Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Character Matters

On tonight's Hot Stove show originally airing on January 19th, MLB Network produced a beautiful seven minute story on the Eckstein Family and their three generation struggle dealing with kidney disease. As some Nationals Fans may know, Our Washington Nationals Batting Coach recently donated his right kidney to his brother Ken--who was in dire need of a matching kidney to survive.

The transplant took place in early December and both are doing well today. But that wasn't the only significant part of this piece. Rick and Dave Eckstein's two sisters and their father all have received transplants over the years. And they've all handled it with class.

Touching and heartwarming describe the feelings shown, but personal character stood out the most in this wonderful story.

We don't know if MLB Network will put the Bob Costas narrated piece up on their website, but if you have a DVR or can see Hot Stove on one of its replays over the next 15 hours--this is MUST SEE TV. The story airs at the bottom of the hour--31 minutes into the program.

And the story ends with Dave Eckstein mentioning how he just found out he's a perfect match for his sister, who is in the early stages of rejecting a kidney transplant from their mother in 1989.

Of course, Dave Eckstein can't wait to donate himself.

Character really does matter and this story was as good as it gets.

Photos shot off MLB Network

Encouraging Words About Chien-Ming Wang

The most encouraging words stated today about Chien-Ming Wang since the day he signed with Our Washington Nationals last spring. Mike Rizzo commenting on his condition during a conference call with reporters this afternoon:

"He's coming in at the beginning of spring training. He's throwing off the mound and working out in Arizona as we speak. He's not in rehabilitation mode right now. He's in preparation mode to get ready for spring training."

If Chien-Ming Wang is truly ready to pitch again, he's a big upgrade for Our Washington Nationals starting rotation in 2011.

Being Competent

UPDATE: Pitcher J.D. Martin unconditionally released to add Adam LaRoche officially to the 40-Man Roster.

Apparently shutout in his efforts this off-season to land a top of the rotation starter, Mike Rizzo hasn't used that as an excuse in his efforts to build a competent and competitive roster for the upcoming 2011 season.  Today's signing of all-around utility player Jerry Hairston, Jr. to a one-year contract may have been one of Our Washington Nationals General Manager's better decisions all winter.

Except for catcher and pitcher, the 34-year old can play every other position on the diamond. Defensively, Hairston's pretty solid. Offensively, Jerry has some pop left in his bat and can still even steal a base here and there. Better yet, Jerry Hairston, Jr. goes to the ballpark with a smile on his face every single day. He's the type of player fans like to root for.

Back in the early 2000's, Jerry Hairston, Jr. didn't become the star player The Baltimore Orioles believed back then. But he did develop into a competent and professional baseball player. Just like the organization Mike Rizzo is competently putting together over at Nationals Park these days.  There is Big League Depth at every position now. No longer are the days when a everyday player goes down, the replacement is a struggling minor leaguer.

Jayson Werth was Rizzo's "Wow Factor" signing at the Winter Meetings. Every roster move since has been a move of need.  Take a look at what Mike Rizzo has accomplished.

Washington needed a solid defensive minded first baseman--Adam LaRoche was signed for two years.

Rizzo needed a better bench for Jim Riggleman to manage games--signed were Matt Stairs, Alex Cora, Rick Ankiel and now Jerry Hairston, Jr. Corey Brown was traded for in a deal for Josh Willingham.

Unable to get that top of the rotation starter, Rizzo needed not just numbers, but pitchers with Major League experience.  Mike picked up flame thrower Henry Rodriguez as a potential closer, signed pitcher Chad Gaudin as a free agent, added reliever Todd Coffey today and traded for lefty hurler Tom Gorzelanny for three Nats minor leaguers yesterday. Three youngsters, by the way, whose chances of being impact players for the big club were slim.

Our Washington Nationals are probably not contenders just yet, but for the first time in the six years since baseball returned to the Nation's Capital, there is a solid crop of young players coming through the minor league pipeline to the big league roster nearly all at once--Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos, Drew Storen and Bryce Harper.

Ryan Zimmerman is still the face of this franchise, but Jayson Werth is his new sidekick. LaRoche making it a trio. Washington may be as solid as any team in the National League behind the plate with Pudge Rodriguez, Ramos and Jesus Flores. Up the middle, Desmond, Espinosa, Alberto Gonzalez, Hairston, Jr, Nyjer Morgan or Roger Bernadina can pick the baseball with some of the best in the game.

Starting pitching wise, Jordan Zimmermann stands out for his youth, aggressiveness and talent, but behind him stands a solid group of professionals in Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Jason Marquis and now Gorzelanny. Not overpowering, but competent.  Ross Detwiler and Yunesky Maya need to step things up, but those two don't have to begin the 2011 pressured to making the rotation.  That's a big step up from previous years.

And Washington's bullpen with Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Doug Slaten, Craig Stammen, Collin Balester, Storen, Rodriguez, and a few other up and coming youngsters is solid.

In fact, if Stephen Strasburg wasn't unfortunately out for the majority of this season with his injury rehab, don't you think the prospects for Our Washington Nationals 2011 would be considerably higher? We do.
We can clearly remember Mike Rizzo telling Sohna and I after a press conference recently at Nationals Park that he see's Stephen Strasburg as his big 2012 Free Agent signing. A big piece to the puzzle necessary to make the next big step.

But it's clear that Our General Manager is piecing the puzzle together right now, knowing that when Strasburg does fully recover, Our Washington Nationals can not only make the next big step, but be competitive for the division title as well.

Mike Rizzo is being competent without giving away the farm nor the future.

PS: By the way--don't you get this feeling that all of these signings and trades for Big League Talent is setting up another trade or two down the line? Without Gorzelanny or Coffey being added to the 40-Man Roster officially--Washington has 24 pitchers active. They also have eight outfielders.  Rizzo might not be done yet.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Five More Minutes With Adam LaRoche

In the home clubhouse at Nationals Park yesterday afternoon, Adam LaRoche spoke with the media again for about five minutes--taking some followup questions after his introduction. Here is the transcript to that Q & A.

Question: Did you have it in the back of your mind that this was where you wanted to be? Was it stressful waiting for a deal to be struck?

LaRoche: A little bit. Anytime, financially or however long you have been around the game, you are sitting at home unemployed--you wonder how long it is going to take. Where are we going? Let’s get something done. It never got to that point, but it definitely got to where I told Mike (Milchin), my agent, that if this (coming to Washington) was a real possibility let’s move on it because with the five or six options--whether it was a one-year deal or a three-year deal, this was where I wanted to go and luckily got it done.

Question: You alluded to it in the press conference, what do you see that Mike Rizzo is doing here? He’s hasn’t been able to land the pitcher he wanted, but how do you see the direction of this club heading?

LaRoche: Well I can tell you how I saw it playing against these guys for a few years. And that was it was pretty comfortable coming in here to play a series. It’s no disrespect at all, as I was on The Pirates for a couple of years and it was the same way. There was no fear of any team coming in (to play Washington). Last year in Arizona, a little bit different story. For the most part, we had our work cut out for us--no matter who we were playing. You kind of lose that edge, especially when you are playing at home, where a team comes in and says: we better strap it on this is going to be a tough series. You are automatically in the drivers seat. So that’s where they (Washington) want to end up here. And every team I have ever been on--you have that attitude from the get-go. Guys who say: yeah, we lost tonight, but who cares because we are going to win the next four out of five. You are just that confident.

Question: How much does that feeling increase now since you are back in the NL East?

LaRoche: Well, there is no question that to be successful here you are going up against a couple of really good teams that consistently put out and field good teams. It won’t be easy, but I think you have got to start somewhere. They’ve obviously done that this year, being at the bottom of the division. They are ready to make the move.

Question: Do you know Desmond, Espinosa and Zimmerman?

LaRoche: Zim, yeah, because of playing against him. Espinosa, not at all. I’ve seen Desmond play short enough to know that he’s really good, an incredible talent. How old is he?

Reporter: 25.

LaRoche: He’s an incredible talent, especially at shortstop. That is a position where it’s just trial and error. For those guys, it’s finding out what works, what works for you. And from what I’ve seen, the potential is unbelievable over there.

Question: You are a hunter, known for using a bow. Are you looking to find out if there are other hunters on the team?

LaRoche: That will be my first search in spring training to find out who are the fellow rednecks on the team (good amount of laughter). That’s good to know as I’ve been pretty public about my love for hunting and being outside. It’s always good. There always seems to be a ton of ballplayers that do that, so it’s good to run into them.

Question: Adam, any progress with Andy (Adam’s brother and former teammate in Pittsburgh)? Is there a possibility he could come here and would he accept a backup role if he did come here?

LaRoche: I would hope that would be a possibility. Obviously, it’s not my decision. I can put in a good word for him anytime. But I don’t know. That was one of the best years of my career, other than losing as much as we did, but seeing him across the diamond and share a locker right next to him was unbelievable. If that could ever happen again, we would both do everything we can. He’s in some talks with a few different clubs, three American League teams. Again, he’s getting up there a little bit in age to where he needs to get some money where he can. But also young enough to still want to get in there and be an everyday player. So he’s kind of right on the bubble and needs some good things to happen.

Photo Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Rizzo On LaRoche, Being Patient & Intelligent

After yesterday's Introductory Press Conference With Adam LaRoche, Nats320 chatted with Our Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo about the latest addition to his roster, as well as, attempting to improve the ball club in other areas this off-season. Here is that conversation with Mike Rizzo.

Nats320: We wanted to ask if you feel LaRoche improves everyone’s defense in the infield?

Mike Rizzo: With any elite defensive 1st baseman, I believe it improves all aspects of defense. His range at 1st base, his hands at 1st base, the confidence the other players have in getting rid of a ball and getting it in the vicinity (of 1st base) and knowing that it is going to be caught, picked and that type of thing is important. So there is a confidence factor in that and there is an actual physical factor where he is going to get the balls that a lot of 1st basemen don’t get to. He’s going to get a lot of throws that a lot of 1st basemen don’t get to. And to be honest with you, I like having a left-handed throwing 1st baseman. It’s just something that I’ve always liked.

Nats320: Why?

Rizzo: I think they turn more double plays. It’s an easier double play to turn when you are holding the runner on and you get a ground ball. It’s a much easier throw to second base and for you to get back to 1st. A right-handed 1st baseman either has to pivot one way or the other, make a full turn, or do the jump pivot. That’s difficult to do and that makes it difficult to turn double plays 3-6-3 or 3-6-1. I just believe having a left-handed thrower there improves those odds.

Nats320: How about offensively? This winter, a lot of time passed before you were able to sign LaRoche. How important was it to have a lefty batter back in the middle of your lineup?

Rizzo: I call it being patient. We were patient to get the right guy to play 1st base for us. We could have gotten a lot of guys to play 1st base for us. We wanted this particular guy. We were patient in going after him. We were diligent in our attention for him and got him at the end of the day. I thought it was important to balance the lineup offensively with a left-handed bat. I didn’t think it was vital because good hitters hit lefties and righties. And that’s how I felt about several of the 1st basemen out there. But this guy (LaRoche) gives us the right age, hits from the correct side we wanted, had the skill-set that I really admire and liked. He’s an athletic guy that can run and go 1st to 3rd and 2nd to home on the right kind of base hits. And as we have been preaching, speed athleticism and defense goes hand-in-hand to a better pitching staff and that’s what we are trying to get.

Nats320: How gratifying was it for you to hear LaRoche say that Adam Dunn and Matt Capps and other players had recommended Washington?

Rizzo: I thought it was great! We loved all those players that you just mentioned. I think that is the first step into changing the reputation of the franchise around. When you have big-time Major League players saying good things about you and, more or less, recruiting players to come here--maybe without even knowing it--I think that says a lot about where we are going and the current condition of where we are at.

Nats320: It’s the chicken and egg thing. Do you have to win first, or find the players?

Rizzo: Yeah, (chuckling). It’s a good question. It’s tough. It’s tough. But as Adam (LaRoche) said, there is no one that wants to win more than I do. There is no one working harder than our front office in trying to put together a winning ball club. You have to do it intelligently. It’s frustrating at times not to go for the quick fix--that type of thing. But as we have seen with the building up of our minor league system; where we are at with our Major League Franchise; what players are saying about us; and what the industry thinks of us--we are certainly going in the right direction and we are not nearly where we want to be at.

Nats320: Speaking then on intelligence as you just said. Is that why it is important to trade away Josh Willingham and get two younger players in return?

Rizzo: You have to make long-term decisions. Josh was a terrific player and person for us. We just felt it was time to move him, not so much because of Josh Willingham, but because of what we had there to replace him with. We feel we can replace Josh’s offensive production with a platoon system in left field (Roger Bernadina, Michael Morse, Rick Ankiel) and get much better defensively. And to tack on to that, you are going to get young players (in Henry Rodriguez and Corey Brown) who are going to help our Major League Club, if not immediately, but in the very short term.

Nats320: You feel Washington is becoming a destination stop for players?

Rizzo: This is a great city, with a great fan base. And I can’t wait to give this fan base a taste of winning baseball because they are certainly deserving of it. And from what I have seen, the fans around here are ravenous. They love the Nats and they are going to show up and be a terrific fan base for us.

Photo Copyright--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 14, 2011

Adam LaRoche Introductory Press Conference

"You are going to have your hot streaks. You are going to have your slumps. While your defense, especially on the infield and in my position--I have the chance to bail guys out a lot. I can make them look really bad or I can make them look pretty good and vice versa. It’s something I have always taken pride in. I love when those guys make a great play and errant throw and I am able to bail them out and potentially save some runs."

In his introductory news conference before the Washington media this afternoon, Adam LaRoche displayed a quiet confidence at Nationals Park. Our Washington Nationals newest player also said he came to the Nation's Capital to win:

"I think I can speak for everybody here that they (The Nationals) are just tired of losing and that is why all of these moves are taking place and moving in a positive direction."

Wearing uniform Number 25, previously worn by Nats Wil Cordero, Ryan Zimmerman (in September 2005), Marlon Byrd, Austin Kearns, Carlos Maldonaldo & Tyler Walker (Drew Storen wished to wear Number 25 in 2011 but LaRoche has seniority, thus Storen will now wear 22)--Adam LaRoche answered questions for about 20 minutes today before the Meet & Greet broke up for individual one-on-ones with participants. With that, here is the complete transcript from today's Introductory Press Conference with Adam LaRoche.

John Dever (Senior Director, Baseball Public Relations): Good Afternoon everybody. I would like to thank everyone for being with us here today at Nationals Park. And I would also like to say hello to our fan base tuning in today on MASN. Thanks for spending a part of your Friday afternoon with us. One quick reminder, just 32 days from now pitchers and catcher report to Spring Training at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida. So it’s coming fast and we are looking forward to a great 2011.

 Well, a week ago today, The Nationals announced the signing of 1st Baseman Adam LaRoche to a two-year contract. A consistent power threat, Adam has hit 20 or more home runs each of the last six seasons and his ability to hit for power from the left side of our lineup balances the lineup that will now feature some combination of Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth in the middle of that lineup. This signing is also consistent with the organization’s philosophy as Adam is regarded as an elite defender at 1st base where he will positively impact the entire infield, as well as, our young pitching staff.

Now that we know a little bit about Adam, let’s meet him. And to help do this today, I would like to introduce Nationals Field Manager Jim Riggleman, our newest National Adam LaRoche, and Mike Rizzo--the Nationals VP of Baseball Operations and General Manager. And at this time, I would like to acknowledge and recognize Adam’s wife, Jennifer, and welcome her to the Nationals' Family. In a moment, Mike will make a brief statement and then we will head into the traditional jersey unveiling. Then he (Adam) will return to his seat and have a brief opening statement of his own.

So Mike, if you could get us started, I would appreciate it.

Mike Rizzo: Great, thanks John. Good afternoon everybody. Thank you for coming to what is a very important day and a very enjoyable day for The Washington Nationals Family. We get to unveil, if you will, our newest prize--1st Baseman Adam LaRoche. This is a player we identified early in the process as a guy that fit perfectly for our ball club, offensively, defensively and from the left side of the plate--great character, on and off the field--good in the dugout--good in the clubhouse--good in the community. So we feel that without further ado, announce the newest member of The Washington Nationals Family--Adam LaRoche.

Applause followed by the customary donning of the jersey and handshake. The actual hat was too big for LaRoche and there was some light-hearted laughter over the moment.

Adam LaRoche: Just real quick. I want to thank Mike and Jim and my agent, Mike Milchin. You guys had some pretty good battles in getting this done and I am glad it worked out. It’s great to be here. I love the direction this team is going and what Mike has done so far. And I think this is a great start. It’s going to be a fun year and, again, we only just about 30 days away. We are all ready to get out there. Thank you.

Question: Adam, congratulations. I spoke to Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett (former teammates in Pittsburgh) and they say you bring leadership both on and off the field. Can you elaborate on your leadership you bring to the Nationals?

LaRoche: Hold on here, I got some issues with some buttons here (as he re-buttons his jersey--chuckles). I think a lot of that comes with some experience and getting to play in the big leagues now for going on eight years. A lot of the guys I came up with in Atlanta were kind of my mentors in watching (John) Smoltz, Chipper (Jones) and Andruw Jones and those guys--and the way they handled themselves. And in the way, Bobby (Cox) handled his club. And to see that for three years was really as good as it gets--as far as seeing how the game is supposed to be played and seeing how you are suppose to handle yourself on the field, in the clubhouse, media--you name it. So I came up in some pretty good hands and I have been lucky to pass that on to some other guys.

Question: At what point in the off-season did the Nationals get on your radar and what put them there? And showing you that they are ready to compete?

LaRoche: I don’t know. I don’t know an exact date--you might know (looking at Rizzo)? It was early on when we started talking. And again, it was a place I wanted to end up. There was obviously a few teams out there in the mix. I can remember telling my agent, Mike--I said that if this is all possible let’s get this done in Washington. And then obviously signing (Jayson) Werth was huge. You put a guy like that not only in the clubhouse but also in the middle of the lineup and playing rightfield is obviously a huge pickup. And I think if we keep adding pieces, this could be a really good thing.

Question: Roy Clark was the scouting director with the Braves when you were drafted and is the assistant GM here now. What is your relationship with him and did he have any influence on you coming here?

LaRoche: No. I haven’t talked to Roy. I talked to him last year, but I haven’t talked to him this winter. I am looking forward to it. I always enjoy sitting down with him. We had some good times in Atlanta there coming up--when he was down on the field a lot more--especially down in the minor leagues. So yeah, it will be good to catch up to him.

Question: In terms of perception of the franchise, the Nationals, has that changed among players with the Harper thing, Strasburg thing and obviously, the Jayson Werth signing? Has it flipped the image of the organization?

LaRoche: I think it has helped. I think that is still something you have to earn. You have to do it with going out and winning. This is definitely a good start. I think I can speak for everybody here that they are just tired of losing and that is why all of these moves are taking place--and moving in a positive direction. But yeah, I think that as far as the respect from other teams and getting other teams to come in here and actually be nervous--and not looking forward to playing the Nationals--is the ultimate goal. But that takes time and just going out there and proving it.

Question: Looking back to last year, you got off to a great start. Do you think that puts to bed some of the talk about you getting off the slow starts? And if that is the case, what was different last year?

LaRoche: Absolutely nothing. I haven’t changed. Early on, it got frustrating having a slow start and totally opposite first and second halves. That’s something where now at the end of the year I am in a pretty good spot. I think last year definitely helped, to answer your question. I didn’t change anything. I didn’t do anything differently in preparation during the off-season. It was just one of those years where it started to click early and it was good to have that personally--to know this is not a yearly thing.

Question: Have you given much thought, now that you are signed sealed and delivered, what hitting in the middle of this lineup with Zimm and Werth might be like?

LaRoche: It will be a really good situation. It will be nice to help protect those guys a little bit--however that works out in the lineup. That’s not up to me, but I’ve always said I like to be in a position to drive in runs. And there’s been teams where I’ve been in the three and four holes, and teams where I have hit sixth--and had plenty of opportunities to do that. So yeah, depending on how we work things out, I think we can help each other, help protect each other and feed off of that.

Question: In an interview this week, you mentioned former and current Nationals you have spoken with. Could you share how they have influenced you in making the decision to come here?

LaRoche: Yeah. Obviously, we all talk a lot in the winter, especially with ex-teammates and current teammates. I talked with Matt Capps a little bit. He obviously loved it here. A great guy who I have a lot of respect for. He flat out came out and said it’s a great place to play. Adam Dunn, the same way. He was here a couple of years. He said the direction they are going from the front office to field operations, the coaching staff--everything is first class. And he totally recommended coming here. When you hear that from guys who have been around, guys you respect, and from guys who have been here and played here--it makes that decision pretty easy.

Question: Can you talk about how much pride you take in your defense and how much you value that and how that is going to help the team?

LaRoche: Yeah, I do. I have always said that hitting is streaky. You are going to have your hot streaks. You are going to have your slumps. While your defense, especially on the infield and in my position--I have the chance to bail guys out a lot. I can make them look really bad or I can make them look pretty good and vice versa. It’s something I have always taken pride in. I love when those guys make a great play and errant throw and I am able to bail them out and potentially save some runs. I think pitchers appreciate it just as much as the guy that threw the ball in the dirt. Obviously, it helps them, it saves them from throwing more pitches and runs and ultimately--games. So yeah, it’s something I work hard on and, again, I like it that I can pick those guys up as much as anything.

Question: Did you place any premium on staying in the National League?

LaRoche: A little bit. A little bit. This has been my whole career if you discount the week I was in Boston. I played in the American League briefly. I’ve been in the National League since 2004. If there was any chance of staying here, obviously depending on the situation, this is where I wanted to be and hopefully can finish off my career here.

Question: You mentioned you spoke to Adam Dunn who was a productive player here and very popular both in teammates and fans. Do you put any pressure on yourself to either match or somehow provide an adequate replacement for Dunn in terms of the clubhouse impact?

LaRoche: No, I don’t at all. I don’t compare myself to Adam Dunn. We are two different players other than we play the same position. Again, I have a lot of respect for him but I’ve never played with him. So as far as his presence, the clubhouse and his day-to-day business, I am not too familiar with. I play my own game. I am not going to come in and put pressure on myself to try to do what he did and match his numbers--good or bad--defense, offense. And I am sure he is the same way.

Question: Over the past couple of years, you’ve actually hit well here at Nationals Park. Anything that makes you feel a little more comfortable here at Nationals Park?

LaRoche: No, not really. I enjoy playing here. I’ve been able to come here quite a bit, obviously being in the National League and playing in the east a little bit. But I don’t know, whether it’s the backdrop or what it is? Some fields, it’s funny, you see the ball great and other guys don’t. And in other places, you don’t see it real good. I didn’t know that, so that is good to know that I see the ball well here. Thank you. (chuckles all around)

Question: Jim Riggleman could you talk about how much Adam will improve the defense in the infield?

Riggleman: The ball club was making strides last year. Our guys put a lot of work in. Everybody worked very hard. We, just as a group, hit times where the defense wasn’t where we wanted it to be. Adam Dunn worked very hard for us. Adam was such a big guy and he did some good things over there for us. So we will never, maybe, totally appreciate some of the things he did. Adam worked very hard, as has been spoken a lot here. He’s a great teammate, but we feel like with Adam LaRoche and with the defense Werth can give us--the continued development of (Ian) Desmond and (Danny) Espinosa, Zimmerman speaks for himself over there at third base--we feel like collectively it’s just one more athletic guy that can we can put out there. And moves us more in that direction of just putting more guys out there defensively that are not just good defenders, like in Adam’s (LaRoche’s) case and a few others--but outstanding defenders.

Question: You’ve had a well-publicized struggle with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). And I know you’ve struggled with the medication as well. Is that something now resolved and how do you feel about that?

LaRoche: I feel fine. That’s one thing that got overblown a little bit. I did come out and talk about ADD and about the medication and how much it helped. But yeah, it’s been fine. It’s something, I think back in 2005, where I said I need to find out what’s going on? And sure enough, this has helped. I take it (medication). And I take daily. I can not take it and still function. I think a lot of people think if I don’t take it my wife has got to spoon feed me. (laughter) But thankfully, it’s not that severe. It definitely helps. And it’s something I think the league is really cracking down on. It’s not easy, but it’s going on five or so years and I’ve had no problems.

Question: Jim, where do you see Adam hitting in your lineup?

Jim Riggleman: We scratch out lineups all the time, pretty much through the last game of last season and thinking about the next--putting lineups down on napkins and so forth. But, I think sometimes we can over think it a little bit. I think Adam said it. He can be productive in several spots. I think we will let spring training determine what we direction we will go with 3-4-5 with Zimmerman, Werth and LaRoche or Zimmerman, LaRoche or Werth. We can play around with it. You’ve got three good hitters right there that sometimes, as again Adam said, will struggle a little bit with the bat. You might move them up and down a slot to get a different feel. You are stepping in the batters box and changing things up a bit. But ultimately, we are just fortunate to have all three of them there. I don’t know if it’s really going to matter where they are hitting.

With that final answer, the introductory press conference with Adam LaRoche concluded. More coming later on Nats320.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

March 30th--The 2011 NatsFest Date

Our Washington Nationals announced late this afternoon that the 2011 NatsFest for all fans will take place on Wednesday, March 30th just prior to the beginning of the regular season schedule. There will be no Winter FanFest and, since there was no mention of a Hot Stove Luncheon--that event is apparently out for this year too. That also means the special Season Ticket Holder exclusive get together with players held during late March each of the past two years at Nationals Park is out as well.

Here is the complete press release from the team:


This year’s celebration will offer greater access to Nationals players and coaches

For the first time ever, the Washington Nationals will host the annual NatsFest at the start of the 2011 season on Wednesday, March 30 so that more fans than ever before can celebrate the beginning of baseball alongside Nationals players, coaches and team personnel at Nationals Park. This unprecedented move will offer fans access to a fun-filled festival featuring a variety of activities that include the team’s 2011 roster.

“The feedback we received from our fans this offseason convinced us to do something new, exciting and unique,” Nationals Chief Operating Officer Andrew C. Feffer said. “Unlike previous years, the 2011 NatsFest will be more inclusive for all our fans and offer them opportunities to interact with their favorite Nationals. Through this event, we hope to engage our fans like never before and get them excited for what is sure to be an electrifying baseball season.”

The Third Annual NatsFest will be open to fans of all ages and includes opportunities to watch the Nationals practice, enjoy a meet-and-greet with players and coaches, and much more. A full schedule of events will be available in the coming weeks.

The cost of the event is $10 for adults and $5 for children under the age of 12. Season ticket holders will receive complimentary event tickets in their season ticket package. Parking will be available in Nationals Park Garages B and C, located on N Street SE between South Capitol Street and First Street.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Team Doesn't Say No On 2011 NatsFest & Winter Caravan. But Doesn't Say Yes Either

The Washington Post reported this morning Our Washington Nationals would not hold a 2011 Winter Caravan and a FanFest would be held in late March just before the beginning of the baseball season's regular schedule.

Questioning that bit of news to the team, this was the response given.

Nats320: The Washington Post is reporting the Washington Nationals WILL NOT hold a Winter FanFest or Winter Caravan this January or February in the Washington, D.C. area.  Is that true?

Nationals: We are still finalizing all of our programs and scheduling.

Now they didn't say no. But no one has said yes either.

Personally, we believe the Winter Caravan, NatFest & Hot Stove Luncheon should take place in late January or early February as a kick off to the upcoming season and spring training every single year--without exception. With so many other diversions to take a fan's interest away over the long fall & winter months in the D.C. area, it's integral that Our Washington Nationals keep Major League Baseball out in the forefront as much as possible. Meet & Greets and team sponsored events help maintain the interest level.

There is no question about that.

Year after year, these events have gotten better. And there is really no reason to stop doing so now.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Adam LaRoche

A few years ago at Turner Field, Our Washington Nationals were playing The Atlanta Braves when Nick Johnson hit a little dribbler down the 1st base line toward Atlanta 1st Baseman Adam LaRoche. Now as everyone recalls, Nicky wasn't the fleetest of foot even then. But somehow Johnson beat LaRoche to the bag and was called safe when Adam appeared lost for a split second.

Immediately, most every single story about that incident mentioned that Adam LaRoche has ADD--Attention Deficit Disorder. I've never forgotten that moment and that was, of course, the first thought that came to mind when Washington reportedly signed Adam LaRoche this evening to a two-year contract with a mutual option for a third.

LaRoche is a league average player with some pop in his bat. And despite ADD, LaRoche is going to catch more errant throws around the bag defensively than Adam Dunn was capable. That's all fine.

But we are not exactly sure why if LaRoche was, indeed, the last 1st Baseman standing available (which no other team was willing to sign)--why was he then able to get such a rich contract of $7 million & $8 million per year (with a $10 million mutual option for 2013 or a $1 million buyout) from Washington?

Even though Washington was clearly in the hole at 1st Base after letting Adam Dunn walk with no one else on the horizon, do you really have to put that much money on the table for a league average player?

Signing Adam LaRoche is fine, especially since it's not for long term. We just need to understand the contract.

NatsFest 2011 & The Winter Caravan Update

A lot of people have been asking if Our Washington Nationals will hold their annual NatsFest & Winter Caravan this off-season leading up to the beginning of Spring Training 2011?  As always, Nats320 asked and this was the official answer.

According to the team this afternoon, the dates and details have yet to be finalized, but an announcement is expected in the next couple of weeks.

Using today, January 4th, as a guideline, that still leaves the last week of January and the first week of February in play. In the past two years, NatsFest has occurred during the off-week before the NFL's Super Bowl.  The Super Bowl this season is scheduled for Sunday, February 6th in Arlington, Texas.

Also, we've read some comments about NatsFest possibly being held in late February or early March, but that doesn't make much sense if the object of the get together is to meet the players and coaches.  The team will be in Viera, Florida at Spring Training, meaning there would be no drawing cards for fans.

Once more information becomes available, we will pass it along.

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