Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Nats Win! Nats Win! Nats Win!

So, it's only spring training. OK, it was only the Mets, who have shown recently only that they know how to spend money, not turn it into wins. But we won our first game. 9 players took the field with "Nationals" emblazoned on their chests. And they pounded out a 5-3 victory. Personally, the best moment was opening the door when I got home, and hearing my seven year old son shout, "Daddy, the Nationals won their first game today!" I then read him a game story I had printed from the internet (so, his news wasn't news to me, but it was music to my ears nonetheless). Harkens back to the days of the evening papers reporting the afternoon game (I actually remember the afternoon paper in my hometown, the Columbus Dispatch. It's now the morning paper). He's learning the names of the players. . . well, two at last count, Jose Vidro and Brad Wilkerson. We're working on the others. Multiplication tables can wait. . . the 25-man roster is his homework now.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Wow. We might be a real team now. . . or maybe not. On the one hand, the Post this morning came out with a pull-out section "Nationals 2005." Wow. There it is in black and white, a real team. On the other hand, turn to page H2. Top Ten Nationals. Uh, they've got Pittsburgh cast-off JJ Davis and some prospect who hasn't pitched above AA. No disrepect meant to Mr. Davis and Mr. Harrisburg PA, but we can't even get ten interesting guys on the major league squad. Yuck. Then again, we are a real team -- the Post shows that we have uniforms, a schedule, and a spring training site. But . . . the spring training site is in Viera, Florida. Enter that into MapQuest. The response? "Your search for "Viera, FL" did not match any locations. Please check the spelling or enter a different city." Like what, Montreal? OK, but, really, we must be a real team -- tickets were so hot that some VIPs are already steamed -- see, e.g., David Brooks' column in Saturday's NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/12/opinion/12brooks.html). I guarantee you that kind of coverage wasn't had in Montreal, not even in the day of Le Grande Orange.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

That's the Ticket...or not

Nats tickets were distributed this week, and there are a lot of unhappy campers out there, both according to the Post (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A36595-2005Jan25.html) and to personal observation. A colleague (who, like my syndicate, was in the first, "preferred" group) asked for infield boxes, ended up out along the right field line. We got lucky, I guess - no infield boxes, but still near home plate in the terrace boxes. Word on the street isthat come August, once everyone has had one go-round at RFK and realizes it is not the prime ballpark occupied by the team owned by He Who Shall Not Be Named up in Ballmer (no Boog's, no charming warehouse,etc.), getting good seats won't be an issue. August is dead time in DC, anyway, but I'm optimistic that the Nats will draw well in '05. The real test is '06 and '07; new ownership would be well-advised to make sure to build up this team pronto to compete. This is no AL East, and a little smart investment should enable the Nats to compete with Atlanta and NY, not to mention Florida and Philly.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Esteban Loiza and Antonio Osuna

Well, you and I might find a better way to spend $3.7M -- a small condo in the U Street corridor, maybe -- but Bowden blew it on Esteban Loiza ($2.9M) and Antonio Osuna ($800K). See http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1970303. Maybe Loiza's not a bad bet; if he's turning in something like his magical 2003 season at the All-Star Break, he'll be good trade fodder (though don't look for the Yankees to take him again). Osuna may be a servicable reliever, but he's no longer the flamethrower who debuted with the Dodgers in the mid-90s. Still, I'd really like to see this team be aggressive with the young guys.

Monday, January 17, 2005

RFK

Few and far between are those that know much about the RFK baseball seating, so I'll take what I can get. This one's a tip from a woman I met at Barnes & Noble when we were watching our two year olds play with the Thomas Train Engine set. I was wearing my Nats cap, always a good conversation starter, and she told me that her husband is an old Senators fan, from back in the day. According to him, the upper deck behind home plate hangs out pretty far over the upper deck. The tickets there -- this section is now called "infield lower reserved" -- are only 15 clams, and may be the best deal in the park. See http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/was/ballpark/seating_pricing.jsp
If true, I'm not altogether surprised, as similar seats at the old Milwaukee County Stadium (a venue of similar vintage) were a good view and a great value. They were much closer to the field than any upper deck at one of the new ballparks; you ended up feeling like you were looking over the umpire's shoulder. Likewise, Wrigley Field's upper deck is a great place to watch a game. Once I've actually visited RFK, I'll give a full report on seating, concessions, etc.

(By the way, in searching the web, it's clear that we have a neophyte franchise here. The website www.dcnationals.com is for a Canadian national skateboarding championship, while www.washingtonnationals.com is a fan site, essentially a placeholder with two photos.)

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Nats Re-Sign Nick Johnson

Nats re-signed 1b Nick Johnson yesterday for $1.45M. This could be a tremendous bargain -- if Johnson can stay healthy. He batted just .251 last year with only 7 HR, missing the final two months after injury, but the former Yankee is only 26 this season, and has a tremendous minor league track record of OBPs in the .400s. He just might be the Nats' most intriguing player this year. 25 HR and OBP around .400 is not out of the question for him.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Now, the moves...

OK, now let's take a look at the moves our Nats have made this post-season. Or, more accurately, the moves that Jim Bowden has made, for as best I can tell he's the ONLY one minding the store. And that's the problem: Bowden, understandably, is out for Bowden. He very likely may not have a job when new ownership comes in, and his incentive is to DO something -- anything -- with the limited budget he has. And thus explains the moves he's made. Handing the 3b job to young Brendan Harris makes sense for a team that is not going to compete for the playoffs this year, but it doesn't make any sense for Bowden personally. No headlines will be created by an announcement, "We're going with Harris at third." Signing Vinny Castilla, late of Colorado's thin air, gets headlines. Not Carlos Beltran To The Mets headlines, mind you, but it got Bowden's name in the news. And I'm not accusing Bowden of malfeasance -- he was hired, after all, to do something, and given a (relatively small) budget, and by golly, he's doing something with it. Trolling the minors for Rule 5 players isn't going to fill the budget, or be very exciting, so he signs the "cheaper" players. Announcing that Maicer Izturis is going to start at SS doesn't use the budget (or garner any attention), so he signs Cristian Guzman and then trades for Jose Guillen. Long-term, moving guys like Izturis and burying Harris is not smart management. This is a team that needs to build its young core, even at the expense of some additional losses in the inaugural DC season, so that when it's ready to compete -- 2007, 2008? -- it has saved the dough (and has room for) the Lance Berkmans and Mark Priors of the world. Let's hope that new ownership is found soon and gets someone with a long view of the franchise.