Tagged: Nationals

Suggested Read

Robert Fick has the reputation of being a funny guy in the clubhouse, a great quote in a pinch.  Fick should make the Nationals Opening Day roster as a utilityman (1B OF and C) and left-handed pinch hitter.

While Fick goes through the rigors of spring training, his heart is someplace else.

Sunday’s Washington Post featured a great article about Fick and his difficult offseason.

Fick’s mother, Gloria, is 75 years old and has lung cancer. She does not want to chemo or any surgery.  Gloria Fick was told a year ago she had two months to live.

The sad quote in the story is when Fick recalled leaving from Southern California to Florida

“I’m probably never going to see my mom again,” Fick told the Post. “She’s probably going to die.”

If this doesn’t make you feel for the guy, I don’t know what will.

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Saturday Ramblings

Nationals tickets went on sale at 9 AM! It took me 5 minutes to get 2 games (Opening Day and April 5). Sure, I paid an additional $17 to do this at home but it’s easier than braving the cold and maybe standing in line. I’ll do walkup for the rest of the games! I’m impressed! Behold the power of the internet!

WUSATV-9 reported last night that Travis Lee and Larry Broadway are the two candidates Manny Acta is considering for the starting first baseman’s job when the season opens April 2.

I was hoping Dmitri Young would be given a shot even if he has a huge challenge ahead of him of getting in baseball shape in about 5 weeks. Young could get his shot during the season if Lee or Broadway fails to produce. But Young needs to get back into shape and really play well when he gets the chance. Lee is the strong defensive first baseman with not much pop and Broadway is the minor leaguer who hasn’t seemed to break through yet. Either option has question marks. The Nats were among the league’s worst defensive squads last year and Lee at first would be a nice stopgap until Nick Johnson comes back (whenever that is). Acta, though, has placed his confidence in Broadway, who is getting his best chance to win a starting job after being in the Nationals minor league system for five years.

So the starters heading into spring training games are as follows:

C-Brian Schneider

1B-Travis Lee/Larry Broadway

2B-Felipe Lopez

SS-Cristian Guzman

3B-Ryan Zimmerman

LF-Ryan Church

CF-Nook Logan

RF-Austin Kearns

On the bench player front, I could see it like this
Jesus Flores-C

Ronnie Belliard – backup infielder

Escobar/Chris Snelling-reserve outfielder role

Fick: He can catch, backup at first and play outfield. His versatility will keep him around especially with Flores’ inexperience and his Rule V status.
I’m not sure about the last spot. I don’t think it’s a given the loser of the Lee/Broadway battle will stay with the big club. Belliard is a solid enough player that he should stay with the Nats. I’m wouldn’t be surprised too see Womack there even though I think the Nats could do better. Ask Yankee fans about Womack, they liked a lot (obvious sarcasm). Like Fick, Womack can play a couple positions and the Nats need some versatility. This is the risk of going with a larger pitching staff in that the Nats reduce the amount of position players on the roster but considering how few off days the Nats have in April, the need for a 12-man pitching staff is paramount especially with such an inexperienced starting rotation.

The bullpen seems to be squared away with one spot open. Emiliano Fruto, who was picked up in the Vidro trade, is in the mix for the final bullpen spot. Fruto is generating buzz with his strong winter league season and his four-pitch repertoire. Still, Fruto must show that his control is better if a bullpen spot is to be his. The current bullpen lineup is as follows:

RHP-Luis Ayala

RHP-Jon Rauch

RHP-Ryan Wagner

LHP-Ray King

LHP-Micah Bowie

Closer-Chad Cordero

It’s been almost 6 weeks now and there’s still no official deal with DirecTV and MLB regarding the Extra Innings package. It’s been neat to see the widespread sports media attention this has gotten. Now, the FCC is requesting more information about the deal according to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Thanks to dcrtv.com, who posted the story. I’ve read for a month now that they are close to a deal. Click here for the entire story courtesy of tvpredictions.com.

Too Much Time on My Hands

Less than 10 hours until Nationals tickets go on sale…can you feel it? Me neither.

Apparently, the Nationals will have a new public address announcer this year.  This comes as a surprise to me because I really didn’t know they had a pa announcer for starters.  I guess I’m zone out of that stuff.

Other stuff that happened during my hiatus

-I want Dmitri Young to be the Opening Day first baseman just for the sole reason of showing up to Nationals camp wearing a Sanford and Son t-shirt. That and he’ll probably win the job by default if

Larry

Broadway hits a sour note during spring training.  Young fit the main characteristic of a National: He’s a former Cincinnati Red!

I can’t find too much fault with the signing. He meets the Nationals requirements: someone who’ll play on the cheap, who is looking to jump-start his career and is good trade bait for younger players come July 31.

-How bad has Ronnie Belliard’s offseason been? He goes from starting second baseman on a World Champion to someone fighting it out to make the Nationals roster.  Honestly, he shouldn’t be fighting at all.  Then there’s the whole extortion mess (extortion is never pretty). Lopez and Belliard might make the smallest double play combo I can recall (and that’s not much) if given the opportunity.  However, Cristian Guzman has started throwing again and I guess the Nationals are obligated to play him if he’s healthy.  Yes, I’m rooting for Belliard to make the Opening Day Roster. If Guzman tanks it, Acta has a great out in shifting Felipe Lopez back to short and playing Belliard at second. Belliard showed the leather in last year’s playoffs, especially the Game 1 of the NLDS vs the Padres.

-Chad Fought the Nats and the Chad Won

Chad Fought the Nats and the Chad Won

Congrats to the Chief for becoming the first Nationals to win at arbitration. Although, I’m perplexed by his easy come, easy go personality of the whole process. He was advised by his agent and the players association that he had a great chance to win. That won’t make him a union man now, will it?

Cordero declined a two-year deal and admitted to the Washington Post “I don’t know why I didn’t do it. I wanted to.”

That answer seems weird.   For now, Cordero stays a National and a rich one at that, Mr $4.15 million dollar man. 

The first couple weeks of spring training brings out the same old, same old storywise. First off, there are features on everybody, stories/columns about Viera and the stadium upgrades at Space Coast (which no one will care about come May). Of course with the Nationals, the stories are centered around the following talking points:

-The starting pitching and which castoff or newbie will be one of the four in the rotation

-The Plan and building for the Future

-Regular Nick Johnson injury updates

-Anything Manny Acta related. He sneezes and it’s a story

-Brian Schneider and his importance behind the plate this year especially with such a rag-tag group of starting pitchers.

-Someone is in the best shape of their life.

-The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network will not be under Communist control this year. MASN-Gill has done a decent job pulling together a respectable package for their Nationals broadcasts.

Johnny Holliday just echoes Washington DC sportscasting. He’s been around this town for decades, the man is an institution. Heck, he’s ever done dinner theatre in the DC area.

Holliday will handle the pre and post game duties for the Nationals telecasts this year joining another former Red, Ray Knight.  Geez, it seems the Nationals are 95 percent made up of former Expos, Reds or Braves. 

I like this because Knight has actual baseball broadcasting experience. Don’t know who Debbi Taylor is but she’s handling the dugout duties. Wow, the Nats are getting big-time now.  Pregame and postgame shows, Acta’s postgame conferences, and a Nationals weekly TV show.

-I like committees. There’s the prom committee, the planning committee, the

House Ways

and Means Committee, Bullpen by Committee and my personal favorite, the Committee to Reelect the President!

Manny Acta has a committee of players too. We’ll call them the A-Team.  A for Acta. I was thinking the Four Horsemen would be a good name too. Apparently, Brian Schneider, Ryan Zimmerman, Felipe Lopez and Austin Kearns are going to be a part of this committee.

They are to keep the peace or something in the clubhouse, set a positive tone maybe.  Now that’s I’m thinking about it

Zimmerman would make a good Ric Flair

Brian Schneider would be a decent Arn Anderson

Felipe Lopez could be Tully Blanchard. Or Chris Benoit in the 90s version.

Austin Kearns could be the Ole Anderson/Barry Windham one of the group I suppose. Or if you want to go mid-90s, Kearns would be Steve McMichael.

Now if we go by the A-Team model

Zimmerman is Face

Schneider is Hannibal

Kearns is BA just on size alone

Lopez gets to be HM Murdock by default!

It’s good to see John Patterson’s arm and Luis Ayala’s arm haven’t fallen off so far in camp. I’ll take that as good news.

Almost a week away from an actual televised spring training game!

Weak in Review

Thanks to poster on the Nationals message board who found out single game tickets are going on sale Feb. 24. Note to self-try emailing the Nationals in the future instead of playing the automated phone game.

I called the Nationals office twice this week to get an answer. I went through their automated phone system a couple times before finally deciding to try and reach the season tickets people. I was transferred to that department but was put on hold for 10-15 minutes each time. I want to know where they really assisting other customers? I tried to leave a message and that failed too.

Feb. 24 is the date I figured they would have to be on sale, five weeks out is the minimum time between the single game onsales and the season openers. Nationals and tickets.com need time to process the orders, print out the tickets and ship them to customers.

Now I have to decide if standing in line to get tix to Opening Day is something worth writing about for the blog!

Other things I found out this week

Ryan Zimmerman doesn’t have a contract. This would be news if he was going somewhere but he’s not. Zimm and the Nats will get this squared away by spring training. The Nationals hold all the cards here. I think they’ll give Zimm around $500K for 2007 and $650-700K for 2008.  In 2009, Zimmdaddy becomes arbitration eligible so I would look for a huge deal then. The Nats are keeping the payroll bare bones in 2007. In 2008, they will have the new stadium money coming in so I wouldn’t count on a bigtime Zimm deal until 2009. There’s no rush on the Nats part to give Zimm a long term contract just yet. By locking Zimm into a long-term deal now, the Nationals are leaving themselves open in case (and forgive me for saying this) Zimm doesn’t meet his long-term potential. He had a great first year, no doubt, but from a management standpoint, it’s only been one year in the bigs for Zimm.

The Mets signed Chan Ho Park to a $600K, one-year deal.  The Nationals couldn’t have gone after Park at that rate? That’s a question I would like answered. Were there any offers? Doesn’t seem like it. Then again, if you had the option to pitch for the Offensive Mets versus Stan’s Plans, you might opt for the team based in Gotham.

The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network will air eight Nationals Spring Training Games. MASN also announced they will only recognize five baseball teams during spring training: the Nationals, the O’s, Astros, Braves and the Mets. See their schedule below. What’s with all the O’s-Nats spring training games? Eesh! Forcing that rivalry down our throats, eh?

Saturday, March 3, 1:05 p.m.: Orioles vs. Nationals, Viera, Fla.
Thursday, March 8, 1:05 p.m.: Astros vs. Nationals, Viera, Fla.
Friday, March 9, 1:05 p.m.: Nationals vs. Orioles, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Monday, March 12, 1:05 p.m.: Mets vs. Nationals, Viera, Fla.
Wednesday, March 21, 7:05 p.m.: Braves vs. Nationals, Viera, Fla.
Tuesday, March 27, 7:05 p.m.: Mets vs. Nationals, Viera, Fla.
Friday, March 30, 2:05 p.m.: Nationals vs. Orioles, Norfolk, Va.
Saturday, March 31, 1:05 p.m.: Orioles vs. Nationals, Washington, D.C.

Want to be one of the famous Racing Presidents? The Nationals are looking for a few good people. http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/was/fan_forum/pres_signups.jsp

Zimmerman’s field trip to Miami

Sunday, Ryan Zimmerman will be at a place where most football fans, passing or devout, dream about being.

He might not get recognized that much considering the amount of athletes and celebrities in attendance for the biggest football game of the year.

Zimmerman is expected to attend Sunday’s Super Bowl in Miami. How did he get his seats? Where are his seats? No clue. Not the foggiest idea. Nationals catcher Brian Schneider will also be in attendance at the game.

I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that this time last year Zimmerman was watching the Super Bowl in some place other than Detroit.

Then again, Zimmerman’s life has changed some between Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLI. 

When Zimmerman is in Miami, he represents a lot more than himself.  He is the face of the Nationals, the cornerstone of the team’s future if you will. Who else you do want? Stan Kasten or Jim Bowden? So far, Zimmerman has projected a calm, level-headed demeanor. It’s a trait that has served him well.

Still, Miami during Super Bowl week is a crazy place.  The mixture of nightlife, people, sunny weather and more people will be something Zimmerman hasn’t seen much during his young life. Think of it as an Upscale Spring Break with money, rich people, nice buildings, great nightlife and nice beaches but without the college smell and cheap bars.

I decided to give the 2006 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up some tips about surviving Super Bowl weekend. 

-Remember you play for the Nationals, not the Yankees. Think about this when you’re on the town. Miami isn’t cheap.  Don’t be spending A-Rod money on an R-Zimm salary. The Mrs told me martinis go for $20. This isn’t Old Ebbitt Grill or Ozio.

-When there are athletes and celebrities, there are paparazzi. Sure, they won’t R-Zimm from D-Zimm (Don Zimmer) so don’t give them a reason to know you. In other words, stay out of trouble. Remember, we Nationals bloggers are evil folks. The last thing you need is to end up on The Smoking Gun website. Keep your nose clean.

-Have fun. Heck, you deserve it. You had a great year last year. Don’t have too much though.

-Try to convince people we’re not a bad baseball town. Keep it positive and upbeat. When people say we’re going to stink, tell them “we’re going to surprise people this year” or “we’re going to open some eyes.” You know, something generic. I guess most people in Miami wouldn’t know a National from a National Bohemian. You’re our baseball ambassador this weekend. Promote us. Heck, you did a great job in the Post article about the 2007 lineup. Anyone who can say they’re happy to have Felipe Lopez AND Cristian Guzman batting ahead of you in the lineup with a straight face is pretty good. Lopez I’ll give you. Guzman I’ll wait on. 

-If Paris Hilton or some other well-known attractive starlet or celebrity comes up to you and makes small talk, run in the….screw it! If she talks to you, remember most of us married National loser fans will be living vicariously through you at that moment.

-If someone comes up, asks for an autograph and says you were great in the Royal Rumble, don’t get mad. Although, if you ran into Randy Orton, that would be freaky.

-Dude, you’re at the Super Bowl.  I’ve only known one person in my life to attend a Super Bowl. You’re at the most watched televised sporting event in the world. Great job getting tickets.  Honestly, though, I think too many people are picking the Colts. I’m bucking the trend and picking Da Bears.

This year, Zimmerman will be interviewed often since he is the face of the Nationals. He’s likely sound bite No.2 behind Manny Acta. In good and bad, someone will interview him. At times, the questions will be lame, repetitive and stupid. It’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old, to handle pressure that should be placed on a 32 year old. Zimmerman did great last year but the expectations bar was set low. On April 2, the 2006 records will mean nothing.  Last year’s success is expected to be duplicated. I like Zimmerman has the goal in mind of a 100 RBI and not home runs or batting average. Great thinking by a No. 3 hitter.

Zimmerman represents a nice pattern in the Washington sports scene. All four major sports teams have recognizable faces as their leaders. The Wizards have Arenas, The Caps have Ovechkin and the Redskins have Chris Cooley or Clinton Portis.

I hope Zimm has a fun time in Miami. I hear the Mojitos and Cuban Sandwiches down there are great!

Time to talk about Church

Ryan Church is ready for a big year. Manny Acta has confidence Church will be the starting left fielder on April 2. 

Church told the Washington Post “this is the year I prove everybody wrong.” And to start 2007 off on the right note he is leaving today from his suburban Cleveland home for Viera, Fla., to get an early start on spring training. Position players are not required to arrive until Feb. 18. Then again, he could be leaving early because its Florida and not Ohio. I mean that from a weather standpoint only.

Church uses the old athlete adage of something to prove. He sure does have something to prove-to himself and the organization for starters. Last spring, Church bottomed out hitting just .200 and was sent to AAA New Orleans to start the season. He went back to Washington, AA Harrisburg, then New Orleans before recalled in late July. In 71 games with the big club in 2006, Church batted .276 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs.

“I was devastated, and it affected my whole year," Church told the Post of his demotion to New Orleans.  "I was just like the other guys down there that don’t belong there, and I sure . . . didn’t belong down there. But it was my fault.

“I learned all last year. I’m mentally tough now, beyond belief. I’ve been basically through all my trials. Last year, I couldn’t deal with going up and down, all that stuff. I’m that much more confident now, and I’m just looking forward to getting down there and getting started,” Church told the Post.

My thought after reading this quote was he has to be mentally tougher. It’s not a choice. Church is coming into this spring training not only playing for job but his future in the nation’s capital. 

There was speculation about Church’s future during this offseason when he did not play Mexican Winter League ball.  He was subject to trade rumors as the Mexican ball situation seemed to spell the end of his time in the Washington organization. Church addressed that topic in the Post story.  Church said he and his agent were interested in going to Mexico but the Mexican club has signed another outfielder.  Instead, Church went to a vision specialist to improve his tracking the baseball. Church’s weakness for breaking balls is well documented.

The long debated question is not Church’s potential but whether he’ll show it on a consistent basis.  His 2005 and 2006 combined numbers read as follows:  282 batting average, .359 on-base percentage with 19 homers and 77 RBI.

Decent stats but let’s see it over a whole season. This would be the season to do it.  If Church could average those figures, he could be a good fit in the No. 6 spot.

Acta put his faith in Church telling the Post “if the season started tomorrow Church would be the starting left fielder.”

It’s a nice show of confidence in Church but is it premature?  Church seemed to have the starting center field job entering 2006 spring training too. The best thing Church can do is win this job early in spring training with a great work ethic, good attitude and even better play.

Church might be the manager’s vote but he still has to bust his hide during spring training. He’ll be competing against Chris Snelling, Alex Escobar and Nationals two-time Minor League Player of the Year Kory Casto.

I thought Church was going to be dealt during this offseason but it seems for now he is staying and will get the opportunity again to prove he can be the Nationals starting left fielder.  If he’s matured, we’ll see it. If the vision specialist helped, we’ll see that too (no pun intended).  If he’s improved, we’ll know it. If he doesn’t improve, his time in Washington might be running out.

Big year? I think it’s more a make-or-break year. 

New stadium, cold weather

Ryan Zimmerman made his first steps inside the new stadium Monday. So did Nook Logan and Mike O’Connor. The three Nationals were joined by several members of the media, including a few bloggers, as they scoped out the new, unfinished digs of the yet-to-be-named stadium.

The weather was ideal….for winter.  Temperatures were in the 20s and the terrain was muddy.  Hard hats were required obviously. Still, the event, part of the Nationals week-long Caravan, gave the players a chance to meet and thank the people on the front lines of building the new stadium.

There is a great link that allows people to see the updated progress of the park.  On the site, there are two cameras options (Camera 1 and Camera 2) and a time select option on the left to see time of day. On the upper left hand of the page, there is an option for the specific date to get a feel for how far the project has come.

Miss Chatter at Just a Nats Fan was able to sneak away from work to see the progress first hand Monday. Even better, she brought her camera for all the festivities. If you like pictures of steel, dirt and concrete, you’ve come to the right place.