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WHAT'S BIGGER NEWS: A NATS WIN OR WARD & ANDERSON GETTING TRADED?

[August 31st] -- A Nationals win in the month of August? Darn right that's breaking news, but so is the double-trade pulled off by Jim Bowden early Friday morning.

The Nationals continue to aquire young arms in an on-going attempt to build up the talent level of their minor league system, hopefully turning the belly laughter into only giggles and guffaws. Slowly but surely, Jim Bowden is turning the league's laughing stock into an "okay" minor league system.

Just minutes after scampering home to score the winning run in the 10th inning, Bowden traded uber-utility player Marlon Anderson to the Dodgers for Jhonny (not a typo) Nunez. Before Anderson could begin to pack, Daryle Ward became part of the personnel putsch, going to the Atlanta Braves for Luis Atilano. Well, that's just fine. I mean, the bench was the ONLY part of the 2006 Nationals team that was actually doing it's job.

Nunez, 20, was a non-drafted signee out of the Dominican Republic in 2003. He had a tremendous season for the Dodger's Gulf Coast League affiliate, going 6-0 with a stellar 1.58 ERA. He struck out 56 batters in 57 innings while walking only 19. Amazingly, he held opponents to a .177 batting average. His manager loved him: "He's been dominant all season and was dominant again today. We [are] very confident with him out there." That said, my quick, late night dash through the information super-highway turned up no stats for 2003-2005, and thebaseballcube.com doesn't even know who he is. More to come here.

Atilano, 21, is a 6'3", 200 pound right-hander who appeared on a medium-fast track to Atlanta before Tommy John surgery ended his season earlier this month. It can take up to a year for a pitcher to return to form after this type of surgery (the bad news) but virtually every pitcher who has had it returned at near 100% (the good news). Atilano went 6-7, 4.50 with class 'A' Myrtle Beach, striking out 45 in 116 innings. Going into this season, he had a career minor league record of 16-12, 4.11 garnered over three seasons (2003-Gulf Coast League, 2004-Danville, 2005-Rome). He was certainly considered a prospect. From bravesscout.com: (from 2005) "How good might this guy be in two years? The control is tremendous and he continues to show why the Braves drafted him so high last year ... the Braves believed they had another Javier Vazquez when they drafted him, and they still feel that way. As he continues to mature physically, his fastball is only going to get better and more consistently in the mid 90's. When you look at his numbers, including his age, you just see a potential success story in the future." But wait: there's more. From Baseball America's 2003 draft review: "Atilano has two solid pitches and an ideal frame that could make him a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. Atilano, 18, has an easy arm that produces a cutting fastball with excellent movement. Though skinny at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, he should get stronger as his body matures, which should make his fastball more effective and possibly sit in the 93-94 mph range. Atilano also throws an above-average changeup with good depth and fade. The Braves like his mound presence and competitiveness, traits that led the Major League Scouting Bureau to grade him higher than any other player this year in Puerto Rico."

Good moves, Jimbo. Atilano, if he can come back from his surgery, may crack the Nationals' rotation in three years or so. Considering the Nats gave up a player who wouldn't have re-signed with the team next year, you can make the assertion that Atilano was acquired for "nothing." Nunez looks even better, but until I find out more about him, I'll remain "hopefully" confident that he can help the team as well. In the past two months, Bowden has traded for five, count em, five minor league starting pitchers. Some will make it into the Nationals' starting rotation, some won't. The point is, it's all about the numbers. You have to have more prospects than players needed, not less.

I'll miss both Daryle Ward and Marlon Anderson, but it's not like they were going to help the Nationals have a winning September (as if that mattered). Good bench players are a dime-a-dozen; Bodes can re-stock this winter. One thing's for sure, Robert Fick should be returning to the team. Fick, having a sub-par season thanks to injuries and two stints on the disabled list, says he wants to come back next season and says his agent has had preliminary talks with Bowden already. I've always been a "Fick fan." He's hard nosed and plays like he really loves the game. I don't see that too much anymore.

Here is the post I wrote before going to bed and flipping on "Baseball Tonight" to hear Karl Ravage say, "... and there's Marlon Anderson streaking home with the winning run for the Nationals, only to be traded moments later." I'd say that demanded a re-write, wouldn't you?

To be fair, when we bloggers take "whacks" at the Nationals for their poor play, we have an obligation to give them "loves" when they play well, even if it only happens once every ten days or so.

I didn't see the comeback. I watched the game right up until the bottom of the 9th, when I walked with my daughter to the corner to buy a couple of pops (this is a decidedly regional term. When I lived in D.C., everything was a Coke, as in "I'm buying everyone cokes -- what kind do you want? I want a Pepsi." I'm guessing that's still the terminology -- yes?). I had only a few seconds to be excited over the Nationals comeback, because before I had the chance to get comfortable, the Phillies scored on what should have been the third strike of the third out of the inning. But that wasn't the strangest scoring play of the night. With Marlon Anderson on 3rd, Aaron Fultz bounced a pitched in front of the plate, a pitch that pinch-hitter Ryan Church swung at. Have you ever seen film of the British "bouncing betty" bomb, the one that was designed to bounce accross the water several times before hitting and destroying German dams? Well, that's kind of how that ball looked as it hit the plate, then the catcher, and maybe even Ryan Church before squiggling and jiggling out towards the mound. I was still trying to figure out if it was a hit ball or not when Marlon zoomed in from stage right and pirouetted around Mike Lieberthal to score the winning run.

Wow.

It was a nice win, but it seems the Nationals have fallen into a rut of winning one game in each series. That just isn't going to cut it. I've read several different stories, all saying the same thing: Other than Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Zimmerman, there is no reason to watch the Nationals play ball.

I disagree.

It's not like the Nationals are trying to stink. It's not like the Nationals are trying to suck. It's simply the way things turned out. If John Patterson remained healthy this year, Livan would never have been traded in the August putsch, and the team would have had an excellent chance of winning at least two games out of each five, with a 50-50 chance of winning a third game. With a little bit of rotational stability (and granted, a lot of luck), the Nationals might have won 75 games this year. However, injuries, bad luck, poor play, and bad managing doomed the team early in the season, and they were never able to recover. I don't think the players are purposely not doing their best, but we've all been in positions where our best wasn't really the best we could do. It was the best we could do under the circumstances. Losing has a way of doing that.

From this blogger is stupid department: I was working on some homework when I glanced up at my computer screen and saw the MASN starting lineup graphic. At second base, I saw the name "Casto." "Wow!" I thought -- "they called up the kid after all. I'll finally get the chance to watch him play." I was surprised that he was playing second base -- after talking about moving him there in spring training, he began the season at third. I kept watching for him, and finally, he was announced: "Batting 8th, the second baseman, Bernie CASTRO." I was surprised, and wondered why Castro got the start over Casto. Then -- very slowly -- I figured it out. Old eyes. Small computer screen. Even smaller graphics. I guess if I listened to Bob Carpenter and Tom Paciorek instead of Charlie and Dave, I might have figured it out sooner.

Oh yeah, Idahoans are j-u-s-t as smart as you folks inside the beltway.

Uh-huh.


Comments:
"When I lived in D.C., everything was a Coke, as in "I'm buying everyone cokes -- what kind do you want? I want a Pepsi." I'm guessing that's still the terminology -- yes?"

To me, the above terminology is a southern habit. DC used to be a very southern town in a lot of ways, but it's not anymore. I've rarely heard people in the DC area say "Coke" as a generic word for a soft drink. Sorry, my friend! But my Indiana relatives ALL say "pop"! :-)
 
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