Nationals MLB News

Major league and minor league news on the newest MLB franchise written and maintained by professional newspaper journalists.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Player autograph session

The Washington Nationals are holding a public autograph session on Wednesday, Feb. 2 at the ESPN Zone in Washington.

Representatives from the Nationals will include Jim Bowden, general manager, reliever Chad Cordero, starting pitcher Zach Day, newly acquired outfielder Jose Guillen and free agent shortstop acquisition Christian Guzman.

Bowden and the four Nationals players will be available for autographs from 1 to 2 p.m. The ESPN Zone is located at 555 12th Street NW, in Washington.

Probable Starting Rotation:

Nationals 2005 starting rotation:

1. Livan Hernandez, RHP, 30
2004: 11-15 (win-loss) 35 (games) 255 (innings) 234 (hits allowed) 83-186 (BB-SO) 3.60 (ERA)

Hernandez is unquestionably the ace of the Nationals’ staff, with his ability to provide 220-250 innings a season. He is as strong as a horse and could provide the team with 15 wins, if given run support.

2. Tony Armas, RHP, 27
2004: 2-4 (win-loss) 16 (games) 72 (innings) 66 (hits allowed) 45-54 (BB-SO) 4.88 (ERA)

If healthy, Armas could be a solid second starter for the Nationals. He possesses solid stuff, although his control can waver at times. Armas needs to show that he can remain in the rotation for an entire season and 30-plus starts.

3. Tomo Ohka, RHP, 29
2004: 3-7 (win-loss) 15 (games) 84 2/3 (innings) 98 (hits allowed) 20-38 (BB-SO) 3.40 (ERA)

Ohka survives more on deception, changing speeds and control than anything else. He is a gutsy pitcher but if the Nationals have to rely on him to be anything more than a No. 3 or No. 4 starter they are in trouble. He also has to show that he can stay healthy and miss more bats.

4. Esteban Loaiza, RHP, 33
2004: 10-7 (win-loss) 31 (games) 183 (innings) 217 (hits allowed) 71-117 (BB-SO) 5.70 (ERA)

Loaiza has long been considered an enigma wrapped in a riddle. He possesses the ability to be a solid third or fourth member of the rotation - especially with the cut fastball he added two years ago - but his dedication has always been questioned. While with the Jays, Loaiza reportedly fielded cell phone calls from his girlfriend in the dugout during games.

John Patterson, Claudio Vargas, Jon Rauch and Zach Day will all battle for the fifth spot, with the losers either headed to the bullpen or to triple-A. However, I believe all four pitchers are out of minor league options, which would mean that they will have to be placed on waivers if they don’t stick with the major league team. They will be profiled shortly.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Sosa going... going... gone.

It appears that Sammy Sosa, of the Chicago Cubs, is a step or two away from becoming a Baltimore Oriole. It is probably for the best that the Washington Nationals did not succeed in their quest to obtain the slugger. There were two ways to look at a possible acquisition of Sammy Sosa from the Nationals perspective.

The first view was from a business perspective. Obtaining Sosa - a proven MLB superstar (at least pre-steroid suspicions) - the Nationals would have had an opportunity to sell more tickets and jerseys by obtaining a marketable and well-known player, even if he is in his waning years.

However, from a purely baseball perspective, it did not appear to be an overly smart move to make. For one thing, Sosa is due to earn $16 million this season and the Cubs surely are not going to trade their most marketable player AND pay his entire 2005 salary. For a small to mid-market team, like the Nationals, obtaining Sosa's hefty could be pure suicide. After all, the Nationals have to be teetering pretty closely to their budget limit with the off-season acquisitions of Vinny Castilla, Christian Guzman, Esteban Loazia and Jose Guillen. Couple that with the hefty contracts of holdovers Jose Vidro and Livan Hernandez and you have reasons to worry. A $40 to $50 million budget does not go as far as it use to.

The Nationals (I almost wrote Expos) are also deepest in the outfield than at any other position. They already have the aforementioned Guillen, Brad Wilkerson, Endy Chavez, Terrmel Sledge, J.J. Davis (a former 1st round pick who deserves a shot), rookie Ryan Church (who also deserves a shot), and Rule 5 picks (who have to stay on the Major League roster all season or be returned to their original teams) Tony Blanco and Tyrell Godwin.

If I were running the Nationals - which I am clearly not - I would be looking more to developing my minor league system over the next few years, while giving playing time to young, promising players. Expansion teams in the past (Colorado, Arizona) have gotten in too big of a hurry to compete and have either decimated their team by trading all their young players away for "quick fixes" or gone into deep debt by overpaying free agents.

Every fan prefers to watch a winning team, but the Nationals could easily sell tickets for the first few years mainly on the novelty of having a team in Washington again, as long as they put a high-energy, exciting team on the field. Then, in three to five years, start rolling out the dough to sign major free agents, once there is a solid base to build on. Let’s face it, years of Major League Baseball control has almost completely stripped the franchise of all its great players and promising youngsters, although there is hope.