Quest for Lead-off Hitter Proves Difficult, Nats turn to Fielder

The first two spots in the batting order for the Washington Nationals combined for a line of .224/.284/.339. This was the biggest offensive problem for the Nationals in 2011 and why they finished in the bottom half of the league in runs per game. The Nationals need to add offense, and more specifically they need to add offense at the top of the order.

The problem with this is that in order to do that the Nationals will either have to sign Jose Reyes to a long contract and hope he can stay healthy or make a trade. With Terry Ryan now the GM of the Twins it is unlikely that Denard Span is still available, and BJ Upton doesn’t have the on base percentage of a classical lead-off hitter.

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No One Wants to be JJ Redick

Yesterday baseball announced its new CBA, and the one complaint people had were with the new draft rules. It isn’t a hard slotting system, but it is as hard as a soft slotting system can be. If teams go over 5% of their signing bonus pool then they aren’t just taxed 100% of the amount they are over by but they also lose future draft picks. That is a crippling punishment. One of the largest complaints was that this was going to make more two sport athletes coming out of high school go to college to play the other sport.

I am not so sure this is accurate. Baseball is still the only major sport that an athlete can play right out of high school. They won’t be getting $2 to $3 million now as a third or fourth round pick but they will still be getting a significant amount of money. Money that they don’t get paid to go to college to play basketball or football. The disadvantage that college baseball has is only 25% of the roster is allowed to be on scholarship. Of course if a kid is a third or fourth round pick out of high school they are very likely to be one of those 25% and if they aren’t they can go on a football or basketball scholarship and play baseball.

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This Changes Things

This article by Mike Fast might be the most important article written about baseball in a long time. I have always felt that one of the things sabrmetrics does best is to confirm common sense. It should be obvious to anyone that a slower hit ball is easier to field. That isn’t the point that is important though. The important issue is that pitchers have control over how hard a ball is hit. In some ways I feel that a person that has watched baseball a lot should be able to pick this up, but it is also something that can be dismissed.

A couple years ago I got into a debate with someone and they kept sighting BABIP and GB%. I don’t even remember if this is for a pitcher or a hitter but I told them that the quality of the hit had to be known before those numbers proved his point. Now that we can track the speed of balls in play a lot of stats are going to be more useful. Knowing that pitchers do have control over how hard a ball is hit is going to change the way a lot of people think about baseball. 

I could go on longer, but what I have to say isn’t important. Just read the article.

What all Baseball Trips Should Be

By the time I landed at Dulles International Airport I was beyond being ready for bed. My head felt like it had been crushed twice over by the two landings I endured and the inside pressure from my sinuses. I am not allergic to anything, but desert dust caused a rather unpleasant reaction in my sinuses. Over the next couple days my discomfort gave way to full on disease. I called it a cold but when my wife asked my symptoms and I listed the typical running nose and coughing along with blurry vision and joint pain she mentioned it might be more than a cold. It was true and my misery kept me from doing much blogging last week, and what I did do wasn’t for this blog.

I feel bad leaving this blog neglected. Normally when I land from a baseball trip the first thing I want to do is write about it, but mucus instead of thoughts were swimming around in my brain after landing from this trip. Sometimes the worst part of travel is the travelling.

This trip was a little different as it wasn’t to see a major league stadium, but instead to watch the future of baseball. Top prospects from all 30 clubs play in the AFL and we saw every team at least once. We saw some teams two or three times and got more than acquainted with their star players. It is an interesting baseball age we are in. Many of the players I saw were already known to me. I didn’t have to look up information on them and names like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are more well known to me than to some that were on a 25 man roster all last season.

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Hoping for the Safe Return of Wilson Ramos

It is moments like this when I don’t know what to say I start to wonder why I have to say anything at all. I am overwhelmed by the immense fact that I am powerless. I can’t get on a jet and fly down to Venezuela and help look for Ramos, and even if I could I don’t exactly posses a skill set that would be good for much of anything other than getting in the way. I want them to find Ramos and I want whoever did it to pay. Those are the only things I am certain of right now.

My mind continues to play dirty tricks on me. I remember another incident not too long ago in DC sports history when some greedy assholes wanted money and they ended up killing Sean Taylor. I still remember everything about where I was and what I was doing when it happened. I remember listening to Collin Cowherd for some reason and when he blatantly said Sean Taylor deserved to die I punted the radio across the room and haven’t listened to Cowherd since.

98% of victims in cases like this are returned safely and most of the time the kidnapping is only for money. I can sympathize in some ways with people that don’t have money. Living in Northern Virginia I am surrounded by people that have more money than me, but I never have the feeling that they owe it to me because they are from the same place as me. Even if that is how the kidnappers feel and why they took Ramos it is absurd. Every ballplayer has some sort of charity and some of them are to give money back to their homeland, but these are not logical people we are dealing with.

The only logic they have is Ramos has money and they want it. Perhaps they are like the people that robbed Sean Taylor and believe because they are from the same community Ramos owes them the money. I really can’t say what is going on in these men’s minds. All I know is I want to hear about a rescue operation in which all of Ramos’ kidnappers are disposed of and Ramos is brought back safely.

Writing out of emotion is never a good idea, and right now I am angry and frightened for the safety of Ramos. I am going to end this now before I say anything that gets me in trouble. I want to say what I would do to the people that took Ramos and if you know me at all you can imagine that it wouldn’t be pleasant. I however can’t do anything I want, and I am not even sure if I can write a coherent thought right now. I suggest we all do the same and hope and pray for the safe return of Wilson Ramos and that those that took him are brought to justice.

Grocery Shopping and Free Agency

Need can drive people to behave in strange manners. The personality disorders I encounter in the grocery store are much like those we witness as baseball free agency heats up. From the moment I enter the grocery store I am surrounded. In front of me is a constant stream of people in a hurry to get home. Too much in a rush to slow down for a second and let me or my cart enter, and to my left are children abandoned by their parents. Told to wait and stay, but they never listen. They roam the aisles of the store like a pack of wild dogs laughing and howling with mischievous glee.

No matter how hard we try we cannot gain entry into the minds of baseball GMs. They hold onto secrets like those people exiting the store hold onto space. Every now and then there will be a leak or a controlled leak, and the howling hoards of the media will pick up on any scrap and toss it to the fans, “Heard this: several GMs have mentioned the name Edwin Jackson as an alternative to pitching.” Rumors like this do nothing but leave us, the fans, befuddled and confused.

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Living in a Cynical World Gets to us All

Saturday night I decided to do something I don’t normally do and haven’t for many years. I watched boxing. I have always been interested in boxing and find the combination of skill, endurance, speed, and strength used in the sweet science enticing to watch. When a boxing match is at its best it is as much a mental battle as it is a physical battle. Punches followed by counter punches as the fighters not only try and outwork but the out think each other as well, but boxing can be brutal.

Fighters that have grabbed attention don’t do it by having 12 round decisions. No matter how well fought a 12 round fight is it lacks that one big moment that a knockout can provide. This past Saturday I watched a fight between a young up and coming junior welterweight Pier-Olivier Cote and Jorge Luis Teron. It did not last long as Teron was no physical match for Cote.

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