Max Scherzer’s deal looks crazy – is it?

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At the beginning of November, if you looked any Nats fan in the eye and told them with a straight face that Max Scherzer was going to sign a 7-year deal worth $210 million with the Nationals, they would’ve laughed at you. They would’ve laughed so hard, that they cried. They would’ve told you to break the news while you were flying to the moon on your unicorn.

While nobody has flown to the moon on a unicorn, the Max Scherzer deal shocked the world. Not only was it from a team nobody expected, but the deal’s value went beyond expectations.

The Nationals now have an ace – a Cy Young Award winner – a 20 game winner for the next seven years. They have a pitcher with playoff experience, a pitcher that is tested and proven. They also have a pitcher who they owe $210 million.  The deal goes against almost everything Mike Rizzo stands for and everything the Nationals have done in the offseason since 2010. And yet, it still happened.

The 14-year plan

Scott Boras, Scherzer’s agent, does not leave money on the table. Ever. But Scherzer’s deal had an interesting little caveat, deferring half of the deal, meaning the Nationals are holding off on $105 million dollars for the next seven years and are instead paying the righty $15 million a year for the next fourteen years. The money never went back onto the table – its just a slower process.

This frees up $105 million dollars for the Nationals. $105 million dollars could extend Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond or Doug Fister, the three hot-button issues for the Nats this offseason. Also, with $105 million off the payroll, every executive can breath a little easier when they sign other free agents.

But what about the kids?

While the deal does free up space to extend one of the three players on contract years that will command more than $100 million, it’s assumed that one pitcher will be leaving. Unfortunately, one of those pitchers will be Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister or maybe even Stephen Strasburg, all vital pieces to the ball club. But the time to freak out is most certainly not now.

Jordan Zimmermann and/or Doug Fister and/or Stephen Strasburg won’t be on the Nationals come 2016, which is fine for multiple reasons. It gives the Nationals first round draft picks, a commodity they haven’t enjoyed since 2012. Even so, extensions shouldn’t be a huge issue considering that the Nationals have two of the best pitching prospects in the minors in Lucas Giolito (ranked as the 8th overall prospect in the league by MLB.com) and A.J. Cole, who are expected to be in the Majors by 2017 and 2016 respectively.

But, Giolito and Cole may not be ready by 2016 or 2017. So, who’ll help fill the void? That’s where Scherzer comes in – he would take over the lost spot. The Nats are deep enough to still have an outstanding rotation, even without Strasburg, Fister or Zimmermann.

The question has been thrown around all offseason – “Mike Rizzo has built a winner, but can he maintain it?” $210 million and seven years for Max Scherzer may look like the craziest thing the Nats have ever done and the opposite of trying to maintain a winner. But in reality, it might just end up being the smartest.

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Side of Interviews: Dave Jageler

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On June 21st, I had the pleasure of sitting down and interviewing Dave Jageler. You might know him from the Nationals radio broadcasts on 106.7 The Fan or player interviews at occasions such as NatsFest. He had a lot of interesting things to say and knows lots about the Nats, and is also a pretty funny guy. So without any further ado… Continue reading

First Pitch at a Nationals game, NL Preview

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A few weeks ago, MASN announced VIA Twitter a big contest. You had to answer the question “Why should you throw out the first pitch on April 5th?” – the most creative answer would get to throw out the first pitch, on April 5th.
I entered with a video of me playing the guitar and a slideshow, covering “Take on Me” by A-ha, with lyrics including

“Please let me… (See you later)
Throw that pitch (See you later)
I would probably… Throw it better than John Walllllllll!

Unbelievably, a couple days ago, I got a Twitter message from MASN, letting me know I would be the starter on April 5th. As you can probably guess, I was pretty happy.
After spending the next couple days perfecting my windup and getting my arm loose, I got to Nationals Park. I was greeted by the woman who ran the contest, Olivia, and a member of the Nats PR Department, Julia. They took me down onto the field, where I watched the Braves finish batting practice and hung out.

After what felt like twenty minutes but what was really an hour, I was called onto the mound to throw my pitch. Here was the result.

All in all, even though the Nats lost 6-2, it was an incredible experience. Thank you so much to MASN and Twitter for giving me this incredible opportunity.

Note: I will not be previewing the NL or the Nationals this year. You all know what I think will happen, but for a quickie: 

NL WEST: Dodgers

NL CENTRAL: Cardinals

NL EAST:  Nats

WILD CARD: Braves, Pirates

NLDS: Dodgers over Pirates, Nats over Cardinals

NLCS: Nats over Dodgers

World Series: Nats over A’s.

 

Matt Williams gets rave reviews, players and fans alike.

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“He who holds the ball controls the game.”

AT THE END of the Davey Johnson era, the scent of stale beer and gloom filled Nationals park. The perfect season had rotted, beautiful at first, but now ugly. As fans stared down at the field watching the Nationals play a half hearted game against the Miami Marlins, losing by a score of four to two, everybody knew in their hearts that the miracles, and the “We Believe’s” had reached their end. There was no chance of a World Series, let alone a playoff berth in Washington this year. Every magazine, newspaper and blog had predicted it incorrectly. As they filed out of the stadium, one by one, leaving the game they had bought tickets to, expecting it to be a clincher, or a game where the starters didn’t play because of the berth, but instead fought for the second Wild-Card spot – and failed. We could smell victory that Opening Day against the same team, when Harper hit two bombs and Strasburg went seven innings without giving up a run. The scent of the World Series was in the air, but it was snatched away from us.

Even though the Braves and other mediocre teams defeated them many times, it was obvious that something else had to change. Immediately after the season ended, Mike Rizzo intensified the search for the new manager. This was not a bad situation to come into as a manager – in fact, this was one of the most, if not the most coveted positions to come into as a manager. The Nationals had a decent season, and were still poised to be in the playoffs the next year. Candidates included Trent Jewett, Randy Knorr, Cal Ripken Jr., and Matt Williams.

After working in the Major Leagues for 16 years as a Third Baseman for the Giants, D-Backs and Indians, he became a coach for the D-Backs in 2009. His only managing experience was in the Arizona Fall League, with a couple Nats prospects including Anthony Rendon.  Williams was close to Rizzo after

Career Stats:  BA: .268 HR: 378 RBI: 1,218 College: UNLV (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Career Stats:
BA: .268
HR: 378
RBI: 1,218
College: UNLV
(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

working together in Arizona before, and was the frontrunner the whole way. He was given the job officially on October 31st. News sources immediately started searching for more information on him, and told many stories of his greatness, his World Series rings, his steroid use, and the rest of his life.

Early on, he mapped out the problems with the Nationals, every day of Spring Training, (“Day one through forty-one, it’s all there” he says) and how they could bring a title and a banner home to D.C.

As the long months between the Winter League and Pitchers and Catchers rolled on, he watched his General Manager pick up Doug Fister, Jerry Blevins, Nate McClouth and Jose Lobaton, while extending every key player. 

On Thursday, the long waiting concluded, as pitchers and catchers reported to Viera, Florida. Williams had already been there for a week.

“Every pitch we make is with conviction.”

As players walked into the facility, some seeing the same thing they had been seeing for years, putting on old, familiar jerseys, while others looked somewhat lost, putting on new jerseys with new numbers and new colors, everyone was greeted warmly by the players already there, Rizzo and Williams.

Williams had already made his position very clear onto what he would do with certain players.

On Bryce Harper, he said that “He loves the way he plays the game” but at times could be “A little smarter, and not run into walls.”

On Danny Espinosa, Anthony Rendon and the Second Base job, he announced that he “Believes it’s an open competition”

On Ryan Zimmerman, he said that there would be a first baseman’s mitt in his Spring Training locker, and lone and behold, there was.

Congratulating Adam Eaton on a Home Run as Third Base Coach. REUTERS/Ralph D. Freso

Congratulating Adam Eaton on a Home Run as Third Base Coach. (REUTERS/Ralph D. Freso)

And so far, the players are enjoying him.

“(His intensity) got me a little fired up” says Stephen Strasburg

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Matt” Werth announced. “I think with the playing experience and the type of guy he is, his overall baseball IQ, I think he’s going to do a good job.

Anthony Rendon played under him in the Arizona Fall League, and says that he “Likes that he brings a little fire. (He had) his opportunity to show people that he could bring out the best in his players, and I believe he did that.”

“There is a difference between control and command.”

Fans have also been raving on him all over Twitter, saying that they are confident in his abilities and how he will bring the Nats back to their fundamentals and change the attitude of this season as opposed to last year’s.

Being introduced as the new Manager at Nationals Park (Washington Post)

Being introduced as the new Manager at Nationals Park (Washington Post)

The change we see in Spring Training will not be visible to the majority of us, partially because of the fact that Spring Training should not be too intense, partially because the drills, batting practices and bullpen sessions are not visible to us.

However, one interesting thing we can see is a new thing, the “Quote of the day”.  The quotes above have been from the first three days of Spring Training. He has planned one from day one to forty one.

Many people are concerned about a young manager guiding this team, but if there is one thing that Nats fans know, it’s that Mike Rizzo makes great decisions nearly every time. The odds that this one is an exception are quite low.

“Expect the ball to be hit; demand it to be caught.”

Many people are trying to find the downside on this team, and are saying that Matt Williams’ inexperience, quotes of the day and fundamentals will throw off the Nats. However, if what we’ve seen so far is a sign, I can tell you I have upmost confidence in him.

So laugh all you want about his managing style. But he can definitely lead the Nats to something special, so get on the bandwagon now. Because when it starts rolling, you won’t want to be late.

“If not you, then who?”

 

It’s time to Embrace your Natitude

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Terrance warms up the ol' Natitude machine. (Washington Post)

Terrance warms up the ol’ Natitude machine. (Washington Post)

If you were to pick the song that symbolized D.C. sports the most, “Hail to the Redskins” would be the answer from almost anyone. Just not me.

As D.C. counts down the days until the 2014 Draft, where the Redskins have lost their first-round pick, again to the Rams, still owing them for the R.G.3 trade, and will in all likelihood, if history repeats itself, go away from the idea they need to pick a pass defense or an offensive line. But we don’t care – who doesn’t love the Redskins in this city, and consider the Spring and Summer “The dark months”? No matter how good the Caps, Wizards and Nats are, most Washingtonians have a little thought in the back of their head,  “This is our year – this is the year the Redskins win it all”. While we’ve had that thought many times, the closest we’ve ever gotten (this century) is two first round playoff losses to Seattle.

I understand the longing for a possible championship team. However, that team is already here. That team is the Washington Nationals.

As pitchers and catchers report this thursday, the disappointment that was the 2013 season is no longer in the heads of Nats fans. The boys of summer are heading down to Viera, Florida as we read, and hope is full in our hearts. But this isn’t like saying that the Redskins are going to win the Super Bowl this year, just because of a winning record. The Nats have every single piece ready and waiting – there is no hole visible in the roster. They proved two years ago that they have the potential to go, and to win the World Series. After a humbling experience last year, I believe this year, they can have the season everybody expects of them.

But this isn’t the problem. The problem does not lie in new manager Matt Williams or in twenty one year old left fielder Bryce Harper. No, we are the problem.

Two years ago, the slogan was “Ignite your Natitude”. And oh, we ignited it, with record crowds and a division title. However, D.C.  has still yet to “Embrace their Natitude”. Embracing your Natitude does not mean going to fifty games a year or going down to Viera, F.L. for all of Spring Training, but bringing your most excited and most enthusiastic attitude to the ballpark, and cheering as loud as possible. It does not mean watching Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo each night (although I personally enjoy that). Instead, it means just talking about the Nats at school or work or wherever you spend your time, or just simply sticking a Nats bumper sticker on your car. Embracing your Natitude means believing that the Nats can win a championship, just being excited, and until November, silencing that Redskins voice inside your head.

The Nats have a great chance this year. However, with this city’s attitude, it feels like it could be wasted on the majority of us. So go ahead. It’s time to embrace your Natitude.