Inside Look: Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals baseball logoGosh, has it really been almost three months since the last time we saw Manny Acta and the Nationals? Yup — there it is: the last game against the Nats was April 29th. Huh.

Since it’s been so long, we’re counting on Ryan Moore of Distinguished Senators to jog our collective memories and give us the update on one of our favorite NL East rivals.


Greetings, Mets fans! In the interest of friendly discourse, I’ll try not to mention Jesus Flores any more than I absolutely have to.

Grrrrr … did you HAVE TO mention Flores? Good gawd … anyway, on to the questions …

1. The Nationals’ pitching has had its struggles, and now the staff is being hit with a rash of injuries. Is it a blessing in disguise, as you can get a look at some youngsters, or do Nats fans really want to see the likes of Jason Simontacchi and Tim Redding taking the hill?

It’s certainly a blessing in disguise for you guys, as injuries handed Thursday’s start to John Lannan, who proceeded to alter singlehandedly the handicapping of the NL East race by breaking Chase Utley’s hand. So you’re welcome for that one.

To answer the question, it’s absolutely a blessing. This team’s hard enough to watch even without Jerome Williams tossing walks and sweating butter.

2. Lannan’s a good man, he follows orders precisely. Speaking of injuries, Jason Bergmann is the latest to go down, and is questionable for his Sunday start. Word on the street is that Joel Hanrahan may be his replacement. What’s the scoop on Hanrahan?

Hanrahan isn’t the kind of guy who attracts scoops. He was signed as part of one the Nats’ comprehensive “sign everybody and see who can play” procedures. He’s only 25, which gives him a leg up on Jerome “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” Williams or whoever, but that ain’t much. You shouldn’t lose to this guy is what I’m saying.

3. Dmitri Young has been reborn in DC. Do the fans like him? Do you want to see him sign a contract extension?

They do, and it’s kind of pathetic. There’s no Alfonso Soriano this year, and Ryan Zimmerman – the guy we’re all supposed to like – hasn’t done a lot. So fans are clinging to the only thing that’s going right. It’s understandable – he’s a big jolly fat guy who’s “redeemed” himself, and that’s fun if you don’t think too much about why he needed redemption.

They’re going to sign him, and it’s a terrible idea. Fat 33-year-olds who can barely play first base are not good long-term investments. And I don’t know if you guys have heard about this, but the Nats allegedly have a Plan, something so intricate and important that it always gets capitalized. The Plan is all about acquiring stopgaps and flipping them for prospects or draft picks until it’s time to compete (shortly before the end of the decade, if things go well). If management is letting foolish human sentiment interfere with The Plan, then we’re in trouble. Nats fans, I mean. You suckers’ll be sitting pretty.

4. Wow, Ryan, Dmitri sounds an awful lot like Mo Vau… oh, never mind. Stay the course. Next question. Your thoughts on the Ron Belliard extension — and how it may affect the Young situation.

I like it. He’s a nice, versatile little player. He’s good enough that it frees the Nats to trade Felipe Lopez, but not so much money that they have to.

I don’t think affects Young, except insofar as it betrays an organizational enthusiasm for fat guys.

5. Hey now, fat guys are people too. Speaking of, didn’t you guys have a guy named Nick Johnson? Broke his leg about three years ago? When’s he coming back?

Poor Nick. Dude heals slow. Of all the Nats whose femurs Austin Kearns could have busted with his mighty bionic knee, Nick was the one who was going to stay out the longest. He won’t play until next year, so we get two more years of Dmitri.

6. Keep Chad Cordero or trade him? If the Nats trade him, what do they want in return?

They’re in a nice position with Cordero. There’s no urgency to trade him, so they can wait until his value’s at its highest and they can get more in return. But I have a suspicion that’s been sneaking around since the start that Chad’s going to fall off a cliff quickly and completely one of these days, in a fashion reminiscent of your Roberto Alomar. So yes trade him, and the sooner the better as far as I’m concerned.

7. Other than Cordero, who else could go before the trading deadline?

A shorter list would be who couldn’t go. Felipe Lopez is expensive and playing terribly. Ryan Church and Austin Kearns are there if anyone wants them. And so on and so on. I can probably get you a volume discount if you’re interested.

8. Um, we’ll pass on the blue light special. But thanks. How do you feel about Manny Acta as an in-game manager, and manager of personnel? Do you think he is the right man for the rebuilding Nationals?

I’m a fan. You can quibble with his personnel decisions – more Jesus Flores, please – but he’s the best manager the Nationals have ever had. I mean that: ever. The Frank Robinson years were characterized by losing, in-fighting, and crankiness. Now all that remains is the losing. Manny Acta is a credit to his profession.

9. Hey, you made a promise about Flores. Now for that I’m through with the softball questions. Tie game, ninth inning, two out, man on third. What Nationals hitter do you want at the plate?

I gotta go with Da Meathook (that’s Dmitri, in case you didn’t know). Zimmerman has a weird propensity for the walk-off, but Young’s the only guy who’s hitting.

10. Da Meathook, I love it. Same situation, but the Mets are hitting. What Met would you least like to see up?

I used to be a Cardinals fan, and I remember Carlos Beltran almost dragging the Astros to the Series all by himself back in ’04. Sacred the hell out of me. Cold sweat, therapists, the whole thing.

Congratulations, Ryan — you’re the first blogger who didn’t answer that last question with “Jose Reyes”. Love to see someone with an “out of the box” answer.

Thanks again to Ryan, and be sure to check out his Distinguished Senators blog — which, unfortunately, does not cover the Senators of yesteryear. So no talk of Harmon Killebrew, Jim Lemon, Earl Battey, and Camilo Pascual. Heck, he’s not even covering the “faux Senators” of the seventies (the one that made Frank Howard and Mike Epstein famous, and gave birth to the Texas Rangers). No, Ryan blogs about the Nationals. A good idea, though, using the Senators name to pique interest.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.