Tag:Washington Nationals
Posted on: January 11, 2012 5:10 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 7:07 pm
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Prince Fielder intrigue continues to build

So why hasn't Prince Fielder signed yet while Albert Pujols has been sitting back and counting that 10-year, $254 million deal for weeks?

Plenty of reasons. Mostly, as Boras would tell you, because the market is still developing.

Start with the fact that the two clubs who in recent years have helped establish the ga-zillion dollar markets -- the Yankees and Red Sox -- are sitting this one out. New York has a long-term first baseman in Mark Teixeira, as Boston does with Adrian Gonzalez.

Beyond them, only a small handful of clubs can play ball at Fielder's asking price. Which, you can be sure, is a dollar or two more than Pujols is getting annually from the Angels.

From the start, barring a stunning early offer, Boras was in no hurry to sign Fielder. It was clear that Pujols would sign, the bar would be set, and then Boras/Fielder would look to exceed it.

Within that, as Boras has explained many times this winter, free agents at this level are ownership decisions. As he did when he represented Alex Rodriguez in 2000 and scored the 10-year, $252 million deal, Boras meets directly with owners (then-Rangers owner Tom Hicks, in that case).

That, too, takes time.

With the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels out, the Cubs, Mets and Dodgers are among the few who could afford Fielder.

The Cubs are under new management, and president Theo Epstein philosophically does not believe in awarding long-term contracts to the tune of seven, eight or more years to free agents. Consequently, they acquired Anthony Rizzo from the Padres this month, the idea being Rizzo will be Chicago's first baseman of the future.

The Mets and Dodgers, of course, have serious financial issues of their own. The Mets, who lost Jose Reyes to the Marlins this winter, are rebuilding and broke. The Dodgers are in the process of being sold.

So that leaves the next tier of suitors. And one other key component: With the Yankees and Red Sox on the sidelines, there is nobody to help drive up the price up via a bidding war.

Boras met with the Nationals several weeks ago. Those two have done several multi-million dollar deals in recent years, including the $126 million Jayson Werth contract last winter, and deals with recent top draft picks Stephen Strasburg (four-years, $15 million) and Bryce Harper (five years, $9.9 million).

The Mariners desperately need a middle-of-the-lineup bat. But whether the M's would spend that kind of dough remains to be seen ... as does whether Fielder would want to play in Safeco Field, notorious for diluting offensive numbers.

Asked at the winter meetings last month whether his client had a geographical presence, Boras quipped, "I just think he likes fences that are close to home plate. That's the geographics he likes."

Baltimore is another city that continues to be linked with Fielder. The Orioles are desperate for a clean-up hitter, not to mention a winner. Owner Peter Angelos has the money, though he is notoriously slow in wading through the free agent market.

Texas? The Rangers' deadline for signing pitcher Yu Darvish is next week. Some industry sources think the Rangers are holding off on Fielder while they negotiate with the Japanese free agent. Then, they'll either go full bore after Fielder if they don't sign Darvish (unlikely, they're expected to sign the pitcher) or see if there's a way to fit Fielder in after signing the pitcher.

The Blue Jays? Hmmm ... interesting thought, and lots of speculation surrounding them. Maybe the exchange rate is slowing those talks down.

Milwaukee remains in on the fringes, but only if the price falls.

Always, with Boras, there is the threat of a "mystery team" stepping up. No other agent in the game is as skilled at luring suitors down the path ... and then obtaining a pot of gold ... as Boras.

But now, as it gets deeper into January and an industry awaits Fielder's decision, it may take Boras' biggest play yet to get what he and his client want.
Posted on: December 22, 2011 6:29 pm
 

Gio a princely acquisition for Nationals


Now that the on-the-move Nationals have snagged ace pitcher Gio Gonzalez in a prospect-heavy deal with Oakland, they've got a rotation that puts them squarely on the launching pad in the NL East and brings with it one obvious reaction.

For that, I turn to the Twitter account of one Bryce Harper, who exuberantly tweeted Thursday afternoon: "Now all we need to do is get Prince! hah."

Can you imagine?

The Nationals at least are camped on Prince Fielder's front doorstep, one of a number of clubs talking with the slugging first baseman as the winter shopping season hurtles toward its next big target. And the Nationals do have a very good relationship with Fielder's representative, Scott Boras -- see Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Werth, among others.

Maybe that's far-fetched dreaming. After all, Werth is only headed into Year Two of that $126 million deal. And though the Nationals are located near U.S. Mint headquarters in Washington, D.C., the printing presses that spit out currency are not located in Nationals Park. Would the Lerners have dough -- and, more importantly, the guts -- to roll with both Werth and Fielder?

Of course, after watching the long, torturous slog that brought them from Montreal to rat-infested RFK Stadium to present day, it's hard to believe that the Nationals are finally on the threshold of playing with the big boys in the NL East. But they are.

In Gonzalez, Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, they not only have a very good front three in their rotation, but they have a trio of young arms they can control for the next several years.

Even without Gonzalez and, essentially, Strasburg last year, the Nationals' 3.58 ERA ranked seventh in the majors.

Ryan Zimmerman is a Gold Glove third baseman and team leader, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond are very solid in the middle of the infield, Wilson Ramos is the good, young catcher so many teams would love to have and Michael Morse, who can play first base or left field, is a monstrously strong young man who became a legitimate power threat in 2011. And people are dying to see whether Harper will make the club out of camp this spring.

Philadelphia is Philadelphia, Atlanta remains a force and the Marlins have spent more money than the Yankees this winter. The entire NL East will be playing at a higher level (well, everybody but the Mets).

For the Nationals to become kings of the divison, it just might take a Prince.

Failing that? The Nationals -- 80-81 last year, and 21 1/2 games behind the Phillies -- are moving from rebuilding to intriguing, and quickly.
Posted on: July 30, 2011 12:00 pm
 

Brewers add depth, acquire Hairston Jr.

Pushing hard to win a first division title since 1982, the Brewers are collecting infielders like some collect baseball cards in the wake of Rickie Weeks' sprained ankle.

They added Jerry Hairston Jr. on Saturday, according to CBSSports.com sources, acquiring him from the Nationals for Erik Komatsu, a Double-A, 23-year-old outfielder.

The move came two days after the Brewers acquired infielder Felipe Lopez from Tampa Bay. Milwaukee also placed Weeks, their second baseman, on the disabled list on Thursday. Weeks could be sidelined for up to a month or six weeks.

Hairston Jr. is a versatile utilityman who can play both middle infield positions, third base and all three outfield positions. He was hitting .268 with four homers and 24 RBI in 75 games for the Nationals this season, and he was a key member of San Diego's surprising 90-win team in 2010.

Komatsu, a center fielder, was hitting .294 with a .393 on-base percentage and a .416 slugging percentage for Double-A Huntsville.
Posted on: July 28, 2011 1:26 am
 

Nationals, Twins discuss Span, Storen

Looking to plug an organizational hole in center field, the Nationals have approached the Twins about a possible deal involving center fielder Denard Span, sources with knowledge of the talks confirmed to CBSSports.com Wednesday night.

The Twins want Nationals closer Drew Storen in return in a deal that could expand. The talks were first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.com.

Washington has been involved in multiple talks for a center fielder this week, including Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton and, before he was dealt to Toronto, St. Louis' Colby Rasmus. The Nationals currently are going with Roger Bernadina but really are not in love with any of their long-term candidates going forward.

Minnesota, according to one source, is not shopping Span but became interested when approached by the Nationals. The emergence of Ben Revere this season could make Span expendable.

Furthermore, the Twins, who Wednesday gained another game on Detroit with a win over Texas, now are six games back and continue to view the AL Central as a winnable division. They came into July intent on acquiring bullpen help and think they could accomplish that in a Span deal to Washington.

The Twins are looking at relief help not only this year, but for 2012. Both Joe Nathan and Matt Capps could become free agents this winter.

Minnesota holds a $12.5 million option for 2012 on Nathan, or a $2 million buyout. The Twins are not expected to pick up the option, though they could negotiate a new deal to bring Nathan back.

Meanwhile, Capps' contract is up after 2011 and he will be a free agent this winter.

Acquiring Storen not only would add late-innings depth during this summer's stretch run, it also could give the Twins a long-term solution at closer if Capps and Nathan both leave this winter.

Posted on: July 26, 2011 11:49 pm
Edited on: July 27, 2011 12:03 am
 

Upton draws interest, gets advice from brother

You bet the rumors swirling around his Tampa Bay batting helmet have gotten B.J. Upton's attention.

"Thanks for all the support on twitter - I appreciate it," he tweeted from his @BJUPTON2 account Tuesday -- presumably as Atlanta, or Cincinnati, or San Francisco phoned Rays general manager Andrew Friedman yet again.

"Now I know how my brother felt this offseason," came another tweet from Upton. "Anyone hear any good trade rumors this week? Still here!"

Matter of fact, the buzz grew louder Tuesday surrounding Upton. Several industry sources believe that the Rays, at 9 1/2 games out in the AL East, will dump Upton by Sunday's non-waiver trading deadline the same way they dumped Matt Garza and bade farewell to free agents Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Grant Balfour last winter.

Money -- the lack of it, thanks in no small part to horrible attendance in Tropicana Field -- remains a significant problem for the Rays. And it's not getting any better.

Several clubs are looking for the kind of spark that Upton (.229, 15 homers, 53 RBIs, 23 steals, terrific defense) can provide. He would fit perfectly in San Francisco, especially if the Giants fall short in their quest to obtain the Mets' Carlos Beltran. The Giants, according to sources, have interest. So, too, do the Nationals, Reds, Pirates, Braves, Cardinals and, possibly, the Phillies writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

And B.J. is right -- brother Justin, Arizona's right-fielder -- went through a similar stretch last winter.

"I've talked to him, and we laugh about it," Justin told me Tuesday afternoon. "When it comes down to it, like last winter with me, it's out of your control. You just have to do your thing, see what happens and let it be."

Difference is, Arizona is committed to Justin Upton, 23. Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers made that clear last winter when he traded third baseman Mark Reynolds to Baltimore.

The Rays? Not so much with B.J., 26 -- much to Upton's chagrin.

"Obviously, he's played his whole career there and he lives there," says Justin, who said the brothers probably talk four or five times a week. "He wants to stay. It's always tough in a situation like that."

Ubaldo Jimenez to Yankees?

The Yankees appear to be in the best shape to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez if the Rockies decide to deal him, as colleague Danny Knobler writes. Here are takes from two scouts who have watched Jimenez pitch in recent days:

Scout one: "Quite frankly, he's not the same guy as he was last year. Before, when he needed to go get it, he'd hit 100 m.p.h. When I saw him in Denver, he'd reach back to muscle up and it was 95. [Atlanta's] Scott Proctor threw harder. If Ubaldo at sea level is 91, 92, 93, he's not the same guy."

Scout two: "I can't imagine Jimenez going anywhere. If he's on a real frickin' contender, he's a No. 3 right now. Something's missing."

Short hops, quick pops and backhand stops:

--Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he thinks Friday and Saturday will be the key days when the trade market loosens up and the action begins. "There are a lot of clubs out there with scouts looking at minor league clubs right now," Towers says.

-- While you might think they're looking to replace injured shortstop Stephen Drew, Towers says he is looking for pitching, pitching and pitching. Starting and/or relief.

-- The Giants, Rangers and Phillies have scouts in Cincinnati this week watching Mets' outfielder Carlos Beltran as New York GM Sandy Alderson enters the crucial final days before making one of the more significant decisions in recent Mets history. "Beltran looks real good right now," another scout who has been watching in Cincinnati this week says. "He's looking healthy."

-- One club that has spoken with Washington say closer Drew Storen can be obtained in the right deal.

-- Rival clubs say the Angels are diving into the trade market after owner Arte Moreno, hesitant at first, now has approved additional payroll for midseason help. While the Angels are looking for a third baseman, they would send shortstop Erick Aybar to the Mets for Jose Reyes straight up and take the rest of Reyes' $9 million 2011 salary if New York would bite (the Mets won't, they're keeping Reyes). "I'd do that if I'm the Mets," one NL executive says. "They're not going to be able to re-sign him. How can you give Reyes 10 years at $20 million [each] when he's hurt all the time?

-- Minnesota doggedly has insisted it can win a weak AL Central for the past month, and Tuesday night's comeback win in Texas was a big one. If the Twins do decide to become sellers, don't be surprised if they make outfielder Delmon Young available.

-- Well, in a weak market for starting pitchers, look who's coming off of the disabled list to start Friday for Seattle: Erik Bedard. He'll start against Tampa Bay unless something happens between now and Friday, and you can bet the scouts will swarm Safeco Field. Bedard has not thrown more than 100 innings in a season since 2007. He's at 90 now, so look out.

-- Twins right-hander Kevin Slowey continues to draw interest and Minnesota is expected to deal him.

-- The Marlins are looking to add, not subtract, and do not intend to deal closer Leo Nunez unless blown away with an offer. Florida is moving into a new stadium next season and has not gained near the momentum they had hoped this summer.

-- About that odd timing of Milwaukee acquiring closer Francisco Rodriguez and announcing it just after the All-Star Game ended? Rodriguez's former agent Paul Kinzer had failed to submit proper paperwork for K-Rod's 10-team no-trade list -- Milwaukee was on it -- and with K-Rod having hired Scott Boras recently, Mets GM Sandy Alderson was afraid Boras would correct the oversight. That's why, once the Mets and Brewers agreed to the deal, Alderson wanted it finalized as soon as possible, afraid that if they waited even one more day, Boras would get the list in and K-Rod would have power to scotch the deal.

-- Wonder what's taking so long for the trades to happen this week? Wonder why you read some rumors that turn out to be badly off the trail? Some insight from legendary executive Pat Gillick's Hall of Fame speech on Sunday: "As a young scout I, remember hiding up in trees with binoculars so no other scout would know I was interested in a prospect. I remember the assumed names or clever tactics we all used to get an edge and throw others off the scent."

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Posted on: July 10, 2011 10:45 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 12:09 am
 

Harper, Machado, Trout: They're getting younger

PHOENIX -- They're making the prospects younger than ever.

Consider this: Had the Angels not promoted Mike Trout, 19, on Friday, the U.S. team in the Futures game here Sunday probably would have had one, two and three hitters aged 19 (Trout), 19 (Baltimore shortstop prospect Manny Machado) and 18 (Bryce Harper, the top overall pick in the 2010 draft by Washington).

As it was, with Trout a late scratch because of his sudden promotion from Double-A Arkansas, Machado batted second and Harper third.

Of anybody in the game, of course, Harper was the focal point. The No. 1 overall pick, a five-tool phenom, a controversial brat, the game's next great player ... Harper is many things to many people.

"I try and go out and play the game, I try to have fun," Harper said. "If it's not fun, you shouldn't be out there."

Some would say blowing a kiss at a pitcher after drilling a home run, as he did earlier this summer while playing for Class A Hagerstown, might be having a bit too much fun.

Machado, his friend since the two played together on an 18-and-under U.S. team in Venezuela two winters ago, says that's "the only thing I give him [grief] about, for blowing that kiss. It was pretty awesome."

Awesome, funny, whatever from a young player's perspective.

But Machado said he sure would never do something like that himself.

"This game is rough, and I play shortstop," Machado said. "Somebody would take me out."

On a serious note regarding Harper, Machado said, "He's a great player. He's got the tools. He was obviously producing at Hagerstown. To me, he has the tools to be up there [in the majors] right now. It depends on how he does ... he could easily be up there this year."

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo pretty much has put the kibosh on the idea that Harper could land in the bigs yet this summer. And 2012 is not guaranteed, though odds would suggest that if Harper continues to produce, it's certainly not out of the question.

The Nationals promoted Harper to Double-A Harrisburg on the Fourth of July after he hit .318 with a .423 on-base percentage, 14 homers, 46 RBIs and 19 steals in 72 games. Even though the Angels called up Trout on Friday, Harper said he isn't drawing a direct line from Trout and the Angels to his own situation.

As for whether he thinks his success may accelerate his own timetable, Harper shrugged.

"I have no clue," he said. "I'll let 'em make that decision. Mike Rizzo has done a great job with everything. I'm going to play this year like I know how to play and let them make the decision."

Machado said he and Harper still talk an average of once a week since their time together in Venezuela, when they were kids far from home talking about stuff teenagers talk about.

"Girlfriends back home, what was going on when we were in Venezuela when we were in the middle of nowhere," Machado said.

While Machado was happy to be reunited with Harper for a day, he was disappointed not to see Trout -- but very happy for Trout.

"I was excited for him -- when the GM calls, that's the best call you could ever get in your life," Machado said.

Considered the best shortstop prospect in the minor leagues, Machado, like Harper, should have one of those phone calls in his near future as well.

Likes: Fun seeing all of the baseball people gathered in one location. Very impressed with the way Orioles prospect Manny Machado carries himself. ... Hall of Famer Pat Gillick, the former general manager and current special assistant to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, intently watching batting practice and infield at the Futures Game. Even into his 70s, his mind is still incredible. Looking forward to seeing him inducted into the Hall along with Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar in a couple of weeks. ... Very cool lightening storm Sunday night in the desert. No rain, but the sky was lit up for a couple of hours. ... The sour cream enchiladas and frozen strawberry margaritas at Los Olivos Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale. ... The Tee Pee Mexican joint in Phoenix, though we haven't been there yet.

Dislikes: Man, so many scratches from the All-Star Game. Sunday's Celebrity Softball Game was "celebrity" in name only -- it was a bunch of B-listers -- but that star power still might wind up being higher than Tuesday's game. ... OK, you wonder, who was in the Celebrity Softball Game? Among others, Chord Overstreet (Glee), James Denton (Desperate Housewives), Jennie Finch (former Arizona State softball pitcher and a gold-medal winner at the 2004 Olympics), Erin Andrews (ESPN), Kate Upton (Sports Illustrated swimsuit model), Nick Jonas (of the Jonas Brothers) and Larry Fitzgerald (receiver for the Arizona Cardinals).

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I rounded first, never thought of the worst
"As I studied the shortstop's position
"Crack went my leg, like the shell of an egg
"Someone call a decent physician
"I'm no Pete Rose, I can't pretend
"Though my mind is quite flexible, these brittle bones don't bend"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Growing Older (But Not Up)



Posted on: July 7, 2011 3:23 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 3:45 pm
 

Love Letters: The All-Star voting edition

Hot fun in the summertime. ...

FROM: Michael S.
Re: Weekend Buzz: Nice work on All-Star Voting

Are you out of your mind, Mr. Miller? Lance Berkman as a starting outfielder for the NL? He's a first baseman for ... sake! How about Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates? What are you smoking with your agreement with the Berkman selection?

Hmm, let's find out if I can see through all of the smoke from whatever it is I'm not inhaling: Berkman has started 62 games in the outfield for St. Louis this season, 19 at first base and two as a DH. So apparently, Mr. Michael, Berkman IS an outfielder. And I'm just high on life.

FROM: Frank D

Great job on your All-Star picks. I agree 100! You are by far the best writer on the site.

Don't tell that to Doyel. He just won a fancy award as the second-best columnist in the country and he might get his feelings hurt.

FROM: Thomas H.

So a team's position in the standings should factor into a player's inclusion in the All-Star starting lineup? These are INDIVIDUAL selections, not team awards. And how do you know that Rickie Weeks has made a better contribution to the Brewers than Brandon Phillips to the Reds? If you are going that route, then also include the contribution in the clubhouse, where Phillips is outstanding.

Your points are well taken. I'm a huge Phillips fan. Both he and Weeks are having great years. But on this one, I'm right.

FROM: John D.

Yankees at all positions -- second, shortstop and third. Shortstop, no Yankee should be selected. J.J. Hardy from the Orioles is better than Derek Jeter. How did you even become a sports writer?

First part of your argument is correct: A Yankee shouldn't be starting at shortstop. However, good as Hardy has been, you lose me with your second part. The correct answer is, Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera should be starting.

FROM: Adam S.

Adrian Gonzalez is the runaway MVP in the AL so far? You may want to take another look at Jose Bautista's numbers. Bautista's OBP is 63 points higher, his SLG is 85 points higher, he has more HR's, over 40 more BB's, more Runs, and fewer K's. Don't get me wrong, Gonzalez is having a great year, but I think Bautista has the edge right now, and I'm not sure it is even close. Other than that one argument, I enjoyed the article quite a bit.

I was overzealous (and careless) with my use of the word "runaway." You, sir, are correct. But given what Gonzalez has brought to the Red Sox, and given how he's propped them up into second place in the division, I'm still gonzo over Gonzo.

FROM: Capt. Hook
Re.: Padres resurgence could put trades on hold

Scott,

I'm not sure about your GM skills, much less your math skills, if you think San Diego's current resurgence will stop them from thinking trade. With 80 games left, if they go 56-24 (.700) and San Francisco creeps along at their current .586 over their remaining schedule, the Padres would win by one game. Well, playing .700 may be just a little far-fetched, ya think? Hmmm. Sell the farm, Padres, as the Fantasy of Mr. Miller is just that: A fantasy.

Come on now, read the entire column, not just the headline. I pinpointed the exact time the Padres will start to deal, about a week after the All-Star Game. All I said by pointing toward the Padres' current "resurgence" is that it will delay their plans to trade until later in July. I never suggested they would get back into the race. That would be silly now, wouldn't it?

FROM: Jason
Re. With Nationals, Davey Johnson ready to win again

I'm excited to see the Nationals hire Davey Johnson and think he's perfect for this team. I'm still in shock over the way Jim Riggleman left, but happy we got Johnson here!

How about the suicide squeeze bunt he masterfully called on Wednesday night? Guy is 68 years old and called it for the first time in his managerial career. He's a keeper.

FROM: Josh M.
Re.: Oft-injured Twins have limited options with Cuddyer

I can't see the Twins trading their highest-producing player. Michael Cuddyer has been the one guy who has been stable over the last few seasons. He is the most underrated player in the show. I don't know who they could trade for that would be better. I don't think they could get the power starting pitcher that they need. It would be a waste of a star player to trade him for some long-shot nobody.

Not only is he the most underrated player in The Show, he's the Twins most INVALUABLE player. Some really smart guy called that one way back during spring training in this column.

FROM: Jeff P.
Re.: Payroll deadline likely last straw for McCourts' regime

Scott,

I've been a Dodgers fan since 1960. Every cheap shot you threw at McCourt is well-deserved and earned. However, the parking lot beating had no place in this story. It doesn't hurt me as a Dodgers fan, but, as a compassionate human being, I hurt for the Giants fan and his family. I urge you to post a sincere apology and then refrain from such distasteful attempts of Andrew Dice humor.

Look, it was not a cheap attempt at humor, and yes, I'm sorry to those who were offended by that line. But the tragic parking lot beating this year is part of the overall body of McCourt's shoddy and irresponsible work as "caretaker" of the Dodgers. And I'm offended at being compared to a class-less, trailer-trash comic like Andrew Dice Clay.

FROM: Richard

MARK CUBAN, all that's right. Baseball don't like his type. Get rid of the CAR SALESMAN BUD SELIG. He did nothing about steroids.

Not sure that Mark Cuban is all that's right. But compared to Frank McCourt, a common house rat is all that's right, so I guess your point is well taken.

Likes: Mid-season, and the All-Star Game. Still, by far, the coolest All-Star Game in all of sports. Not even close.

Dislikes: Super 8. Just because today's technology can produce cool special effects, it doesn't always mean the more, the better. Just sayin'.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The moon beams we can dream on, when the working day is done
"And the stars we can wish upon, at the setting of the sun
"The sunsets we could cry over, put our troubles on the run
"But more than these miracles above, good people, we need love"

-- Eddie Hinton, Everybody Needs Love




Posted on: June 28, 2011 1:33 am
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A handful of outtakes from Davey Johnson's first day back in the manager's chair since 2000:

-- The details: Johnson, who was working as a special assistant to general manager Mike Rizzo, is signed to a consulting contract through 2013 but has agreed to manage only through the end of this season. The thinking is, if things go well, he and Rizzo will assess things and Johnson could manage in 2012 and beyond. But right now, it's just for this year for two reasons: They will see how things go and, beyond that, the Nationals must comply with the Commissioner's directive for interviewing minority candidates. In other words, they can't hire somebody long term in-season (meaning: beyond this year) without also interviewing minorities.

-- Johnson is noticeably thinner than when he managed the Dodgers (1999-2000), the Orioles (1996-1997), the Reds (1993-1995) and even the Mets (1984-1990). He's overcome health issues (a ruptured appendix that nearly killed him in 2005, and he had a catheter inserted in a vein to the heart last February to correct an arrhythmic heartbeat. That, along with taking better care of himself.

"I've had a lot better eating habits," Johnson said. "I'm a lot lighter. We have a team nutritionist. I don't expect to balloon up to 200 pounds like I did in New York and other places."

-- With Johnson managing Monday, the Nationals now have had four managers in five days: Jim Riggleman last Thursday, John McLaren on Friday, hitting coach Trent Jewett on Friday after McLaren was ejected, and Johnson on Monday. Rizzo joked that he didn't even know who managed the team after McLaren's ejection. "I think there were about three coaches running things," the GM said.

-- Another odd stat: The Nationals have had two managers resign after victories over the past five days. The Nats won Thursday, after which Riggleman quit. Then McLaren left after Sunday's win out of loyalty to Riggleman.

-- Angels manager Mike Scioscia worked with Johnson during the spring of 1999 when Scioscia was on the Dodgers' staff as the Triple-A Albuquerque manager. "He has some incredible insight," Scioscia said. "He really studies the game. He understands what's important."

-- The fact that the Nationals have won 13 of 15, and two of three since Riggleman's resignation, is something the team is carrying with pride. "It shows the character of the team," Rizzo said. "Anybody can go through the smooth and easy times. But the test of character comes with the tough times, and this team has come through that with flying colors."

-- When McLaren came into the clubhouse after managing his final game Sunday, the Nationals gave him a standing ovation.

"He's a great baseball guy," Jerry Hairston Jr. said. "We have a lot of respect for him and what he endured. People don't realize that with the manager leaves, it doesn't just affect the players. It affects the coaches. Johnny Mac has his loyalty to Riggs, and that's why he decided he needed to leave. But Mac is a tremendous baseball man."

-- Following a 4-3 loss to the Angels in his Nationals' debut, Johnson said, "It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed every minute of it. There was a little bit of everything."

He may have enjoyed it even more had he two more relievers available. Closer Drew Storen was absent, attending his grandmother's funeral in Indiana (he's expected back for Tuesday night's game here). And Tyler Clippard was unavailable because of a "tired arm."

Likes: Wow, what a performance by Jim Leyland in getting the heave-ho Monday in Detroit. The Tigers manager got a standing ovation as he left the field. Make sure you check it out here. ... Joe Torre back in the Bronx for Old-Timers' Day. ... The Dodgers may be bankrupt, but not in the hits department. They got 24 in Monday's romp in Minnesota. ... Nothing says summer like the smell of a freshly mown lawn. ... Adele's latest disc, 21. Man, that voice is smoky and soulful. ... Hot Italian pizza in Sacramento. ... The breakfast burritos and the strong, excellent coffee (and everything else) at Pipes Café in Cardiff-By-The-Sea.

Dislikes: So, what, we're going to have a team in bankruptcy every summer? The Dodgers now, the Rangers last year.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Baby I have no story to be told
"But I’ve heard one of you and I’m gonna make your head burn"

-- Adele, Rolling in the Deep

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com