We're back with part two of our blogger profile for the week; yesterday, we heard about Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball and how his site got started. Today, I've got part two of my sit-down with Reddington; we got together before Sunday's Nationals game to discuss a number of topics about the team, from Stephen Strasburg to Adam Dunn.
BG: With (Stephen) Strasburg, what was your vantage point for the debut, and what were your impressions of it?
PR: I started following him basically a year before he was even drafted. He separated himself, even at that point. When he was making his first college start, I put out a want ad within SB Nation for anyone out on the West Coast who was going to be following him. I actually got a kid who was going to San Diego State that got me reports and stuff. He was doing great reports, where he was doing scouting-level reports on him. I've been kind of obsessing him for over a year, to the point where before he got drafted, people were making fun of our site as a Strasburg site. It didn't help that the Nationals weren't good at that time, so we were kind of focusing on the future. But to see him come up here and be every bit as good as they've been saying he was going to be - I went to Arizona to see him (in the Fall League), and watched all the minor league starts on MASN, and I was like, 'Is this going to translate to the major leagues? I can't imagine him being as dominant as he was down there.' And to come up against - people call them 4A lineups, but they're major-league hitters (with the Pirates and Indians), and he was kind of abusing some of them.
BG: And say what you want about the Pirates' and Indians' lineups, but I don't think anyone would argue the White Sox don't have a major-league lineup, and he was as good, if not better, than he was against the Pirates and the Indians. That first night, I kind of thought, 'OK, he's going to come out and throw six innings. He's going to be on a pitch count. He'll probably give up a run and strike out five, and it'll be cool.' But to come out and (strike out 14), that blew my expectations away. It's so rare in sports where you get something like that, where the hype is (so much), and you get a performance that exceeds it. I don't think I'll forget it for a long time, possibly ever.
PR: As a fan, growing up with the Expos and seeing Randy Johnson as a kid, he couldn't throw a strike if he wanted to. Even Pedro (Martinez), he was a better pitcher than Johnson when he was coming up. But neither of them were anywhere as advanced as this kind is at his age. It's really impressive, that he can keep a cool demeanor on the mound. It's like he's almost preternaturally prepared for doing this. Everyone is baseball has been impressed by him. I haven't heard a bad thing about him since he came up.
BG: Yeah, and it raises their profile. I mean, they've played well, compared to what people thought they would be. So they've gotten some attention, but not anywhere to the degree that Strasburg's brought them. It was interesting to hear Scott Boras talk about how he provided value to the franchise before he played a game. It's hard to argue with that.
PR: As much as he kind of tried to pimp him when he was coming up, and then saying that he undersold him or undervalued him, which doesn't bode well for (Bryce) Harper.
BG: No, it doesn't. He was talking about how he was worth $50 million at one point, comparing him to Dice-K. A lot of that was rhetoric, and credit the Nationals for seeing through that and not giving in.
PR: (Stan) Kasten would say they did give in. He's still not happy about that contract they gave him. He still kind of bristles at the fact they gave away the biggest contract ever.
BG: But when you compare his performance to what it would cost to get that kind of pitcher on the open market, it's a steal.
PR: You're going to be giving him that $60, $80, $100 million that they were talking about. That's what they're going to have to do eventually to keep him away from the Mets and Yankees. You kind of hope he's like (Ryan) Zimmerman - he embraced being the face of the the team down here.
BG: Yeah, I think a lot of that will depend on what you get when you add Harper, if you add someone else. If they're contending, that changes the whole situation. But if they're where they are now, if they're not at a point where they're competing for anything, yeah, I can see (losing Strasburg).
BG: Let's close with Adam Dunn. That's a big decision they're going to have to make here - do they sign the guy, do they try to trade him, or let him walk? I personally think they're going to sign him, and I think they should.
PR: I'm leaning toward, I think they should. I don't see anyone in the organization or on the free agent market that you want to invest that kind of money in; he's already established here, he's said openly that he wants to stay. You hope that he's not going to deteriorate; in the post-steroid age, he's getting up there in that range where power hitters go down for the most part, traditionally. You hope that he's not going to. But you sign him for another year or two, and (Chris) Marrero's up, or you go out on the free agent market looking for a first baseman. But I agree; I think they're going to sign him. He's a popular guy around here. He's doing what they're asking him to. He's playing a decent first base, or decent enough that you can keep him there for a year or two, and he'll hit 35 or 40 home runs, give you that production you need. Because without him, in this lineup, there's a lack of power.
BG: I agree, and he's hitting .290. That probably won't last, but we haven't seen him do that, ever. Now, everybody talks about the Ryan Howard contract and what that's going to do. But if you can keep the years to three or less, and keep the money reasonable, yeah, it's a good move. I would guess, if you could do it at three (years) and $40 (million). A lot of people would balk at the third year. I've kind of tossed those numbers out, and gotten skewered for it a little bit. I find it hard to believe the guy is going to be hitting .215 with 18 homers and 190 strikeouts in three years. He's not a perfect player, but with the kind of power he brings, you can expect that for another three years.
PR: And also, when they got him (in 2009), basically the Nationals' offer was the only one on the table. He was doing interviews where he was saying, 'I'm going to take this offer if no one's going to offer anything else.' He was kind out there on his own; he wasn't getting the offers he thought he would.
BG: He was sitting there until two days before spring training. He was kind of No. 2 to (Mark) Teixeira's No. 1 as far as power bats, and he ended up with six years and $160 million less. Do you want to test that again? I don't see it. I think he signs here, and I think he should.
PR: I kind of wish they'd kept Nick Johnson around to keep the next guy to play first base, but you can't teach that kind of power.