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[January 3rd] -- As most of us suspected, the Nationals will have a new look in 2007. The team's new batting practice will feature a red and white insert between the front and rear panels, which I like.

But the logo change surprised me.

There have been hints for several months that the interlocking 'D.C.' logo would one day replace the 'Curly W' on Nationals' caps. If that were the case, the team would never have changed the jersey logo to match the current cap.

Do I like it? Hmmm .... I'm not sure. The 'D.C.' block design seems to fit better over the player's left breast. The 'W' almost looks like it had to be squeezed so that it would fit properly. I certainly do like the rest of the jersey though-- much more than last year's design.

Is this the only change for 2007? It's hard to say. Usually, changes require nearly a year lead time so that the league's marketing machine can maximize the profit potential of the change. But with the Lerners taking over in the middle of the season, well - who knows really.

One thing is for sure, though. The 'Curly W,' at least for now, is here to stay.

Nick Slow To Mend: The Post reports that Nick Johnson's early exit last year will most likely force a late entry in 2007. He may be healed by then, but he won't be in game shape. He's likely to miss a month, sez the Post.

I'm not worried about the month -- heck, if Nick only misses a month of the season, then things are going pretty well for him. I'm worried about the long term. That was a scary injury, and who says he'll return to the Nationals at 100%?

Who'll be the first baseman in the meanwhile? Well, maybe Robert Fick and maybe Larry Broadway. This is an ideal "pro-planner" vs. "anti-planner" moment. Robert Fick can give the Nationals a solid month at first base. I watched him play there with the Braves a few years ago and he was a decent fielding, line-drive hitting fool. But he's not the future. The "anti-planners" would likely be pro-Fick. Larry Broadway is the ideal "pro-planner" first baseman. He's proved all he can prove at the minor league level, and he could very well (ok, possibly) be the team's future at first base. If Broadway plays well, he could be traded when Nick comes back, or he could stay and Nick might be traded when he's proven healthy.

Hey, at least Cristian Guzman is healthy? I mean, he is healthy, right?

Don't Trust Doctors: First, it was Nick Johnson. Now, it's Mike O'Connor. O'Connor who showed traces of brilliance in between getting battered off the mound last year, had surgery last month to repair a defect in his elbow. Doctor's said he should be ready for spring training "without a doubt."

Well, now there is a doubt. O'Connor says that while he should be physically sound by opening day, he's not going to have the opportunity to get in enough spring innings to make him sharp and ready for that first game. He said that it wouldn't be "realistic" to hope he'll be on that opening day roster.

He's gooing to want to compete for a spot in the Nationals' rotation, and I hope that neither he nor the team nor the trainers push him back onto the mound before he's ready. My guess is that - regardless of when he comes back - there will be a spot available in the rotation.

[Note:] -- Fellow blogger Jamming Econo disagrees with my assessment of O'Connor's future, saying in part, "... but I don't think that he is the sort of pitcher that should be counted on to hold down a spot in the rotation." I couldn't disagree more with his view, but he has based his viewpoint on statistical facts, probabilities, past performances and future possibilities. Though we see things differently, I can only applaud the depths of his baseball knowledge There is no disagreement there. Thanks for the input, big guy.

Ohka Still A Possibility? No way. As long as there wasn't much news coming out of Ohka's camp then sure, there was still a possibility that the former National might have no other choice but to return to D.C. However, reports out of New York have Ohka meeting with Mets' GM Omar Minaya in hopes of having him fill that last opening in the Mets' rotation. That will pretty much end any hopes of Ohka becoming a National again. I mean, the Mets payroll checkbook begins at $8 million dollars a year and then goes up from there.

It's not a total loss for the Nats, however. I would much rather have to face Ohka four or five times instead of Barry Zito.

Brendan Harris To Tampa Bay. I have often wondered what Brendan Harris has done to anger the baseball gods. He couldn't break into the Cubs lineup, but was traded to the Expos/Nationals with the admonition that he'd get playing time on an untalented team. However, after languishing in the minors for most of his time within the organization, he was traded to the Reds with the admonition bu the Reds GM that he'd get a chance to play in Cincinnati.

Less than a year later, Harris is now a Devil Ray. The only players who end up in Tampa are players who have failed everywhere else they've played, or players who were at best backups with their former team.

Nick Green of the Braves batted .273 in part-time duty before being traded to Tampa for Jorge Sosa in 2004. Told he would likely start in 2005, Green batted only .239 with a .675 OPS. He got off to an .077 start in 2006 before being banished to the minors.

One of two things are going to happen this season. Either Harris is going to put to rest all those questions about his "game" and hit .280-10-60 or he's going to become another Nick Green, where getting a chance to play every day will make his "holes" more obvious to league pitchers.

I like Harris and wish him luck.

Ortiz Back To Nationals? Mark Patrick and Orestes Destrade mentioned on their XM radio program this morning that the Nationals were talking to Ramon Ortiz about a return engagement in Washington. This seems to validate the assumption that Jim Bowden is trying to sign at least one low-priced free agent. If Tomo Ohka is now indeed out of the pitcher, perhaps Ortiz is back on the team's radar screen.

I have no opinion on Ortiz one way or the other. There are certainly enough open spots in the rotation where the signing of Ortiz won't keep any deserving rookie out of the lineup. He would come cheap enough, and the team wouldn't be burdened with a multi-year deal.

If O'Connor had been 100% going into spring training, then I would probably not be keen on signing Ortiz. But with O'Connor and Shawn Hill questionable, and considering John Patterson is still a question-mark (though the Nationals say he's 100%), perhaps Ortiz might be cheap enough insurance for the team.

Nationals Are Like Uranium -- 'Depleted:' Orestes Destrade on XM Home plate: "I guess the Washington Nationals are still trying to determine exactly what kind of team they are trying to be. I have to say, the team looks depleted heading into the 2007 season. Alfonso Soriano is gone. Livan Hernandez is gone. Jose Vidro is gone. And now Nick Johnson, who was injured in that horrific accident last September, will likely not return until May. But they aren't done depleting their roster. Talks continue about trading closer Chad Cordero to Boston or somewhere else. They still may be trading Ryan Church."

"Now, don't get me wrong. I'm talking problems in the short term. Long term, Manny Acta, Stan Kasten and Jim Bowden are building for the future, and so far anyway, they have brought many quality young players into the organization. They are going to be fine, it 's just that it's going to be tough going for the time being."

Well said, Orestes. You get it.

UPDATE: PADRES TO OPEN SEASON WITH SLEDGE IN LEFT: San Diego Padres' beat reporter Ted Lightner told Charley Steiner on "The Beat" this afternoon that with the loss of Dave Roberts, former National Terrmel Sledge will start in left field and bad leadoff next season. This worries Lightner. "He has a .325 career on base percentage and fielded terribly last year. Since his hamstring surgery -- and that was bad injury -- Sledge can't run like he used to. I'll have to say that the "jury is out" on this one, but my goodness Charley, he hasn't shown that he can bat leadoff at the major league level. Oh sure, he had a .400 on base pecent at Portland last year, but I don't care about 'AAA' stats -- he's never done that at the major league level. I know that Frank Robinson l-o-v-e-d the guy in Montreal and Washington, but I don't see him being that kind of player."

I wasn't aware that his hamstring injury caused him to lose some of his speed. That's really too bad; I always thought Sledge could be a .280-20-80 guy with 20 steals.

I'll keep an eye on him next season and keep you up to date here at TBB.

Though I love the curly w, I don't like the way it looks on the front of the jersey. I think the 'D.C.' needs to remain there.
I just hope the Red alternate jersey doesn't go the way of the batting practice jersey.

The DC cap with the red DC jersey is by far the team's most attractive look.
Unfortunately, The Lerners are in love with the Curly W, and they have stated they will use it MORE AND MORE. Like most everybody else, I agree, the DC logo is very attractive, fresh and distinctly says Washington DC on it, like no other. I would miss if tremedously, if the DC logo went away. Its too GOOD to not use.
Me love the DC logo 2!

Might want to take a look at O'Connor's stats before you start throwing around the "traces of brilliance," Farid. His low BABIP hid some pretty bad peripherals (bad control combined with mediocre K/9).
Of course you're right Jamming; he's had control problems since his first year in organized ball. That said, he allows 12.09 base-runners per 9 innings, better than Tom Glavine's 12.8, Dontrelle Willis' 12.7 and Barry Zito's 12.5.

I'm not suggesting that he's as good as those three pitchers, but I am saying that pitchers who give up 12 baserunners per game can succeed.

By way of comparison, Gil Meche, Ted Lilly, Brian Bannister and Livan Hernandez gave up between 13.5 and 14.0 baserunners per 9 innings.

As for 'traces of brilliance,' O'Connor had a 2.65 ERA after 6 starts, 3.04 ERA after his first nine starts, and was still a respectable 3.77 after 14 starts.

Yeah, I'd classify that as 'traces' of brilliance.
I'd love to be able to agree with you about O'Connor, Farid, but I can't. He may have had a nice start to the season, but this isn't terribly unusual for a rookie. Once the league started to get the book on him he got torched. In 20 starts, he failed to pitch 6+ innings 14 times. Granted, some of this could be attributed to his elbow issues, but I don't think that he is the sort of pitcher that should be counted on to hold down a spot in the rotation. I would also caution against relying too much on ERA, since it is affected by defense and the bullpen.
I guess each of us looks to certain indicators as to what makes a good pitcher and what doesn't. That we disagree on those indicators doesn't mean much in the 'big picture.'

How good could he be Average, maybe slightly below. A great year might be 13-13, 4.20 with an average of 6 innings pitcher per 9 inning game. A bad year? 12-16, 4.60 (similar to Ramon Ortiz' effort this past year).I don't want him in the front of my rotation, but he'll be just fine bringing up the rear.
Ok, let's remember how Frank scolded Mike for not telling him earlier about the elbow injury after his start in LA. So discount his starts after the Yankee game. Then look at what he did when he was called up in Sep. One bad inning against the Mets. Even in Sep the elbow was hurt. Now evaluate his season. Pure stats don't tell the real story.
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