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"Athleticism" and the new Nats

Dec 17, 2010, 11:00 AM EDT

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Josh Willingham's trade opens the door for Roger Bernadina to start in left field.

If it wasn't clear before, it certainly became obvious yesterday when Mike Rizzo traded Josh Willingham to the Oakland A's. The Nationals' general manager is remodeling his roster to include more guys who fit his description of the perfect ballplayer: Well-rounded players who not only produce at the plate but also in the field and on the bases.

One of Rizzo's buzzwords this winter has been "athleticism." It's one of the primary traits he looks for in his players. And those who don't have it are getting shipped out in short order.

Adam Dunn didn't fit the mold, so he's now DH'ing on the South Side of Chicago. Josh Willingham didn't fit it either, so he's now the starting left fielder in the East Bay.

What remains is a Nationals roster that is much more to Rizzo's liking. Just about every member of the projected Opening Day lineup (aside from the empty space at first base and Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate) possesses "athleticism." They have good range in the field. They have the ability to lay out to catch a ball hit just on the cusp ofRead more »

  1. Positively Half St. - Dec 17, 2010 at 11:34 AM

    I am glad that Rizzo was able to get what he wanted for Willingham. What burns me is that the MLBNetworkRadio guys on XM immediately were cracking jokes that this was a salary dump made necessary by the Werth signing.Respect doesn't come easily, nor a clue of Rizzo's intentions. I am glad you have a clearer view, Mark.+1/2St.

  2. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 11:49 AM

    I am not convince Morgan can be added in that group. Yes he has some range but after he gets the ball lord knows what he is going to do with the it. Hopefully Werth will rub off on him.

  3. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 11:58 AM

    Put me in the camp that disagrees with Rizzo's moves but acknowledges that he is consistent. Of course, I will give him the benefit of the doubt because he's earned a job as a ML GM and I still have to buy a ticket to get into the ballpark. Fingers crossed.

  4. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    The Nats are athletic, but unless someone can pitch – it will be a long year.

  5. McKinley2 - Dec 17, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    Of course it will be a long year. The question is whether this retooling charts the path for a contending team in 2012 and beyond or the search for a get out of jail free card. I've seen enough since the Nats came back to town to appreciate that an informed consistent vision is guiding the team's fortunes. What's the alternative…be an Orioles fan?

  6. Ballinonabudget - Dec 17, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    With the Wang signing, somebody needs to be dropped from the 40-man roster. Who will it be?Maxwell, Severino, and Thompson are three that jump out at me as possible cuts.

  7. JayB - Dec 17, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    I agree with the general direction. It is not like Jimbo Toolsy types….these guys are baseball players first then athletic second. Morgan is the exception…he is nothing good about baseball. He does not understand the team game and he will be replaced ASAP.Team will be better this year because it has a theme and a vision….but until they get some starting pitching it will still lose much more than it wins.

  8. dale - Dec 17, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    I get it. What it really comes down to is that if you can somehow keep a run from scoring and in return claw out a run you can be competitive in most games. An upgraded defense helps the entire pitching staff, not just the ground ball pitchers. Those that are crying that this team is on its way to losing 100 games again are going to be horribly disappointed.

  9. BQ - Dec 17, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    I am willing to wait and watch on all the pitching we have drafted last couple of years and before. We should SS coming back by 2012. Zimmermann needs to prove that he can be a legitimate #2 pitcher (Matt Cain type?). Detwiler needs to stay healthy for a whole season. Lannan needs to remain consistent throughout the season. Let the next season be a test for unproven pitchers. What about Solis? Cole? Thompson? Oh and our lineup surely lacked 'athleticism' and still does from a certain point of view. Considering the fact that we still lack a true high OBP, base-stealing threat, we need athletes like Eury Perez in the majors for us. This kid had an insane minonrs season this past one it seems. Could be our future leadoff hitter. Oh I looked at Maya's VWL stats. Hope he could do the same next season with us.

  10. NatsJack in Florida - Dec 17, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    JayB and I are in the same camp when it comes to Morgan. He's Nook Logan all over again with the ball tracking ability of Lastings Milledge. At least Logan could take a straight line route to balls hit in the gap. I've seen too many arcs run by Morgan that has him losing a step on any ball hit to his right or his left. And don't even get me started on his arm.But with this one exception, I can see a much better defensive team in all positions and that includes nobody over Adam Dunn at first.

  11. Joe Sommer - Dec 17, 2010 at 12:50 PM

    It's rare that somebody will have a coherent theory of how to do the job, live by it, and be willing to die by it. Most people in bureaucratic organizations are only out to cover their butts by making the same mistakes that everybody else makes. Mike Rizzo is a character guy.Now let's just hope that Rizzo's theory is correct.

  12. sjm 308 - Dec 17, 2010 at 12:58 PM

    Add me to that camp on Morgan – I hope he is not just given the job this spring and that he actually has to earn it and while I doubt that he can change his skill set maybe we can "coach him up" both in the field and on the base paths. That still leaves a problem of him actually getting on base which was not that great to begin with. The arm strength just absolutely cannot be improved and I am thinking the attitude is another issue all together. With a good team attitude I could see Morgan as this years Willie Harris but that will never happen. I do agree that we will be a much better defensive team and want that first base signing sooner than later.Go Nats

  13. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    When the off-season began, getting a decent bat/solid defensive 1B was deemed to be a priority. The second priority was a top-of-the-rotation SP. In 2012, SS will be our #1 and JZ will be the #2. This top-of-the-rotation will be the #3.Unfortunately, both these pieces are still missing. All the realistic options [aside from Pena] are still out there but the overall options have been reduced and the teams also needing these players seem to be even increased. If the Nats don't get LaRoche [my preference from day one] or Lee, they may be forced to settle on another unproven 1B [Morse] or a top defender/lousy hitter [Kotchman]. Like most, I will just sit back and see what Rizzo does. To date, I do not see the team necessarily improved for 2011. I do see a better base for 2012 and beyond. ML

  14. Big Cat - Dec 17, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    Hey hey hey….Rizzo ain't no dummy. He see's Morgans pop gun arm. he's see's that little punch and judy bat. Mark my words, there's more to come. OF note: This Corey Brown hit .350 in AA Midland over 100 games last year. He also stole 19 bases in 20 tries. I like what Rizzo is putting together here

  15. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 1:21 PM

    Rizzo wants an athletic team and power on the mound. He is doing that. You want it that every time that bullpen gate opens, there's "96-98 mph" coming out of it. Keep em coming Riz. We lost 90-100 games with these plowhorses Dunn and Willingham. Bring in those young legs and young arms. As for The Hammer and Donkey…"The dogs bark and bark, but the carnival moves on."

  16. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    I remember all the incidents with Morgan. They need to cut him loose. Just release him and be done with it

  17. Sunderland - Dec 17, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    For some reason, today is the first day I feel good about Nyjer Morgan and how he is viewed by Rizzo. All speculation of course.Morgan will be handed the CF job in spring training. Eury Perez is too raw to push Nyjer, and Eury will likely start at CF in Harrisburg. Corey Brown likely gets CF in Syracuse. But Rizzo ain't blind. He sees what we see. He saw it in Willingham, in Dunn, he sees it in Morse which is why he can't seem to get a regular spot in the OF. Rizzo just doesn't have other good options today, and had greater priorities.And importantly, as every football coach knows, you can't teach speed. So Morgan at least has a chance to become a reasonable CF (arm strength notwithstanding).And perhaps more importantly than his defense, Nyjer's offense is what this team really needs. If he's a minus defensively, with Bernie and Werth flanking him, but he's got a .370 OBP and a 78% steal rate, well we can deal with that for now for sure.Final Morgan thought. Another very consistent thing about Rizzo, he says only positive things about his players, and he acts in stealth. So Rizzo says what he should say about Nyjer, and at the same time is looking at ways to upgrade CF. So maybe in 2011 we see Nyjer circa July 2009. If so, then he plays everyday and we're all happy. But if we get the .315 OBP, high CS rate, poor fielding version, we have better options in 2011 than ever before. We could go Werth, Bernie and Morse against lefties. We could bring up Brown if he's doing well. Rizzo's taking steps forward. I like where this is going. I just wish the process would hurry up, but watching this team develop could ultimately make success even sweeter.

  18. court - Dec 17, 2010 at 1:33 PM

    However you may feel about Corey Brown, it's undeniable that Rizzo traded for him as a potential replacement for Morgan (maybe as soon as June). While Bernadina may be better in LF, I believe he has move value as a CF so I would like to see us get another corner OF and let Roger and Nyjer duke it out in Spring Training for the CF and leadoff spot. Phil Wood mentioned Ankiel as a potential target – he certainly fits Rizzo's mold.

  19. NatsJack in Florida - Dec 17, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    I agree on Corey Brown. A couple of sessions with Rick Eckstine will get him to go with the pitch and hopefully, his contact rate will improve and the K's will diminish. And he's a beast in CF. So long Nyjer (Hockey Puck) Morgan.An outfield of Werth in RF, Brown in CF and Bernandina in LF would rate as the best defensive outfield by miles that this team has ever had.

  20. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 1:48 PM

    There's another aspect to what Rizzo is doing that I think is being overlooked: endurance for the long season.The 2005 Nats, very near to getting in the playoffs, ran out of gas.Dunn has a reputation for fading (I mean in terms of performance, not games played) in the last two months of the season. Willingham's had trouble playing more than 140 games a season, and his performance has also faded in the late weeks of the season. Guzman, Lopez, Guillen, Josh Bard (!)–I mean lots of guys fading down the stretch and playing out the string.Athleticism and speed often combine with endurance. I think that's another big factor Rizzo is building, and I like it.

  21. Tank - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:02 PM

    "One of Rizzo's buzzwords this winter has been "athleticism." It's one of the primary traits he looks for in his players."In other words, he's selling jeans. Great.

  22. Phil Dunn - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    You can scratch Morgan from the list. He can't even run the bases with any intelligence.

  23. Gav Collins - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    I'm all for athleticism, but I worry about Riggleman's comments about hitting. Yes, hitting is difficult and everyone goes through slumps – can't argue with that. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore hitting ability in a player. All the athleticism in the world counts for naught if you can't get on base on a regular basis. Speed and base running is useless if you never get beyond first. And even with perfect defence, you're going to give up runs. Sum total of that is that you're going to lose more than you win if all you can do is run, catch and throw. Yes, hitting is difficult and can be unpredictable. But that's all the more reason to concentrate on it rather than throw your hands up and say "we can't do anything about that, so let's just make sure we're athletic and assume the rest will work itself out."I know it's not as black and white as all that. I know a lot of our athletic guys can hit decently as well. And I know Eckstein is one of the best around when it comes to bringing players along offensively. I just worry that getting rid of big bats and replacing them with average ones will make for some low scores at our end, and we don't have the pitching talent yet to close up the other end.I do have trust in Rizzo to get the right balance in the long term. But I also think we're in for a year or two more of discomfort before our pitching and our defence improve enough to make up for what we're losing offensively.Still, at least in ten years time, we can say there at the start.

  24. NatsJack in Florida - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    There's a huge difference between Jason Werth and say, Ryan Langerhans.While both look sleek and athletic, only one of them can play baseball AND sell jeans.I'll take a guy that can sell jeans if he can actually play baseball.

  25. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    I agree with Sunderland and NatsJack in Florida on Morgan. I would add this to what they have said. Looking back, we didn't know Dukes was on a micro-leash going into ST last year. He was gone before we knew there was a problem (or what it was). I'm guessing Morgan is on that same leash. At the first sign of trouble/poor performance he will likely be gone. I hope he has figured that out. We'll see.fpcsteve

  26. joemktg - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    starting rotation…starting rotation…starting rotation…starting rotation…starting rotation…We get it: build a strong, athletic defense behind strong pitching. But I still don't see a clear path towards a contending starting rotation. I'm not concerned about a rotation that gets the team to the playoffs: just a rotation that gets the team to .500 in 2011.

  27. autobits - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    I don't think Rizzo has completely abandoned power by the way. Werth has plenty of power, Zimmerman has power, Espinosa has power from 2B, Desmond has decent power for a SS, and even Bernadina hit 11HR last year and could be one of those guys who develops a little more power as he matures with the bat. Add a decent power bat at 1B and the team may not have a 40HR guy, but still have better power overall throughout the lineup. Also, when Harper finally arrives he will be a classic middle of the order power threat. This team will have way more power than the one that just won the series.I think the key is guys who can help you win in more than one way. I don't think Billy Beane and Theo Epstein haven't populated their teams exclusively with slow moving sluggers. Look at Beane's 1B Daric Barton. A perfect example of a defense first, athletic 1B who will never be a HR leader. Pitching, defense, and speed can win championships.

  28. Hendo - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    "But you can't criticize Rizzo for staying true to his form."If the Nats end up losing another 100 because of gaping holes at first base and in the middle of the lineup, Rizzo is going to get it — and deserve it.

  29. Doc - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    The Yankee teams have been, over the past decade, been 'athletic' along with other things like being able to foment offense.Bernadina, if he picks up where he went wrong during the last half of last season, will look 'athletic' but offer little offense.

  30. DFL - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    The Baltimore Orioles circa 1965-85 won with pitching, defense, and the 3 run homer. And not every field position had to be a great fielder. Brooks Robinson, Paul Blair and Mark Belanger were excellent but most of the other Orioles were just slightly above average. Boog Powell was not much better than Adam Dunn at first.The Nats are losers because their starting pitching stinks. And it still stinks. The Nats reality is that their starting pitching might be worse in 2011(no Strasburg, the potential of Lannan pitching as he did the first half of 2010, Hernandez pitching as he did the last half of 2010), the relief pitching declining due to the loss of Capps, a decline in hitting, especially power hitting. The only advantages in 2011 are team speed and fielding. Potentially, the Nats of 2010 might lose 100 games.

  31. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:36 PM

    I disagree with the basic statement that this flies in the face of modern convention as GM's are always trying to find under appreciated value. It was clear in the last few offseasons that defense was the new OBP. So in some sense he is certainly trending in that direction. With so many ground ball pitchers vs. strike out pitchers, it makes sense for him to do so. I think they are still hoping to land a middle of the order bat. I wouldn't be surprised if we threw a lot of money at Prince Fielder next year, although he is far from athletic.

  32. JamesFan - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    Rizzo is building a team that is excellent with very good starting pitching. Nats will have far better defense, but less offense overall next year with what is on the books now. My concern with his strategy is that the Nats don't have the offense to overcome current pitching weaknesses.

  33. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:45 PM

    didn't Dukes fit the profile as well???

  34. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    Dukes, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Sirhan Sirhan all fit the profile, yes.

  35. NatsJack in Florida - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    Dukes was poison in the clubhouse. And he didn't accept any coaching. But he really could sell jeans.

  36. NatsJack in Florida - Dec 17, 2010 at 2:52 PM

    At least he's getting 3 squares and a warm cot in the Pinellas County jail.

  37. Anonymous8 - Dec 17, 2010 at 3:06 PM

    court said… However you may feel about Corey Brown, it's undeniable that Rizzo traded for him as a potential replacement for Morgan (maybe as soon as June). WE HAVE A WINNER! That is what I was about to write. Rizzo has finally stopped drinking his own Kool-aid. When he DFA's Justin Maxwell then I will start believing things are really going to change.

  38. NatsJack in Florida - Dec 17, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    Justin Maxwell…. another jean model.

  39. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    At least Rizzo has a plan on everyday playersand is trying to fill the organization (majors and minors) with guys that match his philosophy (which is what all GMs do). I like Bernadina more as a CF than as a corner OF and someone like Rick Ankiel coming off the bench would be a great addition. I hope we get either Lee or LaRoche to man first base because I do not want to see someone like Morse converted into a 1B and watch that train wreck for a season or two.I do wish Rizzo would address the starting rotation with one more guy who has proven himself currently major league proven (i.e., not an injury rehab project like Brandon Webb), we have J-Zimm, Livo and Marquis ready to go but too many questions for the other two slots.I will wait and see if this works but if by mid-season 2012 it is not a significant improvement, then changes need to be made in the front office!

  40. DJ - Dec 17, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    Athletic? Okay, I will give you that, but there are so many holes in the line-up. I mean did anyone watch Bernadina hit last year? He wasn't good. How can anyone have faith in him, is beyond me.I'd say we still need a 1B and LF. Oh and some starting pitching of course. This team could lose 100 games again.

  41. Bernard - Dec 17, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    "It certainly flies in the face of many modern conventions that suggest offense (particularly the ability to get on base and hit for power) is far more valuable than defense. This guy doesn't have a degree from the Billy Beane and Theo Epstein School of Roster Building."I think it's important that someone comments on how mistaken this thought is. You're talking about a misguided view of advanced analysis that hasn't existed in baseball for nearly a decade. Just looking at the two GMs you named: Oakland had the best defense in baseball in 2010 and Boston has acquired players like Cameron, Crawford, Beltre and Gonzalez in the last year or so – all TOP flight defenders.The point of advanced analysis is to continually find new ways to evaluate talent and to find skill sets that are undervalued by the market – the so-called Moneyball strategy. Defense is a critical aspect of successful team building and advanced metrics (stats such as WAR and VORP) account for it heavily.The one notion that I agree with you on here is that most 'stat guys' believe that if a player can have only one elite skill then the single one to have is the ability to avoid making outs (OBP).

  42. JD - Dec 17, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    Bernard, I agree with your sentiment completely and I think that you can't evaluate a player independently of his salary; Willingham is clearly a good player but he is a year away from earning something like 10 mil a year for several years and his skill set is likely to decline to the point where that is a bad investment. As for Bernadina; his defensive metrics in center field were quite poor; this surprised me some but it just proves that playing center field is more than just speed and arm strength; incidentally his defensive metrics in left field were very good but I,m not sure his bat is good enough for left field.

  43. Tim - Dec 17, 2010 at 4:07 PM

    I agree the rotation needs to improve. But, who is Rizzo supposed to get? I think this years freeagent calss of pitchers was pretty thin. And the asking price for Grinke and Garza is pretty high. We don't have alot of depth at the AAA or AA level to trade for top level starters. I still think the best bet for starting top of the rotation guys is:-Wait for Stras to heal up. -Give JZim a chance to go for a whole season-See what Maya can do with a full spring training.-See if Wang / Webb are capable of coming back-See if either Detwiler or Mock "get it" this time around-Wait for hopefully better options to trade in July or Next off season. I just don't see how they get better at the front of the rotation in 2011 by adding a new guy. Maybe Rizzo will surprise us.

  44. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    Gav Collins nailed it.Athleticism doesn't mean anything unless the players are good at what they do. Sure, Bernadina, Desmond and Morgan are fast, but they're all below-average defenders.Besides Zimmerman and Werth, every single player on our team is substantially below average at getting on base. Morgan- .319 OBP, Desmond- .308, Bernadina- .307, Pudge- .294, Espinosa- .277, Ramos- .305. Keep in mind, league average is about .340. Unless two or three of these guys have career-best years (and not sophomore slumps), we're going to be dreadful offensively. Zimmerman will probably hit another 30 or so HRs, but they're going to all be solo shots.

  45. Steve M. - Dec 17, 2010 at 4:36 PM

    A lot of good points here. Team success is built most often from a strong core of players and building around it. Getting Werth for 7 years is a great start.If Rizzo can continue to build around the few studs he has and develop players around them, and get this team into contention then the last move is to do what Texas did last year and rent a Cliff Lee for the stretch run. No need to trade away the Nats players of the future for any pitcher like a Greinke or Garza that aren't sure ACE pitchers.LaRoche and Pavano are there for the taking and you get 2 solid pieces to bridge the gap for developing what you have in the Minors. I liked the Willingham move because it scored some great upside potential and I still think Lannan, Mock, Martis, Martin should all be considered to be traded for similar opportunities. The Reds need to be considered to try to pluck away Yonder Alonso as the Nats 1st baseman of the future unless Rizzo thinks Marrero or converting Norris to a 1st baseman is the answer.Once you take care of 1st base, then the future becomes clearer and it really is all about pitching.

  46. Slidell - Dec 17, 2010 at 4:37 PM

    Tim: I have read that the Nats are on Grinke's "no" list.

  47. Souldrummer - Dec 17, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    @AnonymousRizzo is also a scout and defensively he's looking at how these guys perform defensively at their ceilings rather than their present for younger players. He believes Desmond will cut down on his errors, and I htink that's reasonable. He sees Bernadina more as a left fielder. Not sure how I feel about that. He sees Morgan as better than he was last year, and if he cuts down on the tantrums and bad wall ball play he should have plus plus range with a minus arm. I'd like to see a platoon partner for Morgan. Agree with you about the OBP problem. FWIW, Werth is a good OBP guy who works counts.

  48. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    Annom at 11:30 is dead on.Kind of like changing to a 4-3 in football, before you have the right players to play it. I'm just saying…

  49. Souldrummer - Dec 17, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    Posnanski has a great article on Greinke's makeup at SI.com. Headtap to David Huzzard at federalbaseball for the link. http://joeposnanski.si.com/2010/12/16/being-there-with-greinke/

  50. Bowdenball - Dec 17, 2010 at 4:49 PM

    "They can advance from first to third with relative ease."What they lack, unfortunately, is the ability to get to first with any regularity.Morgan, Desmond, Espinosa, Bernadina, Pudge … five of our seven regulars are mediocre to awful on base guys. Hard to score runs if you don't get to first base.

  51. PAY TO PLAY - Dec 17, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    Mike Rizzo said…"We are very athletic. We are rangy, but we are very inexperienced. Like I said last year, the best thing about a rookie is that he becomes a second year player. We are over that hump with Ian Desmond. And we are entering that hump with Danny Espinosa. These are two big-league players and both of these guys have make-up off the charts and if anybody can pull it off these two guys can. We are going to get to as many if not more balls hit than anybody in baseball up the middle in the infield and in the outfield, and we feel good about that. We have to rely on those young players to mature quickly and become good MLB players. I am excited about watching it. For the first time we go into Spring Training knowing who are middle infielders are as they have played together for at least about 25 games, and they are both fast, athletic, with youthful exuberance. Whatever they got they are going to leave on the field, and thats all I can really ask of them."This quote really sums up the fears that many of you have about the future and how Rizzo views it. I can buy into this as a needed first step. Also, very important, I believe this will bring down ERAs and pitch counts when you have better defense than what the Nats have shown the past few years.It is certainly worth a change in direction putting defense as a top priority. Some would say Rome wasn't built in a day so I will see how this builds.

  52. Souldrummer - Dec 17, 2010 at 4:57 PM

    They hope Desmond improves his OBP going forward. Pudge is going to get replaced by Ramos/Flores to some extent this year. Derek Norris is that OBP prospect of which you speak. I don't mind trading up the middle defense at cacher, 2B, and SS for some OBP if there's other offensive skills in the tool box. Leadoff hitter and left field, though…I'm not a believer in Bernie or Nyjer as everyday nonplatoon players.

  53. Steve M. - Dec 17, 2010 at 5:00 PM

    Here is part of the story on Greinke's no trade clause:Details on Greinke’s no-trade clause Zack Greinke's no-trade clause allows him to block trades to 15 teams. That list includes the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals, according to a major league source.However, Greinke could be traded to the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels or Detroit Tigers without his permission. The Kansas City Royals are open to moving Greinke, who has two years and a total of $27 million left on his current contract.The Nationals would like to trade for a starting pitcher and have shown interest in both Greinke and Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza.— Jon Paul Morosi

  54. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    This team as constructed right now is by far the best defensive team we've seen here. Werth's defense and power more than offset the lose of Willingham. I'm sure Rizzo still hopes to get LaRoche or Lee in to play first and give a little pop and good D at 1st. I do worry about wether Desmond and Espinosa can continue to grow with the young bullpen but at least we now have some young guys to hopefully build on. Bowden put this team back a good 3 years in development with his my Washington "Reds" teams. Rizzo had to dig out of that hole first before he can get any major progress done.

  55. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    Growing pains. After what Selig and mlb did to ruin this franchise before relocating to DC, its no wonder its taking time to get this bunch up to speed. Now that Mr. Leather Pants Bowden has been jetisoned, and Rizzo is in charge, things are beginning to take shape. Why we all want to be in the upper ecehlon of baseball, there is no quick fix. This GM knows what he's doing and building this team without regard to outside pressures from fans. I salute him for that. GO NATS JTinSC

  56. Steve M. - Dec 17, 2010 at 5:14 PM

    Some of you smashing Bernadina should note that when he did start at Leadoff he batted .256 with a .341 OBP. He did horrible batting 2nd but batting 6th in 99 plate appearances he batted .315 with a .374 OBP.He really skewed his numbers because he finished the season so poorly as he batted .161 in Sept/Oct of 2010.I thought there was too much pressure to swing for the fences since he was playing corner outfield instead of playing small ball and getting on base which is what he did in leadoff and why those numbers were so much better then his overall numbers.

  57. N. Cognito - Dec 17, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    1. Morgan – Last was, by far, his worst ever. Fans just need to reluctantly accept that he will be our CF and leadoff hitter this year (cringe!).2. Wang might have been signed to a minor league deal. If so, no needto move anyone off the 40 man roster.3. Bowden is a schizophrenic clown, whose greatest love is wheeling and dealing. No philosophy for building a roster.4. Good starting pitching is the most hard to come by commodity in baseball. Putting together a quality rotation, especially when that effort focuses on buildiing from within and supplementing with free agent picks, takes a long time; especially when MLB left you nothing in the cupboard and when good, proven starters will much more than likely sign with contenders.5. Desmond and Bernadina have some significant problems at the plate. Both are impatient and try to hard to hit homeruns.

  58. Sunderland - Dec 17, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    FWIW, Greinke's no trade is a non-factor. All it means is that if the Nats want him, they have to both satisfy the Royals (with the trade offer) and also satisfy Greinke (so he OK's the trade).This could be just a conversation.This could be a contract extension.All the no-trade means is that the Royals need his permission to trade him to certain teams.If Rizzo and the Royals strike a deal, they'll be able to get Greinke's OK.

  59. Knoxville Nat - Dec 17, 2010 at 5:32 PM

    I like the way Rizzo is moving this club to a more athletic team. As a wise baseball sage said a long, long time ago, speed never goes on a slump.And while Anon 12:02 rightly is critical of the pain Selig and MLB caused this franchise, don't ever forget the destruction caused under the ownership of Jeffry Loria and how he commited robbery of the minor league system. I am sitting back watching in amusement at his actions in Florida and gleefully wait for the day when our Nats pass the Marlins in the standings. I don't think it will be too long before that happens.

  60. David - Dec 17, 2010 at 5:46 PM

    Am I the only one that sees an outfield of Brown in left, Harper in center, and Werth in right for 2013? oh and Derek Norris at 1B, maybe Lombardozzi at 2B. Flores or Ramos behind the plate. with Espinosa and one of those catchers traded away….

  61. Anonymous - Dec 17, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    The problem could be next season is holding opposing to teams to under 4 runs AND scoring more than 4 runs each game…highly unlikely given our #4 and #5 hitters are now in the AL.rizzo's plan could work BUT I look at Billy Bean's offseason philospohy and he has an awesome offensive lineup which was their weakness last year and he has solid young pitching, neither of which will the Nats feature in 2011! :(

  62. SonnyG10 - Dec 17, 2010 at 5:52 PM

    I also agree witn Sunderland, NatsJack in Flordia and fpcsteve. Morgan will be gone when the Nats get an upgrade over him. I believe 100% in Rizzo's plan and methods and have confidence that he will build us a team to be proud of. My only fear initially was that the Learner family would not fully support Rizzo with the money needed. I no longer have that fear. I am excited thinking about how this team is going to evolve into a winner and be structured to keep winning year after year.

  63. Wally - Dec 17, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    I get why everyone is down on Morgan; I am not a big NoMo fan either. But I think his antics are obscuring something about his play, namely that he has more realistic potential to positively impact 2011 than anyone else on the team currently, or being rumored for acquisition. In the case of everyone else, we want them either to hold their performance level (Zim, Werth) or improve to levels not yet shown at the major league level (Desmond, Espy, Bernadina, Morse (full season), JZimm, Maya). There are good reasons to hope for all of that. But for NoMO, we want him to get back to what he was, which is a more realistic (or hopeful) belief. Consider the stats:OBP2009 – .3702010 – .319Career average – .344WAR2007/8 (roughly 300 ABs) – 2.22009 – 4.92010 – .9UZR/1502007 – 41.72008 – 182009 – 342010 – 4Morgan sucked last year, no argument. He also showed signs of being a real horse's ass, which bothers me. But he didn't always suck, and he didn't always seem like a horse's ass. In fact, once he was a darling of the sabre world. If he can get back to that, he would be a very valuable player who hasn't even hit arbitration yet. If Rizzo could have improved this position with an Upton or rasmus without decimating the team, I am sure that he would have. But this potential performance from NoMO is why he will be their guy until he proves to not be that earlier guy, or becomes such a distraction that the team has to DFA him.

  64. PAY TO PLAY - Dec 17, 2010 at 6:32 PM

    Wally, funny you bring up NyMo's history which is not based on a stellar career just a few months where he played inspired. Yes, he will get the opportunity to shine but if he sux like last year then Rizzo needs to quickly sit his a$$ on the bench.I am so over this guy but I like how he was a spark plug in 2009 and just hope he can reignite it again. If not, Riggleman and Rizzo can't keep trotting him out there. When NyMo aka "Tony Plush" doesn't play well, he is a cancer in the locker room.I hope this season Rizzo has the resolve to get rid of the few problems he had last year that he allowed to fester like JMax and NyMo.

  65. JamesFan - Dec 17, 2010 at 6:40 PM

    Many of Nyjer's problems can be fixed if he takes coaching. What are the Nats doing in the offseason to get a first rate base runner of the past to work with him on stealing and baserunning. What are they doning to help him improve decision-making in centerfield? Who is working with him on lead-off responsibilities at the plate and to get him off his crazy bunting anticss?

  66. Wally - Dec 17, 2010 at 6:52 PM

    @Pay to Play – definitely true, NoMO is the king of small sample sizes (although his entire 2009 was good, not just his time in DC). He has essentially played two full years – one really good, one bad. Which one is he? To be clear, I wouldn't necessarily bet on him turning it around, but it is worth a gamble if you don't have a quality alternative. And if he didn't seem like such an AHole last year, I think more people would be willing to give him another try.But Rizzo is nuts if he doesn't have a quality fallback plan. Seems like that is some combo of Werth/Bernadina, but I hope there is a better one.

  67. PAY TO PLAY - Dec 17, 2010 at 7:13 PM

    Wally, I think you have to look at the current plan:LF BernadinaCF NyjerRF WerthBench MorseBench TBDIf Nyjer fails,LF BernadinaCF WerthRF MorseBench NyjerBench TBDI also think Corey Brown in the trade with the A's is also a backup plan if he has a great Spring he will be the TBD on the bench otherwise the only other viable player on the Nats 40 man is……JUSTIN MAXWELLhttp://washington.nationals.mlb.com/team/roster_40man.jsp?c_id=was

  68. Wally - Dec 17, 2010 at 7:56 PM

    @ PTPI know, I just don't see Werth being credible as a long term CF option. I agree that maybe Brown is involved, assuming he holds up as plus defensively.

  69. DFL - Dec 17, 2010 at 10:20 PM

    Just for a note on the first base free agent escapades, it looks like the Orioles will get LaRoche and, if they want him, the Nats will get Lee. That is, unless the Nats are dead set on a left-handed bat, then they might go cheap with Hawpe. Don't see why the Nats would not prefer one or two years of Lee(good glove but right-handed) when both their potential first-basemen of the future are right-handed, Marrero and Moore. Of course both might not qualify as possessors of great "athleticism" that Rizzo requires. The Nats could sign Lee for 2011 and trade him and his salary at the trading deadline to a team competing for the playoffs. The Nats will be out of contention by then, that's for sure.

  70. BQ - Dec 17, 2010 at 10:34 PM

    To be honest, I want Nationals to sign talent like that which can be traded before July deadline so we can get more prospects and so on. Let's be real, we got our catcher this way. Trade players like D Lee to teams that have blocked prospects like Twins had Ramos in their farm system (blocked by Mauer). We can probably make a whole new team by this method. :D

  71. sec 3 - Dec 18, 2010 at 12:03 AM

    I'm hearing D. Lee is close to a deal, 2 yrs, confirmingLadson

  72. Anonymous - Dec 18, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    A few more thoughts on Nyjer Morgan. Rizzo is quoted above on Desmond and Espinosa: "….They are fast, athletic, with youthful exuberance. Whatever they got they are going to leave on the field, and that's all I can really ask of them." Might well be said of Morgan as well. In Nyjer's case you can add hard nosed tough hockey approach to the game. Take another look at the Marlins charging incident now that emotions have had a chance to cool. The video is still up. Morgan did not hesitate to take on a guy 3 times his size who deserved to be charged. Morgan was universally criticized for his attitude. I think Rizzo LIKES that part of Morgan's game and wants to see more of it in his other ballplayers. Compare and contrast with Dunn and Willingham. The Nats team on the field in 2010 lacked fiery aggressiveness. Its a reflection of Riggleman.Riggleman is a cool, quiet, detached, analytical type of manager not given to histrionics. No yelling. No scenes. No fire. Quietly communicating with players. No wonder that relations between Morgan and Riggleman became strained at the end of the year. Fire and ice.Nyjer Morgan was virtually the only source of that kind of fire on the team. Hard to be the only fiery player on an otherwise losing bunch of quietly analytical, laid back, take the losses gracefully and graciously and move on ballplayers. Good guys. Professional guys. Quiet guys. Good quiet professional losers with good quiet attitudes. Good traveling companions over a long 162 game season. Nice example for the kiddies but not going to win you a championship either. IMO Rizzo sees qualities in Morgan that he wants to encourage in other players–Desmond and Espinosa come to mind. Certainly not the manic emotional antics everybody sees on the surface. Morgan can light up a room when he is happy and frighten little children with his dark brooding snarling scowl when he is depressed. It certainly frightens Harold Reynolds and the MLB network gang of analysts. They find the emotional display disconcerting. Something MLB has to "do something about". Of course it frightens and disconcerts a whole lot of Nats fans, too. The big range of emotions he needs to get under control or at least put out of public view . But what Rizzo sees as well, IMO, is the toughness and agressiveness that is also present. He sees the little guy standing up for himself and charging the hulking 6'5" bully Chris Volstead. He got one good shot in on Volstead's throat before he went down under an avalanche of Marlins uniforms. You gotta have that quality on a championship team. IMO, Rizzo would not be displeased at all to see Desmond and/or Espinosa charge a 6'5" hulking pitcher going a little too inside in 2011. They will have at least one teammate who will be first into the scrum now that Pat Listach is no longer with the team. Bottom line: Nice guys Dunn and Willingham are history and the problem child is penciled in as the CF in ST. Attitude only gets you so far. Still have to produce in this game. Morgan has to produce or he will be history soon. He has to get on base, not make too many stupid baserunning errors, steal some bases, hit the cut-off man, throw to the right base and generally make the plays in CF. The FO thinks he can do it and they are going to give him the opportunity.

Archives

FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 96 66 --
ATLANTA 79 83 17.0
NEW YORK 79 83 17.0
MIAMI 77 85 19.0
PHILADELPHIA 73 89 23.0

NL POSTSEASON SCHEDULE

NL WILD CARD GAME
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)

NLDS
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (MLBN)
TUE: Game 4, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (FS1)*
OCT. 9: Game 5, PIT/SF at Nats, TBA (FS1)*
*if necessary

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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