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OVERALL, A PRETTY GOOD DAY

[August 16th] -- For the better part of a year, I have done my best to support both the Washington Nationals and "The Plan." To be sure, I believed everything that Stan and Jim and Mark told us. They paired the payroll and told us not to worry, that they were watching out for us. Sometimes, however, there wasn't a whole lot of certainty in my words. I hoped that what I was telling you was the real deal.

I never worried about Jeff Smoker. I knew that the team was going to sign him; they had to. They made all those promises, remember? When they took Jack McGeary in the 6th round, I didn't give it much thought either. "Window dressing," I thought. Showmanship. Nothing more.

I was thinking the same thing you were when Nationals.com reported earlier today that McGeary was returning to school. The team probably made a token offer, just enough so they could tell us that "we tried" but not enough to succeed in signing him.

Then came all the bad press this week about the Lerner's and how cheap they were, that if they weren't willing to pay for chairs and tables and desks for the new stadium, then they weren't willing to pony up the dough needed to sign guys like Jack McGeary.

Then came St. Barry and his "it aint over 'till the fat lady signs" post yesterday. Seems it was never about money; it was about whether or not the Lerner's were willing to spit in the face of the man who made sure that they were able to buy the team. Would they stand up to the bully and say, "Listen you jerk, we wouldn't have to pay first-round money for a sixth-round pick if you and your minions hadn't have raped the franchise when you owned it!" Most believed they wouldn't bite the hand that blessed them.

Think again.

The Washington Nationals signed each of their top twenty picks.

Including one Jack McGeary.

Reports are that it took $1.8 million dollars to sign him. That and cost of tuition and books and the agreement that McGeary will be allowed to play baseball AND go to school in the winter. Every other team believed that he was going to attend Stanford, and every other team believed that no amount of money would get the kid to change his mind.

Let's be clear; Jack McGeary isn't a "can't miss prospect." The Massachusetts player of the year went 6-1, 0.88 while striking out 80 in 4o innings last year. That said, he was listed as the 18th best pitcher in the draft, the 27th best player overall. Josh Smoker, by comparison, was listed as the 11th best player available. However, he's a "character guy" in the mold of Ryan Zimmerman. From "Baseball Analysts:"..."This kid is very poised, polished and advanced for his age. Many young prospects have good arms but are still just young kids. Jack McGeary is a young man who shows command of not only pitches but of himself. He is an excellent representation of his family, his school, his team and his community. He will be a success in more than just baseball. He is a true leader. It will be fun to follow his progress in either college or pro ball."

The Nationals walked away from the 2007 amateur draft with three - count'em, three - first round picks in which they chose three -count'em, three - left handed starting pitchers.

It really doesn't matter if McGeary becomes a major leaguer for the Washington Nationals. It doesn't matter how well (or poorly) he pitches in the years to come. What is important is that, when push came to shove, the Lerner's listened to their baseball people and dug a little deeper into their pockets. They said to all of the neysayers who questioned their motives, "screw you!" We now know that if a move makes sense, the Nationals will persue it.

They have bought our trust.

All that said, I'm beginning to wonder just how badly the team needs starting pitching.

Redding pitched another solid game last night, allowing just two runs and three hits while striking out seven in six strong innings. At 29, he's not young, but young enough to provide the Nationals a veteran presence at little cost for years to come.

Amazing. Anyone want to grouse about those stinking chairs now?

This 'n That: The Nationals signed their "big three" picks for just under $6 million dollars. The Baltimore Orioles, on the other hand, signed their top pick, Matt Wieters, for $6 million dollars. Tell me again which franchise has the bright future? ... Seriously, some of these first round bonus dollars were ridiculous. Tampa Bay paid $11 million over six years. The Yankees #30 pick, Andy Brackman, received almost $5 million. I hope - I pray - that the Nationals never allow themselves to be held ransom by the likes of these types of players and agents ... Nook Logan doubled and raised his batting average to .275. Is his late season surge helping he Nationals or hurting them? If he continues to play this well, will the Nats forgo any attempt to sign a big-name free agent this winter and give him the position? Though I'm beginning to really like the kid, the only way the team can afford to keep him would be to sign Adam Dunn and platoon Ryan Church and Austin Kearns in right .... Ryan DeLaughter, a powerful outfielder who in his two years with the Nationals hasn't hit very well in the minors was demoted from Vermont to the GCL Nationals and took the mound yesterday. DeLaughter was a high school pitching phenom with a fastball in the high 90's. I don't know if it was a one-time deal or whether he's given up hitting for pitching. I'll let you know what I find out ... 19 year old Mike Burgess hit his 7th homer of the year yesterday. Based on a 500 at-bat season, the kid would be on pace for a monster year: .325-32-125 with a .434 OBP. Did I mention he is 19? ... Remember the Shairon Martis for Mike Stanton deal last summer? Seems to be working out pretty well. Martis, a name not normally mentioned as one of the team's favored pitching prospects, is now 12-7, 4.49 for Potomac. Did I mention he's 20?

I think it's time for Nationals fans to do several things. First, we've got to show some support - and perhaps even a little bit of blind faith - in the team. Though I think it's great that Nats' fans aren't running like lemmings to RFK regardless of the product provided, the events of the past few day (as well as a very entertaining team) should lead to increased attendance. There's no reason that the team can't average 30,000 per game from now until season's end.

I think it's time that we begin to say thank you, don't you?


Comments:
"There's no reason that the team can't average 30,000 per game from now until season's end."

Unfortunately, most of the casual fans, who make up the difference between a crowd of 15,000 and one of 30,000, don't know Smoker and McGeary from Kornheiser and Wilbon, and won't care until one of them is in the running for a Cy Young Award.

That said, I've already gone three times this month and plan to attend four more between now a Labor Day. They may not be contending right now, but they are sure fun to watch.

Oh, and uh...THANK YOU!
 
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