Searching around for any Nationals' news, I came upon two stories, one new, and one more than a month or so old that I somehow just discovered. The new news in a moment, but first...
MLB.com has an interview with Washington Nationals' Manager Manny Acta from early December 2007, in which Mr. Acta is asked about the State of The Nationals heading into the '08 campaign...
Manny Acta interview on mlb.com from 12/4/07:
Summary of MLB.com's interview with Washington Nationals Manager Manny Acta:
Did Acta push for the Nationals to Acquire Lastings Milledge because of their shared history?
Acquiring Milledge, according to Mr. Acta, was mainly Nationals GM Jim Bowden's move, he had been following Milledge since high school.(1) Acta knows Milledge from the time they spent together as coach and player in New York, and Mr. Acta was impressed with how Milledge handled himself.
(1) Nationals GM Jim Bowden corroborated this assessment of the Milledge acquisition in a recent interview with MLB.com's Washington Nationals' writer Bill Ladson entitled, "Q&A with Jim Bowden" in which Mr. Bowden states, in reaction to criticism of Milledge's character and his acquisition:
"I was surprised by Lastings Milledge because I have
known him since high school. But the one thing I have
learned in this game: In this day and age with media and
the Internet, when you make mistakes in your life, they are
magnified. Everybody reads about the mistakes a lot of
times and then people begin to say this is a troubled
person. We read where Lastings made a mistake when he
was 17 years old and we read after he hit a home run, he
was high fiving fans at Shea Stadium. [The critics read] that
and they came to [negative] conclusions based on two
incidents in his life. Most of the people who say this have
never sat down with Lastings. They never met his dad,
mom and friends."
Manny Acta on Outfield:
The Nationals have depth now, with acquisitions, there are four outfielders, Wily Mo Pena, Lastings Milledge, Austin Kearns and Elijah Dukes, who can play different positions.
Acta on Starting Pitching:
Different, in a good way, to not have thirty-seven pitchers in camp, like last season, with fourteen guys battling for five starting spots.
Current starters, according to Manny Acta:
Shawn Hill, John Patterson, Jason Bergmann, Matt Chico, and the recently re-upped Tim Redding. Knowing this will, going into Spring Training at least, be the starting rotation, is progress, according to Mr. Acta.
On the New Ballpark...
Good for hitters, a lot of guys happy to be moving out of RFK. New stadium will attract free agents, who will want to play in a new stadium, because, "Who wouldn't?"
Jesus Flores: Is he ready to be everyday guy?
Manager Manny Acta says the Nationals are still deciding whether to sign free agent catcher and let Flores develop, or go with Flores and Paul Lo Duca.
Improvements to the Nationals for '08?
Balanced lineup, one or two left-handed bats, bench bat, bringing in "character guys", experienced guys to help young players.
How is Nick Johnson?:
Doing better since steel rod taken out of leg. No set date, but progress is evident.
And now for the new news...
6'11'', 230 lbs. The Tallest Pitcher In MLB History. The Tallest Pitcher in Major League Baseball To Ever Hit A Home Run. (And off of Roger Clemens no less). 5 seasons in the Majors with a (20-15) record and a 3.74 overall ERA for the Chicago White Sox, Montreal Expos and Washington Nationals.
In '06, (4-5) with a 3.35 ERA in 93.0 IP, over which he collected 86 K's while walking 36 and giving up 13 HR's. Led the Majors with 88.0 IP in '07. (8-4) last season while striking out 71, walking 21, 7 HR's allowed, 37 earned runs against. The price tag for the efforts of the right arm of Nationals' reliever last season...$455,000...in '06...$335,000...
So Jon Rauch is now going into arbitration with the Nationals, and the twenty-eight year old reliever is looking for a significant bump up to $1.4 Million per, while the Nationals are offering $1.1 million for the quickly-approaching '08 season.
$300,000? How does one determine whether a pitcher is worth $300,000 dollars one way or the other? Doesn't $1.25 Million dollars sound nice? Do the Nationals and Rauch really have to bring an arbitrator into this, and take part in a process in which they are forced to present an argument against the sum Rauch is seeking by exposing what they see as the pitcher's flaws? Even if the Nationals, Rauch and an arbitrator are the only ones to hear it, this process can't be any fun...
What if this process makes Jon Rauch angry? Something tells me the DC area won't like Jon Rauch when he's angry. Why not just give the Tallest Pitcher in MLB History what he wants and solidify the bullpen for at least one more season with Luis Ayala, Rauch and Chad Cordero closing out the close ones?
*LInks and Links and*
MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Q&A with Jim Bowden" at washington.nationals.mlb.com:
MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Rauch, Lopez not far apart from Nats" at washington.nationals.mlb.com:
An AP article located at the examiner.com article, "Nationals trade arbitration figures with Rauch, Lopez":
Washington Times' writer Mark Zuckerman's article, "Two Nats Near Arbitration", at washingtontimes.com:
Jon Rauch's career stats at baseball-reference.com: