Saturday, August 9, 2008

My Struggling Organization: Washington Nationals

Remember back in 2005 when people were excited for baseball to come back to Washington DC? How about all the excitement in 2008 when the Nationals finally left the dump known as RFK Stadium and moved into their own world class ballpark? Yeah, all that good will is pretty much gone now. Or at least I hope it is. Because, to be honest, the Nats suck. They really do. And even though we have seen teams suck in the past (Devil Rays, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Orioles), I just don't feel any excitement for their future. The Rays last year were horrible, but everyone knew that they had an amazing farm system and would be good a few years down the road. But the Nationals don't really have much talent at all in the organization. Today, Jorge says No! will profile why the Nationals have struggled and make our bold prediction as to when their struggles will finally end!

As we all know, the Nationals were originally the Montreal Expos (aka the other Canadian team) until 2004 and were actually owned by Major League Baseball for a few years because Jeffrey Loria wanted no part of Canada. Back when they were the Expos, the team had tons of talent, but could never sign of them and often resorted to either trading them (Javier Vazquez, Orlando Cabrera, Milton Bradley, Randy Johnson) or simply letting them walk (Larry Walker, Vlad Guerrero). So right off the bat the team was not built to succeed.

However, the move that really set the franchise back was the ill advised trade for Bartolo Colon in 2002. In an attempt to make the post season, GM Omar Minaya traded away three future all stars (Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips) for Colon. The Expos did not make the playoffs, traded Colon a few months later, and the franchise was royally screwed for about 10 more years. Sizemore is a franchise player who will be the Indians center fielder for the next 10 years, Lee started the all star game this year, and Brandon Phillips has developed into a power hitting second baseman for the Reds. It's not often a trade kills a franchise, but this one did.

And to top things off, the current regime has not done any better. Not only do they refuse to spend money, but the money they do spend is ill advised and incomprehensible.
Cristian Guzman (4/16 mil) followed by (2/16 mil) AWFUL
Dmitri Young (2/10 mil) after a few good months AWFUL
Paul Lo Duca (1/5 mil) cant really figure out why AWFUL
Austin Kearns (3/17 mil) after a few sub par years AWFUL
And to top it all off, the one building block they do have, Ryan Zimmerman, is not close to signing an extension with the team.

I should point out right here that the Nats do have some guys with some long term potential. Lastings Milledge, Jesus Flores (who was picked up in the rule V from my Mets...why???), Zimmerman, and Lannan are all young guys who the Nats have control of for awhile. Those 4 have talent, but none (besides Zimmerman) could/should be a franchise player. Milledge has tons of talent, but I'm skeptical if he can get on base enough to retain heavy value, while Flores looks to be the real deal behind the plate. Again, I ask, why did you let him go Omar??????

Most of the guys the Nationals sign are either C/D level free agents or players signed to minor league deals. Basically, lets throw these guys up against the wall and see who sticks. Every once in awhile one does (Tim Redding), but more often than not, they don't and have very little chance for long term success. Again, this is not conducive for a winning baseball atmosphere.

The Nationals have stunk up the join the last few years, but they have not sucked enough to land a pick in the top 3 of the MLB draft. Their farm system has some talent to it (Ballester, Burgess, Chris Marrero, Detwiler), but the overall talent level is either far away from the bigs, or does not have real impact talent that can change the fortunes of an organization.

And finally, we have the deal that really set me off about the Nats. In July, the Nationals traded closer Jon Rauch to the the Diamondbacks for Emilio Bonifacio, the number 6 D-Backs prospect according to BA. The reason why this upset me was that the Nationals settled. There is not doubt they did. Bonifacio is a solid 2B who has speed and can slap the ball around a bit, but as far as long term potential (there is that word again), he doesn't project high at all. And I definitely think they could have gotten more for Rauch, who is a quality reliever at a time when there aren't many around and because he comes cheap. 2 years for 3.2 million AND a club option for 2010! C'mon Nats, that's 3 years of cheap, quality service time that you traded away for a slap happy second baseman!!! It don't make no sense!!!!!

Bold Prediction: The Nats struggle for the next 3 seasons before finally righting the ship in 2012. Playoff berths arrive by 2013 and 2014.
Creepy Teddy. Never Wins. Kinda like the Nats....

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