Thursday, August 18, 2005

Operation Destroy Readership

The Pennant Race is heating up, and I'm shipping out. I guess it's getting too intense for me ;)

I'll be off 'til Labor Day, but if you need me before then, you can find me here.

In the meantime, for analysis, check out the blogs listed on my sidebar. I steal most of my stuff from them anyway.

For news, check out District of Baseball and William World News. They have all the papers covered.

Who knows what'll happen to the team while I'm gone. They've already won 5 games on the road trip from hell, with three left to play against the dreaded Mets. Two out of three from them would be great, and would really solidify this team moving forward.

One thing to watch as we move forward. To be eligible for post-season play, a player has to be on the roster on 8/31, unless the team needs an injury replacement. So, the kids Bodes would bring up 9/1 wouldn't be eligible for the post-season. (Though there are loopholes in that rule big enough to drive Marlon Byrd's Escalade though)

At any rate, enjoy the next few weeks. Enjoy the other blogs. Join the other Nataholics at Yuda's game chatters.

And Let's Go Nats!

Two Down, And One Win

Ah, the sweet memories of June. Seems so long ago, huh? Yet this second game of the doubleheader was right out of that month's script. Those kinda wins are nice.

A two-run rally off Ugueth Urtain Urbina gave the Nationals a much-needed win.

As bad as Jose Vidro was in the afternoon, he was good in this game, ripping out three hits, including a key two-run double.

In the Nationals first doubleheader, he earns the first Majority Whip/Lame Duck split.

One Down, One To Lose

Game one is in the books, and Surprise! It's another one-run loss. I thought we went over this? The Nats need to blow their opponents out to avoid those one-runners!

If only it were that easy.

If someone who wasn't a baseball fan watched that game, they'd never be a fan. It confirmed all the worst stereotypes of the game. Despite only being about three hours long, it felt like it took about six. It took almost two hours to play the first four innings, and there were pitching changes out the wazzoo.

Tony Armas was less than sharp. In five innings he gave up two runs, be he allowed five hits and six (!) walks, throwing 95 pitches in the process. Man, he just doesn't have it.

Vincente Padilla wasn't that much better, but he walked fewer and got through another inning, earning his ugliest win of the year.

The Lame Duck, though, goes to Jose Vidro. He started off well, ripping a double, but after that, he left a bunch of runners on, and couldn't come through like a leader needs to. He left the bases loaded in the second, after Cristian Guzman had the game's only RBI. In the 7th, when they were trailing by one, he left Brad Wilkerson hanging at second.

If he comes through in either of those situations, it's probably a different game.

  • The turning point came in that second inning. Cristian Guzman came up with the bases loaded and nobody out. The slow Vinny Castilla was on second, as Guzmans medium speed grounder rolled up the middle.

    Kenny Lofton came in to field the ball, and the third base coach held Vinny.

    That seemed like the wrong move.

    First, Lofton doesn't have a strong arm. He's probably average at best, and there's no guarantee he would've thrown all the way home in that situation either. It seems to me that, unless it was clearly a strike, they would've cut the throw off, to try and keep the runners from advancing.

    Second, Tony Armas was due up next. Armas is a really poor hitter, even for a pitcher. With him on deck, it seems like you'd force the issue, because you know Armas won't get the job done for you.

    Either way, it's purely academic. Castilla held. Armas struck out. Wilkerson popped to left, and Jose Vidro grounded out. Inning over. One run in.

    Add it up, and it's another one-run loss.

    But they have another chance in just 2.5 hours. Hoo boy. I can hardly contain myself. zzzzz.

  • Fouled-Off Bunts: Let's Play Two!

    It's two for tuesday thursday! First pitch at 1. And 7.

    First up, it's Tony Armas against Vincente Padilla. Then tonight, it's Ryan Drese and his magically floating arm angle, against Cory Lidle. (hmm... didn't they just face each other the other day?)

    The majority of doubleheaders are split, so let's get at least one!

  • Last night's game was another close one. Esteban Loaiza was thoroughly mediocre again. He's had a number of bad starts in a row, and it makes me wonder if it's fatigue. In his near Cy Young season, he slumped starting in August, which effectively killed his chances of winning the award.

    Here's his game log from that season. See how he starts declining in August and fell apart in September? Hopefully that's not what's happening here.

  • While this was mostly a team loss, the Lame Duck goes to the sometimes-maddening Brad Wilkerson. He gets a lot of criticism for things he doesn't do, and people don't usually focus on what he does do right.

    But I'm sick of him, as he tried doing last night, trying to pull fastballs outside off the plate. Up goes the popup. And down went the Nationals.

  • The big news is that PT Bowden has decided to move Ryan Zimmerman to shortstop -- he had his first start at his new position yesterday.

    Without writing my typical 4,500 words...

    It's a good move, but for the wrong reasons.

    If he's as amazing a 3B as he's made out to be, there's a chance he can handle shortstop. And since the offensive requirements are lesser for a shortstop (especially on this team!) he might have more value there.

    He played the position in highschool, and had a game or two there in college. What we don't know is why he was moved off the position in the first place. Could he not handle it defensively? Or is it a case of UVA having an incumbent shortstop who had a claim in the position? Anyone know?

    The bad part of the move is the lack of planning. If you had wanted to convert him, you do it at the beginning of the season.

    Even worse, Bodes seems hellbent on rushing him to the majors September 1 to take over the position. That's a pretty good way to screw up a kid. Not only would he have to make the offensive adjustment, he'd have to make a defensive adjustment too.

    And all for a short-term gain, because Bowden was too busy tugging on Barry Larkin's sleeve, instead of looking for a real answer to the gaping maw that is Guzman's bat.

  • 30 days til the new owners. ZZZZZ. Weren't we supposed to have them by spring training?

  • The Nationals need another starter for Sunday. The doubleheader screws up the rotation. Ordinarily, you'd expect Sunny Kim to fill the role, but I can't seem to find him on the roster. Anyone know what happened to him?

    Up comes John Halama, the 'crafty' lefty. Halama won't be winning any Cy Youngs, but he's, as the charitable announcer would say, serviceable.

    But, get this, to make room for him, they're sending Brandon "Sparkplug" Watson down.

    What was the point in bringing him up again? We lost Sunny Kim for him? Just like we could've lost Matt Cepicky? Does Bowden have any flippin' plans? Or does he just make up this crap as he goes along!?

    Maybe he has ADD? Get him some Ritalin, Stat!

  • If you're watching or listening to the game, feel free to join the chat at Yuda's. I haven't plugged it lately, but we're there almost every day, whining about the bad ABs the Nats take, and Frank's latest Senior Moment.

    C'mon over and kvetch with us! The more the miserier!

  • Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    Chat With A Saint

    St. Barry is up at 2 today for his weekly chat.

    There's a lot on the plate this time: the recent play, the outfield logjam, Cristian Guzman's continued suckiness.

    We'll see whether it's good Barry today.

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Do-Over Edition

  • The rainout probably benefited the Nationals for the short term. Ryan Drese was in the process of getting knocked around in the first when the delay came.

    Drese's arm angle was down around 2:30, which creates a flat sinker. And flat sinkers travel a long way.

    Think about the motion of the pitch. A sinker travels down with a slight motion away from left-handed batters.

    When you throw overhand, the action on the pitch is accentuated.

    But when you throw sidearm, as Drese tends to do, the arm comes across at the wrong angle to get the proper downward movement on the pitch. The spin of the ball, instead of creating downward movement, is negated as the majority of the force is applied in a sideways direction -- creating a flat, spinning sinker. Essentially, he's hanging every pitch.

  • Everyone is noticing that Guzman still stinks.

    But this time, the focus is on his defense.

    He's made six errors in his last eight games. But that also shows the folly of relying on errors. There've been a number of balls (especially all those damn popups) that he's simply missed without being charged an error.

    His range is average, at best, and he ranks near the bottom of the league in most every defensive assessment.

    Flash through the games in your mind and think of the number of balls that have just eluded him through the hole. Or think of the number of throws he's whipped into the dirt, only to be saved by a great pick by the first baseman.

    Some of it's confidence, undoubtedly.

  • But it also shows a rift in the team's thinking. While Frank writes his name on the lineup on a daily basis, he's also been complaining lately about how he doesn't have the right personnel on the roster.

    Jamey Carroll would be the obvious alternative (even if he's probably the second or third worst offensive player in the league), but Frank is reluctant to play him because he doesn't think that Guzman could fill the utility role.

    Well, call up a utility player! Short, Harris, whoever.

    Instead Bodes calls up another outfielder. And Frank has made it pretty clear that he's not that interested in playing Brandon Watson. With Guillen, Wilkerson, Wilson and Church, why would he?

    If Frank is trying to send a message, which I suspect he is, he needs to be more clear. The GM and Manager don't appear to be working on the same page. To the detriment of the team, of course.

  • Attendance is exceeding expectations. They're on pace for 2.7 million. The goal was 2.4 million. There's a chance that could climb even higher if September continues to be interesting.

    Of note, despite the high level of no-shows, DC is reporting that tax receipts are 8% higher. I guess we like our beer!

  • Some of the players remember their battle for the Wild Card in 2003.

    "It was such a tough year as far as the fatigue and the travel that we went through," outfielder Brad Wilkerson said. "I was proud to be associated with that team, how hard we battled. We just ran out of gas I think."

    It's amazing what having one home park can do to a guy, huh?

  • Up again, down again, up again, down again Matt Cepicky had his season end when he ripped up his knee. That's a shame, because he could've been a useful bat in Septemeber.

  • Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    Game Off, Garth

    At least the rain will wash away Philly's stench

    Just one note as to the timing of the game.

    Up until first pitch, the decision to start the game is entirely with the team. The Phillies were expecting a huge crowd, as they had a monster walk-up last night, and they wanted to do everything they could to keep the gate. Also, this is the Nats' last trip into Philly.

    But once the game began, even thought it started in rain as heavy as it was when they decided to delay it, the decision became the umpires'. It took them an inning and a half to realize the team's mistake before they put the tarp on.

    Once the tarp's on the field, the umps have to wait at least one hour before calling the game; that's what they did.

    So, it's a double header on thursday. Remember to bring in your earphone (not that you'd ever be able to get WFED on your radio anyway...)

    The Fans' Scouting Report

    Each year, TangoTiger, a prominent poster on Baseball Primer, asks fans of various teams to provide their scouting reports on the teams they follow most closely. He encourages as many people to participate, and I'm asking you to chip in.

    It's a valuable project, utilizing Nats Blog's favorite concept, the wisdom of crowds. In short, large numbers of people are usually pretty accurate with their assessments.

    You've watched the Nationals. Here's your chance to rate them, and see how they shape up.

    The instructions on what to consider are here. It's very important that you read them first.

    After doing that, you can rate the Nats.

    Please participate, and encourage everyone you know who's interested in the team to get involved. The more people who rate, the more accurate our combined views should be.

    Your Livan Fun Facts O' The Day

    1) He's a singin' and dancin' machine.
    In a recently released DVD, Nationals ace Livan Hernandez appears in a music video by popular Puerto Rican rapper Hector El Bambino.

    Hernandez is shown wearing a white baseball cap while adding backup vocals and dance moves to El Bambino's hit "Vamos A Matarnos En La Raya." The video was filmed at Hernandez's Miami residence during spring training.

    El Bambino plays a style of music called reggaeton. In the video, select members of El Bambino's band are wearing Nationals caps and jerseys. Hernandez received his copy of the video over the weekend when the Nationals were in Denver sweeping the Colorado Rockies.

    "Livo is the one that knows [El Bambino]," veteran infielder Carlos Baerga said. "[El Bambino] is one of the best reggaeton guys in Puerto Rico right now. [Hernandez] can dance. He was doing really well."

    2) He's not superstitious or extortable.

    Last night, after he pitched the Washington Nationals to a 6-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, Hernandez said the fan wants an elaborate package in return for the glove: season tickets next year, playoff tickets this year -- and $18,000.

    "He can have it," Hernandez said. "He thinks it's my lucky glove, but I'm not superstitious."

    Take That, Pythagoras!

    One of the great debates (admittedly using a low standard for the word great) during the first half of the season was about our negative run differential, and how we were greatly outplaying our expected record. Critics (or hatas as the kids say nowadays) pointed to our record in one-run games and openly laughed when they weren't trying to blow down the house of cards that was our record.

    They got plenty of laughs during July, as the team managed to drop 13 straight one-run games, and dropped in the standings like a flyball in front of Preston Wilson.

    But the Nationals have recently discovered how to not lose one-run games: blow your opponent out.

    The Nats have been scoring early and often, and are literally on pace to hit more home runs during this road trip than they had during July. Yeah, seriously.

    At the end of July, I noted that, as a team, they hit exactly like Jack Wilson, the Pirates slap-hitting shortstop. Well, Jack took out his whuppin' stick and smacked the Astros around the other night. Maybe we're symbiotically linked to Wilson. The better he does, the better we do? Just in case, I'm becoming a Jack Wilson fan. Go Jack!

    The one thing all these multiple-run victories have done is greatly narrow that run deficit. We're now just six runs in the hole, and probably only about 15 runs below the total for our projected record. We're no longer the giant Pythagorean outlier that we once were.

    Baseball Prospectus has had our odds of making the postseason more than double during this recent stretch. Scoring runs is a good thing!

    If the offense continues chipping out 5 runs a game (which is probably as realistic as their 2.5/game pace during July), then the wins will continue to mount.


    As far as last night's game, it was a little of Livan, a little of Preston, and a whole lot of power.

    Livan started out shaky, giving up two runs in the first, but he settled down, giving a typical Livan performance. Ho-hum. Eight innings, two runs, and only 113 pitches.

    On a regular night, that's the stuff of a Whip.

    But last night wasn't a regular night. The Nationals pounded out four homers, including two off the bat of the Whip winner, Preston Wilson, who finished with four RBI.

  • Jose Guillen got the start in left. He's complaining of elbow tendinitis now, and it's presumed that he wouldn't have to throw as much in left.

  • Cristian Guzman tried his damndest to lose the game. His 0-4 wasn't enough to sabotage the offense this time, so he booted an Inning-Endy would-be Game-ender. That opened up the floodgates, but Chad Cordero is pretty good at getting his thumb in the dike before too much damage is done.

    Why does he continue to play?

  • With the win, the Nationals are now a half game ahead of the Phillies for second place in the division. They're one game behind the Astros for the Wild Card.

    By the end of this road trip, we'll have about ten more games at home than on the road through the rest of the season.

    That's good!

    What's bad is that we're playing the Cards, Braves, Marlins, etc. (Even the Reds, who look to be the easiest matchup left, are Reds-hot (get it??) lately)

    But that's for later. Beat the Phils now, and worry about the rest later.

  • Monday, August 15, 2005

    Development And Recapitulation

    Ah, the sweet music of money.

    The WaPo looks at the neighborhood surrounding the ballpark and how, already, things are looking up.

    One guy bought his lot for $164K in 1978, and has received two offers for around $8 million. Another bought a small building last year for $250K and has an offer for $1.5 million.

    What about this guy's return on investment?
    Marty Chernoff, a longtime landowner based in Denver, recently sold about two acres near First and I streets SE -- an area roughly the size of two football fields -- for more than $40 million. He owned some of that property with a partner, Leonard Greenberg, chief executive of Bethesda-based Greenhill Capital Corp.

    Chernoff said he paid about $1.55 million for the land, which he began acquiring in 1987 when most investors saw only blight in Southeast, and kept buying after the real estate crash of the late 1980s.

    Nice work if you can get it.

    But what are the plans once they sell?

    One developer "is spending $110 million to put up the two 14-story buildings, a 344-unit luxury cooperative and hotel on a lot that once housed small, abandoned rowhouses and a warehouse that formerly stored tobacco."

    The article details many other projects planned for the location; It's an area that's about to see an amazing transformation.

    But the question will remain: is the cost of the new stadium worth it? If you're that guy that just made nearly $40 million, the answer is indubitably YES!

    The Post has a chat with the author of the article and Jacqueline Dupree, who has a blog that extensively covers the neighborhood.

    The chat had some really good information in it, and is worth a quick skim if that's your cup o' tea.

    The other nifty toy, is their Flash presentation on the parcels of land surrounding the stadium. They show who owns what, and what types of businesses are there, and what the future may hold for each. It's excellent.

    That presentation is an excellent example of how to use Flash. Too frequently, it's done as a gimmick. This one actually imparts useful information in a logical way.

    Jim Bowden: Man Of The People

    Passed without comment (which technically is a comment anyway):

    [Ryan Zimmerman's] progess was of such interest that Nationals' General Manager Jim Bowden was rumored to be in attendance for at least one of the Fisher Cats/Senators games. The thought of seeing the parent club's GM was of no interest to Harrisburg radio announcer Terry Byrom. Byrom passed along a story from last season, when he was calling games for the San Diego Padres' Single-A Midwest League affiliate in Fort Wayne, Ind. Byrom says that he had a pretty good relationship with San Diego General Manager Kevin Towers, who would visit periodically to check on the organization's prospects. During a radio interview, Byrom jokingly asked Towers if there were any fellow major league GMs he did not like to deal with in trade talks.

    "Only one," Towers replied. "And I'll name him. Jim Bowden. The guy's an idiot. I won't take his calls, and I don't think many others do."

    Byrom was stunned at Towers' candor that day, but now that he's had the opportunity to meet Bowden in person, or perhaps the better description is get blown off in person, he shares Towers's sentiments. Bowden, while the Cincinnati Reds GM in 2002, set off a wave of controversy when responding to the media's questions regarding a potential players' strike. "If they do walk out, make sure it's September 11," Bowden told reporters. "Be symbolic. Let (Players' Association leader) Donald Fehr drive the plane right into the building, if that's what they want to do."

    Bowden was dismissed by the Reds in July 2003, did some work for ESPN, and then was hired by Major League Baseball to run the MLB-owned Nationals last November. The FCN will go out on a limb and predict that when the the team finally gets new ownership, Bowden won't have his contract renewed.

    Sunday, August 14, 2005

    Rocky Mountain Spotted Fervor

    It's amazing how three wins feel, even if they are coming against a lousy team that we should beat the snot out of.

    I'm excited again. But it's tempered.

    On one hand it is three wins. But it's the freakin' Rockies. They're like a DH-less Royals.

    On one hand, we scored 23 runs in three games. But it's Coors Field, a park that makes Vinny Castilla look good.

    On one hand, we allowed four runs in three games. But it's against the worst offensive team in Rockies' history -- featuring something called a "Matt Holliday" hitting cleanup, and with a proven 'roider on the bench.

    So, I don't know what to think. But maybe that's for the best. What does matter is that they're headed to Philly for a tough four-game series, and they're just one game behind the Houston Astros for the Wild Card (and the right to be slaughtered by the Cardinals).

    Yo La Tengo!A few random thoughts:

    -- The team put on an extra-base hitting clinic: two doubles on Friday; seven (!) doubles on Saturday; one double and two homers on Sunday.

    -- Cristian Guzman hit in each of the games.

    --Vinny Castilla ripped a double to deep right center on Saturday. I can't remember if I was watching on TV or listening to the radio, but the analysis was that that's the way Vinny needs to hit the ball at RFK.

    Wrong. That's exactly why he's been failing.

    Vinny isn't a dead pull hitter. Much of his power is from gap to gap (as is the case with Jose Guillen). At RFK, those balls get eaten alive. He simply can't juice the ball out of the park there like he could at Coors or many other fields.

    --The baserunning continues to be atrocious.

    In Saturday's game, Jose Guillen managed to hit into a Sac Fly double play when Nick Johnson got caught rooting for truffles somewhere around second base, instead of busting his butt back to first.

    --The pitching was universally outstanding, and it's really nice to see that their excellent numbers aren't a complete RFK mirage, even if this was just three games against a below average offense.


    Time to dole out some awards.

  • Friday's game was the only one that was close. Jose Guillen set the tone, not only by playing despite his torn rotator cuff, but by singling in two runs in the first. After that hit, the Nationals had a three-run lead, and a little bit of breathing room for the first time in what feels like a month. That's the stuff of a Majority Whip.

  • Saturday's game featured the aforementioned doubles explosion. Nick Johnson had two of them and drove in two runs. But he was also the victim of that truffle-seeking double play. His shoddy baserunning disqualifies him for the Whip.

    Instead it goes to someone I moaned about during the Yuda Game Chatter: Tony Armas.

    It wasn't pretty (11 baserunners in just six innings), and he pitched as slowly as the 14th Street Bridge moves on a Friday afternoon. But six innings of shutout ball in Coors Field is like 14 innings somewhere else. By the time he trotted off the field for the last time, the Nationals were firmly in control.

    He's been our most agonizing pitcher (In the non-Drese category), but he did well for at least one start.

  • Sunday's game is probably the easiest call. John Patterson went eight innings, allowing just one run due mostly to some shoddy defense.

    Patterson suddenly has seven wins (when did that happen?) and his ERA is down to 2.44. He's not really a Cy Young candidate, but he's been this team's best pitcher. I'm happy he's getting the wins he deserves from earlier this season.

  • Friday, August 12, 2005

    Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

    Accentuate the positive! Eliminate the Negative, Baby!

    This is what I like about this team.

    I like Brian Schneider's command.
    I like Nick Johnson's discipline.
    I like Jose Vidro's dedication.
    I like Cristian Guzman's... I'll come back to that.

    I like Vinny Castilla's hands.
    I like Jose Guillen's potential.
    I like Brad Wilkerson's versatility.
    I like Ryan Church's swing.
    I like Preston Wilson's funny gait.

    I like Brandon Watson's speed.
    I like Gary Bennett's stick-to-it-iveness.
    I like Jamey Carroll's appreciation for what he's doing.
    I like Cristian Guzman's... It's still not coming to me.

    I like Livan Hernadez' guts.
    I like John Patterson's swagger.
    I like Esteban Loaiza's consistency.
    I like Tony Armas' slider.
    I like Ryan Drese's groundballs.

    I like Chad Cordero's control.
    I like Luis Ayala's endurance.
    I like Gary Majewski's pluck.
    I like Joey Eischen's focused intensity.
    I like Hector Carrasco's reemergence.
    I like Mike Stanton's competitiveness.

    Sooo... ummm..

    I like Cristian Guzman's....


    AL Central championship rings?
    formerly funky hair?

    I guess those'll have to do.

    What do you like?

    A Picture Is Worth More Words Than I Have

    Der, Which Way Did They Go? Which Way Did They Go?

    That bemuddled look on Drese's face says it all. I guess his Lame Duck is no consolation.

    The beat writers are frustrated. The manager is frustrated. The broadcasters are frustrated. Everyone is.

    And Drese's countenance is less-than inspiring.

    These are our Nats.

    Thursday, August 11, 2005

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Bad Andy Edition

    The Nationals get Andy Pettite tonight. Pettite has a 2.64 ERA, making him one of the league leaders. But I strangely have a good feeling about this game. (And for me, and my notorious negativity, that's saying something.)

    I guess it's the former Yankee fan in me speaking out. I saw far too much of Andy Pettite to think that he's capable of a 2.64 ERA. We've worked their relievers hard over the last two games (something we haven't been able to say since the opening homestand against Arizona!), so we could break this open.

    Of course with Ryny DreMas (Does anyone know? or care?) on the mound tonight, it might not matter!

  • Frank is probably moving Preston Wilson to the Ryan Church slot on the bench. And Ryan Church slides over to the ol' Marlon Byrd Memorial Chair.

    All because the wunderkin could produce a spark. Zzzz.

    Of course with Frank's inability to stick to one plan (benching Guzman, resting Ayala, saving Guillen, et, etc, etc) for longer than it takes him to watch an episode of Murder She Wrote (Frank has a thing for Angela Lansbury), there's a pretty good chance that Preston'll be in centerfield by game time.

  • What do you get the shortstop who can't hit anything?

    A toothache! He sat out yesterdays' game with an abscess. Yummy!

    What I like best about that is the headline: "An aching tooth benches Guzman."

    So, it's reasonable to conclude that Guzman's aching tooth is a better manager than Frank.

  • It's full steam ahead with the Deutsche Bank private financing proposal.

    The city gets a guaranteed up-front $256MM payment, in exchange for taxes from concessions and tickets, as well as rent payments from the Nats.

    The $256MM ain't a loan. And it's reasonable to infer that it will end up costing the city some money on the backend of the deal (from the lost revenue), but it's hard to turn down a guarnteed quarter of a billion dollars. (Note to any billionaires: I can be bought too)

  • Breaking News: Guzman stinks.

  • The Houston series has been a homecoming for two Texan Nats: John Patterson and Gary Majewski.

  • The Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star (What's a Lance-Star, and why is it free?) claims that the Nats big-three pitchers could compete with anyone.

    I'm not quite sure I agree with the conclusion, but it's an interesting bar argument, at least.

  • And just to show that I'm not the only person who wonders WTF Frank does half the time, Nationals Interest looks at last night's game and wonders why Livan was in for so long.

    It's an interesting question and one that makes sense. But I think the answer has to do with Frank not wanting to show up Livan and to keep those blowups out of the public eye. They had a pretty huge showdown in Puerto Rico when Frank took Livan out of a game before Livan wanted to come out. Since then, he's let Livan call his own shots, for the most part.

    And last night, it came back to shoot the team in the foot.

  • What Momentum?

    What a frustrating game, one that's full of What Ifs. The Nationals didn't deserve to win the game the way they played it, but the Astros hardly earned it either, as the Nats continued to play sloppy baseball, carving away their small margin for error.

    It was a tale of two pitchers (one with the ball; one with the bat). Livan Hernandez needed to come up big; he didn't. He went six innings, giving up seven runs (two of which were unearned because of his flub of a bunt hit right back to him), and ten hits. Over his last two starts, he's now given up 22 hits and nine earned runs. (That'd be a pretty good homestand for our batters.)

    But with the bat, he was a beauty. He finished the night three for three with a homer, a double, and two runs driven in. He's also, for comparison's sake, batting 50 points higher than the less-than mediocrity that usually trots out to short.

    All things considered (Does anyone else hear the God-awful NPR horn blaring when they hear that phrase?), Livan needed to do better and needed to show he was the team's ace. He didn't, but he does win a Lame Duck.

    One more note on Livan... Early in the game, he wasn't pushing off at all. He would just lift his back leg and slowly bring it forward as if he were trying to protect his goods while stepping over a fence that was far too high. As the game went on, he seemed to get more comfortable, but by then, the Astros had already ripped him for four runs.

  • Livan gets the headlines, but this loss was as much on Frank Robinson as anyone. Were he eligible for the Lame Duck, he'd have earned it last night (and probably be lapping the field).

    There were three decisions during the game that were head scratchers.

    1) After the Astros took a 5-4 lead, the Nationals battled back and had Jose Vidro and Vinny Castilla on second and first respectively. Brad Wilkerson was at the plate.

    After working the count full, Frank decided to send the runners, on yet another hit and run.

    Think about that for a second.

    On the bases you have your two slowest non-pitcher baserunners, who both are battling injury. (Vidro has a sore quad, which makes him limp slightly, and Vinny's knee causes him to hobble around like a peg-legged pirate.)

    At the plate you have one of the team's most notorious strike-out machines -- One, who incidentally, isn't much of a threat to ground into a double-play. (He's hit into only six on the season)

    With that combo, you decrease the chances of a GIDP, but you markedly increase the chances for a strike out/throw out double play.

    It didn't happen, but when Wilkerson's fly ball went to the warning track in left (against the 240 foot homerun porch), Vinny was already past second base, and was doubled off first.

    It was bad baserunning by Vinny, to be sure, but Frank never should've put him in that position to begin with.

    Frank continuously puts his talent in a position to fail on the field. It's as if he doesn't consider the personnel on the field when he makes some of the decisions he does. "Hey, 3-2, we've gotta send the runners." No, you don't.

    2) In the decisive sixth inning, the Astros had runners at second and third with Lance Berkman and Morgan Ensberg due up.

    Frank intentionally walked Lance Berkman, who was hitless off Livan (and actually looked pretty silly against him), to face Morgan Ensberg.

    Frank might not know Morgan Ensberg's name (other than it's a girl's name), but he should know that he's a better hitter than Lance Berkman!

    The important number, in that situation, is that Morgan's on-base-percentage (which with the bases loaded is really all you need to focus on, because if he gets on base any way, at least one run scores), was .390!

    Would you intentionally walk Jim Edmonds to get to Albert Pujols? In effect, that's what Frank did.

    3) After battling Brad Lidge hard in the 9th, the Nationals had the tying run at third with Preston "Automatic K For The People" Wilson at the plate.

    Remember, this is the big bat *chortle* we acquired. He's the one that PT Bowden assured us would lead us to the promised land.

    But that wasn't good enough for Frank. He pinch hit, sending up Jose Guillen.

    I've made it pretty clear that I don't think much of Guillen. But I do think it's fair to say that he's been horrible in these situations. When you need a single, he's not the man for the job. He takes it upon himself to hit five-run homers.

    He swung. Then swung again. Then again. And all but the first were balls. The final pitch, a slider in the dirt, which Guillen flailed at, was fitting.

    Even if you believe that he's a good 'clutch' hitter, and that he's the team's best hitter, the PH appearance presents two problems.

    First, what message does that send to Preston? The team doesn't owe him anything, but it has jerked him around. He waved his no-trade clause to come to DC, and probably didn't expect to be splitting time as a corner outfielder.

    But more importantly, can Frank help himself? Guillen has a flippin' torn rotator cuff! The team sent him to the best specialist in the world and was told to rest him for six games or so. With rest, the small tear would heal itself.

    That lasted two days! I'm certainly not a doctor, but when James Andrews tells you to take six days off, you do it! Will that hurt his recovery? Will it make it harder for him to come back soon? Is an injured Jose Guillen better than a healthy Preston Wilson?

  • The ninth inning may have turned out differently had Jose Vidro not run into bad luck. With runners on first and second, he ripped a hard liner down the right field line. Lance Berkman was playing a no-doubles defense, and it landed right in his glove, where he was able to beat Brandon Watson to the bag to complete the double play.

    Watson's initial reaction was towards second, and by the time he changed his momentum, he couldn't get back to first in time. He didn't play it perfectly, but it's hard to find fault with the kid in that situation.

    But, for the Nationals, those are the kinds of breaks they've had for the last month. Next up: Andy Pettite.

  • Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    Location, Location, Location

    It's amazing how much the context of events can change your perception of things.

    Last night's game followed the same old script that we've seen for the last five weeks.

    The difference is that in the bandbox of Houston's ballpark, the RFK-style warning track flyballs found their way into the seats.

    The end result was a bunch of homers for the Astros, and amazingly, for the Nationals.

    And it resulted in a *gasp* one-run win. (Remember those?)

    But the story of the game wasn't the team's power surge. It wasn't the impressive debut of Brandon Watson (a double and a homer).

    I know I'm relentlessly negative, and that I should enjoy the win, but I can't get over the continued horrid play of Cristian Guzman.

    In the 6th inning, the Astros had two on and two out, with John Patterson on the ropes. He got Willy Taveras to hit a bouncing grounder up the middle. Guzman ranged up the middle, picked up the ball behind second base, and instead of throwing to first, lobbed the ball towards second and a late-breaking Jose Vidro.

    The runner was called safe, even though he was probably out, but it was one of those plays that still is hard to call on the slo-mo replay; it's hard to get into a mouth-froth over the ump's call.

    Frank brought in Luis Ayala, who got Craig Biggio to hit a nearly identical grounder. Guzman took a step or two, and whirled the throw sidearm right into the dirt, letting two runs score.

    The party line all along has been that Guzman catches everything hit to him, so he's still contributing. While we knew that was a dubious claim before, now that he's stinking up the park with the glove, as he has for the last month, it's even more silly to believe.

    He is costing the team, and his continued presence in the lineup is an indictment on Jim Bowden and Frank Robinson and their competence to run this team, especially as this team lunges along the fringes of contention.

    He must be benched.

  • Chad Cordero wins the Majority Whip for his clutch, but nerve-wracking pitching.

    With a one-run lead, Frank brought him in in the 8th inning with runners on the corners. He got Craig Biggio to foul out to left.

    More importantly, he had a round-about 1,2,3 inning in the 9th, surviving Berkman, Ensberg and Lamb, thanks to a double-play ball.

    With the team's struggles over the last month, we've probably taken for granted how good Cordero is. He survived the heart of the order of the Astros lineup, and did it in fairly convincing fashion. But that doesn't mean that my gut wasn't in nots the whole time!

  • Tuesday, August 09, 2005

    The Polling Booth

    Apologies to Ball-Wonk for stealing his polls...

    What Should The Nationals Do About Cristian Guzman?
    Nothing. He'll come around sooner or later, and I'm an idiot.
    Release him, eating the remaining TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS !? on his contract.
    Castrate him with the lid from a rusty soup can.

    Free polls from

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Hitman Edition

  • The WaPo sends in the hitman. Les Carpenter emerges from his column on Cristian Guzman with blood on his hands.

    He doesn't rip him like a NY or Boston paper would, but he does ask some of the questions that we've all wondered, and even points out how his lack of offense has resulted in some brutal defense lately.

  • MLB is setting a $450 target sale price for the team. MLB would then be free to choose from among whichever groups hit the target price.

    Of note, it claims that MLB will probably force Stan Kasten on whichever group wins the team. MLB also targets owner selection for sometime in the next month, with ratification in October.

  • The Expos first manager, Gene Mauch, died yesterday. Mauch was the ultimate small-ball manager, but he did it at a time when run scoring was down, and the strategy actually made sense.

    He's third in manager wins with the franchise. Mike's Baseball Rants has an interesting look at his career.

  • On a related note, it's a shame that the team isn't honoring, or at least preserving, the Montreal connection. Mike Stanton is wearing the number retired for Tim Raines, which was retired just last season.

  • Nasty Nats tries to decode the mixed messages that Jim Bowden is sending and how it may have sent the offense (and the team) into its current funk.

  • Nats Blog has two interesting posts. One is their look at the stadium design article from yesterday. The other amplifies a Distinguished Senators post and points out some of the problems with Charlie and Dave.

  • Nationals Farm Authority thinks he's figured out who Bowden's Mystery Man is. He's not quite as impressed as Bodes thinks he should be.

  • Anatomy of Incompetence

    If there are any doubts about the competence of Jim Bowden and his worthiness of handling this franchise long into the future, the series of small transactions over the last week should crush them like a Esteban Loaiza pitch.

    All the moves are relatively minor, but they demonstrate that he's a man without a strategy, or a vision. If your car gets stuck in a snowbank, the solution isn't to bury the pedal to the floor; you'll just spin the tires. And yet, that's what Bowden is doing. He's fiddling at the margins, looking for the solution to the slide by shuffling the 25th man on the roster in and out.

    In the process, he's completely blind to meaningful solutions to the real problem. And, perhaps more importantly, he's creating animosity among the players his transactions are affecting.

    Last week, he shipped out Marlon Byrd and brought in Matt Cepicky.

    The rationale for that is that they wanted an effective pinch-hitter because Byrd and Church weren't getting it done.

    Bill Ladson even went so far as to paint Cepicky as a model teammate who understands his role, pointing out that he had accepted being DFA'd earlier in the season because he respects Frank and was assured that he'd get another chance.

    At the same time, by comparison, Marlon Byrd was painted as a malcontent. Byrd, understandably, wasn't pleased with his demotion. Rather than lashing out, he internalized things, and didn't say a word. So, Cepicky = good; Byrd = bad.

    A few days later, the team was forced to reactive Tony "Dizzy" Blanco, who ran out of time for a rehab assignment. As a rule-5 draftee, he has to stay on the active roster unless he's disabled.

    Ordinarily teams will stretch the definition of disabled as far as they legally can to avoid wasting a slot on their major league roster. Bodes went out of his way to keep him on the roster. When he was suffering from vertigo, and completely useless to the team, he stayed on the roster for over a week. In the meantime, they could've had a useful player on the bench. But they chose not to. Go figure.

    When they activated Blanco, they needed to send someone down. Exit Sunny Kim.

    It's not like Sunny Kim is going to make anyone forget John Patterson, but he's really no different than Tony Armas or Ryan Drese. He's a useful 4th or 5th starter.

    At the beginning of the season, one of the reasons for optimism was the team's depth in starting pitching. We didn't realize that Patterson would emerge as an ace, but Jon Rauch (now injured), Kim, Tomo Ohka, Zach Day and Claudio Vargas would allow the team to mix and match depending on who was throwing effectively.

    Now, they're all gone.

    And even more distressingly, Vargas and Kim were both claimed on waivers (by Arizona and Colorado respectively). They were given up for nothing.

    So, what was a strength, is now a weakness.

    Further, this left the team without a long reliever. If Drese implodes, or if Tony Armas, who left a start early last week with shoulder stiffness, the bullpen would wear itself out.

    Then, just this week, Cap'n Bodes Designates Matt Cepicky for Assignment, after just a handfull of pinch-hitting appearances.

    On his way out, Cepicky gripes that he didn't get a fair shot, and that he's upset that he's being used like a yo-yo. In the process, the once wonderful team player, gets painted like another malcontent like Byrd (and Day. And Ohka. And Chavez. And...)

    In his place comes uber-speedster Brandon Watson to hit leadoff and provide the apparent spark Bodes thinks the team needs. (If the team does improve, Bodes will be crowing for weeks)


    These moves just make me shake my head and ask a bunch of questions.

    What was the point of calling up Cepicky for a week?

    Why didn't the team get anything for Kim? Is keeping Mike Stanton and Joey Eischen around better than losing Kim?

    How many malcontents are there on the team?

    Could it be that something else is the problem, not the players?

    What's Bowden's plan with all these transactions?

    Did these moves improve the team? Are we better off with Brandon Watson than we were with Marlon Byrd or Sunny Kim?

    Why does Bowden refuse to bring up infield help? Guzman stinks. Vinny's hobbling.

    Well, I do know the answer to that one! Those are the problems he created. Therefore, they aren't really problems! I almost forgot the party line there for a second!

    Sucks to be Brendan Harris or Rick Short, I suppose.

    And lately, it's sucked to be a Nats fan. Bodes must go.

    [Nationals Inquirer has a similar look at the tire-spinning moves, especialy as it comes to the loss of Kim]

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Paging Doctor Andrews

  • Good news on the Jose Guillen front. He has a partially torn rotator cuff, but it won't require surgery, just rest.

    The team plans on sitting him for a week or so, although the odds are that he'll be back before then -- He doesn't want to look like a Churchified Wus, now does he?

  • Starting in his place is the recent callup, Brandon Watson. Watson, who was slapping the bejeesus out of the ball in New Orleans, is a singles-hitting blazer -- sort of our version of Willy Tavares.

    Nationals Farm Authority has a look at him.

    In short, he's fast, and he hits a lot of singles. But he doesn't walk much and he doesn't hit for power. So, unless he's batting .350, he's probably not helping the team as much as you think he is.

    But if he steals a base or two, the small-ball fetishists will drool and point to him as a catalyst.

  • In activating Watson, they designated Matt Cepicky for assignment. It's an understandable, but completely dick move. I'll have a little more on this later in an unhinged rant against Cap'n Bodes: Man of Action!

    Cepicky grumbled about being DFA'd a second time this season. And considering how just 10 days ago the team called him up because they wanted an effective pinch-hitter, only to give up on him a few ABs later, he's completely justified in being upset.

  • Monday, August 08, 2005

    A Glimpse Of The Stadium

    David Nakamura has a front-page look at the architect for the new stadium and the many challenges he faces.

    It's a good read, and gives a few glimpes, here and there, about what we can expect. (See this graphic for a snapshot)

    Just a few thoughts....

    The ballpark will be oriented towards the northeast. The Capitol should be visible if you're sitting on the first-base side, and the Washington Monument if you're in the upper deck. It couldn't be oriented the other way, because that would place the setting sun in the batter's eye.

    It appears that each side will have a separate facade. The S. Capitol Street side will be stone and glass to form a link with DC. The Anacostia side will be of steel and glass (think of any other HOK project you've ever seen).

    The ballpark isn't directly on the water, and they won't have development rights of the waterfont. They're held by a separate corporation. So tie-ins, such as a water taxi, or a great waterfront promenade, would need to be worked out as a partnership (ha!), and wouldn't necessarily be reflected in the initial design of the stadium.

    They plan on using Half St, which would run the two blocks from the Metro to the Stadium as a central corridor for restaurants and retail. I would suspect that a portion of that would be team controlled, ala Eutah Street in Bawlmer.

    What's interesting, and I'm not sure whether this is the reality of the situation, or just me reading into things, is that the city seems to want to develop around S. Capitol Street, and the developers around Half St.

    Half Street looks like it'd make more sense. People aren't usually going to walk a block or two out of their way if they don't have to (especially in this heat!).

    As far as the actual stadium design, expect an assymetrical outfield to "provide more interesting bounces on long hits." Woo. That's fun. (Now, unless they'd slant the walls so that balls would bounce high up into the air, or create curvy chutes, such as the rightfield wall in Fenway, there's not that much interesting with wall bounces.)

    They also plan to have 'seating neighborhoods'. Yay. If you've ever looked at Philly's seating chart, for example, all 'seating neighborhoods' do is create confusing ticket price schemes. They claim that it creates 'intimacy' in a large park. If I'm not mistaken, a smaller stadium that's close to the action (Which HOK isn't known for) is what creates intimicy (Man, I hate that word; it's a completely meaningless word -- when it comes to ballparks, at least).

    Which leads me to the most distressing part of the article...

    "Team President Tony Tavares recently requested that all 66 luxury boxes be on the mezzanine level between first base and third base so big-spending patrons would have prime views of the field. Spear agreed to design stacked boxes."

    And my worst fears have come true.

    Are you enjoying your view from the 400 section behind the plate?

    Kiss it goodbye.

    With a stacked luxury box setup, the upper deck will probably start at about where the 500 section begins today. (if not higher!) Not only that, but it will probably be further away from the plate.

    Oh, and expect your ticket prices to go up. Those seats, which currently have a gate price of $20, will probably be closer to $30 by the time the new stadium is up and running.

    So, appreciate the good views at RFK while you can. Unless you can spare a few thousand for a luxury box, or field level seats, is as good as you're probably going to get.

    34 Facts That Probably Don't Mean A Thing

    1. Jose Vidro came off the DL on 7/5. Since that time, the Nationals have gone 8-20.

    2. They went 32-18 while he was on the DL.

    3. Before his DL Stint, they were 15-13.

    4. Vinny Castilla leads the team with 104 ABs with runners in scoring position.

    5. He's only batting .221 in that situation.

    6. Jose Guillen is slugging .304 with runners in scoring position.

    7. Cristian Guzman is 'hitting' .103 with RISP.

    8. He's 'slugging' .115 with RISP

    9. In the same situation, Esteban Loazia is batting .200.

    10. He's also slugging .300

    11. Eight of Jose Guillen's homers have come in the 7th inning or later.

    12. In 'close and late' situations, Guillen is batting .377.

    13. In those same situations, Brad Wilkerson s batting .167, worst on the team of any regular.

    14. Only four Nationals have multiple homers against left-handed pitching.

    15. One of those players is Cristian Guzman.

    16. When leading off an inning, Nick Johnson gets on base just 27% of the time.

    17. When leading off an inning, Jose Vidro gets on 41% of the time.

    18. Jose Guillen has hit 11 homers in just 36 day games.

    19. We're nearing the two-year anniversary of Jamey Carroll's last major league home run.

    20. Jose Guillen has five outfield assists.

    21. Brad Wilkerson has six.

    22. With a limited sample size, Brad Wilkerson gets to .6 more balls per game than Preston Wilson does in center field.

    23. With a limited sample size, Marlon Byrd gets to half a ball a game more than Preston Wilson does in left field.

    24. With a limtied sample size, Jamey Carroll gets to half a ball a game more than Jose Vidro does at second base.

    25. The ERA of the starting pitchers playing in front of Gary Bennett and Brian Schneider are equal.

    26. For all intents and purposes, Jose Vidros' defensive statistics are equal to Junior Spivey's.

    27. Luis Ayala is second on the team with seven wins.

    28. Luis Ayala is second on the team with six losses.

    29. Luis Ayala is holding batters to a .293 batting average.

    30. Tony Armas has a 7.49 road ERA.

    31. Livan has a 3.18 road ERA in almost 100 innings.

    32. John Patterson has a 1.67 home ERA.

    33. His road ERA is over 4.

    34. He's allowed 6 homers on the road in just over 40 innings.

    Sunday, August 07, 2005

    Forgive Us Padres, For We Have Stunk

    The power of Christ compelled us -- to lose.

    Three games and three losses to the woeful San Diego Padres means that the Washington Nationals are worthy of the woeful tag as well.

    Jack Peavy exorcised the hitting spirit from the Nats' bats, pitching a complete game shutout.

    Esteban Loaiza had an RFK mirage game; his performance looked better than it really was. Six innings and three runs usually isn't going to get it done in this stadium (and that's before accounting for the Krappy Kiddie Korps lineup).

    This was about the time of the year that the Cy Young candidate of 2003 started coming back to earth; it appears that the same thing is happening this season. In his last two starts, he's given up five home runs at RFK.

    And while he's never been a top strikeout pitcher, he's only K'd 11 batters in his last three starts. Is he fatiguing? Are the bats cathing up to him?

    If he goes south, so will the team. Oh, wait! The team already has. Maybe he's joining them?

    Regardless of the reason, he wins the Lame Duck, mostly for two key plays.

    In the third inning he and Jamey Carroll reached to lead off the inning. Peavy, who actually had a finger injury, was on the ropes. Guzman looked like he was bunting, and the Padres catcher threw through to second to pick off Loaiza. Crushing.

    Then in the 5th, Loaiza intentionally walked the 8th hitter to get to Peavy, putting runners on first and second. Loaiza quickly got ahead 0-2 before firing a ball. The next pitch was lined into centerfield for an RBI single. How can Loaiza let a pitcher get a hit after being ahead 0-2? That's pisspoor execution. (But I guess that's the story of this team's second half)

    Another demoralizing one-run loss.

    Frank had another WTF Senior Moment. In the top of the 7th, Ryan Drese allowed a leadoff single. The next batter was bunting. Drese got the count to 2-2, and Frank came out and gave him the hook mid-batter. I dunno. I'm sure there's some sort of explanation for it. Whatever the explanation, it's pretty clear that Frank hates pitchers.

    Despite all his charity work, Preston Wilson wins a Lame Duck. The man with the leaden glove did his part to kill any Nats rallies that formed. In the first, with two on, he hit into a double play. In the eighth he struck out with Nick Johnson on first. (Don't forget the 0-2 he squeezed in between there)

    Your Preston Wilson Non-Moralizing Fun Fact O' The Day: Mookie Wilson (AKA David Letterman's favorite Met) is both his uncle and stepfather.

    Somehow Livan Hernandez allowed 12 hits in 5.2 innings. Even more amazing is that he only gave up four runs.

    But the Lame Duck goes to Vinny Castilla for his season-worst performance. I'm not sure which is more stunning, that the Nationals had seven runners on base, or that Vinny stranded that many.

    Second Inning, runner on second: struck out looking.
    Third Inning, runners on first and second: fly to center
    Fifth Inning, bases engorged: infield popup
    Oh, he's not done!
    Seventh Inning, runner on first: struck out swinging.

    Vinny, as an effective player, is done. Despite the long homerun he hit in Saturday's game, the injury to his knee has rendered his already creaky bat completely impotent, and it has really cut down on his range at third. He still has those great hands, but he's having trouble getting to balls, and can't make the quick turns to get himself into ideal throwing position.

    He's a liability.

    It was a lost weekend. Unfortunately I've been typing that a lot.

    After Monday's offday, they head to the road for thirteen games. Ten of the thirteen will have direct implication on our standings. The other three come against a Rockies team that already pantsed us in front of the entire class.

    Isn't baseball wonderful sometimes?

    No? Yeah, come to think of it, you're right.

    Friday, August 05, 2005

    I'm Not Saying That Bill Ladson Is A Hack....

    ...but take a look at the lede for tonight's gamer:
    Tied at 5 in the ninth, and with runners on first and third with nobody out and Chad Cordero on the mound, Fick hit what looked to be a single to center field. The ball dropped in front of Brad Wilkerson, who was able to get the forceout at second, but Mark Sweeney scored on the play.

    There isn't one mention of Cristian Guzman booting the grounder that allowed Sweeney to reach base. That was the key play of the game.

    But in the pages of Pravda there are no errors. Everyone's happy! Yay! Look, it's a puppy dog wagging his tail! Isn't he cute? Hey, the sun is bright and shiny! Yay!

    I'm surprised his overlords even let him admit the team lost.

    Fouled-Off Bunts: WooHoo Edition!

  • Tom Boswell chats at 11, assuming he didn't spontaneously combust last night.

    Public Service Announcement: Expect some Guzman gloating.

  • Jose Guillen sat out yesterday's game with the same sore shoulder that's been bothering him all season.

    "I don't know what to tell you. I've just got to learn how to shut it down when it's really sore. Sometimes, I think like I'm Superman. But it's really sore. It's really, really, really sore."

  • Tony Armas, who left Wednesday's game with shoulder stiffness, should make his next start.

  • Brian Schneider sat out the game again. He's still having some shoulder pain, but he claims it's doing better.

  • Frank sent Jamey Carroll out to spell Jose Vidro in last night's game. I'm not sure if it was for fatigue, because Vidro's strained quad is still causing him to limp slightly, or if it was for defensive purposes. The latter is something Frank should look at doing regularly.

  • Mark Tuohey says that, come hell or highwater (but hopefully not too high, because the Anacostia stinks like a sewer), the stadium WILL open in 2008.

    There are some good tidbits buried in the article:
    --The stadium will be oriented to the NE, with a view of the Capitol over the left-field wall.
    --Land bids (All 33 of 'em) start later this month.
    --The draft calendar requires all land acquisition and zoning to be done by the end of this year.

    In the first of what'll probably be many legal challenges, a Federal court will hear some landowner's request for an injunction.

    That same article notes that MLB now claims to have an owner selected by the end of the month. I'll believe it when... well.. at some point.

  • The Nationals are staying in Vierra for at least ten more years. Panera rejoices at all the free publicity.

  • Nationals Interest live-blogged the game last night.

  • Nationals Farm Authority has a rant about Bowden's recent bluster about bringing up the kids to supplant the creaky veterans he brought in.

    Read him to see why it's such a hair-brained idea.

  • The Bizarro Nats

    --Cristian Guzman had two hits.
    --Cristian Guzman had two RBI.
    --Cristian Guzman scored a run.
    --The Nationals crossed the magical five-run barrier.
    --The Nationals scored four runs in an inning.
    --They finally hit their first Grand Slam (Thanks Brad!)
    --John Patterson didn't get a no-decision.

    What did that team do with our lovably inept Nats?

    It's hard to know what to get excited about from this game!

    Is it the re-awakening of Cristian Guzman who had two separate RBI, and is finally driving the ball, instead of just sliding his hands through the zone?

    Is it the no-doubt bomb that was Brad Wilkerson's Grand Slam? Hopefully Jose Guillen, who sat out the game, was watching that ball sail easily out to deeeep right field.

    Could that be the psychological lift they needed? They CAN score runs, and they CAN do it in the park.

    What was weird about that homer was that it seemed inevitible. Bluegrass was ahead in the count 2-1 when he swung through a high fastball. I was SURE that that was his pitch. I was just a few off: he crushed the 3-2 pitch.

    It's almost a shame that the sweet release of the Grand Slam could overshadow what was a dominant pitching performance by the Majority Whip winner, John Patterson.

    He needed only 116 pitches to strike out 13 batters in a complete game shutout, and lowering his ERA to just 2.42. He allowed just four hits, although it would've been three if Preston Wilson didn't field like Greg Luzinski. (Maybe we could lure Gary Maddox out of retirement?)

    It's the kind of performance that Patterson is capable of anytime. He's got a high, moving fastball, and a slider that darts down sharply.

    But, to me, the way to tell whether he's on or not is through his curveball. If he's getting it over the plate, it's nasty.

    It doesn't have the big looping motion of a Bary Zito curve. It's much tighter and compact, probably breaking six inches or so. Unless he leaves it up in the zone, it's practically unhittable.

    Early in the game, Jose Valentin repeatedly fouled it off. He could just barely get a piece of it, but not enough to do anything with it. After peppering them inside and outside, he got him with that hard fastball, eating him alive.

    He's under the team's control for the next few years. Hopefully last night, which really wasn't all that different from how he pitched most of July, will be the first of many performances over the next few years.

    Thursday, August 04, 2005

    Captain Bowden: Man Of Action

    He's in charge! A Man of Action! A Man who knows what he wants, and how to get it! He's just the leader for this team! The leader for the future!

    Or so he wants us to believe.

    The latest Jim Bowden PR Pablum: He's scouring the minors, turning over every rock, prodding every nook, looking for the one piece that'll help shake the team out of its doldrums.

    He believes that the key to shaking the team out of its offense slump is by calling up a youngin' or two from the minors.

    That's a good idea, I suppose.

    Then he gets to the list of names: Zimmerman, Casto, Blanco.

    Let's take those in reverse order.

    Blanco has to come up soon; his rehab time is almost up. But it's another chance for Bodes to take credit...

    Casto is an interesting prospect, who's come out of nowhere to be very effective for Single-A Potomac. But it's still Single-A!

    Zimmerman has hit very well recently, after struggling early with Double-A Harrisburg. But he's still just two months out of college. The bat probably isn't quite ready, even if the glove is.

    Regardless, Bowden just make a big show, strutting and preening, showing how wonderful he was because he thought of the future, and wouldn't, gosh darnit, trade any of these prospects because he cares about the future.

    Yet he has no qualms about calling them up, potentially hurting their development?

    And he doesn't care about how calling them up so early would start their arbitration clock tick-tick-ticking?

    Bodes can't have it both ways.

    It seems to me that Bodes wants to keep up with the Joneses (and the Schuerholzes).

    I just see Bowden looking to the south and seeing how Atlanta is winning with rookie after rookie flooding their lineup. And he wants to emulate that. Golly, if it's working for them, it can work for the Nats, right?

    (Nevermind that Frank doesn't especially seem to like Rookies...)

    What I found especially interesting about all this though, was that Bodes doesn't realize that New Orleans exists, other than as where he keeps his outfield cache.

    Brendan Harris would be (and has been) a viable alternative to Vinny's hamburger knee. Rick Short, who's battling an injury now, would be just as, if not more, effective as Carlos Baerga on the bench.

    They are both realistic options that could provide the spark and the upgrade this team needs. And they're upgrades that wouldn't hurt the team's long-term plans.

    But they're not as flashy. And because Harris was a Minaya acquisition, he couldn't take proper credit.

    So Bodes will instead don his leather pants and strut around while squawking, insisting that he's the man for the job and that he knows how to take action.

    By now we've learned to not listen to what he says, but what he does.

    And he's done a whole lot of fiddling while the Nationals have started to smolder.

    So Dumb, He's Brilliant

    Last night's game followed the same outdated gameplan that put this team into a tailspin: inability to drive runners home, especially from third; piss-poor baserunning; and cramp-inducing manager decisions.

    Yet they won.

    They won because they ad-libbed from the script. Preston Wilson hit a bomb to dead center -- one of only two or three balls to make it out there -- and Nick Johnson added some insurance runs to 'blow' the game open.

    Nats Win! Nats Win! Bang AND Zoom.

    And they won because Frank Robinson's stupidity worked. Don't ask me how.

    Tony Armas looked gassed on the mound, almost from pitch one. After he gutted out five innings, he was due to lead off in the bottom of the inning.

    Frank inexplicably sent up Luis Ayala to pinch hit. He had four left-handed bats on the bench: Schneider, Church, Cepicky and Baerga. Was he saving them for extras?

    I couldn't explain it then. I can't explain it now.

    And I certainly can't explain how Ayala and Frank made us head-scratchers look bad when he hit a hard single to center.

    I most definitely can't explain it when Frank sent Ayala back up to the plate two innings later. Well, at least that one was in a sacrifice situation. I can understand sending up Ayala there, I suppose.

    Still, when was the last time you saw a relief pitcher, in a close game, get two plate appearances?

    It really was so dumb, it was brilliant.

  • The Majority Whip was an easy selection. Luis Ayala pitched two dominant innings, pitching like he did before his arm turned green from abuse. He kept the Dodgers off the bases and held the line when most everyone in the park was envisioning a three-run loss. (Yes, I sit with the cynics)

  • One of Frank's decisions didn't work. In the fourth inning, after Jose Guillen singled, Nick Johnson came to the plate. DJ Houlton hadn't been especially sharp, but he was fairly effective.

    So what does Frank do? Yep. Hit-and-Run. On the first pitch.

    NJ lunged at an outside pitch, barely made contact and tapped weakly to third. The runner moved up, but NJ was forced to swing at a pitch he wouldn't swing at in any other circumstance.

    Stop the hit-and-running Frank!

  • Chad Cordero, as he usually does, made it interesting. But, as he also usually does, he got the job done.

  • Between innings, they sometimes do a 'Meet the Nats' thing, where they ask the players to pick between two different things. Last night's question involved Bowling of Golf.

    Enter Jamey Carroll.

    What do you think Captain Chaste would say?

    If you answered Mini Golf, you'd be right! There's something fitting about that.

  • Wednesday, August 03, 2005

    Homers? What Homers?

    Despite Jose Guillen's protestations, the Dodgers (as did the Astros) are proving that it is quite possible to hit homers at RFK.

    The Dodgers had just six hits, but four of them fell over the wall, giving the visiting team another win against the once-dominant, now hapless Nationals.

    In the bottom of the ninth, Jose Vidro 'doubled' with two outs. His hit went towards the gap, but Bradly cut it off, fired to second and threw out Vidro to end the game, but somehow Vidro slid around the tag, and was called safe.

    That put the game in Jose Guillen's hands.

    There's been no bigger whiner on this team about the difficulties in hitting in this park. Given his extreme home/road split and the opposing team's ease of hitting, it's clear that it's entirely in his head. During the last homestand, he measured the fences himself (apparently not believing the surveying crew the WaPo shamed the Nats into hiring) all while claiming he didn't really care.

    Uh... yeah.

    Then, he did as he's done all-too frequently this season in these sorts of situations. He grounded out. Game over. Nats Lose. Banged. Zoomed.

    For yet another unclutch hit, Jose Guillen wins the Lame Duck.

  • Jose Vidro almost took the award from him. Had he been thrown out, which he really should've been, he'd have locked it up. That would've been his second bone-headed baserunning error of the game. Earlier, in the first, he was doubled off first on Guillen's dying quail to right.

    He even threw in an error for good measure.

  • Esteban Loaiza wasn't sharp. It was strange though. He didn't throw a lot of pitches, or give up many hits. It's just that the ones he did throw went a long way.

  • Nick Johnson had a chance to tie it up in the 8th. His would-be tie-making drive died at the warning track.

    The key to getting homers there is to hit line drives. If the ball has much air underneath it, the currents really eat it alive.

  • I'll be there tonight to see if Ryan Drese can remember how to pitch. It's amazing how night and day he can be depending on whether he can keep his arm angle high.

    If it's up, he's dominant. If it's down, he's the poor man's Zach Day.

    I really don't want to see Sunny Kim pitch tonight!

  • Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    Making Up For Slacking Off

    I was lazy and didn't dole out the awards for the series with the sailfish.

    On a unrelated note, if you see me buying a large piece of furniture at Ikea, please kick me in the shins and remind me how much I hate assembling that crap.

    Congrats to Tony Armas for winning the Lame Duck. He went six innings, giving up four runs. That's not horrible by itself, but the first inning from hell, which was capped by a Paul "Heart And Soul" LoDuca bases-clearing triple had everyone all-but turning off the TV. You knew they couldn't win then. And they didn't.

    AJ was dominant. The team didn't really have much of a chance. But the few chances they did have were yakked on by Ryan Church, the winner of the Lame Duck. In a 3-0 loss, he left three runners in scoring position. If he gets just one of those hits, it's a different game. (Which they probably still lose anyway!)

    Livan Hernandez wins a Majority Whip. It was far from his best outing. He didn't have his good stuff. He looked tired from inning one. And he had all the speed and energy of a sedated elephant seal.

    But he pitched eight innings, threw almost 150 pitches, and got the Nationals a much-needed win.

    He is El Gran Caballo!

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Slow News Day

    Just a few odds and ends...

  • The New York Mets took Wil Cordero off our hands, assigning him to Norfolk where he can continue his reign of terror.

  • Brad Mills, the bench coach for the World Champion Boston Red Sox, is profiled by some random Boston newspaper.

    It's notable only because the Nationals allowed him to leave for that position. He was Frank's bench coach in 2003, but there were reports they had 'creative differences'. (I guess Mills expected competence?)

    Out went Mills and in came Eddie Rodriguez, who, presumably, doesn't object as strenuously when Frank takes mulligans on the golf course.

  • Endy Chavez, the pre-Guzman Whipping Boy of this blog, gets a second look.

    With the ancient Kenny Lofton's contract coming to an end, he's angling for a starting job next season.

    It's actual a good quick read.

    But there is one laugh out loud moment. Ed Wade has been trying to acquire him since at least last winter. What did Bodes ask for? Ryan Madson!

    In fairness to Endy, and given the stats the two have put up, it really isn't all that clear that we won that trade. And yes, that hurts to type.

  • Henry Mateo, the infield scrub, has been rehabbing for ages in Harrisburg. He can only stay on their roster through next monday, which could create an intersting logjam.

    Mateo, I believe, is out of options. But, I'd also guess that he'd pass through waivers pretty easily, allowing the team to send him back to the minors -- at least until 9/1 when the rosters expand.

  • The Vast Write-Wing Conspiracy

    Before Sunday's game, the Nationals optioned the struggling Marlon Byrd to New Orleans, and recalled another outfielder, Matt Cepicky.

    With Byrd's recent struggles and infrequent playing time, it's not really a great loss. Cepicky is a capable fifth outfielder and gives the bench something it lacks: a little pop.

    The transaction itself really isn't that interesting.

    But the way it was covered is.

    All three major news sources (, WaPo and the Times) spun it exactly the same way and told the same story about Marlon's attitude with his demotion.

    Here's the WaPo as an example:
    [T]he outfielder took it hard, saying nothing as Manager Frank Robinson called him into his office to deliver the news.

    Not that Byrd hadn't probably already figured it out when Matt Cepicky walked into the clubhouse just up from New Orleans, but his defiance seemed to disturb Robinson.

    "He had an attitude when he came in, had an attitude in here and he had an attitude when he left," Robinson said as he sat in his office before the game.

    The other two outlet reported on this apparent attitude problem in mostly the same way. ( even went the extra mile noting how wonderful Cepicky's attitude is/was)

    How is that? They weren't at the meeting Why is it a big deal? There've been many promotions and demotions throughout the season. Why did this one get covered so extensively? I'm pretty sure 90% of the players who get sent down don't go down with a smile.

    I guess what bothers me about this is, that with all three media outlets reporting essentially the same version of what is otherwise a non-story, it really seems like it's a front office campaign to run the guy down. We're supposed to be shocked that anyone would dare 'disrespect' Frank and therefore accepting that Byrd is being shipped out for a name the average Nats fan doesn't really know.

    I suppose that it could also be a shot across the bow to the other players that this is Frank's team and that you have to play by Frank's rules. (As if the Ohka and Day trades weren't already an indication of that.)

    It's frustrating because it's another indication that the team isn't afraid to run down its players and paint them as malcontents before shipping them out of town.

    It's true that Byrd doesn't come across as a truly bad guy in this, but all three articles are intended to make you question the guy's character a little bit.

    Intead, I think it shows good character.

    I want a guy to fight. I want a guy to show that he belongs in the majors. Just as I think that Guzman's obstinance in the face of mounting statistical evidence that he's not a major leaguer is a good sign, so is this.

    I'm glad that only Bill Ladson fell for the entire party line (that they were calling up a guy who understands and is completely accepting of his bench role). But it does bother me that everyone included the first part of the storyline on something that is completely a non story.

    Just because the front office tells you something, it doesn't mean that it's news.


    One piece of news DID come out of those blurbs though. And were I the writer, that would've been my focus, instead of the Byrd non-story.

    Cepicky moves ahead of Ryan Church on the depth chart. Frank feels that Cepicky is better suited to the pinch-hitting role that Church has struggled at recently.

    And apparently, the idea of the four-man outfield rotation has gone KAPUT too. Look for Preston Wilson to get the majority of starts in left, leaving Church in the old Marlon Byrd role: last man off the bench.

    Church hasn't looked good lately. I imagine that some of that is psychological. With the Wilson trade and the idea of infrequent playing time, he's probably been pressing, trying to make a good impression so that he could continue to be a key player on the team. Unfortunately, it seems that the more you try, the worse you look.

    But compounding that are his physical problems. Over the weekend, he talked about how he still feels pain from the wall-banging catch he made in Pittsburgh. When he swings, he claims it feels like he's being stabbed.

    No wonder he hasn't hit.

    It's also a shame that he felt the pressure to play before he was healthy though. But with Jose Guillen, Tom Boswell and Jim Bowden forming an unholy trinity of bitching about Church being hurt, he almost HAD to come back before being ready.

    And because he took their 'expert' advice, he looks all the worse for it.

    Sucks to be Ryan.