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NEW UNI'S BETER THAN EXPECTED

[February 16th] -- I was taken aback when I first saw the Nationals' new batting practice jersey for 2007 a couple of months ago. . Now, don't get me wrong; I'm a "Curly W" kind of guy. I was eight years old when the Senators wore their original "Curly W" cap so it has a great deal of sentimental meaning to me. But I was concerned as to how it would look on the front of a jersey. The block "DC" looked sharp mainly because it was square in design and fit "just right" on the jersey. I was worried that the inherent curly design of the 'W' would look out of place, perhaps even off-kilter.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Based on the images I've seen thus far, the new jersey looks sharp. The lack of piping around the neck and sleeves gives it a very clean and inviting look. I never liked the wide stripes that separated the sleeves from the body of the jersey on last year's version; that style looks best on a football jersey a la the Indianapolis Colts. I do like the white and red panel that runs from the armpit to the belt though. It's designed to make the players look slimmer, and if it can make Jerome Williams look slender (above,) then it can make anyone look svelte. I do hope that the player's numbers are eventually added to the front of the jersey. That left panel looks a little barren, don't you think?

I don't care for the hats much, however. that red & white stripe that goes over the player's ear makes it seem as if all the players have pencils tucked neatly under their ear.

Overall, though, I think the new look is without question a step up from what the Nationals wore last season.

Ryan's Hope: Ryan Church seems to have come into spring training a new man. Or is he? Reading the Times' Q & A with Ryan, you would think that he has seen the error of his ways and is now learning the true meaning of the term "mea culpa." My only concern is that the things he is apologizing for - bad attitude, unwillingness to give a full effort during practice - are almost word for word the complaints that team management have been making since the day they sent him down last spring. Is Ryan Church simply saying what the team wants to hear to insure that he is the Nationals' starting left fielder, or has he truly turned a new leaf? I don't know for sure. Church is a deeply religious man and I tend to think that he says what he means. At any rate, I hope he believes what he says. A focused and un-flawed Ryan Church is capable of putting up numbers similar to those of Grady Sizemore in Cleveland, and that would go a long way to making Nats' fans forget about last year's left fielder. What was his name again?

Larry Broadway gets no respect: For two years, I have been touting the value of the Nationals' first baseman, and for two years, readers have been gently suggesting that I'm out of my gourd. Perhaps I am. But I still see Broadway as a potential long-term solution at first base. No, he doesn't have a lot of power, but he has gap power, an above average OBP and a solid glove. Sound like anyone we know? If that type of production is good enough for Nick Johnson, that shouldn't it be for Larry Broadway?

This is what Broadway's minor league production looks like based on a 550 at-bat season:


Runs: 78 - Hits:157 - 2B:34 - 3B:1 - HR:24 - RBI:88 - Ave:.284 - OPS:.842

His defense is outstanding. He has made seventeen errors in five professional seasons. Compare Broadway's minor league career versus that of Nick Johnson's (both player's at-bat total was nearly identical)

Runs: 117 - Hits:166 - 2B: 34 - 3B:1 - HR:22 - RBI:98 - Ave:.294 - OPS:.929

No question Nick had a much better OPS thanks to a ridiculous .446 OBP. Other than that, the numbers - especially the power production - are very similar. And Johnson, as slick a glove at first base as you'll find, committed 64 errors during his time in the minors.

Nick Johnson averaged one error every nine games played during his time in the minors. Larry Broadway averaged one error every twenty-nine games played. Now, this isn't to suggest that Broadway is the far greater defensive first baseman. I am suggesting, however, that Broadway is every bit as good a first baseman as Nick Johnson.

I know, I know. You're probably getting tired of reading my "lights are bright on Broadway" stories. I guess I'm just tired of watching a good baseball player languish in the minor leagues. The guy is 26 years old now and has nothing left to prove. Play him or trade him before he gets too old to lose his value as a prospect. My prediction is that the Nationals play Dmitri Young and Larry Broadway for the first 2-3 months of the season, (though rumblings out of Viera indicate that Young may not be "ready" by opening day), then trade Young for prospects when Nick Johnson proves 100% healthy. I'd then trade Nick for prospects come July 31st and give Broadway the job - assuming of course, that he played well in his early season trial.

After nearly 1,800 minor league at-bats, Larry Broadway doesn't have a single at-bat in the majors. Nick Johnson got his first chance with the Yankees after 1672 minor league at-bats.

It's Broadway's turn.
P.M. Update: Jim Bowden said on Thursday that Larry Broadway would be given the "first shot" at being the team's first baseman until Nick Johnson returns in May or June. That's great news. It seems that Young is not being counted on to make an impact early in the season (he's not even due to report to Viera until next Tuesday), so it seems that it's going to be Broadway first, Travis Lee second.


Comments:
Farid - I'm interested to what stats you are citing regarding Broadway versus Johnson. Are those each of their minor league numbers? Or is it Johnson's major league versus Broadway minor leagues?

I know that Broadway's Major League Equivalent (adjusting for park/level) in 2006 was 255/306/393 in 440AB.

Johnson's minor league numbers were compiled primarily through age 22 while Broadway is still compiling at 25.

Broadway may just need the opportunity, but he is definitely a step or two behind NJ in overall talent.
 
I hope Ryan Church gets a genuine chance. The only reason he is still on the roster is the continual bad mouthing by management ruined his trade value. They told the whole world that Church had a bad attitude and that he couldn't hit a curve ball. I hope he makes them eat a huge piece of humble pie.
 
Brian, I'm using Broadway's minor league stats vs Johnson's -- they both had roughly 1750 at bats. I am using raw numbers that haven't been adjusted.

I agree that Broadway isn't as good as Johnson, but could - depending on the supporting cast - provide enough offense at first to make getting prospects for Johnson worthwile.

It's not that I don't love Nick; I do. There just has to come a time where you say that this guy isn't going to get the opportunity to have a long and succesful career. Granted, this last injury wasn't his fault, but it happened nonetheless.

I guess the bottom line is this: who helps the team more: Nick Johnson at first and Larry Broadway at Columbus or Larry Broadway at first and a couple of more prospects filling out the Nationals minor league system?

Broadway could fall flat on his face, but I'd like the chance to see if he is, or isn't a major league player.
 
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