Posted on: August 19, 2009 10:55 am
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Posted on: August 18, 2009 12:12 pm
Edited on: August 18, 2009 12:12 pm

A big National risk? Maybe not

Shocking, wasn't it, that Stephen Strasburg would sign at "11:58 and 43 seconds," as Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters early this morning. Shocking that Strasburg would break a draft record, but not really break much ground in Scott Boras's never-ending battle to get American-born drafted players paid the way foreign-born undrafted players are.

As colleague Scott Miller wrote , the Strasburg deal is win-win for both sides.

But here's the other thing: History shows it may not even be that big a risk.

According to information provided by Jim Callis of Baseball America , before this year there were 15 players who signed out of the draft and received big-league contracts of $5 million or more. Of those 15, the only one who hasn't yet played in the big leagues is Pedro Alvarez (2008 Pirates) -- and he no doubt will.

Of the 14 who have played in the big leagues, the one with the least distinguished career was Eric Munson (1999 Tigers). He made it through parts of eight seasons in the majors, including one year with 19 home runs, but with a career average of .214, we'll call him a $6.75 million bust.

That's one to-be-determined, and one bust. And 13 signings that have worked out well.

And that bodes well for Strasburg ($15.107 million), and also for Dustin Ackley (who signed for $7.5 million with the Mariners) and Jacob Turner ($5.5 million with the Tigers).

Here's the list, with quick comments:

1998: J.D. Drew, Cardinals, $7 million (all figures are the guaranteed value of the big-league contract): 12 big-league seasons and counting. A solid big-league player for first-division teams.

Pat Burrell, Phillies, $8 million: 870 career RBIs in 9 1/2 seasons, and counting.

1999: Josh Beckett, Marlins, $7 million: Four years later, he won them a World Series. Then he went to Boston and won another one.

Eric Munson, Tigers, $6.75 million: The one bust of the group.

2001: Mark Prior, Cubs, $10.5 million: Two years later, he was an 18-game winner, and nearly got the Cubs to the World Series. That's worth $10.5 million.

Mark Teixeira, Rangers, $9.5 million: Hit 153 home runs in 4 1/2 years with the Rangers, then got them Elvis Andrus, Neftali Perez et al in a trade.

2003: Delmon Young, Devil Rays, $5.8 million: Good enough to get the Rays Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza in a trade. That's good enough.

2004: Jeff Niemann, $5.2 million, Devil Rays: Slowed by injuries early, but he's a 10-game winner for Tampa Bay this year.

Stephen Drew, $5.5 million, Diamondbacks: Inconsistent, but his career is still off to a good start.

2005: Mike Pelfrey, Mets, $5.25 million: A 13-game winner last year, and 200 innings, too? Try to find that for $5.25 million.

2006: Luke Hochevar, Royals, $5.25 million: Yes, they'd have been better off with Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw or Kyle Drabek, all picked behind him in the first round. But Hochevar is developing into a solid big-league starter.

Andrew Miller, Tigers, $5.45 million: Hasn't done much yet, but without drafting (and paying) him, the Tigers don't get Miguel Cabrera in a trade. Therefore, he was worth it.

2007: David Price, Rays, $8.5 million: Those four outs in Game 7 against the Red Sox were worth $8.5 million all by themselves.

Rick Porcello, Tigers, $7 million: 20 years old, 10 big-league wins.

2008: Pedro Alvarez, Pirates, $6.355 million: Still in Double-A, but ranked second on Baseball America's latest Prospect Hot Sheet .

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 31, 2009 4:18 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2009 4:20 pm

Marlins get Nick Johnson from Nationals

The Marlins have acquired Nick Johnson from the Nationals for minor-league pitcher Aaron Thompson, CBSSports.com has confirmed.

Posted on: July 31, 2009 12:16 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2009 12:39 pm

Marlins want Nick Johnson, but 'may move on'

The Marlins could be the latest team to talk trade with the Nationals, only to come away frustrated.

The teams have been talking about a deal for first baseman Nick Johnson, but two sources familiar with the negotiations said the Marlins are tiring of the slow pace of talks and "may move on."

It's believed that the Marlins want Washington to pay some of the roughly $1.3 million remaining on Johnson's contract, and that the Nationals are balking. Earlier this month, teams that inquired about Adam Dunn were told that the Nats wouldn't pick up any of the $12 million owed to Adam Dunn next year.

The Nats have been active, without getting much done. Teams have shown interest in Johnson, Dunn, Joe Beimel and others, but the only deal Washington has completed has been one with the Pirates, exchanging Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett.

Posted on: July 13, 2009 10:37 am

Acta out, Nationals still a mess

When Manny Acta announced his own firing late Sunday night, he told ESPNDeportes, "It's normal for the manager to pay the price when the team is not doing well."

Very true, especially for a team that's happier with finding scapegoats than with finding a direction.

MLB.com suggested this morning that the Nationals considered firing Acta in late May, but decided they could get by with firing pitching coach Randy St. Claire instead. A couple of weeks later, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that Acta was about to be fired, a report that the team really never denied. Instead, the Nats let it hang out there, almost as if they planned to fire him but never got around to doing it.

Since Rosenthal's report, Acta's Nats have gone 10-17, which isn't great but is still better than the 16-43 they were at the time.

Would 11 wins have bought him another week? What about 12?

Look, the point isn't that Acta is baseball's best manager. Since his only big-league experience is with the barely big-league Nationals, it's too hard to know that.

No, the point is that the Nationals either think Acta is the right man for their job or they don't.

There are good reasons to fire a manager in midseason. If you have a contending club that's severely underachieving, sometimes a new voice can help. If you have a manager who has lost control of his clubhouse, sometimes a new leader is a necessity.

When you have a bad club, and you just want to throw someone overboard because it's normal to make a manager pay the price, that's not a good reason.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 24, 2009 1:54 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2009 1:58 pm

Brewers optimistic about Parra

In his first start after the Brewers sent him to the minor leagues, Manny Parra was throwing 84-87 mph and was so unimpressive that one person watching said, "They announced Manny Parra, but it sure didn't look like him."

But Parra rebounded well Tuesday night, going seven innings and allowing just one run for Nashville against an Albuquerque team that featured that other Manny (who, by the way, struck out and grounded out against Parra). The Brewers were encouraged enough that they now think Parra could rejoin their rotation within the next few weeks.

Brewers people hope Parra could follow the same path as Ricky Nolasco, the Marlins opening day starter who seemed to be helped by his two Triple-A starts. Nolasco, who had a 9.07 ERA when he was sent down, has a 2.50 ERA in three starts since returning, including a win at Fenway Park.

The Brewers have made it this far into the season using only five starting pitchers. That will change when Parra's spot comes up on Saturday (the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Seth McClung is the leading candidate for that spot). The Brewers will also need to fill Dave Bush's spot, with Bush now on the disabled list.


While many people in baseball believe that the Nationals should give Mike Rizzo the full-time job as general manager, the team has continued to look at other options, and some people are saying that the Nats owners want "a big name." The Nationals contacted Gerry Hunsicker, the former Astros GM who now works for Tampa Bay, but it appears that he doesn't want the job.

One name that has circulated: Jed Hoyer, who now works as Theo Epstein's assistant in Boston.

Meanwhile, other teams are wondering how much freedom Rizzo has to make trades. The Nationals have spoken to many teams about Nick Johnson, and to a few about Adam Dunn.


While the Rockies' slow start cost manager Clint Hurdle his job, their strong rebound is good news for general manager Dan O'Dowd, whose job now seems much more secure.

The Rockies' rebound has a few other effects, notably allowing other teams to believe that they could make the same sort of move back into the race. The Rockies themselves are no longer seen as a July seller, although sources said they're still trying to move Garrett Atkins.

The problem is that Atkins has a .206 batting average and has also regressed defensively.

"He can't play first base," one scout said. "And he can't play third base, either."


Without Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, the Mets lineup is awful, and they know it. Asked Tuesday night if we should expect more games like Tuesday's (a two-hit Joel Pineiro shutout) or like Monday's (a scrappy 6-4 win), manager Jerry Manuel answered honestly: "That's a good question."

The Mets expect to get all of their injured players back at some point this season, but they can't say exactly when on any of them. While they say there's a chance Beltran (bruised knee) could miss just two weeks, GM Omar Minaya said the All-Star break could be a safer bet.

"If you told me right now we'd have him to start the second half, I'd sign up for that," Minaya said.


Good line from 2,501-win man Tony La Russa, when asked what qualities make a good manager.

"Outstanding players," said La Russa, a fine manager who has also been blessed with many outstanding players.


Among all the impressive Albert Pujols stats, how about this one: In six plate appearances this year with the bases loaded, Pujols is 5 for 5 with three home runs and a sacrifice fly. In those six plate appearances, he has 16 RBIs (out of a possible 24).

For his career, Pujols is a .411 hitter with the bases loaded.

Posted on: June 16, 2009 8:19 pm

Garner: 'Manny's hung out to dry'

NEW YORK -- Phil Garner managed three big-league teams. He was fired by three big-league teams.

He knows how it goes. He can see when it’s going to happen. He also knows when it’s done wrong.

The Nationals are doing this one with Manny Acta all wrong.

“Manny’s hung out to dry,” Garner said Tuesday. “The only way they could keep him now is if they gave him a three-year contract.”

The Nationals obviously aren’t giving Acta a three-year deal. They aren’t even giving him a three-month deal, or a three-week deal.

In fact, when acting general manager Mike Rizzo was asked Tuesday afternoon about Acta’s status, he first said, “We’re supportive of everyone in the organization,” and then quickly followed it up with “The success we have on the field is going to dictate the moves that we make.”

The Nationals are 16-45. You do the math.

We all know how these managerial firings work. Once there’s serious talk that the manager is getting canned -- in this case a report from Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com that the Nationals never really denied -- in nine out of 10 cases the press conference is no more than a few days away.

That’s why Garner always said that he had just one request for his general manager: If you’re thinking of firing me, do it right away.

“Don’t string me out,” Garner said. “The players know it. The press knows it. Everyone knows it. The players know it before everyone else does.

“When it gets like this, they might as well go ahead and fire you.”

And yet, time after time, teams mess this one up.

We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the Mets’ botched Willie Randolph firing. They let Randolph get on a plane to California, remember, then fired him in the middle of the night, after a win.

That was bad. What the Diamondbacks did to Bob Melvin this year might have been worse, as they actually had him manage two more games after admitting to him that he was about to get canned.

Now we have the Nationals. There’s no indication they’ve told Acta he’s gone, but at the same time they’ve done nothing to suggest that they plan to keep him.

So the uncomfortable questions continue, day after day.

To his credit, Acta seems to be dealing with all this very well. People around him said he hasn’t changed the way he does things, and Tuesday he sat in his office and calmly answered a series of questions about his job status.

“I feel great,” he said. “I don’t worry about rumors. When your number’s up, your number’s up.”

Asked if he had received any reassurances from Rizzo or club president Stan Kasten, Acta said, “I’m the type who doesn’t need to be patted on the back.”

That’s nice of him to say, but it really doesn’t matter.

This isn’t about a pat on the back. It’s about an organization, and about choosing to do things the right way or the wrong way.

One more time, the Nationals are wrong.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 4, 2009 11:46 pm

Dunn: 'He thought it was a strike'

WASHINGTON -- Adam Dunn is right. It's a little much to say that history turned on one strike-three call by Tim Timmons.

But it's also true that if not for that call, Randy Johnson would still have 299 wins -- for now. If not for that call, the fine people of Arizona would be eagerly anticipating Johnson's second try at a 300th win, Tuesday night in the ballpark he once called home.

Here's what happened: Eighth inning Thursday, Giants leading the Nationals, 2-1. Two out, bases loaded, Johnson in line for the win and Giants closer Brian Wilson on the mound facing Dunn, the Nats' cleanup hitter. Ball four means a tie game, and a no-decision for Johnson. Strike three means three outs to go for a 300th win.

The pitch sure looked low. Timmons called it a strike. Dunn appeared to disagree.

"Good pitch," he said later.

Seen a replay?

"Nope," Dunn said. "Don't need to. Good pitch."

Any chance that Timmons' call was influenced by the moment?

"C'mon," Dunn said. "Tim's not going to think that quick. He thought it was a strike. Therefore, it is a strike."

A strike that made history.

"If that goes down in history, then baseball needs a new history," Dunn said. "I'll give you this: If [Johnson] doesn't win another game in his career, I'll say it's historic. But I'm going to say he's going to win another game."

So are we. But we're also going to say Timmons' call -- and Dunn's strikeout -- are now part of 300-win history.
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