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Stan Kasten says the system is broken

Morning roundup

After the whipped cream and joy faded away, Nationals President Stan Kasten used the platform of signing Bryce Harper to once again reiterate his contempt for baseball's current system for signing draft choices. Three straight years, the Nationals have been down to the wire trying to sign their first draft pick. It reached the point of absurdity this year, with literally dozens of players signing on the final day.

"I'm confident it will only be in place one more year," Kasten said. "Because it is just silly, to think the industry operates this way. There's no reason for it. And the worst part? The worst part is we've now institutionalized taking young talent at their prime development age, and now we say, 'Go sit on the shelf for this season.' That's the worst thing of all. It doesn't help the talent. It doesn't help the teams. If nothing else, that law needs to be fixed."

The belief within baseball is that the next collective bargaining agreement -- which will take effect in 2012 -- will include new rules governing how teams sign draft picks that mirrors what the NBA has: a hard-and-fast slotting system. If you get taken with pick X, you make X amount of money. Period.

The coming change may have helped secure Harper this season. By all accounts, Harper wanted to play, and so maybe he did not need the extra coercion. But players had less leverage this year if their agents assumed baseball will change the rules for 2012. Next year's draftees will have to cave, at least somewhat, to avoid the hard system for 2012. And by not signing this year, Harper would have put himself in position to take that risk next year.

At the end of the day -- with seconds left in it, actually -- the Nationals signed Harper, who they can now pair with Stephen Strasburg. Even if Kasten doesn't like the system, he can't argue with the fruits of it for the Nationals.


The Nationals signed Bryce Harper to a five-year major league contract worth $9.9 million guaranteed, including a $6.25 million signing bonus.

Thomas Boswell writes that Nationals fans find themselves in a lucky spot, with three young talents in Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.

Syracuse 11, Indianapolis 4: Playing his first career game at second base, Danny Espinosa went 1 for 4 with a home run, a walk and four RBI. Brian Bixler went 3 for 5 with a walk.

Harrisburg was off.

Kinston 2, Potomac 1: Jose Lozada went 1 for 3 with a walk. Adrian Alaniz allowed two earned runs in six innings on four hits and two walks, striking out seven.

Hagerstown 8, Greensboro 1: Nyjer Morgan went 0 for 3. Destin Hood went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk. Eury Perez went 2 for 4. Mitchell Clegg allowed one earned run in six innings on five hits and two walks, striking out one.

Vermont was off.


Bryce Harper chatted briefly last night with Nathan Rode of Baseball America.

Here's video of Stan Kasten slamming Mike Rizzo with a pie in the face.

Signing Harper is a big win for the Nationals, Scott Miller writes.

Scott Boras tells Tim Brown that Harper deserved the bonus he got.

Bryce Harper is already building his own brand, Jeff Passan thinks, and it's making him cringe.

By Adam Kilgore  |  August 17, 2010; 6:28 AM ET
Categories:  Bryce Harper  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Stan Kasten and Mike Rizzo celebrate Bryce Harper signing
Next: The 2013 Nationals


So who gets the boot from the 40-man roster?


or could they move somebody like Atilano to the 60-day DL to make room for Harper?

Opening Day 2012 Line-up

Bernadina - CF
Desmond - SS
Zimmerman - 3B
Dunn - 1B
Harper - RF
Willingham - LF
Ramos - C
Espinosa - 2B
Strasburg - P

Posted by: SpashCity | August 17, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

That is of course assuming there are no major FA signings or trades in the next 18 months.

SS, 2B, CF, and LF seem like the most likely to be taken over by somebody currently outside the organization.

Posted by: SpashCity | August 17, 2010 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Stan is right about the sysem being broken, the only winners are the agents. Having teams make large speculative investments in young and often undeveloped talent is not healthy. Small market teams are further crippled by either not having the finances to sign top picks or not willing to spend large sums on just a few players. And negotiating important contracts to within seconds of a deadline has becme an absurdity. It's time for a slotting system.

Posted by: Natmeister | August 17, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

As a card carrying member of the Lerners are cheap crowd, I am very impressed with this year's draft and signings.

This is a huge change from last year's draft, when after picking Strasburg the Nats went cheap and picked guys they could sign for under slot.

This year's draft was completely different.

Kudos to Rizzo, not for signing Harper but for apparently getting the Lerners to trust him and open up their purse strings, and allow him to go after the best talent available.

Posted by: Sunderland | August 17, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Second the Rizzo attaboy. Wear the pie well, Mike. You earned it. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 17, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

To the Lerners are cheap crowd:

Please collect your things and exit through the door to your left....

Posted by: TimDz | August 17, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

To the Lerners are cheap crowd:

Please collect your things and exit through the door to your left....

Posted by: TimDz | August 17, 2010 8:45 AM

OK, so they signed Dunn?

Posted by: Kev29 | August 17, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Wow TimDz.
We've got 4+ years of stuff to collect. It's not gonna be easy to just box it all up and leave.
Oh, and of course, we're not leaving either.
We're staying and rooting for the team just like we've done in the past.

Posted by: Sunderland | August 17, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Kudos to Rizzo, not for signing Harper but for apparently getting the Lerners to trust him and open up their purse strings, and allow him to go after the best talent available.

Posted by: Sunderland | August 17, 2010 8:30 AM

Totally agree, the post-Harper pick signings are big. Really happy with this draft. Now they have to keep going - lots more to do (and spend) for this team to be respectable in 2011. Sign Dunn. And sign a corner OF to bridge the gap before Harper. I think they still have some really tough decisions to make in the middle infield as well - but in Rizzo we trust.

Posted by: Kev29 | August 17, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I'm not a fan of bringing hard slotting to MLB and have written about it extensively ( First, if a team isn't drafting or signing a guy, it's because they don't think he's worth it, not because they can't afford him. Example: the Pirates came in sixth in terms of money spent in the 2009 draft, yet they're one of the "poorest" teams in MLB.

There's no good reason to limit the amount these guys can sign for, and it would have the upward effect of depressing major league salaries (which already give MLB players the lowest percentage of league revenue of any pro sports league, so don't start the MLB-players-are-overpaid argument). A player who holds out all summer is only hurting himself by missing opportunities to play and develop all summer. If you feel that's a problem that needs solving, then move up the signing deadline.

You can't compare MLB to the NBA, it's like apples and oranges. Players in the NBA draft are receiving a slotted salary - not a slotted bonus. MLB draftees are going to play in the minors to start and may never see the majors. Not all first rounders even get long-term contracts, some just get the big bonus. It's simply not the same situation.

Posted by: KristiDosh | August 17, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Do I all hear you tea party folks espousing socialism (a slotting system)??? I'm raising my flag today in protest.

Posted by: paulkp | August 17, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Not sure if they necessarily need a slotting system. Why can't they just move up the signing deadline so it's closer to the draft. Now everyone just waits around for 2 months anyways before doing any negotiating. Make the signing deadline June 30th so there is still lots of minor league season left for the signed draftees to play some ball.

Posted by: slopitchtom | August 17, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Stan should be careful for what he ask for. The slotting system would have prevented them from signing Cole. A hard slot system could actually hurt a team like the Nationals who almost exclusively build through the draft.

Posted by: sdrappa | August 17, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

To the learner's aren't cheap crowd (i posted this initially in the cole thread):

An owner would have to be criminally stupid AND cheap to not realize that the cheapest, most cost effective way to acquire potential elite talent in baseball is through the draft. Essentially an artificial ceiling on cost, and limitless potential. They don't get kudos from me for doing that, they just avoid getting ripped even harder for emulating the means by which teams like the Pirates insured the complete devastation of a once proud franchise.

The whole spending their money spiel doesn't work for me either. Owning a team is a public trust. A huge portion of these teams (all sports franchises) for decades has been getting stadiums built for them free by cities and then handed over to them to be part of their future equity of the team that they can sell for big dollars down the line. We don't see any of that, and if they can have the gall to take those free stadiums, and still fill it with minor league talent, and not even choose to compete? Hell yeah im going to rip them, and much more than simply lines like "mind numbingly cheap". The Learners have enjoyed a free ride in this town for half a decade. Now they've pumped the system full of talent for a couple of drafts, and will have zero excuse for not resigning players, and adding the last touches to a team that should be mighty competitive by '12. To not do so would be criminal, mind numbingly cheap, and it would also involve them spending our money and laughing at us while they do it. Certainly not the reverse. The woe is me, argument for owners is not one I buy. Not in a sport that refuses to demand salary cap floors, refuses to insure all shared revenue is not re-fed into the team, demands that we pay them for the right to be robbed blind while being fed a lousy product.

I do believe, however, that the sport is to a degree, broken, its just that unlike Kasten, i believe it extends far, far deeper than the draft (which was such a one sided argument by him by the way, a system that already benefits owners and screws over players should be changed to screw over players even more?), and if something isnt done about it, it might never come close to being revived again. Too many cities like Pittsburgh and KC have seen decades go by, with children growing into men and never seeing their team have a hope in hell of winning anything. That kills fanbases for particular sports. Hopefully this draft, and the last couple of years, will finally be a positive story for D.C. and baseball, something that's virtually never occured when it comes to baseball and D.C., ever.

Posted by: graywolfe81 | August 17, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I hear people keep on saying that Boras gets his clients more money, but is this really true over the long run? What if Strasburg had signed right after he was drafted like Zimmerman did? What if Strasburg had pitched in the minors last season. Wouldn't it have been tough for them to not start him in the majors at the beginning of the year and starting his major league service clock earlier? Whatever more he earned by sitting out will be many time more than made up for in his next contract, if he doesn't get hurt. So signing earlier could end up netting him more money over his career. So isn't Boras actually costing his clients money over their career?

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | August 17, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Well said, graywolfe

Posted by: Kev29 | August 17, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

@Sunderland: Glad you're staying and rooting for the team.
The one thing I like about this forum is that, for the most part (a handful of trolls and troublemakers aside), people can agree to disagree...

That said, my comment was not meant to cause trouble, but was more a light hearted gesture to say that maybe, at least IMO, the Lerners are not so cheap.

For those pointing to Dunn, I have said all along that he will stay and will sign (I'm guessing 3 years 40 million). Other things needed to be addressed first.

Posted by: TimDz | August 17, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

"...a system that already benefits owners and screws over players..."

Posted by: graywolfe81 | August 17, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of getting screwed - eight bucks for a bottle of beer. I just WISH someone would screw me like the players are supposedly getting screwed.

Complain about the players not getting their fair share of revenue as a percentage of the receipts, but how much do you think the waiter at TGI Fridays makes as a percentage of that company's profits?

Posted by: gilbertbp | August 17, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Sorry greywolfe, but I don't recall either Redskins Stadium or Verizon being paid for by anyone other than the owners!!

Posted by: dkidwell61 | August 17, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

So, has Nyjer gone 0fer during his entire rehab stint? How long of leash is Rizzo going to give this guy? I'm not saying we should get rid of him right now, but exactly how long are they going to put up with his below average numbers?

Posted by: FloresFan | August 17, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

FloresFan, you can't get rid of a guy when he is at his low point as you get bupkiss in return. Morgan isn't going anywhere.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | August 17, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Two cents ...

I viewed last year's draft of Kobernus/Holder/etc... as more of an indication that the scounting staff was not optimizing their opportunities than as a testament to cheapness. After all, the Lerners did invest big in front office staff and scounting overhaul in October 2009. There was a reason for that. And the results of the 2010 draft and sign period provides some hopeful proof that the intent has been there for some time.

With regard to Dunn, the lack of signing to date is not proof of miserly intentions either. It's only proof they have not come to an agreement. I like Dunn. I want to keep Dunn. But if they lost Dunn and signed Fielder or Crawford, that would not be cheap - just different.

And BTW, not trading Dunn at the deadline is further evidence of not being cheap. The cheap thing to do would have been to dump him for cheaper players.

Finally, woohoo! 25-26 and the 26th was an injury / physical issue. Strong record!!

Posted by: natbiscuits | August 17, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

First of all, I'll give credit where credit is due, kudos to the Nats (Rizzo, Kasten, Lerners, et al), the Nats committed more than $11 million in bonuses with this draft class and another $4 mMillion or so in Major League salaries. Well done.

But, that's only about $15 million and not much of that will get spent this year. Harper's bonus will be split out over 5 years, and the MLB salary in the 1st year is $500K. I think that means he gets $1.75M this year. I don't know the details of how Solis, Cole, and Ray get their bonuses.

So, I'm firmly entrenched in the Lerners-Are-Cheap camp until one of two things happen: (1) They get their team salary up near the MLB average. The Nats 2010 payroll of ~$61.5 million, was nearly $30 million less than the MLB average. Or, (2) the Nats win enough games to make the playoffs. I just want them to be a better team, and if they start winning, Kasten is right, I won't care about the payroll. But I also know that good players cost money, and if they are spending money (like expending Dunn), I'll know that they are honestly trying to improve the product on the field.

Posted by: comish4lif | August 17, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I agree SC. My question was geared more towards next season and beyond. I know we can't get anything for him right now or this offseason. Basically, I want to know how long will he be our STARTING CFer.

Posted by: FloresFan | August 17, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse


The Lerners have been cheap. They are showing signs of becoming less cheap with the last 2 drafts. The proof of whether they have turned the corner and are offically not cheap any longer will be this offseason.

Will they fill the holes on the ML roster and bridge the gap to the up and coming young talent? They will need to sign 4-5 players and increase the payroll by at least 30 million to do so.

Let's not get to cocky with the comments to us Lerner's are Cheap Crowd just yet. They spent about 30 million the last 2 years on draft picks, that is about as much as they would need to spend on ONE solid ML Free Agent contract.

I'm optimistic they are seeing the light but, not completely convinced just yet.

Posted by: Section505203 | August 17, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I'm still not convinced the Lerner's aren't cheap. Has Dunn been signed to an extensions? His cost only goes up after the season. Instead of securing a 40-hr, 100 RBI man who is a key to the everyday lineup, the Nats go into the offseason with a huge cloud over the head. If Dunn leaves as a FA, the Nats are again without a cleanup hitter on a team that has many holes to fill. Will another player of his calibre want to sign here? Doubtful. We saw what happened with Texeira. Until the Lerner's sign their top players (Dunn, Willingham) to extensions, I'm not convinced.

Posted by: wizfan89 | August 17, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Complain about the players not getting their fair share of revenue as a percentage of the receipts, but how much do you think the waiter at TGI Fridays makes as a percentage of that company's profits?

Posted by: gilbertbp | August 17, 2010 10:50 AM

Haha, nice one gilbert, not even close to the same thing. Nobody goes to TGI Fridays because the waiters are the best in the world. I'm not really sure why people go to TGI Fridays at all. Maybe to get one of these:

Anyways, the skill that professional athletes possess is the only reason the owners are making so much money, so it seems fair that the players should get a pretty big piece of the pie. How big? That can be argued forever. But it seems to me that it could always be more. Anybody can be a TGI Fridays waiter. Not many people can throw a 99 mph fastball or hit a 99 mph fastball or even catch a fly ball or ground ball with any kind of consistency. The players make the game, and they should be compensated for it.

I'd rather see a player get a huge contract, and then be a complete bust than the owner just skimp on payroll and keep lining his pockets and stuffing his fat face with BBQ Bacon Shrimp from TGI Fridays.

Posted by: SpashCity | August 17, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

"Complain about the players not getting their fair share of revenue as a percentage of the receipts, but how much do you think the waiter at TGI Fridays makes as a percentage of that company's profits?"

Posted by: gilbertbp | August 17, 2010 10:50 AM

The problem with your point about the TGI Fridays waiter is that he doesn't have a unique skill set that attracts customers to TGI Fridays. Bryce Harper, Strasburg, Dunn, etc all have unique skill sets and are the top performers in their profession - they perform a job that hardly any (if any at all) of us could do. As for TGIF, they can replace any decent waiter with the next college kids that wants to wait tables. If I find that my favorite TGIF waiter has gone to work somewhere else, I'm not likely to change allegiance from the hypothetical TGIF. People go to Nats Park, or CitiField, etc to see the stars play, to see the best of the pros. Take away Albert Pujols and the Cardinals and insert 25 random AAA guys and you have a completely different product - a product that generates less revenue and is worth less to the owners. The pros are worth more to the owners, there is no MLB without the pros, that's why they deserve a big piece of the pie. We can argue about how big the slice is. But don't compare a major leaguer who is one of the best performers at his sport in the world to a TGIF waiter who doesn't have a unique skill set (no offense meant to any waiters).

Posted by: comish4lif | August 17, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

but exactly how long are they going to put up with his below average numbers?

Posted by: FloresFan | August 17, 2010 11:03 AM

Nyjer hit close to .300 in July with 11 stolen bases. He had a terrible spring, but his summer has been fine (pre-injury).

I think management can save any tough decisions with Nyjer for spring training.

Posted by: Kev29 | August 17, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Kev29, I think you're right about Nyjer and that applies to some other guys as well. The Nats have to let some of these guys play for a while to figure out what they have and then determine what they need. It goes for outfielders, middle infielders and starting pitchers. Probably the bullpen, too.

Posted by: baltova1 | August 17, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Understand the criticism of the TGI Fridays example.

But the problem is that there is really very little that's comparable in terms of salary to MLB players. Yes, they're very difficult to replace, there are probably not more than about 100 new openings in the market every year, so you need to be one of the 100 or so best new players in the world if you want to make a living in the profession.

But that having been said, a MLB player gets a significant percentage of the team's profits. Look at a team like the Yankees or the BoSox, where the annual payroll is over $100 million. If either of those teams was sold today, the cost would probably be in the neighborhood of $1-2 billion. If that represents 20 times earnings (typical Fortune 500 NYSE price), that would mean the team earns somewhere between $50 million and $100 million (really impossible to tell, since nobody gets to look at baseball's books apart from the owners and the IRS).

So MLB payroll probably amounts to a very large part of the cost of doing business, much larger than TGI Friday's, or even Microsoft, where you can be sure the labor is much more valuable than at Friday's.

All by way of saying, there's really only one person who knows if the player's getting screwed - the player. By signing, he's saying he'd rather have the money and play than not have the money and do something else. And the owner is saying he'd rather have the player than the money.

Capitalism - it's a wonderful thing.

Posted by: gilbertbp | August 17, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse


How many stadiums built since the mid to late eighties have been built by semi-conscientious owners like Jack Kent Cooke, and Abe Pollin? The vast bulk of these stadiums have been paid for by the cities that erected them, w/owners threatening to move if this wasn't done (or a franchise would not be created there if it wasn't done). We're talking about the Lerners, not Kent Cooke, or Pollin (and for the record, while I have issues with Cooke's will, I certainly don't have issues with his dedication as an owner when he was alive, Pollin, not so much, very civic minded, but god awful as an owner).

Comish4life: I will say that I'm less sympathetic to baseball players than to football players, as baseball doesn't tend to kill you between age 40 and 55 on average, shaving your life expectancy from the public at large by nearly half for participating in the sport. That being said. Imagine working, and having all the bosses in your field unilaterally decide to create a ceiling on the money you could earn for your work, no matter whether you were the 5th best person in the world at it, the 50th, or the best, and not allow competitive bidding for your services? Curt Flood fought for the right for players to be in charge of their own destinies. Yes its sick to see athletes now who have no idea who Flood even was, or in the NFL refuse to give any money to ailing players who built the league, but the fact remains, these players are one of a kind talents in their field in the world. What makes one of these owners, who are far more common in the world in terms of the type of scratch they have in the bank, more deserving of the vast supply of cash in the game, than the players who are a signficantly more rare commodity in the game? Lots and lots of owners could replace the idiots who blew up the Rangers, and to a degree Liverpool, far fewer Cliff Lee's, and Steven Gerrard's could be found to replace them. And yes, there are an infinite supply of TGIF waiters. That's why they make squat. They are easily replaced, and very cheap to replace.

Posted by: graywolfe81 | August 17, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

@TimDz, all good.
If they sign Dunn, great.
If they don't, I'm comfortable assuming that they have a better backup plan than Morse or Marrero at 1B.

greywolfe, the concern about the small market teams is very valid, and hard to fix in a capitalistic system.
I agree it is the most "broken" part of MLB and real important to get fixed.
Even Baltimore, a model franchise for 3 decades is hosed, partly by size / market, partly by being lumped in with Boston and NY (we'll see how long Tampa can keep this up).

Posted by: Sunderland | August 17, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Let's not get to cocky with the comments to us Lerner's are Cheap Crowd just yet. They spent about 30 million the last 2 years on draft picks, that is about as much as they would need to spend on ONE solid ML Free Agent contract.

Posted by: Section505203 | August 17, 2010 11:12 AM

30 million is also about 10 million less than the profit the Lerners raked in last year (see: Forbes). And they've recouped every cent they've spent on Strasburg - and then some!

Posted by: Kev29 | August 17, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

And for the record. I could potentially see the value in not signing Dunn, but it would have to have been managed expertly which it hasn't been. The idea would be to keep costs low until the team is ready to compete, simply resigning and extending the core guys that will be a part of the team that hopefully is .500 capable by '12, and capable of contending by '13, and using all the other assets who would be too old then and too much of a salary drag as chips to cash in for assets that will be a part of that '12/'13-'20 core.

The problem is, they didn't trade him for prospects that would be major league ready by '12 or '13, and now their stuck, only capable of getting the two high picks if they automatically match the arbitration $ he's probably going to get ($15 mill for a year i hear? which they appear not to want right now, either because of length of the deal or cost per year, probably length), or they resign him. I could deal w/the picks if I knew we'd be getting decent picks. The problem is, the team likely to sign him, may not owe us even a #1 in comp, depending on what they do in that offseason if memory serves, and the comp will probably stink because you know who will probably be doing the signing.

If the long term plan is to spend heavy on reupping core guys, and signing the key FA here and there to fill in a couple of holes, and develop from within, I can get with that. If the plan is to keep telling us they'll spend, when the team gets competitive (kind of like the dolans told indians fans, and then never did for the most part), but really they simply intend to reup guys "reasonably", and otherwise let guys go, and most definitely not patch a few holes w/free agents, but rather, sign utility dreck, on the cheap, then I most definitely cannot get with that.

I'm not a guy who expects the yankee fan treatment, warp and distort the league, and rig the sport, winning fraudulent titles that are devoid of genuine value, rinse and repeat, I just want ownership rather like Leonsis, willing to build the right way, may take a while, but build the right way, and be willing to spend when it makes sense.

So far the sense I get is that the Lerners simply saw this as a business venture to make lots of money while not actually having to ever field a competitive team (baseball's really the only major sport in the U.S. that allows this nonsense from owners these days), and thus saving money. A great business model in the short term. Not so good when you drive away what was a tenuous baseball market to begin with, a market that needed to see sincerity from ownership to buy in in the first place. They may get it, but right now, past evidence suggests they havent, and current evidence is at best, inconclusive. I can hope though, but I will hope with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Posted by: graywolfe81 | August 17, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse


I actually think we've already probably passed the tipping point. I'm a teacher, and have taught in two different states, California, and Nevada. What I've seen is a massive draw down in teen interest in baseball. This isn't based on simply teaching at one school. I taught at one of the biggest districts in california as a Substitute in my early days, an ethnically diverse city and I can tell you this. Baseball wasn't even in the P.E. curriculum anymore, and there was no interest in it. Football, basketball, and soccer were the draws. In other districts I moved too, baseball still had a hold, but it was mild. And this was in cities with some success recently (Giants in '87, '89, '93, '02, A's in the early aughts and late eighties and early nineties).

What about the rest? The Northeast, Chicago, and LA basically have the money, if not always the will power to compete in a sport that is rigged based on regional tv contracts that aren't shared. The rest of the markets are screwed to some extent or other. Sure, baseball honks who love it and will never say a bad word, will argue that the A's earlier, the Twins now, show that it doesn't matter, but we all know that that's a joke right? The Twins, and A's have to manage their assets perfectly just to have the right to lose in the divisional round of the playoffs if they somehow beat the odds and make it. Manage their assets poorly, even for a year or two, even just one contract, and they're the Indians with Travis Hafner around their neck, completely sunk, w/bad drafting to boot. Statistics say, its far more likely to turn into a Pirates, or a Royals, then into a Twins. If you're lucky, the best you can usually do, is pull yourself from the depths to mediocrity, before sinking again.

As a result, just how many baseball fans are there between age 8 and 25 today in Cleveland, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Oakland, Cincy, Milwaukee, San Diego, hell Washington and plenty more that have only recently shown signs of that brief period where they've run things just right, just perfectly and so they're in the midst of a spell of contention (like the twins)> Gammons actually just wrote an article about how KC, Pitt, and Clevelenad have dealt with the economy in general, and these factors but it doesn't change the reality that yes, the system is broken. Kids today across the country consider baseball nothing remotely analogous to football or basketball. It's dying, and the owners either don't know it, can't fix it or don't care. I expect it to survive, it's too entrenched in our culture for it to fail to survive, but it's going to definitely go into decline, probably though not as dramatically and as negatively, as another sport that was once king or close to it, boxing. The game's a little too slow for today's kid, but just as big a problem is the simple fact that too many of today's kids simply stopped caring, because there was no hope in their city. At best, just fools gold.

Posted by: graywolfe81 | August 17, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

From Adam's first report of the deal being signed: "...ending a lengthy negotiation process with the No. 1 overall pick"

The reality is that the negotiation was about an hour. The rest wasn't negotiating, it was posturing and both sides knew it from the start. I'm in full agreement with Stan that it is broken. While it does potentially get more money for the kids and their agents, the kid is shut down from competition for the rest of the season.

Funny thing is, I'm not in agreement with a strict slotting system either, because a team's individual needs (e.g., shortstop, SP, RP, CF, 1B) could trump the players' actual "ability" or "rank" -- and some years, you just have unnatural phenoms (like we did in 2009 and 2010). How to account for these exceptions?

So, what about a July 15 deadline? July 30? Clearly the Aug 15 makes sense because it is after the non-waiver Free Agent deadline (with dollars that dwarf the draft money) and teams know if they are buyers or sellers and which pieces are missing. So, a slotting system plus negotiations until... July 1?

Posted by: mo_dc | August 17, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I go to see their flair. But some of them don't like talking about their flair... :-)


Haha, nice one gilbert, not even close to the same thing. Nobody goes to TGI Fridays because the waiters are the best in the world. I'm not really sure why people go to TGI Fridays at all. Maybe to get one of these:

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 17, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Eh, my hand is getting tired scrolling through some of the lengthier comments in here.

I'm going for a smoothie...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 17, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Let's settle this right here, once and for all: AK, get Mark Lerner in here and let's just ask him.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 17, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

How about a slotting system for beer prices?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 17, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, I don't see what's so broken about it, compared to telling a team how much they're allowed to pay their employees, or telling the players how much they're allowed to be worth in compensation.
If a player wants to play right away, like Storen, for example, he can sign and get started, and as was pointed out above, get started on his service time that much sooner, as long as he is as good as he thinks he is, and doesn't get hurt. If he wants to hold out for top dollar, then he will, if he thinks he has the upper hand in negotiations.
The GMs probably hate having to do these 100-yard-dash negotiations, but that's their problem, not ours.

How is it different from established free agents, who also don't have a "slot" value assigned to their earning options?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 17, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

To the Lerners are cheap crowd: Please collect your things and exit through the door to your left....Posted by: TimDz | August 17, 2010 8:45 AM

We just have high standards, that's all.

I love the draft of the Nats and their above-slot signings. This is a departure, and a great one.

Naturally, I would like to see the Nats move up toward the average mark in payrolls. The Nats are far, far below average now--in fact the Nats are 37.5% below the median and farther than that below the average. Many smaller towns spend much more than the Nats: KC, Cincy, Twins, Tampa, Baltimore, Milwaukee, etc. Don't forget, the Nats are in the 8th most populous region in the US, and the most affluent too.

The Nats have signed only one expensive international guy, Maya. Cincy spent more on Aroldis Chapman a few months ago than the Nats spent on the last two drafts combined--or close to it.

The Nats have only had one $20 million free agent under the Lerners in all those years, Adam Dunn, and are thinking hard about whether to re-sign this one guy. Yes, I expect they will do so. Free agents can be turned into prospects if you have enough of them. It is a team-building strategy that the Nats have largely passed on.

The Nats have still have never traded for a player who makes MLB-average in salary. No excuse for limiting yourselves like that! These guys can be turned into prospects too.

So yes, these are great new healthy signs. The Nats have a long way to go, but it looks like they are starting to really try, and for this I am happy and grateful. They are meeting many fans' standards already, if Tim DZ is representative of many fans. And he probably is!

Posted by: EdDC | August 17, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I think the problem is having small market teams not being able to draft the best players for fear they cannot afford them. True, that's what happens with FAs, but you have to have some leveling of the field for small market teams; the draft should do that. Currently it does not.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | August 17, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

"The Nats have still have never traded for a player who makes MLB-average in salary."

Really? I hadn't heard that before.
Oh wait, yes I have.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 17, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

SCNatsFan, I think they do have a chance to sign the best players, it's the mediocre free agents and trade returns that get expensive. Strasburg, as has been pointed out several times, is probably already "in the black" for the team, or will be soon. It's the Jason Marquises that break you.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 17, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

"The Nats have still have never traded for a player who makes MLB-average in salary." Really? I hadn't heard that before.
Oh wait, yes I have.Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 17, 2010 1:08 PM

I am still waiting for a good response to this. Once I get one, it comes off my list.

Lerner defenders actually say you should not consider average or big salary guys in trade, as it hurts your future somehow. But it is never explained.

Highest salary guy ever received in trade by Nats? Soriano. He gave us a 40-40 year. He was turned into Jordan Zimmermann and a first rounder who did not make it. Why was that a bad trade? Soriano cost the Nats very little, because Soriano was a salary dump.

That trade was pre-Lerner. None since. Willingham was a salary dump who paid off, and Hammer was in the Lerner era. Josh was just below-MLB-average in salary. Why was that a bad move?

Considering averaged salary players in trade is the next big step for the Nats to take, this off-season. I think it will start to happen.

Posted by: EdDC | August 17, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

There was a time, just barely within living memory now, when "major spectator sports" meant three things: horse racing, boxing, and college football, more or less in that order, depending on where you were. College football is still big, obviously, but secondary to pro ball, and college basketball is at least as big now. Boxing may yet come back, but not soon, and horse racing is all but dead.

It can happen here.
The game's a little too slow for today's kid, but just as big a problem is the simple fact that too many of today's kids simply stopped caring, because there was no hope in their city. At best, just fools gold.
Posted by: graywolfe81 | August 17, 2010 12:24 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 17, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

What about all those WashPost or Kilgore-haters from last night who were upset about Kilgore getting "scooped" by all the Harper reports? How many posts and other sources were reporting "$6.5 million" first?

The first Kilgore post reported $9.9 million and the correct terms of the deal.

Personally, I don't care about if it is 10 or 30 minutes later, if the facts are correct. I'll take factual news later over speculative "news" earlier, any day!

Posted by: mo_dc | August 17, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

"I am still waiting for a good response to this. Once I get one, it comes off my list."

And in other news, Francisco Franco is still dead.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 17, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

@EdDC: I wouldn't say my standards are higher or lower than yours or any of those in the "Lerners are cheap" camp.
I think we all can agree that we want to see championship quality baseball played in DC. There seems to be a disagreement as to how we go about that. You want to see the team acquire talent that is at least at the ML minimum. What is Chicago's Team salary? I am guessing it is north of 90 million. How's that working out for them? Soriano wanted a ridiculous contract. You think the Cubs would make that deal now?
While I would like to see them pony up sooner rather than later for some higher quality ball players, I do not ascribe to the cheap theory, nor do I ascribe to throwing money at players just for the sake of raising the overall team salary. Just getting an "average" team salary is no guarantee of team success. You are fully entitled to feel otherwise.

Posted by: TimDz | August 17, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

You know what will happen when the Nats do trade for a player who makes MLB average salary? EdDC will start posting this every day: "The Nats have only once traded for a player who makes MLB-average in salary." It's a red herring now, folks, and it will be a red herring then. Just pay EdDC no mind. He's clueless, but harmless. A regular idiot savant, without the savant.

Posted by: FeelWood | August 17, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse


I don't know of anyone who wanted the Nats to sign Soriano for all those years at $136 million. Stupid Cubs!

The deal of the Nats to acquire Soriano in the first place was a good one. Wise spending is good! Lerner should try a trade like that, taking on unwanted salary for quality players--players who can be turned into extra prospects.

For example, every team in baseball would have signed Harper and SS for the same deal, if given a chance. Even the Pirates would have done so! Same for extending Zim at that money. These were bargains. I want to see the Nats do some things other clubs wouldn't do. And you know what? Signing 4th-rounder AJ Cole for $2 million is an example of that-- a great move by the Nats. They did not go the below-slot signability route to compensate for the expense of Harper. I am grateful for that!

Posted by: EdDC | August 17, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse


The Nats can shut me up by making moves like that! So let's start doing that. If they do, just think how much attendance will expand beyond only the "true fans" to 30,000 and more! It will be so great.

By the way, I have never called anyone an idiot. I know we are all anonymous, but still, we just disagree that's all.

Posted by: EdDC | August 17, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Franciscos, evidently F-Rod missed out on the Crash Davis advice about not using one's pitching hand to punch someone (and evidently he is also not seeking to endear himself to the in-laws). Geez...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 17, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Also, I'm natsfan1a and you're not. What? Oh. Never mind...


And in other news, Francisco Franco is still dead.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 17, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse


This argument has played out many times before on the NJ so, I will make this brief. It's easy to cherry pick a couple teams each year with large payrolls that underachieve. However, if you look at the playoff teams over the last 10 years and where they rank in the payroll standings and I think you will find that a larger payroll significantly inhances a teams chances to make the postseason. Period.

Posted by: Section505203 | August 17, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

EdDC, the AJ Cole pick, and signing whether it turns out well or not, is exactly what this team should do if it wants to build a winner. Get projectable top 5-10 talent in the draft, get them for cheap in terms of when you can get them, if you can, otherwise just get them, and sign them.

Everything about the Cole pick and signing is what I LOVE to see a team do.

Posted by: graywolfe81 | August 17, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I'll take a stab at this.

They haven't had the talent to be able to acquire such a player.

I don't know how true that statement is, but I'm having a hard time coming up with potential trades over the past few years that would have benefited the team and brought in a player with an MLB-average salary.

Maybe Belliard or Young at the deadline in 2007? Probably only worth prospects, I think. And maybe even that was less of a The Learners are Cheap problem and more Bowden is Dumb issue.

Soriano? Dunn? Maybe.


"The Nats have still have never traded for a player who makes MLB-average in salary." Really? I hadn't heard that before.
Oh wait, yes I have.Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 17, 2010 1:08 PM

I am still waiting for a good response to this. Once I get one, it comes off my list.

Posted by: JohninMpls | August 17, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"The Nats have still have never traded for a player who makes MLB-average in salary."

I'll take a stab at this. They haven't had the talent to be able to acquire such a player... Posted by: JohninMpls | August 17, 2010 2:20 PM

If you take on some salary, you don't have to give up quality. It's a business deal, not a baseball deal. I gave a couple examples of this: Soriano and Hammer, two players who did not cost quality players. Why not do more of that? Why limit yourself to bargain guys only? Look at how little Boston gave up to get Jason Bay and take on his salary.

Anyway, I believe the Nats will start doing these kinds of moves, beginning this off-season. And they will sign Dunn too. They do need to build their fan base, so these moves make sense.

Posted by: EdDC | August 17, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Careful with those "Hey, we could be the Cubs" comparisons - because that's fools gold. I make fun of North Siders for their lack of luck, karma, etc - but their owners and management TRY to win. Yeah, it always ends in tears - but tell me how many 100 loss seasons their fans have endured since 1966? Zero.

And they've been to the playoffs four times in the past 12 seasons. That's more often than the suddenly model Phillies.

My God, the Nationals can even inspire people to praise the Cubs!!

Posted by: Kev29 | August 17, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse


I went to a Cubs game last summer, and got good seats at Wrigley. At the time, the Cubs were in the hunt. Anyway, when the game got underway, there was all this commotion. I couldn't understand it. Was there a fight in the stands? Was somebody about to run naked onto the field? What?

Then I got it. The fans were cheering balls and strikes. We do have a long way to go to catch up with the "perennial losers" the Cubs, as you point out. It would be great to capture such an in-game experience here in DC! And sure, finishing last in MLB and getting SS and Harper is a start in doing so.

Posted by: EdDC | August 17, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-great signing, huh? And great discussion going on-as usual-with many of may favorite Gangsters.Apologies bforehand-I see AK just put a new post up so I'm gonna repost this...any hoo, regarding the "cheap" issue: That's why I've referred to 'em as the "Slows". While you can certainly argue(from my perspective) that the Slows HAVE been, far, my inherent hope for otherwise has me willing to grant them the benefit of the doubt. That also leads me to WANT to take Ted Slow at his word about building a PERPETUAL contender...which might mean keeping salaries low to ensure RE-signing Zimm, Stras, Harper? when the time comes rather than lose 'em to another team.Now, as many have argued, the Slows have done themselves no favors by not not putting a better product (I HATE using that term) on the field for a nascent fan base. In so many ways, they appear to have done the opposite, and NOT just with the team on the field-and to claim the confluence of two wretched years coinciding with drafting two possibly historic players as being "validation" for their approach...well, as long as they take advantage of it, all's well that ends well
BUT-no more do-overs, OK, Slows? And having the Rizz-and the spectacular success with the signings this year-I feel like my annual blind optimism (followed by epic bellyaching!) may have some basis in reality.
On a 2nd topic-I keep bringing up Johhny Bench (in Joe Pos' article about Stras). Meaning I not only don't think it outlandish to see Harper sooner than many think, I also think catching would have still been viable-til Ramos, at any rate. And for all my/our complaints about a seeming lack of implacability by the team when it comes to not losing-well, the very "flaws' some have found in Harpers' make-up may(once tempered by big league reality and clubhouses, we hope)turn out to be something we value. The athletic arrogance. The self confidence bordering on...well, we'll see. The one guy we have I DO see that in? The Rizz!
And Oh-don't recall seein' yer handle, greywolfe-but nice work!Thanks fer joining the Gang!
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | August 17, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it make sense to move the signing deadline to the day before the All-Star break?

From a development standpoint, you ensure that your top picks get in a least a half season of pro ball in their first year.

From a marketing get to introduce all of the hyped prospects at the All-Star Game.

Posted by: js_edit | August 17, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

EdDC, Weren't you around in 2005? Fans were cheering balls and strikes quite a bit back then! It's tough to get that level of intensity from fans when your team is 15-25 games out every year. DC fans know what to do when it matters.

Posted by: Natstoyou | August 17, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

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