2006 Preview: Troubled Nats are MLB’s black mark

This is Part One of my 2006 season preview. Today, I’ll examine the state of the Major League Baseball owned Washington Nationals. Yesterday, I looked at the White Sox’s attempts to repeat at World Champions. Tomorrow, I’ll look at baseball’s worst team, and it’s not one from Florida.

The Washington Nationals are in trouble, and it is all Major League Baseball’s fault. While Commissioner Bud Selig is basking in the glow of success cast by the World Baseball Classic, the Nationals situation – a story that should be a bigger scandal – grows worse with every passing day.

To recap, Major League Baseball bought the Expos in 2002 when the Expos owners bought the Marlins and the Marlins owners bought the Red Sox. In 2004, MLB announced that the Expos would be moved to Washington, DC. Meanwhile, every few months, Bud Selig promises to find an owner for the Expos/Nationals. First, it was going to by Opening Day 2004, then the All Star Break, then after the World Series, then Opening Day 2005, then late April, late July, the end of the regular season, and November.

As Selig looks everywhere for an owner, Major League Baseball went about antagonizing the Washington, DC city council to the point that a stadium almost wasn’t approved. A few weeks ago, the Nationals finally got their stadium approved, and it is supposedly going to be ready by Opening Day 2008. Meanwhile, Selig said an ownership group would be in place shortly after the stadium deal was finalized.

Guess what? No owner. The Nationals are in trouble.

So while this saga reflects poorly on Major League Baseball, it has left the Washington Nationals organization in shambles. First, this is a team with a farm system that hasn’t produced much talent since the late 1990s. With no money in the bank, the Big League executives haven’t been able to secure big bonus payments to high round draft picks, and they haven’t been able to recruit foreign talent.

In 2005, the Nats were ranked 26 out of 30 by Baseball America. When the 2006 list hits the Internet at some point this week, the Nationals won’t be any higher and could fall to 28 or 29. For the Nats to see some improvement in their system, they need an owner in place before the amateur draft this year. An owner would enable the Nationals to spend the bonus money on players who can make an impact.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Nationals’ system however. Ryan Zimmerman, last year’s first round draft pick, will be starring in RFK Stadium this season. If his Spring Training is any indication, his presence will make Nationals’ fans forget Vinny Castilla’s 2005 season ever happened. After a two-home run game yesterday, Zimmerman has 7 homers on the spring and an offensive line of .329/.382/.700. While his defense has been some cause for concern, his bat will fill a void in an offensively-challenged lineup.

At the Major League level, the Nationals are in trouble. They have been hit with injury after injury this season. They lost key relief pitcher Luis Ayala to an arm injury that would have happened even if he had not participated in the World Baseball Classic. Before that, they lost their projected third starter Brian Lawrence to a season-ending arm injury. Lawrence was supposed to replace Esteban Loaiza who signed a three-year deal with Oakland this winter.

With this key pitchers out, the Nationals’ bullpen is weaker. Plus, the rotation will be relying heavily on Russ Ortiz and Pedro Astacio. If Spring Training is any indication, the Nats better hope for a miracle or a AAA replacement player. Combined, Ortiz and Astacio have been downright horrible. The two have combined for 35.2 innings, giving up 57 hits and 30 earned runs. They’ve walked 14 and struck out 16.

But every cloud has its silver lining. One more “key” part of the Nationals organization may miss the entire season with an injury, but in this case, the team is lucky. Cristian Guzman may be out for the year with a shoulder injury. Cristian Guzman was so bad last year he actually took runs and wins away from the team. He had a VORP of -9.6, ranking him last among all Major League short stops, and an MLVr of -.270. With this injury, the Nationals will be forced to improve. The worst they could do is plug in someone with a VORP of 0, and already, they would a better team.

In left field, the Nationals are in trouble. Already, one supposedly marquee trade has blown up in the Nationals’ face. I have already written extensively on the Soriano saga. But this is not a positive situation for the team or the second baseman/left fielder. It just shows how rudderless the team is.

Off the field, the Nationals are in trouble. A walk around Washington, D.C., reveals approximately no signs that baseball season is starting this weekend. There are no ads in the Metro for another exciting season of Washington baseball. The television rights debacle created by Major League Baseball’s desire to placate Orioles owner Peter Angelos is now attracting the attention of Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.). And a story in yesterday’s Washington Post suggested that the Nationals business will suffer because, in the aftermath of the Abramoff scandal, lobbyists won’t be taking their Hill clients to the expensive seats at RFK Stadium.

So as the 2006 season dawns, the Nationals are clearly a team in trouble. They are a sagging, struggling team, facing two more seasons in a subpar stadium that is, in my opinion, the worst facility on the East Coast (and probably in all of baseball). They have no ownership and little hope for the future.

Hopefully, 2006 will finally be the year when Major League Baseball sheds itself of ownership responsibilities, and the Washington Nationals can finally begin the long, hard climb back toward respectability. It would be nice if they weren’t in trouble all the time.

Advertisements

RSS River Ave. Blues

  • Tuesday Night Open Thread January 24, 2018
    ?Want to work for the Yankees? They’re looking for a Player Development Quantitative Analyst. You have to be extremely qualified and willing to both travel a lot and not make much money. That’s usually how these baseball jobs go. Front office staffer is not the most financially rewarding position. But, it is a job in […] The post Tuesday Night Open Thread ap […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Masahiro Tanaka won the slow 2017-18 offseason by avoiding it entirely January 23, 2018
    Defining the winners of the 2017-18 MLB offseason is a difficult task. Free agent signings have been sparse and few blockbuster trades have reshaped the competitive landscape. There hasn’t been one team, perhaps outside the Angels, that has clearly gone from pretender to contender in the past few months. Surely, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna […] The po […]
    Steven Tydings
  • Prospect Profile: Thairo Estrada January 23, 2018
    Thairo Estrada | IF Background Thairo Estrada signed out of Bejuma, Venezuela for the bargain price of $49,000 way back in November of 2012. He was relatively unheralded, as evidenced by both the price tag and how late he signed, and was something of an afterthought in a class in which the Yankees jumped all […] The post Prospect Profile: Thairo Estrada appe […]
    Domenic Lanza
  • Thoughts three weeks before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training January 23, 2018
    We are exactly three weeks away from the biggest non-news day of the year. Pitchers and catchers reporting marks the beginning of Spring Training and the beginning of the long marathon that is the new baseball season, but nothing really happens that day. Still exciting though. Anyway, I have some thoughts, so let’s get to […] The post Thoughts three weeks be […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Monday Night Open Thread January 23, 2018
    ?Four years ago today, the Yankees got their man and signed Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year contract. For a while that offseason it appeared he wouldn’t be posted, but MLB and NPB worked things out, and Tanaka has been a Yankee ever since. Even after the elbow injury and his rough 2017 regular season, Tanaka […] The post Monday Night Open Thread appeared fir […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Yankees land six on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list January 22, 2018
    Spring Training is three weeks away and that means it is top 100 prospect season. All the usual publications will be updating their lists in the coming days and weeks. Earlier today the gang at Baseball America released their 2018 top 100 prospects list, which is topped by Braves OF Ronald Acuna. Angels RHP/DH Shohei […] The post Yankees land six on Baseball […]
    Mike Axisa
  • The case for trading Brett Gardner to make room for Darvish January 22, 2018
    The other day, Steven wrote about the rationale of trading David Robertson to clear some salary room to fit Yu Darvish’s hypothetical contract under the $197 million luxury tax threshold. Today, I’m here to make a case for trading away another established veteran player with a +$10M salary: Brett Gardner. We’ve talked about the Yankees’ […] The post The case […]
    Sung-Min Kim
  • Sorting out the Yankees’ potential non-roster Spring Training invitees for 2018 January 22, 2018
    Pitchers and catchers report to Tampa three weeks from tomorrow, and at some point soon, likely within the next two weeks, the Yankees will announce their 2018 Spring Training invitees. These are non-40-man roster players who get a chance to come to big league camp to strut their stuff. Some non-roster invitees are top prospects, […] The post Sorting out the […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Fan Confidence Poll: January 22nd, 2018 January 22, 2018
    2017 Regular Season Record: 91-71 (858 RS, 660 RA, 100-62 pythag. record), second in ALE 2017 Postseason Record: 7-6 (51 RS, 42 RA), won AL WC Game, won ALDS, lost ALCS Top stories from last week: There continue to be rumors connecting the Yankees to Yu Darvish. Unless he signs dirt cheap, there’s no way […] The post Fan Confidence Poll: January 22nd, 2018 a […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Weekend Open Thread January 21, 2018
    ?I finally had a chance to read Kiley McDaniel’s piece on the stats vs. scouts debate, which really isn’t a debate anymore. Every team uses both. There are a few clubs that lean analytical — from what I understand, the Rays use algorithms for basically everything, including the draft — but the very best organizations […] The post Weekend Open Thread appeared […]
    Mike Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 62,643 hits

%d bloggers like this: