Sunday, January 30, 2005

SABR meeting report, part 2 (Paul White)

Paul White, USA Today Sports Weekly senior editor, spoke about our roster, our prospects and a few other topics at yesterday's SABR meeting. For regular readers of this blog, much of his chat about our roster and prospects has been covered, but I'll still repeat what he said here, because much of it can boil down to opinion.

I'll say up front that White agrees with many other people (including me), in that he'd be shocked if our team plays 500 ball this year. He does think there's at least a 6 year honeymoon period, before the team really needs to be competitive to avoid hurting the franchise, and thinks there will be a good ownership group in place (more later).

About the people currently in contention for a spot in the rotation, he doesn't see a single star among them, with one asterisk that we'll get to later. All of them are nibblers, not real power pitchers. Livan Hernandez is obviously solid and a big innings eater. His weight "problem" isn't much of a problem, he's just a big guy. Basically, in the media, when he's doing well, "he's just big", and when he's not, "it's a weight problem". But the guy is a good all-around athlete who can both field his position well and hit. And, like Vidro, he also was extremely enthusiastic about being part of the franchise's new start, re-upping before anyone even knew where the team was going.

Ohka pretty much has no stuff at all, but gets quite a lot out of it, anyway, because he has very good control. But there's no chance this guy will ever be a number 1.

Zach Day is someone you could get a bit excited about, but in that transaction, we gave Cleveland everyone who is going to make them good in the next few years, so there's a lot to be disgruntled about there (more later).

Tony Armas, Jr. is not bad, but has been plagued by a ton of injuries, the implication being that this is likely to continue to be a problem. Certainly, it's hard to say how well he's going to pitch, but he's probably never going to be a #1.

Jon Rauch is the asterisk. Recently, he hasn't had the chance to be healthy, but now he does, so maybe he'll go back to being a guy with superstar potential, like he was when he was with the White Sox. This is a guy who must really be disappointed by the arrival of Esteban Loaiza, who pushed him out of the rotation in Chicago, and probably is doing it again here, since he probably would have won the 5th spot, if not for that acquisition (particularly because F-Rob liked what he saw from Rauch last year). As is, he's a sleeper to break into the rotation out of spring training, and if he does, it will be at the expense of Zach Day.

Our starting pitching may not have any superstars, but it's also not bad. What our pitching staff lacks is depth, particularly by the time you get to the minor league system. The only guy in our entire system right now with potential to be very good at the major league level is LHP Mike Hinkley, who White thinks absolutely needs a major league look this season. He didn't bring up Clint Everts, but it's unsurprising, since the guy is a complete unknown, recovering from Tommy John surgery (the only thing we know now is that we won't see him in 2005).

Depth plagues our entire organization. He said it was clear that when Omar Minaya was GM, he gutted the farm system, because those were the only valuable bargaining chips that he had, in order to remain competitive. Before Minaya, the Expos were becoming more and more statistically oriented (i.e., a Moneyball team). When MLB put Omar in charge, he reversed that course, because he's a gut instinct / 5 tools guy, who wants absolutely no part of any spreadsheets being placed in front of him. He also was willing to take big risks and come up a big loser on someone, preferring, for example, someone he felt had a chance to be a #1, even if he also had a big chance to become a bust, over someone he knew would be a #3, but probably would never be much more.

Minaya shouldn't take the full blame for the poor depth throughout the organization, though. His strategy for keeping us competitive was fine, but it's MLB's fault that "this team is not going to be as good as they could have been", because, for all the talent taken out of the system, there was virtually nothing put back into it. MLB would never pony up for anyone who required any sort of signing bonus, so we haven't been able to do well in the draft.

Whatever the reasons, the end result isn't pretty. Our minor league system does deserve to be ranked among the worst in baseball, particularly at the lower levels. He mentioned that the official scorer of the class A Potomac Cannons was in the room, and offered the advice, "Good Luck!" We really do only have 2 or 3 prospects who are way above average, Hinkley being one, and Larry Broadway (a power hitting 1B we've mentioned before) being another.

He spent some time on the starting lineup. Vidro should be Vidro, good for about 20 HRs and overall solid play. Brian Schneider is solid, but not spectacular (except on defense). Wilkerson is the one guy who does it all, currently, and is the only real star in the group. The issues with Castilla are obvious, the fact that he looked pretty bad outside of Coors last year, and that he's had a lot of bad years recently. Bowden didn't miss that. But, Castilla was brought in because he's a personality. He's already got a career in broadcasting, having been a color commentator for playoff games and the World Series, for Mexican Television. Supposedly, he's really good. He's certainly expected to provide some veteran leadership, and help some of the younger team members grow. White didn't say much about Guzman, other than the obvious, that he doesn't hit much.

White said, "Nick Johnson is theoretically the first baseman. If you're a moneyball kind of guy, you used to love Nick Johnson. Now, he still knows how to take a walk, but he seems to have forgotten the rest of it." The question is, if he doesn't get traded, whether Nick Johnson will play, or get benched in favor of Wilkerson playing first base. Frank Robinson's ideal lineup would include Johnson, Wilkerson and Endy Chavez. Robinson now loves Chavez because of the way he responded last year at this time, when Robinson hated him. Basically, he needed a ton of plate discipline, and he took it seriously, and made big strides at taking walks, in Frank's mind, at the very least. "Frank rewards people who are in his favor this week." Basically, if you play hard and play 'the right way', you'll make him happy, even if you don't always perform so well.

Apparently, Jose Guillen is a great guy. For example, he goes out of his way for people working at the ballpark and for the team, and has regularly gone out of his way for people like secretaries, buying them things they need, etc. There may be two sides to the guy, but it sounded like White likes him, and he'll do fine under Robinson.

Talking about players who might make the 25-man roster, White likes Ryan Church, and thinks he'd be good, but needs an everyday job. If he somehow were able to beat out both Sledge and Chavez for the third outfield spot, that'd be good for him, but it wouldn't make any sense for his development to be the 5th outfielder, and warm the bench.

He felt similarly about Brendan Harris, who is "an average speed white guy, but he produces... a decent little player". He's major-league ready, but since his two primary positions are taken by Vidro and Castilla, he's better off in AAA than warming the bench, even though he could very well end up a utility infielder.

Who are natural rivals for the Nats? White said to forget about the Orioles and the Phillies. It's the Marlins! The players despise the organization (he said they think it is evil), because of the way things were handled when Loria sold the Expos to MLB and bought the Marlins. Loria stole away anyone good from the Expos organization who had any clue, and was pretty unfair about it, using the fact that "MLB couldn't guarantee jobs for those people", which was somewhat disingenuous. Basically, Loria caused much of the organizations' front office to be gutted in a way that should never have happened.

He talked a lot about team ownership. He thinks that it's going to get pretty complicated, and that there's no way it will be settled in the first half of the season, and said that "we might even get through the whole year". He predicts that the ownership group that wins the team is likely not the be anyone we've heard of so far. There may end up being a big chain of moves that is complicated to pull off. He's heard some amazing rumors, one, for example, having Larry Lucchino coming back. Associated with that seemed to be a complex chain of events that would include a swap of L.A. for Boston (John Henry is from L.A. and Frank McCourt is from Boston, owns the land that a new park would probably be built on and lost out on that bidding in the weird deal that went down).

That rumor had a lot of facets to it. L.A. and Boston have vastly different values, because of NESN, the sports network that the Red Sox own outright. There's talk of John Henry selling this off, making a ton of money and balancing out the value of the two franchises. What would happen to NESN? The rumor there is pretty interesting... people are looking into building a big conglomerate mega-baseball cable outlet that covers the east coast. It would basically see YES, NESN and whatever network is being put together for the Nationals / Orioles being brought in under one parent company.

As for other ownership possibilities, there are feelers out to Cal Ripkin, who wouldn't be a majority shareholder, but would be the face of the organization, with really big wallets in the background. The question Ripkin's got to be wrestling with is "do you dive right in there and stick it to Angelos?"

Frank Robinson's also expressed interest in being an owner, which is part of the reason why he originally only wanted to stay on for a year. It sounds like that has slacked off some. White recounted an anecdote of a game where Robinson's comp seats were being occupied by some mega-celebs with deep, deep pockets, including Bill Cosby. White knew F-Rob was interested in ownership, and asked about those people sitting in the seats (which would definitely make MLB excited, as they're in dire need of good minority ownership groups). Robinson's answer was, "If you ask your friends for money, you lose your friends." It didn't sound like he'd really be in the mix.

Somewhere in there, he talked about Northern New Jersey being a more fertile baseball market than even Washington. He said that Loria has been pushing to get into that market for quite a long time, but probably will never get it, because not only do the ex-Expos hate him, but so do most of the rest of the owners. But, there is some possibility that someone will eventually get that territory, and White thinks it would be far more effective than the luxury tax for enforcing competitive balance. He thinks it would be a good idea to split any sort of expansion fee between the Yankees and the Mets, and be done with it. Even so, the Yankees will still be the Yankees, and will still have plenty of fans supporting them in N.J.

There were some interesting discussions in the Q+A period. Someone asked about whether a return to a 4-man rotation would ever make sense. White thinks that the 4 man rotation probably wouldn't be a bad thing for the game or for too many individuals, but it would be incredibly difficult to do. He thinks that, in order to do this effectively, an organization would have to make a big transition to get people adjusted to it, starting by putting a 4 man rotation in rookie ball, and then the next year instituting it in AA, and so on up to the bigs. Clearly, the people left in the rotation who didn't work their way up through the system would also need their endurance built over a period of time as well.

Here, there was a long discussion about teams babying pitchers too much in the minors, because the investments are getting so big. It makes it difficult to build the kind of endurance needed for a 4-man rotation, when every prospect is pitched so little, for fear of hurting them. It also means, they have to develop with far less opportunity to get up there and throw in a game situation. Every organization now has a binder for each player, with detailed information of how much he's allowed to pitch, getting down to, for example, how many breaking pitches of each type he's allowed to throw in each game.

There's a problem here, not only in getting to a 4 man rotation, there's a problem in promoting people into the bigs for a full season. By August, most such players hit an inevitable wall, and their numbers start declining, because they've never done anything like it before.

As a tangent here, he pointed out that pretty much all major league pitchers are starters in the minors. Closers in the minors don't turn into good major league closers. "If you see someone with 30 saves in the minor leagues, ignore him. He's got one pitch, probably a curve". Clearly, success for minor league closers has a lot to do with many minor leaguers having big trouble with breaking pitches.

He was also asked about the draft, and said that our first pick will probably have to be for a pitcher out of college. Ultimately, our depth in pitching is worse in the minors than our offensive depth. But, whether we improve our minors quickly will have more to do with how well we pick in later rounds.

SABR meeting report, part 1 (Kevin Uhlich)

Yesterday, I went to the annual meeting of the D.C. chapter of SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research). There were three research presentations, three invited speakers and a couple of trivia presentations. The first speaker was Stan Brand, VP of Minor League Baseball. Second was Kevin Uhlich, special assistant to Tony Tavares, who primarily handles team operations. Third was USA Today Sports Weekly senior editor Paul White, who discussed our roster and our farm system. I also met loyal reader Backward K and Colin Mills, who is running the Nats fan club.

All three speakers were great. Brand talked about the economics of minor league ball. He talked about the recent history of the agreement between the Majors and the Minors, and how the current minor league system is made possible by the anti-trust exemption (because it is the reason for the reserve clause, without which you'd have free agency earlier in people's careers, and the economics just wouldn't work for the current system). I'll cover Paul White's talk tonight.

Kevin Uhlich gave an overview of the business side of the team. He started by giving his history with Baseball, which started as a batboy for the Angels when he was 16. After a short detour in radio, he came back to the Angels organization and moved to operations. He moved up the rung, ending up as a VP under Tony Tavares. When Tavares left, he took over as president, and stayed there until a few months after Disney sold the team. While at the helm of the Angels, he was responsible for the large amount of red in the uniform, the rise of the rally monkey and a world series ring, which he sported on his right hand.

He then talked about how Tavares coaxed him to do this, when he was enjoying a year off, and contemplating a job in football. He then talked about everything that the organization has done so far, including hiring, ticket sales and the RFK renovation (among other things).

The RFK renovation is going better than could be expected, given the massively compressed time frame. RFK was actually in reasonable shape... they were expecting, particularly because of our climate, for many things to be wrong, such as the concrete to be all cracked and broken.

The sliding seats had been damaged from years of people shaking the seats at football games, but now work as originally designed, sliding back and forth "like butter". The dugouts have been expanded, they're building bullpens, the sprinklers and drainage system didn't work, the soil needed replacing, the press box needed replacing, there was no office space inside the stadium (thus the trailers), the concession facilities needed $2M of work, ...

They've made a massive amount of progress, and should have no problems getting the thing done in time. The field is already 80% done, despite the weather, thanks to the "field guru" from Chicago, I think he said his name was Roger Bosner (but a web search turned up nothing). They've got drainage and sprinklers done, and will be laying grass the first week of March. Bosner is very confident that their plan for converting the infield for D.C. United will work like a charm, but Uhlich will be skeptical until he sees it work.

He also talked about the "Ring of Stars", the banners celebrating local sports legends. As the Post reported, this has disappeared. The reason is because the ring takes up primo advertising space they need to sell. But, they have got the support of Charlie Brotman (former Senators PA announcer), who is responsible for the Ring of Stars. What they're going to do is find a prominent place in RFK to hang at least some of them, and then they will take them and display them in the new stadium. By the way, Charlie Brotman is confirmed as the P.A. announcer for the exhibition game against the Mets and the home opener, at least.

Uhlich's enthusiasm for embracing franchise, the area and the history of both was perfectly clear, not just in his concern for the Ring of Stars, but in the anecdotes he told about his experiences to date. He is quite fond of the city, particularly its architecture. He likes how nothing is built taller than the monument, so even when you're downtown, you don't feel like you're downtown. But, he doesn't get the diagonal roads (who does?), and was thrown off by having the same address exist in multiple parts of the city. He and the rest of the temporary team (Tavares and Bowden) would love to continue doing the job when new owners come on, but are realistic, and understand that new owners may very well want to install their own guys in those key positions.

For the exhibition game, he confirmed that he had originally wanted to get the Yankees, so they could finish the game that never got finished when the Senators moved to Texas (due to fans rushing the field with one out left, with the Senators up two runs). He was hoping to get Senators that are still around to go take their positions with the appropriate Nats starter.

The guy who was on the mound when the fans rushed the field still has the ball that was in his hand at the time. Uhlich still wants to get him to bring it down and present it to the President, so that ball can be the first pitch, thus bridging the past to the present.

He talked about the rich history of the President throwing out the first pitch, even though, as is fitting to his role, he also sees it as an operational nightmare. He hopes it goes back to being an annual tradition, and is how MLB kicks off the season every year, even if, due to the RFK renovations, they couldn't play the team's first game in Washington.

Also, he talked about how, in 1904, the Washington franchise was the first to wear their nickname on their Jerseys, when they put "Nationals" on it. The first game was on April 14th 1904, meaning that the Nationals will return 101 years to the day of their original premiere.

The TV and radio deals are both close to being announced, even though the radio deal has indeed unraveled a bit. After the talk, he said that they haven't done anything in the way of selecting the radio team... he's got several boxes of tapes that he'll go through, but, while the team will pick the person, they want to give a lot of weight to the desires of the station they end up using.

Of course, Uhlich talked about tickets. Once they merged the Washington Baseball Club and MLB lists, they had 21,000 names on the ticket list. When the Post reporter called and asked if someone messed up, he said they didn't at all, it was a simple case of supply and demand. He reiterated what was reported, that there are 5,000 infield box seats, and there were 10,000 requested. Plus, most people had been on one of the two lists giving them "priority". And, of course, DC has a much, much larger VIP list than most teams (and certainly small market teams).

But, the VIPs didn't get all the best seats. They spread out the VIPs and have seats for the general public in every section, even in the front rows of every section. They've done their best to give the general public a good experience.

But, he said that there are far more good seats in RFK than people may realize. He thinks that RFK is poorly numbered. When people hear they have seats in the 300s, they expect to have nose bleeds, but in RFK they're good seats in the main bowl.

While due to the construction, they can't have an open house, they are being as accommodating as they can be with angry fans. They have taken some people to see their seats, but can only do so on a case by case basis.

Someone complained about not being able to get a refund on their $300 deposit. Uhlich explained their refund policy. If you listed three preferences, and you didn't get one of your preferences, they'll work with you. They'll try to get you into a seat after the 4th, or, if nothing they can do makes you happy, they'll give you the refund. But, if you got a seat in your third preference section, they'd appreciate you honoring the preference.

They can't do much for people unhappy with their seats until they know who is or isn't paying for seats (thus, Feb. 4). Even then, they "Can't promise anyone is going to move, but we're going to do our best".

When they know exactly what seats are gone to full season holders, they can open up ticket sales for mini and partial plans, so they'll probably come the week of February 4th. As for single game ticket sales, they will probably go on sale the second Saturday in March, and Uhlich hopes to have a festival around it.

He talked a bit about the new stadium, and alluded to the politics, but didn't address them or the ownership issue directly, beyond saying that they believe in local ownership, and that, the one ownership group he's met (the Malek group) would make wonderful owners. He likes the Anacostia site and pointing the stadium to have a view of the monuments, and reinforced the recent Post article, which said that nobody in the city or in the organization wants another Camden Cookie Cutter. He wants the new stadium to set a new benchmark for how stadiums get integrated into the area.

The funniest moment was in the Q+A period, one guy told a story about how the Expos would cart in local prisoners to make Olympic Stadium appear to be a more popular place. The prisoners wouldn't be unshackled, and they would, on cue, clang their shackles on the seat in front of them, since they couldn't clap. To that, Uhlich said, "That's not in our marketing plan".

All in all, Uhlich was a charismatic guy who is clearly doing a great job at an impossible task. He cares a lot about fans, and was happy to talk to the Colin Mills afterward about working with the Fan Club. He even said he'd try to help the fan club arrange tickets for the game on April 4.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Saturday activities

The D.C. chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) is having their annual winter meeting tomorrow, at the Key Bridge Holiday Inn, in Rosslyn. Tony Tavares is a special speaker, and there will be research presentations, etc. It's $30 at the door and runs from 9:30 till 4:30.

I'm going to be going to this. If people are interested in meeting up, I think drinks and dinner afterward would be good. Just look for me at the convention. There's a small picture of me here. Or, you can email me today, and I'll send you my cel number so that we can coordinate once we get there. I suspect being a Holiday Inn, they'll have free wireless, so you probably could also email me tomorrow. See the comments of my last post for my email address.

For people who are excited to meet the players, Brad Wilkerson and Brian Schneider will be at the D.C. Health and Fitness Expo from 3pm till 5pm tomorrow. That event is being held at the new convention center.

I suspect you'll have to get there quite a bit earlier than 3 to stand in line to meet the players. I remember standing in line for hours to meet Bucky Dent as a kid... I never did get to meet him, because one of my parents took me out of line after a few hours, but my grandfather kept waiting, and eventually got me an autographed picture that I still have to this day, even though it's pretty banged up.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Ticket update

It looks like I'll be blogging from the Diamond Boxes until the cost drives me into bankruptcy, and they come repossess my computers!

The Nats ticket office had sympathy for that snafu that befell me, and found someone who wasn't going to keep their seats. I ended up with two seats in section 113 (first base side). I'm in row 7 (there are 10 rows in that section).

Of course, I shouldn't really spend such a tremendous amount of money on these seats, so people who want to pay to go to an occasional game in my place and are willing to pay face price should let me know in private. Ultimately, I'd like to unload about 1/2 the dates on the calendar, primarily weekday games, and certainly not opening day, or anything like that.

All in all, I'm very happy, but still a bit apprehensive about the possibility of having to eat thousands of dollars I don't really want to eat :-)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Cellar Dwellin' with PECOTA?

My ticket snafu hasn't been resolved yet. I haven't heard anything since Monday night other than, "sit tight". But, in the meantime, I got inspired to post again because Baseball Prospectus released their PECOTA projections for the 2005 season. Since it's a subscription service, you won't see me regurgitating all the raw data.

Before I look at their projections, though, I'd like to say thanks for the nod this blog got in the Washington Post, while I was off pouting about my ticket situation.

Their projections are a useful way to compare teams, except that their projections didn't capture the last week or so of transactions. Here are the problems I see with their projections in the NL East:
  • Loaiza and Osuna are not considered in the analysis of the Nationals.
  • Delgado is not considered in the analysis of the Marlins.
  • Worse, Delgado is credited to the Mets!
  • Smoltz' projection is befitting a closer, not a starter, to the detriment of the Braves.

Without adjusting for those people, here is how PECOTA projects the division (remember, VORP is a relative indication of total value towards winning):
  1. Mets (596.8)
  2. Phillies (538.6)
  3. Braves (448.7)
  4. Nationals (437.4)
  5. Marlins (434.9)
Adding in Delgado to the Marlins would seem to bump them up to about 60 points (Delgado himself is worth about a 45, then he'd probably replace a corresponding value of about -15). If we can just trade Delgado's VORP for Mientkiewicz, the Mets only drop about 30, and the number is probably less considering that he'll play a full year for NY, whereas he'd be sharing duties should he remain in Boston. Let's give them a -25.

PECOTA actually thinks our entire pitching staff is "better than replacement level", which is good, but adding in Osuna's 22.9 and Loaiza's 17.9 doesn't offset any negative numbers. In fact, Loaiza's projected value probably balances out a nearly similar effort from other starters. I think we would gain no more than 30 points from these two additions. A +30 for us.

Smoltz is a bit of a wild card. Just in a closer role, he'd rack up a 20.8 VORP. I get the feeling that PECOTA would have projected him above a 40 if he'd been considered a starter. Let's say +20 for ATL.

Adjusting for this, we get:
  1. Mets (571.8)
  2. Phillies (538.6)
  3. Marlins (494.9)
  4. Braves (468.7)
  5. Nationals (467.4)


One way or another, we're clearly going to have to fight hard not to end up in the basement.

Not only are these numbers just projections, I do think these numbers are really only valid for projecting possible 1st half performance. They can't take into account what moves are going to be made in the middle of the summer, which can have a big impact.

Interestingly enough, while PECOTA doesn't think our rotation has a superstar, it's in line with everyone except the Mets. And, our bullpen gets a lot of credit in comparison... it's the thing balancing out the fact that PECOTA thinks we have a horrible offense. Let's look a bit closer.

Without adjusting for recent additions, here's what the system thought about overall pitching staffs:
  1. Mets (256.4)
  2. Phillies (231.7)
  3. Nationals (224.6)
  4. Marlins (218.9)
  5. Braves (178.7)
Once you add in Osuna and Loaiza, we look to have the #2 pitching staff overall. Just looking at the core set of starters, we rate #3, behind NY and FLA (though Smoltz brings ATL up above us, if I'm right about him). But, PECOTA doesn't think Armas is going to pitch very much, so if he's healthy and effective, we might not just have the second best pitching staff and bullpen, we might have the second-best rotation.

The offensive picture is bleak. Here are the rankings, before adding in Delgado:
  1. Mets (340.4)
  2. Phillies (306.9)
  3. Braves (270.0)
  4. Marlins (218.9)
  5. Nationals (212.8)
Once you credit Florida for Delgado, we're way behind everyone else in terms of offense. Clearly, PECOTA doesn't like the Guzman and Castilla signings any more than we do (Castilla is projected to be the bigger bust for 2005, having a projected VORP just barely above 0).

And, to think, some people on the Ballpark Guys forum took offense to my calling our offense anemic! At least I have the best statistical projection model to date on my side!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Talk me off the ledge... or convince me to jump!

Update (10 PM): The lady I talked to in the ticket office insists they did give priority to people who signed up early. I tend to believe her (I probably shouldn't have jumped the gun in reporting this before talking to a human myself). While this has restored my faith in the club, I believe there was still something a bit wrong with the process, though. More info in the comments, and I'll continue to update as I learn more, or as my status changes.

I just saw my season ticket invoice. I am seriously thinking about canceling, and stopping this blog in disgust.

I was one of the people who signed up long, long ago with the Washington Baseball club. I was in the group that was supposed to get priority treatment. According to message boards where people have talked to a human being:
When I talked to the TO they didn't deny that the group 1s and group 2s were simply tossed in together and one drawing was performed.

What does this mean to me? I got about the worst possible seats in my third choice seating area.

My seats are in Row 2 of section 227, which is in the right field corner, pretty much. Click on this morning's picture to see where that is, but it's nowhere near where I wanted to be. If I had to get my third choice, one would expect they'd at least give me a good seat in my third choice, like somewhere in section 126.

Now, I'm sure TicketMaster doesn't know the amount of time and energy that I've spent on this team, nor do they care. But it still pisses me off that they didn't actually give me any priority at all for being long-suffering loyal D.C. baseball fan. I was basically willing to pay whatever price for great seats. I'm not happy about paying $35 a seat for crap, when I was promised priority that I didn't get. Pissing me off even more, I tried calling the ticket office, and it just rang and rang.

Anyway, I'm seriously considering canceling my order, and just moving on with my life. Please let me know your thoughts... what would you do? Talk me into it or out of it, as your opinion may warrant. I'll monitor this discussion, but I may or may not post again, depending on how I feel when I get a bit farther away from this.

It's quiet

It was another quiet weekend. The Post looked at some of the 15,000+ people who have applied for 45 front office jobs. They also had a mildly amusing look at the 2005 season, featuring gems such as:
April 14: As Mayor Anthony Williams prepares to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Nationals home opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks, D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp blindsides him, snatches the ball and hurls it into the RFK stands. The Nats win, 3-2, on a double that lands in a pothole in left field and gets stuck.

On Friday, MLB published an update on the winter leagues, mentioning that Ayala is getting pounded, with opponents hitting .313 off of him. Guzman is also doing poorly, hitting a mere 2 for 22.

The new seating diagram for RFK mentioned in Friday's comments is also making me salivate... season ticket seat assignments (and, sadly, invoices) should arrive this week. Click the picture for a bigger version.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Bush-league ballgame

George Bush is confirmed to be throwing out the first pitch at our home opener on April 14th. My 6 year old daughter will sure be excited to see the President. Mayor Williams will probably get the nod for the exhibition game on April 3rd.

In other news, the Post looks at RFK, and declares that it will be neutral, or at least pretty close. I tend to agree, even though the general word is that it will play as a bit of a pitcher's park. I think the edge will be slight.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Antonio Osuna signs

Osuna agreed to a one year, $.8M deal, and was attracted mainly by the other mexicans on the team (Castilla, Ayala, Loaiza). The downside to the signing is that it pushed Sun Woo Kim off the 40-man roster, who is one of those who hasn't yet lived up to his potential, but still has the potential for extremely high upside.

Osuna only pitched a mere 36 2/3 innings last year for San Diego, posting a 2.45 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .232 BAA, 8.84 K/9 and a 12.2 VORP, which gave him a very nice VORP rate for the time he was pitching (2.99 VORP per 9 IP), but it's a small sample size, due to time on the DL (he normally goes about 65 innings per year). In the two years prior, he put up about the same VORP over 20-30 more innings, which means that we shouldn't expect him to quite match last year's numbers. But lifetime, he still looks decent with a 3.50 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .235 BAA and 9.27 K/9.

I expect he'll do better than that career line for ERA, a bit worse on K/9 and somewhere right around it for everything else. All in all, he should be a solid reliever, though he's a bit of a DL risk.

For those of us who ordered season tickets and were wondering why the additional delay in getting seat assignments, apparently Ticketmaster was delayed due to its handling inauguration tickets. Invoices will be put in the mail from Friday to Tuesday, so everyone should get them next week.

Partial ticket plans still haven't been announced, but an announcement is expected in less than two weeks.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

It's official :-(

"E Lo" is signed. Bowden designated Brandon Watson for assignment, who never would have made the 25-man roster anyway.

If we weren't already the laughing stock of the statistically-inclined baseball world, we are now!

HelLoaiza (damnit)

Apparently, pending results of a physical, Bowden signed Loaiza for "a $2.9M deal that includes incentives". My first thought was honestly, "I should pass on my season tickets".

What does the rotation look like, then? Probably Hernandez, Ohka, Armas, Loaiza, Day. Patterson, Rauch and Hinkley all have some small chance of pushing someone out, but I wouldn't count on it. Patterson and Rauch will likely end up in the bullpen, and I suspect Hinkley will spend another year in AAA.

I wouldn't feel so bad if Loaiza were destined for the pen. But there's no way that'll happen, I fear.

The article mentions that we're getting close with another option for the pen, as Bowden is also talking major league deal for Osuna now, instead of a minor league deal. I think that's a reasonable move, as I've said before. Osuna definitely adds some depth we've been lacking.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The money will roll right in

Applications for purchasing the Nats must be submitted by January 31, in an effort to get the team sold by opening day.

Also, the deadline has passed for submitting private financing packages. Eight groups submitted offers falling into three categories: Parking revenues in exchange for cash, development rights for nearby land in exchange for cash, and tax sheltering investment schemes. I predict that any scheme where investors make out via tax shelters will be unpopular with tax payers, and are non-starters. The other two seem reasonable... one of the development projects would build a town center just north of the park (right across the street from it and the metro stop there). They would provide enough money to cover many infrastructure costs, too. I suspect the city will go for that one, and maybe even a parking plan. As I've said before, it's hard to say that the city is going to get the best possible deal, considering the pressure to get something done here.

Also, the official spring training schedule for 2005 has been released. Included is confirmation that the RFK exhibition game on Sunday, April 3, with game time at 1:05pm.

Ohka avoids arbitration

Tomo Ohka agreed to a contract for 1 year and 2.75M. Currently, our opening day roster will cost us a shade under $44M, with our two highest paid players being Livan Hernandez at $8M and Jose Vidro at $7M.

Also, the Post has a good introduction to why our farm system sucks.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Anger Management is great!

No, I'm not talking about the banal movie where Adam Sandler proposes to his girlfriend at a Yankees game. here's an article on Jose Guillen, in which he expresses that very sentiment, although he isn't at all remorseful for "the incident". I think we should cut the guy some slack, and welcome him with open arms.

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

In today's Post article that reports on the Armas contract for 2005, they mention a couple of other nuggets. First, they continue to talk with Loaiza's agent... 3 times on Saturday and once on Sunday. Ugh. I'd stick the guy in the bullpen.

Second, they are talking to Antonio Osuna about a minor league deal. He's had some on-and-off groin injuries, but has pitched reasonably well on the whole, when he pitches.

I remember watching him in his short stint with the Yankees. He started off looking pretty good for a middle reliever, then seemed to crack under the pressure of being in NY. He did well for San Diego last year, but he didn't pitch much (36.7 IP, 1.17 WHIP, 2.45 ERA). I think he'll be a nice pick-up, and expect he'll have a good shot of ending up in the bullpen out of spring traning, if he's healthy, particularly since that's a place where we lack quality depth.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Only one arbitration case...

The Nats signed Tony Armas Jr. to a 1 year, $2.26M contract. They signed Nick Johnson to a 1 year, $1.45M contract. The only hold-out for arbitration eligible players under team control is Tomo Ohka, who Bowden has previously said isn't going to come to terms before that happens.

It was really a slow weekend: The TV deal is still in progress. The Post had a good article about the RFK renovation. And, they had a long article recommending road trips for Nats fans.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Sosa for Sledge

It's nice of Blogger to finally let me post (the few times I tried yesterday, I was getting a page not found error). There is talk of the Nats once again pursuing Larkin for a bench role, since no one is going to offer him a starting job (a shame, since he's better than our starter). It sounds like it may either be Nats or retirement for him.

The major rumor from yesterday is that talk of a trade for Sosa is happening again. According to some sources, we may be willing to pick up some of Sosa's salary. Other sources report that we'll take him off the Cubs' hands, as long as it costs us nothing.

I can't believe talks would turn back on if we hadn't budged from our position, which, from the Cubs' perspective is 100% unreasonable. Since we're probably not going to end up breaking the bank for pitching (there's not much out there worth having, even through trade), and since Bowden has a wad of cash burning a hole in his pocket, this all seems a lot more realistic to me than it did a month ago.

I already commented on this rumor when talk was for Wilkerson, not Sledge. That was a bad move from a numbers point of view, but I would have understood it from a marketing perspective. Whereas Wilkerson is clearly more valuable on the field than Sosa, Sledge is another matter. Last year, they had about even OBPs, and Sosa had an OPS that was 50 points higher. To be fair, Sledge got off to a slow start last year, but Sammy was still more valuable, even throwing out the first month.

The question is, how much will Sledge improve, and how much will Sosa decline? I think there's a good chance that if he is in an environment where he feels happy and welcome, Sosa won't be any worse than last year (by far, his worst year in a long, long time). Sledge will probably be incrementally better next year, but he's pretty much at his peak, which, while good, still isn't quite as good as Sosa in his decline. Sledge has more long-term value, since Sosa will retire within a few years, but if money weren't an issue, I think Sosa would be the choice.

And then there's the value Sosa brings to the club, simply because he's Slammin' Sammy. More people will come to see a superstar. They'll sell more jerseys. Yes, optics are incredibly important and valuable. With the Mets making so many splashy moves, bringing in Sosa will at least make it look like we're doing everything we can to not get left behind in the dust. Heck, if the Marlins land Delgato instead of the Mets, we'll need to make this move just to appear like we're keeping pace with them!

In so far as the deal goes, Sosa is owed $17M in 2005, and $18M in 2006 if he is traded. Reports are that, to get out of Chicago, Sosa is willing to budge on the 2006 numbers, but I doubt the player's union would be too happy about that. More than likely, he'd have to restructure it, deferring a big chunk of it into 2007 and maybe 2008, then sign an extension at a below-market value. That way, the dollars are nominally 2006 dollars, but really go to his 2007/2008 contract.

If something like that makes sense to all parties and actually comes to pass, I could imagine we'd ship out Sledge and a prospect to Chicago in exchange for Sosa and $9 to $10M of his salary. Then, I could see sammy getting a 2 year, $8-$12M extension keeping him in Washington through 2008, and deferring $8M of his 2006 money over two years.

From a pure perspective of production per dollar spent, this probably wouldn't be a good deal, but when you consider the offset in additional revenue, it seems like it could be a reasonable move. It certainly wouldn't be the deal of the century, but I would probably pull the trigger, if I were Bowden.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

More on Loaiza

It seemed that my fellow bloggers were generally hopeful yesterday that the Loaiza situation was a rumor created by his agent, and that Bowden would be a little bit smarter than that. For example, from Ball Wonk:

Or so Barry Svrluga says. What he doesn't say, at least not out loud, is that neither Bowda nor Trader Jim confirms Svrluga's account of things.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the MLB article asserts that we're in the picture:

Jim Bowden said Loaiza is a pitcher who could "eat innings" [...] According to Bowden, the Nationals don't feel Loaiza's price should be in the same range as that of Perez or Jaret Wright [...] "If Loaiza doesn't knock his price down, we cannot compete".

If that isn't enough proof, this morning's Post confirms it:

Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden spoke twice yesterday with the agent for free agent pitcher Esteban Loaiza, and the team could know whether it will land the pitcher within the next few days.

"I think it's something we'll find out soon," Bowden said.

If Bowden was willing to pay Shawn Estes about $7M for two years, I suspect that he's willing to pay the same for Loaiza, even though he seems to be looking for that on a per-year basis. I assume Loaiza isn't going to get the same kind of crazy deal that Derek Lowe got (i.e., far, far more money than he's worth), and Bowden does seem to be willing to overpay on the wrong people, so I'd say we have a good chance of landing Loaiza (my guess is 1 yr/4M or 2 yrs/7M). I'll just keep my fingers crossed hoping that he ends up in the bullpen, and performs well there, although he's more likely to push out someone who is more deserving of a chance, such as John Rauch or Mike Hinkley.`

The Post reports that Bowden is also exploring trades for Colorado's Shawn Chacon and San Diego's Brian Lawrence. Lawrence is someone I'd consider a legitimate innings eater. He has been pretty consistent the past couple of years, posting a dERA of 4.58, 4.56 and 4.07 over the last three years, which is in the same range as any of our other starters, but with 200+ innings pitched in each of those years.

The guy has no upside... he isn't expected to improve very much, but he would add more of a known element to the rotation. He's got mediocre K/9 rates, but doesn't walk more than a couple of batters a game. His WHIPs over the past three years: 1.35, 1.21, 1.31.

Chacon would be a bad move. My suspicion is that Bowden selectively recognizes the Coors effect... he didn't give Coors enough credit with Castilla, but he's going to give it too much credit with Chacon. When you look at his dERA (park adjusted, league adjusted, defense adjusted), he doesn't look so good (6.20, 4.02 and 5.47 over the last three years). WHIPs: 1.83, 1.30, 1.50.

By the way, Brian Schneider and Brad Wilkerson are going to be making their first public appearance with fans... at Space Coast stadium. In other news, it sounds like the Nats will be on WTEM, and the exhibition game on April 3rd will likely be with the Mets (yawn, let's get a team in that we're not going to see over and over again throughout the year).

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Is this a bad dream?

Life with Jim Bowden is far worse than any nightmare I've ever had. Just when he started saying things I could respect (such as, he's not going to pay big money for bad starting pitching), he gets worse.

Let's not even talk about the fact that he offered the miserable Shawn Estes $6 to $7M for 2 years. That's water under the bridge, as he's going to Arizona. No, my beef of the day is that we're in the mix for Loaiza. Everyone who is a regular reader knows that I am down on this guy, who has really only had one year that didn't totally suck (it just so happened that one year was outstanding). Paying this guy anything is overpaying him, even if it's a meager amount that gets up to the $3M range with performance-based incentive clauses. Plus, Loaiza would push someone who is better out of the rotation, though maybe only for part of the year.

Oh, and ESPN has updated their scouting reports for the new year. To see the reports on our players, start at the team roster page and click on the individual player names. Then, if you look down a bit under the stats, for most players you will see a "scouting report from STATS, Inc."

Monday, January 10, 2005

Meet Allen Lew

The Post has a profile of Allen Lew, who is the head of the D.C. Entertainment and Sports commission. He built the convention center, and now he's renovating RFK and building a stadium in Anacostia, we hope.

There's also a tremendously interesting editorial from Ralph Nader, who suggests that D.C. should buy the team. I think it's a great idea, but I doubt the city will listen!

There hasn't been any recent on-field news of note, though it will be good to have Beltran in town frequently throughout the year (though maybe not from the perspective of the Nationals W/L record). There was a rumor coming out of Arizona that we bid on Shawn Estes and "lost" to AZ, but I don't think there's any loss in missing out on a guy who had negative VORPs the past two years, despite pitching full seasons. Not only is he worse than the average AAAA-type player, in 2003 he was a lot worse, posting the fourth-worst VORP in the league (-16.6). Why would anyone want this guy over Rauch? Okay, maybe prior to 2002 he put up numbers becoming of a #4 starter or so, but those days are long past...

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Cannons in Washington

If the Nats can't find a major league team for the April 3 exhibition game, the Potomac Cannons would love to play. I saw speculation that they were going to try to get the Yankees, but the Yankees and Red Sox open the season on ESPN2 that night. I wouldn't mind getting to see some of our prospects...

There's a Washington Times article today that I would have thought said the obvious... that the team will carry forward franchise records from Montreal, but will also recognize Washington baseball records that span some records that are franchise records for the Twins and Rangers (the Ravens do the same thing).

Apparently, prospects that are nearly ready for the bigs are going through a rookie orientation program here in the D.C. area, including Larry Broadway (1B), Ryan Church (OF) and Michael Hinckley (LHP). The last two certainly have a real chance of making the 25-man roster, or would if I were GM ;-)

Friday, January 07, 2005

Another winter league update

When the level of competition is as low as it tends to be in the winter leagues, a good AAAA player trying to get a starting spot has no excuse for hitting under .300, IMHO. I hope that means that Endy Chavez will end up on the bench, as MLB reports that he is hitting .285/.372. His SLG happens to be .392. Actually, that OBP is okay, but the SLG is a stinker.

J.J. Davis, on the other hand, is hitting .313/.383/.595. I would love to see Chavez play the whole year in AAA, with Davis taking his spot on the roster.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Wilkerson avoids arbitration

Wilkerson agreed to a one year, $3.05M deal, avoiding arbitration. The team has also posted times for most games on the official schedule. The home opener is an evening game.

Mr. T's state of the union

Tony Tavares, interim president of the Nationals, gave an interview to MLB.com. It's an interesting read. He details what needs to be done at RFK, and says that the main point of the charity exhibition game before their first real game is to make sure that, if something is really wrong with the stadium they can identify it (and hopefully fix it) before opening day.

He also indicates that he expects Bowden to make a "creative move" for pitching, which should surprise nobody. I would expect that he's trying to trade Nick Johnson (and maybe then some) to a team who has a decent but not stellar starter but is looking to dump salary. Without asking the other team to kick in any money, he could probably go for someone in the 8-10M range, depending on how much he trades away. I don't know of any good candidates for a scenario like this, though. The only one that comes to mind is Kevin Brown, whom the Yankees would very much like to dump. I could see them trading Johnson and a pitcher (I'd say Ohka due to the potential for losing arbitration) and a prospect if the Yankees kick in $5-6M a year of the $15M per year he's owed. Trading away Johnson and Ohka should keep the team from going over budget. Brown seemed to be losing velocity last year. I doubt he'll be as dominant as he had once been, but in a pitcher's park in the NL, I'd bet that he can still post about a 3.30 ERA, which means he'd probably be better than Odalis Perez. I wouldn't want to

Remember, this is pure, utter speculation. Do you guys know of anyone else out there who would make a good target?

The drama will continue...

From today's Post:
[Former mayor Marion Barry] plans to organize boycotts and picket lines when the newly christened Washington Nationals start playing at their temporary home at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in April.

Barry noted that Williams must return to the council to seek approval for construction contracts and revenue bonds. Barry said he, for one, plans to vote no.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

MLB has a couple of minor pieces that are primarily fluff, but it's a slow news day, so hey. First, they have a piece on Brian Schneider, which basically just points out he is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, and that, even though he really has only had one full year as a starter, he hits pretty well, though still has some things to work on. Second, they have a piece on Vidro, mainly saying that he's going to show up to spring training early to do extra work on his knee.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

No Odalis for you

It looks like Odalis has all but re-signed to the Dodgers for 3 years (ESPN reports $24M), but finalization and the announcement is waiting official completion of the Green trade.

Spring training

The schedule for spring training has been announced. Our spring training facility is Space Coast stadium. You can get a great photo tour here.

Also, following up with the minor league scouting, Baseball America had a chat session that is very enlightening if you want a better sense of what we've got waiting in the wings.

Go to Nats games for free

MLB.com is currently hiring for someone to be a regular columnist for the Nationals, probably primarily writing game wrap-ups. They're also looking for someone to enter in Gameday information ("stats stringer").

I'm 100% qualified for the later... I've already learned every single thing there is to know about their 'proprietary coding language'... it is very close to the Retrosheet format, for those familiar with it. I can say that you shouldn't *need* to know the language... they should have a better GUI that produces the codes automatically. It's clear they don't currently have such a GUI though, because there are some plays that are scored in different ways, depending on the scorer and how he feels at the moment!

Ah, if it weren't for the day job...

Top 10 Nationals Prospects

Baseball America lists our top 10 prospects. Getting a scouting report on each will cost you extra. I guess I was duty-bound to pony up for that service and report back to you the gist of what I learned.

Overall, about five are major league-ready, or at least close (i.e., if they have a good year, expect a late-season callup). The rest have a good way to go, still. The fact that so many people in our top 10 are recent draftees, often out of high school, indicates that we don't have much depth beyond this list, which is why our farm system ranked dead last in 2004.

Our #1 prospect is Mike Hinckley, a LHP who did very well in A and AA ball last year, allowing 2 runs or fewer in 19 of 26 starts. His K/9 ratio was 7.56 and his WHIP was about a 1.09 (don't know how many of his walks were intentional). Unlike most young leftys, he's got command of his fastball, which tops out at 94. They think as he fills out, his fastball will be faster more often. He's also got a decent curve and change-up, but they lack some consistency. He'll probably be promoted to AAA quickly, and we will probably see him called up around the end of the year, baring major disasters. Baseball America projects him to be a quality #2 or #3 type guy within a few years.

Despite a poor April coming off of injury, Larry Broadway (1B) hit .270/.362/.451 in AA last year, w/ 22 HRs. He's a power hitter who can hit for average, and is close to major-league ready. He's not a good runner, but he's good defensively. He'll start the year in AAA (New Orleans).

Ryan Church is often mentioned in our outfield logjam. In AAA last year, he hit .343/.428/.620 w/ 17 HRs. He got 63 ABs in the majors, where he only hit .175/.257/.238. If he has a strong spring and Wilkerson ends up at first, he may get platooned with Chavez (spit) or Sledge. Otherwise, I suspect they powers that be would rather have him playing every day than taking up space on the bench, so AAA seems more likely.

Clint Everts, a right handed starting pitcher, is still #4 despite the fact that he'll miss 2005 recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was our #1 prospect for the two years prior to that. In 2004 his velocity dropped to 84-88mph (down 4 mph), probably due to his elbow problems. Yet, he still did very well, thanks to a plus curve and plus change, posting a 2.45 ERA, ~1.04 WHIP and 9.98 K/9 over 110 innings. If he rebounds to his old form, he'll project to an eventual #1 type.

Brendan Harris (3B, inf) may not have Vinny Castilla's power, but he's better at hitting for average and consistently hits line drives with some power. He's got a plus arm for a third baseman. Certainly a better value than Castilla, at the very least, he may end up a utility infielder, or back in AAA. Last year in AAA, he hit .311/.353/.531 in 254 ABs at Iowa and .269/.317/.454 for Edmonton (130 ABs). He didn't far as well in 9 ABs with the Cubs and 50 ABs with the Expos, hitting .169/.222/.271.

Our first round pick last year, Bill Bray was a closer at William & Mary with a 89-95mph fastball and a late-breaking slider, but the Nats like his changeup enough that they are going to try to convert him to a starter in A ball (he'll be playing locally, in Potomac). If he doesn't make it as a starter, he'll advance more quickly as a reliever.

Drafted out of high school in 2003, Daryl Thompson (RHP), isn't hitting the majors anytime soon. In 2004 he played in Low A ball, and posted a 5.08 ERA, ~1.43 WHIP and 6.90 K/9 over 103 innings, mostly as a starter. His fastball is currently in the 89-94 range, and may get faster as he fills out. He is still developing his secondary pitches (curve and change), though. Baseball America thinks his curve may become a plus pitch. He's a local boy, from Mechanicsville, Md.

Darrell Rasner (RHP) is a sinker-ball pitcher whose change and curve need work. He has no strikeout pitch, but has good control. He "turned a corner down the stretch" last year, giving up more than 1 earned run only one time in his final 11 starts, 5 of those starts coming in AA ball. Baseball America expects he might get a callup this year, but doesn't think he will ever be more than a back-of-the-rotation guy. He posted a 2.78 ERA, ~1.30 WHIP and 6.22 K/9.

Kory Casto (3B) is poor defensively. He spent 2004 adjusting to breaking balls and left-handed pitching, but was driving the ball consistently by the end of the year. He apparently has an outstanding work ethic. In low A ball, he hit .286/.337/.474, and he'll probably start out 2005 in Potomac.

Collin Balester (RHP) was drafted out of high school last year (4th round pick). He's got both command and power (his fastball is consistently 91-92mph, hitting 94-95). He's also got an average late-breaking curve, but needs to develop his changeup, and beef out a bit. He'll probably spend much of the year in low A Vermont.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

MLB.com on-field overview

MLB has posted an overview of what's been going on roster-wise. One interesting point is that they leave Nick Johnson off the list of starting players. They note rightly that everyone in our rotation minus Hernandez has at least some type of question mark. They massively over-credit the offensive moves Bowden has made in the offseason. Nothing new for regular blog readers, but a good overview.

By the way, the "official" URL for this blog is now www.nationalspastime.com. One reason I did this is because I may eventually move off of Blogger, though I have no plans to do so at the moment.

The Angelos travesty

Apparently, Angelos' patience with MLB has been wearing thin. There are rumors that he is prepared to sue and that the state of Maryland is prepared to sue.

Many baseball fans have considered this a hollow threat, and have wondered what Angelos and the state could possibly sue over, since the Orioles clearly do not have territorial rights to Washington. I think the sense from fans is that any lawsuit either of these two groups were to bring up would be quickly viewed as frivolous and thrown out. But the Baltimore Sun offers this nugget:

Among the issues Angelos could raise in a lawsuit is whether he had been given assurances by baseball's leaders that he would not face competition inside the Washington-Baltimore market. The state of Maryland, too, could make a claim that the security of the debt it issued to construct Oriole Park could be put at risk.


I can see where each of these could potentially give leverage. In the case of Angelos, assume that there is no basis for a verbal contract (particularly, if Angelos gave nothing up in exchange for assurances that Washington wouldn't get a team). He may still be able to argue, for example, that Selig's actions have essentially defrauded Angelos. For example, if he didn't think he had a lock on the area, maybe he would have sold high in the late '90s.

Ultimately, I don't think the merits of the case matter too much. MLB is predisposed to cut a deal that is favorable to the Orioles, at the detriment of the Nationals. Let's say that Angelos settles for what MLB has on the table right now. He'll get personal assurances from MLB about sale price and revenues, which don't matter much to the Nationals unless MLB actually has to make up a shortfall somewhere, in which case other teams are affected as well.

Angelos would also get half of the television revenues from the two teams combined, even though D.C. is the larger market, and would probably get the better deal (at least, once the team has an established audience). This more or less means that the Nationals do not get to enjoy the benefits of a free market to the extent that they would otherwise be able to do... we'll always be on an even revenue footing with the Orioles (more or less), even though we are in a much larger market.

Television revenues are such a huge chunk of change that it is almost impossible to make the missing revenue up in other ways. I doubt we're going to make it up in ticket sales, particularly when the Orioles still do pretty well at Camden Yards with a ticket price that is undoubtedly much higher than ours is going to be with all of those $7 seats. Even if we can do better in the short term on radio deals and other outlets for revenue, we're not likely to make up for the lost revenue from having to share with Angelos. We might eventually be able to keep our revenues higher than his, but not by much.

So, while we're in a bigger market and will probably be responsible for a lot more revenue in the short-term than the Orioles can bring in, we're going to have trouble just getting our revenues slightly ahead of theirs, which I find particularly inequitable. And, if Angelos gets what he wants, he may end up getting 60% of the revenues from television.

That part is a bit unclear to me. From older articles, I got the impression that he might be willing to settle for 50% of the revenues, but asking for a 60% equity share in the venture, which would probably make a real difference only when he wants to sell his share of the company.

Either way, I would love to see MLB stop catering to Angelos and gives him a big goose egg. I know this is unlikely, not just because Angelos and Selig are buddies, but because it will drag out the sale of the team, potentially by years. If they give more ground than they already have, I'll be sorely disappointed!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy new year!

The Washington Times has a piece on Frank Robinson. It's largely comprised of quotes from Robinson about how excited about the move he is, and his role as manager.