Barrels and Bloops — Washington Nationals

Derek Hamilton/Associated Press

Part of a 30-part series highlighting each team’s 2017 journey featuring a few of my favorite team attributes.

Another NLDS loss for the Washington Nationals. It has to feel like fait accompli to Nats fans each year as the team enters the postseason, and faith has to be waning this franchise will ever bring them the glory they desire.

Since 2012, only one team (Dodgers) has more wins than Washington’s 555 by just 4 wins; I guess the empathetic response here for Nats fans is the Dodgers have little to show for it either, albeit LA has at least advanced past the first round.

In the last six seasons it has been three different managers taking this Nats team to the playoffs, with none of them able to get past this invisible barrier that is the division series.

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Dollars & Sense: Nationals Park, tax plan, and Syracuse Chiefs

Tax law changes? What does that have to do with sports? While you were sleeping, you might not have realized that American politicians were making tax law changes which will affect many lives including the world of sports and stadium building.

Tucked away on Page 54 of the H.R. bill section 304 is “No tax exempt bonds for professional stadiums” which would strip away that tax free federal tax status from those professional teams trying to build stadiums with any taxpayer money in most cases. Continue reading

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The #Nats have tendered all of their contracts…now what?

Michael A. Taylor at bat. (Photo by Marlene Koenig for TalkNats)

The Washington Nationals took care of one not-so-insignificant piece of their arbitration puzzle early when they inked Bryce Harper (set to become a free agent next winter) to a $21.625 million contract for 2018 on May 13 of this year. That was the largest ever contract for an arbitration-eligible player, even one in his final year of team control before free agency. Then again, it’s Bryce Harper, and for Harper, setting records is old hat by now. Continue reading

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Managers in #Nats history have an impressive track record of first-year success

The new Nats manager is Dave Martinez as if you did not know that already. When Martinez agreed to become the Washington Nationals 7th full-time manager, he knew he was taking over a winning team with a strong history. He has an opportunity to continue an impressive streak of improvement by incoming Nats managers.

Most are not aware that there is an ongoing record in Washington Nationals history in the first full season by a new manager in regards to improving the win total over the predecessor manager. Manny Acta improved 2.8% over Frank Robinson‘s 2006 team. Jim Riggleman improved 16.9% over the 2009 team. Davey Johnson improved 22.5% over the 2011 team. Matt Williams improved 11.6% over Johnson’s 2013 team. Dusty Baker improved 15.7% over Williams’ 2015 team.

Now Davey Martinez gets the task of improving the 2018 Nationals. Whether or not he can surpass the 97 regular season wins from the 2017 season is almost irrelevant as Mike Rizzo stated the goals are beyond just winning the NL East and includes winning post-season series. Continue reading

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Baseball’s Five Biggest Stories This Off-Season; Ohtani and Stanton Headline

Stanton and Ohtani are part of the five biggest stories this off-season

There is no question that baseball’s biggest stories will come from the international market and the trade market this off-season. No matter how much J.D. Martinez is hyped as a $210 million player — all eyes are on Shohei Ohtani from Japan, and Giancarlo Stanton from the 818 area code .

Ohtani and Stanton dominate the five biggest stories in the off-season. The managerial changes were a big story. Atlanta’s penalty for cheating the international signings and John Coppolella’s banishment from baseball for life with Kevin Maitan declared a free agent was another headline story. The pitch clock could round it out as the fifth most intriguing story of this off-season. Continue reading

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Mike Rizzo makes a sales pitch for Ohtani; Talks about his Nationals, Bryce Harper, and his own future

Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo appeared on MLB Network yesterday. To open the segment, he was asked to give a sales pitch to Shohei Ohtani who is the most discussed potential free agent this off-season.

Here is what Rizzo had to say on Ohtani:

One takeaway from that video clip was this quote from Rizzo to Ohtani:

“We have a lot of things going for us and the number one thing is we have a great ownership group and a team he could join.”

How many general managers would make their ownership group the #1 thing in a sales pitch? Mike Rizzo did just that. He joined the Washington Nationals to coincide with the Nationals ownership changing hands from Major League Baseball to the Lerner group on July 24, 2006 making Rizzo the first person Ted Lerner would hire and a man who has been there right from the start with the now 92-year-old Mr. Lerner.

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Potential Impact of the MLB Competitive Balance Tax on the Nats Payroll

Having crossed the MLB Competitive Balance Tax threshold for the first time in 2017 the luxury tax will start to have a major impact on the Nats’ payroll decisions in the upcoming years, that is a fact. What that impact will be is up for speculation for all of us who aren’t on the team board of directors. How will the tax affect the 2018 payroll? How with the Nationals plan for the impact for the future beyond 2018? And of course, how will the tax affect the teams ability to retain Bryce Harper?

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Competitive Balance Tax Rules

The tax runs from minimal at first to extremely expensive in both fees and draft picks. For the Nats last year it was only a 20% penalty on the team player expenses exceeding $195 million, reportedly a fairly small amount. However, if the Nats continue to exceed the limit the percent will rise to 30% in 2018 and then to 50% in 2019. Dropping back under the threshold for one season is sufficient to reset the fees back to the 20% level for the next season. For teams exceeding the threshold by $20 million there is an additional 12.5% fee on the overage, and then up to 45% for the excess amount over $40 million, a whopping 85%. Continue reading

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Pre-prep for the Winter Meetings; Mike Rizzo and Dave Martinez deal in reality.

The pre-prep is being done. We are less than 2 weeks away from the start of the Winter Meetings. Mike Rizzo and Dave Martinez have a plan while knowing that we live in a reality of an ever-changing environment. They won’t tell us the plan. But they have a plan that they will start from and work forward. This year is very different from past years as the needs are fewer. Last year, Mike Rizzo was without a starting catcher and really was looking for a starting centerfielder upgrade as well as bullpen depth and a big lefty bat off of the bench.

A week after Thanksgiving last year, Rizzo traded to get Derek Norris as his starting catcher. That deal never felt like the right fit as it was a major step backwards from the production Wilson Ramos gave the Nationals. As it would turn out, Norris would be released during Spring Training costing the Nationals nearly $700,000 as a parting gift. It had to be the strangest off-season for Mike Rizzo as almost every move seemed out of character. He created “addition by subtraction” by trading away Danny Espinosa which seemed wise — and long overdue. Then the Nats made a blockbuster deal for Adam Eaton trading away almost all of their future starting pitching depth with the exception of Erick Fedde. That was how they left the Winter Meetings. Continue reading

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What impact moves can new #Nats manager Dave(y) Martinez make?

Photo by @MomWithNatitude for TalkNats

It’s Hot Stove season, and when it’s Hot Stove season, we tend to spend a lot of time talking about the business side of baseball. The Washington Nationals will surely seek to add pieces through trades or free agent signings this winter; last year, big Nats news broke during and just after the Winter Meetings as general manager Mike Rizzo shipped three top pitching prospects to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Adam Eaton before flipping infielder Danny Espinosa to the Los Angeles Angels for two minor league pitchers. Continue reading

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Weekend baseball talk

The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday in the retail world and MLB.com compiled a list of signings that happened on the day after Thanksgiving.

Here is the list of the Top 9 free agents on the tracker:

  1. Yu Darvish
  2. J.D. Martinez
  3. Eric Hosmer
  4. Jake Arrieta
  5. Lorenzo Cain
  6. Wade Davis
  7. Mike Moustakas
  8. Jay Bruce
  9. Carlos Santana

That list will change very quickly once Shohei Ohtani is declared a free agent and he moves into the Top 10. On top of that, where will the Atlanta Braves recently departed prospect Kevin Maitan end up after the Braves prospect scandal caused Maitan and other minor leaguers declared as free agents.

Don’t expect Mike Rizzo to show his cards. He does not do that rather he plays it close to the vest. When The New York Times asked general managers about the Yankees putting their managerial names out there publicly, Mike Rizzo said this about his own process:

“But I think we make our best decisions when it’s not nationally known what we’re trying to do.”

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