The Washington Post

First Things First -- Tracee Hamilton on how the Nats have bungled right field

Apr 02, 2010

A great spate of April Fools Day jokes rolled out of Florida yesterday. Willy Taveras was named platoon partner for Willie Harris in right field. (Taveras' total pro innings played in RF: 1, as far as I can tell.) Vegas apparently got the news: The Nats are 75-1 shots (worst in baseball) to make the World Series and 150-1 to win it (tied for worst in baseball). And that was before Cristian Guzman played an inning in right field.

All knee-slappers -- except they're all true. So there's another April Fools Day, shot to hell. More importantly, shouldn't the Nats have taken care of the yawning gap in right field by now? What do you say, Nats Nation?

Have you done a calculation on when Steven Strasburg will pitch for the Nats this year? Since they want to delay his free agency eligibility, I figure the Cincinnati series in June, or away at San Diego before that.

Good morning, everyone. Might as well start with the positives -- Strasburg! At San Diego is a smart guess. It'll tick off the locals but they don't particularly care about that. He'd be in his comfort zone. Otherwise, Cincinnati or Pittsburgh at Nats Park in early June. The Pirates are the only team expected to be worse than the Nats, so that might be a good place to start as well.

But the San Diego idea has merit.

The Nationals really need a miraculous comeback from Chris Duncan, Kevin Mench, or a breakthrough in the development of Justin Maxwell. Given how unlikely any of these occurrences is, should I simply hope for a trade? Or am I underestimating Willie Harris? I know I am not underestimating Willie Taveras.

I like Willie Harris but he's not the answer, I think. I think I'd put my faith in Rizzo to pull off a trade for someone. But it needs to happen soon. Asking for patience with The Plan is one thing, but this is ridiculous.

He tried to fix this team on the cheap and found out he it is not possible. He lost out on Chapman because he tried to get a star talent on without paying market value and he over estimated the outfield talent.

What is your grade for Rizzo? How many losses will we have to watch this year? I think they are very close to losing over 105. Where is the improvement on this team based on this spring's showing?

My grade for Rizzo last season was probably an A-. But the warm fuzzy feeling from the Nyjer Morgan trade is wearing off. I still have faith that Rizzo is the guy, but he needs to get something done in right field soon.

I think they lose fewer than 100 games this year. But then, I'm a cock-eyed optimist. In fact, I'm going to say it right now: 72-90.

Willy Taveras: a starting MLB corner outfielder

Is analogous to

a. The Nats: an organization with a "plan" to win 75 games in 2010.

b. Guzman's right arm: a cannon.

c. Matt Capps: a proven closer.

d. All of the above

I'm going with d.  All of the above.


Addition by subtraction. Yes it is unfortunate that the Nats have no traditional rightfielder to open the season. By all accounts the trade market for power hitting rightfielders with good range and strong arms is bare. Apparently the Nats came to the conclusion that Dukes was not worth the investment. So what would you propose they do? Jermaine Dye can cover 1/3 of the position, but not the whole territiroy. Michael Burgess is not ready. To me trading Mock for an 'acceptable' right fielder is the best move. Your criticism is not unfair, but its not too late to repair for 2010. Do the Diamondbacks have a right fielder? They certainly need a fifth starter. What about the Dodgers? Maybe even the Indians? I think they'll have a rightfielder by May 1.

Oh, it's not beyond repair. Just a little surprising to enter April this way. I wouldn't take Jermaine Dye; that's a six of one, half a dozen of another situation. I think they have to trade a young pitcher -- and Mock would be a candidate -- to get someone. It's not hopeless; I still think it's ridiculous that this is the scenario to start the season. Patience is one thing, but oy!

Good morning. Enjoy your column very much. Why not Bernadina in RF?; with this club, I think that defense should be a priority. Thank you!

I think they'd be thrilled to put Bernadina in RF so if they're not, that's a signal that he's really, really not ready. They want these farmhands to move up, no doubt.

You make a good point about defense; they're going to need a lot of it. I don't think we're going to see a lot of K's until Strasburg joins us, do you?

I must be in the minority because I actually like the sum total of the Nats' Spring Training moves. No one is claiming that any move is made for the purposes of winning THIS year, and I don't think anything they've done has significantly weakened an already early-season weak team.

I do think, however, that they have a ton of prospects, some of whom are being given a chance to audition--for other teams. By the time the trade deadline roles around, the Nats might actually be a buyer from teams looking to dump big star salaries. At that point, they can address the right field situation and have enough information about the starting pitchers, bullpen, and anything else to make more informed, long term decisions.

You are Stan Kasten's favorite fan. And you are right; they are not going to win the division or even a wild-card spot this season so perhaps it doesn't matter who is in RF on Opening Day. I'm all for patience and The Plan; I just think this area should have been addressed. It's one thing to expect to be bad. It's another thing to put a guy in right field with one inning of experience. I think Nats fans expect to put up with losing, but it ought to feel like the front office is at least trying. A year ago this kind of move wouldn't have bothered me as much but we should be seeing some progress. Just feels like a step back to me, to go with a setup like this.

Tracee, I'm worried about the infield even more than the outfield. The Nats have built a staff of ground ball pitchers but they have a first baseman that even they admit "needs work" and their new shortstop had a .943 fielding percentage last season. Kennedy at second is an improvement but a lot of those ground balls could be seeing eye base hits this year....

Yes, defense is going to be a big issue. We may see a rocky start from Desmond. You are right; there are a lot of ground ball pitchers on the staff, no question. I think the team's patience with Desmond, as the fans', is going to be important. We really need to know if he's the SS of the future and this is certainly one way to find out. Maybe they ought to put Bernardino in the same position; the fact that they aren't leads me to believe he's really not ready. Clearly they aren't afraid of taking some chances. But then again, you can't take a chance at every position. :)

do you think Nyjer Morgan can repeat his success from last year?

I think he can, yes. I think he's got nothing but up-side.

In the past Stan K has guarded season ticket sales as if they were launch codes. I haven't heard anything this spring about this. Have the media just given up in their efforts to get this information?

Ah, Stan. It's a good question and I'll ask around. I don't expect to get anywhere but maybe Kilgore or Boz can. :)

Can we sign him back now?

This made me laugh... Probably!

Tracee, Good morning! So, I can't help but notice that ever since Nyjer Morgan, all has been quiet on the trade front for the Nationals. You keep hearing talk that they are always working on deals, that some were close, but you see absolutely nothing. What do you attribute this to? Nothing valuable that other teams want? We know Rizzo can swing a good trade, so I won't blame that...

I think the Nats have a lot of good young pitching, I really do. Why a deal isn't happening, I don't know. I am not ready to throw in the towel on Rizzo, whom I like very much. No way he's any happier with that RF platoon than we are.

Austin Kearns is hitting .325/.417/.600 in Spring Training for Cleveland. Do you think the Nationals are now wishing they didn't cut him loose?

My guess? No, probably not. He just never got it going here. Let's see how he he's doing a month from now. You can call me on it if he's still banging the ball.

Tracee, the Nats seem to be in a "one step up, one step back" mode now, after years of "a half step up and rolling all the way down the hill."

They have some outstanding young prospects about to debut and they signed a few solid veterans to fill gaps (I. Rod, Kennedy, Livan).

But... Why rely on unproven young pitchers with limited skills like Stammen and Mock to fill out your rotation when, for about $4-5 million, you could have signed Jared Washburn?

Why gamble with Matt Capps as your closer, when he was awful last year? Why dump Elijah Dukes to make a stand about "character" when you end up with Willy Taveras as part of a RF platoon?

Again for about $4 million, you could sign Jermaine Dye (terrible outfielder, good hitter, overall better than what you have now). The question remains in my mind: are the Lerners really serious about making this team in a success or are they just going to try to do it on a budget, which usually doesn't work?

This is a good summation of my problem with the RF platoon; they should be further along by now. I understand wanting to develop players but at some point you have to fish or cut bait with these guys. (Chris Marrero is one of them.) I don't know if they were counting on Bernardino to be better in March than he was, but perhaps. But yes, you have to be prepared to drop $4 million here or there to plug holes. I really do believe the Lerners are serious about having a winning team, but then, so are all owners. No one spends that kind of money to lose. But they can't put all their eggs in the Strasburg basket, either. He's still going to pitch every five days; the other four, it would be nice if there was something worth seeing on the field.

"Asking for patience with The Plan is one thing, but this is ridiculous."

Exactly, Tracee.

So, in addition to providing your opinions in an online q&a that will get little mainstream attention, why don't you use your soapbox and blast the Front Office/Kasten/Lerners (take your pick) in print over this stuff?

The Nats skate by with almost no critical scrutiny from the mainstream media. Don't you think that continued heat and scrutiny by the mainstream press would have an impact on the team's management and owners? Based on experience, I think it would.

Fair enough.

Ms. H: Ok, who you got in the semis and the final game?

And we'll end with this one, since it is the big weekend.

West Virginia beats Duke, Butler beats Michigan State, Butler wins it all.

Hey, a girl can dream. Thanks for joining me. Monday we'll be LIVE at the Nats' opener; let's talk again then.

In This Chat
Tracee Hamilton
Tracee Hamilton has worked at the Post since 1993, toiling in office obscurity as an editor before someone said, "Hey, you've got a lot of opinons and can write a little. Why don't you become a columnist?"

Her interests range from geneology to Nordic combined to Kansas basketball. If ever there was a Jayhawk who once flew off a ski jump, she'd know where he was buried.

Her list of pet peeves is considerably longer, but includes Missouri basketball and poor subway etiquette. She welcomes dissenting opinions -- in the way Great Whites welcome open-water swimmers.

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