Friday, September 30, 2005

Looking Ahead

Another night, another one-run loss, 4-3 to the hated Phillies. Time for Livan to go under the knife. Hopefully the surgery will help him out and he can regain his first-half 2005 form.

As I look ahead to the offseason, I realize that there are an extraordinary amount of loose ends that will be tied up, for better or worse, between now and February 2006. I will post on each of these at length as developments unfold during the offseason, but I'll list them here just for the sake of getting a handle on them all. Let me know if I've missed any.

To be fair, these really need to be broken up into two categories: personnel issues and franchise issues.

I'll start with the franchise issues. The District didn't find out for sure that it was getting the team until the end of September, 2004. Then came the infamous city council near-meltdown that almost resulted in the city losing the team. That finally settled down in late December, leaving team officials only two and a half months to move the franchise and get ready for spring training. In retrospect, all of this scrambling led to patchwork arrangements and hastily-arranged deal that hampered the team somewhat in the inagural season. The following serious issues need to be addressed in the offseason, in rough order of priority:

-Establishing an owner for the team.
-Breaking ground on the new stadium.
-Fixing the hideous MASN/Angelos/Comcast snake-pit of a TV deal.
-Finding a better radio deal for the team.
-Deciding whether or not, and how far, to move the fences in at RFK.
-Serving sundae helmets and half-smokes at RFK.

Now on to the personnel issues:

-Determining whether Robinson, Bowden and Tavares will return to the team.
-Signing/developing a leadoff hitter.
-Signing a fourth starting pitcher.
-Signing a set-up man that could also close games if Cordero starts blowing up.
-Deciding whether to bring Guzman back or eat his contract and find another shortstop.
-Deciding whether to re-sign mid-season free agents like Preston Wilson, Junior Spivey and Deivi Cruz.
-Deciding whether or not Ryan Zimmerman should be the every day third baseman.
-Deciding the fate of Carlos Baerga, Jamey Carroll, Rick Short and other role players.
-Finding a new P.A. announcer.

What a list. As sorry as I am to see the season come to an end, it's great to know that we'll have all these interesting developments to keep track of. I'm sure we'll all be overjoyed at times and hopping mad at others...but that's the Nationals for ya.

Last Chat?

Washington Post sportswriter Thomas Boswell will be online this morning at 11:00 A.M. for what could be (sniff) the last Nationals chat for quite some time. Be there!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

So Long, Stanton

The Nationals traded lefty reliever Mike Stanton to the Boston Red Sox today in exchange for two minor league pitching prospects, Rhys Taylor and Yader Peralta. Taylor went 2-2 with a 1.49 ERA in the Gulf League and Peralta went 2-3 with a 4.57 ERA in various minor league levels.

I know there are a lot of Jim Bowden haters out there but you have to give him a little credit for this trade. Stanton performed well for the Nats (2-1 with a 3.58 ERA in 30 games) but he's 38 years old and a free agent at the end of this year. Kudos to Bowden for getting something in return for him, especially at this point in the season. If nothing else, this atones for Bowden's questionable trading away of pitchers like Zach Day and Tomo Ohka and pumps new blood into the Nats anemic farm system.

You know, it's gotta be nerve-racking for Tony Tavares, Jim Bowden and Frank Robinson to not know their status for next year, but it's kind of nice to see club managers/execs going all-out in an effort to earn their jobs back. It's a nice contrast to all those teams with sacred cow GMs/presidents who allow their teams to wallow in mediocrity while they earn a fat paycheck (see: Cincinnati Reds).

Useless Trivia: Stanton has the distinction of being the first Washington National to lose a game by a walk-off balk.


Welcome, everyone!

It's been an incredible summer for Nats fans in general and me in particular. I'll always remember the 2005 Nats as the Team that Brought Me Back to Baseball. I grew up in Cincinnati rooting for the Reds during the Marge Schott era. One of my fondest memories was the summer of 1990, when the Reds went wire-to-wire and swept the vaunted Oakland A's in the World Series. I remember anxiously looking forward to listening to each game over the radio and agonizing over standings and stats. When the team went west to California on a road trip, I'd stay up until the wee hours to cheer a win or mourn a loss. Each morning I'd agonize over the standings while reading the coverage in the newspaper. In short, baseball became a great part of my life.

I moved to Washington, D.C. in 1996, and while the capital city had a lot going for it, there was no baseball team. I was shocked at the way the local media tried to pass the Orioles off as "DC's team." Nobody in DC gave a crap about the Orioles, except Baltimore transplants, not even in 1997. Suddenly, there was a gaping hole in my summer without being able to go to baseball games and root for a home team. I followed the Reds from afar, but by then the management had given up on trying to field winning teams, and it just wasn't the same.

Then came the Nats in 2005. I'll never forget my first Nats game, the exhibition contest on March 31 between the Nats and the Mets at RFK. It was freezing, bone-chilling cold that day, and everyone in the stadium spent more time looking for hot cocoa than watching the game. But the atmosphere was still electric. Despite the fact that the fans weren't familiar with the players, the stadium, or anything about the team, the place was full of people wearing Nationals hats, shirts and other gear. I knew that this team was going to become part of the DC experience and part of my summers.

And what a summer it was! The team surpassed everyone's expectations by competing in the talented N.L. East and contending well into September. There were so many thrilling ups and crushing downs, just as baseball should be. Although the team won't be playoff-bound, we Nats fans got a great taste of (hopefully) wonderful things to come. Nonetheless, it's a long way back to Viera in February, and so many questions await answers. I'll do my best to throw plenty of wood on the Hot Stove this winter. I hope fellow Nationals fans and bloggers will join me!