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[January 10th] -- The Washington Nationals announced on Wednesday that they have signed four more players from the Dominican Republic. The names - though not important at this point - are Randy Almonte, right-handed pitcher Marcos Frias, catcher Ricardo Martinez and left-handed pitcher Francisco Vizcaino.

These four were among fifty who tried out at Jose Rijo's baseball academy in San Crisobal in December.

Why aren't their names important? Because whether or not they end up playing for the Nationals really doesn't matter. These four players, by themselves, aren't going to change the future of the team in any significant way. But the Nationals hope that their signing - as well as the signing of Smiley Gonzalez last summer - will help create a relationship between the team and the people of the Dominican. There hope is that these type of signings will become an everyday occurence. Having Jose Rijo (and his academy) as part of the team has certainly increased the Nationals' presence on the island. And presence is something that team president Stan Kasten understands. My friend Screech reported yesterday that Kasten has been sending "Curly W" caps to the Dominican by the boxload.

These signings have got me to wondering about whether it's really true that the Dominican Republic has an exaggerated percentage of players in the major leagues. It seems that - based on what journalists and broadcasters are always saying - each team has a half dozen or so players from that tiny Caribbean island. [Note: valued reader "sbrent" noted in a comment that my use of the descriptor "tiny" to describe the Dominican Republic was in error -- that in fact the island is very large and "dwarfs" all the other area island save Cuba. He tells me that the island is in fact twice the size of Maryland. The great thing about blogs vs. websites is that well-informed readers can help correct non-thinking writers. Thanks, sbrent!]

Here is a breakdown of the origins of the 744 players on the 2006 opening day rosters:

Of those 22% foreign born, 46% comes from the Dominican. In total, 76 of the 744 major league players - 10.2% - came from the Dominican Republic.

What does that mean?

Well, 582 players come from the United States, a country with a population of 300 million. The Dominican Republic, with a population of just 9 million, has 76 players.

American players, then, have a frequency of one player per 515,000 of population. Dominican players, on the other hand, have a frequency of one player per 118,000 of population.

Dominicans, then, are found in the major leagues at a rate roughly four times higher than are American players.

It's an interesting statistic, isn't it? Perhaps they are hungrier, perhaps they are more focused, perhaps it's out of necessity.

But for whatever the reason, they're there.

And Major League Baseball is better for it.

Broadway Gets First Shot: Bill Ladsen reported on Wednesday that Larry Broadway will get first-dibs at the starting first base job - that is, until Nick Johnson is healthy enough to return. If there is a silver lining in a broken leg, this is it. They are saying that Johnson will miss at least a month of the season (which probably means 6-8 weeks), giving Broadway 150 at-bats (more or less) to show if he's able to hit major league pitching. If he does well, maybe he gets traded for prospects (I think maybe it's time to start getting some position players now) or - gasp! - Broadway earns the starting job (giving Nick more time to heal and then - perhaps - he gets traded).

Robinson Left Behind: I am saddened at the Nationals' decision not to offer former skipper Frank Robinson a job within the organization. All he gets is an all expenses paid trip to spring training (though no salary). Not even a gold watch.

Were it any other warm body, I wouldn't much care. But Frank Robinson has earned the opportunity to (within reason) choose the way he goes out.


Hagerstown Suns Interview Running Late: I got an email from Suns' general manager Will Smith who apologized for not finishing his interview questions. He told me that being a "rookie GM" is taking more of his time than he realized. "Soon" he promised. So keep an eye out for the article.

Stan Kasten told me that he believes that Nick Johnson will be ready for Opening Day. The Doctor that was quoted in the Washington Post article was not a Team Doctor. The Nats Doctor feels otherwise. Its in Part 3, today. Just so you would know.
Is anyone really surprised at Frank's reaction to the team's offer? Frank wants to be involved in a real impactful job. I love Frank. I truly hope he finds what he wants in baseball. At this point I don't think it will be at the team level. MLB owes him big time. Its time for the Comish to step forward.
With you 100% Tom. This is the first stupid thing the team has done in quite some time.
I shouldn't quibble, but I don't think it's quite fair to call the DR a "tiny" Caribbean island. It's a pretty good-sized chunk of real estate, that dwarfs every other Caribbean island except for Cuba.

It's about twice as big, for example, as the state of Maryland. It's a little less than half the size of Virginia. If you added Haiti (the Western 2/5 or so of the island) the landmass of the whole island of Hispaniola would be very roughly triple the size of Maryland.

None of which negates the basic thrust of your point, just to say that in the frame of reference of Caribbean islands, the DR is a giant.
Thanks, sbrent -- I've corrected my mistake in the body of the column with a hat-tip to you.

you're the best!
You're too kind, good sir! Thanks, as ever, for the great reads.
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