Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Big & Unexpected News

Driving home from work late this afternoon listening to the radio, WTOP teases "Big & Unexpected News concerning The Washington Nationals today. More in sports after this!"

"Big & Unexpected News"?

What could that be? If there was a trade, WTOP would have mentioned that. Right?

So it had to be something else. And it had to be serious. Racking my brain while driving down the road--impatiently waiting for the commercials to end--the first thing that came to my mind: Baseball Operations was completely overhauled? A New General Manager was named? But why would Ownership do that so close to the beginning of the season?

No, that wouldn't make sense.

So what is this Big & Unexpected News?

And when Jonathan Warner reported on WTOP that Our Washington Nationals had cut ties with Shawn Hill, I was stunned. Absolutely Stunned!! Incredulous might be a very close second. No, I didn't see that coming and probably not many others as well. So why would Baseball Operations do that?

Clearly, Shawn Hill's physical issues have delayed and set back his career for five years now. But his upside is so good. Why Now is the question that needs to be answered? Is it that important to release Shawn at this very moment?

There are so many questions that I would love to ask.

Are you telling me that Hill has nothing left in the tank worth getting excited about anymore? Are you telling me a team that lost over 100 Games last season, can't take a flyer on someone scheduled to make $750,000 in 2009? Are you telling me it's time to jettison anyone with lingering doubts? Shawn Hill is not John Patterson. Even when hurting, Hill has been effective. No one has ever denied his talent. Only that physical pain has consistently taken that exceptional talent away.

Granted, this release of Shawn Hill is a very aggressive move, especially coming so close to the start of the regular season. A franchise that wants to move on--and beyond. This unexpected release means that Collin Balester and Shairon Martis have better shots now at the starting rotation in 2009. And it also means that Washington will only have to give severance pay (1/6th of Hill's arbitrated 2009 earnings) by letting him walk this very day. Today being the last possible moment any team can release a player and only be responsible for a portion of their salary.

Saddened is the only other word that expresses my feelings. Shawn Hill is one of the good guys. One of those players you always root for. And he's been very gracious and kind to The African Queen and I for a few years now. Always willing to chat and give his honest feelings in conversation. Shawn Hill has been enjoyable getting to know, just a little bit, as a Washington Baseball Player. And that makes this decision today by Our Washington Nationals even harder to take.

Our hearts go out to Shawn today. We care about Shawn Hill and hope that today's termination by Our Washington Nationals is just another slight setback for a still young man trying to find his way in the games of Major League Baseball.

No, I really didn't see this coming. For me, this announcement teased by WTOP this afternoon really was "Big & Unexpected News". As for The African Queen upon hearing the news: "I guess the chess match continues and a King Of The Hill has just fallen."

P.S.--Those Roster Games continued even more so after Shawn Hill was released this morning. This afternoon Washington announced the signing of left-handed reliever Joe Beimel to a one-year guaranteed deal. A pretty solid signing. A move that solidifies Washington's Bullpen and might allow Manny Acta to carry an ever more younger and inexperienced starting staff--believing veteran experience in the back of the bullpen could save many games. Over the past three years, Beimel has churned out some solid relief work for The Los Angeles Dodgers. Immediately, Joe becomes The Set-Up Man for Our Washington Nationals, taking the 40-Man Roster Spot from Shawn Hill.

P.P.S.--Nick Johnson the sole Montreal Expo remaining from The Inaugural Season of Our Washington Nationals.


Tom said...

PPPS Soon you may be saying who the only players left in the system that were drafted by the Expos.

TEDDDDDDY! said...


Could you find out why the last home game of the season will be vs NYM Septermber 30 @ 4:35??? During the week

Do they know people work then?
Why is the last game a day game?

Andrew Z. Stebbins said...

320 - since when have you been a star on the screen? Great work. One of the better commercials the Nats have going.

As far as Hill goes - probably saw this coming, but not today.

Anonymous said...

Nats320: Just saw your Nats commercial on MASN. Nice! Congrats! It looked great.

uscnatsfan said...

It is apparent from Manny Acta's statement ("There is more to the Nationals than me. The people upstairs felt this was a decision we had to make") that he did not agree with the decision to release Shawn - and I'm sure Randy St. Clair didn't, either. Rizzo is usurping his power to the long-term detriment of the organization and the fan base -- not to mention demonstrating a clear lack of support to his field manager and pitching coach.

Rizzo even acknowledged that "Hill is healthy....but we don't know how long that is going to be". What an absurd way to make personnel decisions. ANY player on the team could be injured or suffer a recurrence of a prior injury but that doesn't mean you RELEASE them -- especially a player who has demonstrated the loyalty, dedication, work ethic and willingness to do whatever the team asks and more as Shawn has over the years.

As others in the media have already stated I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the Mets signed Hill. Not only do they desperately need a 5th starter but Shawn has a prior relationship with Omar Minaya going back to their days in Montreal -- as does Manny Acta, who if a managerial opening arises in NY may choose to leave when his contract expires at the end of this season. No one whose lack of support from upper management is this blatant is going to want to continue to work for their current employer.

I have no doubt that Shawn Hill will attain success in the majors (as SBF stated, he is still only 27) and, sadly, I believe will make Nats management live to rue this decision for years to come.

uscnatsfan said...

Great job on the MASN commercial, SBF!! It's that type of enthusiasm that we need to see more of.

Is that the only ad that you were filmed in or can we look forward to seeing more in days/weeks to come? Any "cameo appearances" to come from The African Queen, perhaps?

janet said...

I'm wondering if it's wise to say "Go Nats", with Hill and Cordero being the most recent to follow that instruction. Both good, loyal young guys willing to work hard for $750K and a chance to overcome injury. I wish them both well.

Maybe it's a little ironic that MLB Gameday Audio came with my *Nats* season ticket package. At least it makes it easier to keep up with my favorite (former) Nationals.

Anonymous said...

Rizzo is usurping his power to the long-term detriment of the organization and the fan base -- not to mention demonstrating a clear lack of support to his field manager and pitching coach.

There can be no doubt that Jim Bowden would have made this exact same decision today. The only difference would be that the entire universe would be screaming about it, not just you.

Really, I feel bad for Hill, but the reality is that he's pitched all of two innings this spring. He wasn't going to be part of the Nats' rotation this year, no matter how hard he worked. Likewise, some other team may pick him up, but he won't start for them either. He needs to spend a lot of time in the minors in order to work himself back to health. And there was no way for the Nats to send him down. Just as with Cordero, they had no choice but to release him.

paul said...

I was incredulous that anyone thought Hill was a viable ML pitcher anymore, but I too liked him very much, and his trying to hang on has been painful to watch. It was cruel of the Nats to bring him to camp only to release him like this. It was ultimately a good business decision but bad for the soul of the team.

Any change of course like this has Stan's fingerprints. The power center has clearly shifted to him now that Jim Bowden is gone. Stan continues to diminish Manny in everyone's eyes, too, which is not pleasant to watch.

On a positive note, the April 4 event sounds like fun. Good work on that one, Nats!

VCUAlum Kyle said...

Loved the MASN comericials! Great Job and I bet that was a lot of fun.

What did everyone think of Rob Dibble tonight?

As for Shawn Hill, I got a feeling he wont be picked up and he will spend all of 2009 in the Nationals Minor League system working to get back on the big team in 2010. This guy has great stuff but he could be the next John Patterson in the Nats roation if you get my drift (aka retirement).

I think the signing of Biemel was a real interesting decision that could help us out. A great first of many moves by acting GM Rizzo.

Also, what is the everyones take on letting the BergMANN (#57 Jason Bergmann) close a few games. Watching him tonight in those two innings of work, I saw a future star closer in the making. Maybe I am way off but something about the way he pitches for 1-2 innings reads future closer all over him?

Anonymous said...

I guess they had to pass Shawn Hill through waivers to send him to the minors, so they just released him now and saved some money to boot? Seems crass, but they did have to open a roster spot for Beimel, who is a great signing (see Boswell's desire for Nats to sign him back to this January, I think!)

I liked Shawn Hill and am sad to see him go. I hope the Nats can work out a minor league deal for him, but I expect the Mets or Orioles to snap him up.

Screech's Best Friend said...

VCUAlum Kyle: I have said this before and still believe it today--Jason Bergmann does have the makeup to be a closer--absolutely unhittable at times. And I think it's important that Bergmann came to camp in shape and understanding that if he needed to step up. Manny has challenged him and it looks like he has responded. That's a good thing on all counts.

Screech's Best Friend said...

anonymous at 11:29PM--I believe Hill IS BEING PASSED through waivers right now even though he was released. It's a procedural move. He is not a free agent for at least 48 hours. At least that is my understanding.

Kamau said...

It's not fair to jump all over management about this. Its a tough decision, with both money and health implications. For a change, we have options, and can look to up-coming guys like Zimmermann. It would have been much worse for him to fail again on the MLB stage. Better it happens in the minors.

I am a fan of Shawn Hill and wish him the best. This kind of stuff really cuts deep. But he does walk away with $100k plus, and he might be picked up by another team that needs him.

It would be tragic if the O's picked him up. We get their reject, and they get ours. The upside of a healthy Hill is better than that of a healthy Cabrera methinks.

Davidson said...

I hate the news as well, but this line from the NJ put it into perspective for me, "Since his debut in 2004, he'd won only seven games with a lifetime 4.93 ERA. He never started more than 16 games in a season..."

I thought Hill was a great pitcher and, had he been healthy, had the potential to be one of the greatest. I hate to see him go, but I think it was the right choice for the team.

Let Teddy Win said...

Too bad for Hill that Bowden hasn't landed a job elsewhere.

I'm envisioning a small market franchise filled with cheap ex-Nationals reclamation projects.

Tom said...

AQ: How are you going to keep SBF grounded this season at the games???

The African Queen said...

Tom: SBF knows I can put him in his place. But when it comes to The Nationals, I can't keep him grounded. I can only hope to contain him. :)