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Jim Furtado
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Nationals Newsbeat

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Notes from the GM meetings: Rizzo, Zobrist, Span, etc. - The Washington Post

How many teams don’t have interest in Zobrist? If he’s not a top priority for a team, a writer is just filling space.

The Nationals have interest in free agent veteran utility man Ben Zobrist, according to people familiar with the situation. Zobrist isn’t believed to a top priority but the Nationals have long been interested in the versatile player. Zobrist, 34, could still command a formidable multi-year deal despite his age.

Jim Furtado Posted: November 12, 2015 at 09:13 AM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: nationals

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Sullivan: The Worst Division in a Decade

The NL East vexes me … I’m terribly vexed.

If you look at winning percentage outside of the same division, then the NL East slides into fourth-worst. At .428, it’s no match for the 2002 AL Central’s .412, but it does dip past the 1999 AL Central’s .439. I feel like I don’t need to keep hammering this. The division was bad. It was probably the worst in 10 years. In the season ahead, it’s likely the Phillies and Braves will once again struggle. The Nationals will lose some personnel, and the Mets could lose both Daniel Murphy and Yoenis Cespedes. It’s way too soon to try to forecast how the division will play in 2016, but the probability is that the best team in it will benefit from a relatively soft schedule.

In case you’re curious about the other side, the NL Central was strong, but it ranks tied for 11th in the interleague era. It was the strongest division in two years, since the 2013 AL East. The No. 1 strongest division was the 2002 AL West, with a very slim lead over the previous season’s AL West. (In third place: a different season’s AL West.) In fact, the top nine divisions all come from the American League, but that’s not a total surprise, given the AL’s run of league superiority. This is of little consolation to the Reds and the Brewers, who are looking up at their rivals and wondering what hope they have. If there are two teams in baseball that could stand to try to start over, it would be those. The Brewers have arguably already begun.

Just for the sake of a few closing thoughts: Over the 19 years, the AL Central has never once been baseball’s strongest division. This past year was the first time in the window that the NL Central ranked No. 1. And this was the first time that the NL East ranked No. 6. A year ago, we saw more parity between divisions than we had since at least 1996. There was very little spread in divisional quality. This year was a bounce-back in that regard. Or an anti-bounce-back, depending on your perspective on parity. There was less parity, basically. That’s all.

So, we’re coming off a recent first for the NL Central. And we’re coming off a recent first for the NL East, which was just the worst overall division baseball has seen in a decade. This has all been a reflection, but in the process of writing this, I saw that the Mariners and Rays completed a six-player trade, so now it’s officially time to look ahead. Contained within is information about the 2015 baseball season. That season won’t be bothering you anymore.

JE (Jason) Posted: November 07, 2015 at 09:10 PM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: barves, marlins, mets, nationals, nl east, phillies

Friday, November 06, 2015

Lee Smith: Here Comes Dusty Baker

Ok, it’s true the Nats made something of a hash of the hiring process. A week before the club announced that Dusty had the job, news leaked that they were going to name Bud Black, a former big league pitcher who managed the San Diego Padres for eight years until he was fired midway through the 2015 campaign. Reportedly, the sticking point was that Black felt Nationals’ owner Ted Lerner low-balled him, with an initial offer of $1.6 million for one year. Eventually, Lerner offered Black three years at a much higher salary—according to one report, “well above the average major league managing salary, perhaps in the top 10.” But Black, say insiders, was so “deeply offended” by the initial tender that negotiations never got back on track.

The news Black was going to get the job shouldn’t have been leaked until everything was in order. But it’s pretty clear that the Nats dodged a bullet here. Bud Black was “deeply offended”? Excuse, but is that a former big-league pitcher whining?—because it sounded an awful lot like the Iranian foreign minister. Is Black “deeply offended” when ballplayers spit sunflower seeds in the dugout? What about when a hitter doesn’t get a runner over, pitchers leave an 0-2 pitch out over the plate, or infielders bungle a double play? How does a guy with a .477 winning percentage as manager get to be “deeply offended” when a club that has proven it is serious about winning a World Series opens the bidding with more than a million and a half dollars for a year’s worth of work. ...

Why are baseball writers effectively defending the professional etiquette of a guy who clearly needs to find out how the rest of the world works, outside of Major League Baseball? Or maybe the Post works like that, too—in which case Jeff Bezos has probably already offended his employees, deeply. A number of Post staffers, along with other Washington baseball reporters, seem intent on drawing a picture of a dysfunctional baseball franchise that keeps embarrassing itself. The fact is that all professional sports franchises are by definition dysfunctional because their billionaire owners keep them as luxurious pets, to be coddled, humored, and scolded when they make a mess of the furniture. What owners know, and the talent and the media don’t understand, is that the so-called big business of sports isn’t big business at all. If you want to make money, you go into something like finance, or real estate, like the Lerners, whose wealth is estimated around $4 billion. You don’t go into an industry that depends on the whims of spring and summer weather and an even more capricious customer base, fans. In real business, you are surrounded by real business people, like executives who know their worth and seek to leverage their advantage when it comes time to negotiate compensation. In baseball, [mid-level] management is former athletes, who don’t know any better but to pout to the press when things don’t go their way.

Boswell says he likes the Nats’ owners. “The Lerners are good people,” he writes. “Their hearts are in the right place: dreaming of a title for their home town. The problem is with their ears. They don’t listen.” Ok, I’ll bite—who is it the Lerners should listen to?

Boswell is perhaps the gold standard of baseball writing, but it’s hard not to read him sometimes as just another Washington beat reporter willing to cash in common sense for the sake of a story. And luckily for Boswell, the Nats’ front office leaks against its internal rivals as much as the State Department. So what if the substance of the story is patently silly? It advances my relationship with a highly placed source, and besides, it’s a scoop—with my byline. Who is Boswell’s source in this article critical of the Lerners? I don’t know, but the Nats GM sure comes out of this looking good.

“As for Mike Rizzo,” writes Boswell, “a general manager who has built a team that has averaged 91 wins the past four seasons, [the Bud Black] episode doesn’t seem like how he does business.” Ok, maybe Rizzo didn’t leak the details of the Black story to Boswell, and frame it to make himself look like an innocent bystander watching a train wreck. And maybe Rizzo screamed at the Post reporter on the phone for jeopardizing his job by daring to suggest in print that there is any difference between how he and the people who sign his paycheck operate. But I doubt it.

We don’t know what really happened here, but given that Nats’ officials are leaking against ownership in typical bureaucratic Washington fashion through the Washington press corps, it’s not hard to surmise the intent of this CYA campaign. How about this: let’s say there were two final candidates for the manager’s job. The GM wanted Black but saw it was close so he needed to tip the scales. By leaking that Black had the job, he’d back Lerner into a corner so that if Black wasn’t picked the boss would look like an incompetent, if well-intentioned, baseball outsider who doesn’t understand how the business of the game works. Lerner called Rizzo’s bluff and picked Baker. He preferred Dusty, and perhaps wanted to remind Rizzo how he got to call the shots—you don’t become rich in the real business world without a pretty good sense of character. To save face in front of the professional community where he will someday have to go looking for a new job, Rizzo concocted an absurd story about a baseball lifer with nerves as fragile as a geisha’s.

In short, the Black episode really does highlight a problem in NatsWorld, but the clown show isn’t the Lerners.

JE (Jason) Posted: November 06, 2015 at 04:25 AM | 13 comment(s)
  Beats: bud black, dusty baker, managerial search, managers, nationals

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Dusty Baker wins the press conference with one terrific quote after another - The Washington Post

The quotable Dusty Baker.

Dusty Baker on existential voids

“I had a burning desire to succeed in my heart that wasn’t filled in my life [without baseball]. You’re going to have voids in your life. I mean, you can live without them. But I’d rather not.”

Jim Furtado Posted: November 05, 2015 at 03:58 PM | 41 comment(s)
  Beats: dusty baker, managers, nationals

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Judge rules in favor of Orioles in MASN Court Case

Nearly six months after the trial hearing, and three years after the dispute began between MASN and the Nationals, the verdict is in on the court case involving tens of millions of dollars of rights fees. The thirty-page decision provides the immediate conclusion that the court has thrown out the ruling made by baseball’s panel - a victory for the Orioles - but offers no other resolution to the case.

Page 27 of the ruling is particularly interesting.

Under the circumstances, the Court concludes that this complete inaction objectively demonstrates an utter lack of concern for fairness of the proceeding that is “so inconsistent with basic principles of justice” that the award must be vacated.

birdlives is one crazy ninja Posted: November 04, 2015 at 02:55 PM | 8 comment(s)
  Beats: masn, nationals, orioles

Bowden: Lerner Wouldn’t Pay For Joe Girardi, so Nats got Manny Acta

“None of us should be surprised at this,” said Bowden, who resigned as Nationals GM in 2009 amid an FBI investigation of illegal scouting practices in Latin America. “The Lerner families have a history of this. When I was the GM there, Joe Girardi was the selection of the baseball people there, a recommendation by me. The ownership was not willing to pay Joe Girardi what was fair, so Manny Acta was the manager, and that was the guy who ended up running the team. Joe Girardi went on to the Yankees and ended up having a world championship and a great career ever since.

Ho boy.

Bote Man sez $/yr not yr/$$ Posted: November 04, 2015 at 01:02 AM | 5 comment(s)
  Beats: cheap owners, jim bowden, managerial search, nationals, owners

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Svrluga: View of Nats Organization Not Entirely Pleasant

Executive summary: teh Lerners are CHEEEEEEEP!

The Lerners already had shown, in their dealing with previous managers, that they don’t put much value in the position. They have never paid a premium for a manager, even as they developed a roster that was good enough to win a World Series. This, people familiar with the franchise’s structure said, is typical of how the club operates.

Bryce Harper Wins Hank Aaron Award

Bryce Harper *IS* your 2015 Most Offensive Player.

Bote Man sez $/yr not yr/$$ Posted: November 03, 2015 at 06:06 AM | 70 comment(s)
  Beats: awards, bryce harper, nationals

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Nationals expected to name Bud Black next manager - The Washington Post

The Nationals intend to hire former San Diego Padres manager Bud Black to become the sixth manager in the team history, according to multiple people familiar with the situation. The Nationals have not announced Black’s expected hiring as Major League Baseball frowns upon teams making major announcements during the World Series.

Jim Furtado Posted: October 29, 2015 at 09:27 AM | 12 comment(s)
  Beats: bud black, managers, nationals

Monday, October 19, 2015

Dusty Baker wants to be a Major League manager |

“I’d like to be back in the right situation before it gets too late,” he said. “A lot of people think it’s too late already, but I’m the coolest old dude there is. I don’t think I really compare to too many people. [Age] doesn’t matter. How old was Casey Stengel? I’m younger than Tony La Russa. I’m younger than all of those dudes [Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Jim Leyland] when they left. Plus, I’ve got a 16-year-old that keeps me hip about how to deal with everybody.

“Age is all relative. There are some young dudes that act older than old men. I think I transcend almost all generations.”

The two years off, he said, have been essential to his health.

“I’m feeling great,” he said. “The worst year wasn’t last year. I felt fine. The worst year was the year after my stroke. I got a warning, man. I ain’t going nowhere. How many people have a mini-stroke when they’re in the hospital and survived prostate cancer? I ain’t going anywhere. It’s all good. The Lord don’t want me yet.”

Jim Furtado Posted: October 19, 2015 at 06:33 AM | 96 comment(s)
  Beats: dusty baker, managers, nationals

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Heyman Baseball Insider: Mattingly deserves to stay in LA, but will he? Plus MLB notes

JH ♡ DM.

Mattingly, it is said, has been quite cooperative on the lineup input he receives from above, and word is, it’s substantial. The club is blessed with terrific positional depth at full strength, giving them options galore, though Mattingly doesn’t always make the call. (That might explain why he answers questions about lineup decisions with “We thought it gave us the best chance to win.”

Under normal circumstances, Mattingly should easily be safe. But he also knows his job comes with no guarantees, and the one year to go on his three-year contract brings no certainties, either (if anyone’s shown they’re wiling to eat money, it’s the Dodgers).

Dodgers people haven’t said much, if anything, about his situation, and they may just keep him after weighing all these factors. But if they aren’t sure he’s their guy long-term, it’s possible they could allow him to talk to other interested teams, and there is at least one that’s interested, maybe more. ...

In the event of the Dodgers move on—and it’s hard to say how likely that is—the new regime could look close to home. First year director of player development Gabe Kapler is one who’s been speculated on by the Los Angeles press, and he makes some sense. And the new regime does love Kapler, a very smart man who has a sabremetric bent. But that’s just a guess.

Mattingly is a big boy. Even with the consistently strong regular seasons, he’d probably understand if the Dodgers made a change, at least to a degree. And at this point, he himself probably wouldn’t be shocked.

But that doesn’t mean it would be the right things to do. And it wouldn’t be.

JE (Jason) Posted: October 17, 2015 at 02:17 PM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: dodgers, don mattingly, jon heyman, manager, managerial openings, marlins, nationals

Friday, October 09, 2015

Cal Ripken might be biggest risk for Nats, but he also offers biggest rewards - The Washington Post

This idea is insane. The same worst/best case can be used to support any person on the planet.

What’s the worst case for hiring Urkel as the next Nationals’ manager? The team stinks. The best case is the Nationals win World Series after World Series. As an added benefit we’d get to hear him explain away every mistake with “Did I do that?” How wouldn’t that endear him to the fans and players?

And look, the team wouldn’t even have to buy him a shirt!

What’s the worst case? You hire Ripken and, for a couple of years, he resembles another shaved-headed, home-run-hitting Gold Glove stoic: Matt Williams. But other fears are legitimate. Poor chemistry between Ripken and also-stubborn General Manager Mike Rizzo could have longer-term repercussions. That’s the key relationship to analyze.

What’s the best case? Ripken is the manager of outstanding teams in Washington — as a bonus at a time when the Nats and Orioles are brawling in court over mega-millions in cable-TV money. That’s fannies in seats, eyeballs on TVs and even an image remake for a Washington team now seen as just a little too full of Natitude. Ripken does modesty and kick-your-rear (simultaneously) as well as anyone.

Jim Furtado Posted: October 09, 2015 at 08:18 AM | 42 comment(s)
  Beats: cal ripken jr, manager, nationals

Monday, October 05, 2015

St. Barry - Who Should Replace Matt Williams

So it would make sense, as the Nationals look for Williams’ replacement following his inevitable firing Monday, that they would veer the opposite direction, that they would hire someone with experience. It’s a typical response in sports: The defensive coach in football failed? Hire an offensive guy. Davey Johnson was too laissez faire with his players? Bring in the Big Marine.

Yeah, yeah, the Nats finally fired Matty. Now what??

Nationals fire manager Matt Williams after two seasons

I wonder if he has lost the clubhouse now.

The Washington Nationals have fired manager Matt Williams after two seasons, according to James Wagner of the Washington Post.

The Nationals were projected by many to be World Series contenders in 2015, but failed to make the postseason, going just 83–79 and ceding the NL East to the New York Mets.

Williams took the job in 2014 as a first-time skipper and led the Nationals to a 96–66 record, earning NL Manager of the Year honors. Washington was eliminated by the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series that year.

Bench coach Randy Knorr was a candidate for the job in 2014, and could be a consideration to take over for Williams.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 05, 2015 at 11:31 AM | 19 comment(s)
  Beats: managerial firings, matt williams, nationals

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Max Scherzer pitches second no-hitter of 2015 |

Max Scherzer hasn’t been the problem.

Jim Furtado Posted: October 03, 2015 at 10:13 PM | 48 comment(s)
  Beats: max scherzer, nationals

Friday, October 02, 2015

Inside Baseball: Nationals to let Williams go, and more MLB moves -

Heyman’s latest. SCOOP ALERT:Put your drink down! Matt Williams won’t be back.

For all the criticism Jon Singleton took for signing a $10-million, five-year deal early, it appears he made the right call, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle recently pointed out while citing a regretful Astros executive. Houston is actually lucky third baseman Matt Dominguez and Robbie Grossman also didn’t sign early deals when offered. The Astros have some great ideas, but trying to lock up non-stars early wasn’t one of them

Actually it was a good idea but with the wrong players.

Jim Furtado Posted: October 02, 2015 at 04:36 PM | 37 comment(s)
  Beats: nationals, notes

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

In Jonathan Papelbon, Nationals got their closer — and their kiss of death - The Washington Post

Wow. What a mess. Can you fire the manager and trade most of the players?

Jim Furtado Posted: September 30, 2015 at 03:23 PM | 61 comment(s)
  Beats: nationals

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

WaPo: Destiny Denied, Barry Svrluga Time Capsule Of Nationals 2015 Season

Part 1 -

The Washington Nationals had the most wins in the National League in 2014 and headed into the 2015 season as World Series favorites. With expectations high, Post national baseball writer Barry Svrluga spoke to several key members of the organization throughout the season to document their thoughts and emotions in real time, with the understanding they would be not published until the team’s fate was determined.

The link to Part 2 of this series appears at the bottom of this linked article. Might need to register if you’ve exceeded your free allotment for the month.

Bote Man sez $/yr not yr/$$ Posted: September 29, 2015 at 08:48 PM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: choking, nationals

Gleeman - Statcast Says: Bryce Harper Isn’t Lollygagging

Aaron Gleeman proves (with charts and everything!) that Bryce Harper is no lollygagger.

Bote Man sez $/yr not yr/$$ Posted: September 29, 2015 at 01:03 PM | 28 comment(s)
  Beats: bryce harper, choking, lollygagging, nationals, statcast

Changes are coming to the Nationals after disappointing season, brawl - The Washington Post

Thomas Boswell eviscerates the Nationals.

If Matt Williams had been at Ford’s Theatre in 1865, he would have loved the play. Did something go wrong? Nope, didn’t see a thing. Nobody said anything, either.

Jim Furtado Posted: September 29, 2015 at 06:52 AM | 112 comment(s)
  Beats: nationals

Monday, September 28, 2015

Nationals suspend Jonathan Papelbon 4 games |

The Nationals acted on Monday after a dugout altercation between two of their players on Sunday. Washington announced that closer Jonathan Papelbon has been suspended for four games without pay after his confrontation with outfielder Bryce Harper in Sunday’s game’s against the Phillies.

The Nationals also said that Papelbon has elected to drop his appeal of a suspension issued by Major League Baseball last stemming from his actions in a game on Wednesday against Baltimore. Papelbon was sanctioned for three games for throwing at third baseman Manny Machado. Papelbon will begin serving his MLB suspension on Monday and his Nationals suspension on Thursday.

Jim Furtado Posted: September 28, 2015 at 02:39 PM | 37 comment(s)
  Beats: bryce harper, jonathan papelbon, nationals

CJ Nitkowski: In Jonathan Papelbon-Bryce Harper fight, media has lost objectivity; players overwhelmingly support pitcher | FOX Sports

A different take and some great points by CJ Nitkowski. Papelbon is a wildcard but Harper seems like the kind of guy who, if he doesn’t change, won’t be around long when his talent starts to diminish.

Papelbon is everybody’s favorite punching bag but it’s not deserved here. This is a game that governs itself; it always has and always will. No one is above giving his full effort every time. When you don’t, there will be a veteran teammate there waiting to remind you. Sometimes that might result in a fight and that’s OK. This is not your office.

Jim Furtado Posted: September 28, 2015 at 06:58 AM | 244 comment(s)
  Beats: bryce harper, jonathan papelbon, nationals

Harper vs. Papelbon a precursor to offseason shakeup in D.C. | FOX Sports

The Nationals are a mess.

Yes, Harper risked a reaction—and elicited an overreaction—first by failing to run, then by appearing to tell Papelbon, “let’s go,” after Pap confronted him. Tell another player, “let’s go,” and maybe he drops it or resumes the discussion later. Utter those words to a pit bull— er, Papelbon—and it’s game on.

Whatever, Papelbon vs. Harper was a mere symptom of the larger disease. This is the fourth straight year that the Nats’ season will end in disappointment, even though in two of those seasons they won 96 and 98 games.

New manager needed. New players. And uh, a better marketing phrase, too.

Jim Furtado Posted: September 28, 2015 at 06:37 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: bryce harper, jonathan papelbon, matt williams, nationals

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Boswell: Fight between Papelbon, Harper turns Nationals wake into a public viewing

If you’ve lost even Boz, you’ve lost.

Of course, the ruckus started in the Nats’ favorite inning for disasters involving relievers: the eighth. Why rewrite a polished script? The bullpen’s trashed everything else this year, why not fight the likely NL MVP? Fan Appreciation Day, indeed.

After the game, the Nats had their annual “Shirts Off Their Backs” promotion with each player handing his game-worn jersey to a contest-winning fan. The Nats should make sure two fans receive the first authenticated brawl-used jerseys ever.

An hour after the game, the outfield was filled with fans who took instruction in “Yoga in the Park.” Yes, to improve their serenity. No Nationals participated. ...

On Saturday, after elimination, Williams encountered a century-old ritual for every manager — face the music. What does it all mean, Matt? Now that it’s over, own up: share your analysis or feelings. Or just change expression.

“We have to win tomorrow,” said Williams.

No, you don’t. You’re mathematically dead. Would the captain of the Titanic say, “We have to put that iceberg behind us and get ready for tomorrow”?

Now the 2015 Nationals take their place in a dark D.C. corner with the 2000 Redskins, who boasted of their Super Bowl chances after signing future Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith. Also in that dunce-cap row sit the 2009-10 Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals, who lost in the first round of the playoffs to the team with the 16th-best point total in the NHL in the regular season.

Williams has become the symbol of the season. But the Lerner family who own the team, General Manager Mike Rizzo and $168 million worth of players must bear most of the brunt.

If a team ever needed to look at its issues honestly, while not forgetting its strengths, it’s the Nats now. Organizational culture — whether one of accountability and candor or merely of best-face rationalization — has enormous cumulative impact that can last decades, as Dan Snyder’s NFL team has shown.

JE (Jason) Posted: September 27, 2015 at 10:36 PM | 23 comment(s)
  Beats: brawl, bryce harper, dumbass, jonathan papelbon, matt williams, nationals

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