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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New Park Update and other news

With a little over a month before Opening Day, everybody is growing anxious to see our new summer home. Two new Nationals Park tours are available and worth your time: MLB.com's Ed Randall and WUSA9's Dan Guzman.

In other news, it appears that Luis Ayala will finally be arriving at camp today. Jesus Flores will likely report on Saturday. Jesus Colome and Arnie Munoz are still having Visa problems.

Happy Birthday #4!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Spring Training News Updates

Reunited and it feels so good:
Bret Boone joins brother Aaron and father Bob in the Nationals organization. The team offered the second baseman an invitation to the Accelerated Development Program and a non guaranteed minor-league contract. He has appeared in 3 All Star games and has won a pair of AL Silver Slugger Awards, as well as 4 Gold Gloves throughout his career. Boone hasn't played since 2005.

A Lefty Joins the battle for rotation spots:
After a day of rumors, the Nats agree to terms on a minor league contract with Odalis Perez at a reported 800,000.

Position players report:
A fully recovered Ryan Zimmerman, a re-energized Felipe Lopez, a healthy Nick Johnson and a lighter Dmitri Young have all been spotted starting their spring training early.

Here's a great quote from the "face of the franchise" with no long-term contract (yet):
We are tired of losing. We are good enough to win. The way we played the last month of the season -- the last two weeks against teams that were competing for a playoff spot -- we played them tough. So that shows we are not scared. We were scared before, but we know we can win. We have a little quiet confidence about us. That's how it's going to be this year. .. Competing isn't good enough. We want to win and we want to win now." -- Zimmerman

Sunday, February 17, 2008

He Speaks

Paul LoDuca broke his long silence today and released a statement about his steroid use and mention in the Mitchell Report. His statement was pretty much the same kind of thing we have heard from others mentioned.

"In regards to Senator Mitchell's report, I apologize to my family, all my fans and to the entire baseball community for [the] mistakes in judgment I made in the past and for the distractions that resulted. I am fully committed to being the best player and person I can be, on and off the field, for the Washington Nationals and the entire baseball community.

"I recognize the importance of my role in the community as a professional athlete, and I intend to focus my energies on making a positive impact in that regard. So that I can focus on making positive contributions and avoid creating further distractions, I respectfully decline to comment any further on the content of the Mitchell Report."

When asked why he waited so long to make the statement, LoDuca said he wanted to focus on his offseason. He waited until spring training to focus on baseball again. Whatever you say Paul...

It's still unsure if LoDuca will face a suspension, his case is still being reviewed. It's also unclear if LoDuca will be ready to play on opening day. Seems like a lot of stuff to work out in the next six weeks. According to the Times, the team has a scenario in place to deal with a suspension of LoDuca, it involves Jesus Flores starting the season in majors.

Hopefully Jesus gets to spring training soon, apparently some guys on the team had some issues with their visas. Flores, Ayala, Colome, Munoz, and a few others where unable to report to spring training on Saturday. Lets hope they can make it soon!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Time Has Come, Today

Pitchers and catchers report today, baseball season is finally here! The optimism for the 2008 season is everywhere. Check out articles in the Washington Post, Times, and the Examiner. The long quiet winter is over and we can really start talking about baseball again.

The Nationals organization enters spring training this year with significantly less unknowns. We have a general idea of what the starting rotation will look like, who will make up the infield, and what kind of power our bench will have. There still are some questions though, like who will be the starting first baseman? Who will be at short and second? Will our new catcher LoDuca* show up to spring training? We look forward to getting answers to these questions in the coming weeks.

Those Nats fans heading down to Viera for games this spring will be greeted with some upgrades to Space Coast Stadium. A new PA system, more food options, and updates to the Carl Barger Complex are just a few things to look forward to.

Can you hear the crack of the bat yet? We are so ready to have baseball back! For us it really does mean, "The end of football. It means the start of spring. And for those yearning for the pop of a glove or the crack of a bat, it means all is right with the world."

Felipe Lopez Loses Arbitration

Not all that surprisingly, infielder Felipe Lopez lost his arbitration case yesterday. Lopez will make $4.9 million instead of the $5.2 million he desired. The ruling still gives Lopez a $1 million raise over last year's salary despite his subpar season.

His decision to actually go to arbitration was the big surprise. Last season, Lopez hit .245 with nine home runs and 50 RBIs. A lead-off hitter who struck out during almost 20% of his at-bats, his OBP was only .308. Lopez also struggled defensively collecting 20 errors. Only 11 players in Major League Baseball had more last season (though those players include Zimmerman, Wright, and H. Ramirez). Unfortuantely, Nats fans know that many of those errors were momentum changing moments that eventually cost the Nats a few wins and leveled a charge from some that he wasn't trying.

Lopez said of the arbitration process, often known to be a difficult experience, that hearing the team talk about his terrible performance in 2006 just fired him up.

The club has said that Belliard and Guzman will come into spring training with the nod at 2nd and short, but Lopez wants to play hard and earn his starting spot. He said recently:

A lot of people have had bad years -- a lot of good players -- and they bounce back. That what I want to do. I want to bounce back.

We will see. There is little doubt that Lopez has a lot of potential but private personal problems have admittedly affected his on-field focus. A 2005 All-Star, we're hoping Felipe Lopez can put last season behind him and have a big comeback in 2008.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Tyler!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Fresh Start?

Sure, we've waited all off season for today -- the day pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. The Nats don't report until Friday, but nonetheless, baseball season is here. A clean slate, a lot of fresh faces -- It's a day for celebrating a new season. Congratulations, baseball fan. You surivived 4 1/2 months without baseball.
Unfortunantely, steroids continue to tarnish the game we all love -- even on this day of fresh starts. The topic strikes again today as Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee travel to Capitol Hill to discuss steroid use.
The hearing begins in just a few minutes (10 AM EST). You can watch on tv or online on CSPAN3.

Happy Birthday Matt!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

This Day in History

On February 12, 1878: The Captain of Harvard's baseball team received a patent for creating a catcher's mask.
Taking his inspiration from the fencing mask, Thayer designed a mask that added a forehead pad and chin rest to help absorb the impact of the ball. He also replaced the fine wire mesh of the fencing mask with a "birdcage" face protector that improved visibility.

Thayer and Tyng experimented with the catcher's mask away from the diamond, before Tyng finally used it in a regular-season game on April 12, 1877.

Originally, it was only worn on a two-strike count but eventually, Tyng kept it on for all pitches. A.G. Spalding and Brothers first sold the mask for $3.

Thanks to Ryan for the tip.

Happy Birthday #17!