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See ya, Yannigans

A "Yannigan" is basically a "scrub," though the former is an older and more ethnic-sounding term. I'd say there's a high correlation between older and more ethnic-sounding terms, and such is the case here. But, at the end of the say, a Yannigan is a scrub and a scrub is a Yannigan.

The Nationals bid farewell to a whole host of Yannigans earlier today, though it's a fair observation to note more than three-quarters of the big league camp survived the carnage. Here are the first cuts:

The Washington Nationals today reassigned infielder Tony Blanco, infielder Melvin Dorta, outfielder Wayne Lydon, first baseman Jorge Toca, outfielder George Lombard, right-handed pitcher Felix Diaz, right-handed pitcher Anastacio Martinez, right-handed pitcher Eduardo Valdez, left-handed pitcher Luis Martinez and left-handed pitcher Bill White to minor-league camp. The Nationals also optioned outfielder Frank Diaz to Columbus of the Triple-A International League and left-handed pitcher Mike Hinckley to Harrisburg of the Double-A Eastern League. The club also unconditionally released infielder Tony Womack. Nationals Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcements.

[Insert obligatory "That's a lot of announcements!!!" crack . . . ]

Anyway, there's a post available somewhere on this site's "Search" feature evaluating many of these guys, so I'll forgo the pseudo-obits for most of these guys. Given the needs of the big league team, most of these guys should have set out to be pitchers, and most of the pitchers should have set out to be shortstops.

Among the headliners, Hinckley's name stands out, though not really in a surprising sense. Recently, I made a rather fatuous case for Hinckley to break camp as the fifth starter. The suggestion was in jest and mainly to drive home the point that this team's rotation is a ridiculous crapshoot. Hinckley's demotion is no shock to anyone except, according to this Nats.com article, for Hinckley himself. While that reaction is certainly understandable, the reality at the moment is that Hinckley is a notable name in the same sense that the "Weakest Link" lady is a notable personality; they're both notable from a previous era. Hinckley's relevance requires renewal, you might say. Given his age, handedness, and potential for opportunity, I'd say the prospect isn't entirely foreclosed. Unfortunately, I'd also suspect the opportunity might never mature, as Hinckley already has an injury history, and such a problem tends not to accrue to the pitcher's benefit. As Bill James once said in a comment about ex-Texas hurler Roger Pavlik, but for injuries how many of these guys would be dropping bread crumbs to Cooperstown, for all we know? The point, as we see, is that we never know.

Then there is Tony Womack. Two seasons ago, at my old blog, I stated a prolonged case for one of my favorite type of player: the "Ryan Freel-type." As a refresher, a Ryan Freel-type is identifiable by his mobility and extreme versatility, which usually work hand-in-hand. The player is agile enough to handle a utility role on the infield, including at least one of the middle infield positions, as well as an adept outfield corner or a passable center. In other words, a Ryan Freel-type is valuable because he is capable of satisfying multiple roster needs, an important consideration in this age of expanding pitching staffs. He is a second infield reserve and a fifth outfielder, wrapped in a single package.

There are limits on a Ryan Freel-type's value, of course. It helps if the guy is actually a decent player in the first place. Second, it's advisable that the team actually has a need for the guy, especially in terms of bridging the gap in outfield depth. A Freel-type, such as the genuine article or Chone Figgins, would have helped the '05 Nats immensely for many reasons, not that least of which because the Nats suffered systematic roster breakdowns that could have been ameliorated by shuffling the Freel-type from second to third to an outfield spot. It's difficult to find a manager willing to commit to such a varied Freel-type role, perhaps with good reason. (Perhaps the same reason why managers try to give their relievers "defined roles.") But a Freel-type could have aided at any and all of those positions; he might not have (and probably wouldn't have) made a difference in an ultimate, postseason-or-not sense, but his presence would offered relief to some of the team's many lineup ailments that season.

Back to the present, we return to the two Freel-type tenets: skill and need. Neither seemed present in Womack's case. He's a 37 year-old speed guy working on one good season in the past . . . well, not to put too fine a point on it, but . . . ever. To be more charitable and less dogmatic about it, I guess you could say 1999 was a pretty good campaign, given the speed stats, and 2002 was passable. Other than that, he doesn't get on base, he doesn't hit for average (outside of 2004), and he hasn't swiped even 30 bases in a season since 2000.

None of those facts likely was completely dispositive for Womack's prospects of making the team, I suppose, considering he was auditioning for a bench role. But Womack's current value is as a Freel-type (with the ability to play short, second, and the outfield) and, unless the Nats were to consider him strictly for the utility infielder spot, there didn't seem to be an opportunity for him to contribute in ways that he can contribute. Simply stated, there are too many outfield options already on hand to create the need for a Freel-type. (And Ronnie Belliard's presence cuts into the infield opportunities.)

I could perhaps see Womack catching on somewhere else, for good or ill. He's versatile and, by all accounts, still fast. Maybe he lucks into a decent average and gets a little playing time. Or maybe he just siphons playing time from a better qualified player, simply because he's a proven veteran with some quicks---a perceived igniter.

Well, whatever happens, it won't be with the Nats. He's a Yannigan. And, given the state of this team, that's not exactly a compliment.

* * * *

Presumably, these moves are all part of "The Plan." It's all a seamless program, being run step-by-step, right? I kid.

Anyway, I was recently wondering where and when the term "The Plan" originated in its proper form, and darn it if Banks of the Anacostia wasn't already on the beat:

Regardless of who can take credit for being the first to substitute a capital P, "The Plan ©®<sup>TM</sup>" had entered the vernacular of most Nats bloggers on an almost daily basis well before Christmas '06. At around the same time, the battle lines were drawn between the people who were "pro-planners" and those who were "pro-planners, but..." (inaccurately identified as "anti-planners").

Good research, and good point.

At any rate, I'd strongly urge you to read the entire post, if you haven't done so already. It's a fascinating read and contains some interesting propositions on how to read the plan's progress. Sorry, I meant "The Plan." Better.

* * * *

NFA notes that the Nats hired a replacement for deposed director of player development Andy Dunn. It's former Vermont and Savannah manager Bobby Williams---who is the son of former Orlando Magic general manager Pat Williams, who is an interesting guy.

Dunn's resignation inspired a good bit of concern and intrigue (see, e.g., Nats Triple Play), and I'm not sure if that story has been told in its entirety. (If it has been, I've missed it. The last I saw was that most of Dunn's subordinates were fired.) Recently, former big league outfielder Darryl Hamilton, currently an employee in the Commissioner's Office, interviewed for the position but subsequently withdrew from consideration, according to a Nats.com article.

I'm not exactly in touch with the Nats' minor league doings, obviously, and I don't devote much time pondering them. However, it's long seemed to me that there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen. I'm not talking about scouts; blessedly, the Nats are getting back up to industry speed in that regard. I'm talking executive-level decisionmakers and evaluators. There's Dana Brown and Mike Rizzo and Bob Boone and Jim Bowden and now this Williams gentleman. They all have discrete roles, I'd imagine, and I'd also suspect the Nats, of all teams, do not have an incredible overabundance of these folks. But it sort of seems like they have enough. What value will Williams add that wasn't there yesterday?

I'm sure there's an easy answer to the question, but I thought I'd pose it anyway.