Monday, July 19, 2010

Sorry Excuses

For the second time in recent memory, the Nationals were shut out despite recording eleven or more hits. This is an extremely difficult thing to accomplish and requires a near "Perfect Storm" of ineptitude to occur. Or so I thought. The Nationals have mastered the techniques to be able to do this in more than one way, but there are some similarities.

First and foremost, extra-base hits are a rarity, if not extinct all together. Home runs obviously shelve the shutout, but lead-off doubles also greatly increase a team's chance of scoring. Next, players must find new and creative ways to run into outs on the base paths. Base running blunders are a Nats specialty, though they seem to be grounding into fewer double plays (actually, same pace as last year). And finally, hitters lose focus of the situation and fail to produce with runner in scoring position.

The Nats were an inside-out opposite field triple by Josh Willingham, the Nats probably would have just been shut out 27 straight innings by the Marlins. This is why they are absolutely terrified of moving Dunn or Willingham, and to a lesser extent, Guzman. They have a dreadful offense that relies on three hitters, two of which are having career years at age 30 and 31. As much experience as Desmond is gaining, who else is here to fill the other six spots in the field not named Zimmerman? And those paying attention know that Dunn and Willingham are already regressing to the mean as this season drags on.

If that Marlins series didn't serve as a wake up call, the front office probably doesn't have a plan that they are prepared to execute. Trading Dunn is the play. Getting two AA/AAA players that are still developing is the play. Allowing Dunn to leave and acquiring the draft picks is a shrewd move in one of the two scenarios. The first being if the Nats had a strong farm that was ready to graduate to the bigs. They do not. The other would be if they were completely resigned to not competing until 2013, when Zim, Zimm, Strasburg, Storen, etc, would be in free agent or larger arbitration years, and Harper, Marrero, Espinosa, Meyers are contributing. Judging by their free agent acquisitions, they are clearly on a year-to-year, maybe we can make a run at it if everything falls into place. That points to either having already locked up Dunn through 2012 (not the worst idea) or trading for chips that can contribute in 2011/2012.

The problem I see is that by jerking Dunn around like this, the Nats may get nothing out of the deal but his services for the next two months. They also further poison their brand by looking greedy and incompetent, and will struggle getting the free agents they need to make up for the barren farm system. Don't get me wrong, Rizzo get shafted more and more every day for Jim Bowden crapping on the franchise for all those years. At least we get to enjoy Strasburg...

And if I see Stammen get pinch hit for again by anybody except Mike Morse, I'm going to clock somebody. Do the managers and coaches even watch BP? If they did, they would know Stammen is a far better hitter than Kennedy, Harris, or the rest of the punch-and-judy crap on the bench.

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