Posts Tagged ‘Jake Peavy’

Stammen Buries The Hatchets

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Craig Stammen, just recalled from the Nats Syracuse Triple-A farm club, threw seven innings of brilliant baseball and super sub Alberto Gonzalez went 4-4 as the skidding Nats ended their five game losing streak with a 7-2 win in Atlanta. Stammen finally mastered what had been bothering him in successive starts prior to his demotion — he kept the ball down in the zone and threw strikes, keeping the Bravos hitters off balance. Stammen threw 99 pitches, 57 of them for strikes, before giving way to Sean Burnett in the 8th inning. “Craig was just outstanding,” skipper Jim Riggleman said after the win. And the skipper praised Alberto Gonzalez, who looked rusty at the plate on Monday. “He’s a great fielder,” Riggleman said, “and he can hit a little too.” This marked the second successive start for Gonzalez, who has done some spot pinch hitting. But Riggleman was uncertain whether the Gonzalez start was the beginning of a new trend. “He’s kind of the fourth guy among four guys, so it’s tough for him to get playing time,” Riggleman said.

In breaking loose for seven runs, the Nats end a despairing streak of one, two and three run games that saw them sink further into last place in the NL East. Relief seems to be in sight: Nyjer Morgan’s bat is finally heating up (he was 2-5 on Tuesday), Josh Willingham put one into the seats at Turner Field (his 14th), Ryan Zimmerman plated two RBIs — and then there was Alberto Gonzalez, whose 4-4 stint brought his BA to .292: oh, and he can field a little bit too. To cap it all off, Roger Bernadina is starting to look like a keeper (slapping balls to left field) and Tyler Clippard pitched a nifty clean 9th. The news gets even better from there. The Nats went errorless in nine innings, which must be some kind of record.

Today I Settle All Family Business, So Don’t Tell Me You’re Innocent: If you google “The Kid,” you get sites for a Charlie Chaplan movie, news that Angelina Jolie’s little girl wants to be a boy (“she likes to wear boy’s everything,” Angelina poofed), and a reach on Ted Williams who, it seems, was called “the kid” until someone thought of something better — like “The Splendid Splinter.” (Which reminds me: wasn’t Gaylord Perry once referred to as “The Splendid Spitter?” No? Okay, maybe not). But nowhere on the internet does anyone talk about our Anacostia Nine who, it is reported, are calling Stephen Strasburg “the kid” in the privacy of the Nats’ clubhouse. We’re betting the name will stick, confirming Angelina’s little pout about “Shiloh,” who “thinks she’s one of the brothers.”

Stephen’s nickname confirms that he too (and for sure) is now one of the Nats brothers (that’s what being given a nickname means) — albeit without the apparent transgender issues of Shiloh Vomit Pitt. And it’s a good thing. Strasburg took the heat after his Monday outing, as Braves fans everywhere (there aren’t as many as there once were for “America’s Team“) laid into “the kid” for giving up five runs (er, three earned) in the 7th inning of Monday night. Even some Nats fans were disappointed. Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God — what happened? So here’s the deal: we here at CFG have taken a poll of our staff (final vote? 3-0) and determined that we would take, any day, an outing from any pitcher on our staff who could throw 6.1 (!), give up three earned runs (!), and strike out seven. You never know, if we have outings like that every game, we could actually win the division. Yeah, there’s no question about it, Monday’s performance shows that we need to send “the kid” to the minors to “straighten out his stuff” and “build his self confidence.”

Say It Ain’t So Mike: The Nats are apparently “entertaining offers” . . . no, that’s not the right phrase. Damn. Let’s start over. The Nats are “actively considering” … no, that’s not right either. Okay. Here it is. The Nats are talking to at least two teams about a trade that would involve Nats first sacker and potential All Star Adam Dunn, the heart and soul of your Washington Nationals (if you don’t count Ryan Zimmerman, Pudge Rodriguez, Stephen Strasburg, Ian Desmond, Josh Willingham, Livan Hernandez . . .). The report must be true: MLB Trade Rumors has it by way of Ken Rosenthal, who has it from the Chicago Sun Times, who has it from the White Sox.

The Angels are already interested, Rosenthal says, and Joe Cowley of the Greatest Newspaper in the Greatest City in America (it’s ahead of the Trib, dontchaknow), says that the Nats and Pale Hose are exchanging names, though the Sox don’t have much to give in the way of pitching prospects — they were all traded to the Little Monks from San Diego for Jumpin’ Jake Peavy. No one likes this kind of talk, least of all Adam Dunn, who doesn’t want to be a DH and likes it just fine here in D.C.  We like him here too, Mike — as he is headed for another season of 40 home runs (oops, he had only 39 last year) and is one of the surprises, perhaps the surprise on the team: unlike the other nine we slap together to play the Baltimore Pathetics, he’s fielding his position like a pro. And who would have guessed that? Then too, don’t we have enough pitching prospects? I know, let’s try Danny Cabrera. In fact, the only positive thing we could really gain from such a trade is an end to that obnoxious public address announcer and his “now batting for your Washington Nationals …. Adaaaam Dunnnnnn.” Hey, on second thought . . .

Strasburg Getting Better, Nats Not

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Stan Kasten was pretty adamant in talking about Stephen Strasburg on Sunday, telling Nats beat report Bill Ladson that, as good as Stephen Strasburg is now, he’ll get even better. That’s good news for Nats fans, because the team itself seems to be getting worse. On Sunday, the Nationals lost their fourth in a row and their third in a row to the league worst Baltimore Orioles, 4-3. It was the third consecutive game in which the Nationals dropped a contest in which they led, and should have won. The team is now ten games under .500 — and sinking fast. But for skipper Jim Riggleman, at least, the glass is (as he is fond of repeating, and repeating) half full: “I like the fact that we scored runs early,” Riggleman said. “We had a chance to win the ballgame, and we didn’t get blown out. It’s a small consolation. We had runners out there to be driven in. We got some of them in. We are going to have to get more in. We have to get [good] pitching performances. There are a lot of good things to draw from.” We love Jim, really we do. But what glass is he talking about? Because the one that is half empty is filled with errors.

Kasten’s comments were fairly predictable, while signaling that the Nats will continue the Kasten-Rizzo philosophy of focusing on pitching — and building from within: “His [Strasburg’s] role as a symbol is very important,” Kasten told Ladson. “When we came in four years ago, we talked about wanting to build through scouting/development with an emphasis on pitching. Continuing with the fulfillment of that commitment, I think it’s very important that fans could see that we are close to turning the corner. We are close to having a really terrific, good, stable young rotation as some of our guys come up from the Minor Leagues and come back from rehab. But clearly the symbol of that movement is Stephen.”

Kasten could not have been more explicit; rather than depending on a big free agent signing, or making a blockbuster trade, the Nats will sink or swim with their young arms, and likely await the arrival (and return) of Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, Jason Marquis and Chien-Ming Wang. Nats fans would be pleased if any of those four (but particularly Marquis and Wang) returned to form — filling in a now shaky rotation that is having trouble pitching into the seventh inning. Sadly, as the Nats triumverate of Kasten, Rizzo and Riggleman would undoubtedly agree, if Desmond, Kennedy, Guzman and Gonzalez could field as well as Strasburg pitches, the Nats would have emerged from Baltimore as winners, instead of also-rans.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The CFG Board of Directors (here they are, remember?) has directed our editorial staff to conduct a reset of some earlier predictions. We have refused. While the “Amazins” are contending for the division title, we stand by our claim: the Nats will finish ahead of the Apples in the NL Least. There’s a long way to go. And this we say — while everyone is focusing on “The Rise of Ike Davis” and the expertise of some guy named Pelfrey (oh, and R.A. Dickey, whoever that is), we know the truth. The truth is that the key to the New York Metropolitans is Jose Reyes. Always has been, always will be. Without him, they’re lost . . .

But in at least another instance we are inclined to offer a “redo” on our too outspoken view that the Pale Hose, which was sinking like a rock when we (arrogantly, and filled with confidence) wrote that the South Siders would be sellers and would eventually be forced to shop Jake Peavy. The day after we wrote that, the White Sox launched a breathtaking winning streak, with Peavy in the lead. They have now recouped their season and their team and the confidence of their manager. Their win streak ended at 11 yesterday, in a loss to the North Side Drama Queens. Our bet now is that, barring the resurrection of Joe DiMaggio (and his agreement on a trade to the City of Big Shoulders), Jumpin’ Jake ain’t goin anywhere . . .

And we note with interest that in spite of Stanley’s talk of focusing on development and arms in the minors, the Nats are scouting D-Backs ace Dan Haren. Here’s our question: what’s to scout? Long into the night (and we’re deadly serious), we dream of that delivery, the same delivery every single time, like the mechanism of a finely tuned watch: head down, right leg up (then, the hesitation), the head snaps to the plate, the glove is thrown out (into the face of the batter) and the arm coming perfectly over the top. It’s a thing of beauty. I swear. It’s enough to send you back to church. Go get ’em Stan, go get ’em Mike . . .

Peavy Swats Nats

Sunday, June 20th, 2010



There is a pattern here: when the Nats get hitting, they can’t seem to get pitching; and when they get pitching, their bats go silent. That pattern seemed particularly pertinent on Saturday, as the Nats frustrations with the lumber reached epic proportions — or perhaps it was the pitching of Chicago righty Jake Peavy. South Side Jake held Nats’ bats to just three hits, leading our home town nine to their fifth straight loss in a 1-0 skunking at Nationals Park. Peavy was absolutely masterful, better than he’s been since coming to Chicago in last year’s trade for young pitchers and the best he’s been for several years. Peavy threw 107 pitches, 71 for strikes. The closest the Nats came to scoring was in the 1st and the 9th, but the Nats left a runner stranded at second both times, squandering an opportunity to score.

The Nats’ nominee for futility infielder went to Ryan Zimmerman, who struck out four times against the Big Shoulder, who pitched his first complete game of the season. “Today I don’t know if Peavy beat me. He practically kicked my ass. But it’s going to happen,” Zimmerman said after the game. The Nats are now officially in a team slump: their internet site notes that the team has scored only 11 runs in the last five games — and struck out 51 times. Only Adam Dunn seems to be hitting the ball squarely. But it’s hard to blame the Nats for Saturday’s loss: Peavy looked like the Cy Young contender he was in San Diego. “It was pretty fun,” Peavy said. The White Sox are on a five game winning streak, and are 7-1 over their last eight games. They are only one game under .500 — putting them within striking distance of the division leading Minnesota Twins.

Full Metal Jacket: A reader in Bowie (in Maryland, as I recall) writes that our talk of trading for a second pitcher is “a fantasy indulgence,” and adds that “no one in their right mind would trade Dan Haren or Cliff Lee for what you’ve got in your farm system. If they did, they’d be shot.” He finishes with this: “That’s not true for Kevin Millwood. Why wasn’t he on your list?” Well, now that you mention it, Millwood is on our list. And we’re betting that the O’s would take some prospects — as they face a top-to-bottom house cleaning either before the July 31 trade deadline, or in the off-season. Millwood might be a good addition: he won his first game yesterday in San Diego and remains a hard thrower. But he’s not the future . . .

And we would add the intriguing Jason Hammel to our list — particularly after Troy Tulowitzki’s injury this week. Tulo went down with a broken wrist and will be gone a full 60 days . . . or more. The Rockies will move Clint Barmes to shortstop and work rookie Chris Nelson in at second. The Rockies smile and shrugg and feign shock when reporters wonder whether a Barmes-Nelson duo will work. It’s a show: Barmes can’t hit and Nelson is untested.  Tulowitzki is damn near irreplacable, true, but that doesn’t mean you have to sub for him with a once-upon-a-time veteran and a who-knows rookie. Particularly when you’re contending in the NL West — and looking up the skirts of the Friars, Trolleys and McCoveys. The Rockies could use Cristian Guzman and perhaps a young starter, or both.

Buying And Selling

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

While Nats bloggers have been going back-and forth about whether the team needs another bat or another arm, Mike Rizzo seems to have made up his mind. They need both. Yeah, okay — that’s the right answer. But if Rizzo was pressed (and trade bait was short), what do you think he’d really want? Given John Lannan’s continued troubles and the uncertainty surrounding the return of any number of potential starters, the answer should be obvious: not only can you can always play Roger Bernadina in right field, but you absolutely need to; we’re never going to find out whether this kid can hit unless we put him in the line-up every day. Which means that the Nats should be looking for a pitcher to supplement their front (and only) two hurlers — Stephen Strasburg and Livan Hernandez. Let’s be honest. You never know what you’re going to get with Atilano and Martin, Olsen is just too tweaky too often to be counted as a stalwart, pitching messiah Jordan Zimmermann is a ways away from rehabbing and Ross Detwiler is still an unknown. That leaves Chien-Ming Wang (who won’t be here until July) and Jason Marquis — who has yet to show the team anything. So . . .

So who’s out there?

There’s Cliff Lee, who will be available once the cratering Navigators figure out that doling out $91 million in salaries for a last place team isn’t going to cut it. Lee is in the last months of a four year deal, and the Nats would have to look to sign him longer term, but our guess is that the Mariners will happily take good prospects for him — including Triple-A pitchers and Double-A position players that have a future. The Nats have either, and both. In exchange, the Nats would get a veteran fastball pitcher who could mentor Strasburg and an absolutely lights out number two starter (number one anywhere else), who can rack up some badly needed wins. The folks in Seattle say they won’t part with Lee without getting a big time power hitter in return, but that sounds like wishful thinking. Lee isn’t going to stay in Seattle after this year, especially to anchor what promises to be a development team of young prospects and remaining big contracts. It’s an ugly but pertinent truth: the Mariners will take prospects — or they can keep Lee and try to catch the fast disappearing Belinskys, White Elephants and Whatchamacallits. They’ll make the trade — maybe Mike will too.

Then there’s Roy Oswalt, but his contract is a nightmare: just over $9 million over the rest of this season, $16 million in 2011, and $16 million in 2012 with a club option buyout of $2 million. The Nats say they have money to up their salary ceiling, but Oswalt’s price might be a little high — particularly if (as expected), the Nats would have to pick up most if not all of the salary and throw in prospects. Bottom line: he won’t be cheap. But then, there’s always Jake Peavy. Don’t laugh: the former Friar has struggled with the Pale Hose and it appears he’s losing patience with wheeling-and-dealing Kenny Williams and the perpetually enraged Ozzie the G. He recently told a reporter that he would rather be traded than go through a rebuilding process in Chicago. Translation? “Get me the hell out of here.”

It’s hard to blame him: Peavy was a part of a rebuilding process in San Diego — and the team only started to rebuild when he left. Then too, the ChiSox probably look at the Peavy trade with some remorse; they dealt prospects to San Diego, one of whom (Clayton Richard) has turned into a front line pitcher — 4-3, 2.71 ERA. That’s a damn sight better than Peavy (5-5, 5.62 ERA). Ugh. The White Sox might try the same magic, trading Peavy for pitching prospects in the hopes of striking gold. The Nats could help. Of course, Peavy sports a huge contract ($52 million, three years), a teensy bit bigger than Oswalt’s which (for paperclip counter Mark Lerner) is always a problem. But in the end (and if you carefully weigh this out), the Nats could find a rental (like Lee) for some front line prospects or they could take the longer view (which is probably what Rizzo wants) and pony up some prospects and some cash. In either case, while none of these pitchers are going to come cheap, bringing any one of them aboard right now (or in the very near future) will probably mean the difference between a club that will continue its slow-but-certain downward spiral and one that might be able to contend — and fill the seats.

Nats Bats Silent: Lannan Falls

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Hopes for a ninth straight win were dashed by Tommy Hanson and the Atlanta Braves on Monday night, as the Chops prevailed over the Washington Nationals, 8-1. The normally effective John Lannan struggled with the strike zone early and left the game in the fourth after giving up five runs. Lannan’s lack of command was unusual for the lefty who, even on his off days, regularly goes beyond the fifth. Matching Lannan’s ineffectiveness was Braves’ phenom, Tommy Hanson, who gave up a single run in nearly seven innings pitched. Hanson showed why the Braves, who need to surge in the NL East to catch the Phillies, have so much confidence in him. Hanson fanned nine in his nearly seven innings of work, while giving up seven hits. Hanson dampened the Nats’ red hot bats: while the Anacostia nine threatened to undo Hanson’s early innings handiwork — particularly in the first inning — the team could never put together a real threat. “That’s the most fun I’ve had since I’ve been up here,” Hanson said after the game.

tommy-hanson_222954c

The highly touted Hanson appears to be everything the Braves hoped he would be: the number one prospect in the Braves’ system going into 2009 Hanson (once rumored to be headed to San Diego as a package for Jake Peavy), was called up to the big club after the legendary Tom Glavine was released. Hanson was not always a phenom: he was drafted by the Braves in the 22nd round of the 2005 draft — pick number 677 overall. Nor was Hanson necessarily always slated as a starter. In 2006 and 2007, Hanson was used often as a reliever and, while he compiled impressive numbers, there was no guarantee that he was on the fast track to the majors. In 2006, Hanson pitched for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (a Braves single-A affiliate), compiling a 3-3 record with a 4.20 ERA. Even so, many in the Braves’ organization knew that Hanson could be something special. Hanson was fast-tracked out of Myrtle Beach in 2008 and began the 2009 season in triple-A Gwinnett. At the age of 22, Hanson is 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA.

“Rebuilding” vs. “Building”

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

While the Nats were in the midst of getting roughed up in Pittsburgh (5-4 on Friday, 11-6 tonight), interim GM Mike Rizzo was joining the swarm of the none-too-subtle. Though Rizzo’s Friday afternoon disquisition on his reason for trading first baseman Nick Johnson and lefty reliever Joe Beimel was more than defensible (“young, controllable, up-sided starting pitchers are like gold in the game right now,” he once said), his post-deadline statement contained a pointed defense of the Nationals, their front office and their ownership. This was the line: “We are not rebuilding. We are building. We are not far from being a good team.” I’ve been thinking about what Rizzo said for the last twenty-four hours (okay, I’ve done some other things) and it’s actually pretty interesting. I wonder if it’s true?

Rizzo’s intention was to reassure Nats’ fans that the team’s front office knows what it’s doing, while rejecting the notion that the Nats have to get worse before they can get better. The pieces are almost in place, Rizzo says. The team is close. Itchy, itchy close. How close? Rizzo’s statement implied that being a playoff contender (or at least .500 ballclub) is just around the corner. No one expects that to happen this year, of course (the Nats’ plunge in Pittsburgh is just another example of why), but it could easily happen next: particularly with a starting rotation of John Lannen, Jordan Zimmermann and (perhaps) Craig Stammen — with additions (Washington Post columnist Tracee Hamilton listed them for us this morning) of Ross Detwiler, Shairon Martis, Collin Balester, J.D. Martin and Garrett Mock. Just for giggles, let’s throw in the guy with “the best change-up in the Marlins’ system,” Aaron Thompson and wunderkind Stephen Strasburg. So it’s true: the Nats have a puppy brigade of potential pitchers that might someday comprise one of the most formidible starting rotations in baseball. Potentially. Someday.

Rizzo and Kasten

In saying that the Nats are “building,” and “not rebuilding,” Rizzo was subtlely comparing himself to a sheaf of other baseball GMs who spent Friday auctioning off their best players to the highest bidder. Padres’ GM Kevin Towers traded ace Jake Peavy for an entirely new pitching staff, Cleveland dealt their recent Cy Young winner and the face of their franchise for four Phuzzie prospects, the Pirates traded their middle infield (and a lot more) for a potential star first basemen and a bucket of balls and the A’s (after parting with the one off-season acquisition that they hoped would solidify their line-up) shipped their other best hitter off to Minnesota for a Montessory graduate who might not get to the majors until 2014. There could be a mission to Mars before this kid plays. These moves weren’t made because the Padres, Indians, Pirates and A’s think they’re a player-or-two away from a championship — they were made because they’re convinced they’re not.

Friday’s trade deadline was Rizzo’s most important statement as the Nats’ interim GM: not because of who he traded, but because of who he didn’t. Unlike the Friars, Tomahawks, Ahoys and White Elephants the Nats are adding pieces, not giving them away. It’s a hell of a statement if you think about it. The Nats (though more specifically Mike Rizzo) are convinced that with a little more pitching (or, perhaps, a lot more pitching) a team with a foundation of Dunn, Flores, Willingham, Zimmerman, Morgan and maybe even Guzman is good enough to win. Okay, a few more pieces here and there would help (a couple free agents, but probably nothing too daring — and someone to fill the baseball equivalent of the Grand Canyon at second), but any team that boasts three hitters who can stroke at least 25 (or more) homers each year (and that boasts the league’s seventh best OBP) ought to be able to contend. Frankly, I like the gamble because I think that Rizzo’s right: the core is solid and eventually, and inevitably, the pitching should come. But let’s not kid ourselves; this is a gamble — and it’s a pretty big one at that.

Can Nats Prey On Friars?

Friday, July 24th, 2009

The San Diego Padres have had a volatile, if often unsuccessful, history. Founded in 1969 as an expansion franchise, “the Friars” spent their first six years in last place, before future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield (22 seasons, 3110 hits, 465 home runs) was signed out of Minnesota as a first round draft choice in 1973. The Padres finished first in the NL West in 1978 and went to the World Series in 1984, where they lost to the Detroit Tigers in five games. Tony Gwynn was just 24 in 1984, but he became the face of the franchise after Winfield was signed by the Yankees. The Winfield-Gwynn “switch off” seems emblamatic of the franchise: the Friars seem always to have one future hall of famer and face-of-the-franchise in tow: in the 1970s it was Winfield, in the 1980s and 1990s it was Gwynn, now it’s San Diego native and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

AG

Padres’ fans will undoubtedly take issue with that description, arguing that the Padres are a successful franchise that is deeply rooted in the San Diego community. That’s true now, but it wasn’t for many years. In 1974, the Padres were on the verge of coming to Washington — baseball card companies had even changed their card design to reflect the move. Instead, the team was sold to McDonald’s mogul Ray Kroc who, the next year, apologized to fans for his teams’ play over the team’s public address system: “I’ve never seen such stupid playing in my life,” he said. Padres’ fans will also point out that the team’s front office has a reputation for savvy trades: landing Gonzalez from Texas in 2006 for minor leaguer Billy Killian and pitchers Adam Eaton (now with Baltimore) and Akinori Otsuka. True enough. But for every Killian-for-Gonzalez trade there is an offsetting and haunting swap: like the 1981 trade that sent superstar Ozzie Smith to St. Louis in exchange for Sixto Lezcano and Gary Templeton. Padres’ fans are also quick to note that perhaps baseball’s best all-time reliever, Trevor Hoffman, was a Friars’ mainstay before moving onto Milwaukee at the beginning of the year. That’s true, but it’s also irrelevant. That was then, this is now.

The 2009 San Diego Padres bear no resemblance to the 1984 NL champs, nor the 1998 Gwynn-Hoffman nine (which lost the series in four to the Yankees) nor even to the 2006 Western Division winners. While the team has gained a cadre of dedicated fans (and committed themselves to San Diego with the building of Petco Park in 2004) last year’s cash-strapped Padres finished the season with 99 losses and have been in rebuilding mode since: attempting to off-load all star pitcher Jake Peavy for prospects and dangling Gonzalez to teams in lieu of paying him added millions when his contract is up in 2010. The club was also victimized by an off-season divorce of primary owner John Moores’ and his wife Rebecca, who fought for custody of their lavish houses — and the Padres. This is the team’s story: not of on-the-field heroes, but off-the-field eccentrics who have been undercapitalized (first owner C. Arnholdt Smith), weird (Ray Kroc), parsimonious (TV producer Tom Werner) and absent (Moores, who rarely attends Padres’ game).

Still, it is hardly the place of Nats’ fans to scoff at such a history. The Padres boast one of the games best pitchers (in Peavy, who is now on the DL) and one of its potential greats (in Gonzalez). An all star pitcher? One of baseball’s potential greats? The Nats have neither. The Nats take on the Padres in a three-game set beginning at Nationals’ Park tonight, with Garrett Mock (0-3) facing off against Matt Latos (0-1). The two teams will face-off again tomorrow (Tim Staufer is scheduled to go against J.D. Martin) and then on Sunday (with Chad Gaudin slated to face John Lannan).