Thursday, December 30, 2010

In case you still care about this, although I suspect you don't

According to an item appearing last week at DCRTV:

Communications Commission has reversed a two-year-old decision and concluded that Time Warner Cable did not discriminate against the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which means the cable operator won't have to deliver the Baltimore-based regional sports network and its Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles games to its subscribers in North Carolina. The vote, 4-1, with commissioner Michael Copps dissenting, comes over two years after Time Warner challenged an FCC Media Bureau decision to uphold an outside arbiter's finding that it had discriminated against MASN by not agreeing to carry it on a widely viewed tier.

Many more exciting details can be found here, as well as some quasi-passionate PR-speak from Todd Webster -- who, as the network's public spokesman for its various carriage disputes over the years, has become the Voice of MASN in some sense.

As most of us no doubt recall, lots of ink (digital and otherwise) was spilled discussing the MASN v. Comcast showdown from several years back, a dispute which, rather inconceivably, found Comcast taking the higher ground at times, even when it was refusing to carry Nationals games at all. The early stages of this dispute were the most entertaining, characterized by goofy stuff like Mel Proctor giving out his cell phone number while doing a game, since no one was watching anyway, but then it got annoying and maybe one of the Comcast executives had a point when he compared MASN's very existence with the Fall of Man. But then the two reached an agreement, and, aside from a few petty spats here and there, we've all been able to move on with some degree of dignity.

Not so in North Carolina, which, at least nominally, is part of MASN's claimed "seven-state region." The big, nasty cable company down there took the outrageous position that MASN should go on a digital tier; Webster and the MASN gang responded by setting up a website and becoming the official network of regional mid-majors like East Carolina and UNC-Wilmington. MASN scored some initial administrative victories over Time-Warner, but I suppose it wasn't until Steven Strasburg's debut occurred that the dispute took on much of a real-world application, since it would basically require a sense of masochism to tune into a 100-loss team that plays several hours away. (Um, except for you, Harper . . .)

Anyway, the dispute down there remains ongoing. It probably does not rate among the epic confrontations of our times, but whatever.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The 2010 Top 10 Washington Nationals Moments

10. ????
9. ????
8. ????
7. ????
6. ????
5. ????????
4. ??
3. ????
2. ????
1. Strasburg's debut

Poor Billy Ladson had to resort to including the Werth contract on his list. When, 150 years from now, history of the Washington Nationals is written into one of those godawful hagiography coffee table books like the Yankees get (though I s'pose they'll be e-books at that point... or just a damn chip they implant in your brain like with what the CIA does today), this is the only thing that'll merit mention from this season. Hell, really anything we've witnessed in the last 45 seasons (does feel that way, don't it?) of Nationals baseball probably won't make the cut.

Caught in the Webb

Not to dampen the understandable joy over the Matty Chico Holiday Miracle, but the Nats lost out on Brandon Webb. It's too early to determine if NatsTown will take the news as hard as this guy.

Actually, come to think of it, I'm uncertain that this news should really dampen much of anything, insofar as I'm not sure precisely why the Nationals wanted Webb in the first place. Sure, Webb is an injured-top-pitcher-on-the-mend, and the Nats have a predilection to that kind of guy, and Webb is a former Diamondback, and Mike Rizzo has a predilection to that kind of guy. I can understand reasons why they might be interested in Webb, but I fail to see why they would really want him, if you take my meaning. They already have Tiger Wang; he's not a former Diamondback, but the Nats paid him to watch him not-pitch last year, and they enjoyed that experience so much that they decided to pay him again.

So we turn our eyes to Pavano Watch 2010, which is threatening to stretch into a multi-year ordeal. But, come to think of it, I'm uncertain why the Nats would want Pavano, too. He's more or less what Jason Marquis was a year ago, right? Sure, Marquis alternated between hurt and abjectly miserable last year, whereas Pavano added a moustache to this repetoire, but Baseball Reference still lists the two among each other's ten most comparables.

Of course, there's no law against having both Marquis and Pavano, and, if both are healthy and reasonably effective, the Nats can pencil in 375 or so innings without much fretting. This would not be a familiar position for Nats fans -- the primary difference between the 2005 Washington Nationals and every subsequent edition of the Washington Nationals is the 660ish above-average innings summoned by the Livan-Patterson-Loaiza troika five years ago. The Nats haven't received anything approaching that kind of reliability from a bloc of starting pitchers since. Marquis, Pavano, and Livan The Return can't match the sturdiness of the '05 guys, but getting some kind of reliability from the starting rotation would be welcome and might just add a few wins.

But just about every decision is a balancing of competing interests, much like Pavano's decision to grow that moustache ("Look ridiculous" vs. "Inspire Facebook Fan Page"), and the opportunity to benefit from Pavano's presence must be balanced with avoiding the opportunity to be burned by Pavano's presence. Do the Nats really want to go three years on this guy? Do they really want to lock up a rotation spot on him when they could hand it to a younger pitcher that they claim is part of the future?

The answer, of course, is no. The Nats won't end up signing Pavano because he is too expensive and signing him doesn't really make sense. Zimmermann, Livan, Lannan, and Marquis are locked into the rotation (barring injury, which can never be waved away with this team). Wang might get around to pitching in actual baseball games this season. And the Nats still need to make heads or tails out of Detwiler and Maya. Even if Livan turns back into a pumpkin, there's still plenty of look-sees and warm bodies on hand, and it's not like Pavano would make that much of a difference in the bottom line. Signing Pavano just for the sake of being handed the veteran-innings-eater baton when Marquis's deal expires at the end of the year doesn't seem worth engaging is some sort of misbegotten bidding war for Pavano.

Barring a trade for someone who could reasonably make an impact going forward, like Matt Garza, I think the major acquisitions on the pitching side are done -- which is to say, there were none. And I guess I'm fine with that. In other words, 2012 can't come fast enough.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Matt Chico Rocks!

It was heartbreak city the other day when it looked like what historians will come to dub the Matt Chico Era came to an end. Heartless bastard Mike Rizzo ripped the heart out of the franchise, cutting the one true ace the team's had, and who's taken the ball day-in, day-out for at least one season. Matt Chico was and is critical to this franchise's success. So to see him cut... well... let's just say, it's a good thing my massive weight snapped the attic beam before my neck.

But then he is risen! Matty's back... on a NRI, and sure to re-ascend to his throne as ace of the Washington Nationals, as he was way back in 2007, or whatever the hell year that was... it's all been a blur. Details are for simpletons and people with too much spare time.

That being said... some TRUE MATT CHICO FACTS:

* He has as many Major League home runs as recent Hall electees Doug Harvey, Barney Dreyfuss, and Whitey Herzog... COMBINED.

* In his sterling 2007 campaign, he averaged a robust 5.1 innings per game, a true workhorse. How much? That's higher than MANY notable Hall-of-Fame pitchers, including no-doubters like: Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Rollie Fingers

* He has a lower career ERA than inner-circle Hall-of-Famers Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken.

* He has fewer career walks than all but one Hall-of-Famer... and that guy, Candy Cummings, is a fraud who doesn't deserve to be in the stinking Hall.

* Nolan Ryan, who got in with something like 145% of the vote, had several seasons with ERAs higher than Matt Chico's. [ed: two is technically several, is it not?]

* There are several Hall-of-Fame pitchers who have fewer starts IN THEIR CAREERS than Matt Chico did in his workhorse, unbelievable 2007 campaign alone.

* Matt Chico's bat was way overlooked, a true RBI man who was never really given a chance. Don't believe me? He has more RBI than Hall-of-Fame players COMBINED! (Tommy LaSorda, Wally Alston, Dick Gossage)

* When people talk about the best players from before the color line was broken, Satchel Paige's name comes up early. Known for his durability, Matt Chico actually bests him. He threw more innings in 2007 than Paige did in ANY of his major-league seasons.


For your consideration... Matt Chico: One of the All-Time Greats.

Welcome back, Matty!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Strasburg before there was Strasburg

Pitching great Bob Feller passed away yesterday. America's best sports columnist, Joe Posnanski, who knew Feller very well, wrote a comprehensive reflection on the life and times of "Rapid Robert." I highly recommend Posnanski's work.

Feller, of course, was a legendary pitcher, the kind of guy baseball fans know all about as children even if they were born decades after his last big league pitch. Even as the passage of time tried its very best to obscure Feller's accomplishment, the guy worked overtime to remain relevant. He emerged as a go-to quote, the quintessential cranky old fart. But that was fine because Feller was so amazing.

Feller was a teenage phenom, then a war hero, and then returned to being a baseball star in the post-war years. Although he belongs firmly in the class of power pitchers, it's hard to find someone truly comparable to Feller in all of his respects.

In 1936, for instance, Bob Feller basically was Stephen Strasburg -- except he set the league on fire at the age of 17.

Feller made his MLB debut on July 19, 1936, three-and-a-half months before his 18th birthday, pitching a scoreless inning in relief while striking out two. Over the next month, Feller appeared in five more games in relief before being called upon to start a game for the first time on August 23. Feller tossed a complete game, striking out 15 St. Louis Browns.

Feller made eight starts that 1936 season, completing half of them, all with 10 or more strikeouts (including a 17 strikeout performance against the Philadelphia Athletics on September 13). He whiffed 76 batters in 62 innings. This was at a time, mind you, when the average American League pitcher struck out 3.3 batters per nine innings pitched. By comparison, the National League strikeout rate this past season was 7.4 whiffs per nine. So Rapid Robert was really, really incredible.

When he returned for the 1937 season, Feller was still the league's youngest player. In 1938, the 19 year-old Feller he was not the youngest player any longer, but he replaced that distinction with his first strikeout crown. And he was just beginning.

Feller led the American League in wins and strikeouts in 1939. And 1940. And 1941. And then he joined the Navy, signing up the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. So he missed the 1942 season. And the 1943 season. And the 1944 season. And the vast majority of the 1945 season. By the 1946 season, he was back to leading the AL in wins and strikeouts again. And then he did it again in 1947.

Feller was a monster -- check out that 1946 season, when he led the AL in innings pitched by almost 80. And 1946 was Feller's third-best season by ERA+ but whatever.

In the final analysis, Feller doesn't quite rate in the discussion of the very greatest pitchers, primarily because he simply walked too many batters. But it's certainly possible that, had he not missed all that time serving in the Navy, he could have nudged into that discussion. But then he wouldn't have been Bob Feller.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


"The PLAN!" is dead. Long live "The PLAN!" Ye will be miss-ed.


But fear not, Nats fans. We're in Phase Two. Set your own personal phasers to gobsmacked.

I'm relieved. I was really getting tired of that Phase One. Two is better than One... twice, even. So we're CLEARLY in a better position today. CLEARLY. And with Jayson Werth as the new Face of the Franchise -- THE Jayson Werth who single-handedly led those Phillies to back-to-back pennants -- things are clearly better.

I do wonder, though, just how many Phases (TM) there are. Anyone know?


Oh. We're screwed.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Your Work Here Is Done, Mr. Davis

From MASN's interview with the charismatic Stephen Strasburg:

"It is still too early. I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch. I am taking it one day at a time. Every single day is a new challenge. It is a good opportunity to get in best shape of my life. Honestly, I feel like I am heading in the right direction."


That Crash Davis Crash Course really paid off.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The thing about Adam LaRoche is . . .

. . . he's not that good.

Then again, Jayson Werth isn't that great.

So, if the Nats sign LaRoche, at least they're being consistent.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Werth In Seven Years

So seven years for 31-year old Jayson Werth, eh? $126 million, eh? Hmm.

Well, now that the StanSpeak Translator has been disassembled, I've got a bunch of high-tech parts sitting in my closet. I spent the afternoon assembling them into something useful.

I took a photo of Jayson Werth, and aged him 7 years to see what the Nats will be working with in three-fourths of a decade.

Go ahead and check out the results.

(Near as I can tell, Mike Rizzo's aura is telling him that the Mayans were right. Who cares about 2045 -- or whenever the hell that contract is set to end.)

(alternatively... Mike Rizzo and the Nationals get their revenge on Peter Angelos.... 10 years later)

Friday, December 03, 2010

How A Billionaire Stays A Billionaire

Earlier this week, the Post had a story about how our poor, beleaguered, under-appreciated owner was being dicked over for about $5 million by Fairfax County... or someone.

Short version... they took some of his Tysons land via eminent domain, paying him half a Dunn for the land. They later decided the estimate was too high, since the real estate market collapsed, and asked for an Austin Kearns back. He sued. He lost. Case closed. Aww. So sad.

But what caught my eye was the part at the bottom.

The $19 million that the developer will keep, however, could figure in the zoning approvals it has negotiated in Tysons Corner. With the second easternmost station set to open on the doorstep of Tysons Galleria in 2013, Lerner Enterprises has been moving to capitalize, planning six more office buildings, two condominium towers and a hotel.

But in receiving zoning approvals in 2003, Lerner Enterprises agreed that in exchange for density increases it would provide the land needed for Metro construction and would, "make such dedication or conveyance without monetary consideration."

I haven't seen a clear explanation of this anywhere, but if you piece it together, it might look like this: (and if someone's seen a better explanation, I'm all ears...)

Lerner agrees to give up a sliver of his land for free ("without monetary consideration") way back in '03 because of some zoning changes that would make him a bazillion more dollars with the rest of his land. So somewhere along the way, after getting those zoning changes and planning "six more ofice buildings, two condominium towers and a hotel" he decides he wants to double dip at the trough, getting the cash he said he didn't need initially, thanks to the eminent domain process.

So he gets the cake. Eats it. Enslaves the baker. Steals all the wheat from the third-world country. Taxes all the millers. Punches babies. And suckles profits from the Washington Nationals.

I really feel terrible for all the bad-mouthing of Jeff Smulyan I did now. :(

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Welcome To Apathy

Greetings, children! Welcome! Welcome to the wonderful world of not really caring all that much about the Hometown 9! Look around the league... there are lots of great teams... lots of great players... lots of great games. Be a fan of the game, not of this particular set of rotten uniforms. Stay a while. Lord knows you'll be waiting a while for something good around here.