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MEDIA NOT REPORTING NATIONALS 'PLAN' FAIRLY

[January 22nd] -- There are some members of the main-stream media that get it right. There are others who get it wrong but aren't particularly malicious about. Others are just plain mean and write whatever they want regardless of the truth.

I was listening to "XM This Morning" on MLB Homeplate on my way to school. Mike Patrick and Oreste Destrade were talking all things baseball when the Washington Nationals came up in the conversation.

"And as much as we've heard about the Red Sox during the off season, one name we've never heard is the Washington Nationals." Of course, what they said was absolutely correct in that regard. The Nationals - outside of a few very minor transactions - have watched on the sidelines as many of the other major league teams got better. He was right, but for the wrong reasons.

Patrick said that "Stan Kasten and the Nationals are saying to their fans that, in essence, guess what? You're going to hang with us and wait until the new stadium opens." He also mentioned that the Nationals "cut payroll" to the point that they will have one of the lowest in the league. Again, it's true that the Nationals will have one of the lowest payrolls in the league, but to say it was "cut" implies the Nationals are purposefully and with disregard to the future reducing operating costs to increase their bottom line. Patrick never mentioned that the Nationals' ownership committed - how much was it? - $30 or $35 million to enhance the fans experience at the new stadium. He never mentioned that the Nationals "plan" - for good or bad - is to restock the team's minor league system by trading costly veterans and allowing the kids an opportunity to take their place on the major league roster. When added to the discourse, those two bits of information give credence to the belief that the lack of free-agent signings and the reduction in payroll are simply byproducts of Stan Kasten's desire to rebuild the team's infrastructure.

But the baseball fans listening in to Patrick and Destrade never heard that. They heard instead the borderline contempt in their voices as they implied that these decisions are based on short-term savings and not long-term benefits.

Again, I don't believe for a minute that either of them meant to give such a one-sided view of the Nationals' off-season moves (or lack thereof). They simply reported what they believed. And that's sad. Stan Kasten has a history of building a team the right way; why now would he suddenly choose to move away from his management style that helped the Atlanta Braves win fourteen consecutive division championships, especially when he has a financial interest in the team?

It sounds as though the media isn't going to give the Nationals any slack as they morph from a bad veteran team into a solid young one. My guess is, however, that when the Nationals make their first serious playoff run, they'll all say they predicted it in the winter of 2006.

That's just the way it works.

Ortiz To Twins: Ramon Ortiz must live right. After a really bad 11-16, 5.57 2006 season, the veteran right-hander earned a $600,000 raise, signing with the Minnesota Twins. Is he really expected to replace Brad Radke? More than any other signing, Oritz's contract shows how screwy-rompus the free-agent market has been this off-season. I hope the Twins' fans realize that their new starting pitcher is going from a pitchers park to a hitters park. If Oritz gave up 5 1/2 runs per game pitching half his games at RFK, what do they have to look forward to in the "friendly confines" of the Metrodome?

Lawrence to Rockies: It's funny, really. The Nationals lose a pitcher to the Rockies, and yet we never saw him pitch. Not once. The Rockies signed Lawrence to a one year contract with a club option for 2008. Lawrence is a ground-ball pitcher, so he should fair well at Coors' Field. If I had to guess, I'd say that Lawrence will outperform Ortiz in 2007.

Ohka Still Choosing: The Nationals, Blue Jays and Pirates are the finalists for Tomo Ohka - the best average pitcher still remaining in the free-agent market. I think if Toronto offers a two-year deal, he's moving to Canada. If it's a choice between the Nats and Pirates on a one-year deal - and the money is close - I would guess that he comes to RFK and tries to bump his numbers in a pitcher's park before re-entering the free-agent market next year. I like Ohka. If the Nationals can sign him, the team should be able to repeat last year's 71 win total.


Comments:
The problem is the rebuilding isn't high-profile enough. There haven't been any obvious stars let go. There hasn't been any trades for Top Minor league prospects. Just a lot of minor moves gaining depth and losing some talented, but overpaid older talent. That works, but it doesn't get the headlines, and until baseball season rolls around, all the Heads read is the headlines. I think by the time the season starts the prevailing though process will be "The Nats are rebuilding but it's going to be a rough year. We'll check back in '08"
 
I should say "no major stars except Soriano, but no one expected us to keep him"
 
Don't blame the guys on X-M Radio. The extremely secretive nature of the Nat's ownership lends itself to the full story not getting told. These guys are so secretive that they have even muzzled the Bodes, which is no small feat. They are so secretive that the Washington Post doesn't know that DC has a major league baseball team, at lesst it appears that way when I read the sports section every day. The Nats have changed the meaning of Hot Stove League to Frigid Stove League.
 
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