• HaroldHecuba: Mike Mussina is EASTERN EUROPEAN, not Italian....

Baseball...Disney style!!!

Today we headed to Orlando to see the Nationals take on the Atlanta Braves at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in the heart of Disney World. I had forgotten how incredibly fake everything is at Disney World, and walking into the ballpark it felt as if we had wandered into the “BaseballLand” section of Disneyland.

I wish I had a better camera...Braves starter Chuck James looked great today, giving up only 3 hits in 6 innings. Then again, he was pitching against the Nationals, who have to have one of the worst starting lineups ever. If the season were to start tomorrow, the Nats would run this lineup out:

2B Felipe Lopez

SS Christian Guzman

3B Ryan Zimmerman

RF Austin Kearns

1B Dmitri Young

C Brian Schneider

CF Ryan Church

LF Chris Snelling

I’ve definitely seen lineups worse than this, but usually at the end of the season when teams have been hit with injuries. This has to be one of the least promising opening day lineups imaginable. And it’s not like the Nats are going to make it up with starting pitching. Is there any team in baseball that is worse on paper than the Nats right now?

Utter listlessnessBut anyway, the big news in the Nats camp today was that Travis Lee has “lost his passion for the game” and asked for his release yesterday, meaning that the Nationals’ starting 1B job falls to Dmitri Young, who had been considered a long shot to make the team just a few weeks back. According to Nationals GM Jim Bowden, Travis Lee

“explained to me that . . . he didn’t have the passion to play the game anymore. He felt that way last year, and he hoped it could be rekindled this year. But his passion to play has not come back. As he looked around our clubhouse and saw the amount of passion that the players have, he realized that it was in the best interest for him at this time to give up baseball.”

Um . . . right. My guess is that the Nationals planned to go with Dmitri Young all along, so long as he showed he could still hit (and he has), and just talked up Lee as the main guy to light a fire under Young. I’m sure Lee’s “passion for the game” was just fine until Bowden privately informed him that he was not going to be on the opening day roster.

The Braves sure looked good against the Nationals today, banging out twelve hits and scoring six runs, including two on a monstrous homer to dead center by Chipper Jones (I tried to start a “Larry” chant several times, but the Braves fans weren’t having it). But make no mistake, this is not a very good team. It was a sign of how far the Braves have fallen that a team that one year ago was coming off 14 straight postseason appearances decided to make this year’s promotional motto “The Atlanta Braves – Mission: Possible”.

Mission possible? Could there be a more stark indication of the fact that nobody thinks this team is going to get anywhere near the postseason this year? I mean theoretically, it’s “possible” for any team to win. A year ago the Braves would have had a motto like “Mission: Postseason” or at least “Mission: Probable” but now with Leo Mazzone gone, Bobby Cox talking retirement, and John Schuerholz exposed as the worst general manager in baseball, they are just trying to convince fans that it’s theoretically vaguely distantly conceivable that the team might actually maybe win something.

5 Responses to “Grapefruit League Diary: Day 2”

  1. Coley Ward says:

    You really think Schuerholz is the worst GM in baseball? What about the Orioles’ GM or the Rangers’ GM? Or the Mariners’ GM!

  2. Nick Kapur says:

    I think Schuerholz is pretty bad. He’s been incredibly lucky, and I think Leo Mazzone covered up a lot of his flaws. For years he would put a bunch of castoffs in the bullpen and Leo would somehow turn them into gold. He tried to do that again last year without Leo, and the bullpen totally imploded. He also has a terrible record of bad trades and free agent signings. I’m very hard pressed to think of any moves he made that were good.

  3. Holy cow. I don’t belive what I just read.

    I’ll give you one bad trade: Marquis Grissom and David Justice for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree. And signing Kolb was definitely a bad move. But the worst GM in baseball? The same guy who in 1991 revamped the lineup and bolstered the defense with a number of free-agent signings? Sticks with the promising, but yet-to-produce rotation. Result? The first* (*tie w/the Twins who also did it that year) worst-to-first season in the history of baseball. Terry Pendleton, signed in the offseason, was the MVP. He made $1.7M. Darryl Strawberry, meanwhile, pulled in $3.8M that year.

    In 1993 signs Greg Maddux. Trades Melvin Nieves and two other nobodies for Fred McGriff in late July, who hits over .300 with 19 taters and 55 RBI over the final two months of the season.

    In 1997 he pays Denny Neagle $3.6M to go 20-5 with and a sub-3 ERA.

    In 2002 he picked up the overpaid Mike Hampton for a song. The majority of Hampton’s salary is being paid by other teams. (Yes he’s been injured a lot, but he turned his career around and is still 32-20 as a Brave.)

    14 straight Division titles and he’s the worst GM in baseball? Well I guess he’s the luckiest, too.

    That is the dumbest thing I’ve read all month.

  4. Nick Kapur says:

    Look, I don’t have room to spell out my whole argument here for why John Shuerholz is the worst. But basically I’ve been watching him for a long, long time, and if you look at *every* move he has made, you will see that a significant majority of them have been foolish.

    You have cherry picked a few good examples, mostly from a long time ago, but I would submit to you that *any* GM who survives that many years is bound to have some of his moves work out, just by sheer luck. I could just as easily pick out a number ridiculously bad moves Shuerholz has made. Just purely off the top of my head, how about trading away Jermaine Dye and Jamie Walker for Keith Lockhart and Michael Tucker? Or signing Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi to be the starting corner outfielders in 2005? Division titles were won in spite of horrible moves such as these.

    But the main thing you should do is, go back and look at the guys who were in the Braves bullpens the past 10 years. See the ridiculous number of no-name journeymen who came to the Braves and posted absolutely ridiculous numbers and then left, only to suck on other teams. Leo Mazzone is said to have lowered pitchers’ ERAs by 0.60 when they came to the Braves, but a disproportionate amount of that lowering was contributed in the bullpen. I think it would be a conservative estimate to say that Mazzone lowered relievers ERAs by about 1.50. I mean, seriously – Kevin Grybowski? Kerry Ligtenberg? Darren Holmes? Chris Hammond? Tim Spooneybarger? Kevin McGlinchy? Mike Bielecki? These are just some of the guys who came to the Braves and had Mariano-Rivera-like seasons, and the list goes on… If those same guys had been signed by any other GM for any other team with any other pitching coach, they would never have even approached those numbers.

    As I said, I’ve watched Schuerholz for a long time. Every year he does the same thing he has always done. He lets some free agents go and doesn’t really replace them in any meaningful sense (ie signs terrible free agents or starts the season without anyone for that spot). He is doing this again this year at second base. Every year he also lets all his relievers go and replaces them with no-name journeymen. This always worked until last year because of Mazzone’s magic, but the very first year Mazzone left, the bullpen completely imploded, just as I predicted it would. This year, Shuerholz is totally panicking and stocking the bullpen to a ridiculous extent. The LaRoach trade was ridiculous, and only added to my certainty that Shuerholz has no idea what he is doing or why he won all those years.

  5. Schuerholz knew he had a good guy to develop pitchers. I imagine there was probably some consultation with the coaching staff about who to bring in. Plus Leo’s workout regimens are different from other coaches. I would submit that a GM who gets pitchers to have their best years with your club is making the right moves.

    2005. Your boss is AOL, who has flatlined your payroll and put the team on the market. You need some help in the outfield. You end up with Brian Jordan (who everyone in Atlanta loves) and Raul Mondesi. Who else you gonna sign? They don’t produce. Good thing you just drafted local boy Jeff Francouer so you can have some cheap, fan-friendly talent in the pipeline. And how about the first time he signed Jordan? Came in and had his career year.

    Yes when you’re around for as long as Schuerholz there are gonna be some moves that work out, nobaody who you are. By the same token, there will also be some that don’t work out. But nobody hangs with a team for 16+ years if he’s not part of a winning formula.

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