Friday, January 26, 2007

Our Starting Pitching & Fan Support


I agree with Tom Boswell's take that Our Washington Nationals may have underplayed their hand this past winter, when it comes to finding starting pitching in the Free Agent Market, but I don't necessarily agree with him that The Nats should have retained Ramon Ortiz and Tony Armas, Jr.

Boswell states, since Ortiz and Armas were the only other Nats Starters who won over 5 games last season, that alone, should qualify their status to remain in Washington and in the rotation. They weren't any good last year, why would he think these two would be any better in 2007? And, his mention of Pedro Astacio was even more stunning. Astacio was fairly terrible last season, except for one complete game start against Atlanta at RFK Stadium.

The object of the game is to move forward, maybe take a step back, to then move forward. Does Boswell really believe that Ortiz and Armas can help The Nationals improve? Or Astacio. I find that hard to believe.

There is no doubt I am worried that, once again, in 2007, by the 3rd inning, Washington will be down 5 runs and out of the game. Unfortunately, it looks like we are stuck with that prospect. Hopefully, someone will break out during the competition of Spring Training. Every year, there is always one player or two, on every team, that surprises.

At the same time, there is always one or two players you are depending on, that get injured or simply don't perform well.

Of the Nationals off season signings, I like Jerome Williams and Tim Redding, a lot. I also believe that Shawn Hill, if healthy, can be a very solid starter. The few games he pitched at RFK last season, were solid efforts. Only injuries are holding him back.

Nonetheless, I would take all three of these, and many others guys (37 pitchers & counting) coming to camp, over Ortiz, Armas & Astacio, any time. If we are going to be bad, I would rather see us lose trying something fresh, then going back to the leftovers. Leftovers are usually no fun.

Finally, Boswell does mention the possibility of fans turning their backs on the team, if the team is a bad as many expect this coming season. From asking around, I have got the impression that Season Ticket sales have not been as robust as expected, heading into the new ballpark in 2008. During the past week, there have only been 100 or so fans at each of the Caravan Stops in the DC Area---unlike last season when over 1500 people lined up at a restaurant in Pentagon City to meet and greet the players. 300 or more, showed up last season at a Modells for The Alternate Uniform Unveiling.

Its going to be an interesting final season at RFK Stadium. I certainly don't want it to look like this?


natsfan7 said...

"Finally, Boswell does mention the possibility of fans turning their backs on the team..."

I said something like that a few days after the Lerners took over amd I first heard the "Plan." Now, one only has to look at the Tigers to see how quickly fans will show up to watch a winner;but once a team is branded a "loser", it's very hard to shake. Washington sports fan aren't very loyal, unless your talking about the Redskins.

Joe Ward said...

I don't think the Washington Metropolitan Area will turn its back on the Nats. The Nats will still draw around 2 million fans in 2007. I question the management in the Nationals front office. How many newspaper ads, radio spots, tv commercials have you seen promoting the upcoming season, much less this winter caravan? You know where I heard about the Monday gig at ESPNZone? By reading your blog. I wish I had been there, and I would have if it were promoted. I think Washington fans will be patient and wait for a winner, but the ownership needs to step up and reach out to the marginal fan.

SenatorNat said...

Very good observations by celebrity blog-man SBF. I shall attempt to add a few macro points. There has been a tendency by the local mainstream media to treat the Nationals coming here as somehow not a serious or permanent part of the sports landscape. Their commentary tends to focus on the failings or the mishaps and the characterizations tend to be that it is essentially a bush league operation...

Diehard fans are sort of cast of those 50 something pot-bellied white guys with a lot of time on their hands, and even more nostalgia...

The owner being about as old as the deceased former Senator William J. Fullbright, for whom his old (falling down) dorm at GW is now named does not help matters, along with a guy from Atlanta with no connection to D.C. who depicts his owner as having bought, in essence, a pig in a poke.

In 2005, by the time the city became attuned to their presence and that they were actually in the process of a Miracle Year, the Nationals collapsed.

In 2006, Soriano and Zimmerman saved what would have been a disaster, undoubtedly.

In 2007, the only positive going in to the season is that ALL INDICATIONS ARE NEGATIVE! Economists tell us that by the time everyone is down on the economy, it is about to rocket through the roof. Tom Boswell, the finest baseball columnist in America (seriously) is a powerful "counter-indicator" - meaning that his instincts are almost invariably 180 degrees wrong!! His statistics are always reverse engineered to support his pre-ordained conclusion. So, by that reckoning, his colum guarantees Nats fans World Series this fall (joke)!

Having said that, the Nationals have about the same kind of pitching staff going into 2007 as they did going into 1963, when they relied on Bennie Daniels as their Ace and Tom Cheney number two and nothing else - but they had a good bullpen. That was their third year of expansion...

In 1964, their yearbook cover was a little kid cartoon dressed in a Senators uniform kicking the shins of the Big Leaguer ("American League") with the slogan "Off the Floor in '64." Needless to say, this was not voted promotion campaign of the year, superceded only by Goldwater's campaign slogan that Fall: "In your heart, you know he's right" (but we recognize that you are not voting for him, regardless, even if we held a gun to your head...)

As soon as the Nationals lose 7 in a row this year, talk radio will begin to beat the drum, asking callers to predict: "Will this team be folded by MLB before it can play in the new stadium by Anacostia?"

Kasten has a good plan, but the Lerners are cheap and out-dated in their disposition, and look way out-of-step compared to Wizards, Capitals (!), and the high-flying, low-playing Landover MD Redskins.

He had better understand this sooner, rather than later...The moot survives, for now: Trust in Kasten - All Good!!

phil dunn said...

I think Stan Kasten is over estimating the postive effect the new stadium will have on 2007 season ticket sales at RFK. I would not be surprised to see attendence drop another 20% or more for this upcoming season. Frankly, the Nats ownership is beginning to look and sound just like the O's. They seem to be doing everything they can to alienate their fan base.

Anonymous said...

Hardly a surprise to me that the caravan has been sparsely attended when the players involved are (1) Mike O'Connor and (2) Nook Logan, each of whom could easily be cut from the 40 man roster in the near future. I think it was Thom Loverro who said that the promotional efforts so far can't be distinguished from the days of league ownership, and he's right. The Nats are being run like a low-budget, small market team.

Boswell's point, though, misses the mark. There weren't any great free agent options this year -- the Nats can't attract the Schmidts and Zitos, and it isn't worth paying $5-10 million to the Meches and Redmans of the world when they will get close to comparable performance from the Williamses, Hanrahans and Hills already on board.

Boswell is right, however, that this area generaly will not support a "minor league" quality team, even one being built according to "plan". Just look at the Caps for Exhibit A.