Monday, May 17, 2010

Odds & Ends

There have been a few things on our minds over the past week they we haven't had the opportunity to express. So we've cobbled them all together for this posting of Odds & Ends.

When Brian Bruney was Designated For Assignment yesterday, Our Washington Nationals continued their maturation as a franchise. Mike Rizzo has been stoic in letting players go--even if it's his own guy--in order to move forward. Our General Manager made a similar move when he released Elijah Dukes in spring training. And over the course of his first year in charge of making player personnel decisions--hasn't hesitated to move through any number of relievers named Taverez, Hinckley and Wells. Riz also didn't pause to trade Lastings Milledge & Joel Hanrahan to Pittsburgh for Nyjer Morgan & Sean Burnett.

Mike Rizzo gives every player their chance. And if any one fails, he moves that player on and doesn't look back.

Speaking of giving players a chance--can you imagine what Our Washington Nationals would be like WITHOUT Pudge Rodriguez in their everyday lineup? Yes, Ivan has slumped of late at the plate, and many in baseball laughed at Our General Manager when Washington signed him over the winter. But there were few signings that stabilized a needed position more than Pudge Rodriguez becoming starting catcher for Our Washington Nationals. Rizzo knew Jesus Flores would not be ready this spring and he knew Washington's pitchers needed leadership behind the plate. Rodriguez has done everything the team has asked him to do--and then some.

You can see this aspect of Jim Riggleman's managerial skills better when attending any home game as it plays out on the front steps of the dugout throughout the game. Riggleman wants to be near the action. And he wants to be able to get a point across to his players at a moment's notice. Watch the next time Washington is batting at Nationals Park and Our Manager is addressing something with the on-deck hitter, or the batter in the hole. Sometimes, you can see Riggleman, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham & Pudge Rodriguez all leaning forward on the home dugout steps and discussing things. And the subject is not where they are all going for dinner. There is a serious business approach there that's worth watching.

Jim Riggleman has also done a good job of rotating Ian Desmond, Cristian Guzman and Adam Kennedy throughout his lineups. He's given "The Guz" and Adam substantial At-Bats without hindering Desmond's rookie progress. That's good managing.

Nyjer Morgan needs to be a better leadoff hitter. His bunting has been less than satisfactory. He's capable of better. And when he gets on-base, Nyjer's been thrown out waaaaay too much. It's almost like Morgan is trying to do too much. He wants to be the catalyst. But instead of letting the game come to him, he's letting the game get to him.

You get what you get with Adam Dunn at 1st Base. He's not agile and Dunn's played better than anyone expected. But Adam really needs to catch those baseballs thrown directly into his mitt. It's really not that hard and Our Number 44 needs to do better.

Wil Nieves told The African Queen and I this recently and it just stuck in our heads. The difference between 2009 and 2010 is that when Our Washington Nationals report to the clubhouse each day--they expect to win. In 2009, and even in 2008, he said, Washington almost expected to lose. The attitude has changed so much and that development has made playing baseball more fun than ever again. Interestingly, Mike Rizzo responded in the affirmative when we asked Our General Manager about Nieves' comment. "We needed to change the culture here," he stated--as Rizzo went on to comment about the number of All-Stars, Gold Glove Winners and World Series Championship Ring holders that have helped transform Washington's Clubhouse Attitude.

Finally--we just had to mention the Mother's Day surprise at Nationals Park on May 9th when My Best Friend!! Screech!! showed up along with his Mom for the afternoon. Totally unexpected and downright funny. I don't think there was a soul sitting in Section 218 that was not rolling over in laughter each and every time Screech & his Mom showed up between innings. A great use of the Original Screech outfit and hilarious to see in person.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

SenatorNat said...

The Nats have the right structure in place from almost top to bottom for the first time, and it is showing. When I say, almost top, I mean that the ownership, while far more realistic than when it took over in mid-2006 about what it takes to have a winning franchise, is still running on a $50 million payroll, presume 1.5 million fans per year basis. This needs to move up to $75 million payroll, presume 2.5 million fans, with the $75 million coming first - translated, would mean, betting the $20 million net profit, after retiring pro-rated capital investment, into payroll. Tough times to do it - but necessary.

Regardless, things are on-track for a decent season as base for a winning one in 2011. Truth is: due to relatively strong start (presume 20-20), Kasten, Rizzo, & Riggleman managing affairs to make a run at the Wild Card in 2010. Odds are very long for that, though, since rookies Desmond and Bernadina would have to hit .275 ball or so over the course of the year; Storen and Strasburg will both have to contribute from June-September; Wang and Marquis will have to contribute after the All-Star Break; and EVERYONE MUST STAY HEALTHY. Team is still operating with Zimmerman as its fulcrum.

I like the measured way that the brass is going about treating this season as one not to be wasted entirely as a building year - evidence of that when they jettisoned the first major free agent acquision in Bruney in order to shore-up bullpen. But, it was also not a panic move, as Storen clearly has received ample experience in almost full season since signing in the minors. He is likely to quickly move over Clip as set-up guy for Capps (move from "Clip and Save" to "Store and Save"), permitting Clip to do his thing earlier. When Strasburg joins rotation in early June, this should permit brass to move Stammen to long relief, where he belongs, and let Batista go, too. Could be a terrific bullpen at that point!

Wang should replace Atilano in July, and then, starting rotation could be potentially VERY strong, presuming Livo is good for the whole season: Livo; Olsen; Strasburg; Lannan; Wang in no particular order. (Marquis potentially back to fill-in in August, and Detwiler someone available too therein.
Point is that the potential is there and it is very exciting for us real fans - miracles do occur, and this team, coupled with the parity among NL teams outside of Philadelphia and St.Louis enables a miraculous scenario to play out.
But, realistically, a 2010 team which can win 74 games and provide great baseline experience for Desmond; Bernadina; Storen; Strasburg, and solidify the relationships between and among the brass, Riggleman, the players, and the system, will be a solid year.

As to the fanbase, while it is a building process, there will have to be some casting of bread on the water for them to come in numbers - signing Bryce Harper for $8.5 million, or so, in mid-August, will be another good sign, but signing Jason Werth or the likes is going to have to go with it for fans to start to buy in advance.

Truth is: 2006-2008 was a disasterous start for the Lerners, and they are paying for it after the fact. Not that they aren't making money despite this and the curse of the missing Iconic Baseball over the Red Loft!

Trust in the faithful fans. And two men in Rizzo and Riggleman they can put that faith in. All playinglike a Strasburg...