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Wilson Ramos, Ivan Rodriguez and the Nationals catching situation

Morning brushback

On Monday evening in the Nationals clubhouse, Ivan Rodriguez, 38, and Wilson Ramos, 23, sat in front of Rodriguez's locker examining a scouting report. Rodriguez explained, hands moving. Ramos listened, nodding intently. At one point, Rodriguez put his arm around Ramos.

The Nationals plan on making Ramos their catcher of the future. As this season winds down, he shares the position with Rodriguez. While Ramos grew up in Venezuela, Rodriguez was his favorite player, his idol. Now, Rodriguez is his tutor. "When I came here, I can't believe it," Ramos said. "Me and Pudge?"

Roughly one month into his Nationals career, Ramos has cherished the mentoring from Rodriguez. On his first day with the Nationals, Ramos told Rodriguez he was his favorite player. It remains his favorite moment of the season.

"He's a guy that works hard," Rodriguez said. "We have some conversation about pitching during the game. He asks me questions. So far, we've got a good communication. He comes to me, asks me questions about certain situations."

Rodriguez has taught Ramos how to call games, how to work with pitchers and how to attack certain hitters. They speak in Spanish, which for Ramos means a lot.

"I like to talk with him a lot for that reason," Ramos said. "Sometimes, we play about his country, my country. Every day, we talk a little bit about how to catch, how he likes to call the game."

While Ramos learns from Rodriguez, the two catchers are sharing time behind the plate on an every-other-day schedule. As Jesus Flores continues his comeback from shoulder in Florida, the Nationals plan on Ramos and Rodriguez continuing their platoon next season.

"Ramos will come to spring training with an opportunity to be with Pudge," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "The hope would be Ramos would get more and more playing time as the season goes next year and evolve into the No. 1 guy."

How will Rodriguez respond to diminished playing time? He'll be on the second year of a two-year contract. He is a surefire Hall of Famer, a proud man closing in on 3,000 hits. He has openly discussed his desire to reach the milestone, and he'll need at-bats to get there. So far, at least, Rodriguez has expressed no qualms about his playing schedule.

"I always come ready to play every day," Rodriguez said earlier this week. "That's the way I am. That's the way that I play this game. That's OK if I don't play. I can't do anything about that. I'm a player. I've just got to come ready to play every day."

Rodriguez was asked if he would be comfortable continuing the platoon next year.

"I can't answer that," he said. "It's still this season. I cannot answer things about next year. When spring training comes, then you can ask me that question."

Given how attrition affects catchers, Riggleman knows not to guarantee anything about his catching situation. "This organization was counting on Flores, and we haven't seen him in two years now," Riggleman said. "That tells you how tentative it can be in terms of keeping a back there for a long period."

FROM THE POST

This offseason is the time for the Nationals to start thinking big, Boz writes.

Adam Dunn may have played his final home game last night, a 7-1 loss to the Phillies that gave the Nats a 41-40 record at home.

Dave Sheinin chimes in with a national story on Mike Quade and the open Cubs managerial job.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

Last night, the goodbyes began for the Nationals, Ben Goessling writes.

Federal Baseball spends five minutes with Collin Balester.

Mark Zuckerman examines Adam Dunn's offensive value in a unique way.

By Adam Kilgore  | September 30, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning brushback  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Game 159 discussion thread: Nationals vs. Phillies
Next: If not Adam Dunn, then who?

Comments

What are the Nats going to do if Flores comes back healthy?

Posted by: gilbertbp | September 30, 2010 7:36 AM | Report abuse

@gilbertbp: I would think that Flores' situation would depend not only on his health, but on the progression of the other catchers in the minors. Regardless of that situation, I would think that Flores ends up in Syracuse if healthy and comes up on the off chance that Pudge gets dealt at the trade-deadline.

Posted by: TimDz | September 30, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

If Flores comes back healthy, it will be a personal triumph (how can you not pull for the guy?). But the Nats have to wonder how slow the recovery will be the next time he gets hurt (catchers get hurt -- it's how well they recover that matters). Syracuse might make sense. Too soon to say if Ramos or Flores is the best long term bet.

Posted by: KenNat | September 30, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Sorry to go off topic, but what's with the Evan Vucci photo caption describing the Phillies hitting 4 homers to "cap a sweep"?

Posted by: KenNat | September 30, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure Flores has options left so if all three are healthy he starts the season at Syracuse and plays as much as his health permits. Over the course of the year we'll see what they have in Ramos and in 2012 the two of them can battle it out.

Posted by: 3B11 | September 30, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

If Flores is going to be healthy by next season, then trade Pudge. Of the three, we know for sure that Pudge is not a long-term answer.

On Dunn, if the Nats could sign him for say $5 million a year for three or four years, they would happily do so. So the problem with Dunn is not his defense. It is not length of contract. It is something else.

Posted by: EdDC | September 30, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Sign Adam Dunn.

Posted by: natbiscuits | September 30, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Sign Adam Dunn

Posted by: natbiscuits | September 30, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Stick a 4K in him. He's Dunn.

Posted by: FeelWood | September 30, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Question to anybody attending the game last night: Were the "Sign Adam Dunn" chants loud as they sounded on TV? Cause they sounded pretty loud there. Loud enough for even Nats ownership/management to have heard them. Not that that counts for anything...

When I got my season ticket renewal email I responded with a polite non-snarky email stating my desire for a watchable team and concerns about an apparent unwillingness of the owner to spend what it takes to field same (citing Dunn's non-signing as the biggest sore point for me). I got a computer generated email acknowledging that input from their ST holders and fans is important and that a response would be forthcoming. Guess what? Over a week later, nada.

Posted by: NatsFly | September 30, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Pudge & Ramos are under the Nationals control for next year; Flores is Arb-eligible, so he could be exposed by a non-tender, along with Nieves. Front Office decisions in October & November will clear some of that up.

Sign.Adam.Dunn.

Posted by: BinM | September 30, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

EdDC - that was funny, at least to my tired mind.

Posted by: Sunderland | September 30, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I was at the game last night. We were up in 416 and the only chants to re-sign Dunn that we heard were coming from our section. Maybe the noise from the expensive seats doesn't carry so well.

It was a pretty sparse crowd (using the word advisedly). The loudest noises we heard were the cracks of the Philadelphia bats. After the second of the back-to-back HRs to the exact same spot, Mrs. gilbertbp turned to me and said, "Wait, didn't we just see that...?"

Posted by: gilbertbp | September 30, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

If Pudge wants 3,000 base hits, he should go elsewhere to get them, and it would most likely have to be the American League. He'll need at least 2 years, and this team can't afford to have him play as many games next year as he has so far this season. Ramos should start at least 100 games behind the plate next year, assuming he can hit even .230, and that doesn't leave many at-bat opportunities for Pudge.

Pudge got off to a torrid start, but he's hitting .244 since May 1. He no longer hits for power, and his OBP for the last two seasons is well under .300. Don't be surprised if next spring he can no longer hit at all. It happens to even the best of them, and catchers particularly will lose it all at once. It happened to Elston Howard, Johnny Bench, and Gary Carter. The only difference between Pudge and those guys is that at age 38, he can still go behind the plate and do an excellent job. As a hitter though, he isn't even a shadow of his former self.


Posted by: Fairfax6 | September 30, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

"Question to anybody attending the game last night: Were the "Sign Adam Dunn" chants loud as they sounded on TV?"

No. They were largely drowned out by the music and general stadium noise. TV probably had a mic near where people were yelling.

Posted by: FeelWood | September 30, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

If Pudge wants 3,000 base hits, he should go elsewhere to get them, and it would most likely have to be the American League. He'll need at least 2 years, and this team can't afford to have him play as many games next year as he has so far this season. Ramos should start at least 100 games behind the plate next year, assuming he can hit even .230, and that doesn't leave many at-bat opportunities for Pudge.

Pudge got off to a torrid start, but he's hitting .244 since May 1. He no longer hits for power, and his OBP for the last two seasons is well under .300. Don't be surprised if next spring he can no longer hit at all. It happens to even the best of them, and catchers particularly will lose it all at once. It happened to Elston Howard, Johnny Bench, and Gary Carter. The only difference between Pudge and those guys is that at age 38, he can still go behind the plate and do an excellent job. As a hitter though, he isn't even a shadow of his former self.


Posted by: Fairfax6 | September 30, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

"I was at the game last night. We were up in 416 and the only chants to re-sign Dunn that we heard were coming from our section."

I was in 309 and moved to 222 for Dunn's last AB. I didn't hear your chants, or anyone else's for that matter.

Posted by: FeelWood | September 30, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the double post, there was a glitch when I did it the first time and I assumed it didn't go through.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | September 30, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

If Ramos learns from Rodriquez, the Nats are in trouble. Pudge calls a terrible game. Because he hates breaking balls and off-speed, he thinks everybody does. I have friends in texas who think that Pudge cost the Rangers several pennants with his lousy game calls. Watching this year, I can see why they feel that way.

Posted by: lp_lodestar | September 30, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

"The loudest noises we heard were the cracks of the Philadelphia bats."

Wow!

Great line, says everything that needs to be said.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | September 30, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

That comment about Pudge calling games has been bandied about, without any support, for years. He has also been accused of not being a team player. All of this is horsehockey.

Pudge is generally considered the best defensive catcher of his generation. Defensive catchers are rated on a number of things, but calling games is among the most important. Of course, he calls a lot of fastballs. If you know anything about running a game, you know that, unless you are a knuckleballer or have a relatively slow, straight fastball, everything, everything, everything works off of the fastball. That is just the way it is. Pitching coaches will tell you the same thing. Better control, less strain on an arm, more separation from other pitches.

Learn the game and stop listening to "friends from Texas."

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | September 30, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

@Natsfly - I was sitting behind home plate and, indeed, the Sign Adam Dunn chants were loud, mostly coming from the fans behind the Nats dugout, who also gave Dunn a standing ovation throughout his last at-bat (despite the golden sombrero). The chant certainly did not emanate from behind the visitor's dugout, b/c those seats were swarming with Phils fans. Rizzo and Stan were behind home plate most of the night, so they indeed heard the fans' sentiment. Listening? I don't know.

Posted by: hitch39 | September 30, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

... not that Stan hearing or listening matters anymore. But Mark Lerner was there, too. And, FWIW, Billy Kilmer.

Posted by: hitch39 | September 30, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

"That comment about Pudge calling games has been bandied about, without any support, for years."

Got to say I have never heard any criticism of Pudge's behind the plate abilities, the most important of which is calling the game.

They used to say the same thing about Mike Piazza. In fact, calling the game was his only strong point as a catcher.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | September 30, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

It would be nice to see Flores return as a matter of personal redemption but you have to worry about durability. This has been a long, long recovery with many setbacks. As with pitchers, shoulder injuries often don't have happy endings. Don't know if a position switvh would be of any value to him or the Nats.

The Dunn conundrum was in full bloom last night -- 4K's. He will finish with 200 K's in about 560 AB's, that's a lot of unproductive outs. On the other hand 38-40 HR's and 100+ RBI is nothing to sneeze at. If he wants to play in the field the Nat's are one of the few (if only) choices. My preference would be to get him re-signed -- he's a consistent producer, a good citizen and wants to be a servicable first baseman. Not signing him wuldn't be the end of the world but would create anxiety and uncertainty that the Nat's just don't need.

Posted by: Natmeister | September 30, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I was in section 128 last night (behind the Nats dugout), and the "Sign Adam Dunn" chants were lound and clear, especially for his last at-bat. Dunn apparently heard them.

Regarding Pudge: He was one of the rare bright spots for the Nats this season. Remember how many wild pitches there were in 2008 and 09? Almost none this year; it's not the pitchers. Ramos will be great, I hope, but he fumbles the ball all over. I also note that few try to steal on Pudge. The catcher position, like SS, 2B, and CF, is primarily defensive -- and he is just as good as ever in this department. The Nats are lucky to have him.

Posted by: ammonite88 | September 30, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Was at the game last night and the "sign Adam Dunn chants" were audible but not overwhelming.

They seemed mostly to be coming from behind the Nats dugout, but that was where the densest population of fans were. During his final at-bat, people elsewhere around the stadium seemed to be saying it as well.

@Natsfly: "I got a computer generated email acknowledging that input from their ST holders and fans is important and that a response would be forthcoming. Guess what? Over a week later, nada."

If these guys keep it up, they're gonna have a STH base so small that Ted Lerner himself will be able answer everybody with pencil and paper before breakfast. These people just don't get it. They've watched their base dwindle and they seem clueless how to manage the most basic customer relations. I realize this isn't the real estate business, but if Kasten is so smart, and has so much experience, why haven't they learned that this sort of thing is SO important ESPECIALLY when the team sucks. It is a complete mystery to me.

Posted by: Meridian1 | September 30, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

>>Mike Rizzo makes a No. 1 starter the Nationals' offseason priority

Wow and the sky is blue. Talk about the obvious. But why did it take him an entire year to figure that out when anyone sitting home on a couch knew that year's ago.

But unfortunately it aint so easy. Because for some reason they didn't think they needed any pitching last year, a #1 starter isn't enough anymore. The Nats cupboard is empty. They need at least a 1, 2 and a 3 and most likely an entire staff.

And there is no way they are going to go out and spend on that. When based on their history, youre lucky to get one guy, who is really a 5.

>>"I think it's obtainable either way," Rizzo said. "Free agency is obviously the easier option. All it costs you is money. "

This is so disengenuous and dishonest it is mindblowing. If that was the case, we'd have Chapman, ODog, etc.
Unbelieveable.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | September 30, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

BTW Cheryl Crow was really good last night. Also really loud. Who woulda thunk ole Cheryl would be one o the loudest concerts eva. Good times.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | September 30, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

The Dunn conundrum was in full bloom last night -- 4K's. He will finish with 200 K's in about 560 AB's, that's a lot of unproductive outs...
Posted by: Natmeister | September 30, 2010 11:35 AM
============================================
Most outs are unproductive. The exceptions are sac flies and sac bunts.

How is striking out on five or six pitches worse than popping up on the first one (I'm talking to you, Nyjer)? At least the former moves the pitcher's pitch count up.

How is striking out worse than hitting into a double play? Dunn hit into eight DPs last year, ten (so far) this year. Just for comparison's sake, Zimmerman hit into 22 last year, 16 this year.

How is striking out worse than getting caught stealing or picked off? Dunn has 3 CS in the last three years; Nyjer does that in a bad week. BTW, Dunn used to be a fine percentage base stealer - career, he's 59 for 80. Hard to imagine when you see him lumber around the bases like he's carrying a mule on his back. I'm not sure I've ever even seen him slide.

Posted by: gilbertbp | September 30, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Gilbertop: I saw Dunn slide one time, not on a steal but on a DP ball. The poor guy guarding the bag was sufficiently terrified that he didn't make the throw to 1st. I also saw him charge home to beat a throw and the catcher actually did not move off the plate. The ball was had no chance of getting there, and instead of clocking the catcher Dunn sort of picked him up with both forearms and tossed him a couple of feet away. Though the catcher fell back on his keister, he was uninjured. Thought at the time that it was a rather funny way to clear the plate.

Posted by: NatsFly | September 30, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

The pursuit of Cliff Lee is a diversionary tactic for not signing Dunn. We are supposed to say, "Oh boy, we can't have our slugger, but, wow, we get Cliff Lee. Yeah, I'd make that trade!" Of course, the Nats get neither one.

Most clubs would have routinely signed Dunn (a ho-hum move not taking a lot of anguish) in the last off-season to go with all the other additions the Nats should have made over the years. The youth infusion would still take place, meaning some of the vets could be traded for prospects. Then, signing Crawford and Lee would be realistic for the contending Nats. This is a poor strategy if the goal is lower-than-low payrolls instead of pennant contention.

Posted by: EdDC | September 30, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

gilbert - Be prepared for the wrath of the sabermetricians. BABIP my friend. Put the ball in play. But yeah, I get your point. Pudge has 25 GIDP (2nd in NL only to the Kung Fu Panda), Dunn has 10.

Posted by: Sunderland | September 30, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

"Remember how many wild pitches there were in 2008 and 09? Almost none this year"

Let's see, when was it they traded Joel Hanrahan? Oh yeah...mid 2009.

Posted by: FeelWood | September 30, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

If Flores comes back Pudge will have 2 guys to mentor. I would consider renewing Pudge if I were the Nats. Flores could become a valuable trade commodity. And Pudge could help make that happen.

IN the end Pudge is priceless to this organization double plays not-with-standing.

Posted by: periculum | September 30, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

"I would consider renewing Pudge if I were the Nats."

He's already signed for next year.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | September 30, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

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