Capps, who signed a free agent contract with the Nationals last winter, was traded to Minnesota for catching prospect Wilson Ramos in July, and went on to complete his best season in the major leagues: 5-3, 42 saves and a 2.47 ERA.
At Adam LaRoche’s introductory press conference last Friday, the Nats’ new first baseman made the point that Capps, a pal from their days in Pittsburgh , had sung the praises of Washington to him in phone conversations.
“He loved this place,” LaRoche said, “and said it was a great place to play and to live.”
This from a pitcher who spent just four months with the Nationals.
It’s endorsements from guys like Capps that go a long way toward changing the image of the franchise back in the old BR - before Rizzo - days. From his dealings with agents to his choices for the front office and scouting staff, Mike Rizzo is doing things the right way. No, he didn’t come up with that elusive top-of-the-rotation guy that he wanted this winter, but how many of those guys are out there, anyway? A dozen? Fifteen? True staff aces are few and far between.
Did he improve the overall defense of the ballclub? Without question. Are there much better bats coming off the bench? Take a look. Is the bullpen better than the one they took to Viera last February? Sure looks like it.
Maybe this club won’t contend, but they’ll sure have the personnel to put up a better fight. Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman wanted more guys who hate losing, who aren’t content to simply slink back into the clubhouse after a loss and play cards. If a few bats go flying, so be it. Some in-your-face encounters? Why not?
Capps may end up as a very highly paid setup guy in Minnesota if Joe Nathan is healthy, but Capps’ stint with the Nats showed the rest of baseball that his subpar 2009 season in Pittsburgh was a fluke. Whatever happens, his affection for the Nats and for the region seem quite genuine, and that’s worthy of praise in return.