Posted on: February 21, 2012 2:24 pm

Harper wants to start the season in D.C.

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Bryce Harper showed up at the Nationals' training camp on Tuesday morning and said he's hoping to start the season with the big-league team.

"I'm going to work as hard as I can, keep my mouth shut and play," Harper told reporters, including Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. "I'm going to make their decision hard as much as I can. I want to be up here. I want to play, and I want to play in D.C."

Harper said something similar last season -- even though there was no shot he'd break camp with the team. This year's different. Manager Davey Johnson has asked Rizzo to keep an open mind in the decision about Harper.

Nobody expects Harper to say any less, but the fact he used those words is probably a good sign for Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo who recently said he wanted Harper to mature before bringing him up.

Harper said he's not too worried about the reaction to his Twitter ramblings or the reaction to his aspiration of being a modern-day Joe Namath man-about-town.

"I'm going to get blown up either way, whether I say something right or say something wrong," Harper told Kilgore. "That's just how it's going to be. There's nothing I can really do about that. Maybe there's sometimes I should keep my mouth shut. I need to grow up in that aspect, I guess. But I feel good about what I say, and I'm not going to back down from anything."

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Posted on: February 20, 2012 7:37 pm

Rendon, Zimmerman not battling at third base, yet

By Matt Snyder

Much of the attention in Nationals camp this spring will focus on the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Gio Gonzalez. There will surely be talk of Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos and Mike Morse for varying reasons as well. But a major storyline that's lying in the weeds and could be an issue as soon as 2013 is Ryan Zimmerman vs. 2011 first-round pick Anthony Rendon at third base.

Rendon, 21, is a third baseman by trade, though he had played second base some in college, too. Speculation from many of the scouting websites (Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, etc.) have him being big-league ready very soon, as early as the start of the 2013 season. And they also say he's best suited for third base, even a plus defender there, while he'd be below average at second or short.

Of course, in Zimmerman, the Nationals have a 27-year-old third baseman who has won a Gold Glove. The issue, however, is that Zimmerman regressed on defense in 2011. Injuries hampered his range (Fangraphs.com's UZR/150 score for Zimmerman was 17.8 in 2010 and -4.4 in 2011) and he had to develop a new throwing motion to try and protect himself from further injury. That new throwing motion caused accuracy issues, too. The Nats Blog made a good case a few weeks ago that Zimmerman could easily be the Nationals' first baseman of the future, with Rendon sliding right in at third.

For now, Zimmerman is saying all the right things.

“I think I want to play third base until someone is better than me at it,” Zimmerman said (Nationals Journal). “I think there’s teams that move people. I’ve said it all along — I want to be here as long as I can. I want to play my whole career here. If that means me playing third base for five more years and then moving somewhere because someone is better than me at third and it’ll help us win, then I’ll do it. If that means me playing third base for 10 years and then going to first base or wherever, then I’ll do it. I don’t care."

Rendon will be getting reps at third base, shortstop and second base in camp, and he gave the requisite due to Zimmerman.

“Oh, yeah, sure, he’s going to be here a long time, I’m pretty sure,” Rendon said (Nationals Journal). “He’s an all-star. He’s a great player. I’m not coming here to take anything away from him. He’s set in stone. I’m not trying to ruin that.”

It's very interesting to think about all the options moving forward, depending upon how things shake out. If Rendon pans out at second, Danny Espinosa could shift to shortstop and take out Ian Desmond. If Rendon needs to be at third and Zimmerman's health issues at third continue, Zimmerman could shift across the diamond. Of course, then the Nationals have nowhere to move Mike Morse when they acquire an upgrade in center field and have Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper at the corners.

This is all just something to think about, with no immediate urgency. Regardless, if Rendon develops into an All-Star-caliber bat -- as many believe he will -- Washington has a very nice problem on its hands.

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Posted on: February 19, 2012 11:46 am
Edited on: February 19, 2012 12:37 pm

Mike Cameron retires from baseball

By Matt Snyder

Exactly two months after signing a minor-league deal with the Washington Nationals, Mike Cameron has decided to call it a career, according to the club.

Cameron appeared to be a possibility as a center-field platoon partner with either Roger Bernadina or Rick Ankiel -- both of whom are left-handed -- but now the Nats are without a righty option. Of course, if Bryce Harper makes the team out of spring, the plan is to play Jayson Werth in center every day.

Cameron, 39, closes with a good career resume. In 17 seasons, he hit .249/.338/.444 with 278 home runs, 968 RBI, 1,064 runs and 297 stolen bases. He won three Gold Gloves, made one All-Star Game and received MVP votes two times. He has a shot at getting on the Hall of Fame ballot (Bill Mueller and Tony Womack were on this year's, for example), but no shot of getting in.

He never spent more than four years with the same ballclub, playing for eight different franchises: The Mariners, White Sox, Mets, Red Sox, Padres, Brewers, Reds and Marlins. Amazingly, as you can see, he played in every single division.

He was also involved in two pretty big transactions as part of trades in exchange for both Ken Griffey Jr. and Paul Konerko.

The highlight of Cameron's career had to be on May 2, 2002, when he hit four home runs in one game -- becoming the 13th player in big-league history to accomplish the feat.

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Posted on: February 16, 2012 12:03 pm

Arbitration season ends, owners win 5-2

Garrett Jones

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Pirates wrapped up arbitration season on Thursday, beating Garrett Jones and settling with Casey McGehee on a one-year deal before heading to the arbitration room.

Jones was the seventh and final player to head to his arbitration hearing this winter, with owners taking a decisive 5-2 victory in 2012. Last season only three cases went to arbitration, with the players winning two (both against the Marlins -- the arbitrators must have felt sorry for them having to wear those new uniforms).

In a nutshell, the way arbitration works is that the player and team swap demands and after both sides make their cases, three arbitrators pick one number or the other -- in Jones' case, the arbitrators picked the team's offer of $2.25 million instead of Jones' demand of $2.5 million. Or, at any point before the door closes on the hearing room, the two sides can compromise. That's what the Pirates did with McGehee, settling at $2.5375 million, more or less between his request of $2.75 million and the team's offer of $2.35 million.

Because the hearings are so late in the offseason, most teams budget for the worst-case scenario with their arbitration-eligible players and the final result really on effects the guy signing the check and the guy cashing the check.

But hey, what's the fun of having winners and losers if you don't have a scoreboard. So here's looking back at this year's arbitration cases.

Team victories
The Brewers ($2 million) beat Jose Veras ($2.35 million)
The Nationals ($5 million) beat John Lannan ($5.7 million)
The Orioles ($800,000) beat Brad Bergesen ($1.2 million)
The Rays ($2.75 million) beat Jeff Niemann ($3.2 million)
The Pirates ($2.25 million) beat Jones ($2.5 million).

Marlins lossesPlayer victories
Emilio Bonifacio ($2.2 million) beat the Marlins ($1.95 million)
Anibal Sanchez ($8 million) beat the Marlins ($6.9 million)

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Posted on: February 14, 2012 11:10 pm

Nats GM: Harper cocky, but not malicious

Bryce Harper

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Even before he was picked first overall in the 2010 draft, the Nationals' Bryce Harper had a reputation of rubbing people the wrong way. Harper's talent has never, ever been questioned, but his demeanor and attitude have been.

I saw it last year in a Class A game in Lexington, Ky., where he nearly started a fight by trying to bowl over a catcher despite having no chance of dislodging the ball, only to back down quickly. He famously blew a kiss at a pitcher after homering off of him last season, drawing scorn from many. Others have scoffed at his use of eye black and even the way he wears his hat -- and for Pete's sake, he named his dog "Swag." And then there's his Twitter account.

Bryce Harper
Last week Harper told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he wanted to be a Joe Namath-type athlete off the field.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said the team understands Harper is a typical 19-year-old, but what to impress upon him that anything he does won't be treated like the actions or words of a typical 19-year-old. The Nationals, Rizzo told the Washington Post, have counseled Harper and tried to impress upon him his role in the organization.

Rizzo also said, he doesn't think Harper's a bad kid, "there's not a malicious bone in his body. Now, there's a cocky bone in there," Rizzo told the Post's Jason Reid. "And there's an ego bone. And there are other bones … but there's not a malicious bone in his body."

Nationals manager Davey Johnson is reportedly pushing for Harper to make the team's opening-day roster, but Rizzo seems to think Harper has development left beyond his production on the field.

"He's going to make it to the big leagues when I realize that, developmentally, he's ready to play in the big leagues," Rizzo told the Post. "That's physically, that's emotionally and that's psychologically."

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Posted on: February 8, 2012 5:19 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 8:18 pm

Will A-Rod pass torch to Harper as most disliked?

By Matt Snyder

Earlier Wednesday, Forbes.com released its annual list of most disliked athletes, and only one baseball player appeared on it. Not surprisingly, it was Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees. Now, I don't say that because I personally dislike A-Rod (I don't), but it's pretty evident he's the most hated baseball player among casual fans nation-wide.

[EYE ON NFL: Suh, Vick, Burress among most-disliked athletes]

But seeing the list got me thinking -- from a baseball standpoint, because that's what I do -- of two different things. First of all, that's pretty cool that only one player made the list. The NBA and NFL combined for seven of the top 10. Plus, a few years ago, I'm sure A-Rod would have been joined by Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez.

So is baseball becoming more irrelevant? I'd say no. The World Series got gigantic ratings and earlier this year was tied with college football for second in a poll of America's favorite sport (take a wild guess as to what was No. 1).

So it's entirely possible baseball's new crop of players are just that much more likable. The testing for PEDs has to help, obviously, because fans really seem to hate guys getting rich and taking down records from beloved players like Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and the like by cheating the system. I feel like there's more to it, but that's probably a different discussion for a different day.

Anyway, the second thing that came to mind was this: A-Rod's been a fan punching bag for far too long. Isn't it old at this point? And, really, "A-Roid?" C'mon, let's be more creative than that. Baseball needs a new Public Enemy No. 1.

Bud Selig probably qualifies for many, judging from the intense ire he draws in our comments section, just as Frank McCourt and the Wilpon family do, but this is only for players.

And my best guess is Bryce Harper.

Just as I did with A-Rod above, I'll start by pointing out that I don't dislike Harper. My colleague Gregg Doyel wrote last August about how unfairly maligned Harper is. But there's only so much that can do. Let's look at the elements that I subjectively think usually cause the national public to dislike a player -- and see how they apply to Harper.

1. He's rich. C'mon. Let's face it. Jealousy is what drives most hate, and many fans are jealous of rich athletes to begin with. But it can't be just this, otherwise every single player would be hated.

2. He's not like them. Bryce Harper was so talented he began to gain significant hype when he was 15 years old. He was rich before he turned 18, so it wasn't like he labored as an adult to "make it." Also, many sports fans are loyal to their teams and cities. Harper is a fair weather fan. He recently took to Twitter to defend himself for growing up a fan of: Duke basketball, USC football, the Yankees, the Lakers and the Cowboys. I'm guessing that makes millions of fans cringe.

3. Excessive hype. Fans generally seem to get sick of hearing about guys and hard-core baseball fans have already been hearing about Harper for the past three-plus years. And he's still not even 20. It's only going to build as he gets closer to joining the Nationals.

4. Outward arrogance/bad PR. While Harper works hard, never gets in trouble off the field and seems to have great intentions, he's had a few public relations issues already. He blew a kiss at a pitcher after homering off him in the minors last year. He was ejected from a game for screaming at an umpire. At the Future's Game last year, he missed a cutoff man that ended up costing his team a run, but in the locker room he said he didn't care that he just wanted to show off his arm. It also didn't help when a coach said he faced the most scrutiny of any player since Jackie Robinson (which isn't a comparison, but when the names are used side-by-side it just feels wrong to many).

Fair or not -- and I'd argue almost all of this is unfair -- many fans are already taking to message boards and Twitter and calling Harper things like a "spoiled little kid." I'm guessing that Harper hits this list within the next few years. So maybe A-Rod passes the torch to Harper.

And here's the thing that is most important: The entire general public doesn't "hate" someone irrelevant. So Nationals fans should actually be rooting for Harper to be good enough to "deserve," if you will, the impending wave of scorn.

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Posted on: February 8, 2012 12:20 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 2:00 pm

Oswalt, Jackson turned down Pirates' offers

PNC Park

Edwin JacksonBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Remember when the Pirates were accused of hoarding their money and not trying to spend any money to get better?

Well, now they're willing  to pay -- but nobody wants their money.

Well, that's a little extreme. I'd take it, you'd take it. But neither Roy Oswalt nor Edwin Jackson would take it. Both players turned down, despite offers as much as $10 million, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

Jackson, who took a one-year, $10 million from the Nationals last week, was offered deals for both one and three years, with the three-year deal being "slightly less" per year than the one-year deal.

Roy OswaltOswalt on the other hand, is still unsigned, but turned down the Pirates.

The Pirates' opening-day payroll is expected to be around $48 million -- the lowest in the National League Central.

Pittsburgh led the NL Central -- which send two teams to the playoffs and is home to the World Series champs -- as late July 25, but finished fourth with a record of 72-90, for its 19th consecutive losing season.

One of the reasons the Pirates faltered late was its starting pitching, which stumbled down the stretch. Pirates starters were 35-28 with a 3.62 ERA in the first half of the season and 14-33 with a 5.04 in the second half.

Pittsburgh added lefty Erik Bedard as a free-agent, but his injury history makes him tough to count on for a full season. With Charlie Morton's availability for the start of the season in doubt, Bedard may be the team's opening-day starter. James McDonald, Kevin Correia and Jeff Karstens likely round out the rotation.

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Posted on: February 5, 2012 5:50 pm
Edited on: February 5, 2012 5:56 pm

Nationals sign Rick Ankiel to minor-league deal

Rick AnkielBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Rick Ankiel is returning to the Nationals -- or their camp, at least. Washington has signed the outfielder to a minor-league deal with an invite to the big league camp, Amanda Comak of the Washington Times tweeted and CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman confirmed.


Ankiel hit .239/.296/.363 with 9 home runs in 122 games last season for the Nationals, his first year in Washington. He'd signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Nationals after spending 2010 with the Royals and Braves. Ankiel won the starting center field job out of spring training, leading to the Nationals' trade of Nyjer Morgan to Milwaukee. Washington, though, continues to search for a center fielder for the future and has been tied to the Angels' Peter Bourjos in some rumors that would have the Nationals sending right-hander John Lannan to Anaheim, allowing the Angels to make way for Mike Trout in center. Roger Bernadina is currently slated to start in center for the Nationals and they've also added Mike Cameron. Jayson Werth could also start in center if Bryce Harper makes the team out of spring as the right fielder.

The 32-year-old is a career .246/.309/.423 hitter in five seasons as a full-time outfielder after originally coming to the big leagues as a starter with the Cardinals. After suffering control problems, he went back to the minors and returned to St. Louis as an outfielder in 2007. In 2008, he hit 25 home runs, his best as a big leaguer.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com