Friday, September 30, 2005

OK, So Bodes Was Right...

We've been hashing over the Claudio Vargas option-year thing at Yuda's today.

I got it wrong. Bodes was right. Vargas was out of options, despite only using one of his options.

They key point I missed is that he was initially placed on the 40-man roster in 2001. Once you're on the 40-man roster, you have three years worth of options. However, if you never appear in the majors during one of those seasons, you get a fourth option year.

That final season of option-eligibility would have been in 2004, meaning he was ineligbile to be optioned in 2005, even though he had not used all three available years. Makes sense?

Two points.

1) Major League Baseball does a horrible job of distributing this information. There is no central location for these sorts of roster rules, or the actual transactions. What I've learned about options and the rules has been through trial and error, and things I've read. I've never seen an official written policy. Additionally, there aren't accurate public records of transactions. Given the length of time he was in the minors I should have known that he would have been put on the 40-man roster in 2001, but good luck finding that sort of information from an authoritative source.

That's something that baseball really need to provide access to. (Service time would be another useful blip of data, especially when it comes time to determining free-agent eligibility.)

2) This isn't meant to come across as sour grapes, but my larger point about Bowden's difficulty with the roster remain. In my post that I linked above, I talked about how Vargas wasn't completely over his elbow injury. There were other options. He didn't have to waive a relatively young pitcher, especially one with some upside.

But given how wrong I was the option thing, who am I to criticize?

An emailer asked for a clarification. To be technical a player who's on the 40-man roster for an entire season but who isn't on the active 25-man roster is technically using one of his option years. It's just that when the player doesn't appear on the active roster for an entire season, he is granted a fourth option year. Transaction rules suck!

Silk Purse From A Sow's Ear

Around 9:30 last night, Mike Stanton showed up to Fenway Park, ready to pitch, having been traded earlier in the day by Jim Bowden.

Bowden deserves some credit for the transaction, receiving two pitchers for what will amount to three games worth of Mike Stanton -- the transaction comes after the September 1 deadline for postseason eligibility.

Seeing how Stanton was probably not coming back, it's a good move. Two young, warm bodies, are better than one cold one.

Here's info on the Aussie, Rhys Taylor:
According to the man who signed Taylor, Jon Deeble - the Australian Olympic baseball coach who is also the director of Pacific Rim scouting for the Red Sox - Taylor is potentially one of the best pitching talents Australia has produced in some time. "There might be a few kids around who could throw as fast as him, but there would be none who are faster," Deeble said yesterday.

What impressed Deeble was obviously Taylor's fast ball, but also the fact that at only 17, he already stood 187 centimetres and was likely to grow more. "Back then, he was 81 to 83 miles per hour (130-134 km/h) and now he is up into the high 80s and we see him filling out nicely in the body," Deeble said. "He's six three now (191 centimetres) and only 154 pounds (70 kilograms) and we see him getting a bit taller and being 224 pounds (102 kilograms). "I just think he has got a good arm and good free lose delivery. Obviously, he's a project for us, but hopefully he can add a bit of muscle and I think he can throw in the mid-90s (150 km/h), which is a good above average major league fast ball."

The other prospect, Yader Peralta, pitched to a 4.57 ERA in 45 innings, mostly in rookie ball.

Neither will likely amount to much, but the Aussie probably has a slightly higher upside.


Bodes deserves credit for turning a waiver claim into two prospects, but just keep in mind that Mike Stanton was a guy that was deemed so essential just two months ago that the Nationals waived Sunny Kim instead of him. Bodes wasn't looking to the future with that move. At least he is with this one.


UPDATED ABOVE -- Maybe Bowden isn't completely incompetent.

Ordinarily, I'd give someone the benefit of the doubt. But when that person, as is the case with Jim Bowden, is motivated by self interest and is a master at puffery, sometimes I won't.

Nationals Farm Authority links to Bodes' DC Examiner piece, and notes a whopper. (Read NFA's excellent full account, I'm just looking at one part.)

Here's Bodes:
Lost Claudio Vargas to Arizona. He pitched well at times but still had an ERA over 5.00 and was just a .500 pitcher. His right elbow was an injury risk, but this move could be evaluated either way. He was out of options and not pitching well for us.

Out of options? Am I missing something? A player has three years worth of options. If he's sent up or down in a season, he uses one of those years up, but then he can be freely sent up and down.

In 2003, Claudio Vargas split time between AAA and Montreal. That would be one option year.

In 2004, he appeared only in Montreal. I suppose it's possible that he started in the minors but never appeared (which would be highly unlikely). Even if he had, that would only be his second option year.

In 2005, he began the year on the DL. He pitched in NO on a rehab assignment. Even if he had had that assignment extended, it would've been just his third option year, and it would mean he could be assigned up and down freely throughout the year.

Is he wrong? Does he not know he's wrong?

I suppose there could be some wrinkle about the number of years that Vargas pitched in the minors, but I'm not aware of that. If someone knows, please let me know.

But for now it looks like a screwup -- a screwup that Bowden has apparently learned nothing from.

As an aside, they rushed Vargas back from the DL. They had intended for him to be a reliever, but he didn't feel comfortable having to warm up in the bullpen frequently, or feel capable of pitching with a reliever's workload, so they threw him in the rotation.

He was a disaster. We ripped him regularly because he couldn't throw a curveball. It was 99% fastball. After a while, the hitters were sitting back and bashing him. That's a pretty big indication that his elbow was still tender -- the curve puts a lot of stress on the elbow.

With some time off and as the distance between his surgery grew, he was able to start throwing the curve and other pitches, giving him a full variety. That's when he started to succeed.

So even if there's a transaction wrinkle that I'm unaware of, which is certainly possible, there's no reason they couldn't have DL'd him again. Remember, this is a time when we had starting pitchers coming out our wazoo: Day, Ohka, Rauch, Kim. Any of them could've filled in his spot in the rotation easily.

Oh well.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Race To The Bottom Update

I wrote last week that there are certain advantages to losing for the Nationals. Namely, if we finish in the bottom 15 teams, our first-round draft pick is protected, and we couldn't lose it if the team signs someone else's stud free agent.

Well, what've we done? Won, baby, won! What's a fan to do? Obviously you want the team to do well, but yet you know that, in the long run, it might be advantageous to not win. Life is hard, huh?

We're now 1.5 games ahead of 15th place, currently shared by Milwaukee, Texas, and your NL West champion San Diego Padres. (You do realize that we're pretty much responsible for them even being AT .500?)
20 -- Washington 81-78
15 -- Milwaukee 79-79
15 -- Texas 79-79
15 -- San Diego 79-79
13 -- Toronto 78-80

The Tenant From Hell

Now that the Nats' season is winding down, the DCenters remind us all that there is another team that plays in RFK. And because he knows that most of us lump MLS in with the WNBA, he provides a handy guide for Nats fans on making adjustment to the sport that we all played as kids, but haven't thought about since 1994.

For example:

For the Nats: A cantankerous, manic-depressive word-smith who occasionally gets off a few good lines.
For DCU: A rookie defender that gives up a few own-goals, but usually plays balls off the line.

Tony Kornheiser
For the Nats: A past-his-prime writer that rarely deigns to acknowledge the sport.
For DCU: A past-his-prime writer that rarely deigns to acknowledge the sport.

Read the whole stinkin' thing.

Smulyan Rumor-O-The-Day

Piggybacking on yesterday's rumor that Smulyan was using the DC bid to raise his profile to really buy the Reds comes this from the Dayton Daily News and its highly-respected writer, Hal McCoy.

It's an article about Reds' manager Jerry Narron being offered a contract for next season:
Asked if he wanted assurances that steps would be taken to better position the team to win, he said, "I want to see the Cincinnati Reds great again. Nobody can answer the competitive part as long as the club might be sold, or part of it might be sold."

One potential buyer is Jeff Smulyan, chairman of Emmis Broadcasting in Indianapolis and former owner of the Seattle Mariners. He also is one of the bidders for the Washington Nationals.

Smulyan, who likely could purchase the Reds for half of what the Washington franchise will cost, tried to move the Mariners to Tampa Bay in the early 1990s but was forced to offer the team to buyers who would keep the team in Seattle and it was sold to Nintendo.

While it's nothing new, it is interesting to see the story being reported by one of the Old Guard of the baseball media.


Update: Apparently his company is freeing up cash. It's probably unrelated, especially because I think he was buying them on his own, as opposed to an association with Emmis, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Purely Offensive

So on the day that I post about the team's lack of offense killing them in the second half, they go out and light up the scoreboard again in an 11-7 win over the already reeled-in Marlins.

With the win, the Nationals clinch something that was on the border of unthinkable at the beginning of the year -- a .500 record. With just one win in the final three games with the Phillies, the Nats will have won more than they've lost.

The Nationals, for once, had production from the middle of the order. Their 2-5 hitters combined for nine hits, six runs, and nine RBI. It's hard not to when when your big boys (and yes, calling Carroll a big boy is a bit of a stretch!) are hammering the ball like that.

Preston Wilson, the Majority Whip winner, did most of the hammering, ripping a double and a homer, while driving in five. Frank Robinson has been penciling his name in the lineup because he wants Preston to get the magical 90 RBI mark. (Because I know I recall with fond memory all those great 90-RBI sluggers of the past like Bobby Veach and Jesse Barfield)

So instead of evaluting players who'll actually be around next year like Marlon Byrd or Ryan Church, he's showing loyalty to someone not involved in the future of this club. That's Frank for ya. Preston's a veteran and all...

  • Dutch Zimmerman, who turned 21 yesterday, ripped two more hits. And more importantly, he earned his first walk. Obviously I'd like to see more walks from him, but he's far from an undisciplined hitter.

    Within his at bats, he clearly has an approach. He waits for his pitch, letting some strikes pass through the zone. He doesn't swing at everything he sees or from his heels like a certain slumping cleanup hitter. He simply looks for his pitch, then, when he gets it, he uncoils and drives it, usually to the gap. In just a handful of games, he's ripped 9 doubles. Doubles usually are a portent of future homers. Brian Roberts, for example, lit up the league with doubles last year. As he matured as a hitter this season, those doubles started finding their way over the wall. All is good with Zimmerman!

  • Esteban Loaiza pitched poorly, but the offense bailed him out for once. He's rarely won us a game, but he's always kept us in them. He finishes the season at 12-10, but that doesn't describe how meaningful his pitching performances have been.

    I'm not entirely convinced that we should bring him back next season, but if they don't, they need a league-average innings eater. Loaiza shows you how valuable they can be.

  • Whopper With Cheese

    Bud Selig flaps his lips again. As the old joke, which is certainly true in this case, goes, it means he's telling a lie.

    Herr Selig has said that he is willing to break tradition and make a major decision during the postseason, in this case that the Nationals finally have one single jerk, instead of a whole confederacy of dunces in charge of the team.

    This is the same lying liar who told us...
    --We'd have new owners by New Years
    --We'd have new owners by Spring Training
    --We'd have new owners by the All-Star break
    --This team will have payroll flexibility
    --Tony Tavares runs independently and doesn't have to check in with MLB
    --Sure, they can go and get any players they need

    And those are just for starters.

    Funny, I think all those dates have passed, and we still don't have owners.

    Strange that Jim Bowden had to twist arms to make September callups even though each player would cost roughly $55,000 for the month -- that's probably equal to Bud's monthly pancake makeup budget.

    Despite his assurances and reassurances, don't count on having owners before the end of the World Series. (Delaying our entry into the Hot Stove League)

    Thanks, Bud.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2005

    What Went Wrong?

    Since the magical height of July 3, it's been nowhere to go but down. On that day, the Nationals were 50-31. Since then, it's been a dreadful 30-47, a .390 winning percentage. Over a full season, that would translate to just 63 wins, narrowly averting the dreaded 100-loss season.

    As if that isn't painful enough, our neighbors to the north in Baltimore, whom are regarded as a spectacular failure, have played to a .400 winning percentage since they fired Lee Mazzilli. Yeah, they've been better than us.

    Where did we go wrong?

    Let's look at the offense. (Numbers since 7/7 for Nats w/ 50+ ABs)
                      AVE  OBP  SLG
    Brad Wilkerson .228 .325 .363
    Jose Guillen .249 .312 .394
    Preston Wilson .253 .325 .427
    Vinny Castilla .244 .303 .398
    Jose Vidro .268 .326 .383
    Cristian Guzman .239 .284 .346
    Nick Johnson .247 .356 .434
    Brian Schneider .264 .328 .377
    Jamey Carroll .266 .378 .306
    Gary Bennett .183 .283 .192
    Ryan Church .224 .310 .296
    Carlos Baerga .223 .284 .330
    Marlon Byrd .264 .316 .440
    NL AVERAGE .261 .326 .414

    Man, that's ugly. Team-wide, it's been a spectacular failure of offense.

    They don't get on base. Jamey Carroll and Nick Johnson are the only batters with acceptable on-base percentages. Unfortunately, Carroll is a backup and NJ missed many games with injuries.

    They don't hit for average. When someone hitting .268 is your team's leading hitter for a three-month period, your offense is pathetic. Five of the eight regulars are hitting below .250. Certainly, batting average is waaay overrated. But you're only useful when you're hitting .250 if you're walking a lot, or slugging a lot. (See: Dunn, Adam)

    They don't hit for power. Just TWO of the eight regulars are slugging over .400. To put that in perspective, these 'power hitters' are slugging .400ish: David Eckstein (396); Mark Grudzielanek (404); Julio Lugo (406); Chone Figgins (393).

    David Ecksten could hit cleanup on this team. Let that sink in for a second.

    They don't drive in runs. During that period, Preston Wilson leads the team with 37 RBI. Over 162 gams, that's a 77 RBI pace. Alleged clean-up hitter Jose Guillen has just 30 (a 63-RBI pace).

    They don't score runs. Brad Wilkerson leads the team with just 34. That's good for a 71-run pace. That 71-run pace would currently tie Wilkerson for 44th in the NL. And he's our BEST run scorer!

    Looking at the pitching, it's been a much better story.
                    IP      ERA
    John Patterson 116 2.72
    Livan Hernandez 112 4.66
    Esteban Loaiza 111.2 3.47
    Hector Carrasco 53.2 1.34 (!)
    Gary Majewski 45.1 2.18
    Tony Armas 45 4.60
    Ryan Drese 33.2 7.22
    Chad Cordero 31 2.61

    Other than Drese, the pitching has been decent.

    Livan's clearly feeling the effects of fatigue. I'm not ready to believe that it's his arm; I still think it's his knee, which is preventing him from getting everything he can on pitches.


    Even when you factor in the park -- and I'm thoroughly convinced that this is the most extreme pitchers' park in the league -- it's clearly a failure of the offense.

    When you don't walk (or even show much plate discipline) you're not wearing down pitchers, or getting good pitches to hit. The team seems to hack at whatever it sees, failing to drive the ball more often than not.

    There's only so much a pitching staff can do. They can't hold the team scoreless the entire game.

    Sure, injuries are part of it. But it doesn't tell the whole story. Even before the slide, the team wasn't lighting up the scoreboard.

    As the team moves towards its offseason, it's going to need to come up with some solutions on offense. Regardless of how good the pitching is, no team can win with an offense that's worst in the league.

    Ownership News?

    Just passin' this along from DCRTV. I'm not quite sure who his baseball sources would be, but his media-related sources are usually accurate.

    DCRTV hears that Emmis broadcasting head Jeff Smulyan probably won't land the team. Sources tell us that he's being "set up" to eventually buy the Cincinnati Reds, which are close to his home base of Indianapolis. Still no word on which group will get the Nats. And it could be a group that's still in the formation stage. Also, we're told that once a Nats owner is named, we should know within a "very short" period of time about the broadcast rights for the team next season. Will Bonneville, which is looking to buy some of ABC's area radio stations, keep the team? Or will Clear Channel land it for WTEM? Or might Infinity bid for the team on a Howard Stern-less WJFK-FM?

    Please no Smulyan!

    I'm A Traitor

    I went into the belly of the beast last night, visiting our former 'hometown' nine as they took on the team I may or may not still have some allegiance to. I was all set to come back and make a joke about seeing real major-league offense, but every time I looked at the score, the Nationals were piling another run on. And against one of the two Cy Young favorites, Dontrelle Willis, no less!

    Obviously, I missed the game, and have barely had enough time to scan the boxscore. Barry and Mark fill is in on the details.

    From looking at the scores, it looks like Marlon Byrd was in the middle of everything. Four runs is a lot -- and I'm guessing the Nats' season high, as well. I'll name him the Majority Whip, but if anyone has any other nominees, throw them in the comments.

    Jon Rauch pitched three effective innings as he continues to rebound from the torn labrum. I'd love to see him get a shot as a starter next season. His stuff is good enough, and he's shown that he's capable, especially with how he pitched down the stretch last season.

  • The game that I actually watched last night was brutal. Of the ten longest games, 6 or 7 of them are Yankees/Orioles games, and I've probably been to 5 of them. Last night's went 4:17. Given the long drive, I bailed out when the Orioles started pounding the Yankees' 15th pitcher of the game, Tanyon Scheise.

    I won't bore you with a full game recap, just some selfish look-at-meisms: I made the jumbotron twice! Woohoo. Yeah, who cares? I know.

    I had pretty good seats for last night's game. I always buy from the No-Scalping section, so not a dime of mine directly goes towards the bastard disguised as an owner. But they've made it exceedingly difficult. Buyers and sellers now have to register. So instead of a smooth, orderly process, it's long, drawn out and complicated. Despite there being 40 or so people selling tickets inside the gate, and there not being anyone in line as buyers, they wouldn't let us for some strange reason.

    Instead, I negotiated with a seller standing in line, and ended up sitting directly behind homeplate about 20-30 rows back -- just far enough so that you can get perspective game, but just close enough so that you could still see the mediocrity and movement on Wayne Franklin's 'slider'. Wayne Franklin should be executed. Not only is he a craptastic pitcher, but he has the slowest delivery between pitches. ZZZZ.

    One interesting thing about the seats. We were right in front of the press box, so we had a good view of everyone there -- including a Jorge Arangure sighting. There was a huge contingent of Japanese media there to record every movement their hero Hideki Matsui made. When he was at the plate, each would dutifully lower their heads and scribble a note after EACH pitch. Imagine 20 or so Japanese men moving in unison. All it needed was some bad Asian Technopop and a strobe light. Inscrutable indeed.

    If you're interested in the actual game -- and lord knows why you'd be interested in a 398-pitch exhibition of crappy pitching, our friends at Bronx Banter have it covered.

  • Tuesday, September 27, 2005

    Carrasco: Spanish For Cyrus?

    Hector Carrasco continued his late-career, late-season emergence as a star pitcher, shutting down a moribund Florida Marlins offense on just two hits through six shutout innings. He earned his first win as a starter.

    What can you say about Carrasco, who wins the Majority Whip for his efforts? Even before his amazingly dominant turn as a starter, he was quietly one of the league's most effective relief pitchers.

    The difference really seems to be the changeup that Barry discussed last week. He's suddenly able to throw three effective pitches -- fastball, splitter, change. If you think about the pitchers who've failed as starters, but made excellent relievers, it's usually because they only have command of two pitches. Eric Gagne, for example, relies on that high fastball and impressive change. Excellent reliever, mediocre starter. Even Mariano Rivera started out as a starting pitcher with limited success. When he converted to the bullpen, he's been able to get away with one pitch, more or less.

    Maybe it's possible that Hector's success is because of the opposite? That new pitch gives him just enough of a repertoire to keep hitters off balance two or three times through the order. Or maybe it's just a fluke. Regardless, it's important that the team bring him back next year, and see if he can continue this reemergence.

  • The other player to reemerge in yesterday's game was Cristian Guzman. Were it not for Carrasco's sudden turn as an ace, Guzman would've won another Whip. Guzman had three hits and three RBI. He got them on the board with an RBI single in the second inning, and blew the game open in the 8th with a 2-run double.

    Guzman was one of the team's leading hitters in Spring Training. And now he's the leading hitter in September. Somewhere he got lost for five months in between.

    If he can come to Spring Training in shape and with his head screwed on straight, he's got a good shot of contributing something to this team. All I was looking for out of him at the start was a .270/ .310/ .380 season. That's not going to put him in the Hall, but it's not disgusting for a regular shortstop either. If he can approach that, which is basically his career average, he won't be crippling the team the way he did from April through August.

  • The Nats pull to one game over .500. I'm torn between wanting to see this team hit the break-even mark, and wanting to see them finish in the bottom 15 teams, as I discussed here.

    Ideally, we'd have the best of both worlds.

  • AJ's Plastic Prize

    So major-league headcase AJ Burnett has said, "Sure, I'd pitch for DC." Whooptydamndoo.

    I suspect that our attention-seeking, finger-tracing-while-they-read friends at the BPG forum are working themselves into a lather. Picture the now-cliched moment when Sally Fields screamed out, "You like me! You really like me!"

    Don't get excited. "But his wife's from Maryland!" you say! "But he said that this team is a good group of guys! And the fans! He pointed out that the team has fans!"

    If you're thinking those, your athlete-speak filter isn't dialed to its proper setting.

    What he really means is, "Sure, I'll pay for the Nationals as long as they're the highest bidder."

    And that's what worries me. AJ Burnett is the prize of the free agent market. But it's going to be like when you were a kid and selected your cereal based on the exciting prize listed on the outside of the box. And, I suspect, just like you were invariably disappointed with the cheap piece of plastic that bore no resemblence to the flashy picture on the outside of the box, you'll be disappointed by Mr. Burnett.

    AJ's 100 MPH pitches are the equal to that flashy picture on the box. They sure look purty. But once you get inside, it's something completely different.

    Looking closer, you find a pitcher who's closer to that malformed piece of plastic you'd actually find inside. He's just 49-50 for his career -- for a Marlins franchise that's been closer to respectability than mediocrity. His career ERA is a superficially impressive 3.73. It's good, yeah, but remember that he plays in one of the best pitchers' parks in the game.

    Also, he had reconstructive elbow surgery in 2003. While pitchers are better able to recover now, he's shown no ability or desire to dial things back when appropriate. Earlier this season, he was quoted as saying something to the effect of "Pain doesn't slow me down. I just throw harder."

    Add that all up, and is that someone you want to spend $45 million on? He's not an ace by any definition. Yet some team is going to pay him like one. While the team that signs him is sure to get some good seasons out of him, there's a definite injury risk, and no guarantee that he'll ever be on the Cy Young radar.

    But you also have to question his head. He was 'fired' this week, having been told to go home. And our friends at Fish Stripes aren't really surprised or disappointed.

    In the heat of a pennant race, he helped to fold his team's chances, going 0-6 with an ERA near 6. And at the end, all he can do is complain about the team and the lack of love he gets from the management and his teammates.

    Just what we need... another malcontent. If Frank's back, that'd be a marriage forged in hell. Danger, Frank Robinson! Danger!

    Let some other team make a $45 million mistake. In the meantime, enjoy a nice bran cereal. Something like an Esteban Loaiza. He may not have that nifty-seeming prize in the box, but at least he'll keep you regular.


    Nationals Interest, on the other hand, likes the shiny packaging. Check out their argument.

    Monday, September 26, 2005

    Race To The Bottom

    The bright light in the fog of losing comes from the arcane transaction rules. And it's something to keep in mind as you watch the final games play out.

    When a team signs a Type-A free agent (The good players like Burnett), they forfeit their first-round pick in the following summer's draft provided the player's original team hasn't declined to offer arbitration. (But that's another topic.)

    So, Free Agents aren't free. A few years ago, Chuck Finley was forced to retire, in part, because no one would sign him for fear of losing a draft pick.

    The team that loses the player gains the draft pick AND an extra pick sandwiched between the first and second rounds -- a pick popping out of the air.

    The exception is with teams that finish in the bottom half of the league. All 15 of 'em.

    Right now, Milwaukee and San Diego are tied for that 'honor' at 77-78, just a half game ahead of our faire team.
    12  Toronto     76-79  --
    13 Texas 77-79 --
    14 Chicago 77-79 --
    15 Milwaukee 77-78 --
    15 SD 77-78 --
    17 Washington 78-78 .5
    18 Mets 78-77 1
    19 Minnesota 78-77 1

    It's a race to the bottom that'd make Pat Moynihan smile.

    The devolution is in the details!

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Medic Alert Edition

  • It's operation shutdown as anyone and everyone associated with the team is being benched/rested/left for dead.

    Chad Cordero, who was reported to have slight elbow tendinitis is done. Luis Ayala will the time off he should've been given when he first reported his tendinitis in July.

    Brian Schneider is still having arm problems, so he rests.

    Vinny Castilla's knee isn't completely heatlhy, and besides, there's a superstar in the making waiting in the wings.

    Jose Vidro, Nick Johnson and Jose Guillen will play sparingly. As will Brad Wilkerson.

    Typically, Sunday games are the ones that a manager will rest his regulars. In an inside-out way, Frank started his old regulars and benched his new regulars, trotting out a lineup that was familiar to us back in June. (Yet it came with August's results.)

  • Tony Blanco stinks.

    The kid got screwed over by the transaction rules. He lost a year of development, which is probably going to set back his career. He'll play in the Fall League to get some of the ABs he missed out on this season.

  • Rick Short, getting the chance he always dreamed of, had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum -- the same injury that Jon Rauch had. He has had shoulder problems all season, but things came to a head when he separated his shoulder on a diving try during Friday's game.

    I wouldn't anticipate that this will cause any lasting damage for him, but it will probably put him behind the eight ball at the beginning of spring.

  • The hardest workin' man in baseball reportin', Ken Rosenthal has a look at possible landing spots for Mount Piniella. The Nationals make the cut. He's not saying they're close, just that it could make sense here.

    I'm not the biggest fan of Sweet Lou, but he'd probably be an improvement over Frank. He's certainly not afraid to play kids -- as long as they don't make mistakes!

  • PT Bowden eats a little crow, then starts crowing about his accomplishments...errr... this team's accomplishments in the NY Times.

    "We took a team that won 67 games and made great strides," Bowden said, referring the Expos' 67-95 record last season. "The value of the franchise has risen from $300 million to $450 million.

    "Whether we win the rest of our games or lose them, it doesn't take away from what we've accomplished."

    Hey, buddy, I thought this was a World Series-capable team. Didn't you tell me that two months ago? That'll be the last time I trust you!

    Actually, if he is to be believed, he's a remarkable businessman. He was able to increase the value of the franchise by 50% with his remarkable stewardship! Maybe I should sign over my investment portfolio to him?

  • Wondered how our Korean friends are reporting the latest Sunny Kim news? Yeah, me neither.

    Look at that! He pitched a shutout in FARKING COLORADO!

    Great move there, Bodes!

    If the Yankees can pick up someone or something called Aaron Small, why does he hemorrage pitching, and prove himself incapable of turning over any rocks to find non-detached arms?

    Note to Frank: Sunny's man. All man. See:

    Nevertheless, it was not merely an easy game for Kim. As he entered the ninth inning to finish the game, he said he felt dizziness and a bit of a cramp. Despite hardship, after putting giving his total strength for the game, he endured pain and managed to complete the final inning, just the way he did for the rest of the game.

    That's YOUR kind of pitcher.

  • One In A Million

    Nationals Inquirer looks at how unique Hector Carrasco's switch from starter to reliever is, because the world could use more Craig Leffertses.

    Prospecting For Manure

    Nationals Farm Authority takes a look at the upper levels of our farm system, picking out the best prospects. ::COUGH::

    Somehow, he does it without laughing.

    You know your team is in trouble when you can't even field a top-5 prospect list!

    Sunday, September 25, 2005

    Duck, Duck, Duck...Goose?

    Three losses means three Lame Ducks.

    John Patterson shouldn't be shut down, but he needs to be taken out of the four-man rotation.

    Why are we still in a four-man rotation anyway? The quest for .500 is definitely not more important than the health of our pitchers. What's the harm with starting Darrell Rasner another game? Let's see what he can do, and whether there's any chance that he'd be remotely useful to the major-league club next season.

    Patterson earns a tough-luck Lame Duck. He went just six innings, coughing up four runs, thanks to two homers allowed.

    One of the strengths of Patterson has been his ability to limit homers. Entering today's game, he had allowed just 15 in over 187 IP.

    Since the team went to a two-man, though, homers have been flying out of the park. As a result, three of his last four starts have been poor.

    Part of that is probably fatigue. Patterson is pushing 200 IP, a number he hasn't approached (His previous season high was just 98). So, not only is he pushing a career high in IP, he's being used in more games than normal.

    That's not a good combo.
    The team did well to rally from an early hole, but the holes in the bullpen once again turned a late lead into a late loss. It's hard to get into an uproar though.

    Ryan Zimmerman took a painful 0-5 after being thrust into the cleanup role. Too much too soon?

    Take away the first inning, and you had a good ballgame.

    Unfortunately, for Livan and the Nats, you can't do that.

    Livan's performance, too, has fallen off the cliff since the shift to the four-man, having allowed four or five runs in his last four starts.

    Even the big guy can probably have problems with fatigue. And the knee problems that plagued him earlier this season couldn't have healed -- no matter how much gooey frosting they've drained from his knee.

    What a dreadful game, despite Carlos Baerga's heroics.

    Check off the list:
    Bad hitting: Jose Guillen, wins a Lame Duck, for his 0-5 with five men left on. Time and time again he came up. And time and time again he failed.

    It really seems like he just puts too much damn pressure on himself. It seems like he did better when he was a complimentary player and played a role. Last year, he played on Vlad's team, and I'm sure he knew it. On his own, where he's regarded as the team's leader, he doesn't seem like he can handle it.

    Let's hope that it's just a one-year slump -- sample size issues and all that. Because if he doesn't improve with runners on base, or in clutch situations next season, the team is in trouble.

    Bad Baserunning: Witness Nick Johnson. That's about the 80 billionth time that NJ has been thrown out on the bases. Does he think he's fast? News flash, Nick. You're not.

    Bad Managing:
    Time to trot out the ol' WTF Frank Senior Moments.

    Right after Baerga tied the game in the 9th, the pitcher's spot was due up. Who came to the plate? Gary Majewski. Why, God, Why?!?

    Here's his thought process, I'm assuming... Two outs, we're not gonna score anyway. Majewski's my best reliever, I'm leaving him in.

    I can understand leaving a reliever in if you have the lead, but c'mon! It's not like there weren't PHing possibilities. And there were relievers out the wazzoo.

    Let's say that he send up Marlon Byrd to PH. He's got what? a 31% chance of getting on? If he gets on, you have Brad Wilkerson, with the platoon advantage, needing just a double to win!

    It's a small chance, but Frank played that not to lose.

    Of course, when Majewski came out in the 10th, Gary foiled Frank's plans. (Majewski was delayed before coming out to hit in the 9th, did he go to the clubhouse, thinking he was out of the game? If so, was he mentally prepared to head back out there?)


    Combine all three, and that's pretty much the same bitter recipe the Nats have been serving up during the second half.

    I liked it better when I was drinking the Kool Aid.

    Operation: 81! Redux

    For a team that nearly lost 100 games last season, 78-78 sure seems disappointing. Really, there's not a damn bit of difference between 79 wins or 83. Yet it feels like a mile. The team has put itself into a position where it needs to split six games just to hit the break-even mark. And three of those will come against a hard-charging Phillies team that has everything to play for, much like we did just two weeks ago.

    .500 isn't going to be easy.

    What distressed me most about the Mets' sweep of our beloved team is what it did in the standings. We're in last place.


    "At least we have a team!" You'll hear that. Probably think that. I know I have.

    But regardless, this was a team that, on July 3, was 19 games above .500, and on pace for a magical 100-win season. Even if we could have played .500 ball, we'd have finished with 91 wins. Not only would Houston be looking up at us, so would Atlanta.

    Instead, the team lost game after game, most in excruciating fashion as the offense dried up, the relievers coughed up leads, the starters broke down, and the management of this team (both on and off the field) demonstrated their incompetence in planning how to move the team forward.

    It was a perfect storm of mediocrity.

    But there's still a little to play for. .500 does feel different.

    And perhaps more interestingly, Philadelphia will still be scuffling along next weekend. Just as they sent us home to disappointment in the very first game of this franchise's existence, we can send them home to disappointment in the very last game of this wondrous season.

    Joy through other people's misery. That's what baseball's all about!

    Saturday, September 24, 2005

    The Modern Rudy Pemberton

    Does the name Rudy Pemberton ring a bell? (Even if it does, it's probably best not to admit it) Ryan Zimmerman is doing his best impersonation.

    In 1996, Rudy Pemberton hit .512 in 41 AB for the Boston Red Sox. His .512 average is the highest for any player who had 30 or more ABs in a season.

    With his second straight 3-hit game, Ryan Zimmerman is batting .483 in 29 ABs.

    If he gets just one more, he'll move into fourth place on that list.
    Year  Player           AB   H     AVE
    1996 Rudy Pemberton 41 21 .512
    1947 Gil Coan 42 21 .500
    1919 Eddie Murphy 35 17 .486
    1998 Craig Wilson 47 22 .468
    1980 Gary Ward 41 19 .463

    No one's going to confuse that for a hall-of-fame ballot.

    But still, it's something.

    There's No Kvetching In Baseball!

    I was at the game Friday night. If you've been there, you've noticed that they have the camera guy run up and down the aisle of the blue-blood seats to get as many people on camera as possible.

    Unintentionally, or so I suspect (because Tony Tavares would probably be writing another apology), they flashed one of the greatest fan signs I've seen.

    It was a rather large sign, in the fashion of a certain cliched T-Shirt:

    "I'm with doomed," followed by an arrow pointing to the gentleman (not-gentile) sitting next to him.

    Creative -- and about as serious as that whole issue probably should be taken.

    Friday, September 23, 2005

    Laying The Groundwork

    Dave Sheinin, who's a better writer than analyst, writes about Yankees GM Brian Cashman, noting that his contract expires at the end of October, and Hey! What do you know? We could probably use a new GM!

    Sheinin doesn't really lay out much of a case one way or another, but doesn't point to Cashman's World Series success: Count the RingzZzZZ, Baby!

    In my previous life, I was a fan of the Yankees. I'm lukewarm on Cashman. With the factionalized and bureaucratic way the Yankees are run (they literally have two separate front offices), he's managed fairly well. He can certainly navigate complex office environments, and he certainly has a strong reputation within the game -- much of that, I suspect, because he has survived with Big Stein for so long.

    But those same reasons are why I'd grade him with an incomplete. It's unclear how many of the decisions were his doing, and how many of those were made by the Tampa side of the organization, or by Big Stein's heavy hand.

    The Yankee drafts, for the most part, have been horrendous over the last few years, but, again, it's not clear how much input he actually has -- I'm fairly positive it ranges from "little" to "none".

    So, I'm not really sure how fair it is to give him credit for all of the Yankees' successes. And I'm not really sure how fair it is to blame him for their recent failures either.

    He's more of a mystery, despite his track record, than anything.

    The White Flag Of Victory

    In game number 153, Frank Robinson finally raised the white flag. Trailing Houston by enough to effectively rule out the post-season, he played the kids.

    Enter Zimmerman. Enter Short (OK, so he's not really a kid!). Enter Watson. They were all there. It was an ugly lineup -- competing with the worst we've trotted out there this season.

    It didn't score a whole lot -- just two runs. But it was enough to win last night.

    Hector Carrasco, the Majority Whip winner, continued his late-season blossoming into an effective starting pitcher, probably thrusting himself into discucssions for the next season.

    Barry Svrluga finally gets around to enlightening us with what it is that's made him so successful.
    Pitching coach Randy St. Claire began to teach him a change-up, a pitch Carrasco had never relied upon heavily. St. Claire taught him to hold it in his fingertips, to move his arm at the same speed with which he threw his fastball. Armed with the new weapon, as well as a fastball that still reaches the low 90s, Carrasco became effective almost immediately.

    "It's been a tremendous pitch for him," St. Claire said of the change-up. "It's big, because it gives him an off-speed pitch to throw against left-handed hitters in fastball counts. He gets great action on it. The arm speed is tremendous, and it keeps them off the fastball."

    Ah, so that's what it is! In much the same way that Esteban Loaiza had his career revitalized when he developed his cutter, the new pitch is leading to Carrasco's success.

    I'm not sure that Carrasco would necessarily have the juice in his arm to throw 170+ innings over a full season, but there's no reason he can't be the swingman this team lacked post-Kim.

    From the few things I've read, he seems to enjoy DC. And you assume that he'd show some loyalty to the team that brought him back from Japanese purgatory, and to the coach who saved his career. He's definitely someone who deserves another look next season.

    In the meantime, Frank had good things to say about Herr Zimmerman (and Mr. Short too): "I like what I've seen from them," Robinson said. "Zimmerman continues to impress, and Short has some pop in his bat to all fields."

    We haven't seen a whole lot of Zimmerman, but the few flashes have been near brilliant. He hasn't walked yet, but he shows a command of the strikezone nonetheless. He rarely swings at bad pitches, and he doesn't overswing -- as some of his teammates are infamous for. Even against flame-throwing Armando Benitez, he didn't look overmatched.

    He waits for his pitches, then strikes, usually hitting them hard. He has driven a number of balls deep into the gaps at RFK, and, were he playing in a more friendly park, would probably have two homers by now, at least.

    I believed that calling him up to rot on the bench was a mistake, but he's proven that, if you give him a chance, he can probably handle the position. If he can wrest the job from Vinny Castilla, he'd have to be one of the favorites for Rookie of the year.

    Read This! (Or Go To Hell)

    Two interesting posts in the whole Ryan Church/ Baseball Chapel/ Jews are Doomed kerfuffle.

    First, Nasty Nats takes Tony Kornheiser to task for a column he wrote blaming Church. Rocket's post evolved into a comment-fest with some interesting and some not-so interesting points.

    The second, from Nationals Inquirer raises an interesting point. He thinks there's one person who's getting off scott-free, but who probably deserves much of the blame. Read his excellent post to find out who!

    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    Dry Erase Board 2.0

    Those of you who've been around a while remember the Magical Dry Erase Board that ran in the Post, giving us an early look at the team's player evaluation.

    It's struck again, of sorts.

    Nationals Farm Authority has an excellent post on Jim Bowden's latest musings, giving good insight into what the team's plans are for the upcoming offseason.

    Breaking Even Is Hard To Do

    Houston wins. Philly wins. We lose.

    We're done. What seemed so possible just 5 days ago has disappeared like another Barry Bonds homer.

    Yesterday's loss wasn't the gut punch that the last three have been. It gets tossed into the pile of completely unmemorable games, save the Bonds homer.

    John Patterson didn't pitch like the ace he could be, notably giving up six total bases to the opposing pitcher.

    Lost in all the lead-blowing over the last few games, though, is the return of the Nationals' balsa-bat offense, just five runs in the last three games -- all against pitchers who have potential, but aren't quite there yet.

    If the team is to hold on to the .500 mark, which would have to be considered a success, they're going to need more production. Barry noted that the first five hitters in the lineup were 1-15 last night. Not good.

    We're stuck on 77. We need to find at least four in those final 10 games. Given the way we're playing, even that may be tough.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2005

    Operation: Awww... Screw It

    Churning along like a cirrhotic liver...

    Nationals: 77 wins (10-0 for 87)
    I have faith, do you?

    Astros: 83 wins (4-6 for 87)
    The Pirates play like they should be contracted.

    Phillies: 81 wins (6-4 for 87)
    Oh, NOW the Braves decide to lose...

    Florida: 79 wins (8-2 for 87)
    And to think that we thought those three games in Florida were going to be meaningful!

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Chatterbox Edition

    Two chats of note today:

    First, is the typical 2PM Wednesday soiree with Barry.
    Potential Questions:
    --Are the rumors of Chad Cordero's tendinitis true?
    --Why does Frank obsess about pitchers walking batters, but he never puts pressure on his hitters to take walks?
    --Say it ain't Smulyan!

    The second is with WaPo Sports Editor Emilio Garcia-Ruiz at noon. If you have complaints about the Nats coverage, want to spew venom about Angelos (sigh), or want him to fire Boswell, here's your chance.

  • Jeff Smulyan continues slinking through the reeds in his attempt to get another franchise on his hands, in the hopes of destroying it.

    He, or any of the other 'winners', will have to pay at least $450 million. Remember when people were wondering if they'd be able to get much above $300 million?

  • I don't really want to get into the politics of it, but Ryan Church "issued" an apology for remarks he made about Jews.

    All I'll say is that I think that that article is extremely unfair to Church. If you read the original story, all Church did was ask a question, and then related what he was told by someone, presumably, in a position of authority.

  • Operation: 87!

    Op:87! is rolling along like Sisyphus -- and with the same degree of success!

    Nationals: 77 wins (10-1 for 87)
    How will we lose tonight?

    Astros: 82 wins (5-6 for 87)
    Which Pittsburgh team will show up?

    Phillies: 80 wins (7-4 for 87)
    I still don't like rooting for the Braves.

    Florida: 79 wins (8-3 for 87)
    Yarrrr, they blow!

    Tip The Ol' Cap

    One moment. That's usually all it takes. But this game, one of the more entertaining ones of the season, had several, beginning with the end.

    How many times have we seen outfielders misplay flyballs? Mark Kotsay. Cliff Floyd. Willy Tavares. They each had their moment, and didn't come through. Todd Linden did his best to fail, but in the end, his diving catch off a butchered read of the ball was the difference between a one-run loss and a one-run win.

    How many times have we seen the Nationals walk a batter in a key spot? Too frequently lately. Lost in the debacle on Saturday was the fact that Chad Cordero walked the first batter he faced to set up the deflating Grand Slam. Last night, Livan Hernandez made the same mistake. With two outs, all he had to do was get the pesky Omar Vizquel out. Instead, he walked, setting up the non-confrontation with Barry Bonds.

    If there was a failing in that game, that was it. Livan, absolutely had to get that final pitch to Vizquel over the plate. Let him beat the snot out of the ball. Just hope it goes to a fielder. Instead, Vizquel got a slider way outside for the easy walk.

    How many times have we seen Livan give up a big homer? JD Closser. Brian McCann. Moises Alou certainly has the bigger name, the more impressive resume. But his homer hurt just as much.

    I can't fault the decision to walk Barry Bonds. The way he slaughtered the ball earlier in the game, you've just gotta tip your hat. Love or hate him (and most of you probably lean towards the latter), he's one of the best hitters in baseball history, and probably the best that you'll ever see.

    But you can fault Livan's execution. If he gets the job done against Vizquel or Alou, the game's over. He didn't, and the Nationals have to live with another non-curly L in the books.

  • Interesting to note: In the ninth inning, Gary Majewski and Mike Stanton were warming. Chad Cordero never got up. Could Cordero be hurt? Is his arm just dead?

  • Brian Schneider returned to the lineup, giving Gary Bennett a much-deserved (in many ways) night off.

  • Luis Ayala threw in the bullpen before the game. With the playoffs a mirage, they should just shut him down. He's more valuable to the team next year than he is this year.

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2005

    One More Frank Story

    Lest I be accused of kicking the ol' guy while his team is down, this column from the Times Dispatch says that the writer was wrong about Frank being a bad choice to manage the team.

    His basic thesis: "While history may record that the '05 Nationals started fast and then died on their manager, I'll contend they would not have lived without him."

    Fair enough.

    Strangely, though, it reads as more of an indictment of Frank. To wit,

    The Robinson I encountered there was the Robinson I was warned I'd meet - a cranky old Hall of Famer who seemed convinced nothing had changed for the better in baseball since 1968....

    Writers who'd dealt with Robinson in his past managerial gigs advised me to expect adversarial relations, a tense clubhouse and numerous F. Robby "meltdowns" disguised as press conferences....

    It's not difficult to take issue with Robinson's managing. He'll almost always prefer a veteran - particularly a veteran who's helped Frank Robinson win a few games - over a younger player. He likes "tough guy" types and can view more sensitive players as whiners. Those who wind up in his doghouse tend to become ex-Nats in fairly short order.

    "I haven't run a single player off this roster," Robinson insisted during the Nats' last homestand. He then patiently explained that he excised pitcher Tomo Ohka because Ohka "had an idea on how he should be used that was different from my idea. A team can only have one manager."

    But that's different from running a guy off . . . somehow. Maybe Ohka ran himself off.

    But, as they say, read the whole thing.

    Today's Grampa Simpson Rant

    It's not just the hippity-hop, and the wireless telephones, and the horseless carriage that get Frank's goat. It's those damn blabbering players (and the kids who won't stay off his lawn).
    The Nationals manager is among the old-school baseball men annoyed by the modern-day intersquad camaraderie.

    "There was no fraternizing when I played," the Hall of Famer said.

    Well, there was some.

    It simply was one-sided.

    Such catchers as Roy Campanella and Yogi Berra were "chatterboxes back there, trying to get your attention away from what it's supposed to be on: hitting."

    Robinson ignored them.

    "And I didn't talk to first basemen," he said. "I might say hello, that's it."

    Today Robinson sees a "completely different" attitude.

    "It's not just [first base]," he said. "It's before the game, guys warming up, stopping out in center field to hold a 15- to 20-minute conversation. You see it at batting practice around the cage, you see it at every base, a timeout, a break in the action. Yak, yak, yak, yakking."

    How soon til we see him campaigning for a return of the Reserve Clause to bring things back to the way they were in the olden days?

    Operation:87! Not Mathematically Eliminated Yet!

    Operation: 87! churns along like a motorized Wal Mart cart straining under the weight of a fat woman.

  • Nationals: 77 wins (10-2 for 87)
    Home Versus the lowly Giants

  • Astros: 81 wins (6-6 for 87)
    At Pittsburgh, who beat them last night.

  • Phillies: 80 wins (7-5 for 87)
    At Atlanta. Go Braves (Yeah, that hurts to type!)

  • Florida: 79 wins (8-4 for 87)
    At the Mets. They're not dead yet!


    As a sign of optimism, the team has finally seen fit to mail out post-season ticket invoices.

    Hey Tony, the check's in the mail. Honest!

  • Point, Counterpoint

    Nationals Interest has responded to my post, which took issue (Eh, who cares, it's too confusing to track. Just click on the link.)

    My response to their response to my response to their response to.... Well, it's in their comments.

    Monday, September 19, 2005

    Damned If He Does. Damned If He Doesn't

    Sunday's game was a marked managerial contrast to Saturday's. Where on Saturday, Frank pulled relievers at the first sign of danger, on Sunday, he tried sticking with them.

    Our friends from Nationals Interest wrote the pre-criticism criticism, arguing that criticism of his reliever usage amounts to nothing more than hindsight managing.

    Certainly, they're right to a point. I wouldn't be objecting to much had we won. (Although I've awarded many Frank Senior Moments in winning games.)

    But they're also wrong in their use of hyperbole. As is typically the case, the answers don't lie to one extreme or another. It's somewhere in between.

    And Frank managed Saturday and Sunday like the impressionable freshman who read Marx right after Friedman.

    What distresses me about Frank's decisions, though, isn't so much the actual decision and the ensuing results. It's the motivation for them, and the consistency of philosophy.

    Despite National Interest's withering sarcasm, leaving Eischen in on Sunday was just as wrong as pulling the relievers on Saturday.

    For those lucky enough to have watched the game yesterday, Joey Eischen was toast. He clearly wasn't himself, and he cleary didn't have good stuff. His 0-2 pitch to lefty Robert Fick missed about as badly as a pitch could, nailing him squarely in the back. Had Fick been a righty, it would have been a perfect Intentional Ball -- that's how badly it missed.

    With runners on first and second, Eischen proceeded to throw three straight balls to the wannabe bunter, Dave Roberts.

    Think about that situation for a moment. How many times have we seen that come up this year? And how many times has Frank trudged to the mound to replace the pitcher? Frank has zero tolerance for not throwing strikes. And yet here, in the heat of the pennant race, Frank abandons what it is that he's done all year?

    Truth be told, once the game was tied, there was probably no way we'd win that game. San Diego's bullpen is deeper than ours, they have the home advantage, and our offense didn't appear to actually be in the park. But Frank's decisions sure are curious.

    Why did Frank change his managing strategy from the night before? Why did Frank change his pitching philosophy from earlier in the year? Those are the questions that trouble me the most.

    I realize that a one-size philosophy isn't right. Different situations require different strategies, which is why I think that Nationals Interest has it wrong, but Frank seems willing to change on a whim.

    I don't really have an answer for it, just some conjecture.

    Recall that earlier this year, Frank was consistently making some headscratcher decisions, especially his overuse of the bunt. Barry Svrluga ripped him mildly (I wrote about it here)

    Soon after that, the bunts slowed to a trickle.

    Is Frank responding to the mild media criticism? Did he change his pitching philosophy just because Barry and Zuckerman (Sounds like a Broadway producing team) ripped him gently. Hell, even Bill Ladson pointed out the strangeness of his decisions on Saturday.

    Is Frank reacting to the press? I hope not. But he has certainly given that impression a few times. The manager shouldn't worry about how this will play in Peoria. He should just focus on making the decisions that he believes will the game.

    Sometimes he'll be right. Sometimes he'll be wrong.

    But making haphazard moves and trying a one-size approach is going to cloud that decision process, helping to ensure that he'll be wrong more often than not.

    And pointing that out isn't nitpicking things through hindsight.


    Many times this season, I've complimented Frank Robinson for his use of the bullpen. While he lacks decorum with dealing with the starters, he's had a fairly magical touch with relievers, usually putting the right guys in the right place to maximum effect (even if I've complained about overuse from time to time.)

    That all went out the window on Saturday night. By now you know the particulars of the game; I touched on them in my last post. If not, here's Barry (in a droll sort of way), and here's Zuckerman (in an angry fan sort of way).

    Frank simply managed the life out of the game. Certainly the players deserve some of the blame for the lack of execution. But Frank failed at something he's done so well at all year: putting relievers in a position to succeed.

    In today's recap of another blown bullpen game, Frank admitted that he managed a 'tight' game on Saturday. He knows he probably didn't handle it in the best way.

    The best case for what Frank did wrong is from Nats Blog. It has all the iniative and creativity you've come to not expect from me.

    The key point is that Frank managed the game as if he were Mike Hargrove. Hargrove, when he managed the Indians, developed a notoriety for chewing through relievers. When you do that, you'll eventually find one who doesn't have good stuff.

    While some of the relievers gave up hits, none of them were getting knocked around. As the bumper sticker says, "Hits Happen." Frank trotted to the mound time and time again, regardless of how well the reliever was throwing. He wanted perfection, dammit.

    By the time that Frank got to Cordero, it was too late. The fire was already in full flame.

    You can't question Frank's decision to bring in Cordero. At that point, he simply did have to come in. But you can question Cordero's readiness. Given the short amount of time that Travis Hughes was in the game, as well as the number of relievers who were throwing, Cordero probably didn't have a lot of mound time. And, perhaps more importantly, I'm not sure that he was pyschologically ready. With an insurmountable (yeah, right) five-run lead, Cordero started the ninth inning with thoughts of entering the game somewhere below pruning the hedges when he gets back home in his mind. Some of that's youth and inexperience, to be certain. He probably wasn't in the right mindset.

    Oh well. Live and learn, I suppose.

    Our friends at Nationals Interest disagree with me, and those who would criticize Frank. They say that none of the moves Frank made are counterintuitive. I won't speak for them, though. They do a fine job on their own -- even if I don't agree with their conclusions. I'll have more on that later though.

    Sunday, September 18, 2005


    In a magical season sometimes marred by brow-furrowing managing, Frank Robinson outdid himself tonight. Frank put his old, arthritic hands firmly around the throat of his team, and proceeded to squeeze the life out of it. He succeeded.

    Bang! Zoom! went the five-run lead. With two outs in the ninth inning, the Padres had scored none. By the time the game was over, they had eight.

    It's late. I'm tired. I'm angry. I'm disappointed. Pick a negative or hostile emotion -- it's probably in me somewhere. I'll have the gory details, and why I think Frank managed us out of the playoffs in the morning. For now, I'll stew in my bile.

    Operation: 87! marches on, but the climb gets steeper.

    Nationals: 77 wins (10-3 for 87)
    Astros: 80 wins (7-7 for 87)
    Phillies: 80 wins (7-6 for 87)
    Florida: 78 wins (9-4 for 87)

    Saturday, September 17, 2005

    The Power of Positioning

    One of the things that I've complimented Frank Robinson and his coaching staff on is their fairly aggressive defensive positioning. Sometimes it's really subtle, and it's usually hard to see on TV. But, when it goes wrong, its effect isn't subtle at all. As was with the case with last night's 5-1 win over the 'first place' (Yeah, scare quotes) Padres.

    In this case, though, the Nationals were the beneficiaries. The Padres were using old scouting reports on the Cristian Guzman who helped to sink our season, instead of the being that's currently inhabiting his body.

    Since August 14, he's hitting .277/ .318/ .458

    Yeah, amazing, I know. Read those numbers again. Scary! For comparison's sake, Jose Guillen, in that same time period, is hitting .264/ .344/ .436.

    Cristian Guzman, cleanup hitter?

    At any rate, this Guzman has been driving the ball. And the Padres got burned, as Dave Roberts was shaded around towards left-center, apparently not believing that Guzman could pull and drive Jake Peavy's fastball.

    You can clearly see the positioning on his two hits: The go-ahead 2 RBI double, and the back-breaking RBI triple. As you watch the plays, note how far that Roberts runs.

    Those 30 extra feet of running led to several extra runs. And at least one Padre-blogger isn't happy.

    But last night, didn't create the win; it just made it easier. Majority Whip John Patterson was as dominant as I've seen him all season. Other than a first-inning homer to Ramon Hernandez on a two-seamer that was up, but not in a horrible location, Patterson cruised.

    I've said it before, but the bellwether with him is his curveball. If it has that nasty bite to it, the hitters don't have a chance. His curve isn't a big lollypop curve like Barry Zito throws. It has a sharp, downward movement to it, almost like it was a lazily sliding slider. Time and time again, he got called strikes on it, as the hitters aren't quite sure what to do with it.

    When Guzman's triple took the save situation away, Frank sent Patterson back out there to go for the CG. Not a bad decision, especially considering it took him just 108 pitches. That's a far cry from the Patterson earlier in the year who would find himself at 100 pitches in the sixth inning. He seems to have matured as a pitcher as the season goes on. The more we've needed him, the better he's done.

    It's another night game as Operation: 87! rolls on. Hector Carrasco, and his merry band of bullpen mates gets the start against Pedro Astacio, who has turned his season around with the Padres. We're still looking at 6-2 in our next 8. Daunting, but that's better than the 7-2 it was just yesterday.

    Let's Go Nats!

    Operation: 87! 10 to go

    Nationals: 77 wins (10-4 for 87)
    Astros: 79 wins (8-7 for 87)
    Phillies: 79 wins (8-6 for 87)
    Florida: 78 wins (9-5 for 87)

    Friday, September 16, 2005

    Rotate Amongst Yourselves

    Because I'm anal (and because it's a slow friday), I went through the pitching rotation. Assuming everyone remains healthy and that Hector Carrasco remains a viable ::cough:: part of the rotation, it might shape up well, thanks to two well-placed offdays.

    If Frank is willing to go back to the bullpen (Rauch? Bergmann? Hughes?) on Sunday, he can get through the rest of the season with just one more bullpen start, and, more importantly, while still giving pitchers some time to rest.

    Without boring the bejeesus out of you (too late, huh?)...

    After the SD series, there's an off-day.
    Then we're home against SF and could throw out Loaiza, Livan, Patterson.
    Then NY comes to town and faces Carrasco, Bodes' Potpourri O' Fun, and Loaiza.

    We fly to Florida for the key three-game series. We start them off with Livan and Patterson (GREAT!), then back it up with Carrasco. (yeesh).

    If we're still alive then, we have an off-day, before flying back to DC to host Philadelphia.

    In what could be the three most important games of the season, we could trot out Loaiza, Livan, then Patterson to close the season. They'd need to pitch on one day less of rest, but in all three games, you'd have to believe that everyone would be available out of the pen.

    Hopefully, by then, we'd have taken the Wild Card outright. ;) If not, it'd be Hector Carrasco, on full rest, lobbing up pitches as your playoff game starter.

    But, ya know? I'd take that!


    The Nationals Inquirer has sent me a cease and desist lawyer, noting that he did a similar thing a week ago. Who knew he had a blog though?


    When the age-addled husk of Vinny Castilla hobbled to the plate in the 10th inning of yesterday's game, there was a runner on third with two outs. This is the same Vinny Castilla who constantly, to my great frustration, hacks away at the first pitch, and who has hit at a Guzmanian level for the past three months.

    On deck was a college baseball coach.

    Despite the ample evidence that Vinny is playing with a large metal untensil in his lumbar region, the announcers were universal in their belief that this was the Vinny Castilla of my High School days stepping to the plate.

    The Mets' pitching coach came out to speak with Roberto Hernandez. They, like the announcers, were discussing the Intentional Walk -- after all, Vinny is a Major League Hitter, and the guy on deck already has press releases written about him in the past tense.

    Unlike the announcers, Hernandez declined.

    Vinny, as he does, swung at the first pitch. Only, he made contact, lining a hard shot into the outfield. Around came the winning-run. Nats Win! Bang! Zoom! And all that crap.

    At that moment:

    Charlie Slowes to Dave Shea, "Do you understand that?" (Not IBBing Vinny)
    Dave Shea to Charlie Slowes, "No, I don't understand it!"

    Ron Darling (while talking all over Mel Proctor's play-by-play), "I don't get that." (I'm assuming he's referring to the IBB, but with Ron, it could probably apply to lots of things.)

    Ted Robinson (on WFAN), "I don't understand what they were thinking there."

    Perception counts for a lot, despite the lack of performance.

    But you know what? As bad as he's been, and as much as I abhor the intentional walk, I probably would've walked him too. What about you?

    Thursday, September 15, 2005

    Operation: 87! 11 To Go

    We've all got our various targets, but this is the one to focus on for the short term. 87 wins is the floating target. If we can hit 87, we've got a decent chance to play beyond October 2, even if it only extends our regular season by one game.

    We're at 76 with 15 games left. 11-4 is what we need.

    Sounds tough? You're right.

    Impossible? Nah.

    Key fact: Our next nine games are all against teams with losing records. Six of those are at home.

    If we can somehow go 7-2 in these next 9 -- which probably isn't completely unreasonable, we'll enter our final six games in great position to do some damage. We'll be facing the Marlins, and then the Phillies.

    But that's getting ahead of ourselves.

    We've gotta resort to the Brad Wilkerson Bag o' Cliches. We need to take this one game at a time. But so do the other teams.


    Houston: 78 wins. (9-7 for 87 wins)
    Games remaining:
    3 w/ Milwaukee
    4 @ Pittsburgh
    3 @ Chicago
    2 @ St. Louis
    4 w/ Chicago

    Pittsburgh is obviously the weakest link, and they've been dismal at home and dismal period of late; we really need Pittsburgh to split. If they do, that forces Houston to win 7 out of 12 from an improved and hot Milwaukee team, red-hot St. Louis and the Cubs -- even though you'll never know you're going to get from them.

    Bright side? Two of their big three go against the Pirates, "wasting" their outings.

    Florida: 78 wins. (9-6 for 87 wins)
    Games remaining:
    3 w/ Philadelphia
    3 @ Mets
    3 @ Atlanta
    3 w/ Nationals
    3 w/ Atlanta

    Those games against Philly are huge. Of note, AJ Burnett hasn't quite been pitching like himself lately.

    The key is going to be for Andruw Jones to keep playing like the MVP he probably is. Atlanta will have clinched by the end, but teams that can knock the other team out have a way of putting a boot to the throat. Atlanta's GM was a Marine. Hopefully that attitude will translate.

    Yes, the Mets ARE the Mets, but Florida will get Benson, Seo, and Trachsel. There's no reason the Mets can't go in and lose by just one or two. ;)

    Philadelphia: 78 wins (9-6 for 87 wins)
    Games remaining:
    3 @ Florida
    3 @ Atlanta
    3 @ Cincinnati
    3 w/ Mets
    3 @ Washington

    This is probably the toughest schedule. Don't snort at Cincinnati. They've played 18 series since the All-Star break and are 10-6 in them. Also, they're above .500 at home (and Philly's below).

    If Philly plays .500 on the road, that means they need to sweep the Mets just to reach 87.


    Wow! The more I look at this, the more I think it's doable.

    Tom Boswell writes about this today. Interestingly, he, Frank, and Charlie Manuel all think that 86 is the magic number.

    If it is, all the better.

    Remember, if we finish tied with Philadelphia or Florida, there's a one-game playoff at RFK on Monday night. If we tie with Houston, then we go to Texas.

    If we're tied with a few teams? Well, we'll deal with that one game at a time too!

    Shifting expectations caught me again. Let's Go Nats!


    I don't know what to believe anymore. In a season that's given us so much, the Nationals outdid themselves again this afternoon.

    It took 21 players, ten innings, and a clutch hit by Vinny Castilla, who won't let us bury his heart, despite his wounded knee. (Yeah, I kinda forced that one there.)

    I tried the best I could to follow the game live -- which is hard when the IT guy at work could be confused for Goebbels. Luckily, I caught the 9th inning on But if you were on 395 during the 10th inning, and you saw a stupid-looking kid with a dung-eating grin on his face, that was probably me.

    It was a game with many heroes.

    Preston Wilson had four hits, including a clutch single, which led to the winning run, but he was also inexplicably thrown out trying to stretch that single, in a play that almost cost the Nats the game.

    Cristian Guzman had two more hits, and he's now hitting .204. More importantly, one of those shots was a loooong solo homer to right. He's now batting .364 against the Mets (in 44 ABs), and he's slugging .659. (Albert Pujols is 'only' slugging .626)

    Trailing by one in the 9th inning, Ryan Zimmerman dusted himself off the bench and had a clutch hit, moving to second on an error by the ancient Gerald Williams. He didn't stay there long, advancing to third on a groundout, then scoring when Brad Wilkerson ripped a hard grounder to the drawn-in second baseman.

    But the Majority Whip goes to an unlikely hero of the game: Gary Majewski. Chad Cordero sat out the game, despite saying he was available. Nevertheless, Majewski got the call. Majewski had pitched in the three previous games. (As well as in 6 of the previous 8.)

    He didn't face murderer's row, but he got through the inning easily, despite some all-world bad defense from (who else?) Cristian Guzman.

    He stepped up when his team needed it. That's the hallmark of a leader.


    Wednesday's game wasn't especially exciting, but it was efficient. Esteban Loaiza, again pitching on short rest, gave the team 7 solid innings. Preston Wilson and Vinny Castilla went back-to-back, and Nick Johnson cracked two doubles. Even Gary P.B. Bennett had two hits. (Did you know that Gary Bennett has fans? Click here for the tale)

    But Brad Wilkerson gets the Majority Whip. He had just one hit, but the two walks and the two runs were pretty valuable. He was the reason Nick Johnson had the two RBI.


    Tuesday was pretty inexplicable. The Nationals started Hector Carrasco (he of the 1 career start(s)). Somehow, he pitched well, going four innings, while giving up just two runs.

    But the Majority Whip goes the most unlikely source: Cristian Guzman. The Boy Blunder ripped two doubles, and managed to score a run (something he's only done 33 times this season.)

    The emergence of Carrasco as a potentially viable emergency starter was important, but so is the effective pitching by Jon Rauch. Rauch, who's coming back from a torn labrum is a starting pitcher. Although his shoulder might not allow him to go 7 this season, he and Carrasco could definitely combine for 6 or 7 innings pitched, without too much damage to the team's ERA.

    If the team really is going to contend, they're going to need to keep sprinkling that pixy dust over those bullpen arms.


    Three games. Three wins. And a strange 2.5 in the games back column. Ya Gotta Believe!

    The only bad thing? Those winning bastards are going to make me stay up late this weekend. These games actually mean something!

    GameDay: Sweep The Mets

    Livan Hernandez readies his 130 pitches of fury for the New York Mets, who counter with Jae Seo. (Truthfully, I prefer the Prik King, but curry can be good too)

    The team's wheezing playoff chances can get a big boost with a win before flying out to San Diego for the weekend.

    Watching the game? Listening to the static on the radio? Checking out gamecast? Kibitz along with us at Yuda's, where we'll be kvetching and moaning too.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2005

    To This We've Come

    The Nationals aren't at the mathematical brink (Not even the Cardinals have technically clinched). Yet, they've reached the breaking point.

    With their second straight defeat of the hapless New York Mets, the Nationals lurch forward slightly in their race for the Wild Card.

    At the end of the night, this is what the standings look like:

    78 -- Florida
    78 -- Philadelphia
    77 -- Houston
    75 -- Washington

    The Nationals are three games back. Unfortunately, they have just 16 left.

    At a minimum, this team is going to have to go 12-4 in those 16. With that, they'd have 87 wins.

    To reach that same 87 wins, Florida would need to only go 9-7. Philly would need to do the same. Houston would have to do a little better -- 10-7.

    It's an uphill climb, but it's not completely unreasonable. Both Houston and Philly have losing records in their last 10.

    But the most important thing is that this team rips off a streak that reminds us of what caused us to fall in love with the team during that magical May and June.

    If they can recapture that magic, this team can do the unthinkable.

    They may be sputtering, but they're not quite dead yet.

    If It's Wednesday, It Must Be...

    Barry Svrluga's up at two, and ready for your questions.

    Today, he has a poll with three questions.
    1) Should Zimmerman play?
    2) Should Frank stay?
    3) Should Cap'n Leatherpants stay?

    I think you know where I stand. It's completely meaningless, but click on it and answer it. It'll make me feel better ;)

    Potential questions for Barry:
    1) Can we petition the league to have Guzman hit only against the Mets?
    2) Is Frank as surly in person as he comes across in print?
    3) Is John Patterson's tummy-tum still bugging him?
    4) Whatever happened to Bodes' secret player?
    5) Do you hate Barry Bonds as much as most of the rest of the media?

    Frankly, I DO Give A Damn

    I think it's pretty obvious that I'm not Frank Robinson's biggest fan. Helluva player; Stinkpot of a manager.

    While I've been highly critical of him, I don't think I've been unfair. My WTF Frank Senior moments didn't really nitpick. I tried picking out only those jaw-dropping moments that caused your eyebrows to involuntarily furrow. Sadly, there were lots of those.

    But Frank has two statements in today's paper that demonstrate his unworthiness to continue as the manager of the Washington Nationals. One demonstrates his weaknesses on-the-field. The other, off-the-field. Together, they again force me to wonder what it is that Frank does do well?

    First is the Washington Times. With the season hanging by a thread, and a hot young prospect eager and able to inject some life, why doesn't Frank play Ryan Zimmerman?
    Robinson acknowledges that Zimmerman, 20, at times has looked impressive since his promotion from Class AA Harrisburg. But the manager also has held firm to his long-standing belief that veteran players should get priority over rookies, especially at this crucial juncture of the season.

    "I think Vinny has the right to be out there if he's capable and wants to be out there," Robinson said. "I don't know what the kid gives me. I don't know what he's capable of doing. But I do know what Vinny is capable of doing. I guess you can call it loyalty. ... The kid will have his day."

    Robinson added that his philosophy applies likewise to other veterans like center fielder Preston Wilson.

    I'm not really going to get into the silliness of strategy of this decision. If you've read this blog before, you know what I'm thinking. You're probably thinking it too.

    But think about this in terms of the bigger picture. When faced with an unknown -- even an unknown which may be superior to the known -- Frank will take the easy route out. He's not willing to play rookies if it means sitting down a veteran.

    This team is likely to be younger over the next few years. Ideally, (and this situation is far from ideal) they'd be building towards the opening of the stadium in 2043, or whenever the hell the thing actually gets built.

    As the team tries to work players like Ryan Zimmerman, Darrell Rasner, Mike Hinckley, Larry Broadway, Ryan Church, and others into the lineup, is Frank the right person to do lead those men, and develop them into the first great Washington Nationals team?

    Frank is indicating that he prefers to work with a veteran team. That's fine. Different managers have different skill sets. Frank is, essentially, admitting publicly that this team isn't the right fit for him as a manager.

    His contract is up at the end of the season. He should feel free to find a team that fits his philosophy then.

    Frank's other statement indicates what he does so poorly off-the-field. He's not especially good about dealing with today's players. He's too eager to run them down in the press.

    After Frank yanked John Halama from a start, in which he had given up just one run in 2/3 of an inning, Halama seemed confused. Halama explained that he couldn't figure out why he was removed so early. Frank fired back yesterday.
    “I’m not going to sit there and have him go ball one and ball two, ball three, ball four. I don’t care if it was two outs,” said Robinson. “He was one hit away from disaster. And what an excuse, [when Halama said], ‘I’m nibbling to see where the umpire’s strike zone is. And [the umpire] is checking me out to see what my strike zone is going to be.’ I never heard such [stuff].

    “What am I supposed to do? Let him stand out there and give up the runs and let it go? No. I don’t manage like that.”

    Frank once again demonstrates that he has the soft touch when it comes to dealing with players, especially pitchers.

    Think about what he's doing here. He's mocking one of his players to the press. I don't care if Halama is the worst person to wear the Nationals uniform since CJ Nitkowski, he deserves a modicum of respect.

    Frank demands respect, yet he infrequently gives it to his players -- especially his pitchers.

    [as an aside, isn't it interesting that Frank abhors walks from his pitchers, yet he doesn't put any pressure on his batters to draw them, letting them hack away?]

    A good manager keeps things in house, and doesn't mouth off to the press with every little slight.

    Why would anyone want to play for someone who's going to badmouth them if they fail? Does that create an atmosphere conducive to winning?


    It's pretty clear that I don't think that Frank's the right manager. Rather than name names, what kinds of qualities do you think our next manager should have? I think we've seen some of Frank's worst traits. What are the good ones he has?

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    But What Would You Do, Smart Guy?

    To expand on my praise of Boz, here's the lineup I'd trot out there most games...

    Versus Righties
    Wilkerson CF
    Church LF (Maybe play him in center?)
    Guillen RF
    Johnson 1B
    Schneider C
    Zimmerman 3B
    Short 2B (As bad as he is defensively, he's better than Baerga and probably not any worse than the immobile Jose Vidro)
    Guzman SS (Yes, he sucks, but he's been hitting better, and we need to see if we can get anything out of him next season; this season's already lost.)

    Versus lefties
    Byrd LF
    Short 2B
    Guillen RF
    Johnson 1B
    Wilson CF
    Zimmerman 3B
    Schneider C
    Guzman SS

    Preston Wilson, unless he comes back for pennies on the dollar, is playing out the string. We know what Brad Wilkerson can do -- he's better than he's shown this season though.

    Zimmerman is probably better defensively than the hobbling Vinny Castilla. I'm not convinced that his bat is here yet (beware of the small sample size), but we need to see if there's any chance he could take the job next season, or if he'll need to spend time in the minors.


    Boz Has Seen The Light

    Amen to Boz today, for the first column he's written in months that I don't feel like nitpicking. I agree with it!

    do you owe it to yourself, and to the other contenders in the race, to put your best team on the field every night until you are eliminated?

    Luckily for the Nats, they are in position to do both. Right now, the players about whom the Nats most desperately want answers -- Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Church, Marlon Byrd and (cue the "Bull Durham" theme) Rick Short -- are also the players who give them the best chance to score runs for a change and maybe make some noise down the stretch.

    He rightly believes that the Nationals should use the final 18 games as a way of gathering information about these players before the off-season begins.

    Can Church and Byrd be productive outfielders? (Signs point to yes -- hell, they pointed to yes before Bodes traded away Zach Day too...)

    Is Rick Short a potential bat off the bench? While I'm not convinced that he's truly a .383 hitter, he's shown that he has power (which seems to have completely disappeared from Carlos Baerga's slider-speed bat.)

    Church and Byrd could provide an above-average platoon in the outfield, alongside Brad Wilkerson and Jose Guillen -- the outfield would be a strength.

    Short could easily be a bat off the bench, and fill in the role that Wil Cordero was originally signed for (which was a big role, actually.)

    Before that can happen, though, the Manager needs to come to grips with the fact that this team probably isn't making the playoffs. (That Hector Carrasco !? is starting tonight in place of John Patterson and his traveling bag of mystery ailments will probably help hasten that decision.)

    And it'll also require having a GM who can identify and evaluate the talent actually on his roster (even if it was signed by the prior regime) instead of lusting at the hot toolsy outfielder playing in the next town over.

    All three could've been useful to this team this season. All three had parts of their season squandered. While they probably wouldn't have made the difference between making or missing the playoffs, Buck Says they'd be a few games better.

    Monday, September 12, 2005

    Stealing Their Soul

    I figured out why the Nationals sucked on Saturday. After a stirring rally on Friday which gave us all hope (like the suckers we are), I brought a camera to Saturday's game.

    Somehow, my pictures must've stolen their soul.

    Sorry guys. I've let you down. I'll try not to let it happen again.

    Here's the first pitch (I Like Wilkerson's strange shadow):

    Here's Livan from about 300 feet away. It's not an especially good picture, but I love seeing how unnaturally the arm bends during the pitching delivery. He does that 130 times a game!?

    Here's the offensive highlight of the game: a long foul ball off the bat of Preston Wilson. That should tell you all you need to know about the quality of the game.

    Here's the rare Nationals Baserunnner NOT getting picked off. What're the odds of having 1) a baserunner and 2) him not being picked off?

    Cap'n Leather Pants himself was there -- apparently wearing a new blazer from the Steinbrenner collection. (I believe the large banana next to him is Brian Parker, the Assistant Director of Scouting -- IOW, the guys who think that Preston Wilson is a good defender)

    This is the Braves' bullpen catcher. I can't make out his last name, but I think his first name is Seymour.

    Jeff Francouer had his cheering section in the outfield. He waved and pointed at them a few times. (Insert your own Weenie Pun)

    (Man, these look bad when I compress and crop them!)

    Before Manny, There Was Rickey

    I know the Bible-Thumping, Gun-Totin', Gay-Persecutin', Scalia Lionizin' half of my readership isn't likely to read the New Yorker, but you should make an exception this week. The 9/12 issue has an excellent profile by David Grann of Rickey Henderson. Unfortunately, it's not available online, but there are a few anecdotes worth sharing. All typos are mine (obviously!)

    Before the game he "went through the same pregame rituals that he has performed since he was a rookie outfielder with the Oakland A's in 1979. He sorted through a bunch of bats, asking 'Which one of you mother[scrumpers] has got a hit in you?' Picking up one with resin on the handle, he cocked it back, waiting for an imaginary pitch, and talked to himself in the third person, the words running together so fast that they were nearly unintelligble: 'Let's-burn-Rickey-come-on-let's-burn."
    "Bill James, the oracle of baseball statistics, wrote, "Without exaggerating one inch, you could find fifty Hall of Famers who, all taken together, don't own as many records." Or, as Henderson puts it, "I'm a walking record."
    "He insisted that he was no different from anyone else in the [Golden Baseball] league: he simply wanted to make it to the majors. But he also seemed shocked by his own predicament, by the riddle of age. As he put it, "There are pieces of this puzzle that Rickey is still working out."
    "Jose Canseco, who played with Henderson on the A's, and who helped to fuel the explosion of perfomance-enhancing drugs in the major leagues, has said of Henderson, "That's one of the guys who's not on steroids!"

    "They kept that shit a secret from me," Henderson said. "I wish they _had_ told me. My God, could you imagine Rickey on 'roids? Oh, baby, look out!" He laughed in an easygoing way. "Maybe if they weren't juiscing there'd still be a spot on a ball club for me. People always ask me why I still want to play, but I want to know why no one will give me an opportunity. It's like they put a stamp on me: 'Hall of Fame. You're done. That's it'.' It's a goddam shame."

    "I'll tell you the truth. I'd give everything up -- every record, the Hall of Fame, all of it -- for just one more chance."
    "He checked his cell phone to see if his agent had called with any word from the majors. 'Nothing," he said. After holding power over general managers for so long, Henderson seemed uncertain what to do now that they held power over him. He had even considered crashing a Colorado Rockies tryout for high school and college players.
    "Who's that new guy they got playing center field for the Yankees?" Henderson asked me.

    "Tony Womack," I said.

    "Womack, huh?" he said, then added in frustration, "My God, you mean to tell me I ain't better than him?"
    "When I went to play with the Newark Bears, I was sure I would be there for only a few weeks -- that a major-league team would call me," he said. "But one week became two weeks, and now it's two years and I'm still waiting for that call."
    I asked if he would retire at the end of the season. "I don't know if I can keep going," he said. "I'm tired, you know." As he picked up his glove, he stared at the field for a moment. The he said, "I just don't know if Rickey can stop."