Friday, August 13, 2010

Incapable of catching the Marlins

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ian Desmond eludes Hanley Ramirez after tagging him out in the fourth.
If the Nationals are ever going to escape the basement of the NL East, they're going to have to leapfrog someone in the division. That team may prove to be the Mets, who are currently experiencing their annual, late-summer collapse that has more to do with off-the-field fiascos than on-the-field performance.

But the franchise that generally has stood directly in the Nats' way over the years hails from Florida and has established with incredible authority its ability to swat away these guys like they have no business sharing a ballpark with them.

Yes, the Marlins of all teams are the Nationals' biggest nemesis. After tonight's rain-delayed, 5-0 victory to complete a three-game sweep, Florida merely extended its run of dominance over its division rivals.

These two teams have played 47 times over the last three seasons. The Nats' record in those games: 13-34.

"Really?" Livan Hernandez responded in awe when informed of those lopsided results. "I don't know that."

He does now.

"Always in baseball, you've got somebody [who owns you]," Hernandez said. "Like for me, Todd Helton hits like .700."

(For the record, Helton's career average against Livo is a mere .465 (33-for-71), his OPS a robust 1.259.)

There's no getting around this, though. The Marlins own the Nationals. The run began in 2008, when Florida stunningly won 14 of 17 matchups, and has continued the last two seasons (12-6 in 2009, now 8-4 this year).

"Lately, they've gotten the best of us," manager Jim Riggleman said. "They're playing good baseball. They're playing good. They're pitching good."

Hanley Ramirez (lifetime .363 average, 24 homers, 63 RBI in 82 head-to-head games) has always been the Nats' biggest individual nemesis, but Mike Stanton is making a strong push to usurp that title from his All-Star teammate. The 20-year-old right fielder demolished Washington pitching in this series, crushing two homers, three doubles, driving in six runs and at one point reaching base in 10 of 11 plate appearances.

"He is some kind of good-looking player," Riggleman said.

Get used to him, because he's going to be terrorizing Nationals pitchers for years to come.

If the Nats have any visions of ever climbing out of the basement in their division, they're going to have to figure out a way to stifle Stanton and Ramirez. And they're going to have to find a way to start beating a Marlins club that right now treats the Nationals like roadkill.


Aussie Gus said...

Dude, got to bed. It's your birthday. Your people can wait for their game summary!

Souldrummer said...

I came this close to singing "Happy Birthday, Mark!" from the 3rd level concourse during the break before the bottom of the 9th. Then I realized it was no longer his birthday and lost courage. The man must love some baseball to stay in the press box all the way through this snoozer on his birthday.

Anonymous said...

As the Nats snooze toward 20 games below .... the Orioles are winning again so ... the Nats might get back into the thick of things for that 1st of 1st rounders again ... and a sure sign that very little if any progress has been made.

Big Cat said...

Staggering to the finish line......again

CapPeterson said...


I like your emphasis on the Nats' haplessness (is there such a word?) vs. the Fish. It's obvious from Livo's comments that this issue has not been brought up in the clubhouse. I know some commenters here will say, so what? each game is a blank slate or words to that effect, but I agree more with Dibble that at some point your pride as a professional athlete has to come into play. You should be embarrassed by such continued poor play (is that word in the Nats' lexicon?)and take steps to change the situation. (Dibble suggests throwing more inside pitches, e.g.)

Of course, the onus is really on Nats' management. It's not enough to make incremental improvement every year (e.g. replace Ramos by Nieves) and say "good times are ahead." The Red Sox look at the Yanks (and now the Rays)every offseason--really, all the time--and ask, "what specific personnel changes do we need to make to be better than these clubs?" I'm not saying mortgage the future to win with vets in 2011, but is this very slow improvement in the farm system, coupled with an embarrassingly (there's that word again) small payroll, going to be enough to ever get the Nats out of the basement?

JayB said...

Nope it is not going to be enough to improve "incrementally".......50 something wins to 60 wins to 70 wins is just not going to get them anywhere but last place over the next 5 years.

By the time they put in the years to theoretically get to 90 wins, Zimm and Dunn and Strass are all gone.

Spending real amounts on real proven players is the only way to get this team winning in the next 5 years. The next 5 years is the window we know is there so spending is a must. They can not always go for the cheap option in FA....Kennedy, Jason M, types just are not going to do anything to help win this division.

Anonymous said...

Rizzo can start by firing "nice guy--everybody loves me" Riggleman and hiring a real manager. The Orioles finally figured that out.

Mr Baseball said...

Agree with Anonymous, we do need a new manager. I'm tired of hearing his positives, we need someone to kick this team in the rear. Mr Double-switch you moved out of the area once and it is time for you to move again. We have only had one decent Manager (Frank Robinson) since the team came to Washington. He was no nonsence. PLAY THE GAME!!

The players maybe saying the right things openly but I wonder what they are thinking inside themselves!

Richard said...

I don't get the focus on the Fish. Yeah, okay, maybe they beat the Nats a little more than others, but the Nats have lost 100 games the last two years, as we all well know, and, since going 20-15 over the first 35 games, are on a pace that would produce 103 losses this year. Which teams are the Nats better than at the moment? Re the question of spendiing more, San Diego is winning with one of the lowest payrolls. Oakland has won in the past. This year Oakland is around .500 and trails the Rangers by a wide margin, although .500 probably would look good to most Nats fans, as a start. The Mets are spending big $$$ and not winning. So, spending has to be accompanied by smart analysis -- and some luck re health. Have the Nats been smart? Back in mid-February what would we have said? Maybe "yes"? Could they have foreseen Marquis' and Lannan's problems, and Detwiler's hip? That's 3/5 of the rotation. Or Morgan's slow start? He seemed to be regaining his mojo before being placed on the DL. I would like to see what a consistent lineup would do, i.e., the "best" 8 or 9 everyday. But I'm all in, goin' down with ship. Gurgle, gurgle. This morning Boswell says signing Harper and Dunn are crucial. I'd sign Livo for 2011 right now, too.

Anonymous said...

I am constantly amazed at how many strikeouts this team has each and every game. They make the most average pitcher look like all-stars.

Big Cat said...

Realistically, how many keepers do we have in this lineup? Zim, Desmond, Pudge(gettin old) Dunn, Bernadina, and thats about it. Phew.....I guess its better than not having a team at all

Anonymous said...


You are dead wrong in so many ways I don't know where to start:

1)Marquis was 15 mil for 2 years; it may be cheap in your world; but it is not in the real world.
2)If they had gotten; say Roy Halladay and Mariano Duncan instead of Marquis and Kennedy do you think they would have contended?
3) Spending big bucks on top shelf free agents only makes sense when the foundation is in place; Rizzo has only had one year to start on the foundation; from last year's draft he has 2 players in the big's already; not bad.
4) Zimmerman and Strasburg won't leave because by the time they need to be resigned the re will be enough of a foundation where it will makes sense to give them top dollars.

Your premise from the start has been that you need to throw money at the problem but unless you are the Yankees ( and they have lot's of home grown talent on their team) it won't work. Our model should be the Tampa Bay Rays; and the improvement can be dramatic at some point.Short cuts will get you the Baltimore Orioles; that's not the answer we are looking for.

Anonymous said...

Desmond a keeper? Really?

JoeGish said...

Jimmy, I agree that Frank was the best manager the Nats every had! I will never forget how he out managed Joe Torre and the Yankees to take 2 of 3 in the three game series in 2006. Intentionally walking the bases loaded to get to A-Rod who then struck out! That was the guts. Anyway, The way GM Jimbo and the Lerners showed Frank the door insured he will never step foot in Nats town again. Perhaps he will when Buck and the Baltimore Birds comeback to town with their new found Swagger.

Keep Riggs until talent ready (1-2 yrs). Then hire Willie Randolph will just flat out outcoach the opposition!

One last point, The last words from Steinbrenner, ' my fellow owners in DC, if want to win, you got to spend.'

JayB said...

Mariano Duncan? Retired in 1997....yup your clearly up things.

Jason M was a cheap option...Rock Solid Starting Pitchers to fill #1 or #2 cost more and they should pay it.

Yes with better players they would have a better record this year and next....that is what is needed to build the club...better records. In 3 years you spend more than what they should have spent this past winter....You win and your park is full and it pays for itself. Lerners are still underspending in a big way and the team is under-performing in a big way. This is year 6 in a Major Market town. That is the reality.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Marian Duncan!!! man that's funny!!!

NatsJack in Florida said...


Anonymous said...

I meant Orlando Hudson;

'Jason M was a cheap option...Rock Solid Starting Pitchers to fill #1 or #2 cost more and they should pay it'

Who exactly was available and let's discuss how they could have gotten them via FA.

You just throw out wild ideas, focus on irrelevancies such as the 4th outfielder and the backup catcher etc. Just because you repeat the the same stuff doesn't make it reasonable.

This was a completely broken organization when Bowden was fired. You can't fix it by throwing money at free agents who won't get you over the hump anyway; you just waste years by going that route.

Ask the Astros if they want a do over on the Carlos Lee contract?; see what Toronto thinks now about the contracts they gave Wells and Rios?; How good was Texas with Alex Rodriguez?
Tampa Bay was a laughing stock for years; how would you like to have their organizational talent level now?

alm100 said...

That rain was crap last night. Had President's Club tickets but my wife reached her limit - 5 hours at the park - at 10:30. It was only her second game but we were done then - and so were the Nats. Feeling really fat today. ;>)

Yeah the Lerners are cheap, blah blah blah. Rehashing history and coulda/wouldas is pointless. We took a step forward this year and hopefully will take another step forward next. The first indication will be if they sign "Big County" as Carter called Dunn the other night.

I want a winning streak. I hate the Birds of Balmer.

Jeff said...


"As the Nats snooze toward 20 games below .... the Orioles are winning again so ... the Nats might get back into the thick of things for that 1st of 1st rounders again ... and a sure sign that very little if any progress has been made."

Uh... You obviously haven't looked at the standings lately. Even after getting swept by the Fish, the Nats are at the "head" of a group of fairly bad teams. They're better than the Astros, Cubs, D-Backs and Pirates, just in their own league. While the results lately have been discouraging, there is still improvement here. I, for one, believe the test of a manager on a team like this is the "kick". If the team gives up, now that they're most assuredly out of any pennant race, that's not a good reflection. If he can manage them to a decent August and September (and there's some D-Backs, Cubs, Astros and Pirates games still left on the schedule, let's remember, not to mention several with the Mets yet), then I think that's a hell of a job. Hopefully, next year's rotation will not be the train wreck it was this year, and the bigger leap forward can be taken then. I, for one, don't have the sense of impending doom that many others on here appear to have.

Anonymous said...

We stink!!!

Anonymous said...

Amen Jeff; Monday the Nats will sign Harper, Solis and maybe Cole which would be the best haul of any team in the majors; Rizzo knows what he is doing and you will see Monday as the Lerners write large checks to these foundation blocks that they are not cheap; just smart.

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping Anon @ 11:55 was really Mark Lerner ...

Mrs. Z. said...

*yawn* Only made it through the sixth, I'm embarassed to say, but I blame it on an 8am meeting at work.
For those who wondered: yes, I brought a suprise birthday cake in the press box pre-game, thanks to the PR staff who snuck me in.
Mark Lerner and Stan Kasten were in the front row and, according to Mark's in-laws, were still there at midnight when they left.

Anonymous said...

Just a tidbit from Keith Law's chat yesterday:

Jon (DC)

Is AJ Cole just a back up plan for the Nats in case they can't sign Harper... take some of the "Harper money" and offer it to Cole?
(1:13 PM)

No, they have legitimate interest in signing him. If they get him, Harper (they will), Solis, and Ray signed, that's a really good haul.

Anonymous said...


One more thing; give me an example of a team which had a poor minor league system but followed your model of spend it's way to respectability and having that spend pay for itself to the point where it became a strong organization.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

NY Mets, Chicago Cubs, St. Loius, Detroit, Boston and NY Yankees.

Anonymous said...

Houston too, until Clemmens and Petite left.

Anonymous said...

Success = ALCS/NLCS or World Series

natsfan1a said...

Good work on the cake, Mrs. Z.!

I say you get a pass on the game because of extenuating circumstances (rain delay, early meeting). ;-)

NatinBeantown said...

Anon 1:02:
Ummm... current “homegrown” players on the Sox roster include: Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonathan Papelbon, and Daniel Bard.

Not that the Nats will ever spend $120m on payroll, but it's really not worth spending over $80m until you've got the depth in the system to support it.

NatinBeantown said...

The Anon lists above are ridiculous. The Mets and Cubs are not "respectable by anyone's definition. The Sox, Yankees, and Cards have great systems that draft and develop prolifically. They do have the benefit of protecting those kids during development with better MLB rosters and FA signings, but to suggest that they built their rosters by spending on FA talent alone is absurd.

Anonymous said...


Thank you, finally someone with some common sense.

'really not worth spending over $80m until you've got the depth in the system to support it'

Exactly right; you don't do things half ass backwards; you build an organization and when you are somewhere north of .500 you augment the team with the appropriate free agents to push it over the top.

Lots of teams have tried it JayB's way; most notably the Orioles; it don't work.

Anonymous said...

Ha! A Red Sox fan. I'll sign my name so you'll know it's not anonymous. The following is a list of players on the Cubs 2008 playoff roster. If back to back division championships just 2 years ago isn't respectable, then (a.) you must be a Red Sox fan and (b.) you are going to hate following the Nationals.

LF Alfonso Soriano (FA)
SS Ryan Theriot
1B Derrek Lee (Trade)
3B Aramis Ramirez (Trade)
CF Jim Edmonds (FA)
C Geovany Soto
2B Mark DeRosa (FA)
RF Kosuke Fukudome (FA)

RH Ryan Dempster
RH Carlos Zambrano (FA - Venezuela)
RH Rich Harden (Trade)
LH Ted Lilly (FA)

RH Kerry Wood
RH Carlos Marmol (FA - DR)
RH Bob Howry (FA)
LH Neal Cotts (Trade)
LH Sean Marshall
RH Jason Marquis (FA)
RH Jeff Samardzija

That's a lot of trades and free agent signings. Of course the spending ended with the Tribune Company's bankruptcy and the sale to the Ricketts family.

Do I need to do the Mets roster next? They had 4 seasons from 2005-2008 where they were 83 wins or better. On this board people might commit suicide if the Nationals had that stretch. And it is also respectable.

How about the 2004 Red Sox roster? Free Agents and trades got them what they needed. And the big trade (Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett and the 2007 crown) was a FA from the DR.

As for the Yankees, they have a great system now, but not for the past 10 years. They actually use their system for bench players since a lot of free agents spurn them due to playing time (SEE NY POST). Also, the Yankees get FA minor league talent from the DR and other baseball factories that I assume you are calling "homegrown." But calling international signings "homegrown" is a farce. Otherwise why don't all the teams get the same international signings? The answer is that it can cost a lot of money for an unsure thing (Esmylyn Gonzalez) and the Nationals do not seem to view it as a prudent investment.

The Cards have a system that has been called weak by many scouts.

Argue with JayB or me all you want, but he has a point that the investment in the international arena is lacking. As well as the investment in the Free Agent marketplace. Maybe ownership has changed their SOP, but who knows.

--- Nataholic

Anonymous said...

And for all you "we should do it like the Rays" people, understand that the Rays had 9 years of last place finishes and 1 year of next to last place finishes from 1998-2007. Are you all WILLING to live in baseball purgatory till 2015?


Anonymous said...

Check that beginning of 2016. Let's see Ryan Zimmerman will be 32 (possibly too old and expensive for the Nats), Strasburg will be 28 (who knows where he will be playing), Dunn will be 38 and a DH or out of basebal, etc.


NatinBeantown said...

1) Not a Red Sox fan. A relocated Washingtonian and diehard Nats fan. I guess I thought NatinBeantown was pretty self-explanatory.

2) You make a reasonable argument, though I would counter with a few things:
- The Cubs are a perfect example of why this approach is so wrong. They were misearable in 2005 and spent like crazy on FA's (Soriano, etc) and got those division titles. Now they are locked into some of the worst contracts in baseball, in a complete tailspin, and are unlikely to be competitve for years. No one is arguing that the Nats could buy themselves a Wild Card berth with some bloated contracts. But to sustain any kind of success, it's gotta be the hard way.

-The Mets, despite winning 80+ games regularly, are a annual exhibition of why free spending on FA's can create dysfunction. The perennial collapse (this year included) is entirely related to the roster assembling strategy you advocate.

-Lastly, teams that draft and develop wind up with competitive teams that include FA's and trades specifically because they have the depth to trade for them. The Nats could have offered a king's ransom for a Cliff Lee type FA, but he would not have come here. The Rangers could trade for him specifically because of their farm system.

I agree entirely that the Nats should be MUCH more aggressive with international FAs. I'm hoping that will come, and the delay is because Rizzo had to completely (re)build the international scouting strategy after JimBo skipped town.

Souldrummer said...

Of course the flip side is the Braves and Phillies in our own division. Rollins, Utley, Howard, and Hamels are their homegrown core correct? You've got to at least have a homegrown nucleus before you want to spend that money. Give me a core of Zimmerman, Strasburg, He Who Should Shut Up and Sign, and one of the following to hit as an impact prospect (Espinosa, Ramos, Zimmermann or Norris) and you've got the core of four that can be a .500 rock to justify the spending to go with free agents.

I would appreciate you going through the Red Sox and Yankees if you want to continue this line of thinking, though. The Yankees have a core of Jeter, Posada, Petite and Mo who are home grown that helped vault them into their glory days. The BoSox have core players in at least Youkilis, Pedroia, Lester, and Buckholtz. It's a balance of both. But if you try to go only free agents. You can end up only with outside talent you might just be what the Cubs are right now: bankrupt at the World Series, laden with awful contracts, and looking at a lenghty and expensive rebuild. I guess Marmol and Castro could be the beginning of their next phase but they have a long, long way to go.

Reds seem pretty homegrown. Padres? Cards have a homegrown HOF player. I'd challenge you to name a team that has gone on an extended run without at least three homegrown impact prospects. Right now, we've got one and a half. Strasburg's a half to me until he puts in a full healthy season at close to his present level of production (3.00ERA with team record plus .500 in his starts).

Souldrummer said...

The Mets are always going to be a weird example because their market (big market with ravenous media, but overshadowed by Yankees financially and success wise) puts some odd pressures on that team. Personally, I consider international guys signed at a young age homegrown talent. You have to scout those guys and you have to develop them within your org. The Mets may have a core that can lead to sustained success with Wright, Reyes, Pelfrey (?), Niese(?), Davis (?) and potential impact prospects (Martinez(?), Mejiia (?)) who are close to the bigs. If Wilmer Flores continues to develop and arrives in the window of their present core that would only strengthen that core. There problem is that the free agents have gotten injured, Reyes got hurt, Pelfrey's been inconsistent and the other guys have questions or are works in progress. Plus the management of the back end of their rotation and the prospects is a real headscratcher. Those back end of the roster confusing moves (Cora for too long?, Little Sarge?, Mike Jacobs?, Mejiia in the bigs?, Perez for too long?, Maine for too long?) add up to the kind of moves that cost a couple of wins that are the difference between contention and hanging around .500. Sometimes Minaya gets too hung up on the dumpster diving at the back end of the roster. The front end free agents like Beltran, Santana, even Frankie before he went nuts, aren't bad moves. Now Bay....Well. Probably whiffed on that one. Let's remember that if we decide to flirt with throwing a truck of money at Jayson Werth.

Anonymous said...

The Mets are dysfunctional because the Wilpons don't set a budget. Every free agent or trade must pass through the owner and he will determine if he is willing to raise payroll. Ken Rosenthal and the NY Post have articles on their franchise's wacky ways.

Anonymous said...

I hate the Red Sox, so even writing their names gives me gas. But the 2009 and 27 time Champion NY Yankees, I'll break down:


SS Derek Jeter
LF Johnny Damon (FA)
1B Mark Teixeira (FA)
3B Alex Rodriguez (Trade-FA)
DH Hideki Matsui (FA)
C Jorge Posada
2B Robinson Cano (FA - DR)
RF Nick Swisher (Trade)
CF Melky Cabrera (FA - DR)
OF Brett Gardner
C Jose Molina (Trade)
IF/OF Jerry Hairston Jr. (Trade)
OF Eric Hinske (Trade)
C Francisco Cervelli (FA - Venezuela)

SP CC Sabathia (FA)
SP A.J. Burnett (FA)
SP Andy Petttitte (FA - Was Homegrown)
SP/RP Alfredo Aceves (FA)
RP David Robertson
RP Phil Hughes
RP Mariano Rivera (FA - Panama)
RP Phil Coke
RP Joba Chamberlain
RP Chad Gaudin (Trade - $100K)
RP Damaso Marte (Trade)

Very Free Agent based and interesting that the team has a lot of international signings; but it is the Yankees. I don't think JayB is advocating for a roster entirely made up of free agents. I think he is saying that QUALITY free agents make a difference in winning franchises. And other than Dunn, who are the National's quality FA's?


Anonymous said...

BTW, the Red Sox 2004 championship team is littered with Free Agents and Trades. Don't believe the Boston hype machine that "only the Yankees" engage in this type of behavior.

To name a few FA or trades:
3B Bill Mueller
SS Pokey Reece
LF Manny Ramirez
DH David Ortiz
CF Johnny Damon
C Jason Varitek
2B Mark Bellhorn
RF Gabe Kapler
SS Orlando Cabrera
1B Doug Mientkiewicz
OF Dave Roberts

SP Pedo Martinez
SP Derick Lowe
SP Curt Schilling
SP Bronson Arroyo

CP Keith Foulke
RP Mike Timlin

etc., etc.


Anonymous said...

"I'll sign my name so you'll know it's not anonymous.

Yeah, that really narrows it down for us. We'll be pounding on your front door tonight. Have lots of beer ready.

Anonymous said...

Will do anonymous! You are welcome anytime! And just so you know, (considering that you must be a newbie) everyone on here uses a handle or are anonymous. They don't use their name and social security number.

And if you don't understand handles, here is a definition:
Handle Definition

A handle, also called a screen name or user name, is an alias a person uses for various programs or websites on the Internet. For example, your email address contains a handle at the beginning of it, such as "MarkSmith5709" or "BakingMommy."


The function of a user name is to give Internet users individual identification. When a user posts on a forum or says something in a chat room other users may recognize that person based on his handle name.
Hope this information helps and have a great day!


greg said...

i'm not sure it's legit to really call international signings of teenagers "free agents" and not consider them players developed by the team.

it's one thing to sign a matsuzaka and say that. it's another thing to sign a teenage mo rivera and develop him (remember, he came up as a starter initially) into a star player.

cano, cervelli, rivera, and cabrera were all developed by the yankees. along with posada, chamberlain, hughes, petitte (originally), and jeter. that's a pretty solid list of players developed by the yankees. yes, they added spectacular FA signings on top of it, but every time they go through a spate of winning in the FA era, there's a solid core of home-grown talent on their roster.

you certainly can't accuse the nats (or a lot of other teams in baseball) of having a home-grown core like posada, jeter, rivera, cano, cervelli, hughes, petitte, chamberlain, and cabrera on their ML rosters.

Anonymous said...

"I don't think JayB is advocating for a roster entirely made up of free agents. I think he is saying that QUALITY free agents make a difference in winning franchises. And other than Dunn, who are the National's quality FA's?"

Uh, no one. Dude have you seen our record?

Souldrummer said...

Yankees are pretty much an outlier as well. They've got way more dough. And now that they win so much, they aren't going to be able to get the top draft picks and they are going to lose picks when they sign free agents. But even for them, their core is home grown. And when their system is strong it enables them to make moves. They could make a run at Cliff Lee because they have Montero. You've got to have a core first. I want the Nats to go after free agents as well. But I'd like to see where the young core is first.

Nataholic said...


Ok, but the 2004 Red Sox show that you can build the farm and spend money to compete in the future as the Red Sox of today illustrate. So the anonymous poster above is just flat out wrong. And besides, whats so bad about a short lived pennant run in the next 5 years anyway?

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