Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Did I miss anything?

Ok, I'm back from fun in whereever it is that Big Oranges go. There are several stories of importance to go over:

Nats gets stadium deal!
Baseball's compromises are very minor.
1) It'll help pay for insurance on cost overruns. Insurance is a tiny figure (I think it'll cost baseball around 2-3 mill a year) and something baseball could easily sign-off on as it won't figure in the costs for a potential owner
2) They'll let private financing be considered as long as the stadium gets built. What do they care? As long as it doesn't take away from the owners potential profits and thus the sale price of the franchise, they could care less. This isn't really a compromise. (though in the large sense any sort of tax or parking meter scheme would take away from the owner's profitability but baseball and the council seem to have the same short sightedness when it comes to economics)

It's still a bad deal. But the insurance is almost a slap in the head, "why didn't we think of this before", move that everyone should be glad is on the bill.

Eischen signs! So does Schneider!
Eischen seemed ok when back from injury and should be another lefty specialist in the pen. It doesn't hurt having on more lefty in the pen, especially after Steve Kline was signed. I would have liked to see a longer deal on Schneider, 3 years if we could have. He's cheap and unlikely to degrade much in the short term. There's an outside chance he'll bust out though and I'd hate to lose him next year, given we have no cheap viable options on the club right now.

Ohka might not be back!
Ohka is good, but not that good. We could afford to lose him, but I'm afraid it would put Bowden in even more of a frenzy to sign a starter that we may not necessarily need (I mean, we need a starter, but a #1 or #2 type of guy, not just another warm body. We got plenty of those) I hope he does sign, as he'll probably be cheaper and better than an Estes or a Shawn Chacon.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Congrats, DC. Oh wait I just looked at the roster again

OK. I'm very limited in my access to the intra-type-net this week. So Merry Christmas DC. There's a lot of work to be done. however. Bowden may use the week as an excuse to why the team stinks but only Kline was signed and that was at a price he wouldn't have paid. So really the week didn't cost you anything in terms of the team you'll have. (as for budget overruns if the stadium is late....)

I'll see you on the flip side.

Friday, December 17, 2004


You can't get there from here - Micro Version

How this got all f*d up, Part II. From the deal agreement until now.

September 28th (or thereabouts)
MLB and representatives of DC including Mayor Williams and Councilman Evans agree conditionally to a plan on moving the Expos to the District. The key points of the plan heavily favor MLB. DC will find funding for a new stadium and the infrastructure necessary. They will also pay to renovate RFK for 3 years of baseball there prior to the stadiums opening. The plan outlines the stadium can only be built on a site in Southeast Washington DC, along the Anacostia River. The plan is initially priced at $435.2 million, part of the breakdown is $302 million for the park design and construction, $65 million for the land, $16.5 million for parking, $13 million for RFK renovations, and $40 million in financing. A cap is placed on spending of $500 million.

The financing of the deal calls for a rent (around $4 million dollars a year at start, then raising to 5.5 million) for the owners and taxes on baseball related sales occuring in stadium (estimated at $11-14 million). The bulk of the financing however comes from a gross reciepts tax on businesses who gross more than $3 million annually with a cap being put on the max amount paid by a company. This will cover $21-24 million a year. The total is roughly what needs to be paid yearly to payoff the bonds issued for the stadium.

The deal allows for the new owner of the franchise to own a team and a stadium at whatever price MLB decides, estimated at between $350 to $400 million. Also it places the stadium distant from the city of Baltimore and Angelos' "sphere of influence" hopefully limiting the costs it would take to pay him off.

While specifics of the negotiation are hard to come by it is certain that the DC Council, who must approve the deal by Dec 31st, was not included in the negotiation. Communication with members on whether they would approve the plan was at best limited and probably non-existant.

September 29th
The deal is officially announced. 7 council members, Cropp, Brazil, Schwartz, Evans, Orange, Ambrose, and Allen, show up at the press conference potentially in support of baseball. However a couple, notably Cropp, note that they have not been able to take a look at the legislation and need to review it. The press is overwhlemingly supportive. Only a few dissenting voices notice how strongly the deal favors MLB and question the cost. Of the Council members not present, Fenty, Patterson, and Catania express opposition to the plan. Mayor Williams speaks of gathering unanimous support.

October 1st
Fenty makes the first mention of alternate plans, suggesting a site close to RFK to save money. The plan is essentially ignored

October 5th
The council gets its first official look at the deal. They'll have roughly a month to review this before it goes to committee. If approved in committee it would be voted on soon after that. The deadline for deal approval is Dec 31st. This is important since 3 pro-deal members have been voted out and will be replaced by three anti-deal members come January 1st.
The first large protest of the deal takes place outside of the council.

Oct 12th
Tony Tavares and Kevin Ulhlich arrive in DC to work on the logistics of the move.
Mayor Williams, almost 2 weeks after the initial announcement, makes his first public appearence with regards to the stadium deal at an inner city church community meeting of 150 people. The tone of the meeting is unfavorable towards the plan. Generally they wonder why funds can go toward the stadium but not more pressing needs. This will become a reoccuring theme. This meeting will be the Mayor's only apparent lobbying effort in the time period from private meetings after the initial announcement on Sept 29th until the 7th of November.

Oct 13th
Williams leaves for a pre-planned ambassadorial trip to Asia. He will return on the 25th

Oct 18th
The idea is floated from the Mayor's office of a 20 million dollar fund available for community betterment.

It is around this time that we discover small business' trepidation of the plan. Small businesses do not like the fact there is a cap on the spending, essentially taxing small businesses at a greater rate than the largest businesses. All businesses are concerned that if there are cost overruns, the gross reciept tax will be raised to cover it, though this is not an impediment to large business support.

Oct 26th
Over 170 people sign up to speak at a public council meeting about the deal on Oct 28th. The general tone of the people signing up is again negative toward the deal. The Mayor is one of the signees.

Oct 27th
DC Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi arrive at a new total for the deal of $530 million. The main changes come from an underestimation of the RFK renovation. Due to this, the cap of $500 million comes into question.

On the same day Mayor Williams raises the fund amount from 20 million to 400 million. The extra monies would be theoretically funded by taxes from the business that are projected to be built in the stadium district.

Oct 28th
The public council meeting is a mess. Over 200 people speak in 16 hours and many are left waiting. The general feel of the meeting is again against the bill. Regardless, city officials are confident. They believe they have 8 votes in the Council now. This 8 is most likely made up of 6 present at the initial press conference plus Mendelson and Chavous. Shwartz now appears to have serious reservations and is consdered a no vote.

Nov 3rd
The legislation for the bill passes both the Committe of Finance and Reform and the Committee on Economic Development; 3-2 in both committees. In favor of it are Evans, Chavous, and Brazil (on both committees), Catania and Patterson vote no in one committe, Graham and Fenty the other. There are a few notable changes to the bill. The community fund is now raised to 450 million and is spelled out as follows: 2 million a year will be placed away until 2008. In 2008 (when the new stadium is scheduled to open) the money placed away will be used to create bonds up to $450 million. Taxes on stadium area business are expected to pay off these bonds. A $45 million pot for libraries will be added to $30 million already in the coffers for a community fund. The business that the gross receipt tax will be applied to are cut from those grossing $3mill up a year to those grossing at least $4million a year. The cap is raised to $550 million.

Nov 5th
Cropp announces her intention to introduce her own plan. It involves using the RFK site. It is expected to cost in the nieghborhood of $400 million, a savings of roughly 20% from the original plan. The savings would be realized in a lowering of the gross reciept tax on businesses. Although she had previously talked about some concerns, this is the first time it has been indicated that Cropp would not support the legislation as originally written. Council members Mendelson, Catania, Patterson, and Schwartz show support for this bill, while Brazil, Ambrose, Evans, and Orange denounce it. Fenty is against them either.

Nov 7th
Williams appears on TV and in chat supporting the legislation

Nov 8th
Williams repeats that he has enough votes to pass the legislation as is. Assuming he counts Cropp as a loss, this would mean he still expects votes from Mendleson and Chavous.
Washington Post publishes survey results which state 69% of Washingtonians are opposed to the use of public funds fro the stadium. More than half are strongly opposed

Nov 9th
Cropp removes the vote from the agenda tabling the vote for 3 weeks. She states now she wishes to use the time to find private finances. It is reported that Grus and Sununu may have approached Cropp with an idea to pay some of the costs for exclusive rights to build the stadium.
The deal now involves more than 70 million in personal entitlements to council members, including $45 million in libraries. Graham had mentioned previously that library funding is very important to him. This especially is seen as an attempt to curry votes.

Nov 15th
The RICO case is thrown out. To be brief, the RICO case stated that Jeffrey Loria had defrauded co-owners in the Expos by purposely not fielding a competative team. This is an important hurdle for MLB to clear to be able to sell the Expos.

Nov 22nd
The team is officially named (by MLB) the Washington Nationals. Name and logos are revealed at a press conference.

Nov 24th
Cropp announces that she will attempt to cap the spending at $630 million. She has not given up on finding private financing. At this point we have four estimates of cost. $440 million from the Mayor, $530 from the DC CFO, $584 from the DC auditor, and a worse case $614 million by the Washington Post.

Nov 30th
The Council approves the legislation for vote at next session with a 6-4 vote with three abstentions (for: Evans, Orange, Ambrose, Allen Brazil, Chavous; against: Fenty, Graham, Catania, Schwartz; abstentions: Cropp, Mendelson, Patterson). The legislation undergoes several more changes. The cap is raised to $630 million.

Importantly, to limit costs the $45 million in funds for the libraries and a $30 communtiy fund are excised from the bill. This appears to lose what support Graham had seemed ready to give after getting the library funds. Several amendments are also passed allowing for examination of private financing and would force a move to another location if the CFO's new estimate of the building costs exceed $100 million more than his original estimate.

Dec 1st
Williams states that he is willing to approach MLB about renegotiating parts of the deal, but only after it is approved by the Council. Baseball has no comment

Dec 2nd
MLB says it will not renegotiate any parts of the deal.

Dec 3rd
Owners approve moving the franchise to Washington by a vote of 29-1. Peter Angelos being the lone desenting vote. A deal has yet to be reached with Angelos and will not by the time of the Dec 14th vote. They agree on parts of the deal which includes a local revenue floor, a floor on sale price of the team, and a split of cable TV monies with the DC team.

The National Team Store opens

Dec 13th
Support for the bill passing is again assumed. Baseball agrees to increase the number of days the city can use the stadium and presents the idea of giving free tickets to the cities youth as a way of sweetening the deal. Amendments are being considered including a lowering of the cap from 100 million to 20 million and another change of the gross reciept taxes.

Dec 14th
The Council passes another revised version of the legislation by a vote of 7-6. For Evans, Orange, Ambrose, Allen Brazil, Chavous, Cropp. Against Fenty, Graham, Catania, Schwartz, Mendelson, Patterson. The revision this time is major, as an amendment is added that 50% of the financing for the stadium must come from private financing.

MLB reacts by saying the legislation as passed by the DC Council is "wholly unacceptble" and suspends operation of franchise until further notice. Uniform unveiling is postponed. While not explicitly stated, it is understood that DC has until the original Dec 31st deadline to approve the original legislation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


The Enemy is MLB

Understandably, the Washington-based National blogs are united in not only their despair, but in their utter contempt for Linda Cropp, Crop Dusters, Crop Circles, and Linda Blair. Washington journalists have been only slightly less vitriolic in their criticism of the Councilwoman, and to a lesser degree, the Mayor.

I can't blame them. The rug was pulled out from under them. Hopes and dreams were dashed.

But as an outsider who has followed this franchise for a while, it angers me that none of this rage is directed at Major League Baseball. The true enemy is MLB. They are not looking to give the gift of baseball to anyone. They are looking to extrort a region, to ensure the greatest profit for themselves. They try to use their monopolistic status to avoid even the most basic of business responsibilities. Yet people believe this is perfectly ok. That it's just baseball, being baseball and you have to bend over and take it from them. You don't.

If Mayor Williams had just had the sense to say three months ago "MLB is only looking out for themselves. They wanted to make zero concessions to this city and its public to help pay even part of the costs. In the end, I could not in good conscience support such a deal. " the anger woud have been placed where it belongs. Instead he went along with the plan, and MLB followed up by pushing Washington baseball hard trying to seal the deal with good feelings and merchandise. The council seemed to be wary but ready to approve. I can't imagine being in DC and not getting swept up in the excitement.

But the bad guy in this is baseball, pure and simple. Not the Mayor. He made a mistake accepting this bill with little negotiation and with no security it would go through council. Not Linda Cropp. She made mistakes, constantly reacting first then waiting until the last minute to actually decide what she thought was best for the District. Not anyone else involved in this. I't's baseball's fault and baseball should be getting hammered over this.

To that end I'll hand it over to someone a little better at writing than I.
Thank you, Jim Caple.

Micro analysis sometime tomorrow.


You can't get there from here - Macro version

How this got all f*d up, Part I. From 1999 until the deal was brokered.

Jeffrey Loria, a questionable businessman, buys the Expos and promises to make the team competitive. John Henry buys the Marlins from salary-dumping Wayne Huizenga.

Early November 2001

After a fantastic season and World Series, MLB is inexplicably begins its "contraction is cool" phase. It is generally the consensus that this is done more as a negotiating ploy with the Players Union than out of actual fiscal concern.

MLB has the idea to contract the Twins since Pohlad would sell the team to them with no strings attached, but it faces strong opposition. The Union, which historically has beaten MLB, is wholeheartedly against contraction and the loss of jobs it entails. The public and press denounce the idea. It doesn't help that the teams he talks of contracting are not the team currently losing the most money or the team with the worst economic future. Government holdups still loom. Minnesota courts hold the Twins to playing in the Metrodome in 2002. The federal government threatens the anti-trust exemption and basically laughs at MLB's "showing their books" because all baseball would present to Congress is a meaningless summary of losses. At this point Selig presented the highly dubious numbers of over 500 million in losses for MLB in 2001, and only 6 teams being profitable.

Still jockeying for position however, MLB realizes it's much easier to contract a team if MLB owns it. It can buy the Twins, but it needs another team for balance and most owners have no interest in selling (even though they are supposedly hemoragghing money)

Late Novemeber 2001

John Henry, Marlins owner, has a chance to own the Red Sox. Loria, would rather be in sunny Miami than Montreal, where poor decisions and little spending has kept the team struggling. MLB sees an opportunity to get that team it needs.

MLB works it so Henry gets the Red Sox (for $660 million, $90 mill less than the former ownership could have gotten from another bidder), Loria gets the Marlins for $158 mill, and MLB gets the Expos for $120 mill.

Essentially Henry got his team on the cheap, Loria paid $30 million to get to move ownerships, and MLB got a team for 120 million as opposed to the 250 million originally cited, the lowest price paid for a team in full in years (though above supposed market value).

But given all the opposition, MLB is still forced to table contraction until 2003

August 2002

MLB concedes rather quickly and quietly to the Union and there will be no contraction for the length of the CBA (until 2007). This leaves MLB with two options.

1) Keep the Expos until 2007 and hope that the situation changes so that the view of contraction outside the league will be more favorable
2) Sell the Expos at the most profit, worry about contraction if necessary in 2007.

Because the relative stability of the league, option 2 was more favorable. The quest then became making the Expos as profitable as possible in order to sell them for the highest profit

2003 - September 2004

MLB procedes to gut the Expos. After letting Loria take most of the scouting and internal staffs to Florida, they run the Expos on a shoestring budget. Free Agents walk or are dealt early for prospects. Things get so bad that in 2003, while still quasi in a pennant race, the Expos are not allowed any September call-ups. By dropping operating costs to a minimum, this ensures maximum profit for a potential buyer.

To make the Expos even more potentially profitable, they would like to move the team out of Montreal and into the United States. MLB has contact with several areas interested in MLB, most notably Northern Virginia, Washington DC, Norfolk, Portland, and Las Vegas. MLB favors the DC/NoVA area as it has favorable demographics (a large, wealthy population) that would probably generate the greatest profits. It is also an attractive and powerful metro area. If given the choice MLB would probably take DC propoer, but it is wary about Baltimore Orioles' owner, trial lawyer Peter Angelos who has said on numerous occasions that he considers DC part of his team's "circle of influence" (my choice of words, not his).

MLB continues to entertain offers but only half-heartedly, hoping for a deal which saddles MLB and the potential owners with as little cost as possible. They use the time to test expansion into Latin America with the Expos playing some of their home games in Puerto Rico. The games are popular, but not profitable enough to make this a feasibility.

September 20th or so, 2004
After months of playing DC and NoVa against eachother claiming time and again that a decision is imminent, Virginia blinks first. Governor Warner, a strong baseball supporter, balks at using "moral obligation" bonds for building a baseball stadium. These bonds had only been used in the past for public works projects and the use of them as a key component of the deal is a dealbreaker for the governor. Most agree that the use of these bonds is risky but they bring down the cost of stadium financing considerably. Without it, MLB could probably not get full public financing of the stadium.

Sept 25th or so, 2004
Seeing NoVA as a dead end, MLB brokers a deal with Washington DC. The deal is the sweet-heart one that MLB had been waiting for, guaranteeing minimal cost to MLB and the potential buyer. With this deal the profit on the sale of the Expos should be close to the maximum they can assume they would get.

Next the micro version; From the deal until now.


Someone killed Tom Boswell's Puppy!

Here is the expected vilification of Linda Cropp and all who oppose getting baseball at all costs.

Let's respond, shall we?


With one amendment to a stadium-funding bill, she ("Cropp" - ed Note) demolished the most basic pillar on which the District's agreement with baseball was built.

This pillar made of balsa wood was that Washington DC pay for EVERYTHING.

The entire purpose of baseball's long search for a new home for the Expos was so the sport could sell the team.

Not at all. They could have sold the team in Montreal. No team is unsellable, not even close. The whole point of the search was to try to get a team in the DC area, and failing that getting the most money for their "investment" (in the strange economic world of baseball where driving a team into the ground increases it's profitability)

Who is going to buy a team to play in a stadium that isn't funded and may never be? Nobody. Nobody on earth.

Or someone who'd be willing to fit at least some of the bill for a stadium. It would lower the price MLB got for the team.

Now, thanks to Cropp, baseball's entire motive for moving the ex-Expos to Washington -- to sell the team -- has been erased. Any solid deal in any town is now better than what Washington is offering -- which is nothing.

Any solid deal where the municipality again pays for anything. Any deal having private funding involved would be basically the same situation.

Why would baseball come here? We have pulled a bait-and-switch on the sport. We have broken a deal negotiated by Mayor Anthony A. Williams, the city's highest elected official.

A deal obviously not supported by the majority of the Council or the majority of the public. MLB didn't get baited and switched. They believed the kid down the street's Dad was going to buy their used car for $10K before the kid talked to the Dad.

Cropp doesn't want to leave fingerprints. Instead, she wants to leave the impression that she was merely trying to save the District money. Instead, she has now cost it a team and all the benefits of development in Southeast that it might have ignited.

She cost them if and buts and maybes.

Earlier in the day, she contacted baseball about adding a clause to the stadium bill that would have capped the District's possible damages at $19 million a year if the park was not finished on time. She didn't like the answer she got which was basically, "A deal is a deal."

Why Boswell continues to say that DC should stand by a horrible deal made behind ITS back is beyond me. Actually it isn't. The guy loves baseball and wants it back and it clouds his entire thinking on the subject (Re: good moves, Bowden)

Baseball feels no obligation whatsoever to make a good faith effort to negotiate with Cropp's council. It already negotiated for two years with cities all over America that wanted the Expos to come to their town. The universal assumption was that the representatives of those cities -- such as Mayor Williams -- had the authority to speak for their towns and already had the backing and understanding of their city councils.

So if a Mayor had promised that not only they'd build a stadium but would pay MLB 500 million dollars as well, they should stick by the deal because he's the official spokesperson? This makes no sense. If your leader makes a mistake, which this "deal" was, the rest of the government or public has an obligation to correct that mistake, not march along with it.


There was more but I couldn't keep from getting very angry at this man.

Everything said about this amendment coming too late are true. But isn't it better late than never? Why are you supposed to go along with the lemmings? Why is everyone holding to this deal? Simply following the bad decisions of a CEO is NOT HOW BUSINESS IS DONE. Of course MLB said We are going to stick with this deal BECAUSE IT IS GREAT FOR THEM. Arrgh Arrgh Arrgh. This brings up so much anger.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Expos Baseball Lives! (for a limited time only)

I'm shocked. Shocked! The DC Council approved a radically different plan. It's like Christmas Come Early for the fiscally responsible.

It's late and I'll go into this more tomorrow, but what are the ramifications of this for baseball in Washington?

1) The Nationals will NOT be in Montreal next year. Give up on that. The Expos (unlike exposbaseball DOT blogspot DOT com) are dead. They will be in RFK.

2) This is a very awkward position for the MLB to be put in. Despite what Councilman Evans wants you to believe they want to be in DC. Desperately. It has the demographics and population baseball finds most desirious. But now Virginia and DC have stood up to the financial bully and MLB fears that this deal could become the standard if accepted. But where else would it go? Portland? Las Vegas? How would they spin it? "We lied about how happy we were to bring baseball back to Washington. We do just want money. So we went to where there's legalized gambling. " Public image, thanks to the steriods flap, is very important to MLB right now.

And will other foolish municipality leaders be able to say with a straight face "Sure Virginia and DC said paying for MLB to come is a bad investment but we're going to do it anyway. Open your checkbook public!" MLB may never get a deal like this again (though they probably will, time makes people stupid)

For DC specifically

1) It makes Mayor Williams look bad. Over half the council admitted in voting for this, that the Mayor did not do a good job on this deal. It cost the city too much. He looks foolish regardless of how this turns out.

2) Councilwoman Cropp may be vilified tomorrow, but if this makes its way through and the Nats do end up in Washington (which is where I'd place my money right now), she's a god damn hero, seemingly single-handedly saving the District hundreds of millions of dollars. If it fails to go through however...let just say I hope she's got a good 401K plan.


"The Bowden Time Machine" or "Rock Raines the Vote"

We all know that Castilla and Guzman have been declining for a while now, but Bowden continues to peer into his reverse-crystal ball and finding gems from long, long ago.

Wil Cordero (33 - First Base) : 1 yr 700K
To be fair - this is an ok signing. Everyone talks about how great a leader Cordero was in 2003 (maybe that's the reason the Expos were over .500, not Vlad and Javy) and he comes with the best possible stats for a "leader". A short contract at a minimal price. He has played more than 89 games only twice in the last 7 years, but if he's just occasionally coming off the bench that doesn't matter. Plus, though his power is not impressive, he's a fairly good contact hitter. All in all we could do worse. Speaking of....

Jeffrey Hammonds (34 - OF): minor league contract
I know it's a minor league contract. I know that's nothing, but this a nonsense signing. Hammonds is more injury prone than Cordero both recently, playing 86 games in the last 2 years, and historically, has only 4 seasons with more than 89 games in the last 12. Hammonds hasn't had a "good" year since 2000 (in Colorado mind you). He has slugged under .400 twice in the last 3 years, and has barely broke .333 in OBP. He's getting old fast. Add to this the fact that the Nats have plentiful outfield talent (well sort of "talent" - but definitely more talented and younger than Hammonds). There was no reason for this signing to take place. Probably a personal favor from an old friend (Hammonds was a Red in 1998 and 99)

Rule 5 Minor League moves (I'll just outline the "Major League" level ones)

Picked up Ty Godwin (26, OF): Former highly touted prospect, who chose college over baseball first. Now and injury prone aging prospect. Seems to get worse the longer he stays on a level.

Picked up Tony Blanco (23, 3B): Former hitting prospect who killed rookie league, then took four years to get up to A ball speed. Horrible, though improving plate discipline. Still recovering from a shoulder injury.

Victor Prieto (P, 22) sold to the Red Sox: Eh. He was severely struggling at AA Greensboro last year. (We signed him in Rule 5 then sold him) Young enough to get better but no reason to bet on it.

Today's the vote. I expect it to pass 8-5 or 8-4-1 (Cropp and Patterson, moving from abstentions to yeas). The talks with MLB are embarrassing. Look at the concessions asked for "...granting the District the use of the stadium for more than 12 days, allowing the council the ability to seek private funds to pay for ballpark construction and limiting the compensatory damages the city would have to pay if the stadium is not completed by March 2008."

That these were not in the original plan should right off the bat tell you how poorly it was negotiated.

Monday, December 13, 2004


How much is that Sosa in the window? (Bark! Bark!)

The one with the raggedy old milkcarton glove.

Some will tell you that Bowden is nuts. I on the other hand agree with him that "it doesn't hurt to ask" is a great strategy. Bowden reportedly made inquiries into Sosa's availability. The catch being that he'd want the Cubs to pick up more than 10 million of Sosa's contract? Going to happen? No. But it doesn't hurt to ask.

As I noted before, we entered the free agent signing period with about 16 million to spend. If we end up with Castilla, Guzman, Guillen, and say Shawn Chacon, did Bowden do a good job?

Saturday, December 11, 2004


No Ohka!? It's all over but the vote and 4th place finish

I've been pretty bad lately at keeping up with the Washington papers lately. Sorry, I don't live in your stagnant swamp (Lisa Simpson's words, not mine. I like DC. But you should hear what I have to say about New Orleans.)

The Times reports that
things look bleak for stadium opponents. No surprise there. This thing is a massive stone rolling down hill and opposition has been too small to hold it back. The swing vote opposition has always been weak. You have your hopes, but in the end MLB is going to completely swindle DC to give up everything for a shiny package. I will admit - it's damn shiny and I'm a little jealous.

Reinsdorf's son could benefit
, reports the Times. I think Fenty is a bit hard on him. Come on, do you expect to work with lovable, cuddly businessmen?

Everyone thinks we won't get Perez (
here and here) which I've been telling everyone here on exposbaseball DOT blogspot DOT com for week (yes, week). Bowden thinks he might finagle more money by not offering arbitration to Ohka and Armas (a savings of about 4.5 mill for next year). Perez is good but then that's it in terms of signings and we'll have a rotation of Hernandez, Perez, Patterson, Rauch, and...Day/Everts? One injury and we're screwed and Perez is only marginally better pitcher than either of these two (though marginally better + consistently healthier is a plus I admit. We'd be as likely to be in this same position next year with both guys on the roster)

Vargas would pitch then. None of you people followed the team last year but that's a scary prospect. Ahhh I can't argue too hard against Bowden's thinking here. Though I will if the thinks getting Loaiza is a good deal.

Wells is getting more than I thought. Though mostly in incentives, we couldn't have matched that. This free agent pitching market is insane. In hindsight I would have offered Clement 4 years at 7 per to start, or Wells two at 5 mill per. It looks like these would have been at least condsidered it and in this market - those are real bargains. Of course that's hindsight. Can't blame Bowden for not seeing this explosion. It's caught everyone offgaurd

There's about 6 mill left in the budget, they say. Given the contracts given out/traded for we started free agency with that's about 2.5+3+4.2+6= 15.7 mill. Say 16 million to start out with. That's not too much. Two good players tops. 20 million if you let Ohka and Armas go. If he could somehow find another mill that could get us 3 7 million dollar players... That actually would have been best. But we'll evalaute post all the signings. We're still in the middle of things.

Friday, December 10, 2004


RFK to be filled with Chacon-eheads?

You know the daughter in Coneheads (not played by Lorraine "The other one" Newman) was in Major League II? It was on TBS this morning after my daily fix of SBTB. That movie is like an uncomfortable visit with former friends. And much like a uncomfortable visit, the topic turns quickly to sports. How 'bout them Nats?!

Heading to the winter meetings Bowden said he's targetting Odalis Perez and Shawn Chacon as pitchers. Odalis will not be signed by the Nats. He will not fall under 6 million per. Why do I say that? We all know about the crazy signings so far (Jaret Wright for 7 mill a year?). These are what other pitchers are asking for or were offered.

Russ Ortiz - 3 years, 9 million per expected
Carl Pavano - 4y, 9-10 mill per offered (expect more)
Tim Hudson - 4y, 12-14 mill per wanted
Eric Milton - 3y, 8 mill per wanted
Derek Lowe - 4y, 12 mill per wanted
David Wells - 5 mill per
Matt Clement - 3 years 6 mill per offered (expect more)

Perez is at least as good as Milton, and I expect him to sign for at least 7 mill. Worse for the Nats, if the Pedro deal falls through for the Mets they are looking at Odalis as a back-up plan. That could drive up the price. Given our pre-set limit of about 4 mill per year, we won't even be close. (by the way Bowden - if you can get Clement for 6+ mill per in this market - grab him now, please)

So that leaves us with the real possibility of signing Chacon. Shawn was miserable as a reliever last year but some think he can make a living as a starter. It's the whole Coors field thing in reverse. To be fair to Bowden let's answer this in three questions:

Do the stats agree with this theory?
Not really. In 2002, as expected he was better away from Coors, but oddly enough he had a better K and BB per nine innings at home. In 2003 as a starter he was actually better at home. Less hits per inning, and still better strikeouts, walks. I can't fathom a reason for this walk and strikeout pattern. So stats say that he's a 5.00 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 6K/9 pitcher. Ok, I guess that could work as a starter. Just not a good one.

Do we have anyone better/cheaper/younger at the position?
Better? No. About the same? Plenty. Patterson, Rauch, Ohka, Armas, Day are all about the same type of pitcher. I'd say Armas and Ohka have a slight edge in performance, Rauch is almost the same, and Day and Patterson are slightly behind. I would say that Armas, Patterson, and Rauch all have more potential.
Cheaper? Chacon will probably be about 2 mill a year. Armas and Ohka are around that. The rest are tip jar cheap.
Younger? They're all about 26/27/28.

Is anyone ready to leave? Is anyone coming up?
Well with the Nats contracts are all a rich tapestry, since almost everyone was on one-year or minor league deals. But no, noone is up for free-agency right now, and performance will dictate who can go anywhere next year. Can't really worry about that right now.

Clint Everts is coming up. Maybe the Nats best prospect.

Should you sign Chacon?
Probably not. There are plenty of alternatives just as good, with more potential, and as cheap or cheaper already on hand. BUT if Bowden was to take a flier on Chacon with a short and cheap contract (say 2 years, 4mill). I could hardly argue. Post-Coors pitchers are always worth a look.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Of JJ Davis, Val Pascucci, and 4 million dollar salaries

While we all sit here and worry about the big picture (or big "pitcher", if you prefer), Bowden has made a couple moves around the edges. Are they as...*cough*...Interesting as his more prominent moves?

Nats acquire JJ Davis for Antonio Sucre -
Losing Sucre is nothing to worry about. Unproven and very young(20), he could be something someday, but I tend to lean toward the "bird in the hand" thinking. Davis (26) has already proved himself up to the Triple A level. Sucre may never do that. So for that part of the trade I can agree with Bowden. Of course Davis adds another outfield "prospect" to a team already crowded with potential good players but not much to show for it. Too make room for him the next move was...

Nats sell off Val Pascucci -
It's interesting how ok everyone was this deal considering it was essentially a Davis for Pascucci trade. Val is very similar to Davis, in that he was a minor league power standout who struck out too much. But whereas Davis is a swinging fool, Pascucci shows a surprising ability to take a walk. In their last full AAA years Davis had .342 OBP and .554 SLG, while Pascucci had .423 OBP and .577 SLG. The slugging difference could be explained by the leagues (PCL seemed a bit easier on the bats than the International last year), but that's a BIG difference in OBP. The idea is that Davis just
hasn't been under the right tutelage, but seeing how outfielders have progressed under this team I'm not filled with hope. In the end it doesn't matter because both of them are 5th outfielders, but I think we're slightly worse off so I'd rate this a "Bowden's Game Boy broke and he got bored" trade.

The scale being
"I don't see real well, is that Jim Bowden that made that trade?",
"Jim was all excited talking about this thing he found called the In-ter-net" (example - dropping Biddle),
"Bowden's Game Boy broke and he got bored",
"Bowden got the gardener to buy him Boone's Farm again" (example - signing Castilla, Guzman),
"Jim must have found that old note from Bud telling the GM to ruin the franchise"

Some potential moves are being discussed but it seems the Nats are hamstrung by only signing players at
4 million a year or less. I got to say that if this is a plan and not just a guideline, it's ridiculous. The goal should be getting good values for a contract not setting an arbitrary contract limit. Wouldn't you rather have a great player at 8 million than 2 average ones at 4? We overpaid for Guzman and Castilla, but do they think because it's under 4 million that it's ok? Frustrating.

Signing Odalis Perez
Not at 4 million a year we won't. Probably not at 6 million even. I guess we should be looking at my newest fav Ron Villone, or a short David Wells contract. Only Milton, Byrd, and El Duque could fall that cheap and they all are bigger risks than I'd like to see the team make.

Trading Nick Johnson for Alexis Rios
Presumably this would be to free up room in the outfield, by moving Wilkerson to first. Of course in the deal we get back another outfielder. Brilliant. The difference being Alexis is not in his late 20's. He's an actual prospect though getting older (24). He showed some pop in Double A, but that's pretty much it. He could develop power, but most likely he won't. He'll be a better hitting Endy Chavez (so we could in fact trade Endy to the Phillies for some pitching which had been rumored before). Is that enough to trade Nick for? Well...I love Nick, and he'll be a better offensive player than Alexis, but a first baseman with no power is a real drag on a team. I wouldn't do it, but if this trade is accompanied by the movement of Endy for something of minor league value, I wouldn't cry in my bouillabaisse.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Radke, Wright. - Part III The "Tomo Ohka Test"

Update 12/09: What this means to be is only a simple answer to the question "is this pitcher better than our #3 starter?" A +2/+3 would have to decrease production in two categories to reach our Tomo Ohka level, so I'd say they'd clearly be expected to pitch better than our #3 unless somehting strange happens. Reverse this logic for -2/-3. The rest have to be looked at on a case by case basis. For the +1s will, anyone regress to the Ohka? Well, Byrd and Hernandez may pitch less innings so I'd make the case they are no more valuable than Ohka. For the rest I'd say Millwood has a shot at pitching better next year. I might actually make the case he's the third best pitcher left in the pool. For the 0s, will anyone increase to break the Ohka mold? Well Clement and Wells are probably already better pitchers, they just happen to have a strange stat here or there. Lowe should pitch better next year. I can't say the same for Ortiz or Milton. For the -1s, will anybody increase and get to even Ohka level? I can't even say that looking at these four. So there's no reason to sign any of these.

The free agent pitching pool got even smaller yesterday decreasing the Nats chances of signing a good pitcher and increasing the concentration of child urine. Leiter, Lieber, and Woody Williams all were signed. Now do you see what happens when you wait till the end of the day to finish your thought?

Anyway, In the first two posts of this series I simply listed the free agent pitchers available, some of their stats, and gave my off the cuff comments on them. In this one I suggest a test. The TOT or Tomo Ohka Test.

Tomo Ohka is pitcher for the Nationals. In 2002 and 2003 he had fine years (for the Expos, R.I.P.), and I project that if he's healthy he'll be the Expos 3rd starter. The Nats need is for a #1, or possibly good #2 starter, so any pitcher we sign should be at least better than Tomo Ohka. Hence the TOT.

I feel that three things are good determinants of future performance, how many men a pithcer is letting on base, how many HR he's giving up, and how many strikeouts he got. In stat terms, WHIP, HR/9, and K/9. Ohka's stats in 2002/2003 combined give you base values of 1.32 WHIP, 1.03 HR/9, and 5.43 K/9. If a pitcher number for the same stat is outside a range (eyeballed by me) then he gets a +1 or -1 depending (positive is good), inside it he gets a 0. Then I sum up the three stats. The more positive a score the better. (I know this is messy, but I deal with statistics all day, Smart Guy. I'm just looking for a quick and dirty comparison to Tomo Ohka, so back off, Taj Mowry)

Now anyone with a -2 or -3 shouldn't even be in the discussion. There is no reason to sign these guys. So bye bye, Aaron Sele, Ismael Valdez, Omar Daal, and Shawn Estes

TOT numbers for the rest?
Martinez, Pavano, Leiter
Byrd, El Duque, Millwood, Perez, Villone, Williams
Clement, Lieber, Lowe, Milton, Ortiz, Wells
Lima, Loaiza, Nomo, Wright

What does this say? Not much more than you'd expect. Martinez and Pavano are the gems of the market. Lima, et al. probably aren't going to pitch better than a #3. The rest could be very good or could be very average.

What would I do if I were Washington? I'd go after Martinez if I could. That name and his stats. He's just too good to pass up at almost any price. Plus he has a track record. He will perfrom. Pavano may perform and that difference is huge when your doling out the big bucks. I'd skip any injury risk as the money just isn't there to waste so no Duque or Byrd. I don't think Milton can cure his HR problem so I'd pass by him too.

I'd try to get a Wells or Villone at a dirt cheap price. Steal them away before the market gets any more crazy. If not then Ortiz for a relatively cheap price. Even if he fails, he would be capable #3 for a while, and could be a very nice #2. The rest (Millwood, Clement, Perez, Lowe) will probably be overpriced for what they can deliver. Look at the market. If Lieber got 7 mill a year these guys aren't getting less than that, but they could very well pitch at the same level as not only him but good ol 2.5 mill Tomo Ohka.


Radke signs, Wright to Sign - PART 2

Continuing on

Derek Lowe (31/32) 15HR 182.2 IP 1.61 WHIP 1.44 K/BB 5.17 K/9
Pedro Martinez (33) 26HR 217 IP 1.17 WHIP 3.72 K/BB 9.41 K/9
Kevin Millwood (30) 14HR 141 IP 1.46 WHIP 2.23 K/BB 7.98 K/9
Eric Milton (29/20) 43HR 201 IP 1.35 WHIP 1.99 K/BB 7.21 K/9
Hideo Nomo (34/35) 19HR 84 IP 1.75 WHIP 1.26 K/BB 5.79 K/9
Russ Ortiz (30/31) 23HR 204 IP 1.51 WHIP 1.20 K/BB 6.29 K/9
Carl Pavano (28) 16HR 222 IP 1.17 WHIP 2.24 K/BB 5.63 K/9
Odalis Perez (27/28) 26HR 196 IP 1.14 WHIP 2.67 K/BB 5.87 K/9
Aaron Sele (34/35) 16HR 132 IP 1.62 WHIP 0.96 K/BB 3.48 K/9
Ismael Valdez (31/32) 33HR 170 IP 1.48 WHIP 1.29 K/BB 3.55 K/9
Ron Villone (35) 12HR 117 IP 1.42 WHIP 1.28 K/BB 6.62 K/9
David Wells (42) 23HR 195 IP 1.14 WHIP 4.81 K/BB 4.65 K/9
Woody Williams (38/39) 20HR 189 IP 1.32 WHIP 2.15 K/BB 6.22 K/9
Jamey Wright (30) 8HR 78 IP 1.61 WHIP 0.85 K/BB 4.69 K/9

and rating
Martinez - A True #1. Maybe not all he was but still a dominant force and in a new league could be amazing again
Perez - Might be LA helped, but still young and good enough if can cut down on HR
Wells - Cheap nowadays, I'll believe he can't be a consistent winner the first season it happens
Pavano - If he's made a leap, he could be a good acquisition, but stats don't seem to think he made it. Will be well overpriced.
Lowe - Will be better than last year, but must understand it's his loss of control, not the defense behind him, that's really killing him
Ortiz - an intriguing innnings eater. Any uptick in skill in this guy and a team could get a real bargain.
Villone - That's right Ron Villone. I think the guy would be a winner given a chance on a good team
Milton - 43 HR. If you could cut that in half you'd have a good lefty pitcher, but he's always been prone to this
Williams - Age started to get to him, relies on same skills Wells does, but not as good or proven
Millwood - Injury risk, maybe a head case (couldn't take pressure of Philly?). A change of scenery might help.
Nomo - Gets a lot of Ks, but lost if not in LA
Wright - Bad, but young so I guess teachable. And pulling anyone out of Coors would help the mind.
Valdez - Slowly becoming the most hittable starter in the major leagues
Sele - Old, can't strike anyone out, an emergency rotation guy.

In Part 3 - I'll pass them through the "TOT" (Tomo Ohka Test) and give you my opinions on who is signable or not.


Radke signs, Wright to sign - what's left for the Nats?

Reports say Radke has signed with the Twins and Wright will sign with the Yanks. It was well known that the Nats wanted pitching, and that these were two of their targets. The Nats are most likely looking toward Odalis Perez now. I don't believe that's the worst thing in the world, but I know I'll be shaking my head when/if I hear the contract terms. If Radke got 9 mill a year at his age, and Wright got 7 mill over 3 years for 1 good season, Bowden should pay Perez around 8 mill a year for 4 years.

But before I judge Rowdy Bowden is there something better out there?

Part 1 - A through Loaiza

Paul Byrd (34) 18HR 114.1 IP 1.24 WHIP 4.16 K/BB 6.22 K/9
Matt Clement (30/31) 23HR 181 IP 1.28 WHIP 2.35 K/BB 9.45 K/9
Omar Daal (33) 11HR 93.2 IP 1.75 WHIP 1.71 K/BB 5.09 K/9
Shawn Estes (32) 30HR 202 IP 1.62 WHIP 1.06 K/BB 5.21 K/9
Orlando Hernandez (36) 9 HR 84.2 IP 1.29 WHIP 2.33 K/BB 8.93 K/9
Al Leiter (39) 16 HR 173.2 IP 1.35 WHIP 1.11 K/BB 6.06 K/9
Jon Lieber (34) 20HR 176.2 IP 1.32 WHIP 5.10 K/BB 5.20 K/9
Jose Lima (32) 33HR 170.1 IP 1.24 WHIP 2.33 K/BB 4.91 K/9
Esteban Loaiza (33) 9 HR 42.1 IP 2.06 WHIP 1.21 K/BB 7.23 K/9

How would I ranks these for the Nats

Byrd - A solid pitcher with great control. Should keep you in every game though needs to keep the ball down.
Clement - Has the most promise, as pitchers can keep improving at this age, and best stats. Will be expensive though.
Lieber - Similar to Byrd, though competition with Yanks could raise price and arm has been reconstructed
Leiter - Aging vet can help staff, but stats have been dropping every year
Estes - Coors makes him look worse than he is, but not much worse. Back of the rotation starter
Hernandez - Big injury risk. Probably older than he is. When he is pitching can be quite effective.
Lima - Lima Time! Stats show last year a fluke. Likely to get lit up in 2005.
Loaiza - Year everyone remembers was fluke. Recent pitching more in line with past.
Daal - Done.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Position Analysis - Third Base

Third Baseman
Starter: Vinny Castilla
Back-Up: Brendan Harris
In the Minors: Rick Short, Brian Harris, Scott Hodges, Shawn Norris?

Bats: Right Age in 2005 : 37/38 Contract: 6.2 million for 2 years (3 million in 2005)
2004 Stats: .271 35 131 51 BB 113 K .535 Slug .332 OBP

Past: After a couple of cups of coffee in the majors with the Braves, Castilla was selected by Colorado with the 40th pick of the expansion draft. Vinny had a couple of middling years before exploding in 1995 with Triple Crown stats of .309 32 90. This began 5 straight years where Castilla hit over .300 with 30+ HR and more than 90+ RBI, including a .319 46 144 year. However, these numbers hid two secrets: 1) Vinny could not take a pitch to save his life, his OBP being only slightly above his batting average (but still good since his average was good); 2) Vinny was a lion at Coors, a lamb elsewhere. So when Vinny appeared to be slipping with a slightly less impressive ’99, Colorado let him go to Tampa Bay for a crazy salary. Injuries and probably a little bit of “what the hell does it matter” destroyed Castilla and he was released mid-season 2001 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Given a second chance by the Astros, Vinny showed he could hit well in another bandbox. This led to a 2-yr contract for the Braves where he was awful in the first year and average in the second.

Present: The Rockies returned Vinny home with a one-year deal for 2004. Vinny had another “Triply Crown” impressive year in Colorado as if he had never left. But oh those splits. HOME: .321 14 80 .397 OBP .575 SLG AWAY: .218 21 51 .281 OBP .493 SLG. Nothing has changed for Castilla. He’s an hitter with no patience who is made better by the thin air of Coors. Castilla declined a mutual option that would have paid him 2.6 million, most after 2015 though (yes 2015, talk about deferred).

Best Case: Castilla hits a lot like Tony Batista did last year, hitting about .270 with 30 HR, both years. His OBP is awful, but he gives the Nats good defense and isn’t a hole in the lineup.
Worst Case: Castilla has a horrible first year batting around .220 with only minimal power. Aging, Castilla can’t even field like he used to and the Nats find themselves wanting to pull a Tampa Bay and release Vinny in the second year.
Probable: Other than last year, Castilla has shown very little non-Coors, non-Enron power since 1999. Other than 2003, Castilla has shown very little non-Coors non-Enron batting average since 1999. Castilla has shown very little OBP wherever and whenever he is (much like Shakira). Given his past showings during non contract years, next year could very well be horrendous. I think he’s seen his last sunny-side of .250. I’m guessing .230 with 20 HR, though I'm probably underselling his power. He would then try to pick it up in year 2 but being as old as he is he can only do marginally better say .240 and 25 HR.

Bats: Right Age in 2005 : 24/25 Contract: Minor League
2004 Stats: .222 1 3 3 BB 12 K .271 Slug .222 OBP

Past: A touted Cubs prospect, Brendan moved up to Double A by 2003. While I wouldn’t say he “tore up” the minors, I would say he was moved up not only on a prospect basis, as sometime players are, but because he was hitting too well to keep down.

Present: Because the Cubs were questionable at both 3rd and 2nd at the beginning of the year, Brendan was given a chance at the majors. He hit ok in this very brief stop, but was moved to Triple A to get some seasoning. The Nomar deal sent him to the Expos system. He continued to hit well in Edmonton, and late-season injuries gave Brendan a second shot at the majors. He did not do as well in this longer stint, hitting with an .OBP of .208 and a SLG of .260 in 50 at bats.

Best Case: Brendan shows doubles power and average in the majors. He hits well enough in limited duty to usurp third base from Castilla, around .280 and 10HRs. Given the full job in 2006, he performs even better and .280+ 20+ HR a year is penciled into the Nats lineup at 3B for the next few years.
Worst Case: Brendan is a AAAA hitter. Unable to really keep up with major league pitching, he flops back and forth between the majors and AAA, a utility player.
Probable: Brendan, will probably start in the majors but won’t get the shots next year unless Castilla really fails. In limited time he should do better, but won’t get the seasoning he probably needs. I’d guess probably around .250 with 5-10 HR, unless the organization starts moving around youngsters all the time. Then he could spend half the year in AAA. 2006 will probably be the year when we see if Brendan can make an impact, as he should get an increase in playing time for the declining Castilla.

Ages in 2005 : 32 / 30 / 26 / 25 Contract: Minor League Contract

Rick Short is more of a second baseman who spent 2003 in Japan, after a 2002 Pac Coast player of the year award. Signed by the Royals he was traded to the 'Spos and, like every 2B in the organization, was tried at 3rd, since Vidro occupies 2B. Played well in Triple AAA, with the best bat. Playing right now in Mexico

Brian Harris, is another converted 2B from the Royals. He performed almost as well as Rick Short in Edmonton.

Scott Hodges used to be a touted prospect but has disappointed a bit. After an early season injury kept him from breaking into the majors as a back up for Batista, he never really got back into his flow. He was disappointing in Edmonton last year.

Shawn Norris is the next hot prospect for 3B. A good contact hitter, he performed well in Double A Harrisburg last year.

If they need another infielder (Jamey Carroll can play all but first, Brendan Harris can play both 2nd and 3rd) It's possible that one of the AAA guys would get a look (though Labandiera is also there). Short has the best history of hitting, Hodges still has a little cache as a prospect. I think it depends on how totally they give up on Scott. Brian H is going to get lost in the shuffle, probably playing a lot of AAA second. Regardless, playing time for any of the three would be very limited

I imagine that unless they clear out this logjam with trades, releases, or declined signings, Norris will remain in Double A. If he performs well, he will leap over these guys, as the first to be called up.

FREE AGENTS (not that it matters now)
Beltre was the best player available, but looking for way too much money, even for the Dodgers who will eventually overpay to get him back. Early favorite for the Nats, Troy Glaus is a monster power hitter, if he remains healthy. A big if. Later favorite, Corey Koskie is nothing if not consistent. A .270 20HR type of guy, with good OBP numbers. If you wanted consistent and a little less than average, Joe Randa could probably be had real cheap. He’ll give you .280 12 HR for a few more years, but lacks most of Koskie’s little things.

As I said in the shortstop analysis, I favored letting Brendan Harris and Macier Izturis have their shots at big league jobs. I did think that it would be best to stagger these shots and thought Brendan should “go first”. I would have signed, as cheaply as possible and for no more than two years, a Joe Randa or maybe a Jose Hernandez, simply to be the back-up to Brendan to start the season (with Barry Larkin at short).

If we had gone the other way and given Macier first crack; I would have gone after Corey Koskie, for third. Koskie, was probably asking in the neighborhood of 20 mill for 4 years, and will probably be got for something just over 16 mill for 4, or 13 mill for 3 if the market remains tight.

Of course this is with the first base plan of getting a Sexson or Delgado. If we had stuck with Johnson, then injuries be damned, I would have given Glaus a shot. He’s a legitimate power hitter, unlike anyone else on the team right now. That dimension is something this team sorely needs.

Friday, December 03, 2004


Why Angelos can sue and exciting free preview

The question came up of why Orioles owner Peter Angelos can sue to block the DC move, and I didn't have a good answer at the time. After some thought - here's what I got.

Angelos' argument is that baseball entered an implied agreement with him when he bought the team that no frachise would be moved within a certain area surrounding Baltimore. (I think if it was written, we would have heard about such thing, I doubt even things such as moving a third team into NYC are explicitly spelled out in writing. ) This isn't a crazy position for Angelos to take. If this were a simple free market case, Angelos would lose and lose quickly. But MLB is a sanctioned monopoly, a limited partnership of sorts where each member invests the money to buy a team with the idea that MLB will run baseball well enough that they will profit. If MLB were to suddenly make a situation unprofitable for one investor inparticular, I think a case could be made that whatever deal was agreed upon has been broken.

Now, will moving a team to DC make the Orioles unprofitable? I sincerely doubt it. Teams existed in both cities at the same time previously. The costs have risen, but not as fast as the expansion in population and revenue. Losing the DC market will dent profits, but enough to put the Orioles in the red? I can hardly believe that. MLB would probably win this case.

Then why is MLB consulting with DC Mayor Williams on how to give up the farm? MLB never wants to go to court. The key is that "sanctioned monopoly" comparison. MLB has an anti-trust exemption that it wants to keep on the board forever. You can bet if Angelos was going to take them to court, he would have a gambit based on threatening that stauts ready. MLB doesn't want to take that chance, so it will settle. I can't see it doing otherwise.

In other news - nice article by Jim Caple here.

And eventually Exposbaseball DOT blogspot DOT com will change, since, you know, there's no more Expos baseball. Here's a sneak preview of Natsbaseball DOT blogspot DOT com. It will be up and running sometime next week.

Third base analysis this weekend.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


Position Analysis - Shortstop

Starter: Christian Guzman
Back-Up: Jamey Carroll (see 2nd base analysis)
In the Minors: Josh Labandeira/Alejandro Machado

Bats: Switch Age in 2005 : 27 Contract: Singed through 2008 16.8 Million Total - 4.2 Million Total in 2005 (in fact 4.2 mill every year)
2004 Stats: .274 8 46 30 BB 64 K .384 Slug .309 OBP

Past: The free swinging Guzman had a couple of mediocre early seasons before surprising everyone with a fantastic 2001. While he didn't learn any plate discipline, he did show unexpected power, hitting 28 doubles, 14 triples, and 10 HR in 118 games. Being only 23 at the time, it was thought that this was a natural maturation and we were looking at an all-star shortstop for years to come. But neither 2002 or 2003 backed up this view. Both his slight uptick in average and big uptick in power dropped back down to pre 2001 levels and left a slick fielding, though hack-tastic shortstop

Present: 2004 was a contract year for Guzman, and for the Twins it was make or break. Would he show that promise again or just show up? It was the latter. Guzman put in another slightly below average year at the plate. More worrisome was a drop in speed, Guzman had his lowest totals in SBs and triples since his rookie year. Not a favorite in the clubhouse, the Twins decided to cut the cord on Guzman and declined the option on his contract making him a free agent.

Best Case: Guzman learns a little better bat control raising that average up a bit. His drop in speed is just one-year aberration, and he ends up a .280 hitter with good speed for the entirety of the contract, not a great deal for the money, but an acceptable for a shortstop.
Worst Case: Guzman’s speed falls away with age. His "power" (legged out doubles and triples) drops to nothing. With no plate discipline and no speed to fear, pitchers go straight at him. By the end of the contract we've got a guy barely hanging onto a major league job, batting around .230/.240 with no power or walks.
Unfortunately, Guzman seems unlikely to learn any plate discipline. He never deviated on the road from his Metrodome turf strategy of "Slap & Run". There’s little reason to believe he will now. I don't think his speed is gone and a more aggressive attitude could bring back the SB and extra-base hits. The actual power from 2001 is not coming back. I know it's his prime years, but "prime years" are just a guess. Some people peak later (Bonds), some earlier (Bob Hamelin). I think we'll get an acceptable year or two out of Guzman (.260-.270 with some doubles and triples), but his bat will slow with age and the last two years he could likely drop under .300 in both OBP and SLG. An potentially horrible situation.

Bats: Right Age in 2005 : 26 Contract: Minor League Contract
2004 Stats (Harrisburg Double A): .270 9 33 53 BB 92 K .381 Slug .357 OBP

Present: Josh is old for a prospect. He could have moved to Triple A but he did not since Macier Izturis was a better and younger prospect. He was completely outmatched in the majors but his stint was rather short. He'd be better served in Triple A next year, but there is a slight change he could get forced into the majors for depth purposes. Jamey Carroll (in the 2B analysis) will most likely back-up both 2B and SS.

Future: It's too early to tell if Josh could make it in the majors but the outlook isn't all that great. Hopefully he won't be in the majors next year as it could overwhelm him. Maybe after a couple years in Triple A, he'll bounce in and out of the majors for a year or two. Really, we first have to see if he can remain at this level in New Orleans.

Bats: Switch Age in 2005 : 23 Contract: Minor League Contract
2004 Stats (Harrisburg): .280 4 26 41 BB 39 K .353 Slug .399 OBP

Present: Machado has bounced around already with 3 teams in the minor leagues. Good enough to warrant a look at when you don't have him but not good enough to hold onto when you do. He's more of a prospect than Labandeira because of his age. He has NO power (even compared to these guys and shortstops in general) but good speed and a good eye. He should start the year wherever Labandeira is not, probably Harrisburg.

Future: He could very well end up in the majors but that could be 3 years off. For now he's a minor-league talent and an iffy prospect. He should get another 1/2 year to a year seasoning in Double A before moving up to Triple A. He's trying to develop power but it probably won't happen. His arm is a little suspect for shortstop so most likely you're looking at a slap hitting second baseman. But stranger things have happened and he's young enough to still be "promising".

FREE AGENTS (not much use now)

Nomar and Edgar Renteria were the class, but both out of our price range, assuming shortstop wasn’t our only upgrade. Jose Valentin could have given the team a lot of pop - but nothing else. Bringing home Orlando Cabrera was also a possibility but he also might have been asking for too much and probably would end up somewhere else. Both Omar Vizquel and Barry Larkin were name shortstops available, but are not long term answers.


I would have signed Barry Larkin, the second biggest "name" SS behind Nomar available, for a couple of years. You'd get his retirement for publicity, a great clubhouse presence, and not a bad mentor for the young Macier Izturis. He would play pretty much full-time in 2005, then half-time in 2006 when Izzy would get his shot.

Macier Izturis was a nice little prospect hitting .338 3 36 .423 SLG .428 OBP in Triple A. He had shown a good eye throughout the minors and improving power. While he would never become a HR threat a nice double power SS with a good OBP wasn't out of the realm of possibility. He didn't do well in his first major league hacks, but it was hardly enough to tell.

Macier and Brendan Harris are two young prospects who were about ready to get a commitment from the franchise for some serious major league time. To put both in at the same time could have really hampered the offense though as they probably would struggle while getting their feet wet. Since Harris had a little more seasoning and was a little older I would have probably given him first crack at 3rd, while Macier warned the bench or got seasoning in Triple A, though I could have gone with the other way around.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Council Approves Stadium (preliminarily, of course)

So, as you may have noticed, I tried to watch the DC council meeting yesterday. After 3+ hours of jibber-jabbering though, I couldn't take anymore and went back to sticking bamboo shoots underneath my fingernails and watching "Son-in-Law". I would describe most of those 3 hours as:

- Councilman Fenty introduces an amendment that he knows won't pass
- Councilman Evans speaks against it, usually with the stirring argument that "It would break the deal with MLB". Then he quietly says "Yes, Emporer Selig. I'm doing it. " into his cufflink.
- Councilman Fenty says something like "but we're supposed to fix it if it's a bad deal, and this deal is horrible", except stretch that out for 8 minutes.
- Councilman Orange agrees with Councilman Evans and tries to get the amendment ruled "out of order", and for some reason keeps praising Councilwoman Cropp. I think he "likes her likes her".
- Councilman Graham talks about his unhealthy fixation with libraries
- Councilman Evans calls everyone against the plan a liar in a backhanded way, telling a bunch of half-truths to back it up. The irony is lost on him.
- Councilman Catania starts yelling at something, maybe a fly.
- Councilman Graham tries to ask a librarian out.

- Councilwoman Cropp states she's on both sides of the issue, then literally splits in two. Both Cropp1 and Cropp2 abstain from voting, however.
- Councilman Fenty gets exasperated, and his hand puppet screams "You know, Adam Smith? Wealth of Nations!? Read a book!!"
- Amendment fails.

Eventually they passed a bill that would allow them to consider new sites if costs rise above $630 million BEFORE building starts to take place. Of course pre-building costs can be configured around all they want so I doubt that it will ever hit that total (in fact it may not hit that total, period. But it probably will). Even then it's not the "must be chosen" as reported, it's a "must be found and we'll build there if both parties agree." MLB very likely won't agree to any change.

They tacked on other amendments. One makes them look at private financing. Again, it would have to get MLB approval to be part of the deal and MLB wants as much public funding as possible so they can then sell the team for the greatest profit. Another one cuts some of the community support measures. I'm torn on that. It seems they could, you know, cut costs elsewhere. Perhaps in the $630 million, I don't know. But then again this is just political, pork legislation there to get votes which I dislike.

It could still not pass the second reading, but I wouldn't bet on it.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?