Sunday, February 08, 2009
The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
The workload of The Real Job has taken away the blog fun over the past week, but as Spring Training Dawns on the horizon this coming week, it's baseball time again for Our Washington Nationals.
Unquestionably, The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.
And to get us started--here are some notes of interest over the past week.
Happy to see Shawn Hill win his arbitration case yesterday, now the receiver of a $750,000 salary in 2009. Despite the very fact that injuries have curtailed his wonderful talents, there is not even a single person within Our Washington Nationals that denies Our Number 41 can be a top of the rotation starter--if he ever pulls it all together. Hill is worth every penny to find out.
A rare arbitration win which also found me shaking my head upon getting the press release announcing that Our Washington Nationals late this afternoon had agreed to a one-year $2.8 Million Contract with Scott Olsen before heading to arbitration. Olsen shook on just $300,000 more than Washington had offered to the arbiters. Scott had asked for $3.5 million. I don't follow the arbitration process too closely, but if Shawn Hill only garnered one win in 2008, but Our New Number 19 received 8 and started 30 Games for The Marlins and has shown to be durable, you had to figure Olsen had a good chance of receiving that higher salary. $3.5 Million, I recall, was a possible number Washington feared giving out to Tim Redding had they offered him, instead of non-tendering him.
Now, let's just get Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham under contract before Washington attempts to rip them apart in arbitration. Nobody really ever seems happy with this process--both player and management agree that it's does more harm than good.
Adam Dunn has never been on my list of possible free agent signings for Our Washington Nationals in 2009, but when I read that he is basically looking for the opportunity to play for a winner--now--that pretty much sealed the deal for me. As Washington grows their franchise, it would please me more to see players that truly want to be here, not those that just want a paycheck and move on. No problem with Adam Dunn wanting to play for a winner, but if he really is going to say he wants to win--he should sign for any reasonable amount offered for his chance to win that ring right now. Is it really about money or is it about winning Adam?
Which reminds me of the Orlando Hudson interview on MLB Network's Hot Stove recently where Hudson mentioned he's very interested in playing for The Dodgers, The Yankees and The Mets. And as an afterthought said basically: "Oh yeah, The Nationals are in there too." But anyone could read between the lines--Orlando Hudson really doesn't want to play here either. That's fine with me, suit up Anderson Hernandez and Ronnie Belliard until someone better comes along.
67 players will post up at Major League Training Camp over the next 8 days--who will be the surprise candidates to make the 25-Man Roster come April 5th? The recently signed Javier Valentin probably has a pretty good shot of being the 2nd string catcher. He may not be a better backstop than Wil Nieves defensively, but Valentin is a switch hitter and possesses some pop in his bat--better skills at the plate than Nieves. Those two should have a nice friendly battle.
Will this be Justin Maxwell's last chance? Maxwell seemed especially upbeat when I recently ran into him at one of the last Winter Caravan Events. Newly married and a new father to boot can perk anyone up--but Maxwell said he's healthy. Everyone knows he's talented--can he put it all together this spring?
The same way I feel about Ryan Langerhans. He's the perfect complimentary outfielder--stellar defensive player, good On Base Percentage with some pop. The final roster numbers are a problem for Ryan. With Elijah Dukes, Willie Harris, Josh Willingham, Lastings Milledge, Austin Kearns, Roger Bernadina and Wily Mo Pena all heading to camp--the outfield depth chart at the beginning of Spring Training Camp is full before anyone steps on the field. But that doesn't mean things will remain the same from the start of camp to the end. Outfield changes could be significant and the most interesting look-see throughout the six week camp.
Remember--trades can still be made.
And how about non-roster pitcher J.D. Martin? This young man has shown pretty good control, doesn't walk many and seems to have a strikeout pitch. Maybe one of those sleepers that no one notices before they breakout and make a name for themselves. Considering Our Bullpen is in flux, Martin's seasoning may give him the opportunity to stick.
Experience which Odalis Perez already possesses, but was not good enough to land him a significant Free Agent Contract with another Major League Ball Club this off-season. Perez wasn't great last year, but he was decent enough to give Washington a solid starter most every fifth day out. Consistency, which if Perez makes the squad, will allow Our Washington Nationals to not rush Jordan Zimmermann, if the 22 Year Old needs a little more seasoning in the minors, or Shairon Martis.
Considering Perez was allowed to walk by Washington, I have found it interesting that JimBo has waited out so many players this off-season. After making the bold attempt to sign Mark Teixeira to a huge contract earlier this winter, Our General Manager hasn't gone out and just thrown away money to make up for the fact that Teixeira wanted to win right now elsewhere. Instead, his judging of the market has been fairly decent. He's hasn't overpaid for Dunn, and Bowden doesn't appear to want to give up a draft pick for Hudson. And despite some fans wanting Washington to throw a ton of money at Free Agent Pitcher Ben Sheets, the resultant report that Sheets needs further surgery on his pitching elbow, makes that Non-Signing a very shrewd one.
With so many Free Agents of various talents still available, it would not be surprising to see somebody fall into their laps as Spring Training begins. No one wants to sit on the side while positions are being determined on the field. And when you look at those 67 players coming to Viera, except at 1st base (where Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young are the incumbents), there are a host of players wanting, and waiting, to prove themselves valuable to Our Washington Nationals Major League Team this season. For the first time since Baseball returned to DC in 2005, Washington has depth up the middle, a host of young arms on the mound and a competitive Training Camp starting later this week that will hopefully help boost Our Franchise back up that ladder of success.
Yes, it's baseball time again (and it's so nice to write that!), time for those beautiful sounds again: The THWACK OF THE BAT!! The rhythm of playing catch--BASEBALL HITTING LEATHER!! After a long cold winter, the time is now to enjoy the game back on the field of play.
It really is: The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.