(Nationals Chief Operating Officer Andy Feffer, right, mugs for the camera with some guy named John Riggins -- back in 2007 when The Feff was COO for NFL Players Inc. Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images for Players Inc.)
~0 Nationals fans showed up at Nationals Park on Saturday.
It's the dead of winter, and Nationals fans in Washington D.C. are dying for baseball. And yet, the Nationals seem oblivious. Exhibit A: the decision to kill off the ol' tried and true Winter Caravan, NatsFest, and Hot Stove Luncheon for season ticket holders. Old news, yes; the Nats delivered the verdict via a press release a few weeks ago:
“The feedback we received from our fans this offseason convinced us to do something new, exciting and unique,” Nationals Chief Operating Officer Andrew C. Feffer said. “Unlike previous years, the 2011 NatsFest will be more inclusive for all our fans and offer them opportunities to interact with their favorite Nationals. Through this event, we hope to engage our fans like never before and get them excited for what is sure to be an electrifying baseball season.”
Andy Feffer's focus group has spoken! But really, just who are these Nationals fan(s) who convinced The Feff that "new, exciting, and different" required killing off the winter events? Reading accounts of yesterday's FanFest in Baltimore amounts to rubbing more salt in the wounds.
"Playing four years in Florida, and three years in Washington, there was not a whole lot of talk about winning division titles. It's exciting at this point, before the season, to have expectations." (Josh Willingham, via Oakland Tribune, 1/27/2011)
Oh, but haven't you heard the news about Phase 2, Mr. Willingham? There's a whole lot of talk about winning division titles in Washington nowadays -- just not in 2011!
Now, do these rankings really mean anything? Probably not. We'll wait to really freak out when Baseball America's Top 100 comes out. But it's a bit deflating to watch the countdown tick down and see every team but the Nats represented (and in many cases, represented multiple times) until the very end. Not one stinkin' prospect on the list besides Harper? Jeez. Can we still blame Jim Bowden?
Oh well, at least we have Baseball Jesus 2.0. And the circus surrounding Harper this summer is certainly going to be Strasburgian. Here's Bryce Harper's manager-to-be at Hagerstown, Brian Daubach, via an interview in Wednesday's Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat. Daubach suggests that his own experience playing for the Red Sox against the Yankees in the playoffs in 1999 will help him help Harper handle the upcoming media crush:
"He's one of the most highly touted prospects out there since Ken Griffey Jr., probably. Each time we get to a new city, there will be a buzz. I've never experienced that, but I think I've been in (enough) media situations before. When you're on the Red Sox and you're playing the Yankees in the playoffs, it's not going to get more intense than that." (Brian Daubach, via BND.com, 1/26/2011)
Another big league scout tells me he'd heard some "conversations" had taken place between the Nats and the Indians about starter Fausto Carmona and outfielder Grady Sizemore. The Tribe is looking to move salary, and Sizemore, coming off of knee surgery, is eligible for free agency in 2012. (via Phil Wood, MASNSports.com, 1/24/2011)
Some Nationals fans who care about Expos history will tell you that a deal for Sizemore would be a homecoming of sorts, since he's a former Expos prospect. Sizemore was infamously dealt to the Indians in 2002 (along with a couple of guys named Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips) for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew in what now ranks as one of the worst trades of all time (especially if you're a Nationals fan). Although, it might have made sense at the time: Here's some analysis of the deal from back in June 2002, via SI.com. Maybe. But...
And if you squint your eyes, Carmona could serve as the "top-of-the-rotation" starter Rizzo's been looking for all winter. He's no Lee or Greinke, of course, but a rotation headed up by Carmona, followed by Zimmermann, Gorzelanny, Livo, Lannan is...not too shabby. But...
But... the key question is: who would the Nationals have to give up? Would Cleveland be interested in just taking only the crappy players, like Jason Marquis and Nyjer Morgan, straight up? No? Damn. Carmona and Sizemore to the Nationals? Hell yes -- if the price is right. If Zimmermann is involved: no. But, say, Ian Desmond and Drew Storen...?
Carp's deal with the Nationals/MASN is up at the end of the 2011 season -- and apparently there's a club option for 2012. So what happens once the former St. Louis Cardinals voice Carpenter leaves a team?
Harper, who left high school after his sophomore year to play at CSN last spring, will have his No. 34 jersey retired by the school next Friday prior to the Coyotes’ season opener at its facility on the Henderson campus.
[Update] It's probably worth noting (as WFY suggested in the comments) that there's a good chance Bryce Harper will eventually wear No. 7 in Washington in honor of his idol, Mickey Mantle. Unfortunately at the moment there's the little problem of future Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez wearing No. 7 for the Nats, and (barring a trade), the Nats are stuck with him until the end of 2011 when his current contract runs out. Here's a Bryce Harper quote from his introductory presser in August, talking about his decision to wear No. 34 (for the time being):