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Federal Register, May 15

  • Stan Kasten talked turkey with, and the results were . . . decidedly vanilla. One would expect this, though; as I noted the other day---and it doesn't take a genius to deduce this---Kasten doesn't yet seem in a position to say things much more specific than "I can't narrow it down to No. 1" on the list of concerns. This isn't a fault of the interviewer or the interviewee---it's merely a product of Kasten and the Lerners not having official control of the club yet.

    Nevertheless, there are a couple items of note here: Besides the farm system, what else makes a championship club?

    Kasten: A ballplayer is more than simply batting averages and ERA. A ballplayer has heart, makeup and competitiveness. The more of those qualities you have, the more successful players you are going to have. The more players you have, the better makeup of the team you have.

    Now, everyone is not perfect. Many players with great tools are not vocal leaders. You don't have that with every player, but the more of those elements on a team, the better it is. Leadership is important. A manager can do but so much. It also has to come from the characters of players that you have on the team, in addition to the physical talent that you have.

    I'm a fairly stats-oriented guy, and I'm skeptical of chemistry-related explanations for success or failure, but I do think what Kasten says here is quite important. When the Braves began their rise, I was quite a bit younger and miles less cynical; however, it seemed to me at the time---and my memory of things doesn't really challenge this---that those early "dynasty-era" Atlanta teams had an incredible mix of take-charge veterans, solid veterans, brash kids, and quiet kids. Those were some good teams (obviously; when was the last time that the Braves weren't good), and the individual players complemented each other well, creating a much stronger whole.

    Kasten also re-emphasized the new ownership's commitment to go young, build the farm system, divert resources from free agents to player development and scouting, etc. The optimist might view this promise as wothy of praise, a sign the team will be building for a better tomorrow. The skeptic might view this statement with cynicism, a sign that tomorrow (or next year) is a CBA-negotiation season---and ownership cannot spend like crazy while also pleading poverty. You make the call.

  • Tony Armas is rounding into fine form, writes Ken Wright of the Washington Times, and the results are beginning to remind Frank Robinson of early 2003, when Armas was 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA in five starts before suffering a blowout in his right wing. Armas is anything but an efficient pitcher, but thus far this season he's improved upon his performance in partial campaigns in 2004-05, when he made a combined 35 starts yet pitched only 173 innings. Armas is still averaging well under six innings per start in 2006, but his pitches-per-inning stat has improved markedly; whereas he average about 18 per inning in '04-05, he's down to 16.5 per inning this season, which is only slightly above the National League average.

    In other words, Armas is back to being a viable big league starting pitcher. Will that form hold? Or have I just asked a pointless question?

  • Speaking of pointless questions, check out this column in the Times, wherein the author poses about a dozen presumably rhetorical questions to his readership about John Patterson. A hint from an amateur: ask the questions to the people who would know, and provide the answers to the readers.

    To demonstrate, allow me to excerpt a snippet from the column:

    So what's really going on? Can a strained forearm really keep a pitcher out six weeks? Is the injury perhaps more serious (which may explain why Patterson visited esteemed orthopedic surgeon James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., last week)? Is Patterson's tolerance for pain just not strong enough?

    1. Who knows? That's why the journalists are here, presumably.
    2. Who knows? That's pretty similar to what's bothering Ryan Drese, right? Why not compare notes?
    3. Who knows? But doesn't a visit to Birmingham sort of imply that? And---not to tangle HIPAA into this or anything---why not contact Andrews and gauge what kind of recovery time is typical for a strained forearm (flexor)?
    4. Who knows? Might Bowden or Robinson? They don't appear to have any problem cutting on other players' tolerance for pain, right? Why beat around the bush?

    Anyway, the underlying question presented in the column is a worthwhile one: Is Patterson worth a huge financial commitment? But it's a question with a cart before a horse; the guy won't even be arbitration-eligible until this coming offseason. The team won't get stuck with a $10 million tab, or a $5 million tab, or perhaps even a $3 million tab---at least not in the first arbitration-eligible season. (Patterson makes $450,000 this season.) Plus, if the pitcher is so talented that he could be a major part of the future, what is the point risking injury for a team playing .333 ball and going nowhere in particular.

  • DM from Nats Blog is in the midst of a fascinating four-part series of posts based on Bill James' memorable 1988 essay entitled Revolution, as well as the work of sports economists such as Andrew Zimbalist. In Part One, DM tipped off the series with this provocative insight:
    What exactly did the Lerners spend their $450 million on? . . . The bottom line is that the Lerners are paying for something that has very little to do with the success or failure of the Nats on the field.

    What they paid for was the exclusive right to the Washington, D.C. market for major league baseball. That in and of itself is valuable, regardless of what happens on the field. As Andrew Zimbalist pointed out in May the Best Team Win, Fay Vincent referred to Washington, D.C. as an "asset" even when no franchise existed in the city. The D.C. area is one of the top five media markets, with millions of residents who would be attracted to baseball and thereby attractive to advertisers and marketers who will pay the Lerners to get in front of that crowd. But it is important that the majority of the value to the Lerners does not come from the baseball played on the field, but from the exclusivity offered to them from MLB. So it's no wonder that Lerners are untroubled by the Nats current awful start, the decimated farm system, and the incompetent management. None of that matters. Getting in the exclusive club that is MLB will earn its rewards by itself. How else can one explain the existence of the Royals, Devil Rays and Pirates?

    Excuse the lengthy excerpt; the whole thing is worth a read, as is Part Two, which is now up.

  • David Thurdl has partially rebranded his sports blog; it now features the cleverly-named Nationals Institute of Health, an injury feature. Check it out. Today, David explores the bane of Cristian Guzman's existence (other than skill as a ballplayer), the SLAP tear.