Offseason Preview: The Rotation

In part one of this series, I discussed the options the Nationals had in building their bullpen, an area that will need plenty of work. The rest of the roster is less in need of drastic overhaul, but the team has plenty of options to retool the rotation and offense for 2016 and beyond.

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Offseason Preview: The Bullpen

Last year, I wrote a long offseason article about the Nats’ long-term strategy in the face of Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Denard Span, Doug Fister, and Tyler Clippard becoming free agents, espousing trading some of them to ensure long-term contention. This offseason is a bit different, with only Stephen Strasburg set to hit the market after the year. So instead of a long-term bent, this offseason’s article (now articles, plural) will instead focus on the minutiae, focusing on areas of need for the Nats and identifying potential moves to address them. For the bullpen article, that’s pretty much just listing relievers. Here we go!

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Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker talks with visitors behind the batting cage during the baseball team's workout in Pittsburgh Monday, Sept. 30, 2013. The Reds are scheduled to face the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League wild-card game Tuesday in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Navigating The Five Stages of Grief Surrounding Nationals’ Bungled Managerial Hiring

If, like me, you went to bed at a reasonable hour on Monday evening because baseball season was over, and you looked forward to a reasonable amount of sleep for the first time in months, you woke up to quite a shock. Not only had Bud Black, the Nationals “next manager”, rejected an insulting offer from the team, but Dusty Baker became the team’s next manager before it was discernible what had even occurred.

This post is not about whether Baker was the right choice. That will be determined on the field in 2016 and beyond, as well as in hundreds of think pieces between now and April. I think what many Nats fans need now is assistance in exploring the stages of grief they’ve felt or will feel as the organization navigates its latest dumpster fire.

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TNB’s Cheat Sheet To The Nationals’ Managerial Search

The search is on for the next manager of the Washington Nationals. To track the latest candidates for the position, The Nats Blog introduces the managerial cheat sheet. When the Nationals interview a new candidate, this cheat sheet will be updated to provide information on that person—including his experience, as well as our theories why he will or will not get the job.

Dusty Baker

Background: Managed a total of 20 seasons in the majors, including stints with the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds. Earned two All-Star selections as a player. Recently served as an analyst during TBS postseason coverage.

Why he could get the job: Six postseason trips. World Series appearance in 2002. Worked with a clubhouse that featured Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, meaning that he can probably handle any mix of players.

Why he wouldn’t get the job: Poor reputation in managing the workloads of young pitchers. Known for his sometimes mind-scratching in-game decisions. Lifetime postseason record of 19-26.

Fun Fact: His upcoming memoir Kiss the Sky includes a claim that he once smoked a joint with Jimi Hendrix.

Bud Black

Background: Managed the San Diego Padres from 2008 to June 2015. Pitched in the majors from 1981 to 1995.

Why he could get the job: Perceived as a player’s manager with an inclination towards advanced metrics. Posted some respectable seasons amidst an unstable ownership situation.

Why he wouldn’t get the job: Lifetime .477 winning percentage. No postseason experience.

Fun Fact: Starting pitcher for the Kansas City Royals the day of the George Brett pine tar incident.

Alex Cora

Background: Former infielder who played his last season with the Nationals in 2011. Currently an analyst for ESPN. Also interviewed by the Padres and the Miami Marlins.

Why he could get the job: Respected for leadership and aptitude as a player, prompting many in the game—including Mike Rizzo—to label him a future manager.

Why he wouldn’t get the job: Never managed nor served on a major league coaching staff.

Fun Fact: Capped an 18-pitch at-bat against the Cubs’ Matt Clement with a homer. The entire sequence of events lives on YouTube.

Ron Gardenhire

Background: Manager of the Minnesota Twins from 2002 to 2014. Played five seasons with the New York Mets.

Why he could get the job: Led the Twins to six division titles. Amassed a .507 winning percentage. Considered a player’s manager who could be a welcomed contrast to Matt Williams.

Why he wouldn’t get the job: Finished Twins tenure with four straight losing seasons; earned a reputation for underutilizing advanced metrics. Owns an abysmal 6-21 career record in the postseason.

Fun Fact: He is the subject of the greatest garden gnome giveaway in the history of baseball.

Andy Green

Background: Played parts of four seasons in the majors. Now the third base coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Like Cora, he has been interviewed by the Padres.

Any prior managerial experience? Yes. Managed in the D-Backs’ farm system for four seasons, including two at the Double-A level.

Why he could get the job: Connected to Rizzo from his time in Arizona. Has minor league experience. Regarded as a future manager.

Why he wouldn’t get the job: No major league experience. Connections to Rizzo might not carry much weight after Williams’ struggles.

Fun Fact: Shares his name with a Royal Air Force Wing Commander and World Land Speed record holder.

Phil Nevin

Background: First overall choice in the 1992 draft. Played 12 seasons in the majors, earning an All-Star selection with the Padres in 2001.

Any prior managerial experience? Yes. Seven seasons across independent and minor league ranks, including the last two with the D-Backs’ Triple-A squad.

Why he could get the job: Managerial prospect for past several off-seasons. Clubs besides the Nationals—including the Marlins—are currently considering him.

Why he wouldn’t get the job: No major league experience.

Fun Fact: As a member of the Tigers in 1997, Nevin ended Randy Johnson’s no-hit bid with a single in the bottom of the eighth. That clip is only worth watching if your nostalgia for the 90’s has extended to The Big Unit’s mullet.

Tim Wallach

Background: Earned five All-Star appearances with the Montreal Expos. Collected over 2,000 hits. Member of the Los Angeles Dodgers coaching staff since 2013, spending the last two seasons as bench coach.

Why he could get the job? Four years of minor league managing experience, including two at the Triple-A level. Has come close to landing managerial posts in the past. Experience coaching a contender in a large market.

Why he wouldn’t get the job: No major league managerial experience. Looks to be in the running for the Dodgers’ vacancy.

Fun Fact: One of the last players in baseball history to wear flapless batting helmet.

Ron Wotus

Background: Bench coach for the San Francisco Giants. Has served on their major league staff since 1998. Played parts of two seasons in the majors.

Why he could get the job: Seven seasons of minor league managing, three of which were spent in Triple-A. First turn as a major league skipper seems like an inevitability. Has been Bruce Bochy’s right-hand man for three World Series titles in six seasons.

Why he wouldn’t get the job: No major league managerial experience.

Fun Fact: Judged by this 1976 profile, Wotus had an unmatched hairstyle as a high school freshman.


Federal Reserve: Arizona Fall League Player Reports

On Monday, some of the Washington Nationals’ notable prospects took the field for the Salt River Rafters for the beginning of the Arizona Fall League. The hype surrounding this group has been reduced, as top infield prospects Wilmer Difo and Trea Turner were pulled from the league this past week. Difo will not play after fracturing a bone in his left hand at the end of the regular season, and the Nationals have opted to give Turner some rest after his career-high 143 games played between the minors and the majors this year.

The remaining prospects in this year’s AFL season offer plenty of intrigue. To preview the Nationals’ prospects, this Federal Reserve will offer player-by-player reports.  Continue reading…


With Matt Williams Out, Who Will Manage The Nationals Next?

The saga that was Matt Williams’ tenure as the Washington Nationals manager has come to an end. Despite (miraculously) winning Manager of the Year in 2014, Williams could not grind his way through 2015, which will be remembered for his routinely bad decisions, including his choice to don blinders during the Jonathan PapelbonBryce Harper brawl.

With Williams no longer at the helm, the Nationals are looking for a fresh start under a new leader, raising the question of who can ultimately get them back on track. To delve into that question, I have compiled a list of managerial candidates for 2016. Some of these names are familiar, but there a few—including some with no managerial experience—that deserve a closer look. Continue reading…


A Look Toward The Future After Nats Drop Game 162 To Mets

Game 162 has finally, mercifully come and gone for the Washington Nationals (83-79), closing the door on one of the most turbulent and forgettable seasons in recent memory. It was a fitting, if disappointing, way to finish the year: with a loss to the NL East champion New York Mets (90-72). There are many things for the Nats as an organization to address in the coming off-season, but for now fans can simply breathe a sigh of relief that the circus sideshow that was the Washington Nationals 2015 season is over.

Roark Makes His Case

Tanner Roark could see time back in the starting rotation in 2016, and made a good case for his place there in Sunday’s loss to the Mets. Over six scoreless innings he struck out six hitters, pitching against a Mets staff that was hunting for a no-hitter of their own to match Max Scherzer’s from the previous night. Roark unfortunately did not receive the run support he needed, or the help from his bullpen as Blake Treinen gave up the decisive home run to Curtis Granderson in the eighth inning.

No-No Robinson

Three Mets pitchers were bidding for a combined no-hitter and were successful through the sixth inning. Thankfully for the Nats, Clint Robinson came to the rescue with a hard hit single that bounded off of Mets third baseman Ruben Tejada and was ruled a hit. It was really the only offense to speak of in the game and one of the few bright spots closing out a dismal season.

Looking Ahead

There will be much for the talking heads to discuss concerning the epic meltdown of 2015. Surely this season will live in infamy in the nation’s capital for many years to come, joining the Redskins 2013 season as one of shocking disappointment. Matt Williams will most assuredly be let go just a year after being named NL Manager of the year. Veterans like Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond will head for greener pastures, and then there’s still the matter of Jonathan Papelbon to be discussed ad nauseum.

But my advice is to focus on the things that won’t be talked about as much given the D.C. media’s propensity to dwell on the morbid. Look at how strongly Stephen Strasburg came back from the DL. Revel in the history made by Scherzer, who looks to have a bright future in this city. Brag on Bryce Harper who had a historic season and has showed no signs of slowing down as he heads into next year.
Yes, 2015 was heartbreaking and dumbfounding on many levels, but you and I wouldn’t still be sports fans in Washington D.C. if we didn’t have one thing in spades, and that is hope. Foolhardy, unfounded, glorious, beautiful hope.