Stick a fork in 'em – the 2009 Nationals

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It could have been done before the end of April, but I didn’t have the
idea for the segment back then. So let’s officially declare the
Nationals dead for 2009 and look ahead to 2010.

The 2010 depth chart

Catcher: Jesus Flores (Arb.), Wil Nieves (Arb.), Josh Bard (Arb.), Luke Montz

Flores, who hit .311/.382/.522 in 90 at-bats before going down with
a shoulder injury last month, is the long-term answer behind the plate.
If the Nationals don’t want to pay to keep Nieves around, Montz could
come up and serve as an adequate backup.

First base: Adam Dunn

Nick Johnson is a free agent at season’s end, as is forgotten man
Dmitri Young, so the Nationals will probably stick Dunn at first base
next year. As much of a disappointment as the team’s outfielders aside
from Dunn have been, the team still has alternatives there and Dunn’s
glove is less of a problem in the infield.

Second base: Anderson Hernandez, Alberto Gonzalez, Willie Harris

Ronnie Belliard is a free agent and is very unlikely to be brought
back. Hernandez has a capable glove, but he hits like the backup
shortstop he was always destined to become, and the Nationals like
Harris better in the outfield than at second base. Maybe prospect Danny
Espinosa will be a possibility by 2011, but the Nats will need to look
outside of the organization for an upgrade.

Third base: Ryan Zimmerman, Kory Casto

Zimmerman, who signed a five-year deal back in April, is the only Nationals under control beyond 2010.

Shortstop: Cristian Guzman, Anderson Hernandez, Alberto Gonzalez

Guzman will make $8 million next year in the final season of a deal
done in the second half of last season. Since he is injury-prone, the
Nationals need to find a better backup for him, but that would be taken
care of if they turned Hernandez into a utilityman.

Left field: Lastings Milledge, Willie Harris, Leonard Davis
Center field: Elijah Dukes, Justin Maxwell, Rogearvin Bernadina
Right field: Josh Willingham (Arb.)

Or you could go with Willingham in left, Milledge in center and
Dukes in right, though I think that’d be a weaker alignment. I don’t
see this as the Nationals’ starting outfield next year: Milledge could
be traded for another disappointment and Willingham is a candidate to
go in a deadline deal next month. Still, it’s a group with some upside
and one that wouldn’t cost more than $5 million in 2010.

Rotation: John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Scott
Olsen (Arb.), Collin Balester, Shairon Martis, Matt Chico, Ross
Detwiler, Craig Stammen, Garrett Mock, Marco Estrada

Olsen is due to be non-tendered unless he can come back and turn in a
strong second half. Even if that happens, the Nats may just go ahead
and trade him. They will, however, want to add one veteran to a
rotation only certain to include Lannan and Zimmermann. Strasburg may
well prove deserving of opening next year in the majors, but the
Nationals have to get him signed first. I still feel better about
Balester than most of the other youngsters likely to contend for jobs.

Bullpen: Joel Hanrahan, Drew Storen, Garrett Mock, Jason Bergmann,
Zech Zinicola, Tyler Clippard, Mike MacDougal (Arb.), Saul Rivera
(Arb.), Jesus Colome (Arb.), Logan Kensing

Well, obviously that’s not going to get the job done. The Nationals
will likely make the bullpen a priority this winter, even if they do
think Storen, the 10th overall pick in last week’s draft, is ready to
step in and take on a significant role. Storen may well be the closer
of the future, but the Nats will want a stopgap in the ninth and a
quality lefty. They may make efforts to re-sign Joe Beimel, Ron Villone
and Julian Tavarez, depending on how they perform over the rest of the

OK, best guess time.

Washington’s 2010 roster

SS Cristian Guzman
CF Free agent
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
RF Elijah Dukes
LF Josh Willingham
C Jesus Flores
2B Free agent

Bench: C Luke Montz, INF Anderson Hernandez, OF Willie Harris, INF Free Agent, OF Free Agent

John Lannan
Free agent
Jordan Zimmermann
Collin Balester
Shairon Martis

Free agent
Free agent
Joel Hanrahan
Ron Villone
Jason Bergmann
Zech Zinicola
Free agent

Maybe second base or one of the bullpen openings could be filled
through a Lastings Milledge trade. Most of the other free agent spots
here won’t be taken by expensive players, but with less than $30
million currently committed and only Willingham, who might not even be
around, due more than $2 million in arbitration, there will hopefully
be around $20 million to spend. Andruw Jones would be an intriguing
target for the outfield, and Virginia native Billy Wagner would be a
nice get for the closer’s role.

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.

Collin McHugh will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Astros

Collin McHugh Astros
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After using ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel to get past the Yankees in the Wild Card game the Astros will turn to right-hander Collin McHugh in Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Royals.

McHugh had an up-and-down year, posting a 3.89 ERA compared to his 2.73 mark last season, but thanks to good teammate support he had a 19-7 record and his 171/53 K/BB ratio in 204 innings was solid. He was particularly good down the stretch, posting a 2.89 ERA and 69/20 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after August 1.

McHugh will match up against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 1. Houston hasn’t named a starter for Game 2 yet, while Kansas City is going with Johnny Cueto. And then the Game 3 matchup figures to be Dallas Keuchel versus Edinson Volquez.