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"CHEAP" FREE AGENT PITCHERS? C'MON STAN ... THERE IS NO SUCH THING

[November 14th] -- My private little corner of Idaho awoke to snow this morning and my first thought was -- "Wow, a great day for baseball!" I know; I've got to get a life. But some things never change. When I was a kid growing up near 7-corners, my friend Rolando would call me up in the middle of a blizzard and say, "Do you want to play some baseball?" I'd grab my jacket, snowshoes and glove, and head down to the little field between the buildings. I would wait but no one would ever come. Somewhere, Rolando, Phil, and Eggy were laughing their heads off. I was just like Charley Brown trying to kick the football; I fell for it every time.

(Sigh...)

Cheap Thrills? Stan Kasten has made it clear that the Nationals are going after 1) cheap 2) pitchers. I've been going through the bargain basement looking for pitchers who might come cheap enough who could also help the team (I know, like that's going to happen). One name that intrigued me was Seattle's Gil Meche. Meche, still only 28, has a career record of 55-44 with a 4.65 ERA. Worse, he allows an average of 13 baserunners per 9 innings. With those many runners on base, a pitcher is going to give up four runs per game just by accident.

Last season, the Nationals signed a then 28 year old Ramon Ortiz to a one-year contract after crafting a 70-60, 4.66 career record, better than Meche's. Like Meche, Ortiz gives up too many base runners, almost 14 per 9 innings. Like Meche, Ortiz's ERA has risen throughout his career. It was hoped that Ortiz would have a rebound year in 2006 playing in the expansiveness that is RFK.

Never happened.

Ortiz signed a contract worth roughly the amount of change found in Alex Rodriguez' sofa. You'd think, then, that Gil Meche could be had for roughly the same dollars. Same career numbers. Same difficulties with base runners. Same high ERA. All that should add up to the same type of contract.

Nope.

(Note: a good friend appreciated the inclusion of this picture of Meche wearing the throw-back Seattle Pilots uniform -- to see what happened to the uniform when the team moved to Milwaukee, click here.)

Gil Meche's agent has reported that half of Major League Baseball's thirty teams have contacted him about signing his client, with several telling him that Meche is the team's "top priority." This sounds like Meche is going to get a contract more like Jarrod Washburn's 3 year / $22.5 million deal (Seattle, 2006) then Ramon Ortiz's $2.5 million one year deal he signed with the Nats.

Why?

I haven't a clue. Meche has never been more than three games over .500 in any one season in his career, and his 4.66 career ERA is terrible considering he has pitched in Safeco Field -- the RFK of the American League -- his entire career.

I hope the Nationals don't sign any starting pitchers from the free-agent market. It's well known that getting pitching this way is akin to popping into a 7-11 to do your grocery shopping. The top free agent pitchers, the best-of-the-best, tend to produce for their new team. But the rest of the guys, pitchers like Meche, tend to be a drain on the team that signs them. Jarrod Washburn had career stats similar to both Ramon Ortiz and Gil Meche when he signed with the Mariners last winter. He was one of the free-agent pitchers the Nationals were pursuing, and someone I was lobbying for. He signed that $7.5 million/year deal, and then promptly went 8-14, 4.67 for the Mariners. Seattle is now stuck with him; they can trade him and they don't want him. That's what inflated long-term deals do to a team.

Can you say Jose Vidro? (actually, that's not fair -- Vidro was rewarded for his loyalty during a very tumultuous time in the team's history)

No, it's too much of a crap-shoot finding pitching this way. The Nationals' best option is to trade some of the surplus position players (and perhaps a less-needed prospect, say Larry Broadway) for the pitching the team so desperately needs. Patterson is ready to anchor the rotation, and Jon Rauch is now (finally) willing to join him there. Add a third starter via the aforementioned trade and then fill the last two slots in the rotation from the current pool that includes Mike O'Connor, Shawn Hill, Beltran Perez and whoever else appears ready. This seems the best way.

No more free agent pitchers. Like some of Arabic food I so enjoyed when I was young, they look good while on the shelf but end up leaving a very bad taste in your mouth.

Columbus: a Step up -- or down? I don't think there was a single blogger (or fan for that matter) who wasn't excited at the Nationals' 'AAA' move from New Orleans to Columbus for the 2007 season. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with New Orleans (especially if you have a drinking problem), but the city has nothing in common with Washington, D.C. Columbus, on the other hand, is a capital, and is more an east coast city than is New Orleans. The problem lies with the stadium. New Orleans play in Zephyrs Stadium, a newer, state-of-the-art stadium that looks a whole lot like a miniature major league park. Cooper Stadium, on the other hand, is an old, worn down facility that is just hanging on until Columbus' new park can be built. Although Huntington Park was to be ready for the Nationals' second year in Columbus, it will now not be ready until 2009, by which time the Washington will probably have their 'AAA' affiliate somewhere else and either Cleveland or Cincinnati will claim a working agreement with Columbus.

That's too bad. It would have been nice for the guys to play a year in the new park.


Comments:
Love that Seattle Pilots Jersey and Uniform worn by Meche in your picture. Just TERRIFIC!! We could go on and one about those Jerseys.
 
That's exactly why I chose that image -- for the Pilot's uniform. It was the second "creative" uniform (after Charley O. Finely's A's)of the era and the one that introduced powder blue road jersey's. I especially loved the "hacks" on the sleeves and scrambled eggs on the cap bill.

If you ever see the Brewers first uniform, you'll see that they used as many of the old letters from the Seattle jersey's and then added the new letters that they needed. If you look closely, you'll see that it says "brewers" on the away jersey in both upper and lower case letters dispersed throughout the design.

They also left the "hacks" on those first year jersey's because they just didn't have the time to make new ones. The driver of the team truck was told to "Drive north to Denver and call us." That's how he found out the team moved to Seattle.
 
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