Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cold-Blooded Nationals

Yesterday the Nats optioned John Lannan to triple-A. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post used the phrase "cold-blooded". To me its far more than that.

This move is an important one for the Nationals organization. It signals an important shift in focus, from perennial underdog to consistent contender. Yes, the Nats are at a point in their existence where the personnel decisions are made strictly based on the on-the-field product. Gone are the days of "Mike Bascik, he's such a nice guy, great story, glad he's on our team" and in are the times where the most reliable Nats starter in history is optioned to Syracuse. It's encouraging to future fans of the team and means that the building of a rotation by cattle call is a thing of the past.

But none of that makes this alright with me. John Lannan is a wonderful person and very good pitcher. Let's look at the stats: 751 innings pitched in 128 starts, basically 6 innings per start, an ERA right at 4.00 and has a career WAR over 7 in 5 seasons, all the while costing a total just north of 3.5 million dollars (not a year...for his whole time in a Nats uni). He has been the stalwart of the rotation and endured the humiliation that was the Nats run-support and defense. To demote him to triple-A and tell him in the middle of the last exhibition game is so outside the realm of decent that there are no words.

This was an inevitable step in the progression towards being a keystone franchise. It makes the on-field product better, or at least gives it more potential. And Lannan at Syracuse is a nice insurance policy. That does not excuse this. John Lannan deserved better of the Nationals. Be it through trade or outright release, he is a Major League pitcher and the ignominy of being sent to triple-A is outrageous. The lack of decency and loyalty will not soon be forgotten by Lannan. Or me.


  1. doesn't bother me. Lannan has five million reasons not to be insulted. It seems pretty clear that Detwiler's spot start convinced the team that they needed to change direction, and Lannan didn't help himself with a blah spring.

    Above all, professional sports is a business, and there is a LOT of money at stake. Winners have to be ruthless sometimes. Lannan may not have been treated in the classiest manner possible, but he is still going to make more money for just this season than most people will earn in their whole lives.

  2. I agree with bdrube as well. It is what it is. Detwiler had a better spring and more upside. Lannan is not likely a long-term part for the Nationals. It sounds like Davey just had a hard time telling Lannan because he likes him so much.

  3. Seems a little too much, Sean. If they released him outright, shouldn't I, as a fan, be insulted that the team isn't doing everything in its power to give me a winning team in return for my support and patronage? What about my loyalty since 2005? Since the Nats could have released him and saved about $3m, I am heartened that they chose to spend the $3m to have him available in case he was needed. And Lannan agreed to pitch this year for $5m, he just doesn't control where.

    I do understand how Lannan can feel slighted, and I also think some of Rizzo's comments were uncalled for, but the option was a pure baseball and financial decision, and is one situation where the 'this is how the business side works' explanation is warranted .

  4. While I concede that Detwiler had a better spring and has much better potential than Lannan, the disappointment I have is in the way the news was communicated to Lannan. For the last 5 years, he has been an upright citizen of the Nationals family. For the team to let him know the way they did was in poor taste.

  5. It was a tough thing for Johnson to do and when the possibility of it was first broached a while back Johnson said as much ... I think perhaps he decided to wait ... because injuries do occur ... and you just never know, look what happened to Wang?

    In the end Johnson knew he had to do it ... and he wanted to ensure Lannan found out before the hordes of reporters descended on him and so ...

    Its a tough thing but one thing is certain the stats you list above do not accurately portray Johnson's pitching effectiveness. They are biased. The ERA stat is an antique created well before many advances in the science of statistics began to be applied to more mainstream applications.

    If you do not believe it Sean then ask yourself how is it that Livan Hernandez could take away Lannan's role as ace of this club? How is that a 35 year old going on 45 soft-tosser could take that role away from a still young in his prime mid-twenties pitcher? Unbiased park and defense neutral stats show a pitcher who was the worst statistically of every starter on the staff for three years running. Livo was a far superior starter over each of the three years he was with the club. How is that possible? Then there is his inability to pitch in relief.
    And there's much more ... Livo only made 1 million are you actually going to sit here and tell me you think Lannan is worth 5 times more than Livo when in actuality he should be paid LESS!!!

    Cold-blooded!! The Nats offered him 5 million and the guy wanted more? So they took him to arbitration and they won ... and we wonder what was said about him behind those closed doors! He was warned that his slot in the rotation was in jeopardy back then!! And he heard all the reasons why. And what did he do about it?

    If anything John Lannan's salary is what blocked a trade from occurring ... NOT the Nats need for another starter in case of injury. They would have been better off keeping Livo if we use that logic.

    You're just plain wrong, sorry.

  6. The move - probably ok at best. The way it was done -- totally disrespectful of a veteran who has done everything asked of him. A week ago - "John's my guy" --yesterday, in the dugout, during a game, less than 24 hours before the flight out -- not classy at all. Again -- the HOW, not the what -- this does not make the Nats fo look very professional. that kind of behavior erodes trust and credibility in any business.My how we turn on those that hung in there during the bad times. Yes, it's a business, but it's also a sport and we hear all the time about how teams are like families. Shame on them. And now all the bloggers can turn their hater-ade back on Desi.

  7. I was shocked as well. Not shocked in a bad way, but because I never expected "bringing the best 25 men north" to be more than a hollow platitude. Finally Rizzo and Johnson are able to bring the best players with them regardless of financial considerations or options. Leaving a five million dollar player behind is a sign of the maturing of the ownership and stewardship of this team. If Detweiler out performs Lannan (which I think he will), then you will have to get over your hand wringing and ask yourself what do you really want from your baseball team. I want the most competitive team on the field, not only this year but for years to come. At some point Wang will return and then a real hard decision will have to be made. This decision was tough on Lannan only, not on the team.

  8. Love the discussion everyone...I know the move was necessary and good for the club in the long run. My objection is purely personal and based on the connection I feel to John. He represents a lot of pain from watching this club over the past 7 seasons and to see him discarded in this way is very disheartening to me.