Just over a year ago, Jim Riggleman was managing a team on the cusp of greatness. Revisiting his and others' bad decisions.
About 25 years ago a friend’s dad met a man with a business idea. The man was looking for investors. My friend’s dad was interested so the man explained his idea. They went over the whole business plan, finances, everything in detail. At the end the man asked what my friend’s dad thought. My friend’s dad was quiet for a while then said, “I just can’t imagine a world where people go to a store just to buy a cup of coffee.” My friend’s dad didn’t invest with the man, but Starbucks ended up doing just fine anyway.
I love that example because the coffee shop is so ubiquitous now. Just about every town has one and just about every city has one per block. This meeting boiled down to this: could you imagine it? If so you’re a millionaire.
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The Nationals have garnered headlines for their managerial situation lately, but the team deserves consideration as well.
Last week, we discussed the intriguing downfall of the Florida Marlins, but an equally intriguing upswing occurring this season is the rise of the Washington Nationals. Thanks to a stretch of 12 wins in 14 games and a 17-7 June record, they ascended from being declared playoff-dead a few weeks ago to a third-place standing in the National League East. The Nationals have not necessarily beaten the best competition during this time period; their recent hot streak has come at the expense of three of the worst teams in baseball in the San Diego Padres, Baltimore Orioles, and Seattle Mariners. Still, the story of a team that has occupied the cellar of the NL East in all but one season since its relocation succeeding at reaching a standard of decency not seen from the franchise since 2005 has had some odd twists and turns along the way.
The Nationals have come a long way since, well, being the Natinals and an NL laughingstock. Just two seasons ago, the team was coming off a second consecutive 100-plus loss season, but things were on the rise in Washington. Two consecutive first overall draft picks yielded two of the most-heralded prospects in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, and those two were supposed to join forces with Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, and the rest of the roster to form a strong contender in 2013 or 2014. However, the core the Nationals currently have assembled is doing a decent job of carrying the team right now. The club currently has four players with over 2.0 WARP on the season, a claim only nine other teams can make as of Saturday evening. When stacking those players against the rest of the NL East, the Nationals rank appropriately.
A look at some articles you may have missed this week at Baseball Prospectus.
Here at Baseball Prospectus, we are dedicated to providing you with oodles of cutting-edge sabermetric analysis and keeping our finger on the pulse of the baseball world. With a slew of daily articles, it’s easy for one piece to get lost in the shuffle or for you to overlook a post while you’re busy hiding your monitor from your boss. Just in case this happens to be your situation, here’s what you might have missed this week at BP.
As Paul McCartney sang in "Too Many People," he took his lucky break and broke it in two.
Vanity is a sin not because our self-approval hurts others, but ourselves. It blinds us to our own limited value, which is a particularly handicapping set of blinders to wear in the workplace. Many of us have fought the impulse to quit a job with which we have grown frustrated, thinking, “No one else does what I do here, or can do it as well as I do it even if they tried; let’s just see how they get along without me.”
Don’t ever let yourself think that; unless you’re the star of an eponymously-titled television program, the business might experience some temporary turbulence as the result of your absence, but chances are it’s going to be just fine in the long term. Most of us are, no matter how talented, dispensable. There might not be someone exactly like us ready to take our place, but Mr. or Miss Close-Enough is always right around the corner, and in most cases close enough will do just fine.
In baseball, there is the well-known tale of Charlie Dressen, best related by Bill James in his underappreciated Guide to Baseball Managers. Dressen, a former manager and longtime coach with undeniable baseball acumen, took over a successful Dodgers team in 1951 and won two pennants in three years, narrowly missing the third when he bollixed up the playoff game against the Giants that ended with Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ‘round the world.” At this point, his Dodgers record was 298-166 (.642).
Stephen Strasburg may be out for the year, but the surviving Nationals starters are giving Washington hope for escaping the NL East cellar.
With Stephen Strasburg shelved until at least September, and probably for the season, after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last September, the Nationals' starting pitching appeared to be suspect coming into this season. The lack of appealing rotation options caused many analysts to tab the Nationals for a fourth straight last-place finish in the National League East.
Mike looks at some of the closers he wondered about in his rankings from earlier in the week.
As I was putting together the yearly fantasy closer rankings recently, it occurred to me that there were a few pitchers on the list who we've heard relatively little about this offseason. Sure, we've all heard more than we can stand about Neftali Feliz, Jonathan Broxton, and whatever's going to happen on the South Side of Chicago, but how much have we really heard about lower-level guys like Drew Storen, Jose Valverde, and Leo Nunez? Not nearly enough in my opinion, and now seems like a great time to rectify that oversight.
Catching tandems and managerial tactics run up against limited rosters and slim pickings.
I've been arguing for a few years now that a kind of tactical stasis has become the rule of the day on offense, in part because of the foreshortened rosters teams stick themselves with as a result of the 12-man pitching staff. One consequence has been the decline or increasing rarity of stable platoons. It's fairly hard to build all that many platoons in the first place, with rosters limited to three non-catcher reserves on most American League teams, and four in the National.
That's not to say there isn't plenty of pursuit of platoon advantages among contemporary major-league skippers. You can still have the floating platoon guy, the player who might be the adaptable righty-batting tweener or just an outright thumper. The Rockies' Ryan Spilborghs didn't platoon in right or left — instead he platooned in both, splitting time with Brad Hawpe and Seth Smith and Carlos Gonzalez, and making two-thirds of his 78 starts against lefties. Marcus Thames platooned for the Yankees, making 44 of 57 starts against lefties, but he wasn't paired up with any one player, as his lineup assignments drifted between DH and the corners.
No one suspected the stealthy Nationals were working to sign Jayson Werth, along with other news and notes from around the major leagues.
There always seems to be a mystery team involved whenever one of Scott Boras' top clients is involved in free agency. Boras has been accused many of times in the past of inventing those mystery teams, his detractors claiming the agent uses the ploy to drive up the price in negotiations.
Stephen Strasburg is too focused to enjoy the limelight, along with other notes from around the majors.
CLEVELAND – Deep down, Stephen Strasburg had to enjoy the past week. He made a dazzling major-league debut with the Nationals, then won his second start as well while becoming the talk of baseball. The 21-year-old right-hander even read the Top 10 list on Late Night with David Letterman.
The action from Riggs' 2010 return to Wrigley evens the series.
CHICAGO—Another April ballgame, another venue, another city. It's a cold night in Lakeview, with the wind coming in from the north and the game-time temp in the low 40s. It's one of those nights when the hardy fans who come to Wrigley alternate beers and hot chocolate, as Kenny Kaduk detailed in his boozy ballpark bildungsroman, Wrigleyworld. With that sort of mixed pleasure to look forward to, you understand why the 30,000 folks in attendance trickled in. But it would only get colder as the night goes on, one of those seasonal features of Wrigley in April that encourages all concerned to gun for quick games made more quickly still by small-ball tactics.