Oct 29, 2010

Every morning, Post columnist Tracee Hamilton discusses the most amazing and outrageous news from the world of sports.

After watching the Wizards/Magic game last night, I wasn't surprised to see how poorly the Wizards played last night. No chemistry, no veteran leadership. There appeared to be nothing good about the game last night. Is this what we can expect for the first half of season?

Most nights, yes. Of course, they were playing one of the very best in the East,which didn't help, but they aren't going to be very good this season, no question. I think they'll be better than that some nights, though.

And good morning, everyone. Don't forget Adam is here today so this is your chance to find out about Harper, Dunn, and everything else Nats. Let's get going.

Hi Tracee- Yesterday you had one poster talk about an upcoming Skins Super Bowl Appearance and another talking about the Nats in the NLCS--are DC fans really that out of touch with reality?

Nope, but there's nothing wrong with dreaming, is there? I don't think either poster was being terribly serious.

Now that Adam Dunn has designated as a "Type A" FA, doesn't this pretty much seal-the-deal that Dunn is not coming back?

I'm not sure it changes too much, because it was likely, if not automatic, that Dunn would be a Type A. This guarantees that the Nats will get two draft choices if they don't sign Dunn, and Mike Rizzo covets those draft picks. So it does provide a little extra incentive to not sign him. At this point, it would be surprise around baseball if Dunn signs with the Nationals. Far as I can tell, based on what I've heard myself and read elsewhere, the Cubs are the favorite. That could change, especially since we haven't even reached the point where other teams can officially negotiate with Dunn; that'll be five days after the World Series ends.

Hi, it's Sect. 405. I'd like to ask your all-knowing readership for recommendations for a bar in DC or Bethesda (Red line) that will be showing the World Series as a main attraction (not on one of 15 TVs with the sound down). Any ideas, folks?

Let's help out Sect. 405.

Good Mornin' Ms. Tracee, Are you surprised to see the Detroit Lions being a 2 1/2 point favorite over the Redskins on Sunday? Team records don't seem to matter to oddsmakers, do they?

Not really surprised. The oddsmakers were able to see last week's Bears game, so they aren't going to have a high opinion of the Skins offense. And the Lions are getting Stafford back.

Tracee We love having you here each day, but you are seriously needed back at the editor's desk. In the brief notes about the preseason NCAA men's basketball rankings it lists a "Kansas State" above Kansas. This cannot possibly be correct. Can it ? Many of the Post's cost cutting actions are understandable, but such an egregious error is unforgivable.

Yes, well, it's a bit painful to see in print but they are seriously good.

Tracee, Read you and the gang every day -- you always make me smile. First time questioner. What do you think is going on with the Caps? I know it's early in the season, but they seem to be missing their spark or mojo. I don't know whether they're holding their proverbial sticks too tight, or if other teams have scouted what worked for the Canadiens last spring (e.g., modified trap, aggressive forechecking), or if it's just injuries (especially to Green and Poti). It seems that we (and I know I probably shouldn't use the inclusive, but what can I say, I love the Caps and I'm a homer) don't have that zing on offense and that we are having real problems in our transition game. That is, while our defense seems to have tightened up in terms of goals against, they're struggling to be play makers and set up the offense coming out of our zone. Has anyone else noticed this? Your thoughts?

I haven't been able to see them for a week so I can't say, but any Caps chatters out there want to weigh in? Perhaps they are going to struggle in the regular season and glide through the playoffs, instead of the other way around?

Adam, thanks for all you do! It is greatly appreciated, even if I don't take the time to thank you or comment on NJ. These recent updates have been quite welcome. Tracee, you are also awesome and its great you are here everyday. You are definitely the highlight of my morning (even more so than my coffee). Now for an actual question, we keep hearing about Shenin's singing voice, both from you and yesterday from Boz--what's it going to take to get him to do the Anthem at a Nats game?

Thanks for the kind words. We great appreciate the interest.  I hope to make updates on the Journal more frequent now that I'm off playoff duty and we're getting into the maw of the offseason a little more.

I'm not sure what it would take to get Sheinin out there, but I would pitch in just about anything. My guess is it would have to involve Blanton's buorbon.

Willie Harris could have done justice to God Bless America, by the way. He used to mess around before BP sometimes.  He said he learned to sign at church as a kid.

Well that game last night was ugly, playing Orlando the season opener was rough. How many off seasons do you think it will take to make the Wizards a playoff contender. Also, do you think that Flip is good for a young team such as this?

I talked to some Detroiters about that topic and I come away with the impression that perhaps he's not the right fit. But I think he is on a one-year tryout anyway.

Where do you think Harper will end up in April? Obviously, it won't be Washington. But AAA Syracuse, AA Harrisburg, High A Potomac, or lower?

I would assume we'll see him at Class A Hagerstown, the Low-A affiliate. I think he'll move fast, because he's that talentend and the Nats, as proved by his current presenence in the Arizona Fall League, are not going to hold him back. But even Potomac will be a challenge at first. The Nationals like to have their prospects dominate at a level before moving,  just so they know what it's like to kick a little a tail; that's why Strasburg kept beating up on AA batters well after it was clear he was too good to be there.

Ok. . .I can tune the Bullets out for another year. Sorry, I'm just not an NBA fan. The last time I bought a Bullets related item had a fat lady on it. That was before your time here in DC. . .ask Boz or Mr. Tony. Call me bandwagon but I'll watch when they get competitive and not before then.

Okay, you're excused.

I do think this kid will be worth watching. But you can join in any time.

Can we take it that if we had Gilbert and Josh Howard we might have only lost by 18?

Something like that. The Wizards cannot compete with the best teams in the East this year. Orlando is one of the best teams, easily.

How far away from the big leagues is he? From what I read, we definitely won't see him this year.

Ah, Part 2 of that previous question. The Nats haven't outlined this, at least not publicly or concretely. I think we will see him at some point in 2012. Not on opening day, but some time during the year. He'll still only be 19! If you look at the history of position players picked No. 1 at age 18, that's when they typically get their first cup of coffee. A lot of things have to go well, but I'm convinced they will for Harper.

September 2011 call-up? He's already got the roster spot.

Yes, good point, Harper is on the 40-man roster. I would be very surprised if we see Harper this coming season. I wouldn't rule anything out, though.

Tracee: I'm a Mizzou alum but please don't hate me, my mother was a Jayhawk. Here's my proposal for Old Scratch: Let us beat Oklahoma and Nebraska on back to back weekends and you can take our game with KU. I'm sure if you endorse this the Prince of Darkness wiill agree. Winning the Border Rivalry is nothing compared to going BTB on the Sooners and Huskers. PS: Satan already owns half of my soul for the deal I made in 1969 : MU 69 - KU 21. Should have asked for a win in the Orange Bowl.

I'm not ready to sell my soul for a Border War win, but I think Missouri has an excellent chance. I had lunch with an old friend from college yesterday. We are torn between wanting bad things for Nebraska and wanting them to run the table in the Big Ten. He lives in Big Ten country so he's probably going with the latter. I'm unsure at the moment. (Sorry, AHG.)

Adam, I've heard many outsiders talk about the possibility of Michael Morse playing 1b next year. Is anyone inside the Nationals actually talking about it?

Not that I'm aware. I am fascinated by how this offseason plays out in terms of the outfield and first base. It's all connected depending on who they can add. Preferably, they upgrade at both areas. But if they're really intent on signing a No. 1 (a longshot given the market) or trading for Greinke or Garza or someone like that (more doable, but it'll cost them), you wonder if they'll have the resources to get a top-shelf first baseman to replace Dunn, assuming he doesn't re-sign.

Ms. H: As the expert on all "heartland" matters, what's your take on my Huskers tomorrow against the forces of darkness? I'm pessimistic, since the last couple of years, NU has been a better road team (Texas in 2010 and TTech and I-State in 2009, cases in point). Mizzou seems to have an actual defense this year, which has been their Achilles heel in the past. Your prediction? AHG

Well, see about. I think Misouri can win this game. And I like fresh blood. But it's hard to pick one of those teams to root for. Not sure I'll be able to watch.

The thing I liked about watching the Lincecum-Lee duel was that both pitchers work quickly. The game really zipped along (at least, till the wheels came off). It was great to watch. So unlike, say, a Yankees-Red Sox game where they seem to always take almost a minute between pitches.

One of the best things about Strasburg. Worked incredibly fast. Nats defensive players loved playing behind him. Throws strikes, doesn't mess around.

Did you notice I posted my trivia question about the last switch hitter to win the AL MVP in Boz's chat and it got it right away, despite it having been a short night for him. He is the Oracle!

That's Boz. For those who remember from yesterday, the answer was Vida Blue.

It must be nice visiting a place where you lived for a while. Seeing some of the old haunts. Looking at the changes--areas of town that are a lot better or a lot worse. What's your overall impression of how the city has fared since you lived there?

Well, yesterday was tough. Our old building is deserted and I hated seeing that. It's a hard time to judge Detroit right now. As bad as the economy is everywhere, it's worse here. Downtown shows it. Some new life, but still gaping holes in the business district.

Saw the trucks and trailers for the "1-8-7" crew  but no Imperioli.

It's easy: you have to root for Nebraska, because we want no undefeated teams from the overrated Big 11.5, or whatever they're calling it. Same as with the overrated SEC and unbelievably overrated Big Ten.5 or whatever they're calling IT. We want Oregon vs. Boise in the final, although Oregon vs. the TCU-Utah winner would be cool too.

Well, that's a point.

Forget Cliff Lee, what are the Nats best options for getting a top line starter and closer over the winter?

I don't think they'll be looking for a closer. I think they'll try to add a veteran presence for the bullpen, but between Burnett, Clippard and maybe even Joel Peralta, they've got the options to find a closer until Storen is ready -- and with a good spring he'll be ready right away.

As for a starter, there are not  many legitimate No. 1 pitchers available. The dream scenario would be the Nats acquiring Greinke in a trade, but it wouldn't be cheap. My sense is, it would take something like a prospect and a quality major leaguer to get him.  Garza would be possibility. Jorge de la Rosa is a free agent. His numbers were down this year, but when he's on he's nasty. One Nats player told me this season he thought de la Rosa was the toughest at-bat he had all season, which floored me. But he's left-handed and doesn't throw anything straight.

So, you ask a trivia question during yesterday's chat, then you sign off without an answer? Boo. Bad form. Who was the last switch-hitting AL MVP? I suppose I could look it up on the Google, but then I wouldn't be hanging out here with you.

I was waiting for someone to get it. See above; it's Vida Blue.

Last nights game confirmed what i saw in the preseason games about the Wizards. This Wizards team is another no defense team. Orlando had unchallenged layups all night. Hasn't the statute of limitations run out on Blatche and Nick Young? Both have been in the league long enough to show what they can do. When are Grunfield and Flip going to be held responsible for anything?

My guess is, after the season.

How do the Nationals continue that promised march towards contention (better yet, let's start with respectability) next year when they are starting off without Strassburg and, probably, Adam Dunn? Granted, neither loss is insurmountable - it takes more than one pitcher to form a rotation and most people seem to assume this team would need a new first baseman in the next 3-4 years anyway - and I do think the franchise has made some improvements long term with the bullpen, young talent in the field, good prospects on the farm, etc. Still, it looks to me like this team will probably take a step backwards next year before, hopefully, continuing that march forwards. Am I missing something? We have seen these long shopping lists before.

This offseason is an enormous test for Mike Rizzo, for the reasons you laid out. We'll have to reserve judgment on the roster until the spring.  Some realistic best-case-scenario reasons they'll improve that don't even include new players:

1) Ian Desmond is no longer rookie. He'll hit more and make fewer errors on his way to becoming a potential star.

2) Jordan Zimmermann and Jason Marquis will presumably be healthy for the whole season, and John Lannan will not spend time in Class AA. J.D. Martin and Luis Atilano performed admirably, but when they are members of your rotation for large swaths of the season, something has gone wrong.

3) Nyjer Morgan will be the player he is -- somewhere between his excellent second half of 09 and his mostly dreadful 2010.

4) Ryan Zimmerman won't miss roughly 20 games with injuries.

5) Josh Willingham won't miss another two months.

6) Michael Morse really is the hitter he showed in the last six weeks, and this year he gets 500 at-bats.

That's a pretty rosy outlook. Some of the other side: It will be difficult for the bullpen to replicate its excellent season -- relief pitching is the most volatile commodity in the game; it will be nearly impossilbe to replace Dunn's offense with one player without Dunn; it will be tough/costly to find a true No. 1 to stand in for Strasburg.

That was kind of meandering. I do think you've got a good point. The Nats need to do some work this offseason to show they're going to improve by another 10 games. (And, if you're a fan, is 10 games -- or a 79-83 record -- enough?)

Hi, Tracee-- Even though I'm not very "sporty," I always enjoy your chats and columns. So as a small token of my esteem, I wanted to answer the second part of the trivia question you posed in your chat earlier today, about the novel that doesn't use the letter "e" (courtesy of Wikipedia): A Void, translated from the original French La Disparition (literally, "The Disappearance"), is a 300-page French lipogrammatic novel, written in 1969 by Georges Perec, entirely without using the letter e (except for the author's name). (I sent you an e-mail with more details, but figured this would be enough for this forum).

Thanks! I had never heard of this and wondered. I love that this guy had four e's in his name.

Adam, did you see Nolan Ryan fire that cermonial first pitch? Too bad Ron Washington couldn't have called him in to pitch in the 8th last night. It been a really enjoyable, but really kind of sloppy series thus far, huh?

I was there, and, yeah, it was awesome. I wish they had a radar gun on him. I seriously think it could have been 80 miles an hour. I bet he needed an Aleve later that night.

Is he rehabbing? Talking to the Nationals? Hiding? He does still belong to us, doesn't he?

Laying low out in San Diego as he rehabs, as he should. He won't even toss a baseball until January or so.

Adam, Hi. If the rule in baseball is to have a decent payroll to contend, why don't the Lerners shell out more money so Rizzo can get some top notch talent. Money talks. Why wait years to spend more money. Do it now. I don't think spending another $30 million a year is really going to put the Lerners out on "beggars street".

This is a fair frustration to have. On his way out the door, several comments Stan Kasten made suggested now is the time the Lerners need to start spending. They didn't always take his advice when he worked for them. Hopefully for fans, they do this time. Just as it's a big offseason for Rizzo, it's a big offseason for the Lerner's in terms of the  financial committment they're willing to make.

You're missing the point, dude: you actually want to hear Buck and McCarver prattle on about noting (except for hyping Fox programming and movies) when you could have Jon Miller on your headphones?

Adam. . .what's your gut feeling on His injury? Will he recover within the anticipated 12 months and come back the same? Will the whole experience shatter his psyche and he'll just be another starter or will his arm never be right again and he'll be out of the bigs by 2013?

There's really not way to know for sure. Given Strasburg's exceedingly strong work ethic, I won't bet against him. He could make a token at the very end of 2011. More likely, he'll take the ball in the first week of 2012.

What will be interesting is how the Nationals go about building him back up with innings. Jordan Zimmermann made his rehab starts in the minor leagues. Strasburg will be on schedule to do that at the end of 2011, but then the offseason hits. Will the Nats keep him going in winter leagues or the fall leauge? Shut him down? It will all matter in terms of how many innings he can throw once back in the majors full time. Way too soon to know  how it'll play out, but those will be the issues when the time comes.

Adam, you mentioned the Nats' resources in a previous post. As you know reading Nats Journal and other sites, there is a sizeable Lerners are Cheap contingent. They have their own acronym (LAC) for goodness sake. So, the question is put - are they cheap? Or are they taking the advice of the baseball minds they've hired. And, given the family's great wealth, what resources are they willing to use to field a team in DC?

Simply saying "they're cheap" is probably simpifying it a bit. This idea deserves more reporting a full story this offseason and is impossible to sum up in one chat answer. My sense is this: The Nationals do not have the same resources as most other major league teams, and that extends beyond just payroll -- scouting expenses, front office staff, marketing, whatever. A quick, small example: Director of baseball operations Jay Sartori left for a promotion with the Blue Jays late in the season. (That's a standard move; the Jays gave him a chance to be an assistant GM, something he couldn't pass up.) The Nats have replaced him by having those in the front office sharing his workload. It's been almost two months now.

OK, that'll do it. Thanks everyone for the great questions, and sorry we couldn't get to them all. There were lots. Hopefully, we'll do it again real soon. Tracee, you're an excellent host!

Oh, he was there...you just couldn't see him over the hood of the cop car. He's a little little guy.

Oh, now, cut that out.

(Sorry for the slowness that was me today. Technical difficulties.)

Time to stop. Sorry we didn't get to everyone today, but thanks to Adam for joining me. We'll have more hot stove talk soon. Barry will be our VSG Monday to talk Skins-Lions. Have a good weekend, everyone, and may everyone's team win (which of course is impossible for you Mizzou and Nebraska fans, but it's the best I can do).

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 opinions and can write a little. Why don't you become a columnist?"

Her interests range from genealogy 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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Adam Kilgore
Adam Kilgore covers the Nationals for The Washington Post. He previously covered the Red Sox and Patriots for the Boston Globe and the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and the Orioles during a first stint with The Post. He was also part of The Post's Pulitzer Prize-winning team that covered the mass slayings at Virginia Tech in 2007.
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