Mailbag Tuesday

Would a succesful Redskins effect Nats revenue? (Thomas Richman)

This is a tough question to effectively answer.  Thinking about it simply it should effect it as there is a finite amount of disposable revenue to go around, but I have a hard time believing it would do so to the level that it matters. In the end the Nats winning or losing is driving their revenue.

Looking at some numbers, ratings for Nats games overall increased over the season (53% up in June, 74% by season's end).  Do I think Sunday ratings probably dipped? Yes. But one day a week for a couple months isn't going to drive any contract deals.

The attendance figures are too few to draw any conclusions, but hey why not try anyway? They only had two home games up against the Skins. On Sept 9th they played Miami and drew 24,396 against the Skins season opener. That was their worst attendance on a Sunday all year. This suggests an effect. On Sept 23rd they played the Brewers and drew 33,111 against the Skins home opener vs the Bengals. Maybe that was a littlel low? It's hard to tell, the Nats were in control and playing a team that's not a draw. I'm not seeing much of an effect here.

If I had to guess I'd say BIG games for the Skins will demonstrably effect the Nats attendance, like the opener seemingly did. But how many BIG games will take place on a Sunday day when the Nats are at home? If the Skins are good more of those big games will be on Sunday and Monday nights, if not Thursdays. So it may matter once or twice a year.

As for jersey sales and other merchandise, I don't know how to judge where the Nats should be, so I can't really say if they are falling short. The biggest effect will probably be on sports talk radio coverage, but does it really bother you what those clowns are talking about?

Again - does it have some effect? Sure. Is it something to worry about? I don't think so.  Certainly not as long as the Nats keep winning.

Thoughts on the bullpen LH situation?  (Keith Watts)

The Nats have one lefty (Zack Duke) in the pen now, with Gonzo, Gorzo, and Burnett all going elsewhere.  Should they be worried? For now, no.  I think over the long haul of the season, a true LOOGY (ie a guy that can get lefties out and not much else) is a hinderance, not a help. You need flexibility in the pen and that's better served by a guy who can do well in all situations than a guy who's maybe a one or two batter pitcher a game.

Do the Nats have guys that do well in all situations? Yep. Career vs lefties:

Clippard .186 / .268 / .325
Stammen .266 / .310 / .407
Mattheus .214 / .294 / .343
Storen .229 / .287 / .297
Soriano .233 / .309 / .395

Except for Mattheus, who got hit, let's say "mildly hard" last year, all these guys were just as good or better in 2012 vs lefties. In other words - they can get everyone out.

Now what happens in the play-offs? Flexibility is less important there as you may ride the same 3-4 arms in important situations. In the playoffs a LOOGY could be more useful, but there aren't going to be many guys, even guys who are supposedly LOOGYs that can put up better numbers that what Clippard or Storen have done.So you either pay through the nose for an O'Flaherty type or you go with your pretty damn good second options. I think for now, it's better to see if plan A- works then to put out that money or talent.

Do you think Randy Knorr is going to be the next manager and do you think that it matters ? (Keith Watts)

Yes, I do think Knorr is lined up to be the manager.  Does it matter? There isn't really any strong evidence that it does. I'd say I believe with a common medium thought. The difference between a great manager and a good one or even an ok one is going to be hardly noticeable.  However a bad manager can cost you a few games through particularly bad decision making. Of course I have no proof of this.

There is some thought that a manager matters more in the playoffs but I tend to believe that the results make the manager more than vice versa. If Edwin Jackson gets through that 2nd inning somehow, the numbers of people saying Davey was dumb drops dramatically. "HE KNEW SOMETHING WE DIDN'T!!!!"

In the end it's going to be a Rizzo led team and I assume Knorr is lined up because he will follow Rizzo's lead. If it's not him it'll be someone else who Rizzo thinks will go along with his vision.

How do you see the Long-term money management working out for all those young players :  Stras, ZNN, Bryce, Ian... (Jonathan Doerr)

I think they will do the following in this order -

  • Try to get ZNN on a long-term deal that clearly favors the Nats
  • Sign Desmond to a fair long-term deal
  • Let Stras walk with only a token try at keeping him
  • Try to sign Bryce as hard as possible
After 2015 a lot of Nats are currently scheduled to hit FA.  Clippard, Desmond, Detwiler, Zimmermann, and Bernadina and possibly Span if they kept him in 2015 and still need him at that point. (I have a hard time seeing LaRoche or Soriano extended and re-signed).  Bernie is pretty replaceable and presumably the Nats will have another league min type guy who can fill his shoes. Same for the slightly less replaceable Clippard.  I think the Nats will see what kind of year Detwiler has and if he's ok, they'll try to get him (cheaper than ZNN presumably) and Desmond wrapped up.

Why not ZNN?  Because by that time the Nats will be paying Werth, Gio, and Zimm 45 mill combined for 2016. Desmond will likely cost over 10.  Strasburg should be making a bunch several years into arbitration and Bryce should be up for a big raise in his first arbitration year. Espy and Ramos will be well into arbitration figures as well... (that's assuming they haven't signed any of these guys long term which would be even more $$$ already designated) If they've signed anyone else of value you could be looking at something like  100+ million set for 9-10 players or so.  Unless they take want to scrape the luxury tax or have a ton of cheap guys doing well they need to make a cut somewhere. Zimmermann, turning 30, would be an easy place to start.

Why let Strasburg walk?  If things go as we think they could he'll be looking for a deal that's the richest pitching contract in the majors. 25 mill a year for 7 years? It could be that high EASY. They could do that but if they do that AND sign Bryce they'd be looking at maybe 50+ million for these two combined for the back end of the 2010s. You're still paying Zimm at this point. Did Desmond re-sign? Espy? Ramos? It's going to be near impossible to keep all these guys if they are good. You make your choices.  Say Ramos and Desmond and free agent X instead of Strasburg. I think that instead of Strasburg they bet hard on the bat that's younger (Bryce will hit FA at 26), probably trying to sign him to a LONG deal (like 10 yr or so) a couple of years prior to hitting FA.

Best walk-up songs (Froggy)

I must admit I don't follow walk up songs.  I couldn't name more than 5 probably and no other Nats.  Chipper has 'Crazy Train'.  Paul O'Neill used 'Baba O'Reilly'*.  Does Mariano's 'Enter Sandman' count? So as Froggy suggested I'll leave it up to the commenters to give their opinions. 

I can tell you that if I were a baseball player I would like to take a live mic and sing a song as I walked to the box.  Assuming they wouldn't allow that (Oh the sportswriter angst that would cause!) I would use dogs barking 'Jingle Bells'. As you see, I don't really take the whole mental buildup thing seriously.

*I rarely wax poetic but Baba O'Reilly on a crisp fall night will always feel like playoff baseball to me, and I don't even like the Who. 

About Strasburg, Rizzo said "I think the other four or five starters will piggyback off of his success." Any chance this means a 6-man rotation? (Mick Sutter)

I don't think he meant anything by it. The Nats will have more than four starters, but that's because of injury or the fluke double header, or maybe a rest day in a long stretch.  I don't think he's going full 6-man (and I think it would dumb of the team to do so)

A 6-man rotation is something that teams have flirted with once or twice but in reality it makes little sense.  Your rotation should be determined in a way to maximize the number of times your best pitchers pitch while limiting injury.  I think in the near future, next 10 years or so, you may actually see a return to a 4-man rotation with limited pitch counts. There is some evidence (though not striking in my estimation) that pitch counts, not innings pitched necessarily are what drives injury. With an older rotation I would totally do this.

Of course the problem is injuries are going to happen regardless and if you do this plan and someone gets injured you WILL get blamed. So it'll take GM who is willing to risk his job.

What's it like to root for a team expected to win (cass)

A normal Yankee fan would have trouble answering this question, given that they've usually seen mutliple World Series titles before they hit puberty, but I am a member of a select Yankee fan group, those precious few born at a time where they were able to spend their whole adolescence rooting for a team that was alternately good, mediocre, and bad and most importantly never made the playoffs. So I remember the transition from rooting for a non-playoff team to a playoff team, which I think is applicable here. (Both off a crushing DS loss in their first playoffs)

This year a sense of urgency will be all over the place.  On one hand, since the playoffs is not old hat, you'll still be worried about making it.  Start 10-15 and you won't be thinking "oh maybe we can turn it around, I guess" but instead "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG!?!?" Of course this is also a positive, no longer do you have to be resigned to a slow dirge of a season if they start slow. Instead you know the talent is there to still make it in. Now if the Nats are as good as everyone thinks they are this won't be an issue for long, but it could be something that hangs over your head. Who knows if maybe the Phillies have that combeack year? Likewise, the Wild Card position too will be a thorn in your side as well, thanks to the new playoff rules, and that's not likely to go away, though it's not the door slamming shut like missing the playoffs entirely.   

On the other hand, once you are in the playoffs you will also NEED to win.  Last year was terrible and all but heading into this year the feeling around the Nationals seems to be "OK, Now let's do this".  Lose in the first round again and that "OK" disappears and is replaced with the aformentioned "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG?!?" Even a NLDS victory is probably not be enough to satisfy most.

Ok so let's say the Nats do win the World Series, the urgency goes away right?  Nope, at least for me it didn't until the 2nd World Series was won. The first is more a relief.  You saw your team win it all. You can check that off your life goals.  But the same feeling of dread, like your window has closed, will follow the next playoff loss. That was it! Hope you enjoyed it! So the second one is almost as needed and almost as special. After two I'll say this some situations (like facing the Mets in 2000) bring back that level of urgency that might be missing if they were in another situation, and for some fans situation won't matter, they'll want to win no matter what.

After that it becomes hard for me to say because the Yankee scenario diverges into the bizarre.  What's it like after winning FOUR World Series in five years? You do become a little non-chalant about a title... for a little while (It was 2007 before I was back up to the "NEED TO WIN" level - and honestly a lot of that was because the Red Sox has won two more recently than the Yanks and the Sports Talk radio people would not let up about the Yanks not being able to win with A-Rod.  If I was going to keep reading about baseball and listening to baseball I needed the Red Sox off the "best team" lists and the A-Rod talk over). What's it like to make the playoffs nearly every year?  You don't become blase about it, but missing it is no big deal and slow starts no longer provoke "WHAT THE HELL"s, instead you feel like they'll certainly get there somehow because they always have. It's a nice place to be though, and I hope you guys manage to get there.

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