Nationals Baseball: Things to "worry" about

Friday, December 14, 2012

Things to "worry" about

A couple days ago it was talked about in the comments how the Nats really don't have much to worry about. Even all the fretting about LaRoche vs Morse is worrying about what probably amounts to a single win for a team looking to have about 95 of them (yes they won 98 last year but the pythag had them at 95 and I think they were a little more on the lucky side than unlucky so figure they were more of a 93 win type team, but they have improved with Span and Harden so up the count goes again...ANYWAY)  They'll be fine if LaRoche signs or if he doesn't.

So what do the Nats have to worry about? Every position except catcher is now manned by someone who probably ranks as above average overall at the spot, and even catcher isn't an obvious failure given how dismal catcher stats tend to be. The rotation is stacked. The bullpen has at least 4 dependable arms, including the unecessary but completely expected 8th inning and closer roles. The bench has some youngish guys that can produce at the major league level at least for short periods of time. So what is there? You don't like Zack Duke as the mop-up long-relief guy? Worried Rizzo will bring in another terrible DeRosa-esque veteran for the last spot on the bench?  "Sure I'm rich, healthy, and have everything I need, but my fourth car could really use a tune-up"

There is nothing on the field that is concerning right now. But fans aren't fans unless they can fret over something, so I give you these off the field topics to satisfy your inner worry-wart.  Some are real concerns, others are... let's say a bit more frivolous.  

MASN - Nats Enquirer nicely sums up where we stand currently. MLB made a terrible deal with Angelos to get baseball to DC. Now it doesn't want to deal with the consequences. But even sports backed by millions of dollars can't buy themselves way out of every terrible deal (Hello, St. Louis Spirits!) and Angelos is a good enough lawyer to not have left MLB any loop hole to take advantage of.

What does this mean for the Nats? While I don't think Angelos will get away with completely shortchanging the Nats, I do think it means a revenue stream from TV that isn't what it could be. That's money that can't be spent on draft picks, organizational improvement, players, stadium improvements, etc. etc. In the worst case scenario, the whole "we need money to sign all our young guys" scenario may be based on the idea that the Nats were going to get a bigger windfall from TV than they will. That means this really is the Nats window to win and 2015-2017 will be marked by a great exodus. That's probably overselling the situation but this isn't something that can just be ignored.

Strasburg, media punching bag - It always surprises me but there is a fair amount of Strasburg dislike out there. "He's doesn't seem to enjoy the game!" "He's too fragile!" "He didn't fight enough to pitch!"  Slowly over the course of 2 1/2 years he's gone from the center of Nats world to recalcitrant diva without ever changing who he was. Now, with the media-loving and media-savvy Bryce Harper around, there is a glaring example of the type of presense that the media and fans love right in his own backyard. It hasn't been an issue yet and it won't as long as the Nats are winning and he's doing well.  But if Strasburg has a couple of bad starts, the Braves are in first, and he tosses out some boiler-plate unemotional interviews? It doesn't take much for something like this to spiral into something that takes over Strasburg's season.

Attendance / attendance talk - The Nats did not draw great last year BUT they drew a hell of a lot better and, as everyone should know, these things take time. It's rare that attendance goes from the bottom to the top in one season.  So right now it's a non-issue. However, it should improve again this year and if the Nats are winning big, it really should be among the tops in the National league, if not baseball.  If it's not, the Lerners, investment guys at heart, could start to wonder what they have to do to get DC into baseball.  If people aren't showing up to see a winning team backed by a decent payroll and big minorleague investments, why keep that up? 

Even if you don't worry about that, (it's a pretty speculative worry and frankly I think the Lerners view of this is more than a single year) you do have to worry about guys like me, who are completely fascinated by attendance and what drives it, talking about it occasionally.

The attention over the President's Race - The whole stupid "Teddy doesn't win" thing got so much play that his first win actually overshadowed the Nats team for a day or two. Playoff baseball back for the first time in decades, a team fighting for home field and possibly 100 wins and everyone is talking about a guy in a suit winning a meaningless race. That's pretty terrible. Maybe it settles back into it's nice little pattern with Teddy losing all the time until the playoffs are set. That'd be fine. But something tells me that all that attention made the Nats marketing guys want to kick it up a notch. There's a chance that could work out in a fun and interesting way but I'm not giving them the benefit of the doubt (see: Screech, Clint, etc.)

The next slogan - "Ignite your Natitude" Seriously? I know that it got accepted but let's admit it, that's only because the Nats were winning.  If the Nats went 80-82 whoever came up with that is now making up slogans for the Fargo-Moorehead RedHawks. Are they going to roll it out again? Can they come up with something even sillier sounding?  Will I go crazy seeing it hashtagged over and over again?

SI curse - I hate this thing, but I'm pretty sure the Nats will be on that baseball preview cover and someone will say something about it. This is what I worry about.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

My main worry is if Morse gets traded, do we still get to sing "Take On Me"?

Anonymous said...

Another worry: who's the next manager after Davey? It seems very unlikely that the next manager will be as good (recognizing that managers don't have an enormous impact on overall record..)

Harper said...

Anon #1 - you can always sing "Take on Me". Try it now, wherever you are.

Anon #2 - I'm thinking internal promotion. Familiar with Rizzo, would work for the type of deal (cheap, short) that Rizzo would want to give.

blovy8 said...

Harden? Now there's a guy NOT to take a flier on.

blovy8 said...

I'm worried about seeing past all the obstructionist galoots in the aisles and rows during atbats getting their lite beer.

Harper said...

blovy8 - like everyone else I have ASU basketball on my mind. Herbivore. Ugh they lost to DePaul. Get out of my mind.

Also you should worry about getting corporate fans off their seats for the playoff games.

Pig.Pen said...

Harper, thanks for the sleepless night or two you just bought me. But you forgot the biggest of big worries....injuries. What if Strasburg gets hurt again, what if Bryce Harper turns out to be Jeremy Affeldt and injures himself in strange ways, what if Rizzo pulls a hair follicle while giving a profanity laden rant (I love these BTW) about ________ ________ from the Philthadelphia Philthies?

I mean of course there's always the attendance worry and the worry the Nats will re-sign LaRoche and he'll hit like a 33 year old, but injuries are the biggest worry from where I'm looking.

BlueLoneWolf said...

I'm more worried about the fact that our hitting still isn't as good as it could be and we've got a lot of hitters with not much plate discipline. IE I'm worried that Espinosa will never 'get it' and will continue to pop ludicrously high strikeout seasons with sub .250 batting averages and terrible walk rates, and whether or not we'll accept that. Take my griping with a grain of salt, though, as 2B hitters really aren't stellar unless you're talking about someone like Cano, Pedroia, or Hill; I doubt we're getting any of them anytime soon.

Lee said...

I'm not too worried about attendance. As late as June, the average Washingtonian probably still thought the Nats were a mediocre team. I was amazed at how often I had to point out that the Nats were in first place when others made an offhand comment about going to a Nats game as if it were a Wizards game. Of course as a fan, I took full advantage of sub $10 baseline box tickets available on stubhub. By the end of the summer, cheap tickets for good seats became a little more scarce. I don't think the Nats will be sneaking up on people this year.

Too, early Spring baseball games might not be competing with the Caps this year. When football season ends, DC will go without pro sports for a while. The Wizards just don't count right now.

Harper said...

P.P - Injuries are kind of like the breathing of the sports worry world. Accepted ever present but you can't think about it. Certainly not with relatively healthy players, at decent ages. Outside of Ramos who wasn't healthy to end the year?

BLW - I'm focused on a single thing for Danny - that walk rate. He's going to hit .240ish with a ton of K's and 20 or so homers. The question is whether he can get on base enough to be truly useful offensively. While he improved offensively after a slow start his walk rate actaully got worse.

Personally I'm not sure the Nats new aggressive approach is suited to optimize Danny's talent.

Lee - yeah there really is no outside excuse. Of course looking at the SKins this year worries me about August on next year so I guess it's impt to get momentum going early...

Froggy said...

Harper, ASU...whaat?

Go Wildcats!

Wally said...

The MASN deal is a big deal ....the rest, not so big (sure, attendance is big, but no reason to worry now). That Nats Enquirer lays it out pretty good, and how I thought it was negotiated. Angelos isn't comparing to pure FMV, there is specific language in there that isn't favorable (at least, that is the way that I remember it when they moved here). It is kind of like saying 'Strasburg's fair market salary is $25m a year'. Well yeah, if he was a free agent, but he has to go through arbitration for a few more years and I think Angelo's deal is that it gets reset according to the formula that existed in 2005, even referring to certain then-contemporary cable deals.

But, I thought Boz had a good point today, too. Virtually every owner wants this to be a big number, so they will probably find a way to buy off Angelos to have this number seem big, because it helps all of them directly through revenue sharing (the Dodger deal is exempted through the bankruptcy proceedings, and so is unique that it doesn't have to be shared). And also indirectly, by continuing the high prices for new deals to comp to.

So i hope it works out, although i wouldn't be surprised if it takes another 6-12 months. If it goes according to the strict contract, I expect us to essentially be in ATL's situation, and this really could break up the old gang in a few years if they don't get it worked out. But at least we have the next few years!

Clip&Store said...

I assume/hope your a bit sarcastic with the idea of this (primarily title) because some of these are pretty dumb to be concerned about (for example, i don't give a crap what the media thinks of Stras). The only one that's a real concern is masn. yeah i guess attendance is, but that'll take care of itself.

Nattydread said...

You can get quite a bit of mileage out of worrying about Nats players should participation in the World Baseball Classic.

BlueLoneWolf said...

Harper, worried about Lannan's new contract with the blasted Phillies?

Doerr said...

LANNAN!!!!

Anonymous said...

Everyone freaks out about the Davey going back to the front office idea. Frankly I love Davey, but i do not see him being a massive loss when it does happen next year. Randy Knorr will step in very reliably, for Davey has been mentoring him the past couple of years.

Anonymous said...

I've been a season ticket holder since the RFK days in '05, and have seen some dismal attendance by people who came to the park to see the team as an afterthought. By the end of this regular season, the Nats had cultivated a strong, core group of diehard fans and the average Washingtonian was starting to hear about it. The playoff crowds were unbelievable. Just awesome. As the Navy Yard area continues to get built up and as the team starts establishing a winning identity, I don't see attendance being much of an issue in 2014, 15 etc.

Harper said...

Froggy - just a nod to James Harden. I have no preference ASU v Arizona (though I admit a mild soft spot for the milquetoast Sendek)

Wally - I just don't see Angelos selling. I think he's always seen sports as a great investment and is not very interested in having a billion but rather setting up his future family with money. Cash though can be burned through. Even a poorly run baseball team is likely to gain value at a high rate.

C&S - yes, sarcasm

ND - so what if Bryce breaks his leg chasing down some El Salvadoran fly ball? It's for the USA, right?

BLW - Damn. No Lannan T-shirt now.

Doerr - I KNOW! I don't hate the Phillies like other Nats fans though so this isn't a killer move for me. Personally I'll be constantly focused on how Lannan witha 4.50 ERA has more wins than Cliff Lee with a 2.00 ERA because that will happen. It must.

Anon #1 - Yeah, things should be fine but people will care if they win even a handful of fewer games in 2014. Just the way it is. (by the Way - part of Davey's "magic" is walking away from a team that's still good. It's easy to be seen as a great manager if you never try to manage a bad team. He's totally Phil Jacksoning it)

Anon #2 - I think so too to be honest. I'm not sure it'll ever be the consistent Top 3 that it should be (based on pop'n and talent) but it'll be high enough.

Rodney said...

You're worried that the entertainment staff will want to kick it up a notch? Are you missing the point of an entertainment staff? Here's a hint, the purpose is in the name. For years the Nationals were perennial losers and the people in the game day entertainment & operations had to provide a relief to an otherwise poor product, and let’s be serious it was hard to watch. Thinking it may be a negative for them to step their game up is a joke.

Also Screech is one of the best mascots in sports, love to hear otherwise and Clint is a fantastic in game host with a smooth delivery and likeable personality. Pretty useless paragraph to an otherwise interesting column.

Max said...

I think Rodney works for the Nats entertainment staff...

BlueLoneWolf said...

Huzzah! Dickey has left the division and we can't draw the AL East again! Huzzah! We got rid of him and Josh Johnson in the same offseason! Thank you, ineptitude of the Mets and Marlins!

Harper said...

Rodney / Max - ummm

Ummm

Different strokes I guess.

BLW - Great for 2013 but that's a good deal for the Mets. They are building something. It's not there yet but a couple more shrwed moves and maybe they are real competition in 2015.

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