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

  • The Rest of the AL East [2017 Season Preview] March 30, 2017
    There has been an interesting bit of parity in the AL East this decade, as every team has won the division crown in the last seven years. The Red Sox appear to be the standard-bearer, with both ZiPS and PECOTA projecting them to repeat as division champs – but both also have at least four […] The post The Rest of the AL East [2017 Season Preview] appeared fi […]
    Domenic Lanza
  • Spring Training Game Thread: Final Grapefruit League Game March 30, 2017
    This afternoon the Yankees are playing their final Grapefruit League game of the year. They still have one exhibition game remaining, tomorrow night at the brand new SunTrust Field in Atlanta, but this is the final game in Florida. Well, at least until the Yankees come back to play the first series of the regular […] The post Spring Training Game Thread: Fin […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Yankees finalize Opening Day roster; Holder, Mitchell, and Shreve make the bullpen March 30, 2017
    Earlier this morning, Joe Girardi informally announced the Yankees’ 25-man Opening Day roster. Aaron Judge will be the right fielder and Luis Severino will be the fourth starter, and the decision to option out Rob Refsnyder means Pete Kozma will be the utility infielder. Also, Girardi told Bryan Hoch that Bryan Mitchell, Jonathan Holder, and […] The post Yan […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Girardi on Aaron Judge: “He’s our right fielder” March 30, 2017
    Common sense prevails! Joe Girardi announced this morning Aaron Judge will be the Yankees’ starting right fielder this season, according to Erik Boland. “He’s our right fielder,” said Girardi. The club was reportedly considering sending Judge to Triple-A as recently as yesterday. Judge, 24, is hitting .345/.406/.569 with three homers so far this spring. He’s […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Rob Refsnyder Optioned to Triple-A March 30, 2017
    Earlier today, the Yankees announced that Rob Refsnyder had been optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 26-year-old was batting just .209/.314/.349 in 43 at-bats, and was openly put on the trading block three weeks ago. There was some talk that he could have a shot at heading north in a bench role on the heels of the […] The post Rob Refsnyder Optioned to Tr […]
    Domenic Lanza
  • Passan: Yankees will use Luis Severino as fourth starter March 30, 2017
    According to Jeff Passan, right-hander Luis Severino has made the Opening Day roster and the Yankees will use him as their fourth starter. Neither Joe Girardi nor anyone with the team has announced anything yet, however. Still, all signs point in this direction. This isn’t exactly a surprise. Severino, 23, has allowed six runs in […] The post Passan: Yankees […]
    Mike Axisa
  • There are many pros and only a few cons to signing Sanchez to a long-term contract March 30, 2017
    February and March make up extension season in baseball. Most pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players hammer out their contracts for the upcoming season this time of year, and inevitably some strike long-term deals with their teams. In recent weeks Tim Anderson, Rougned Odor, Jose Ramirez (the hitter, not the pitcher), Kevin Kiermaier, and Carlos Ma […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Open Thread: March 29th Camp Notes March 29, 2017
    Your browser does not support iframes.The Yankees are officially Spring Training champions. They clinched baseball’s best record this spring with their win this afternoon. Neat. The Yankees are now 23-8-1 while the second place Cardinals are 20-8-4. Both teams have two games to play. Aaron Judge had two singles this afternoon and he even stole […] The post O […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Poll: The 2017 RAB Prospect Watch March 29, 2017
    One of our longest running features — I hesitate to call it a feature, but whatever — here at RAB is our annual Prospect Watch. We pick a prospect and track his progress throughout the season in the sidebar. Simple, right? Also kinda silly, but hey, people seem to like it, so it continues. Think […] The post Poll: The 2017 RAB Prospect Watch appeared first o […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Brian Cashman and the 2017 trade deadline [2017 Season Preview] March 29, 2017
    Welcome to another contract year for Brian Cashman. Don’t worry: Cashman has enough job security that he isn’t about to trade the farm for some short-sighted fix that harms the Yankees’ future. He’s acquitted himself quite well over the last two decades and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the job right now. It […] The post Brian Cashman and the 2017 trad […]
    Steven Tydings

Blog Stats

  • 62,328 hits

%d bloggers like this: