers. They'd have gotten more bang for the buck that way.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 9, 2010 10:52 PM
____________________________________________________________

I love the knucklehead lefty types who have their blinders on and think that the Post is not an extremely left leaning paper.

Gimme a break with this crap. Geez.

Posted by: Section505203 | February 10, 2010 1:08 AM | Report abuse

YEAH! loony lefties with their charles krauthammer and reporting GOP gains today...OUTRAGEOUS I SAY! haha seriously though one thing i can say for chico, his ineptitude extended to politics, so dont complain about political skew on a mediocre sports blog

Posted by: formerlylove1 | February 10, 2010 2:20 AM | Report abuse

We're all a little (or in some cases a lot) cranky with this weather.

However, I'm sure that BinM is not the only reader here who prefers to see stories or quotes sourced (and don't even get me started on unsubstantiated rumors). It *is* a journalistic site, after all. Speaking only for myself, given copyright considerations, I'd prefer not to see entire articles quoted, but rather a link pointing to the piece in question.

As for the political sparring. Here we go again. Sigh. I do wonder whether there might be a dissertation in there somewhere, as it seems to me that the most frequent political bickerers on either side of the aisle also seem to enjoy getting into it with other posters regarding fan philosophy. Big waste of energy and bandwidth, IMO. But whatever, I can always scroll through it all and they can enjoy their arguing, assuming that somebody else picks up the other side.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 10, 2010 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Okay its snowing and blowing to "beat the band" and you would think for about 30 seconds someone on local sports talk radio would be jabbering about a trip to Vierra. Nope not a word. Given the sad state of WAPO Baseball beat writer situation, the Mark Zuckerman saga and the total disregard of the team by the sports talking heads why wouldn't we all be a little bit testy? Even the Caps with the best record in the NHL rae routinley the third story everyday in print and on-air. Shameful.

Please support Ben G over on MASN, if you are so inclined send Mark a dime and keep Baseball alive in the DC alternative media (see Gene Wang stroy on how the Caps are utilizing alternative media). Forget about the WAPO, EGR is not your friend. Nothing will change on Redskins Radio I and II, and to add insult to injury WTOP HD plans to add 3 more hours of Redskins 24X7X365 w/Riggens, starting in March.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | February 10, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

@EdDC, the word from here (this blog) is that the representatives for Chapman did not permit the Nats to counter-offer against the Reds. Whether true or not?
posted by periculum
---------------------
And why is that? Look no further than who he is currently represented by - none other than the Bros. Hendricks, the same clowns who helped produce the Crow debacle. This may be something to watch over the next 2-3 years, as the Nationals may start avoiding Hendricks' clients, since prior negotiations were seemingly not made "in good faith".

Posted by: BinM | February 9, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Do the agents for Chapman have an unrealistic hatred of the Nats for not meeting the $3.5 salary demands for Crow? Are they vindictive, denying their client a chance to make more money with the Nats? Do they regard Cincy as a much better organization than the Nats, to the extent that they are willing to forgo a larger contract from the Nats? Or was the Nats' willingness to spend (so as to protect their rock-bottom-of-MLB budgets) just insufficient?

Normally, if an agent can find a way to extract an extra million or two from an MLB club, he will do so, no matter how vindictive he is. Why not just say the Nats fell short, and let it go at that?

By the way, many assume that the vindictive, nasty or stupid agent is the reason why the Nats did not sign their top draft pick Aaron Crow in 2008. But here is Crow's take on it:

"Honestly, I just hope for a better situation [next year] than it was with Washington," Crow said. "The way they dealt and handled everything, the way they talked to me and my family ... I think any of the 29 other teams would have handled it better. I'm just really looking to get into a better situation than I was dealing with the Nationals."

The Nats have a long way to go to get to MLB average in their entire approach to this game, especially in their willingness to make a sincere financial commitment to the franchise.

Posted by: EdDC | February 10, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Send NATBISCUIT to Cancun! Now. This snow is seriously impacting my good nature. Just Chipin and donate whatever you can. I'll need some SPF 50 and a new speedo XXL (we're talking waste size here). Give it up. Send a brother blogger to Mexico.

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 10, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

MLB Trade Rumors is posting news that the Nats are close to signing Wang. Siting a story from the Boston Globe, Wang is expected to sign with the Nats.

By June the rotation could be a very respectable: Marquis, Lannan, Wang, Strassburg, and Olsen. And by September perhaps Marquis, Strassburg, Wang, Zimmermann, and Lannan. A fellow cam dream can't he...

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 10, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

If Wang is signed with the Nats, I love the statistical irony of it with a flashback to 2006 when Wang lost to the Nats on Father's Day when Zim had his walk-off.

Wang won 19 games in 2006 so that cost him his 20th win and possibly the CY Young.

If you remember, Mariano Rivera wasn't available on the day game as the closer so Wang had to go the distance in that game.

Wang was so dominate in 2006 and 2007 that he could be a difference maker if his shoulder is in good shape.

After watching an interview with James Andrews on Drew Brees and his shoulder, it is amazing that recovery Drew had.

Hope Wang can be a positive potential pitcher for the Nats in 2010!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | February 10, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

How can Rizzo work in this weather? He must be in Viera, where everything is better.

Posted by: jfromPG | February 10, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe tweeted that the deal with Wang is near.

Posted by: shepdave2003 | February 10, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Hey WaPo! A groupd of baseball fans have anted up to send a reporter to spring training to have access to good, dedicated Nationals coverage. Why don't you have a beat reporter hired yet?

Posted by: comish4lif | February 10, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

LOL! :-)

---

Send NATBISCUIT to Cancun! Now. This snow is seriously impacting my good nature. Just Chipin and donate whatever you can. I'll need some SPF 50 and a new speedo XXL (we're talking waste size here). Give it up. Send a brother blogger to Mexico.

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 10, 2010 9:07 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 10, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Wang signed, per NFA. Good news!

Posted by: EdDC | February 10, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Good news, if the tweets are true.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 10, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

MLBTR is posting that Wang has chosen DC. This is great news and kudos to Rizzo if this is true.

Wang has Yankee Ace credentials, throws hard as can be and that sinker is only rivalled by Webb's. If Wang can pitch on May 1 as reported, he'd only have missed maybe 4-5 starts in April and can give the club 180 innings of top of the rotation SP. Huge difference for this club to push Marquis and Lannan back a day each.

With Wang, Lannan and Marquis (and I do think they'd eventaully split the back to back RH at some point), plus the add of Olsen at some point, they'll have a lot of guys pitching to contact. (Rotation looks like Minnesota in terms of style).

If Wang is healthy and they lock him up for 2011, this is pretty big for the club.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 10, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Zuckerman says it's not a done deal.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 10, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

"I love the knucklehead lefty types who have their blinders on and think that the Post is not an extremely left leaning paper."

Whichever way the Post may lean is totally irrelevant to my point. The Washington Post is a publicly traded company which has to answer to its stockholders and make money. The Washington Times is and has always been a wholly owned subsidiary of the Unification Church, which has pumped up to a billion dollars into it over the last 30 years. If you'd prefer to get your news and opinion from the Unification Church, that's your right.

The recent redirection of the Times has nothing to do with the current dire straits of the newspaper industry. It's all about the Moon family deciding to direct its billions in a different direction that doesn't include pretending to publish a real newspaper.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 10, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

"If Wang is signed with the Nats, I love the statistical irony of it with a flashback to 2006 when Wang lost to the Nats on Father's Day when Zim had his walk-off."

Hey, at least the giant mural of the home plate celebration after that one faces away from the field, so he won't have to look at it when he pitches.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 10, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

First of all,I appreciate Chico covering this story.

However, it does kind of dodge the very simple fact that the Post does not appear to have any dedicated, sustained coverage plan in place for Spring Training.

It also avoids the notion that there is literally a market for Nationals news. Fans are actually willing to pay for it.

Of course, these two points could be directly related; because there's no apparent plan in place for a major Washington newspaper to cover the Nats, fans are scrambling to ensure a competent reporter is on the scene in Viera.

It's not Chico's responsibility to discuss the Post's coverage philosophies, I know. But I do hope someone at the sports desk has picked up on this.

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 10, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I like Wang but he (seriously) hurt himself rounding third at Huston I believe. I don't see him signing with a NL team unless it's way better than the second best offer.

Posted by: deposetejada | February 10, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't let one baserunning mistake ruin your opinion of a guy's talent, Depose.

("Where was Wang going??? What was he thinking??!")

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 10, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Mark in Viera is good news. You'll recall we had to go to Phoenix *ourselves*, in shifts, to cover the AFL, and that was with Strasburg's debut (after TH's regrettable first week).

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 10, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

"No Done Deal for Wang"
http://natsinsider.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 10, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

@Sec3mysofa,
I'd love Wang to be a Nat, just don't see him wanting to bat more than he needs to (inter-league).

Posted by: deposetejada | February 10, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone know anything about this exhibition game at Nats Park against Boston on April 3rd? You can't buy tickets at nats.com yet (perhaps they're waiting until March 2, when single-game tickets go on sale).

I will be in town on business that week, but I have to fly back to MN on Sunday. I was hoping to catch a Nats game, but an exhibition game will suffice.

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 10, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

it may yet be academic ...

Chien-Ming Wang Remains Undecided
By Tim Dierkes [February 10 at 8:59am CST]

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 10, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

""No Done Deal for Wang"
http://natsinsider.blogspot.com/"

Looks like we now know where Zuckerman's trying to spend your money, suckers.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 10, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

whoops, meant to include
www.mlbtraderumors.com

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 10, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Re the exhibition game against the Red Sox: Full season ticket holders were forced to buy this game as part of their packages. (Or maybe they got it free, I don't know.) Half season and 21-game plans were forced to buy it at half price as part of their packages. They will definitely be selling it when single game sales start. So you can buy it there, or I'm sure a lot of STH will be putting their tix up on StubHub at face value or more. Red Sox Nation must be served.

(Note to self: Got to quit talking about Wang and packages in the same thread.)

Posted by: nunof1 | February 10, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I think it will still be snowing, and the feds will be closed. Maybe the Caps will be in town.

****************
Does anyone know anything about this exhibition game at Nats Park against Boston on April 3rd?
Posted by: JohninMpls | February 10, 2010 10:30 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 10, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

In fact, they're home Tuesday, 3/30 and Thursday, 4/1. Be sure to wear green for the Thursday game, as it is a promotion -- "Opposite Day."

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 10, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm ... sounds suspiciously like the DH Heresy. No blue litmus for you. (or is that pink? I always get them confused.)

*********************
@Sec3mysofa,
I'd love Wang to be a Nat, just don't see him wanting to bat more than he needs to (inter-league).
Posted by: deposetejada | February 10, 2010 10:25 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 10, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Opposite Day? April 1? Do you suppose they could advertise that in Atlanta (Thrashers are here)?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 10, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Wait, the Nats open the following week here vs. the Phillies.
On April 1, take out an ad in the Inquirer sports section -- Stan Kasten Says Come On Down! "Opposite Day--Philly fans wearing ... lesseee ... Santa Claus suits!! yeah, that's the ticket! get in half-price.

Damn, I'm good.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 10, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Why hasn't the Post hired Zuckerman? Who's going to be the new Nats beat writer? Why does the Post adhere to the 3-year rule when it comes to covering the major professional sports teams in DC? It makes no sense, because as soon as a beat writer establishes a relationship with the team and acquires the necessary institutional knowledge, the Post reassigns them to another sport/club. Terrible idea.

Hire Zuckerman and put Svrluga back on the Nats beat as well. Covering MLB is a daily grind unlike any other league/sport and really requires two sportswriters. Every other big city newspaper does this. Why won't the Post?

Posted by: ericp331 | February 10, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Excellent points, JiM. Would be terrific to get news on the Post beat writer situation directly from the sports editors (as opposed to speculation/rumors from bloggers). After all, pitchers and catchers report next week.

Oooh, look. Teddy's skating! Wow, that's sooo awesome. What was I talking about again? ;-)

---

First of all,I appreciate Chico covering this story.

However, it does kind of dodge the very simple fact that the Post does not appear to have any dedicated, sustained coverage plan in place for Spring Training.

It also avoids the notion that there is literally a market for Nationals news. Fans are actually willing to pay for it.

Of course, these two points could be directly related; because there's no apparent plan in place for a major Washington newspaper to cover the Nats, fans are scrambling to ensure a competent reporter is on the scene in Viera.

It's not Chico's responsibility to discuss the Post's coverage philosophies, I know. But I do hope someone at the sports desk has picked up on this.

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 10, 2010 10:07 AM |

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 10, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Good points by Eric as well.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 10, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

snarkfan1a. I like it!

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 10, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, natbiscuits! :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 10, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

It sounds like the primary competition for C.M. Wang is the Dodgers; This is not good. Wang may feel that he owes something to Torre, and the Dodgers are committed to the Pacific Rim players, with a number of players from the region already on the roster.

Posted by: BinM | February 10, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Well, we'll be in it to the end but the Dodgers will get the money shot from Wang.

I may have to chose a new handle because if that doesn't get me banned I don't know what will.

Posted by: soundbloke | February 10, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

In terms of team coverage for 2010 & beyond, I'd love to see the WaPo have two writers assigned to the orginization / beat. Ideally, it would split the ML travel rigors, and allow one of the writers to do the occaisional feature on a system player in the minors (POT, HAR, & HAG are all within a days' drive from DC).

Posted by: BinM | February 10, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

@soundb: Not to worry - I made the initial connection, and I'm still here! Although, the morality police are sometimes slow to react...

Posted by: BinM | February 10, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Is he one of the Zuckerman's from Airplane fame??? Otherwise this is a who cares about this guy's story/blog. I thought this was about the Nats.

Posted by: billm32 | February 10, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

For those who want two WAPO beat writers "forget it". The WAPO Ombudsman and EGR have made it very clear that Baseball is an expensive sport to cover. Don't forget for 33 years baseball coverage was optional. They will only cover what has the greatest return on investment. 81 road dates plus 6 weeks in Florida according to the business model has a very low ROI based on the general interest as calculated by surveys and the "most viewed" articles. Goes something like...., Redskins, Georgetown Mens BB, Wizards, then its a scramble between the Nats, Caps and Mens NCAA Div 1 FB and March Madness. I guess the Caps have now bumped the Nats down to maybe 5 or even as low as 6th.

The Sports-Talkers do the same exact thing, they based interest on surveys, and call screening/topics.

The odd thing about all of this is..., how can they measure anything when they themselves put limitations on the amount of interest they show? Its the old what came first, the chicken or the egg?

Posted by: TippyCanoe | February 10, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

@billm32: You're joking, right? Do you really not know who Zuckerman is?

Posted by: shepdave2003 | February 10, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Maybe someone suggested this already, not going to read all 83 comments, but how about giving Debbi Taylor's job to Zuckerman since he would add so much more valuable content to the broadcast.

Posted by: curz | February 10, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

There's a new Wang post up. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 10, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Surly,

Sounds good to me.

At least it is more positive than the one for another local Washington baseball franchise: Off the Floor in '64.

slogan for 2010 - "nats baseball, we may not always close the deal but we're always in it until the end."

Posted by: surly_w | February 9, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: gmuhokie2009 | February 11, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

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