I didn’t know what to make of the Nationals signing Tony Womack Thursday to a minor league deal.  I managed four items.

-I thought for a moment that Womack played for Washington in 2005. Then I realized that was Junior Spivey. I always get these two mixed up: both are middle infielders types who played for the 2001 World Champion Arizona team. Womack and Spivey have played for the Cardinals, not at the same time though.

-I wonder how many times I’m going to hear the following phrase this season: “Womack is 37, one year younger than the manager Manny Acta.” 

-This must be Rule 666 of the Plan. Bring in a 37-year-old utility infielder/outfielder at bargain basement prices.

– Of course, Womack is a former Red. It all makes sense now.


Thursday babble

I thought I could muster more than this but I can’t. I’ll do better tomorrow. Or Saturday. Or March

Meet the Nationals, Greet the Nationals

The Washington Nationals are going into the community to meet the fans. If they are no fans, they’ll settle for just regular people

Thursday, the team announced intended stops on the 2007 Caravan Tour. Starting January 22 through January 29, Manager Manny Acta, outfielder Nook Logan, left-hander Mike O’Connor and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (or some combination or all of them) will travel to various stops in Maryland, DC and Virginia to shake hands, sign autographs and kiss babies.

The 2007 Caravan tour stops can be found here.

Reason No. 16 to pay attention during Nationals spring training-the utility infielder position

Yesterday, the Nationals signed 12 players to minor league contracts including veteran infielder Tony Womack, who will be one of several players competing for the utility infielder spot.  D’Angelo Jimenez, Josh Wilson, Jose Macias and Melvin Dorta are expected to compete for that position and signed minor league contracts as well Thursday Womack, who has played with seven teams in his 13-year career, will get $600,000 if he makes the 25-man roster. I’ve heard of Jimenez and Macias. I won’t even venture a guess which one makes it; however, Womack fills that veteran player that’s been to a World Series and can teach the youngsters about professionalism and things of the nature role. Or something like that.

Poor Bernie Castro. I was getting used to his reckless abandon on the bases and trying to drag bunt his way on in half of his at-bats

Another signing Thursday was first baseman Travis Lee, who would make $500,000 if he makes the opening day roster.  Lee is widely known as a strong defensive first baseman (translation: not much pop at the plate). Last year, Lee batted .224 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 114 games for the Devil Rays. I perceive Lee’s signing to be a message to Larry Broadway, who struggled in winter ball. If Broadway struggles in the spring, Lee could be an option if Nick Johnson does not return on Opening Day.  Broadway has done his time in the minors and at least deserves a fair shot in spring training. I don’t fault the Nats for the insurance policy just in case Broadway tanks it in spring training. With Johnson hurt, there’s Broadway and Robert Fick-that’s it!  The Nationals have been about quantity this offseason signing a lot of low-risk free agents. So what’s a little more depth to the first base spot? Broadway is a favorite of Manny Acta and I think will be given every chance to win a spot on the big club. What happens in Spring Training is up to Broadway.

Correction: I had stated earlier the Nationals pitchers and catchers were slated to report on Feb. 15. Mlb.com reports they will report Feb. 13 with their first workout schedule for Feb. 15. Position players are scheduled to arrive Feb. 18 and the first full squad workout on Feb. 20

First the Dominican, now Venezuela!

As I was driving to work this morning, I wondered when the Nationals would try to start signing players from Venezuela, a country loaded with baseball talent and Citgo Oil (ask Joe Kennedy). I also wondered if I left the stove on and if I needed to pick up milk on the way home.

The whole thing Dominican thing is great but the Nationals need a little diversification in its recruiting of foreign-born players.

I can stop wondering as the Nationals signed four Venezuelan teenagers to professional contracts it was announced Wednesday.

Catcher Sandy Leon, shortstop Adrian Sanchez, outfielder Jesus Morales and first baseman Juan Urdaneta were among seven players at a workout in Venezuela recently.

I get it already. The Nationals are going to go after players in the foreign market. Point proven!

Let the salary games begin!

Salary figures entered the fray Tuesday for the five Nationals players eligible for arbitration next month.

I have to get this out of the way. First, Alex Escobar’s request compared to the Nationals offer cracks me up. The two sides are $90,000 apart. Escobar wants $590,000, the Nationals are offering $500,000. Really? $90,000! The major league minimum is $380,000. Please settle this.

Talk about your difference in salaries. Nationals starting pitcher John Patterson, the only person with a secure spot in the rotation currently, and his bosses are $1 million apart in salary. Patterson is requesting $1.85 million. Washington offered $850,000.  Patterson missed most of last season with a right forearm injury. Last season, Patterson earned $450,000 per win (he finished 1-2 starting eight games and throwing just 40 innings). Patterson is hoping for two things:

a)      He can convince arbitrators his 2005 season is more like the real Patterson (9-7, 3.13 ERA, 185 K’s)

b)      The arbitrators realize even pitching stiffs are getting paid a million and up. Jorge Sosa just got $1.25 million from the Mets. If a pitcher who went 3-11 with a 5.42 ERA can get that much money even from the spend-happy Mets, Patterson should at least make that much in the going market.

Closer Chad Cordero is going to get his huge payday. It’s just a matter of how much money he will get.  At the worst, Cordero is going to get a salary increase seven-fold. Last year, Cordero finished with 29 saves and a 3.19 ERA. He earned $525,000 in 2006. Cordero is asking for $4.15 million. The Nationals are offering $3.65 million. Each year that goes by, Cordero will become more expensive for the Nationals to keep.  Pay him now or have some other team pay him later. Or just trade him for prospects either in spring training or the All-Star Break.  Or sign him to a multi-year deal.

Felipe Lopez is looking for $4.1 million. Washington is offering $3.7 million.

Austin Kearns is requesting a slightly higher figure than Lopez ($4.25 million) but the Nationals are offering $3.65 million.  Lopez and Kearns set some career-high in a couple offensive categories: Lopez in walks, stolen bases, runs, on-base percentage, strikeouts. Kearns posted career-high numbers in home runs and RBI.  I should care more about these two since they are starters and could be with the franchise for a little bit. Still, I don’t and it’s probably because most starters out there seem to be earning $3 million-$4 million per season at least. Brad Wilkerson is getting $4.35 million this year and he’s coming off a season cut short by shoulder surgery, not to mention one of his worst offensively. It seems when people who are coming off bad years on other teams get this much money, I don’t see how it couldn’t benefit players Kearns and Lopez. Who knows!

Chris Snelling avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $450,000 contract on Tuesday. Good now he can focus on staying healthy and on being one of four Nationals who will compete for the left field spot.

The Nationals could spend anywhere from $12 million-$15 million on arbitration-eligible players? Gazooks, that’ll put a crimp in the dream of a sub-$30 million dollar payroll!

Congrats to Endy Chavez, who got a 1-year deal from the Mets worth a base salary of $1.725 million.  Chavez, a former Nationals center fielder known for his allergies to patience at the plate, walks and on-base percentage, batted .306 with four home runs, 48 runs scored and 42 RBI in 133 games. Chavez filled in for left fielder Cliff Floyd last season which allowed him to get 353 at-bats and finished with a career-high on-base percentage of .348. Chavez could also earn $100,000 in incentives for games played and plate appearances. He could get a gazillion dollars if he has an on-base percentage of .375 or better in 2007. Chavez had one of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen in Game 7 of the NLCS in October.

Nick Johnson had two screws removed from his right leg Tuesday.  Not like I’m doing a Johnson injury watch or anything.

Sutton hired as Nationals color analyst

Monday morning, I wrote a piece about Washington considering options for the broadcast booth.  While the story was obviously fake, I thought the Carrot Top option would be great.

Monday afternoon, the Nationals and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network officially named someone whose curly hair was and is as noticeable as the orange-follicled comedian to join Bob Carpenter in the broadcast booth.

Continuing the tradition of bringing former Braves into the fold, Don Sutton was hired Monday to be the Nationals’ color analyst. The move is hardly a surprise as Sutton was considered the favorite for a couple months.

Sutton served as the Braves color analyst since 1989 and had a front row seat to the 14 straight division titles, five pennants and one World Series title.

Of course, Sutton and Nationals team president Stan Kasten go way back to the days when the Braves stunk.  Not surprisingly, Sutton sees similarities between the two teams.

I think there are a lot of similar circumstances — the franchise in a rebuilding mode and people at the top who want to do it right, and a manager that is easy to get excited about," Sutton told mlb.com. "I told one of my friends in Washington the other day, ‘I’ve seen this movie played somewhere else and it has a happy ending.’"

While the Nationals 2007 season could play out as a scary movie, Sutton will have a birds-eye of the action as the script unfolds starting March 3 as the Nationals hosts the Baltimore Orioles in Viera, Fla.

“The Nationals already have a leg up on defense," Sutton said. "But at the top of the Braves Minor League system back then, they had some pretty talented arms waiting to explode on the scene. That’s probably the unanswered question right now [about the Nationals] when you try to parallel those two franchises."

The mlb.com article reports that Sutton will have a busy workload in addition to his analyst duties, which includes 150 regular-season games. Among his duties will be working on the Nationals magazine show, making guest appearances on local radio shows as well as public appearances on behalf of the Nationals and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.

One of the highlights of the article mentioned Sutton possibly giving advice to some member of the Nationals’ pitching staff. Priceless.  Um, just a shot in the dark here, I have a feeling that should be a regular happening especially since the color analyst is a 300-game winner and Hall of Fame pitcher.

Sutton replaces former major league outfielder Tom Paciorek, whose contract was not renewed after last season.

Editorial:  Most broadcasters/color analysts have flaws/traits that drive some of us nuts.  Sutton might have a couple. I’ll find out soon enough. Honestly, I think he’s a knowledgable person to have in the booth, someone who knows the workings of the pitcher-catcher relationship.  The Nationals preference seemed to be hiring a former pitcher or catcher and they hired according to their plan.

One month until Nationals pitchers and catchers report.

One month until some sportscaster somewhere in the United States will make the following comment:

“The official start of spring is five weeks away but the unofficial start of the spring got underway today with the first day of spring training as pitchers and catchers for nine Major League Baseball squads reported to camps in Florida and Arizona.”

Fans to Vote for Washington Broadcast Team

WASHINGTON— Washington announced Monday that they will let the fans decide who is in the broadcast booth this year.

“It’s the fans who watch so we thought we’d let the fans decide who they want to have in their living rooms,’’ said a Washington spokesperson.

There are five reported options will be the following:

a)     Don Sutton and Bob Carpenter.  Sutton has long been rumored to be the leading candidate to replace Tom Paciorek in the booth. However, the lack of a signed agreement between Sutton and Washington has everyone worried including fans.  A clear vote of confidence by the fans would be a slam dunk for Sutton to come on board.

b)     Bob Carpenter solo.  The option of going old school with the one broadcaster would be a great outside-the-box-move. Sure, it could make for a boring broadcast, hearing the same voice for 3 hours or so. And maybe Carpenter’s lack of major league baseball experience could be a liability.  However, Washington’s franchise would save some money with a one-person broadcast team.

c)     Carpenter and John Riggins.   Sure, Riggins hasn’t played professional baseball. He probably couldn’t name the starting lineup if spotted six names.  But he’s John Riggins, Washingtonians will tune in for the name alone. I don’t care if he’s working for Triple X Radio in Washington.  To see Riggins try to do color commentary on baseball would be a ratings bonanza.  So the baseball people would be offended, big deal. There could be side wagers on how long it takes him to mention an old Redskins story (three minutes).

d)     Carpenter and a small rotation of comedians.  Wouldn’t you like to see Carpenter paired up with Carrot Top?  I can see it now. 

Carrot Top: There’s some racket going on in the press box (which is followed by him pulling out an actual racket and waving it around).
Carpenter: (audible groan)

Carpenter: Holy Mackerel, Zimmerman has another home run!
Carrot Top (pulls out another prop-a fake fish with holes in it). A holy mackerel you want, a holy mackerel you get!

Carpenter: (another audible groan)

How about Carpenter and Andrew Dice Clay:

Carpenter: The clock is about to strike 12

Dice Clay: Speaking of clocks about to strike (puffs a cigarette), I have this story. It starts with Hickory, Dickory, Dock

Carpenter (quickly interrupts). No thanks, Dice. We’ll save that for another time

Carpenter: The Nationals are having a tough time against the boys in blue tonight.

Dice: Maybe the boys in blue are getting paid off tonight. 

Carpenter: Why would you say that?

Dice: Because they need the money. Oohhhhh!

Carpenter: Ah, jeez, Dice! Did you have to go there?

e)     Carpenter and Paciorek.  Nothing says rebellion more than hiring a broadcaster the franchise didn’t bring back.  This would be my option just for the tension.

There is an extra level of suspense. Carpenter will not find out until 60 minutes before his first spring training telecast which option the fans chose.

The contest will start Jan. 22 and end Feb. 15-the first day pitchers and catchers for the report.

Fans can go to washingtonbaseballclub.com, click on the option that says Fake Broadcast Poll and cast your ballot. Vote early, vote late but vote often!

When contact, Carpenter was speechless.

“I’m literally speechless. I can’t conjugate a verb right now. Subject and verb agreement? Forget it,” said the broadcaster.

This fake story was subject to approval by no one. Restrictions may apply. Void everywhere.

Slow Nats Day

Not much baseball news today.  On the football tip, New Orleans seems to be the sentimental Super Bowl pick. No argument here. Great win last night for the team and the city. Still don’t understand why Andy Reid had the Eagles punting on 4th down with less than 2 minutes to go in the game.   In much closer to home news, a day of mourning in Baltimore for the Ravens. Not else too add.

Two new Nationals pitchers and their money stuff

Brandon Claussen will receive a $650,000 salary if he makes the team according to the Washington Times. Jerome Williams will make $500,000 if he makes the big club. Surprising that was it’s a no-incentive deal. I would throw in stuff like-$100,000 if he wins ten games and $50,000 for 150 IP.

To assume Williams is going to be a part of this rotation was a little premature.  He’ll be one at least 10 pitchers competing for four spots. O’Connor isn’t a given to start the season on the opening day roster as he still recovers from off-season elbow surgery. Shawn Hill, Beltran Perez and Joel Hanrahan have been projected as possible members of the starting rotation.  Another reason to stay tuned during spring training.
Federal Baseball’s battle-royale line is very appropriate for this scenario.

With the two signings, nationals.com reports that the team is “out of the running” for pitchers Steve Traschel, Ramon Ortiz, Tony Armas, Jr, Tomo Ohka and Jorge Sosa.

More Money-Realted stuff (not Eddie)

Six Nationals have filed for salary arbitration hoping to get some extra dollars.  Closer Chad Cordero heads the list.  It should be noted, though, the team’s starting second baseman (Felipe Lopez), starting right fielder (Austin Kearns) and the only locked-in member of the starting rotation (John Patterson) are also on the list.  Outfielders Chris Snelling and Alex Escobar also are on the arbitration list.
Wednesday is the day when the six players and the Nationals exchange salary figures which hopefully can be revealed for further blog discussion. From there, negotiations go on until the date of the arbitration hearing, which is scheduled between Feb 1-20.  After the hearing, the panel of three chooses one of the two offers.