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Spring Training: Game 6 Game Thread: The Washington Nationals vs Italy And Mike Piazza.

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(ed. note - "SINGLE GAME TICKETS GO ON SALE AT 9:00AM TODAY, 3/3/09!!!!" INCLUDING OPENING DAY IN DC!!")

Washington Nationals In The WBC...?

The good news about Saul Rivera, Joel Hanrahan and Adam Dunn participating in the World Baseball Classic is that it gives Nationals' fans a reason to follow the WBC alongside Spring Training and see what Washington's players can do against (what is arguably) the world's best competition...but the bad news, for anyone who watched Luis Ayala blow out his elbow in the Inaugural WBC, is that Rivera, Hanrahan and Dunn, three pretty important parts of the '09 Nationals' roster will be throwing, and in Dunn's case striki facing competitive pitches early in the Spring...

MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote yesterday, in an article entitled, "Hanrahan headed to classic", that Nationals' Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein recommended Hanrahan for his spot on the USA roster when Blue Jay's closer B.J. Ryan bowed out, and Mr. Ladson writes that it was a tough decision for the DC closer:

"But after having conversations with manager Manny Acta and pitching coach Randy St. Claire, Hanrahan decided to go for it."

Adam Dunn too made his own decision to join the southern north american entry in the tournament (as opposed to Pinch Hittin' Pete Orr's northern, north american entry) after having spoken to Mr Acta, and Dunn told Washington Post writer Chico Harlan, as quoted in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Dunn To Participate In WBC", that Acta was "ecstatic" about the idea, while Dunn said he thought he'd shown the Nationals all they needed to see of his play in the field, or in his own words, as quoted by Mr. Harlan:

"I think I've played everywhere they want me to play," Dunn said. "Hopefully. If they don't want me playing catcher or something."

(ed. note - "And Now, An Unneccesary Attack On Adam Dunn:

That's two positions that Dunn's now said he knows he won't be playing. Just the other day he told an MLB Network announcer, when asked where he thought he'd play this season, "I have no idea, I know I won’t be playing third...” C'mon, he's just recycling material in interviews? Already? What's next? When will Dunn say, "I know they don't want me to pitch?"...that gag's got whiskers on it, Dunn.")

...Manny Acta, (who was a coach with the Expos and Mets, but never managed above low-A ball before managing the Dominican entry in the Inaugural WBC), must have enjoyed his experience managing on the international stage if he's recommending all his players participate, and since he was hired by the Nationals less than a year after the first WBC, he probably understands that it's becoming a proving ground for talent on all levels of the game, before a worldwide audience, (that seems to care a lot more than US fans about winning the true world series...)

Shairon Martis, Roger Bernadina and Daniel Cabrera all declined invitations to compete in the WBC for their respetive homelands, believing it was more important to be at Spring Training...

Speaking of The WBC, Is That Mike PIazza? 

Mike Piazza? That's right, Mike Piazza and the Italian entry he's helping coach in the WBC, who'll be taking on the Nationals this afternoon in Space Coast, with John "Cool Hand" Lannan on the mound against Italy in his second start of the Spring after Lannan threw two scoreless in the opener against the Astros last Wednesday. 

Piazza talked to New York Times' writer Joshua Robinson about his work with the Italian team for an article this weekend entitled, "In Italy's Dugout, Piazza Embraces A New Role", in which the Italian roster was described by Mr. Robinson as, "A work in progress at their best and hapless at their worst," but what matters, according to Mr. Piazza, is that, "We'll have the best food of anyone at the classic." (ed. note - "Good one, Piazza!")

Day One Of The Kasten Regime...

My first question here is whether Nationals' Team President Stan Kasten taking over as the interim GM role eliminates Asst. GM Mike Rizzo from contention for the General Manager's job?...since the "speculation" last week had been that Rizzo could immediately take over as interim general manager should a replacement become necessary, but Mr. Kasten warns against just such speculation when asked by MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in Mr. Ladson's, "Q&A with Stan Kasten", how the search for a new GM in DC compared to that which Mr. Kasten conducted during his tenure as the Braves' President, with Mr. Kasten replying:

"It was a very different set of circumstances then. But that process took several months. I can tell you there was much speculation then and much criticism of me for taking as long as I took. There were dozens and dozens of names written during that time. None of them turned out to be accurate, and that's why I caution writers and readers to be wary of anything they hear until they have some news to report."

Mr. Kasten also mentioned something that seemed aimed at pleasing a certain segment of the DC Faithful who are advocating a new age of player analysis when he mentioned the existence, in the Nationals' front office, of what he refers to in Mr. Ladson's article as DC's, "Mod Squad", which he describes as, "...the little guys who work diligently on sabermetrics, expenses, waivers, and rules," who are working along with Dana Brown, Mike Rizzo, and Bob Boone to assure that the Nationals, in Mr. Kasten's choice of metaphor, "Don't miss a beat."

But the biggest question to come out of the Q&A, in my opinion, has to do with Mr. Kasten's assertion that he's not only involved in the negotiations on a long term deal with Ryan Zimmerman, but, "As far as trades go," Mr. Ladson's quotes Mr. Kasten saying, "...things like that - I myself have talked trades with teams yesterday?"

Who did Stan Kasten talk to? Who wants to trade with the Washington Nationals?

?'s For The DC Faithful...

Would the Nationals just have given Mike Rizzo the interim title if he was destined to take over as GM?

Why do the Nationals, and Mr. Kasten in particular today keep warning readers and writers about reports that make their way into print? Is the "speculation" having some unintended (or intended) effect?

Is it wrong to call the statisticians or folks "working diligently on sabermetrics", "little guys"

Do you want to see the new Screech Dance? (ed. note - Uh? Thanks, uh, for that, NationalsPride.com?")

(ed. note - "Looks like the Nationals v Italy game will not be broadcast on XM...if anyone's following on MLB.com or GameDay Audio...box scores?...feel free to check in with reports...")