Washington Nationals' Assistant GM and VP of Player Development Bob Boone and Nats' shortstop Ian Desmond were asked in separate interviews on Sirius/XM's MLB Network Radio this afternoon about the Nats' 2010 campaign and where the team is headed. Boone was one of the first men hired by former D.C. GM Jim Bowden when he became Washington's general manager, and he's remained in the nation's capital through the change in leadership which saw Mike Rizzo take charge. Desmond, an '04 3rd Round pick by the Montreal Expos, made his debut in September 2009 and started at short throughout the 2010 season.
Mr. Boone was up first on MLB Network Radio's Power Alley with Kevin Kennedy (and a guest co-host whose name I didn't catch.) Asked about some of the Nats' strengths which might surprise someone who's not too familiar with the Nationals' system, the former Major League catcher and skipper said Washington was particularly strong behind the plate...
Bob Boone: "In [Wilson] Ramos, [Jesus] Flores and Derek Norris, we think we've got three starting big league catchers and I think that's a real asset for the organization. The other guys that are gonna surprise are some pitchers I think that have a chance of really making a statement with the Nationals in 2011 and Spring Training's going to be a big testing point for them to see who can make that club and fight through it.
Rumors this winter had Norris' name mentioned alongside Jordan Zimmermann's and Danny Espinosa's as part of a package that Washington offered to Kansas City for Royals' ace Zack Greinke, though who exactly was included was never made clear. Mr. Boone was asked how he felt, as the VP of Player Development, about parting with some of the talent he's watched grow within the system?:
Bob Boone: "I think in what we're trying to build, you certainly need the front end of the rotation pitchers. It was told to me one time by a good scout, who said 'You know, Bob, pitching is the currency of the game.' And what I know...what most of [baseball*] knows, if you want to be playing in the last game of the year, which we do, you better have a stud on the mound, cause that's who wins it and every year it's the same thing. You can almost interchange the teams, but whoever is pitching the best wins. And I think we certainly recognize that and in trying to build to that, a lot of what you use the minor leagues for is to get that quality top of the rotation guy, and it's one of the things that does make you feel good is that, gee we've got some names to put in it that allows us to compete for Zack Greinke and two years ago we didn't have that. So, yeah it's frustrating that, 'I don't want to lose that guy. I don't want to lose that guy.' But you know it's going to cost and that you're going to have to give up something that's really good in order to get something that's really good, and we're in a position now that we can start building toward that end, and it's certainly something that doesn't come over night..."
(ed. note - "Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell, in a 12/16 chat entitled, "Ask Boswell", said the Nats' GM Mike Rizzo was willing to part with prospects in return for proven talent, because, "Rizzo hates the words 'prospect' and 'potential.'):
"They are usually surrounded by a curse word. He loves the phrase 'proven major-league production.' You ALWAYS trade the former for the later. In trades, from his Arizona days, Mike likes to see teams prey on the Baseball America List Syndrome. Find a (poor) team that's greedy to tell its fans that they just traded a star for several prospects who are "Rated No. blah-blah-blah."
Back on MLB Network Radio, Bob Boone said that from the start when the Lerner's took over along with Stan Kasten, himself and Mr. Bowden, etc., the plan was to emulate the Atlanta Braves' growth, with the plan calling for them to "build from within. We're going to strengthen the scouting. We're going to strengthen the drafts. We're going to strengthen the minor leagues. And then, we have the currency to go trade for the pieces you need. But you can't just go buy eight pieces. That money just doesn't exist for that..."
The Nationals signed Jayson Werth, in Mr. Boone's opinion, in order for the Nats' owners to make a statement and say, "'Hey, we're serious about this and we're going to start building this thing piece by piece...we're going to accelerate it and get some of those pieces right now.' So then all of a sudden the Phillies come up and put together a starting rotation that's pretty spectacular by getting Cliff Lee and you think, 'Gee are we still in that division? We've got some more work to do.' The other part of that is, and you say we were in the hunt for Zack Greinke, is that when you're on the bottom of the totem pole, a lot of those players don't want to come to you. So you've got to make your organization, you've got to show people that you're going in the right direction so that you can get those guys not only through trades but through free agency to make your team that much better. Because we've got to compete against some pretty strong teams in the National League East."
Mr. Boone's interview ended with some discussion about his family and their whereabouts. A few hours later, Ian Desmond appeared on the MLB Network Radio show "Inside Pitch" with the aforementioned former D.C. GM JIm Bowden and his co-host Casey Stern. The conversation (when I realized who was on) started with Desmond being asked about the "Stephen Strasburg Experience" and if it was tough to swallow how it abruptly ended:
Ian Desmond: "It's definitely hard to swallow, I mean, you lose a no.1 starter. There's no denying that that's what he was when he was there and that's almost guaranteed what he's going to be when he comes back. The thing that I keep on telling everybody, (everyone says, 'Ah, man, how are you guys going to be without Strasburg?'), but we're still a growing team. We're still getting better. And he...the thing I liked about Strasburg the most is that he's got that hunger to be a great pitcher. And you see [Roy] Halladay out there and you hear stories about him working out every single day, and how Roger did it, Roger Clemens, how he worked out every day. That's the kind of guy that Strasburg is. He's not going to let this injury hold him back. He's going to go out there, he's going to work hard, and when he comes back he's probably going to be better than he was when he left. That's what I'm excited for. I'm excited to see him come back and really push the rest of the rotation with Jordan [Zimmermann] and whoever else it may be, [John] Lannan and whoever else we go get. He's going to push everybody else when he comes back I think."
Mr. Bowden asked Desmond about his own game and what his goals were this season, and Desmond said he just wants to show people that he is a "quality shortstop":
Ian Desmond: "I came home this offseason and everyone wants to talk about my errors and stuff like that, I don't think that's really me. I want to go out and I want to show people that I can play the position. I want to show people that I can be a leader in the clubhouse and that I can hit. That's pretty much what baseball is and I want to prove to people that I'm a ballplayer."
The goal for the Nats in 2011? Desmond says that early in the 2010 season, some games that ended in a bad way for the Nats and caused them to collapse and "continue to shoot ourselves in the foot in games that were leading...":
Ian Desmond: "I feel like we blew 30 to 35 games on stupid little mistakes. I feel like if we clean up our defense, if we play team baseball and just take the individualism out of it, we can compete with the National League East. I'm not saying that we can go out and we can sweep the Phillies every series. But at the same time we can compete. We played with them last year towards the end of the year. We [beat] the Braves when they were coming down the end trying to make the playoff push or Wild Card push, whatever it was, then we went and we played terrible against the Phillies...If we can just string together, winning series, winning series, winning series, run the bases good, field the ball, yeah I know it's a lot to ask, but we can compete in the National League East if we do the right things, we've got enough speed, we've got enough power, we've got enough pitching, you know."
Jim Bowden wanted to know about Nats' center fielder Nyjer Morgan, and what he was really like. Desmond described Morgan as a "hockey player", who, "...competes his heart out every game.":
Ian Desmond: "It's just one of those years. He had a rough year, and .265, I think he finished like .255, .260, I don't want to sell him short...(it was .253) but around there, and that was a bad year in his eyes. According to him he struggled all year, and if he comes out and hits .300, everyone looks at him like a god, just like they did the year before when he got brought over from Pittsburgh, and then all the weight's off his shoulders. He just put a lot of pressure on himself, he expected more of himself, but hopefully he comes in and he's ready to go."
I want T Plush back too...
(ed. note - " * = Sirius/XM's reception in NJ is dodgy.")