Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Elijah Dukes is one of 13 2009 Nats who didn't play in the majors this season.
At the time, I came up with 61 guys who played their final major-league game wearing a Nats uniform between 2005-08. The correct number is actually 59, because I forgot that Paul Lo Duca played a few games for the Marlins in 2008 and Chad Cordero resurfaced with the Mariners this year.
The conclusion I drew back then was that the Nationals, desperate to fill out rosters, were forced to play way too many past-their-prime veterans or unqualified rookies who probably shouldn't have been there in the first place. As the franchise improved over time, the hope would be that fewer of those kind of players are needed.
So, have things gotten better for the Nats in this department? No, not really.
An analysis of the Nationals' 2009 roster reveals 13 more players who didn't appear in a major-league game this season. That's the same number off the Nats' 2007 roster and three more than the 2008 roster.
Here's the updated, year-by-year list from 2005-09...
2009 (13)While there was a slight improvement this year — I count 11 members of the 2010 Nats who conceivably may not play in the majors next season: Wil Nieves, Jamie Burke, Willy Taveras, Kevin Mench, Carlos Maldonado, Miguel Batista, Tyler Walker, Jason Bergmann, Matt Chico, Joe Bisenius, Brian Bruney — it's not exactly a major step forward.
Wily Mo Pena
How, though, does this compare to other franchises? Is the Nats' list considerably longer than comparable lists from other teams? Well, I looked at two clubs from complete opposite ends of the success spectrum: the Phillies and the Pirates. Not surprisingly, their overall success is mirrored in this department.
Only eight members of the Phillies' 2008 roster didn't play in the big league the following year. Only six members of their 2009 roster didn't play in the big leagues this year.
On the other hand, 11 members of the Pirates' 2008 roster didn't play in the majors the following year. And a staggering 15 members of their 2009 roster were nowhere to be found this year.
So the Nationals aren't alone in their misery when it comes to this subject. A franchise that hasn't had a winning season since 1992 stands right alongside them.
That said, this is just another reflection of how far the Nats still have to go to escape the bottom tier of major-league franchises. Until they get to a point where they aren't relying on so many last-gasp veterans and marginal rookies, they're going to continue to have a difficult time matching up with some of baseball's most successful clubs.