Friday, September 6, 2013


Baseball writer Steve Goldman posted today on the Washington Nats painful season.
I felt compelled to respond, and to take a break from Syria.
Steve opens with a shot at one of my favorite NYC hardball scribes, the Daily News' Bill Madden, (whose biography of George Steinbrenner is an outstanding read.) I start with that.  Then, oy, the Nats.
First, let me say, I love Bill Madden, but his judgment on Davey Johnson …disqualified from Hall of Fame consideration because of this terrible Nats’ year… is just absurd.  If Red Schoendienst is in (deservedly, I think), Davey deserves to be.  He was at least as good a second-sacker, not with the glove, but certainly better with the bat, and has had a better career as a manager.

Now, the Nats:  I agree Davey has not done a good job this year, but agree more strongly that the real fault lies with Mike Rizzo and the cards he dealt his manager.

Steve Goldman oddly forgets to mention Rizzo’s dismissal of his 3 capable bullpen lefties (in favor of Zach Duke, no less) which hurt badly for the first half-year.  For the future, Krol looks promising and Abad serviceable, but this is something that must be addressed before next season. 

Was Soriano a good investment?  Maybe.   Was he a big mistake? Not in himself, but as part of the shabby treatment of Drew Storen, it was disastrous.  In short, was last year’s bullpen (except for its last inning) better than this year’s.  Absolutely.  Debit that to the GM.

Notwithstanding Dan Haren’s recent resurgence, he killed the team for the first half of the year, and probably should have been replaced in the rotation by late May.  But, again unaccountably missing from Goldman’s analysis is Taylor Jordan, who gave the Nats virtually nothing but well-pitched starts after Ross Detwiler went down.  With “National Det,” both Johnson and Rizzo saw their dreams rather than the obvious – he was not the same guy as last year after April, but it took a month or more of sticking with him to prove the point.

Why did it take more than half a year for Denard Span to hit like Denard Span?  Some questions do not have answers.  But would an everyday outfield of Michael Morse, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth been better than Harper-Span-Werth?  I think so, even if Morse had gotten hurt here as he did in Seattle and been replaced by Tyler Moore.  I also think, not signing Adam LaRoche and moving Morse to 1B (after making the Span deal) would have been better than 2 years of LaRoche, a great glove, but whose year last year was an obvious “career year” outlier in a remarkably steady playing lifetime. This year is the “bad year” outlier; next year should be just average (.260, 25 HR, 90 RBI), over which a full-time Tyler Moore might be an improvement.

Espinosa’s glove carried him, deservedly, past his sell by date.  Rendon’s second half slump has been worrying, but for me at least, not frightening.  I still think he’s a potential  .300 hitter, if only an average glove. A guy I want to see is Zach Walters of the 29 HR power, if scary 38 errors at Syracuse.  Maybe he or Rendon should go to 3B with bad shoulder = bad throws Ryan Zimmerman moving to 1B.

Steve Lombardozzi is a great utility guy, but if he can be traded for something more valuable, there’s a kid named Josh Johnson, who showed OK defense, hit .300 with no power at SS for both Harrisburg and Syracuse, who might fill the 5th infielder role.

And speaking of minor-leaguers not on Goldman’s radar screen, how about CF Billy Burns?  If Eury Perez makes sense as a September pinch-runner  (he went 23 for 31 stolen bases at Syracuse), doesn’t Burns (who swiped 74 in 81 attempts at Potomac and Harrisburg and out-hit Perez) make more sense?

Young pitchers?  There seem to have been no fewer than 4 at Harrisburg.  Nathan Karns we saw.  The good news is, after his so-so stint in DC, he pitched even better in AA than before his call-up.  Caleb Clay sounds like another Taylor Jordan, not overpowering stuff, but league-leading control, below 3.00 ERA, and lots of consistency at Potomac and Harrisburg.  The hard-throwing hopeful is A J Cole (brought back from Oakland in the Morse deal.) High A-AA combined, 10-5.  And finally, a prospective closer named Aaron Barrett..26 saves at Harrisburg, 7 more at Syracuse.

It’s true there was little pitching, no starters, of interest in Syracuse, but that’s because the Nats, like a growing number of teams, stashed their best prospects at AA.

And with the rest of the schedule loaded up within the NL East, it ain’t over till it’s over.  If we can cream Miami, Philly and NY (as we should) and face down Atlanta (as we haven’t) and one of the 2 Central Division non-winners totally collapses (the longest shot imaginable), …..??

Hope springs eternal (and falls in September?)  


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