Monday, January 31, 2011

Defense is offensive no more

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats believe Ian Desmond will benefit from the addition of Adam LaRoche at first base.
It's been a recurring problem for five years now, one that has persisted through two managerial changes, one GM switch and plenty of roster turnover.

At last, though, the Nationals believe they have overcome the defensive woes that have plagued them practically since they arrived in town.

A calculated attempt this winter to rid themselves of poor-fielding players in exchange for some more known for slick glove work leaves the Nationals with a group club officials believe could be their best defensive team since 2005.

Read my full article at

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rizzo's team

Mike Rizzo has officially served as GM of the Nationals for 17 months (22 months if you count the period from March-August 2009 when held an interim title) and it's no secret he's made some significant changes during that time.

There has been an overhaul of his front office. There has been an overhaul of the coaching staff, including at the managerial position. And there has been an overhaul of the roster Rizzo inherited from former GM Jim Bowden.

How much overhaul? A lot.

It's not uncommon for a new GM to make some changes upon taking over a franchise. Usually, his views on roster assemblage differ from the guy he replaced, so no one's surprised when a bunch of new players are acquired to replace a bunch of holdovers.

But the Nationals' roster overhaul in the last 22 months includes far more change than you'd typically see in such a short time frame. Nearly 58 percent of the players on the current 40-man roster were acquired by Rizzo. Yes, 58 percent of the players on the Nationals'

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Maxwell DFA'd

The Nationals designated outfielder Justin Maxwell for assignment today, clearing space on their 40-man roster for reliever Todd Coffey.

Maxwell, an Olney native who was drafted out of the University of Maryland in 2005, never saw his career take off with the Nationals despite a number of stints in the big leagues the last two years.

In 122 total games in the majors, Maxwell hit .201 with nine homers and 26 RBI. The outfielder did have a knack for producing in clutch situations; he hit three grand slams in six career plate appearances with the bases loaded, including a walk-off game-winner against the Mets in the 2009 home finale at Nationals Park.

Maxwell, 27, has 10 days to either be traded, released or clear waivers and be outrighted to the minors.

His removal from the 40-man roster coincides with the addition of Coffey, the veteran right-hander who came to terms with the Nationals last week on a one-year contract after spending last season with the Brewers.

All eyes will be on these four

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nyjer Morgan faces plenty of pressure to return to form in 2011.
As the Washington area digs itself out of a snowstorm that has left everyone in a sour mood, perhaps some solace can be taken from one heart-warming thought: Pitchers and catchers report in less than three weeks.

Indeed, baseball season is nearly upon us, and members of the Nationals are already starting to trickle in to Space Coast Stadium in Viera, the slow build-up to the first official day of spring training on February 15.

There will be no shortage of players drawing attention throughout camp, some of them stars like Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Stephen Strasburg (who will soon begin throwing for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery). But there will be another group of players who should draw significant attention this spring, not only for who they are but for what their performances this season could mean for a Nationals club trying to escape the NL East basement for the first time in four years.

On, I take a look at four members of the roster who will be particularly scrutinized throughout spring training: Jordan Zimmermann, Nyjer Morgan, Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Weathered down

File photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nationals Park has experienced its share of weather delays the last three years.
It's shaping up to be one of those classic Washington weather days in which the mere threat of frozen precipitation causes mass panic. I fully expect grocery stores to be out of bottled water, dog food and toilet paper by lunchtime.

But since it appears we will be getting a legit snowstorm later today, this seems like an appropriate time to talk about weather and the effect it has had on the Nationals over the years.

Both RFK Stadium and Nationals Park have been host to plenty of weather delays in the last six years. If I were to add up all the time I've spent in the press box looking down upon a tarp-covered infield ... well, it would only depress me and you. Such is life in the baseball world, the only sport in America that regularly halts its game for bad weather.

The Nationals also seem to have a knack for making people wait through some incredibly long delays before beginning games well into

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Can bullpen thrive without closer?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Drew Storen converted five of seven save opportunities last season.
The unquestioned strength of the 2010 Nationals was a bullpen that managed to post some of the best numbers in baseball despite also logging the most innings in baseball.

Nats relievers churned out 545 2/3 innings (an average of 3 1/3 innings per game) yet collectively recorded a 3.35 ERA that ranked fifth in the majors.

With most of the key participants returning -- particularly Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett -- there's every reason to believe the Nationals' relief corps will once again be the team's biggest strength in 2011. There is, however, one potentially glaring hole that could sidetrack the entire endeavor: The lack of an established closer.

Can this bullpen survive, and even thrive, without a bona fide closer? Read my full article on

Monday, January 24, 2011

Martis DFA'd

The Nationals have designated right-hander Shairon Martis for assignment, a move that clears space on their 40-man roster for utilityman Jerry Hairston, who was officially added today.

Once a rising star in the Nationals' farm system, Martis was a surprise member of the 2009 Opening Day rotation and began that season with a 5-0 record. He hasn't won another big-league game since. After falling to 5-3 with a 5.25 ERA in 15 starts, he was optioned to Class AAA Syracuse.

Martis, 23, spent all of 2010 at Syracuse, going 8-7 with a 4.09 ERA in 27 starts. The Nationals, who used 14 different starting pitchers last season, never gave Martis a chance to return to the big leagues, evidence of his diminished stature on the organizational depth chart.

Martis now has 10 days to either be traded, released or clear waivers and be outrighted to the minors. A source close to the Curacao native said Martis hopes to land with another organization.

The Nationals signed Hairston on Wednesday to a one-year, $2 million contract to serve as a jack-of-all trades off the bench. The 34-year-old utilityman can play second base, shortstop, third base and

Nats Insider: Phase 2

Upon launching Nats Insider some 357 days ago, I had no expectation whatsoever for this site. My intention at the time was simple: Find an outlet in which I could continue covering the Washington Nationals, hopefully reaching some small segment of the fan base.

Along the way, this place became something far greater than I ever imagined it could, building a dedicated following of readers from all over the world. (At last check, this site has been accessed from 151 different countries. Still waiting for that first click from Paraguay.)

There was, however, another objective to this whole exercise: To gain full-time employment. As successful as the site has been, its profit-making capabilities remain modest. It also can't offer a health care plan or a 401K.

So I'm happy to report today that I've been hired full-time by as Nationals beat writer, effective immediately. Most of you know I had been writing articles for CSN on a freelance basis for the last year. I'll be writing even more regularly now.

I'm also happy to report that as part of the arrangement, Comcast SportsNet has purchased Nats Insider. They'll assume ownership of the site, but I'll continue to publish it as a complementary blog alongside

Friday, January 21, 2011

How do they stack up in NL East?

Having added a $126 million right fielder, a back-of-the-rotation starter, a couple of relievers and several veteran bench players, the Nationals appear to have improved over the offseason. This franchise may not be ready to win quite yet, but those back-to-back, 100-loss seasons from 2008-09 are looking more and more like a distant memory.

Improved or not, though, the Nats won't start turning heads until they start overtaking their rivals in the NL East. They've finished last in the division three straight seasons and five times in six years since arriving in town.

Have the Nationals improved enough this winter to escape the NL East basement? On, I rank the Nats against their division rivals in various categories and decide how they stack up against the Phillies, Braves, Marlins and Mets.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How will the roster shake out?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Alberto Gonzalez could be the odd man out on the Nationals bench.
After a flurry of moves this week, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo admitted he's essentially done reshaping his roster for the winter. There could be another minor move or two between now and the time pitchers and catchers report to Viera in 26 days, and there could always be a surprise trade that comes out of nowhere. But for the most part, the Nats' 2011 roster is set.

Or, I should say, the Nationals' spring training roster is set. The 25-man roster they ultimately bring back from Viera to the District at the end of March still needs to be sorted out.

This week's changes clarified certain aspects of the roster, but they also left other aspects in flux. The Nats' starting lineup and rotation may look set, but what about their bullpen and bench? And what happens to the guys who miss the cut?

Let's take a closer look at the makeup of this roster as it currently stands, broken down into four categories: the lineup, the rotation, the bullpen and the bench...

There's actually not a lot of mystery left here. The starting infield is set, with Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond and Ryan

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rizzo on Gorzelanny, Hairston

It's turned into a busy day in NatsTown. Actually, it's been a busy week already, with the Tom Gorzelanny trade (which was officially announced this afternoon) and the signings of Jerry Hairston, Todd Coffey and Alex Cora.

All of these moves, as I mentioned earlier, have created an overflow situation on the Nationals' 40-man roster. Ultimately, the club will need to remove four players to make room for Gorzelanny, Hairston, Coffey and Adam LaRoche. But those corresponding moves don't have to be made until the contract for the new player is formally processed at MLB headquarters in New York.

So even though LaRoche's deal was completed two weeks ago, the contract only landed on MLB's desk today. The corresponding move: J.D. Martin was given his unconditional release. Martin, 28, did an admirable job over the last two seasons filling in when other starters were either injured or ineffective -- he was a combined 6-9 with a 4.32 ERA in 24 starts -- but his place on the organizational depth chart dropped considerably over time.

Mike Rizzo held a conference call this afternoon to discuss the Gorzelanny trade and Hairston signings. (The team hasn't confirmed the Coffey move yet.) Here are some highlights from the Nats GM...

On Gorzelanny: "We got very favorable scouting reports on Gorzelanny, not only through his career but specifically last year. He

Hairston signed by Nats

The Nationals have signed infielder Jerry Hairston to a one-year, $2 million contract, giving the club a veteran who can take over at second base if rookie Danny Espinosa isn't deemed ready for full-time duty as well as a versatile utilityman who can play all over the field if needed.

Hairston, who spent last season with the Padres, can earn an additional $1 million in incentives. He has primarily played second base in his career but in recent years has refashioned himself as a utilityman who can also play shortstop, third base and the outfield.

With the recent additions of Hairston, reliever Todd Coffey, first baseman Adam LaRoche and left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, the Nationals' 40-man roster is over capacity. The club will need to remove four players to clear space for all the additions.

UPDATE AT 4:45 P.M. -- We now know one of the roster casualties: J.D. Martin was given his unconditional release today, a move that corresponds with the official processing of LaRoche's contract at MLB headquarters. The other new players' contracts have not been processed by MLB yet, thus the other 40-man moves haven't been made yet.

Coffey signs, Gorzelanny in town

The Nationals have agreed to terms with Todd Coffey on a contract, a source familiar with the deal confirmed this morning, adding a veteran reliever to an already-deep bullpen.

Coffey, 30, must pass a physical before the deal is completed. Contract terms aren't immediately known.

The right-hander went 2-4 with a 4.76 ERA in 69 appearances for the Brewers last season, hampered during the second half by a thumb injury. Eligible for arbitration and in position to receive a raise from his $2.025 million salary, he was non-tendered by Milwaukee last month and became a free agent.

Coffey owns a 19-17 record, a 4.15 ERA and 11 saves in 369 career appearances over six seasons with the Brewers and Reds. A husky figure at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, he's made a name for himself over the years for sprinting to the mound when summoned from the bullpen.

Nationals relievers posted a collective 3.35 ERA last season, the fifth-best mark in the majors. Most of the unit returns intact, including Drew Storen, Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Doug Slaten and

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Morse, Slaten avoid arbitration

Updated at 2:44 p.m.

The Nationals have come to terms on one-year contracts with outfielder Michael Morse and left-hander Doug Slaten, avoiding arbitration with both players. Tom Gorzelanny, meanwhile, came to terms with the Cubs on his own one-year contract, which the Nationals will inherit once the left-hander's trade becomes official.

Today is the deadline for all arbitration-eligible players to either sign with their respective clubs or exchange contract figures in advance of hearings that will take place next month. With Morse, Slaten and left-hander John Lannan (who came to terms yesterday on a one-year, $2.75 million contract) now signed and Gorzelanny's case settled by the Cubs, the Nationals will avoid taking any players to arbitration for the first time since the franchise relocated from Montreal in 2005.

Morse's contract includes a base salary of $1.05 million, with the opportunity to earn up to $300,000 more in incentives based on plate appearances. The 28-year-old utilityman is coming off a breakout season in which he hit .289 with 15 homers and 41 RBI in only 98 games while earning only $410,000.

The Nationals plan to use Morse as the right-handed half of a left-field platoon with either Roger Bernadina or Rick Ankiel. He was

State of the rotation

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jordan Zimmermann will be the least-experienced member of a deep 2011 rotation.

Mike Rizzo spent nearly three months trying to acquire a starting pitcher. The Nationals general manager's preference all along was to land a legitimate front-line hurler, one who could anchor Washington's 2011 rotation and bump everyone else down a notch into a slot befitting their abilities.

Rizzo wasn't able to get his man. Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies. Jorge de la Rosa stayed with the Rockies. Zack Greinke exercised his no-trade clause until he had an opportunity to move to a Brewers club better-positioned to win now. Matt Garza's price was too steep, though not too steep for the Cubs to acquire his services.

There were no longer any front-line starters to be had. Rizzo, though, was adamant about improving his rotation, even if only by a tick or two. The last thing he wanted to do was enter 2011 with the same quintet of starters that closed out 2010: Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann and Yunesky Maya.

So when Tom Gorzelanny became available -- thanks in large part to the Cubs' acquisition of Garza -- Rizzo jumped at the opportunity to pick up the 28-year-old left-hander. It cost three minor-leaguers (outfielder Michael Burgess and pitchers A.J. Morris and Graham Hicks) but that wasn't nearly as steep a price as it would have taken

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nats get Gorzelanny for 3 prospects

Updated at 6:08 p.m.

Tom Gorzelanny may not qualify as the "No. 1 starter" the Nationals have been seeking all winter. But the 28-year-old left-hander is more of a sure thing than several of the candidates vying for spots in the Nats' rotation, and he comes at a much cheaper price than other front-line pitchers on the market.

So general manager Mike Rizzo pulled the trigger today on a trade that brings Gorzelanny to Washington and sends minor-leaguers Michael Burgess, A.J. Morris and Graham Hicks to the Cubs, sources with knowledge of the deal have confirmed.

The trade won't become official until Gorzelanny passes a physical, expected to take place tomorrow.

Gorzelanny went 7-9 with a 4.09 ERA in 29 games (23 starts) for the Cubs last season. He owns a career 36-37 record and 4.68 ERA in six big-league seasons with the Cubs and Pirates, with whom he posted

Week in review

Good morning, NatsTown. After a relaxing week of vacation, I'm back to work today, trying to get caught up on all the major news events that transpired in my absence. And what a week it was for the Nationals, who signed several prominent free agents, pulled off a gargantuan trade and were embroiled in too many controversies to count.

Oh wait. These are the Nationals we're talking about here. Hardly anything of consequence took place last week. My mistake.

Let's review, though, what few scraps of news did emerge...

Ten days after coming to terms on his two-year contract, Adam LaRoche finally got his introductory press conference at Nationals Park, complete with curly W cap and (oversized) jersey.

The 31-year-old first baseman appeared to say all the right things Friday afternoon, including a strong desire to sign with this particular franchise.

"There were obviously a few teams out there in the mix," said LaRoche, who was also courted by the Orioles. "I can remember telling my agent if this is at all possible, let's get this done in Washington."

While exploring his options over the last month, LaRoche sought advice from friends who had previously played in the District, including Adam Dunn and Matt Capps. Both gave strong endorsements, which tells you a bit about each player's sincerity and

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday news and discussion

I'm on vacation this week, but NatsTown never sleeps. So in my absence, please feel free to use this thread to pass along any news from today (and the rest of the weekend) and to discuss any other Nats-related topics of your choice.

I'll be back Monday to catch up on the events of the week and provide details about the coverage plan for the 2011 season.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thursday news and discussion

I'm on vacation this week, but NatsTown never sleeps. So in my absence, please feel free to use this thread to pass along any news from today and to discuss any other Nats-related topics of your choice.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday news and discussion

I'm on vacation this week, but NatsTown never sleeps. So in my absence, please feel free to use this thread to pass along any news from today and to discuss any other Nats-related topics of your choice.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday news and discussion

I'm on vacation this week, but NatsTown never sleeps. So in my absence, please feel free to use this thread to pass along any news from today and to discuss any other Nats-related topics of your choice.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Vacation time

Anyone who follows baseball closely -- as you all do -- knows there's really no such thing as the offseason anymore. Teams make news nearly 365 days a year, and the Nationals have certainly kept busy since last setting foot on a major-league diamond.

So there's really no perfect time for beat writers to take vacation, much as we try to schedule our time off during what we project will be uneventful stretches. The Nats will probably make some kind of news this week; Adam LaRoche is scheduled to be in town for his introductory press conference at some point, and there are other matters that will crop up.

But even we beat writers are human (believe it or not) and need to take a little time off now and again to refresh our batteries. So you won't be hearing from me the rest of the week as I attempt to get away from baseball for a few days.

That doesn't, however, mean you guys should stop following your favorite ballclub, especially if news occurs during my absence. I'm setting up the blog to publish a new post each morning that will allow you to continue the ongoing conversation with each other. I trust you can police yourself and not let the place completely fall apart. Right? Right?

I'll be back next Monday to catch up on the events of the week and provide details about the coverage plan for the 2011 season.

Friday, January 7, 2011

LaRoche signing official

Adam LaRoche has passed his physical, so the Nationals this afternoon officially announced their signing of the veteran first baseman to a two-year contract.

LaRoche and the Nats came to terms on the deal Tuesday evening, but it was contingent upon his passing the physical. The contract calls for him to earn $7 million this year and $8 million next year. There is a $10 mutual option for 2013, but the Nationals have the ability to buy that out for $1 million. Thus, LaRoche is guaranteed to make at least $16 million over two years and could wind up making as much as $25 million over three years.

The 31-year-old is a career .271 hitter over seven big-league seasons with the Braves, Pirates, Red Sox and Diamondbacks. He has hit exactly 25 home runs each of the last three years and set a career high with 100 RBI last season with Arizona (though his .261 batting average, .320 on-base percentage and .468 slugging percentage all

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Santangelo is new MASN analyst

F.P. Santangelo, a former big-league utilityman who worked as a fill-in broadcaster for the Giants last season, has been chosen as the Nationals' new game analyst on MASN.

Neither the club nor the network has announced the hiring yet, but two sources familiar with the decision confirmed Santangelo was selected out of a sizable group of ex-players who applied for the job that became available after Rob Dibble was fired in September.

Santangelo, who will serve as analyst alongside play-by-play announcer Bob Carpenter, assumes the job previously held by Dibble, who lost his job after making critical comments about Stephen Strasburg on his satellite radio show. Ray Knight, who filled in for the rest of the season, is expected to return to his original duties as pre- and post-game analyst alongside host Johnny Holliday.

The Nationals have now had six different TV analysts in seven seasons: Ron Darling (2005), Tom Paciorek (2006), Don Sutton (2007-08), Dibble (2009-10), Knight (2010) and Santangelo (2011-).

Frank-Paul Santangelo, 43, played seven seasons with the Expos, Giants, Dodgers and Athletics, posting a career .245 average with 21 homers and 162 RBI. Primarily an outfielder, he also played second base, third base and shortstop in the major leagues before retiring

What's left to do?

In coming to terms this week with Adam LaRoche, the Nationals were able to cross off one of their big offseason needs: a first baseman to replace Adam Dunn. They had already crossed off their need for a power-hitting outfielder with Jayson Werth. And they previously addressed needs off the bench (Rick Ankiel, Matt Stairs) and in the bullpen (Henry Rodriguez, Rule 5 draftee Elvin Ramirez).

So, what's left for the Nats to do before pitchers and catchers report to Space Coast Stadium on February 15?

Let's run through the remaining areas of need heading into the offseason's final month...

I suppose this is always going to be a need. Every GM in baseball says he's always looking for more pitching. Well, maybe not the guys in Philadelphia (Ruben Amaro Jr.) or San Francisco (Brian Sabean). Mike Rizzo would certainly say he's looking for more pitching. Whether he actually acquires any before spring training remains to be seen.

There are essentially three remaining avenues for the Nationals to pick up a starter: 1) Sign a high-tier free agent, 2) Trade for an established guy, or 3) Sign an affordable pitcher off the scrap heap.

Carl Pavano is the only high-tier free agent left on the market, and though the Nats have been connected to the right-hander all winter, I've never believed he was likely to land here. Team officials have been reluctant all along to give the 35-year-old a multi-year deal, and

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tales of a first-time Hall voter

The envelope arrived in the mail in early December. I immediately knew what was inside. The return address (Baseball Writers' Association of America) gave it away.

I was more than a little surprised and underwhelmed, though, when I tore the thing open and for the first time in my life held a Hall of Fame ballot in my hands. Wait, this is it? A photocopied, 8½ x 11-inch sheet of paper with 33 names and boxes next to each one to be checked? If you saw it from a distance, you might have mistaken it for a fourth grade math quiz.

The form itself may have been underwhelming; the task of filling it out was anything but. As I scanned through the names of the retired players eligible for election to Cooperstown, two thoughts came to mind:

1) This is the coolest thing ever.

2) This is the most terrifying thing ever.

Since joining the BBWAA a decade ago, I'd anticipated this moment — you must be a member for 10 consecutive years before becoming a Hall of Fame voter — but I didn't fully appreciate just how daunting the responsibility is until it was finally thrust upon me. Seriously, who am I to judge how these ballplayers will be remembered for all eternity?

And that's how I'd feel if I was judging them strictly on their performance between the lines. That, of course, isn't the case. Voters are instructed to consider six criteria when evaluating a player's candidacy: his playing record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which he

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

LaRoche signs 2-year deal

Updated at 10:38 p.m.

The Nationals' longstanding vacancy at first base has been filled at last. Free agent Adam LaRoche agreed to a two-year, $16 million contract this evening, club sources confirmed.

The deal won't become official until LaRoche passes a physical, which is due to take place Thursday in Washington. Contract terms stipulate that LaRoche will make $7 million in 2011 and $8 million in 2012, with a $10 million mutual option for 2013 that the Nationals can buy out for $1 million.

The 31-year-old has been on the Nationals' radar for nearly a month, ever since the club found itself in need of a new first baseman after Adam Dunn signed a four-year, $56 million contract with the White Sox. General manager Mike Rizzo also pursued fellow free agents Carlos Pena and Derrek Lee, but each veteran signed elsewhere (Pena with the Cubs, Lee with the Orioles).

That left LaRoche as the lone remaining free agent first baseman of significance, and the Nationals as the lone remaining team still in the market for such a player.

LaRoche is a career .271 hitter over seven big-league seasons with the Braves, Pirates, Red Sox and Diamondbacks. He has hit exactly 25 home runs each of the last three years and set a career high with 100 RBI last season with Arizona (though his .261 batting average, .320

Looking at lineups

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Danny Espinosa would benefit from not hitting eighth on a regular basis.
We've got a pretty clear picture now who will comprise the Nationals' 2011 starting lineup. Jayson Werth is in right field, with Nyjer Morgan in center and some combination of Roger Bernadina, Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel in left. Ryan Zimmerman is at third base, with Ian Desmond at shortstop and Danny Espinosa at second. Ivan Rodriguez will share catching duties with either Wilson Ramos or Jesus Flores.

The only position still unfilled, of course, is first base. But I fully expect the Nats and Adam LaRoche to come to terms on a two-year contract in the very near future, perhaps before the end of the day. Simply put, the two sides need each other right now, and there's no sense dragging this out much longer.

So we pretty much know who will be in the Nationals' Opening Day lineup. What we don't know is where they will be in the Nationals' Opening Day lineup.

Who hits leadoff? Who bats cleanup? Does Jim Riggleman try to break up his left-handed and right-handed hitters, or does he just go with the best lineup 1 through 8, regardless of what side of the plate each

Monday, January 3, 2011

News and notes

Hope everyone had a happy and safe New Year's. Let's start 2011 off with some quick-hit news and notes for your perusal...

-- Even though he was traded to the Brewers two weeks ago, Zack Greinke's name keeps popping up in relation to the Nationals.'s Jon Heyman wrote on Twitter last night that the Nats offered Greinke a "big extension" to try to convince the right-hander to agree to a trade to D.C. Greinke, who as we now know exercised his no-trade clause to block a deal to the Nationals, wasn't interested in the contract offer. After seven seasons languishing in Kansas City, Greinke wanted to play for a team that had a chance to win now. He didn't see that in Washington, so that's why he's now in Milwaukee.

There's really no reason to agonize over this any more. The Nationals did everything they could to try to acquire Greinke, and the fact they offered him an extension is no surprise. He's only signed through 2012, so they would have been incredibly foolish to trade away half their roster for this guy and then not lock him up long-term. And it's not all that surprising Greinke turned the Nats down. Look, as much as the organization has improved over the last 18 months, it's still perceived around baseball as an afterthought. Even those who believe the Nationals are on the right track admit they're not ready to win in 2011. Should we be all that surprised Greinke nixed the trade so he could instead go to Milwaukee, where the Brewers are geared up to make a legitimate run at the NL Central title this year?

The Nats can fork over $126 million to Jayson Werth. They can pay record signing bonuses to Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Until they actually do something positive on the field against major-league

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Catching up with the ex-Times

New Year's is a time of celebration, of new beginnings, new endeavors and renewed hope.

One year ago, though, it marked the end of an era. On January 1, 2010, The Washington Times published its final sports section, a development that left myself and about two dozen colleagues unemployed, and left D.C. sports fans with one less outlet from which to get their news.

Twelve months later, we've all moved on. Several former Times staffers have gotten jobs at other newspapers. Several have been hired by websites. Some have used the layoff as an opportunity to shift into new professions. A few, unfortunately, are still seeking full-time employment.

Overall, though, I think it's impressive that so many ex-Times folks have gone on to bigger and better things, especially in the current economic (and journalistic) climate. If nothing else, it confirms to me just how talented our staff was, and how short-sighted the Times was in eliminating the entire department. (The paper, by the way, recently announced intentions to re-install a sports section, perhaps finally seeing the error of its ways.)

On this, the one-year anniversary of our final sports section at The Washington Times, I wanted to provide an update of the staff's current whereabouts. We may no longer work together as a team, but