Mr. Francona Goes To Washington (at least he should)

Terry Francona has had a rough few months. In the first week of September he looked like he was going to coast to his 6th playoff berth in 8 years in Boston. He was the dignified leader of the only 2 World Series titles the Red Sox have had since selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees. I thought he was going to be the manager for the next 10 years, being like Tom Kelly. He was a steady manager with multiple titles who gave the team an aura of class and professionalism.

On August 31st, the Red Sox beat the Yankees 9-5 and had a game and a half lead over the Yankees. Their 83-52 record was the best in the American League. If they weren’t World Series bound, they were simply going to be formidable.

After that day, the Red Sox lost 20 of their last 27 games. They finished in third place on the last day of the season. They never won back-to-back games the rest of the season. Francona was out as manager. It was revealed that the clubhouse was a mess on his watch and his own personal life was in disarray with a pending divorce.

He was passed over for both the Cardinals and Cubs managing job. Can you blame him that he wants to take a year off?

You’ve earned it Tito. I would argue that he never has to manage another ballgame in his life and he won’t have to answer to anyone.

But no doubt he’d rather go out like Tony LaRussa than have Carl Crawford’s failed dive for that ball be his swan song.

Well, Mr. Francona (he has earned the respect to be called Mr. Francona), get your life back in order. Fix your family situation. Relax and spend the summer away from the press.

Then in 2012, get your butt to the Nationals!

Davey Johnson, a fine manager in his own right, is in charge in Washington. But he is not a long-term solution. He was an emergency stopgap when Jim Riggleman suddenly thought he was Earl Weaver and wanted a mid season extension.

The Nats had a nice September (17-10) and finished just under .500 (80-81). That was the team’s best season since they broke even in 2005, their first year in the capital. They haven’t had a winning season since 2003 when they were the Expos.

But there is talent in place. Obviously Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa and the safe and sound from his ordeal Wilson Ramos are in place.

Young pitchers like John Lannan, Jordan Zimmerman, Drew Storen, Henry Rodriguez and Ross Detwiler all have talent.

And oh yeah… by 2012 Stephen Strasberg would be recovered and allowed to pitch without kid gloves. Plus Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon will be in all likelihood on the big league squad. If the projections are any indications, a nice nucleus in Washington would be adding a Franchise pitcher and two franchise players.

And by then would age catch up with the Phillies?
Would Ozzie’s mouth catch up with him in Miami where Jeffrey Loria can’t stop firing managers?
Would the Mets still be a mess?
Would the Braves not be clicking?

By 2012 the National League East might be a winnable Division for a young talented team getting an influx of top tier talent.

A winning season would be the first Washington fans had seen since 1969.
And when you consider most baseball fans in DC grew up Oriole fans, they haven’t had a good team to root for since 1997.

Using my “You don’t follow a team before you are 7 years old” rule, no baseball fan 21 years old or younger in Washington or Northern Virginia who was an Oriole fan before the Nats arrival has ever rooted for a winning team.

So imagine what it would be like if the Nationals became a good team (which it looks like they are about to be!)

They will probably need a solid manager to hold the reigns.

That could be Mr. Francona.
And the bar is a little lower than in Boston.

It’s a perfect fit.
And it could be the perfect ending for a manager who deserves one.

Follow sullybaseball on Twitter

Can the Nationals have their cake and eat it too?

For the first time that I can recall, the Washington Nationals were a big topic on XM Radio baseball talk… and most of it was trashing the Nats management for keeping Stephen Strasburg in the minor leagues for financial reasons while the team is having a surprisingly strong start.

They are keeping him from the parent club until June or July to prevent his service time in the bigs from starting… and allowing the Nationals to have him for another year or so at a lower rate before he’s eligible for free agency.

It’s odd that they spend $15.1 million to sign him and THEN get frugal!

The critics point of view, that I happen to agree with, is the Nats might not be contending for very long… but having Strasburg plugged into the rotation could give the team another solid starter (arguably better than anyone they currently have) and the fans would have reason to get excited over the debut of the future and the surprising start. And of course that could also mean increased attendance, increased ad revenue and merchandise sales.

And if the Nationals tank in the second half, they can send Strasburg back down, claim it is to save his arm, when in reality it is to save some dough.

Well an interesting thing might be happening in Washington:
They might be able to have their cake and eat it too.

The Nats are continuing to win.
They’ve won 6 of their last 10 including today against Florida. And vulture reliver Tyler Clippard is now 5-0. He had 8 career wins before this year.

Matt Capps is closing out games and Ryan Zimmerman is the All Star worthy face of their line up.

I don’t think anyone thought Washington would have a winning record on April 8, let alone May 8. A 16-14 record won’t make people forget the Big Red Machine… but this is Washington.

This is the home of the most underrated suffering of any baseball fanbase.

They’ve been waiting since 1924 for a World Series title.

They’ve been waiting since 1933 for post season baseball.

That was three franchises ago!

Just imagine if they can have a .500 month, remain around a game or so above .500…
Then on June 7th, use the first pick in the draft to select their next big star (probably Bryce Harper)

Then a week later Strasburg gets called up and the hovering around .500 Nationals get a huge boost.

And the Nationals STILL get to save some money… which they can use to sign Harper… and then keep HIM in the minor leagues too long to save money.

It’s the circle of life.

Follow sullybaseball on Twitter

Shame on Jim Riggleman

That’s right Riggleman. You had better hang your head.

You took over the worst team in baseball and they are indeed going to finish this season as one of the worst if not the worst team in the game.

That’s not why you should hang your head.

We are at the end of the season.
The Nationals have only 9 games left.
They’ve already lost 101 games.
Needless to say they don’t have a lot of meaningful games left.

Yet the Nats find themselves in the middle of a pennant race. Maybe not for themselves, but they are playing the Braves 7 out of the last 10 games of the season.

And with the Braves now only 3 back in the loss column for the Wild Card, each one of these games affect Atlanta and Colorado.

They also affect who plays whom in the Division Series. A Braves Wild Card would mean the Dodgers would play Atlanta in the Division Series while the Phillies and Cardinals would face off.

A Rockies Wild Card would mean the Dodgers and Phillies would meet in the Division Series and the Cardinals would go to Colorado.

These games could affect the balance of the NL playoffs.
These games could affect which teams would be resting starters and which ones would be going at full speed in the last week of the season.

So what did Riggleman do today?
He is resting Ryan Zimmerman!

The Nationals are practically fielding a AAA line up and just about the only hitter who could make any difference on his roster is taking a breather… a week before he takes a 5 month break.

Um… WHAT IS HE RESTING FOR?

Shouldn’t he put a lineup on the field that, I don’t know, could beat the Durham Bulls?

In a game that could have a chain reaction affect on the National League playoffs, Riggleman said “You know, now could be the day to give Pete Orr some at bats!”

This is a disgrace and if baseball actually had a commissioner, then he would have been fined.

Hey Rigs!
The Nats play the Mets next week. Those games will be played in front of friends and family and won’t even affect the Nats nor the Mets.

You can send Zimmerman to Bermuda for those games.
How’s about he plays in the games that matter?

article_url = location.href;article_title = document.title;