Monday, July 10, 2006
At 38-52, dead last in the National League East and the July 31st trading deadline fast approaching, I decided to put in a few words of what I think might happen to our beloved Nationals.
Starting Pitching: Absolutely TERRIBLE. If someone had told me that at mid-season Ramon Ortiz would be our most consistent starter, I would have laughed for a good 5 minutes. But, Ramon has been OK, not good, not bad. After a 0-4 start he's now 6-7. Never overpowering, but does hang in there. Livan Hernandez has been horrible. Livan needs to decide whether his surgically repaired knee CAN PITCH or go on the DL. John Patterson has that mysterious Nats Medical elbow sprain that will most likely end his 2006 season. Tony Armas has a similar problem. After a nice season start, Armas has struggled with his ability to throw strikes and is on a rehab assignment wanting to come back too soon. And, Pedro Astacio--out all season was thrown into the mix for 2 starts, decent the first game and couldn't make it through the 4th in his second. And, Mike O'Connor was whacked his last 2 starts and is back in New Orleans. Leaving Shawn Hill, decent but not great, also on the DL. This staff can not consistently get to the 5th inning. There is very little hope for the starters. Ortiz is probably trade bait. Armas was too, until his stint on the DL. Livan has not been helping himself to bet traded. Whatever they could bring in a trade, will have little long term value for the Nationals. I see very little hope for Nat starters in the second half.
Relief Pitching: Well oversued by poor starting pitching and the usual decision by Frank Robinson to use every single pitcher, every single night--blowing them out early. Its very obvious that the Nationals, more than any other team, were hurt badly by the World Baseball Classic in March. Luis Ayala, just back from elbow surgery, decided, poorly, to pitch for Mexico in the WBC and blew out his pitching elbow. There went 90 appearances right there. Cordero and Majewski barely played for the USA and didn't get a proper spring trainging. And, they are regretting it now--BIG TIME!! Very inconsistent throughout the first half. Both look lost. Jon Rauch gives up too many home runs, Stanton has a good game, then an atrocious one. Bill Bray is very talented, needs more experience, has closer qualities--is a keeper. Saul Rivera, Jason Bergmann, Micah Bowie have all been up and down and are journeymen at best. Cordero, Majewski and Bray are talented youngsters, worth keeping and under team control. Rauch needs some more work after coming back from shoulder surgery, but he can bring it. Everyone else is expendable. Stanton can certaintly be traded for someone at the trading deadline. Can't wait for Ayala to come back next year.
The starters have had a domino effect on the Nats bullpen. Just beat up at mid season. Not much hope here either.
Brian Schneider is a terrific catcher, and the only one suited defensively to play in the entire Nats system. Unfortunately, offensively he's been putrid. Also played in the WBC for Team USA--regrets it also. Did hit well over the just completed homestand. Needs to turn it around in the second half. Need badly and is not going anywhere soon.
Nick Johnson continues to be a consist player, great defender and hustler. Needs to drive in a few more runs and has slumped over the past 14 games dropping his average under .300, but I really like him. Would only trade him for something really really good. And, he signed cheaply for the next 3 seasons.
Jose Vidro--No range at second, hitting over .300, but under .200 in the clutch. Rarely gets on base when it counts. Can barely move 6 feet either way to get a grounder at second. Owed $8 Million next season. Hoping badly that Omar Minaya loves him so much and wants to win in NY this season with the Mets so bady, Omar will give the Nats something good for him. And, allow Brendan Harris to get a good shot at the 2nd base job.
Royce Clayton--Caretaker shortstop brought in the battle for the starting job from THE GUZ!! Guz got injured, and despite a not too swift start, Clayton has played fairly well of late. Section 320 fan favorite with the French Cajun Sounding of his Name. Actually is marketable to a team looking for a solid backup infielder by the trading deadline. Hope we get something for him.
Ryan Zimmerman--21 Years Old, on pace for 25 Homers and over 100 RBI's. 2 Walk Off Homers, another last at bat game winning hit. Stellar Defense. Will hopefully play his entire career in Washington. GREAT, and I mean, GREAT YOUNG PLAYER!!
Jose Guillen--Diva outfielder having a terrible season. Can't decide whether he's injured, trying too hard or both. Not getting the job done. Regrets turning down the Nats 3 year contract offer in the spring. Would be a great person to trade, if he was hitting the ball. Not doing it. Not helping himself or us.
Alfonso Soriano--Electric Player, tries to hit the ball out of park every single at bat. Better than anybody in DC would have expected. And, a respected team player. Has improved his outfield play, but still has a long way to go. Stated recently, he would like to stay in DC and play leftfield, but you can bet that was an opportunity to drive up the price for other teams during a contract season. Like him alot, but the Nats would be smart to trade him for some serious young talent, and if he's really sincere, will come back to play for us again next season. If not, it was a great 4 months. And Sohna will be sad.
Centerfield--Brandon Watson (terrible),Marlon Byrd(can not hit) Ryan Church(in the teams Doghouse), Alex Escobar (exciting but scary at the same time-his outfield tracking of balls is not good--can hit though and has a terrific arm), Damian Jackson (SUCKS!!) The revolving door position for Washington this season. Escobar is here until he gets injured. The least productive position for the Nats in 2006. Need help badly and no one here is tradable.
Bench--Marlon Anderson, after a slow start, has been productive as a platoon outfielder, 1st & second baseman and pinch hitter. Can run very well for a 33 year old. Come to like him. He's also good trade bait. Wouldn't be surprised to see him moved at the deadline to a contender.
Daryle Ward--Extremely productive pinch hitter having a very good season. 2 Monster Home Runs into the upper deck in right at RFK. Frank should have used him more as a DH in American League Parks earlier in the season, but didn't for some foolish reason. Really like him, and also has made himself tradable to an American League team looking for punch off the bench down the stretch.
Robert Fick--medicore, has helped some, but nothing special. Backup catcher, but no arm. Matt LeCroy--American League DH wasting away on the Washington Bench. Damian Jackson--I will repeat--SUCKS!! Fick, LeCroy and Jackson have no trade value. I would like to see LeCroy and Jackson designated for Assignment and lets bring up Harris, Church, even Soloman Manriquez, catcher at AA Harrisburg, Larry Broadway and see what they can do. Its better to improve and win with your players, instead of someone elses.
Overall, it could be an ugly second half, if the Nats participate in deadline trades and move up to 5 players. Possibly a 90 loss season. The Nats need to go 34-32 the rest of the way just to only lose 90. But, hopefully, we can get a player or 2 to build on for seasons to come. Think Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz. Larry Anderson for Jeff Bagwell. These type of regretable trades happen all the time when winning is on the line. Lets hope the Nats can be on the good side of them.