Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Not sure what's going on with Stras but sure Nats are losing.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Monday Quickie - Not sure what's going on with Stras but sure Nats are losing.

I guess Stras is waiting for me to finish my series.  Smart guy.

There's been a lot thrown around the internet about Strasburg's aborted retirement press conference but I think you can boil everything down to just what we know for sure. 

  • Strasburg and the team were discussing his retirement. 
  • The team wanted to pay Strasburg in a way different and almost certainly in some way worse, than he was going to get paid. 

The latter can be "known" because it doesn't make sense for Strasburg and the team to decide he's going to retire and the team to say "ok we'll pay you as the contract stipulates" and Strasburg to balk at this. And even I can't see Strasburg trying to come at this using early retirement as leverage for more money. 

However it got to here and progressed, I'll leave it up to the media to find out but just the above two facts make the Nats look bad. Even if it was "we want to spread the same money over a longer time frame" or "we want to change the interest rates" or whatever, you don't use the end of a guy's career due to debilitating injury as a time to haggle. 

In other news the scouting purge continues as Kris Kline was bumped upstairs from his scouting role. Kline was holding the steering wheel when the Nats made their best draft picks in memory (though the assumption is Rizzo was a back seat driver). However both the draft of Strasburg and Bryce don't speak to Kline's skill. They were obvious picks you or I would have made.  From 2009 to 2012 the best pick made was Rendon (6th in 2011 first round) with other positive performance major leaguers drafted being : 

2009 : Storen, MAT, Nate Karns

2010 : Solis, Cole, Matt Grace*, Aaron Barrett, Robbie Ray

2011 : Alex Meyer, Brian Goodwin, Billy Burns**

2012 : Spencer Kieboom

Not bad I guess. But after being more of a head of scouting you can't say things have gone well. I'm not going to try to paint an overall narrative here because I don't have anything that makes sense and there might not even be one. 

On the field things keep going poorly but to be fair the Dodgers are really good.  The season is going to end with ATL / BAL and likely lost series so if they want to have any success in September it has to be with PIT, MIL and CHW.  They should be able to do that and if not... well that's gotta be a disappointment. 

As for Davey and the "good manager" question. I don't think managers are super impactful, but I do think they can affect W-L records maybe even up to a half-dozen games. But I also think there isn't a good way to measure that so we're really just guessing. For me I use a "how good did I and every other pundit think this team was to start the year and how did they finish" line.  If we apply that to Davey the team underperformed in 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022. And it wasn't even a little underperformance. In 2018 they were a favorite to make a run and won 82 games. In 2020, understanding the weird circumstances, they were seen as a sure playoff team and went under .,500.  In 2021 a good team that might have too many problems won 65 games. In 2022 a team unlikely to contend had the worst record in baseball.  

On the pro Davey side they were a playoff team in 2019 but one with a big hump to get over. They were in line to do disappoint again early in 2019 but we can't judge partial seasons. That's not fair. And even me, who thinks a great deal of success that year was bc of a forced shortening of the pen by Rizzo, has to admit they don't get to the point where that matters without turning things around first. So 2019 has to be a success even without considering the series. Just a playoff win was enough. The title makes it a rousing success. But one success with 4 big failures? It doesn't offset. 

How is 2023? Shaping up to be a mild beating of expectations. They have to win say 4 more games or so but you have to think they'll do that right? Split the Pirates and win the White Sox series and that's 3 games right there.  We'll come back but I expect about 69/70 wins which again would be overperformance from a team expected to be in the low to mid 60s in wins. 

Is he learning? Getting better? Is it a fluke of one-run success? All I know is that it is but I still can't say that overcomes those four seasons where they fell 10 plus under my expectations. Of course you could say my expectations were the problem and maybe but from 05-17 they bounced around. I don't see any reason I'd suddenly turn into Mr. Positivity for the team a few years ago.

*look just going by bWAR here. Matt Grace has one good year, one average year, and one bad year in the pen. It rolled out to 0.2 rather than -0.2  But I drew the line at 0. 

**Billy Burns? He was 5th in  ALROY voting in 2015! Quickly disappearing garbage after that but still that was enough 


John C. said...

According to a tweet from Jim Bowden the Nationals were planning to pay Strasburg off at 100% - that's when the planning for the retirement announcement and the plans to retire the jersey were in progress and leaked. But Manfred/MLB leaned on the Lerners to try to avoid paying off at 100% because they felt that it set a bad precedent and the Lerners caved.* The tweet was later deleted.**

*It's still a bad look for the Lerners, because if that's what happened they should have told Manfred to pound sand. That said, the league has to approve any sale of the team as well as the Commissioner having myriad ways to apply pressure directly and indirectly.

**The tweet was taken down; Bowden didn't walk it back, he just deleted it. My guess is that MLB didn't want that part of the story out there. Bowden does a lot of work for MLB, particularly on MLB Radio, so they have a lot of leverage to use if they want.

Anonymous said...

They were discussing internally what to so publically about Strasburg's retirement. That got leaked before they finished negotiating.

And the negotiation is this: Strasburg if you want to collect the entirety of your contract, then you have to attempt to rehab as we say. If you'd rather get on with your life and not have us telling you when and where to be and what physical training or therapy to have, then pay us. Since Strasburg already has over $100 million of the Lerner's cash, I think he can say OK I'll pay $10 million to never have to see or hear from you again. Neither side is being unreasonable, they just haven't met in the middle yet. Of course, if that ahole Boras has anything to do with it . . .

Harper said...

John C - I personally don't buy this one but again I don't know. A lot of time the owners pay out but they are also using insurance to off-set it. Would the precedent be "if the owners don't pay for insurance the player can't get all his money?" that seems off.

Anon @ 8:47 - I'm not even sure he has to rehab like the Nats say. I think all he has to do is show up and fail a physical. We'd have to see the contract to be sure. But I think the gist of what you are saying is true. There are hoops to jump through every year to keep collecting payment as-is whatever they may be. And likely the Nats are saying "we'll let you get out of jumping through those hoops if you give us a little back" I still think that's bad form.

Cautiously Pessimistic said...

I have no trouble believing that pressure came down from MLB. The rumor was that Stras was going to be paid in full, and I'm not aware of any player who retired that didn't at least restructure to be paid less or paid over a longer period of time (hell Griffey is still getting paid, not to mention Bobby Bonilla). So if the Lerners, on their way out the door, were to decide that they're fine paying it in full, it would indeed set a precedent and I'm sure Manfred basically said "we won't approve any sale you try to make if you try to do this" since Manfred is really just a talking head for the other 29 owners.

Ziggy said...

It's the owners v. the union, with Stras & Lerner caught in the middle.

Anonymous said...

What leverage do the owners have?

Steven Grossman said...

There are several ways...but imagine the Lerner's have a buyer for $2 billion....and the league says "that's nice but this week we are only approving transfers of ownership in all-cash deals with no financing." Or force a revenue sharing provision as a condition of approval. Never discount the power, ingenuity, and greed of the owners....that's how we got stuck with the MASN deal.

Robot said...

Davey is a bad manager. His track record is almost entirely failure, despite being handed a team that a blindfold chimp could get to the playoffs. The talent on that 2018 team was truly unbelievable (like 1990s Braves or Yankees level good).

But until the team has a clear longterm plan in motion, it really doesn't matter if he stays or goes next year.

Harper said...

CP - seems like neither David Wroght nor Prince Fielder restructured for examples.

Anonymous said...

@Robot: by that standard, Buck Showalter is also a terrible manager. Never won a World Series. 22 years, 5 teams, and only three division titles. And the talent… if there ever was an overrated manager… it’s that guy. But…

I think this whole thread is about how it’s pretty difficult to judge a manager strictly by wins and losses. Dinging Davey for 2018 (his first year as a manager), should also apply to every other Nats “failure” of a manager too. It’s apples and oranges.

Hopeful Fan said...

I'm totally in line with your POV, Harper, on the question of Davey. Too many underperformances, particularly in years where just expected performance would have put us in the hunt. Even 2019 I would argue we performed largely to expectation - although that's great given the past - and just caught lightning in a bottle during the playoffs. Playoffs don't really count to me since the SS is so small. I don't think Dusty is a bad manager, for example, even though he has a lot of playoff failures because his teams largely play to expectation.

So keep Davey now, dump Davey now, I don't really care. Let him prop up the confidence of these young guys as they lose and keep them rowing as a team in the same direction...he seems to be good at that. But don't extend him so far that when we are ready to contend we have to try to contend with him.

G Cracka X said...

Rizzo extended

Hopeful Fan said...

Um....Jackson Rutledge....woof. Had high hopes for that guy. Was this first game jitters or do we really have very little here?

John C. said...

@Hopeful Fan - NEVER judge any player by one game, particularly their MLB debut. No matter how good or how bad.

Rutledge was not good, but he was also not lucky. He gave up some hard contact, but he got BABIP'd pretty badly, too (the four run inning featured one seeing eye grounder and two bloop doubles down the LF line that were both barely fair). He also showed 98 on the fastball and his slider really moves. There's enough there to dream on and enough there to be concerned about, depending on your inclination. It's too early for either of those takes IMNSHO, but making snap judgments is one of the few things that the internet does well.