Thursday, June 30, 2005

Gone Fishin'

I'm off for a few days.

While I'm gone, check in with District for news.

Visit Yuda's for game-related blather.

And any of the fine blogs to the right for analysis. (Though I promised Distinguished Senators that I'd link to him, so read his spirited defense of Ryan Church from the evil Tom Boswell)

GameDay: Buccos Begone Edition

It's 4-0 already! Yuda has the chat. C'mon and chip in.

Guillen's A Good Guy. Sometimes.

Right before his game-winning hit in the eighth inning, the MASN cameras caught Jose Guillen smiling, laughing and joking with some people seated in the front row.

At the time, it struck me as odd considering the moment in the game, and especially because of Jose's cough::INTENSITY::cough.

A mole in the stands filled me in on some of the background. Apparently, the people Jose were talking to had prosthetic limbs. Given their age and their handicap, as well as the team's visit the other day, it's probably safe to assume they were veterans from Walter Reed.

Jose recently expressed admiration for what those veterans, in particular, have given.

Jose seemed to enjoy the conversation. It's pretty easy to speculate that they were requesting a game-winning hit.

He was more than eager to comply with their request.

Insert Rain Pun Here

Last night was another one of those total team wins. No single player stood out; everyone did exactly what they needed to do to squeeze out yet another one-run win. It's the same script they've followed all year.

John Patterson gutted out a few extra innings after a long 2+ hour rain delay and, despite giving up a two-run bomb on the first pitch after the delay, pitched effectively.

But, as has been the case for most of the year, the bullpen saved the day. Travis Hughes pitched another scoreless inning, despite not really looking all that spectacular.

He was followed by the Third Triumvirate: Majewski, Ayala and Cordero. Three scorless innings later, the Nationals walked away with another win.

Ayala was the shakiest. With a runner on second, he gave up a single to left. We were bailed out by Ayala's suckiness there. The ball was hit so hard, that Byrd was able to easily throw the runner out at the plate. A lesser pitcher would've given up a blooper and the lead. ;)

Chad Cordero gets the Majority Whip, though, for doing what he's done all year -- converting another one-run save. He set the team record for most consecutive saves last night. That was a record held by Mel Rojas, which shows the pointlessness of that statistic! ;)

  • Jose Vidro is starting to rehab with Potomac. Initially, he'll DH and lead off to get some ABs. In a few days, he'll begin playing the field, where the real test will come.

  • Joey Eischen will be activated from the 60-day DL tomorrow. Procedurally, they'll probably shift Jon Rauch or TJ Tucker to the 60-day DL to free up a roster spot on the 40-man.

    As far as the 25-man roster, your guess is as good as mine. You'd expect them to whack a pitcher and Travis Hughes is at the bottome of the pile. But, he's pitched effectively, and Frank seems to trust him in the old Tucker 6th inning role. The other pitching candidate would be Sunny Kim. But he's been excellent as a spot starter and as a long reliever too.

    I'd advocate them whacking Wil Cordero. He's been less than useless. Last night, he didn't even loft his typical weak fly balls. He was too busy striking out every time he came to the plate. His batting average? .031. Ouch.

    With Armas and Patterson unable to go deep in games and a long stretch without an off-day, getting an extra arm in the pen might be a good idea. When Vidro's healthy in two weeks or so, you can find a pitcher to dump.

    We'll find out though. The thing about Bowden is, ya never know!

  • Last night's rain delay was 3 minutes less than the length of the previous game. Congrats to anyone who actually stayed!

  • Wednesday, June 29, 2005

    Baseball's Been Barry Barry Good To Me

    Barry Svrluga is up at 2 for his weekly chat.

    Potential questions:
    -- Is he afraid of Jose Guillen?
    -- Who would win in a fistfight? Frank Robinson or Jim Bowden?
    -- What exactly IS Jim Bowden on?
    -- What kind of meds is Guillen on and can I have some?

    The Hitless Wonders

    The Word Series-winning 1906 Chicago White Sox were known as the Hitless Wonders. As a team, they batted .230, and they hit just seven homers all season. Even for the deadball era, that was a low total.

    Last night's lineup would've fit in perfectly.

    When Vinny Castilla is hitting cleanup and it's not 1995, you're in trouble.

    Yet, somehow, they scratched out just enough runs to win. And more amazingly, they did it sans hit.

    HBP, Walk, Flubbed Sac Bunt, Sac Fly and that was all they needed. It was a small-ball fetishists biggest fantasy. Somewhere, Buster Olney is gazing longingly at Derek Jeter, but thinking about that rally.

    The Majority Whip was an easy call. Ryan Drese lobbed shotput after shotput up to the plate. And time and time again, the Bucco batters pushed it to the ground to an infielder.

    I was at the game, so I couldn't compare, but I think it's probably safe to say he got his arm angle higher again, the way it was on his first start.

    He gave up one run, in the first, after Brad Wilkerson misplayed a liner that went over his head. In Brad's fairness, it was a scorching line drive to straight center -- the type of hit that doesn't have a normal style of spin and doesn't tail off normally. Wilkerson pirouetted repeatedly, turning every which way, but never quite getting there. Darryl Ward hit a VERY soft flare to left that just stuck in the grass like a lawn dart, scoring the team's only run.

  • The defensive play of the game goes to Cristian Guzman. With the team clinging to that one-run lead, the Pirates had runners on second and third with nobody out. Drese lobbed another shotput that was hit to Guzman, who fired strongly and accurately to Brian Schneider who easily tagged the runner. More importantly, the runner on second held. Drese escaped the inning unscathed.

  • Wil Cordero received two loud ovations from the small-ball fetishists for two weak fly balls he hit.

    All Cordero has done this season (other than waste space) is hit weak fly balls. He had the good fortune that runners were on base this time. One advanced a runner from second to third. Another drove in the game-winning run. And both times, he got applauded as if he were doing something right.

  • Chad Cordero had another strong, dominant 1,2,3 inning. If he keeps this up, his WHIP will actually be in line with his ERA.

  • Brian Schneider looked like he was having a hard time catching/blocking some of Drese's pitches. During the seventh, he completely missed a high pitch that went for a passed ball (a cross-up?), and during that same inning, he flopped all over, doing his best Sparky the Sea Lion impersonation.

    He probably has bruises on his stomach today.

  • Frank Senior Moment

    With Brad Wilkerson on first, Frank couldn't help himself. He just had to put his footprint on the game, pulling the anti-Weaver: the hit-n-run.

    Predictably, Junior Spivey tried hacking at a low and away slider. The catcher fumbled it for a second, fired to second, and still had Wilkerson easily. Another failed HNR. Another CS. Another run prevented.

    Worse, because Spivey had to hack at a ball way out of the zone to protect the runner, he was now behind 1-2, instead of being ahead 2-1. Spivey tapped the next pitch weakly to the infield for the second out.

    I can't remember a time this season when the HNR has worked. It must've at some point, but be damned if I can remember.

    Regardless, the sooner Frank forgets that sign, the sooner the team scores more runs.

  • Homestand Goal:
    4-2
    Homestand Record:
    3-1

    We need every win we can get now. July won't be pretty.

  • Tuesday, June 28, 2005

    Wife Beatin' Wil Cordero Fun Fact O' The Day

    The execrable Wil Cordero is now 'batting' .036 on the season. (Yes, it really is that low).

    And now, thanks to another weak fly ball (his season-long specialty), which just happened to be timed with a runner on third and less than two outs, his on-base percentage is .034.

    Think about that for a second.

    His on-base percentage is lower than his batting average!

    Thank you Wil! Just like Jimmy Carter made a meaningful contribution to economic theory by showing that it's possible to have both high unemployment and high inflation, Wil is making a meaningful contribution to sabermetrics!

    Thanks Wil! Now try not to beat your wife.

    The Book Thingamabob

    I've been tagged! And working under the delusional assumption that anyone gives a hairless rat's rump about what I have to say, here it goes: It's the book meme!

    1. How many books I own:
    I dunno. Too many. I have three bookshelves that are all sagging under the weight -- and that's not counting the ones that are boxed up in my parent's attic. If I had to guess, I'd say I have 50 or so that are just on baseball.

    2. Most recent purchase:
    I always troll the remainder piles at bookstores. It drives my gf crazy, because I'll always walk out with something. But I've tried to scale back my purchases because there's an ever-growing pile of unread books.

  • Beyond the Shadow of the Senators -- a history of Negro League baseball in DC.

  • The Last Night of The Yankee Dynasty -- Buster Olney's account of the final game of the 2001 World Series and how that game signified the end of the Yankees as we knew them. It's amazingly prophetic. Buster gets a lot of deserved crap from statheads because of his idiotic pushing of 'Productive Outs', but he's a solid writer, and was one of the better beat writers out there when working for the Baltimore Sun and the NY Times.

  • The Maltese Falcon -- Everyone I've talked to has told me to read it. I finally bought it. Now I'll just need to make the time to get through it.

    3. Currently Reading:
  • Damn Senators, Mark Gauvreau Judge -- It's the story of the author's grandfather, the underrated Joe Judge and the Washington Senators' lone World Series Championship in 1933. (I'll get it back to you soon, Ryan!)

  • Tyrannosaurus Sue, Steve Fiffer -- A dry, but fascinating story about the legal battle over Sue, the Tyrannosaurus currently housed in Chicago's Field Museum. It's a legal nightmare full of loopholes, strong personalities, politics and greed; it's the classic American story!

  • The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe -- I love Tom Wolfe's writing. I've been making my way through his older stuff book by book.

    4A Five books that mean the most:
  • Pick a Bill James book. Three that stick out: Historical Abstract, Whatever Happened To The Hall of Fame?, 1983 (?) Baseball Abstract (the yellow one).

    If you haven't read any BJ, do it now. The Historical Abstract is floating around the remainder piles at many bookstores now. But you should try and find some of the yearly abstracts from the '80s. (Ebay's a good place to look)

    Bill James is great for two reasons.

    1) He writes clearly and concisely, walking you through the creation of a statistic and describing the assumptions he makes in a manner that make you understand why he's doing what he's doing and why it will work. As a result, the numbers he use make sense for someone who isn't perfectly comfortable with calculations.

    2) He doesn't speak soley in numbers. They're simply a tool with him for describing things. If you read a lot of his player evaluations (beside a heavy emphasis on the history of the game, which I especially love), he frequently describes talent in qualitative terms, not quantitive. And that's the opposite of what most people would suspect given his reputation.

  • Sweet Peas and a White Bridge. I'm sure none of you have heard of this, but it's a collection of stories and tales from old-timers who worked on Lake George as guides, steamboat drivers, lumberjacks, etc. It definitely has some sentimental value for me.

  • The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene. It's been a few years since I've read this. I've been meaning to pick it up again lately. I'd be interested to see how my own changing faith would alter my impression of this novel, which tracks the Whiskey Priest as he flees authorities who are trying to arrest him in Mexico. (And certainly that description doesn't do it any justice!)

    4B Worst Book
  • Does Men At Work count? That's pretty high up there. How about Summer of '98 by Mike Lupica. It's one of those straight-to-the-presses mundane accounts of the supposedly magical 1998 season. Given what we now know (or suspect) about McGwire and Sosa, the sheen has been taken off much of it.

    5 Who's Next?
    There are Nats-bloggers out my wazoo. Someone here is bored enough to pick up the mantle (read: Nationals Inquirer). I'm certainly not going to conscript anyone. Lemme know in comments, and I'll link to you.

  • First Place -24 -6 = ???

    If it's tuesday, there must be more injuries. The Washington Capitals of MLB (At least in terms of training-staff ability) have been bitten by two more, this time to their two best hitters, Nick Johnson and Jose Guillen.

    Guillen's is less serious. He has an injured shoulder, supposedly from a collision with the catcher. (On the play he slid into home ahead of Hudson's throw?)

    He's expected to be day-to-day, but given NJ's injury and his (what I'll charitably describe as) intensity, I'd be shocked if he missed more than a game.

    Johnson's is more troubling. He injured his heel on his awkward dash to the plate in Sunday's game. It's listed as a deep bone bruise. I suppose it was just a matter of time before our Mr. Glass shattered.

    He's supposed to be out three to seven games. Given his history, bank on the seven.

    In the meantime, our pitiful offense becomes even more pathetic.

    There are several options.

    Wilfredo Cordero could slide into first and try to double his anemic .020 batting average. (That it'd take only one hit to double it is pretty damn sad!)

    A much better option is sliding Brad Wilkerson to first. Ryan Church could play center and Marlon Byrd could slide into the corner.

    It's possible that Tony Blanco could 'play' the outfield as well, even though they just said that the team is committed to limiting him to first and third a few days ago.

    No matter which way you go, it's probably not going to be pretty. Even with our 3 and 4 batters, this offense has a hard time scratching out runs.

    But, this doesn't create problems just with our offense. This will put additional strain on our over-worked bullpen, especially if the game is close in the late innings.

    So, get healthy Jose! Get healthy NJ. We really need you.

    Monday, June 27, 2005

    NL All-Star Prognostication

    It's an off-day, so I took a crack at picking the All-Star team. In making my rosters, I used the same criteria they do: the fans pick the starters, and each team must be represented.

    Starters:
    C -- Mike Piazza, NYM
    1B -- Albert Pujols, STL
    2B -- Jeff Kent, LA
    3B -- Scott Rolen, STL
    SS -- Cesar Izturis, LA
    OF -- Carlos Beltran, NYM
    OF -- Jim Edmonds, STL
    OF -- Bobby Abreu, PHI

    Reserves:
    C -- Paul LoDuca, FLA; Ramon Hernandez, SD
    1B -- Derek Lee, CHI
    2B -- Craig Counsell, AZ
    3B -- Aramis Ramirez, CHI
    SS -- David Eckstein, STL; Omar Vizquel, SF
    OF -- Adam Dunn, CIN; Andruw Jones, ATL; Carlos Lee, MIL; Jason Bay, PIT

    Pitchers:
    Starters -- Dontrelle Willis, FL; Roger Clemens, HOU; Pedro Martinez, NYM; Livan Hernandez, WAS; John Smoltz, ATL; Jake Peavey, SD; Chris Carpenter, STL; Roy Oswalt, HOU; Brett Myers, PHI.

    Relievers -- Chad Cordero, WAS; Jason Isringhausen, STL; Billy Wagner, PHI; Brian Fuentes, COL.

    ___

    Any egregious errors? Anyone that I missed?

    You've gotta play by the same rules though. Every team has to be represented. And if you want someone on, you've gotta take someone off.

    We Have TWO First-Round Picks!

    Sez Peter Gammons:
    Meanwhile, Washington's No. 1 pick, third baseman Jeff Zimmerman from the University Virginia, is already playing in Double-A and homered in his debut Saturday night.

    I guess any coverage is good coverage, right?

    (Yay! My First PG Nitpick! I'm officially a blogger now!)

    Sunday, June 26, 2005

    Old Friends, New Places

    Draw your own conclusions.

    Tomo Ohka 20.2 IP 3.92 ERA 1 BB 14 SO
    Ryan Drese 11.0 IP 4.09 ERA 6 BB 3 SO
    Claudio Vargas 12.1 IP 9.95 ERA 5 BB 9 SO
    (As I'm typing this, Vargas has 6 shutout innings against the Tigers, which aren't included in those numbers)
    Junior Spivey  .277/ .393/ .468  8 BB  10 SO
    Endy Chavez .156/ .208/ .222 3 BB 4 SO

    Down Goes Frasier!

    The Washington Nationals shamed the National League today, losing the ultimate battle for league supremacy in the MLB Heavyweight Champsionship. By losing in the last interleague game, the title will stay with the American league for one more year.

  • Tony Armas stunk again, putting the team in a hole that Vinny Castilla and Junior Spivey got them out of. TA2 (Maybe Ta-Ta is better?) wins a Lame Duck with his shameful performance. Maybe someone can put him in touch with Dick Durbin for lessons on how to make a tearful apology.

  • Luis Ayala had another shaky outing. The overwork is increasingly looking like a problem. The All-Star break will give him a few days of rest. He's going to need it before ineffectiveness or injury renders him completely useless.

  • Saturday's game was the Marlon Byrd show. Two hits, Two RBI, a stolen base, an outfield assist. All he needed was a fighting major, and it'd have been a Gordy Howe hat trick. Needless to say, it was a Majority Whip-winning performance.

  • Friday night was Esteban Loaiza's time to shine. Although he only pitched six innings -- shutout ones at that -- he added all the offense the team would need with a two-run double.

    The way the offense has performed for him, he had to do it himself or be content with another ND.

  • In other news, TJ Tucker has been lost for the season with that torn UCL. Dr. James Andrews answered his page, and he'll have ligament transplant surgery.

    Hypothetically, he could be back next year, but Tucker has never been known for his sensational conditioning. Spring Training 2007 is the more likely target.

  • Jose Vidro tweaked his right knee, the one he had surgery on last year, when trying to rehab too quickly. As a result, he won't be back til after the All-Star break, which really should've been their target all along anyway.

  • Dutch Zimmerman continues his destruction of the minor leagues. After torching through Savannah like no one since Sherman, he got the call-up to Double-A Harrisburg. (Perhaps to defend Gettysburg?)

    He had three hits in his first game, but none in his second. Perhaps he's human after all?

  • What Do These Men Have In Common?

    Ted Lilly.
    Miguel Batista.
    Jason Johnson.
    Ryan Franklin.
    Gil Meche.
    Aaron Sele.
    Aaron Harang.
    Josh Fogg.
    Mark Redman.
    Kip Wells.
    Josh Fogg.

    They're all veteran pitchers at or near the end of their current contracts who play for teams who aren't legitimately contending for a playoff spot, and who could probably pitch more effectively than Tony Armas.

    Some (Johnson) are clearly better than others (Sele). And some would take more than others to get.

    But, this is a starting point of names that Bowden needs to be investigating soon. Because with Tony Armas (let's face it -- 10 starts is enough to show that he doesn't have it) and Ryan Drese in the rotation, you're playing craps in 40% of your games.

    Maybe Sunny Kim is the answer? Maybe Tomo Ohka was?

    Either way, it needs an answer soon.

    And that's even before we look at another bad outing by the clearly over-worked Luis Ayala.

    Despite all the happy and good feelings, I suspect we're nearing an edge of a cliff. It's time for Bowden to nudge us back to safety.

    Ayala's Arm

    Frank only let Ayala in for a few pitches last night, letting Cordero come into the game in the 8th inning. He seems well aware that Ayala is overworked. (As is Majewski)

    Just a random stat...

    Ayala is on pace for 92 appearances this season.

    When was the last time a relief pitcher appeared in that many games?

    And, how many pitchers have pitched more games? (Note the presence of a lot of current names further down the list. But, also note that they're mostly specialists who pitch for a batter or two at a time, not an inning or two like Luis)

    Majewski would be up there too, but he had the 'advantage' of starting his season in balmy New Orleans.

    Careful, Frank! The Nationals have his rights for at least three more years. Pace yourself!

    Saturday, June 25, 2005

    GameDay: Floppy Hat Edition

    Not going to the stadium to get your Nats Floppy Hat? Me either.

    Watching the game or listening to it anyway? Join the fun at Yuda's where you can kvetch about the lack of offense and Tony Armas' crappy pitching.

    Cy Cordero?

    I'll just throw this out there. I'm not sure I agree with it, but it struck me as I look at the numbers.
    IP    H   HR BB  SO  W  L  SV  ERA
    82 64 7 20 78 4 2 53 0.97 -- Chad Cordero's projected stats

    82.1 37 2 20 137 2 3 55 1.20 -- Eric Gagne, 2003

    In 2003 Eric Gagne was the toast of baseball, winning the Cy Young and finishing sixth in MVP voting.

    Cordero hasn't been as dominant -- he allows more hits than Gagne and doesn't strike out as many batters, but he's been just as efficient.

    And he's definitely a big part of why our record in close games is what it is.

    Is he our best pitcher? Early in the season he was certainly overlooked. (Even by Bowden and Frank, despite what they may claim now)

    But, maybe it's time to rethink it? Who's more important? Livan? Or Cordero?

    Friday, June 24, 2005

    They Can Come Home Again

    After a mildly successful road trip, the Nationals return home for a brief 6-game homestand. First come our fierce rivals, the Blue Jays. Then, we have a return matchup with the Pirates.

    It'll be tough to duplicate the success of the last homestand, but there's no reason that we can't go 4-2 against these teams, both of whom we are probably better than. 5-1 would sure be nice though!

    Tonight, it's Esteban Loaiza against Josh Towers.

    Frank has moved Tony Armas to Saturday, splitting up Loaiza and Liva, who know goes on Sunday. The bullpen will appreciate the respite.

    We won't get Roy Halliday this time around, thankfully. We need to take advantage of it now, because after these six, come nine games against post-season competitors, with six of those on the road.

    The Trade Winds Are Blowin'

    With 48 hours between ballgames, there's a lot of free time to play armchair GM. Today's Times takes a stab at it, and the message boards are full of it (In a few senses of the word!).

    Obviously Bowden is going to make a move. It's a matter of when, whom, and how much pillaging.

    The first step, though, is recognizing what the team's needs are. And from some of the names being floated out there, I'm not entirely sure that Bowden's sure of what they are.

    Earlier this month, I compared the team's offense to league average at each position. While not a perfect measure, it's a quick guide to where we're weak.

    Those numbers created a dilemma. For the most part, we were league average everywhere. (We're ignoring Guzman) That makes it hard to find a place where we can make a clear upgrade.

  • Second base is a problem. Jose Vidro is the answer. And he's close to returning too.

  • Short stop is a problem. But, we've been over why a fix to that probably isn't coming.

  • Third base wasn't really a problem then. But, it is now. Vinny's in a free fall.

    Some have mentioned moving Vidro to third and letting Spivey stay at second. That's a possibility, but Vidro played third early in his career, and it didn't work out. He wasn't comfortable playing the position, and he didn't do it well. Plus, they wouldn't ask a veteran, especially one who's been as faithful to the organization as Jose, to switch positions mid-season for a newcomer like Spivey.

    More likely is that Spivey and Carroll will increasingly take time away from Vinny.

    An outside possibility could be someone like Joe Randa. The Reds have Edwin Encarnacion ready to take over third, and Randa is cheap and expendable. It probably wouldn't take too much to acquire him. He'd give solid defense, and a league-average bat at the position.

  • Despite the Juan Encarnacion and Preston Wilson blather, outfield is fine. There's no reason to make an upgrade there, unless they think that Wilkerson's arm troubles are going to escalate.

    And for the record, take a look at Juan Encarnacion's June. Danger Frank Robinson! Danger!

    Hopefully the emergence of Ryan Church as a force has convinced Bowden that that's not a position that needs upgrading. (Unless Adam Dunn really is available -- then you ship whatever you can to Cincinnati!)

    _____

    The more realistic options involve the pitching staff.

    1-3 our starters are fantastic. You don't have to worry about Livan, Loaiza or JPII (as long as their various body parts aren't stiff).

    It's 4 and 5 that you have to worry about. Tony Armas has been shaky, and that's being charitable. He pitches like a power pitcher, but he doesn't have the stuff to consistently blow by hitters. He lives on the edge.

    Ryan Drese is still a question mark. But, Sunny Kim and a now-rehabbing Zach Day could fill in if Drese keeps up his season-long implosion.

    The relievers have been great, and are probably the single biggest factor of why we are where we are despite being outscored on the season. All have been a breath of fresh air. But, therein lies the problem. We're going to them night after night after night. We can't expect them to continue the kind of success they've had with the workload they're carrying.

    Gary Majewski, in particular, looks like he's starting to tire.

    Some of that strain will be helped by the return of Joey Eischen. He's not a particularly good reliever, but it adds depth and another arm that Frank trusts in critical situations.

    ____

    If I was Jim Bowden, and if I was, I wouldn't be able to pull off the leather pants like he does, I'd focus on pitching.

    Starter is one possibility. They seem obsessed with having a left-handed pitcher, even though they really should focus on the best arm available. RFK doesn't favor one handed batter over another, and it's not a particularly left-handed-hitting division either.

    Names like Ted Lilly and Mark Redman have been floated around. Both would be decent possibilities, and could provides some Armas insurance.

    But, it'd be really nice to add another arm to the relief staff. They don't need someone who's earned the 'proven closer' tag, but someone who's been an affective setup man would be a nice addition. And without the 'closer' tag, the cost in prospects won't be nearly as high.

    ____

    They key in all deals for us is that we're not going to be able to outbid other teams. We simply don't have the prospects. Our best hitting and pitching prospects (Larry Broadway and Mike Hinckley) have been disappointing this year, and probably aren't worth all that much.

    But, we do have an advantage. We've got more spare money then most teams, so we might be able to take on salary in lieu of giving up prospects.

    But, one thing to keep in mind, is that if we're talking about someone like Adam Dunn, it's worth it to pillage the farm system. None of our prospects project as All-Stars. If you have to unload 5 players and cash to get Adam Dunn, you do it.

    Where it gets tricky is when you start unloading those players for Ted Lilly.

    But, that's the decision that Bowden will have to make over the next month.

    And that's why he gets to wear the leather pants.

    What do you say? What should we acquire? Any names strike your fancy?

  • Thursday, June 23, 2005

    Supreme Court 1; Anti-Stadium Activists 0

    There was some concern that a Supreme Court case on the validity of emininent domain in cases of private re-development would hamper DC's ability to construct the new stadium.

    That hurdle has been cleared.
    Splitting 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a local government may seize private property for purposes of profit-making private re-development, declaring that this constitutes a "public use" under the Constitution. (Kelo v. New London, 04-108).


    Now there are only about 452 more hurdles to clear.

    Here's an AP Article with more information about the case.

    Mission Accomplished

    A 5-4 win equals a 5-4 road trip. The Nationals took on the two best teams in the American League West on their own turf and battled them to a draw. Then, against a suprisingly decent Pirates team, they took the series, sending them home with a winning road trip to continue the momentum of the last home stand. More important, the Nationals remain in first place, three games up on the Philadelphia Phillies. But, you knew all that.

    Yesterday was the Jose Guillen show as he put on another power-hitting clinic. He had four hits, including two homeruns in his first two at bats. But, what else are you going to expect when El Loco Bate faces one of his former teams?

    Intrepid reporters at Distinguished Senators got their trusty abacuses (abacaii?) out and did the computin' for us.

    In short, he wrecks the hell out of the ball when he's angry (and facing former teams). The rest of the time, he's just a mild-mannered, league-average corner outfielder. (To see how dramatic it is, you'll have to click over to DS yourself!)

    Our own Dr. Jeckyl wins another Majority Whip.

  • Hector Carrasco deserves consideration. He relieved an ineffective-effective-ineffective John Patterson with 1 out and the bases loaded. Two outs later, he walked off the field with no runs in and those bases still loaded.

    The Nationals scored the go-ahead run that next inning, giving him the win. To cement his awesomeness, he chipped in another scoreless inning in the 8th, saving Luis Ayala from another day of arm abuse.

  • Patterson was complaining of lower back pain. He pitched like it was still hurting him early in the game, giving up three homers. He had only given up one on the season (a Grand Slam to Moises Alou way back in San Francsico). That's been one of the secrets of his success, and was a pretty good indication that things weren't right early with him.

    I'm assuming he needed time for his back to get loose, or a way to temporarily alter his delivery to get through it. Because the old JPIII returned, pitching very well until the aforementioned bases-loaded jam.

  • Vinny Castilla sat out with what Frank Robinson termed a 'tired bat'. That seems about right! Vinny has been in a free fall lately. Nats Blog has the Helen-Thomas-ugly results in graphical form.

    Castilla's clearly not the player he once was. Despite the Coors effect, he was still a very good player, especially when you factor his defense into the equation.

    Other than a few throws, his defense has been constantly steady and occasionally spectacular.

    For the moment, Jamey Carroll has been spelling him at third. But, you've gotta wonder whether that's an upgrade. Carroll's defense probably isn't as good, and as bad as Vinny's bat has been, at least there's the potential for an extra-base hit, which there isn't with Carroll up there.

    Maybe this is a position that Bowden will be targeting for a trade. Despite being under contract for next season, Vinny won't be making a ton of money. It wouldn't cripple the team to have to bench him or cut him.

    But, as always, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

  • Wednesday, June 22, 2005

    Dutch Treat

    Dutch Zimmerman, after a tough 0-4 day in his first professional game last night, rebounded by hitting his first homerun in tonight's game.

    Vinny Castilla better look over his shoulder! :P

    GameDay: Afternoon Delight Edition

    Game time is 12:30. Tune your radios to AM 1050 (Like anyone can actually get that station!) and join us as we waste away an afternoon of productivity listening to Charlie Slowes and Dave Shea.

    Yuda has today's game chatter. There's no excuse for the lurkers to not chip in today. We know you're not really working anyway.

    During the game, Barry Svrluga has his weekly chat. The man can do it all.

    He'll check in at two, right as the game enters the late innings. I'm sure he's thrilled about that.

    Brother, Can You Spare An Arm?

    Another day, another injury.

    John Patterson is complaining of a sore back -- the same injury that held him out for a week last month.

    As a result, he might not make his scheduled start today in Pittsburgh.

    Frank's options involve two other injured pitchers.

    He can go with Sunny Kim on short rest. Kim left his last start with a cramped forearm. Coming back on short rest certainly won't help that.

    His other option is Esteban Loaiza who was scratched from his previous start with a sore neck. Apparently, he was walking around the clubhouse yesterday with a heated neck brace.

    Compounding the problem is the huge number of innings (and pitches) the bullpen has thrown over the last week. There aren't going to be many arms available for today's game. Ayala and Majewski are probably out. It'll probably be up to Cordero, Carrasco and Hughes. Ryan Drese 'only' threw 56 yesterday. Maybe he'd be available in an extreme emergency.

    There's an offday tomorrow. It couldn't come at a better time.

  • Zach Day has started throwing. They've already said they're going to let him rehab for as long as they can. Don't call us, Zach. We'll call you.

  • TJ Tucker had an MRI, which showed a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.

    That's not a good sign. Depending on the severity they could try rest. But, surgery is more likely.

    Wanna know more about it? There's plenty of info about what his future holds here.

  • Joey Eischen made his second rehab appearance for New Orleans. He didn't pitch all that well, giving up three hits and one run in one inning, but he can't come off the DL until 7/1 anyway.

  • Antonio Osuna (who was one of the Nats who restrained Guillen in the melee with the Angels) is rehabbing from his shoulder surgery. There's a chance he could be ready in late August.

  • Jose Vidro is progressing rapidly. He's been out of the walking boot for two weeks or so, and has started taking batting practice.

    It's possible that he could be back in 10 days, but Bowden said that he wants to take his time with it to ensure that there's not a relapse.

  • Henry Mateo is rehabbing with Potomac. With the addition of Spivey, he's superfluous anyway.

  • Jon Rauch had surgery on his torn labrum on May 31, but I haven't seen an update since then.

  • Sometimes You've Gotta Take The Long View

    Ryan Drese, Tomo Ohka, and Junior Spivey are demonstrating why one game isn't nearly enough to evaluate a roster move.

    Ohka got knocked around in his second start and I'm not quite sure if Spivey has had a hit since that big homer in his first game.

    Last night was Drese's chance to show that his 8 shutout innings against Anaheim weren't a fluke.

    He failed.

    But, he did win a Lame Duck!

    He lasted just three plus innings, giving up five runs. Drese got the Frank Robinson Special; He was yanked mid-count to the pitcher.

    It's not the first time Frank's done that. And it won't be the last. No matter when it's done, it's an obnoxious move by the manager.

    Drese stunk last night because his sinker didn't have the movement it did against the Angels. Supposedly Randy St. Claire got him to throw from a higher angle, which would create more downward movement on his sinker.

    I wonder if he reverted to form last night, throwing from a lower angle, eliminating most of the movement from the pitch.

    And when the sinker isn't moving, it gets well acquainted with the outfield wall.

  • Frank Senior Moment
    In the middle of the game, when they were down by just two, the Nationals had runners on first and second with nobody out. Cristian Guzman was at the plate.

    What does Frank do?

    If you guessed bunt, you'd have been right in every game but this.

    Frank didn't even have Guzman fake a bunt. He swung away and grounded into a rally-killing double play.

    The decision to bunt or not to bunt is debatable, I suppose. (For the record, I would've bunted -- and I said this ahead of time in the game thread -- especially because I don't have much faith in Guzman despite his recent hitting.)

    But, what irks me about it is the inconcistency of Frank's decisions. I realize you don't want to become completely predictable, but Frank was so overly bunt happy early in the year that he was bunting in situations where it (according to the charts) cost the team runs. That AB was a situation where your team comes out slightly ahead even with an average hitter, which Guzman is decidedly not.

    There has to be a line of thinking behind these decisions. What is it? And laughing about computers and management by gut isn't the right answer.

  • Just as we can't take one outing by Drese as signs he's turned it around or a failure, we can't judge the bullpen by one outing either.

    But, there are warning signs. Gary Majewski and Luis Ayala have thrown a ton of innings in a ton of games, especially lately.

    Unless the offense starts letting them back off the pace a little bit, that might present a large problem come August and September.

    Hopefully last night's burp was just a fluke and not a warning sign of fatigue. Majewski has had a few shaky outings over the last month. And Ayala has already had a few rough weeks this season.

    We're going to need them to have some healthy arms and hope that Joey Eischen can pitch effectively when he returns.

  • Road Trip Record:
    4-4 (See! I told you nitpickers!)
    Road Trip Goald:
    5-4

    It's an early game today: 12:30

    That off-day tomorrow is going to really come in handy for them.

  • Tuesday, June 21, 2005

    The Smell Test

    Thomas Heath has a front-page article on the Nationals financial sheets and indicates that the team is expected to make a $20 million profit. Last year, split between Montreal and Puerto Rico, the team lost $10 million.

    While that's obviously great news in that it shows that DC is capable of supporting a team, it seemed a little fishy when I thought about it -- as are most of the numbers MLB trots out.

    A $30 million swing certainly seems like a lot, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that that might even be an underestimate.

    I'm basing this on two aspects of local revenue: media contracts and ticket sales.

    First, media contracts. We know that the Nationals are receiving about $20 million from MASN. We don't know how much the radio contract is, but it was a revenue-sharing deal that's probably significantly less than that.

    I can only find 2001 numbers for Montreal. But, it's probably safe to say that they're not all that different -- there certainly wasn't a growing demand for Expos broadcasts. Then, they earned less than $1 million, in part, because they had no English-language broadcast agreement. (Imagine that! A team's local fans were unable to watch their team play!)

    Even accounting for the Nationals radio deals and increases in Montreal's contracts, that's about $15 MM of the increase right there.

    Then comes the ticket revenue.

    Thomas Heath estimates ticket revenue at roughly $60 MM dollars. (Based on 2.5 MM tickets X an average price of $24)

    Last season the Montreal Expos drew just under 750,000 fans (split between Canada and PR). Certainly ticket prices were cheaper. But, for the sake of argument and for conservative numbers, let's say the $24 figure was the average cost there too. That works out to $18 million in ticket revenue.

    That's a conservative difference of $42 million in ticket revenue alone.

    Add that to the $15 million from media, and there's nearly $60 million in additional revenue.

    And that's before you throw in the increased concessions, parking, merchandising, advertising, etc.

    The numbers don't quite add up.

    Now certainly, part of the difference is a result of Montreal's extreme reliance on revenue sharing. I'm unable to find any recent numbers on that (if you find any, drop a link in the comments), but I've got to believe that it's probably in the $20-$25 MM range. And it's certainly possible that the Nationals will even have to pay into revenue sharing, accounting for a significant portion of the mismatch.

    But, there's no accounting for that in the article. Either that's a failing on Thomas Heath's part, or that's MLB fudging with the numbers are per their usual.

    But, would their motives be in screwing around with the numbers asks you?

    How do you think the anti-stadium activists are reacting to today's news at the idea of a $20 million profit? It certainly can't be good, especially when you think of the schools and the children and puppy dogs with wet noses.

    MLB is trying to walk a tight rope here. They want to present a rosy picture, especially to those about to pony up nearly half a billion dollars for the team. Yet, they don't want to give some of the more demagogic in the city any more grist than they absolutely have to.

    Maybe the $20 million profit figure is correct. I just know from examining past dealings that you need to plug your nose anytime MLB starts throwing numbers around. Just call me skeptical.

    Monday, June 20, 2005

    We're Sorry Boz!

    We never should've doubted the Dean of Washington Baseball Writers (Post-Povich edition). Tom Boswell, in his typically grumpy, sometimes-coherent weekly chat ripped Nats fans recently for booing the execrable Cristian Guzman.

    Our friends at OMG! took a few deserved hacks at Boz with the all style and humor this blog isn't known for.

    In short, Boz said that Guzman would come around; booing was bush league; and Guzman was a good hitter for a shortstop.

    OMG took those point-by-point and dismantled Boz. Or so I thought.

    Cristian Guzman ruined OMG!'s thesis and is definitely having the last laugh. Tonight, he wins his first Majority Whip -- Two hits, a double and a triple; two runs; two RBI. Throw in two double plays, and he had a solid all-around game.

    Over the last few weeks, I've repeatedly mentioned how Guzman was finally starting to hit the ball hard. Even though he was still making outs, he was at least lining out, instead of hitting his patented first-pitch groundout.

    Well, those hits are starting to drop in -- or in the case of the last week, hit the wall or fall over it.

    Cristian Guzman is now hitting .212/ ~.243 / .303.

    While that still sucks, Guzman had bottomed out with a .451 OPS on May 31. Since the calendar flipped to June, he's been on a tear, raising his OPS nearly 100 points.

    For the month, he's hitting .288/ .302/ .481, which is about the best-case we would've expected at the beginning of the year. It's a shame it took him so long to show that kind of promise.

    He's working on a 6-game hitting streak and failed to get a hit in just six games this month. He's still not walking (just once this month), but he's taking a few pitches, showing a little more patience, and slapping the occasional extra-base hit.

    While he's not going to get his seasonal numbers up to where they should be, if he can continue to hit at roughly the same pace he has, he won't be the complete offensive drain he was the first two months of the season.

    So, Boz, you were right. We were wrong. We'll never doubt you again.

    (At least until you write your next homercentric statistically blind, fanboy-baiting pablum.)

  • On a normal night, Jose Guillen would've been the whip. He ripped two homers --solo, as usual as he's only hit 4 non-solo homers. But Guzman was not to be denied, and Guillen grounded into a DP in the 9th, with a chance to put the game completely out of reach.

  • ┬íLivan! won his 10th game with another of his non-descript outing. Were it not for another bad throw by the Dorian Gray of the infield, Vinny Castilla, Livan would've escaped with just two runs. Vinny's error yielded two more runs and turned a laugher into, well, it wasn't quite a nail-biter, but it wasn't a complete yawner either. [ed. Call Boz and get more -er game description cliches]

  • Road Trip Record:
    4-3
    Road Trip Goal:
    5-4

    All we need is one more.

    There are two games left and we're in first place by three games.

    The Nats'll be coming home with the lead regardless.

    They'll have six games at home against the Jays and Pirates before running a 10-game gauntlet heading into the All-Star break against three wannabe contenders: NYM, PHI, CHI.

    But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

    Let's enjoy the moment.

    And enjoy another Nats win.

    BANG! ZOOM! Indeed!
  • Here Come Da Judge

    I've tried to stay out of the MASN mess for two reasons. 1) I'm not an expert on the legal issues surrounding it; and 2) Both sides lie through their teeth.

    But, over the last week or so, there have been some interesting developments.

    You know the background. The Orioles own MASN, which owns the broadcasting rights to the Nats (and the Nats own a tiny share of the network). Comcast, which has its own regional sports network Comcast SportsNet (CSN), is suing the Orioles, claiming a breach of contract. They claim that the Orioles didn't give CSN the chance to use its contractual right to match any third-party offers. While the suit is ongoing, Comcast refuses to air the Nats games.

    But, the blank screen most of us are getting could've told us that.

    As the lawsuit churns forward to its first hearing on July 27, the Orioles have opened up a new front: the FCC.

    They've appealed to the FCC, asking them to air Washington Nationals games while the squabble continues in the legal system.

    At first glance, it might not seem like much, but Eric Fisher wrote that the underlying issues of Comcast owning a competitor, CSN, might make this a little more tricky, noting that
    FCC rules prohibit cable and satellite operators from deciding which channels to carry based on their corporate affiliation. And beyond Comcast's well-documented frustration with the Orioles and its opposition of a second regional sports network for Washington and Baltimore, the company has yet to explain fully why it will not cut a short-term deal with MASN to show the Nationals while it litigates the CSN lawsuit.


    Local Gadfly/ Astronomer/ Patron Saint/ 42-time Emmy Winner Jim Williams scored a pair of interviews with representatives from Comcast and the Orioles that added a lot of details to the few things we know.

    The dispute centers around the definition of a third-party.

    CSN's contract to carry the Orioles dates way back to 1996. It included a provision that allowed CSN (then Home Team Sports, HTS) to match any third-party offers for the Nats broadcasts.

    Comcast is claiming that MASN is a third-party creation. Whereas the Orioles claim that MASN is just a repackaged arm of TCR:
    TCR is the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. They are the same company. Simply put, MASN is the registered trade name of TCR. They are now and have always been the same company. So the assertion that MASN is a new or third party entity is absolutely false. TCR, known to many as O's TV prior to taking on the name MASN, has been producing the over the air Orioles games since 2002.


    I'm not going to make any guess as to the merits of either side on that one.
    -------
    Comcast is supposed to have an exclusive negotiatiting window through 11/05. But, both sides agreed to walk away from that contract. This point does not appear to be in dispute.

    But, in the Comcast interview, the Comcast spokesman believes that the Orioles have already bargained away their right for a MASN-type network.

    I'm paraphrasing to cut through the legalese, but in 1994 (two years before the current contract went into effect), the Orioles had included a provision that specifically claimed that a MASN-style network fell outside the bounds of HTS's match clause. That is, a team-owned MASN network was specifically permissable.

    In 1996 (the current contract), that clause was dropped. According to the Comcast lawyer, this gave the Orioles more money. He's essentially claiming they bought that escape clause out. As such, he feels that MASN is illegal according to the terms of the contract.

    Obviously, I haven't read the contracts and I'm certainly not a lawyer, but does just eliminating a clause from a prior contract prohibit something in a future contract? If Comcast REALLY wanted to prevent a MASN-like exodus, wouldn't they include terms that expressly forbid that in the contract?

    I suspect, because we haven't heard anything about it, that the contract doesn't expressly forbid a MASN-like team-owned TV contract. As such, that line of argument seems like a smoke screen and some lawyerly spinning, which is not unusual for this sort of case.

    There have been a few other things bandied about, most notably that Comcast claims that they had offered more than the $20 MM that the Nationals are getting from MASN. But, again, is that just posturing, trying to get an already enraged public to turn against Angelos further? Who knows.

    That's why I've tried to stay out of these things. There's spinning from both sides. You have to wade through a ton of BS to get at what the truth is.

    But, what we do know is that we're the ones who are being punished.

    Recapturing The Belt

    On Catfish Stew, Ken Arneson has been keeping track of the MLB Heavyweight Championship, a meaningless but fun piece of fluff that pretends that the MLB Championship is awarded the same way it would be in boxing; if you beat the champ, you become the champ.

    Unbeknownst to nearly all of us, the Nationals have been on quite a run lately, taking the title back from the Texas Rangers. We are now 6-3 in our 'title' bouts, and keep the belt within the National League -- for now.

    In winning the belt back yesterday, the Nationals scored early (which is new) and late (which is old). Sunny Kim pitched effectively, leaving the game in the fifth inning with an arm cramp. He filled in for the sore-necked Esteban Loazia, who is expected to make his next start.

    He was replaced on the mound by Travis Hughes, another pitcher the Rangers cast off earlier this year, and one who, despite yesterday's success, Texas probably won't sweat losing.

    The game had several heroes. Jamey Carroll filled in for the free-falling Vinny Castilla at third and ripped three hits. Even Gary Bennett chipped in two, contributing to the rallies. Cristian Guzman continued his torrid streak, knocking out a single, and is finally hitting Carlos Baerga's weight: 207. (That's Kilograms)

    But, Brad Wilkerson had a Majority-Whip Winning performance, blowing the game open with a bases-clearing double in the eighth.

    Road Trip Record:
    3-3

    Road Trip Goal:
    5-4

    On to Pittsburgh.

    Sunday, June 19, 2005

    GameDay: Salvaging Edition

    Tony Armas earned his Lame Duck by giving up seven runs and a bunch of homers. Ryan Church ripped two of his own, and Cristian Guzman added another (Amazing, huh?).

    If you missed it, be thankful.

    Today, Esteban Loaiza gets bumped. He's complaining of a wonky back and neck.

    Sunny Kim gets the start as the Nationals face CJ Young, a pitcher recently called-up, who is making his first start in the majors.

    The question isn't so much can the Nats score runs off him, but can we stop Texas' offense? The answer to that question, more than anything, will determine our fate.


    Yuda has today's game chatter.


  • The Nationals re-disabled the recently ineffective TJ Tucker, this time with a bad elbow.

    Travis Hughes, who was claimed off waivers earlier this year, gets the callup.

  • Wil Cordero still stinks.

  • Saturday, June 18, 2005

    The Heavy Lifting

    Thankfully there are 1,543 other Nats Blogs to do the heavy lifting for me when I feel like taking a break.

  • Yuda has tonight's game chatter. Tony Armas versus Ricardo Rodriguez.

  • Nationals Gallery reports on the fines and suspensions resulting from the Pine Tar game. Donnelly gets 10. Scioscia and FRobby get 1 each.

  • Baseball Musings points to an article that reveals the 'mysterious' mechanical flaw that was causing Ryan Drese to get his brains beat in.

    It was a surprisingly simple fix, if that really was what ailed Drese. We'll find out in a few days.

  • OMG rips into Boswell for an unusually snippy, but typically homercentric comment he made in a chat.

    In the process, Harper answers the age-old question: Is Guzman good?

    (On a related note, he's starting to hit the ball well, cranking out another homer last night -- and this one just as long and as inexplicable as the first BOMB he hit against the Mets.)

  • Ball-Wonk urges Nats fans to get a Chicago-style machine going with the All-Star Ballots.

  • District of Baseball points to a Bill Ladson-penned notebook in Pravda.

    Zach Day is back traveling with the team. And, when his arm is fully healed, he'll be sent to the minors for rehab. They're already speaking about leaving him down there for the maximum 30 days. But, I'm sure an injury or four will pop up, changing those plans.

  • From the same article, TJ Tucker has a wonky elbow. Given the way batters have been hammering him lately, it certainly seems logical.

    Ryan Church believes he was concussed by the fly ball that took a liking to his face. He apparently has a sore foot from where he was drilled by Scot Shields (which led to the climactic Jose Guillen homer), and a sore groin from "trying to beat out an infield hit". Yeah.... suuuuure. Wink. Wink.

  • District has a ton of other articles, including an update on Dutch Zimmerman, and news on the ownership front. Check it out.

  • WWN links to a Baltimore Sun piece on how the lack of ownership is hampering the team.

  • Thanks to Vlad Guerrero and the Oakland A's for making this a good Saturday for Nats fans, whether we win or lose.

  • And finally, Wil Cordero wins a much-deserved Lame Duck for his dreadful 0-4 performance in last night's game. If there was a critical situation in the game, he was up, and he was popping a weak fly ball to end the rally.

    What Cristian Guzman was to grounders in May, Wil Cordero was to cans of corn last night.

    I fear for his wife's health.

  • Thursday, June 16, 2005

    Bodes For The Future?

    Jim Bowden's definitely walking tall. His team's in first place. His newly-acquired players are fitting in and excelling. He has his cherubic mug on TV, looking like the perfect model of the huckster.

    But, is he selling us a bill of goods? Is he really the reason they're winning?

    Bowden certainly deserves a modicum of credit, but not all. Bowden didn't assemble the core of this team. The much-maligned Omar Minaya did. And many of the pieces that Bowden brought in have failed, or been average. The ones that have worked out were afterthoughts, mostly.

    Bowden stumbled into a decent situation. He's made some improvement, but most of his were superficial tweaks. One of the things we may make when evaluating him is the same kind of mistake we made when assessing this team's chances; we're using the wrong year as baseline.

    The back-to-back 83-win seasons put up before last year's disaster are probably the true baselines. Bowden was given the framework for a near-.500 team. There was simply more talent on this team than last year's record indicates. Injury, uncertainty, and never-ending road trips conspired to make the team look worse than it was.

    The team's strength has been its pitching staff. And Bowden is only responsible for one major addition to it: Esteban Loaiza. There's no one who thought Loaiza would turn out as well as he has. Even Bowden couldn't have expected him to be this solid -- as evidenced by their resistance to offer him the multi-year contract that Loaiza wanted. By the time he signed, the Nats were pretty much bidding against themselves.

    Livan, Patterson, Armas, etc were all holdovers from the Minaya regime. Omar had signed or traded for each of them. And he, more than Bowden, deserves the credit for their success.

    It's too early to evaluate the Drese and Ohka transactions. It's pretty safe to say that their ERAs will be higher by the end of the season!

    With the bullpen, it's another case of luck. The only addition that he's made were the signings of Antonio Osuna (he of the 42.42 ERA and the creaky arm) and Hector Carrasco. Osuna was a decent gamble, but they really were counting on him to be more. Carrasco was a decent signing, but it was as a non-roster invitee. They gave him almost zero chance of making it. Injury is the only reason he's up, but I suppose that Bowden deserves credit for having some arm depth.

    In both cases, he's been saved by the emergence of Gary Majewski. Majewski, who was acquired in a STEAL of a deal from the White Sox (along with Jon Rauch for Guillen 1.0, Carl Everett) Gary has been the setup guy that Osuna was supposed to. And, Bowden stumbled into Majewski. Remember, they shipped Gary to New Orleans in favor of Joe Horgan. Yeah, that Joe Horgan.

    And even Bowden hasn't appreciated the rock in the bullpen, Chad Cordero. How many times did you hear Bowden wanting a "40-save closer". That was one of his constant refrains, even through April. You haven't heard much of that lately, have you? Had the right deal come along, Bowden would've brought someone else in to fill the role that Cordero's excelling at. Do you think for a moment, that had Danny Graves been available in April, that he wouldn't be wearing a Nats cap now?

    Offensively, even when you adjust for park, this team is challenged. Bowden has made noises about wanting to acquire one more cleanup-type bat. He did well to trade for Guillen. Complaining about that deal now makes one akin to the nutballs who call my office from time to time complaining about how the FBI is tracking them. (All that's presupposed on Guillen getting his anger under control though.) I still don't understand the point of picking up his option so early, but that's a different topic.

    What more can you say about Cristian Guzman? It looked like a bad deal when he signed it, and that was back when we expected him to hit Carlos Baerga's weight. It looks worse now. (Even before you remember that we lost a draft pick because of him)

    Vinny Castilla, his other big signing, has played well, despite being a freefall since April turned to May. He's been excellent defensively though.

    Our best offensive player, Nick Johnson, was shopped around all during spring training. And even coming out, he was probably going to be platooned with Wil Cordero (another Bowden signing).

    Bowden is taking credit for Ryan Church, but Church only got the job by default when Endy Chavez failed. Even then, he had to battle JJ Davis (Bowden signing) and Jeff Hammonds (Bowden Signing) for playing time. He made the team by default and earned playing time only by default, 'thanks' to Terrmel Sledge's injury. Bowden was the last person to give Church a chance. Now, he's saying that he knew he had it in him all along? Yeah, right, Bodes.

    Junior Spivey has played really well so far, but the question of a short-term second base answer for Tomo Ohka is debatable, and something we can't fairly assess now.

    I'm not saying that Bowden has been a bad GM. It's just that he's getting (or taking) credit for what is in some cases serendipity -- a move he didn't make; a trade his predecessor made, etc.

    Now, it's true that all GM's benefit from this to some degree. But, it's important to look through the PT Bowden persona.

    And despite his proclamations to the contrary, the jury is most definitely still out.

    Inquirer To Guillen: Go To Hell

    Well, maybe he wasn't that harsh, but that's the NY Post version of the Nationals Inquirer blurb about our man-child, Jose Guillen.

    Along the same lines, Distinguished Senators had a look at Frank Robinson and his whole role in the fiasco. His is worth the read too.

    I'm going to let them do the heavy lifting for me. Their views are essentially my views.

    The Avenging Angels

    Can't you just picture the smile on Jim Bowden's face today? He's probably strutting around in his jet black leather pants, the cock of the walk.

    A night after Tomo Ohka bid Devil Ray after Devil Ray a stern sayanora in a complete game shutout, Bowden's own gamble, Ryan Drese (He of the 6+ ERA), outdueled Bartolo Colon with his own eight shutout innings.

    The 1-0 score was about the last thing anyone could've expected, but, as this season teaches us daily, we need to learn to throw away our expectations.

    Drese's sinker dived ferociously with a hard break from about 11 to 4 on the clockface. Angel batter after Angel batter swung at the pitch, topping it down into the dirt as if Drese were tossing up a shotput. Time and time again, the ball found its way into Junior Spivey's glove (to Bowden's extra delight) Only a handful found their way to the air.

    Watching him pitch, you understand why Frank got so upset with Zach Day. Drese allowed just two hits, but did walk four batters. Despite the walks, he seemed in control, rarely falling too far behind the batters. He didn't have the constant 3-1 counts that Day managed to find himself in. Drese threw strikes, and let the Angels batters pound the ground, relying on Spivey and Cristian Guzman to do the heavy lifting.

    When you're as extreme a groundballer as Drese or Day are, that's all you need to do. Hopefully Zach was watching.

    Drese wins his first of hopefully several Majority Whips for his amazing outing.

    It'll be interesting to see how he fares against some other teams. The Angels seem to be a team that would feed into his style of pitching. They're aggressive swingers who frequently didn't wait for Drese to fall behind in the count. They, like we too frequently do, were waiting for the first strike they could put the bat on, instead of one they could lift or line. A more patient team might find some success.

    But, the stories coming from Texas about Drese's sinker flattening out were just that: Tall Texas Tales.

  • The story of the night was not just Drese. Chad Cordero, as he's done so many times, walked the tightrope. And I have no idea how he survived this team.

    Entering the 9th, he was facing the heart of the Anaheim lineup. Single to left. Walk. Then another single to right. The third base coach held Darren Erstad, probably knowing the power of Jose Guillen's arm from first-hand experience last year. And besides, with no outs and the bases loaded, you're going to score a few runs, right?

    Steve Finley's corpse struck out. Un de los Molinas popped up. Dallas MacPherson struck out. Amazing.

    The average team will, when the bases are loaded and no one is out, score over 2.5 runs in that inning.

    Somehow, we got out of it.

    Chad Cordero is going to have one of the all-time weirdest stat lines if he keeps up this pace. He has runners on constantly, yet none of them ever seem to score. When they're up by multiple runs, he'll give up the longball, but that's about the only way anyone has scored on him this year -- other than via Guzman error!

    As long as the magic holds up, I'll be happy.

    In the meantime, Bowden can strut around even more confidently, giving Mick Jagger a run for his money. Not only is his team in first place and on an amazing run, but their lead is now up to three games.

    Strut away for at least one day, Jimbo. You've earned it.

  • Wednesday, June 15, 2005

    Touched By An Angel

    Just like the Orioles Beat Writer does when he starts one of his WaPo chats, lets lay out some ground rules. (or at least facts)

    1) Brendan Donnelly was cheating. Mike Scioscia can spin it any way he wants, calling it an 'accepted practice', but having a gob of pine tar in your glove is a pretty clear violation of major league rules.

    2) Jose Guillen does still have some anger issues.

    3) Frank did nothing wrong by having the umpires check out Donnelly. They had reason to suspect he was up to something, and were proved right. Even if they were proved wrong, it was acceptable for Frank to try it.

    4) Frank certainly seems batshit crazy sometimes.

    In the 7th inning of last night's game, Brendan Donnelly was brought in to relieve the starting pitcher. Before Donnelly, who has struggled of late, could fire a pitch, Frank was out of the dugout asking the umps to inspect BD's glove, where they found 'quite a bit' of pine tar. He was ejected.

    Then Mike Scioscia (not an easy name to spell), got in Frank's face and started yelling at him. Frank, who isn't going to be disrespected like that by no youngin', got right back in Robinson's face and unsheathed a deadly weapon, his pointing finger.

    A few animated points, and a few shouts later, the benches started to empty, and the bullpens stormed the field. It was the typical group hug disguised as a baseball brawl, except for one thing. Jose Guillen had to be dragged off the field. It was like a scene out of a bad horror movie where a patient needs to be held down by five or six people. They managed to get him in the dugout, but still his veins bulged, and still he shouted. Thankfully, he channelled his anger on that Scott Shields slider.

    A lot of the Angels blogs are ripping Frank and Guillen. The Guillen anger is still an offshoot of last year's problems, but the Frank anger is completely undeserved.

    Was Frank just supposed to sit by while BD had a foreign substance on his glove? If we can't agree that Frank was right to protest, then we're incapable of having a rational discussion about anything.

    Some of the anger is aimed at how Frank 'escalated' the argument by unsheathing his pointy finger.

    But, if you watch the replay, it's Mike Scioscia who walks over to Frank and starts yelling at him in the first place.

    Once Scioscia starts defending the indefensible (and probably throwing in a few choice words) Frank gave it right back to him. Certainly Scioscia was frustrated, but he needs to channel his anger at his player for doing something dumb, not at the opposing manager for pointing out something that's illegal by baseball's rules.

    Some of their anger is aimed at how Frank wouldn't allow the media full access to Jose Guillen. (See my post yesterday for the details)

    In acting as a shield between the media, some of whom are there just to pick fights, Frank was able to deflect some of the attention to himself, instead of letting the full brunt come down on Guillen. He was protecting his players, which is one of the primary jobs of a manager.

    And for the idiots who are asking 'who the hell is Frank to not let the media do their job', they need to learn a little more about how the baseball media works. There are frequently ground rules to these sorts of press conferences. The journalists loathe it, but it's the way things work. Questions about last year's incident were off limits. Yeah, it'd be nice if they had full and open access and honest answers all the time, but that's not the way it works. And you can't blame Frank for that.

    _____

    what we've seen over the last few weeks is a consolidation of power in Frank as the leader of the team. Problem children, like Ohka, Day and Endy, have been cast to the hinterlands. It's pretty clear that Bowden has Frank's back; if you create problems, you'll be gone.

    That's not to say that I think they have an authoritarian clubhouse. It's just that they want a professional atmosphere with the goals of the team first. Ohka wanted to start more, and to be allowed to work deeper into games. Rightly or wrongly (I'm leaning towards wrongly), Frank didn't feel that that was the best interest of the team. When Ohka raised a stink, he was traded to the land of Wurst.

    As Jose Guillen said, there aren't many people in that clubhouse that like Frank. But, there probably isn't a man in that clubhouse who doesn't respect Frank. And there's not a man in that clubhouse who doesn't believe that Frank's busting his 70-year-old ass to win for them.

    Things like that can really bring a team together. This isn't a team that needs a ton of management. It's a surprisingly veteran team. But, Frank is helping to focus the team on BEING a team.

    You can disparage things like chemistry. And I certainly don't like how far too many people take the easy route and using chemistry as a catch-all for things they can't ordinarily account for. But, it is an important factor.

    Have you ever worked at a place where you didn't like your boss, or like the people you worked with? Did you feel motivated to do your best? Did your concentration wane at all?

    People crave leadership. We all want to work for a boss who has clear directions and some sort of vision, even if we may not personally like the guy.

    And that's what Frank is asserting. He's letting his guys know that he'll stand up for them, and that if they play hard, they can succeed.

    This is a team with many things going against it, playing in the toughest division in baseball. There is no margin for error. Frank realizes this and is trying to extract every advantage he can.

    Now about those bunts, Frank....

    What Charlie Said

    For once, Charlie Slowes was right. It truly was unbelievable last night; I'm glad I stayed up.

    It was another one of those games that featured the two constant themes of our season: Shifting Expectations, and Redemption.

    Once they got down 3-1, I don't think any of us didn't think they couldn't win. We just figured it wasn't likely.

    Then, after all the hullaballoo and once Jose Guillen hit the tie-making homerun, I don't think any of us doubted that they'd win, even though the score was just tied.

    That's been the amazing thing about this team. Just when you start counting them out, they come back and surprise you. It makes for good drama and lots of tense moments.

    Then, there's the redemption factor. A night after pressing too much, Jose Guillen came through. He didn't get the big hits yesterday, but there was no bigger opportunity last night.

    Down by two, and after his teamates restrained him when the benches emptied, Guillen came up after Ryan Church was accidentally nailed in the foot with a curveball. He was the tying run. Scott Shields threw him a hard breaking slider on the outer half of the plate.

    Guillen, showing off the power that RFK has eaten alive, reached out and lined it over the wall in left. It was an absolute laser. The fuzziness and hope of memory makes it seem like it never got higher than ten feet off the ground.

    Although Junior Spivey and Brian Schneider would tack on the go-ahead and insurance runs later in the inning, the Guillen homer ranks up there with the Gary Bennett and Ryan Church doubles as the big hits of the season. The Majority Whip was an easy call tonight.

  • I'll have more on the 'brawl' later, but Frank, despite his many faults, is starting to make me really like him.

    And I want to have my thoughts in order before I fly off the handle like many of the Angels blogs are doing.

  • Wil Cordero was all set to be the Lame Duck. He had a number of wretched at-bats, none worse than his strikeout on ball four with the bases loaded in the sixth inning.

  • Livan didn't pitch that well. That he only gave up three runs was more a testament to solid defense, and some well-timed popups.

    Either it wasn't his night, or he was just a little tired from the nearly 300 pitches he's thrown over his last two starts.

    Still, he held the team in the game, despite the Angels having runners on constantly.

  • Junior Spivey was the unsung hero of the game. He had the eventual game-winning hit, and worked out a walk.

    But, it was his glove that did most of the damage.

    The Angels loaded the bases in the fourth inning with the game tied at zero. Livan hung a curveball that Darren Erstad ripped towards the hole at second.

    Spivey ranged to his left, dived, and got enough of the ball to keep it from going through the infield. He scampered to his feet, fired to first, and ended the inning, just before Erstad's foot tagged the bag.

    If Carlos Baerga or Jose Vidro are playing that gets through and Guillen's homer would've meant nothing.

  • Tuesday, June 14, 2005

    Frank Senior Moments

    I've tried to give him the benefit of the doubt lately. And truth, be told, he's been excellent lately. Ever since Barry Svrluga rapped him on the knuckles, Frank has been on top of his game, and the number of inexplicable bunts has plummeted.

    And besides, with the winning streak, no one really wants to hear a nitpicker. No one wants to watch someone poke a carcass with a sharp stick either. But, poking is fun. And besides, what the hell else am I going to write about?

    Last night, down two runs, and with Esteban Loaiza clearly struggling, Cristian Guzman came up with a runner on first.

    Frank has him bunt.

    Nevermind that you're down one. Nevermind that Guzman's actually been swinging the bat halfway competently lately. Nevermind that your starter is struggling and that even three runs wouldn't be enough to win.

    To compund the error, Guzman quickly got two strikes on him. Frank still has him bunt.

    He strikes out, predictably.

    Oh well.

    It's certainly not the end of the world, and it's not the reason we lost the game.

    But, if as Yuda pointed out in the chat, if you have so little confidence in Guzman there, why isn't Rick Short playing in his place?

    But, Frank does do some things well. And TJ Simers' column in the LA Times shows what; he knows how to handle Jose Guillen and to keep the media from bothering him. In this case, he got Simers to focus on Frank's curmudgeonly ways instead of Guillen's anger problems.
    "I'm not riled up," [Robinson] replies. "You're the one who is riling me up."

    I laugh, because that makes no sense, and now he's glaring at me. I start laughing some more because I realize he's looking at me through sunglasses with only one eye. I learn later he had laser surgery earlier in the day, which explains the pirate look.

    Robinson grabs the media credential hanging around my neck, and I'm thinking what a great Plaschke story this will make: "Poor sportswriter choked by his own media credential, and the gutty guy fights back with all his heart."

    It also crosses my mind listening to Robinson's rant, that people think Guillen has an anger-management problem.

    The Cyclops takes a closer look at the nametag with his one good eye and says, "Your reputation precedes you."

    "So does yours," I reply.

    Back in spring training, I figured that Frank and Guillen would get a long well. Frank was a similar kind of player; he had a reputation as a hothead in his younger days. I hoped they'd find some sort of common bond. It seems they have.

    Before leaving for the road trip, Barry Svrluga looked at their relationship in a profile on Guillen.
    When spring training started, Robinson knew he had a potentially combustible force on his hands, but he pledged not to judge Guillen. Rather, he wanted to sit back, to figure him out. He has discovered that Guillen craves communication. Robinson isn't one to talk too much to many of his players. He feels Guillen, though, needs to be heard in order to be happy.

    "Mostly, I listen," Robinson said. "I listen to him talk about situations. I listen to him talk about events. It's usually baseball. He doesn't kid around a lot. When he comes to talk to me, I know he's serious, or he's upset about something. So I listen to him. I don't reason with him. I listen to him."

    Which, in turn, has brought two commodities that can be hard for Guillen to give up: trust and respect.

    "Frank always has been telling me the truth," Guillen said. "He always communicates well with me. You know what? I don't like to take a day off. But if Frank told me right now to take a day off, I'd laugh. I'd say: 'Okay, Frank. Whatever you want.' Because he showed me that he cares about his players.

    "I know a lot of players don't like Frank. I love Frank."

    Even though I nitpick some of his in-game decisions. And, like some others, I question some of his off-the-field maneuvers. But, I'm not blind to the things Frank does do right.

    He's not a perfect manager. But who is? As long as his strengths outweigh his weaknesses the team will be fine.

    Is he the long-term answer? Probably not.

    But, it's really hard to quibble with the present results.

    Rivera 1; Guillen 0

    For at least one night, the Western Hemisphere Angels got the better end of the big offseason trade.

    Juan Rivera ripped a pinch hit homer off TJ Tucker, and Jose Guillen managed just a measly RBI single after the score was already 7-zippo. Advantage Rivera.

    Guillen was pressing. The crowd booed him harshly each time he came to the plate, and his swings looked like he was trying to hit a seven-run homer.

    There have been a few other times this year where he's come up in big situations where it's looked like he's pressed too much. It certainly feels like sometimes he thinks he needs to lift the team on his back, and his statements indicate that that's probably so. It's too bad that that often results in popups and cans of corn.

    Nick Johnson and Vinny Castilla stunk with the bats too; they didn't even get the hit that Guillen got. But, Guillen gets the Lame Duck. Last night was his chance to shine, to step up and be a leader. And, he didn't.

    Hopefully his nerves will be calmer tonight, and that having El Caballo on the mound will relax him, because he knows he'll have some help in winning the game. As the ol' cliche goes, he needs to stay within himself. (Which always sounded like a physical impossibility to me.)

  • Esteban Loaiza stunk up the park. He had next to nothing, but it was only his second bad start of the year -- the other coming on his last road start against the Reds.

    The Angels ripped liner after liner off of him. And, if it wasn't for some great defense, including an outfield assist by Ryan Church, the beating would've been more severe.

    Thankfully, he only threw 64 pitches. He's worked pretty hard this year, and it was speculated that his poor season last year was a result of overwork during his near-Cy Young season. Hopefully this was just a bad start, and not the first sign of fatigue.

  • Sunny Kim and TJ Tucker relieved. Neither were effective. Tucker gave up four runs; Kim yielded two. They're the last two men in the bullpen and they did their job -- they ate up the innings, saving the big relievers for the highest-leverage innings.

  • Brad Wilkerson hit two more doubles. He's back on pace for a mid-60 total. The major league record is 67, set by Earl Webb, an outfielder with Boston.

  • Livan Hernandez pitches tonight against Ervin "Magic" Santana. You get ten bonus points if you've ever heard of him.

    Old hoary baseball folk like to talk about aces being stoppers. We're not bleeding much yet, but Livan can perform some preventative medicine with a solid outing.

    It'll be an interesting matchup though. The Angels are a contact-hitting team that consistently puts the ball in play. And Livan frequently pitches to contact.

    Will they pepper line drives over the field in a rehash of the Division Series a few years ago against my former team? We'll find out!

  • Monday, June 13, 2005

    GameDay: Old Friends Edition

    The Washington Nationals face off against the Anaheim (not LA, not California) Angels tonight, and it's family reunion night at the ballpark.

    Jose Guillen meets the team that ditched his grumpy ass in the heat of a pennant race.

    And the Washington Nationals meet two of their old friends: Vlad Guerrero, and Orlando Cabrera.

    Game time is 10 PM. (Why can't they move California closer?)

    I'll probably be watching part of it. If you're around and up, join us at Yuda's for our usual chat.

    Remember, team's don't usually show travel fatigue until the second game of the roadtrip. And Anaheim played in NY last night; they had to travel too.

    So Sue Me

    Coming off the roadtrip from hell, I went out on a limb and predicted an 8-5 homestand -- a nice conservative number that would've righted what seemed like a sinking ship.

    Well, after 12 wins and one measly loss (which we could've won with a break or two), not only is the ship righted, it's already steaming past the Cape of Good Hope.

    More important than our steamrolling of the American League West, was the manhandling of NL East competition. When you take 6 of 7 from the team that is the best on paper, and the team that's won the division every year since about 1954, it's a good sign -- another of those mile markers we're starting to see on this long journey. It's as telling as our initial road trip's success against our divisional opponents where we battled them to a draw on their home turfs.

    But, now it gets tougher. The Nationals make another west-coast swing, for just three games against Anaheim. (Yes, Anaheim, Arte) After, they play three in Texas, where they should be used to the heat, and then three against the surprisingly hot Pirates, who are at .500 for the first time in ages.

    The Angels and Rangers should be a tough matchup. They're both at the top of the division in a dogfight, just like us. Both series feature triumphant returns of not-so-favored sons.

    In Anaheim, Jose Guillen returns to face the team that gave up on him in the heat of a pennant race. I don't imagine he'll get a warm reaction; it wouldn't surprise me to see him get thrown at a few times in this series.

    In Texas, Ryan Drese returns to the team that just waived him. Although he had a fight with catcher Rod Barajas, the Rangers were hoping to keep him. He just got caught in a roster crunch in the heat of a pennant race. His departure certainly features less acrimony than Guillen's.

    With nine games on the road, lots of travel, and some tough competition, it has the potential to be another difficult road trip.

    When I take the NATS #1! foam finger off, we were pretty damn lucky to have won ten in a row. Each game, we got ONE big hit exactly when we needed it. No more and no less.

    Although we're starting to believe that this team will always find a way to win, just think back two weeks. The ship was tilting hard to port. And, not to completely piddle in the punchbowl, but there has been one other team to win 10 games this year: The New York Yankees.

    Is there anyone who'd trade positions with them?

    We're going to need a little more than luck on this road trip. Some offense sure would be nice, especially because our pitching is FAR less dominant on the road.

    Alright, it's prediction time.

    We take three of six from the Angels and Rangers, then two of three from the Pirates. That's 5-4. I'm not sure if that'll be enough to still have first place in our graps when we come back, but we'll be in striking distance in the worst-case scenario.

    Thoughts?

    Sunday, June 12, 2005

    Chim Chiminy Chim Chiminy Chim Chim Charee

    A Sweep IS as lucky as lucky can be!

    After back-to-back-to-back sweeps, the Nationals finished with a 12-1 homestand. It's quite literally difficult to do much better than that.

    And, as per our usual, the finale featured a one-run game.

    Over the weekend, no single batter stood out. It truly was a team performance.

    Pitching-wise, Chad Cordero had an excellent weekend, converting two saves without resorting to his usual stomach-tightening ways. 1,2,3 this afternoon. 1,2,3 last night. It's hard to get better than that.

    But, to me, the unsung hero of yesterday and today was El Buitro, Luis Ayala. He went 2.1 tension-filled innings, allowing just one hit. Each night he came in after Gary Majewski (who looks like he might be tired), started taking on water. And each night, he bailed the team out. Saturday, it earned him a win. Sunday, it earned him a hold (who cares?). But, both nights together earned him some long-deserved Majority Whips.

  • I don't know if it was just the Mariners pitching clouding my perceptions, but the team just seemed more patient this weekend. They drew a fair number of walks, but even when they weren't walking, they were working the count, and swinging at pitches they could drive, instead of their typical 'see a strike, hit a strike' approach.

  • Tony Armas gutted through five innings, throwing 107 pitches in the process. Even when he was healthy, he was never the kind of pitcher who worked deep into games.

    From watching him closely over his last two starts, he's just missing a little something on his pitches, which seems strange to say about someone who did strike out six batters.

    But, when you watch his games, look at the number of foul balls they hit against him -- such as Jeremy Reed's 11-pitch AB in the first inning.

    That worries me a little bit for his long-term success, because if he loses a little off his slider (which is what he got most of his strikeouts on), he'll be a very hittable pitcher.

  • John Patterson had another effective outing Saturday, going seven innings, and yielding just one run -- that coming off a bad hop grounder that just ate Nick Johnson alive.

    In the process, he's lowered his ERA to 2.54. He, Livan and Loaiza, if they keep pitching to form, are one of the two or three best front-ends to a pitching staff.

  • Cristian Guzman had a terrific game Saturday, getting two hits, including a ball he absolutely destroyed that bounced over the wall for a double.

    What amazed me about his performance that night wasn't his batting, but his eye.

    In four at bats, he saw 16 pitches (not an especially high total, but it's progress for him). Of those, he swung at only 4: 2 line-drive hits, a decently hit grounder, and a strikeout.

    No one'll confuse him for Rickey Henderson, but it's progress. He's still taking baby steps. We can't expect the training wheels to come off yet.

  • Distinguished Senators has an interesting look at the Tomo Ohka trade -- and the implications of the off-the-field meaning of the deal. It's worth the read, and makes some excellent points.

  • Saturday, June 11, 2005

    A Short Story

    I missed most of last night's game. But the story wasn't the late-inning explosion, it was the triumph of Rick Short.

    He, after years of toiling (and that's probably the best word for it) in the minors, he had his one chance, a chance any of us would love, and a chance he had dedicated his entire life to.

    In the bottom of the fifth, with a runner on second and the team down by two, Frank sent Short up to pinch hit.

    The fairy tale would've had him hit a tying home run.

    But, Rick is apparently not a lover of predictable Hollywood endings.

    He just did what he's done his entire career; he grinded out an at bat.

    After falling down 0-2, he lined a ball to left field, which scored Brian Schneider.

    After he rounded first base, walked back to the bag, adjusted his helmet, took off his helmet, he took a fist bump from the first-base coach and acknowledgement from Richie Sexson.

    And he did it all while trying his damndest to not smile.

    Someday, his grandchildren will flip through the baseball encyclopedia and see his name, and the 1.000 batting average next to it. They'll do the smiling for him.

    Not even Moonlight Graham was that lucky.

    Game Day: Uppity Seattle Columnist Edition

    District of Baseball point to a red-meat column by some hack in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (That joke's too easy)

    -- It's too humid
    -- The fans don't support the team
    -- There aren't enough season tickets
    -- The Mariners are better on paper

    On and on he rants.

    C'mon, Frank. It's definitely fan bulletin board material!

    So get fired up! Put on your rally cap! And let's kick Seattle's ass again!

    I'll be there tonight, but Yuda has the chat, as always.

    And because it's not a work day, there aren't that many comments to ignore!

    Let's make it nine in a row!