Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Das Boot

Gone are the fireworks. Here is some sort of sub-based AWOOOOOGA. The Bog has the story.

A few things caught my eye...

First... Is Andy Feffer the dumbest goddamn person on earth? Does he realize how terrible he sounds? Does he know what he's actually saying, or has the man who worked for the Charlotte Bobcats and worked for the weakest union in pro sports -- so weak, that they never found success til they freakin' disbanded! -- just have this poop dribble out of his mouth?

“We’re only six years old; we should look for brand identifiers [Is this like a cattle brand?] in the market that differentiate [never use a big word when a smaller one will do] us not only in the marketplace but in sports. [how do the Nats not exist in a sports marketplace? What other kind of marketplace do they exist in?] The Nationals should be developing something that’s brand-centric [SBF nods in agreeance] and distinctive from other teams in the market, and from other teams in Major League Baseball [since they can't win].

It’s less about fireworks [please don't notice they're gone... look over here! -->]it’s more about the overall fan experience [could this phrase be any more vacuous? it sounds good. Hey, I'm a fan... they're looking out for me!] and our ability to deliver [unless you work for UPS, you're not delivering anything, budddy] something new and different. [but not necessarily better... or similar...] Looking at the overall schedule of 81 games is important; it’s not just about 13 Friday nights [because we're doing all sorts of similar non-things on the other 6 nights a week too. We didn't want to single one night out and make it special. Some days are more equal than others]. What’s popular yesterday [like Feffer's MBA] and today, you shouldn’t rest on it [like Feffer's vacuous MBAspeak]. You have to always look to do something different [or nothing at all]. And that doesn’t mean we have it figured out [nor will we /fails_upward].

Reread that last paragraph. What is it actually saying? What message is he communicating?

Second thought...

"But Feffer said eliminating the fireworks from the post-game celebrations and also the regular Friday night fireworks shows was really about trying to be distinctive; he also said financial considerations did not influence the decision."

1) It's as likely that they had fire permit problems as anything... remember when they sprayed the Fire Chief with debris, and he shut them down? Supposedly, the fire chief is the reason the red tent is gone this year. Crackdown perhaps?

2) If 1 isn't the case... do we really believe that money had zero factor? I don't think the Friday attendance was up markedly above what you'd expect. (Check my work, please!). And it's likely that the extra boost from 'works wasn't worth the cost. But to say that it was ZERO factor? If it was making them money in extra tickets -- no matter how unoriginal -- do you think they'd have stopped it?

Third thought...
Mets Suck!!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Now That The Weekend Is Over...


That's more of a twitter post. Apologies.

(I'm sorta starting to kinda sort maybe just a tiny bit feeling good about this team.... i mean they suck... but the sum of their suck is greater than (or would it be lesser suck?) than their individual sucky parts. Sometimes.

Of course the starting pitching isn't this good... they're iced-down stinky fish. It's a collection of fourth starters, on a hot run. But then I think back to '05, and how decent outfield defense and a gargantuous park sorta made our ragtag bunch (Esteban Loaiza!?!?) look decent for long stretches. Hmmm...

Then I think back to '10... and how these miserable sacks of crap convinced me that last year could've been the year, had I squinted my eyes in the right way.

I'm like Phil Wood... everything revolves and gets compared to the year I bust my cherry. Alas.

In conclusion... EFF YOU GREINKE. I GOT YOUR WINNERS RIGHT HERE ::grabs nuts::

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Did You Hear The One About The Overhyped Player?

If there's one thing we learned last night (aside from heart/hustle/grit) it's that you don't need to start your weak-hitting, left-handed centerfielder against a left-handed starter, a lesson that Jim Riggleman hasn't really learned this year and didn't really learn last year. (Segue warning!)

Nyjer Morgan was on the bench last night and 'respectfully' declined to speak to the media before the game. I can't really imagine how that's done: "Good sir, I do understand the responsibilities with which your employer places upon you, and how that requires you to seek statements from me..." No, prolly nothing like that.

At any rate, Morgan's spent the last few days popping off about how lousy the Nats are, how they railroaded him, and how a guy who's won about 3 games in the major leagues is a better manager than Jim Riggleman (point conceded there).

Nyjer's becoming the ex player Nats fans like to hate... He's not quite in FLop territory, but close.

But here's the thing. I don't blame Nyjer. I blame the team.

The reason most fans feel so strongly about him is because they were so disappointed in him last season. And the reason they were so disappointed in him is that Mike Rizzo and the team's spin machine spent the previous year telling us what an amazing player he is. They marketed Nyjer Freaking Morgan as a key cog to the Nats' renaissance fer crissake! They set the guy up to fail!

So last year's dreadful season was amplified because of how much everyone thought they'd get from him. He didn't just fall from the top of the mountain to the base. He rolled a few feet then fell into the cliff. A few other Nats had seasons just as lousy, but they didn't get the vitriol because they only stumbled into the pit from ground level.

That same sort of effect, truthfully, is one of the reasons Nyjer was viewed as a 'star' that first year. Remember the man he replaced? That stud outfielder now playing in Charlotte? Lastings Milledge had as much business being a major league centerfielder as you or I. His bat wasn't that great. And his glove sucked. Not since the dark days of Preston Wilson -- who always ran like he had just shit his pants -- had the Nats seen such terrible CF defense.

Milledge was at the bottom of the cliff. And when Njyer came, he was like a Golden Sherpa, laughing, dancing, mugging for the camera from the high heights of the peak. We didn't go from average CF to great CF. We went from bottom of the league to the top.

Nyjer got all that credit. But he only deserved half.

This was also the time that Rizzo was working hard to consolidate his image in the media and to the fans. The team thrust him out there as the new non-leather-panted face -- a true man of action. The Nyjer trade looked like an absolute farce because 1) that comparison to Milledge and 2) because Njyer really played out of his mind. Rizzo constantly praised the move, and talked about how key a player Nyjer was -- praising himself in the process. It was in Rizzo's best interest to inflate his value, and puff away he did.

When Njyer broke his hand, missing the last month or so of the season, I wrote that the broken hand would be the best thing for him. He went out on a high, batting .350 or so, before the inevitable regression happened.

I was right, but wrong. It just delayed that regression.

I don't want to play pop psychologist, but I'm going to anyway. I never fell in love with the whole Tony Plus shtick. It reeked too much of someone seeking attention, and it seemed kind of creepy to me. It always struck me as someone on the pathway to bipolarity more than someone genuinely having fun. Regardless of that, it seems that the pressure and expectations of being one of the keys to the franchise's success got to him. He didn't really seem to be able to handle it. And perhaps he started to believe Rizzo's press clippings.

When he started out slow, you could see him working harder (perhaps the wrong phrase, given his rep) to figure out what was wrong. But the harder he tried, the more frustrated he got. This, of course, culminated in a glove-throwing, two-inside-the-park-HR-allowed-in-a-week, damn-he-got-picked-off-again, make-this-season-end-please kind of year. Nothing went right.

And down he tumbled. Down into the valley. Rolling along... til he hit the rim of the cliff... where the sound waves of the loud boos of Nats fans pushed him over the edge, down into Milledgeville.

Obviously, I'm not excusing his effort or what he actually produced.

But he was the product of unreasonable, over-inflated expectations because of what the team said about him, the poor timing of his injury, and how much an improvement he was over a player who had no business playing.

Those are all factors outside his control. And they're every bit as important.

So boo Nyjer if you must. But before you do, think about how much those external factors played a role in 1) how loudly you cheered for him initially and 2) how quickly you turned.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spit take

Every baseball team, including the Tampa Bay Rays, uses a clean-up hitter, in the sense that the clean-up hitter bats fourth. Teams don't have to call the guy the clean-up hitter; that's the long-time naming convention, but I suppose they could call him Ray, and they could call him Jay . . .

However, somebody must bat fourth in every team's batting order. Stretching the principle that sometimes a team needs somebody, ANYBODY to bat fourth, I present you last night's lineup for the Rays.* And they won, so it must've worked!

*By comparison, Matt Stairs, clean-up hitter must seem like Godzilla on a speedball binge.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Something Something Rob Dibble Something Something

When Washington Nationals fans absolutely, positively have stay informed about the hot topics concerning the team -- such as, for example, what Rob Dibble thinks about Barry Bonds -- there is only one place to turn: the Washington Examiner, home of Jim Williams's Emmy-winning, free-from-the-bounds-of-proper-syntax-and-spelling-and-comma-usage brand of journalism. Recounting "a very candid,and entertaing" interview Dibble did on what appears to be an obscure sports radio show, Williams writes:

Dibble is as fun and as interesting as ever. He all talks about Barry Bonds - saying that during Bonds’ playing days in Pittsburgh, Bonds’ own teammates would ask opposing pitchers to hit Barry.

“I like Barry personally. He’s never been bad to me and has always been respectful to my wife and I, etc so I deal with him on a different level. When he was with the Pirates, his teammates would come to Norm Charlton and I and say, ‘we’ll give you a steak dinner if you hit him.’”

If I were doing a Rob Neyer-style "Tracer" or were intent on "Fisking" some very low-hanging fruit, I'd note that pitchers league-wide seemed rather distrustful that Bonds's teammates would actually follow through with that steak dinner, insofar as a peek at Baseball Reference shows that Bonds didn't seem to get hit with very many pitches during his time as a Pirate. Maybe opposing pitchers were fearful that plunking Bonds too much would flood the market for steak dinners. But I'm not one to doubt the veracity of any ex-ballplayer's stories (except perhaps if that ex-ballplayer is Billy Ripken) although I do question why Jim Williams would think anyone reading the Washington Examiner would particularly care.

On to slightly more pertinent topics, Williams also reports that Dibble speculates that Steven Strasburg's father is the one who got Dibble fired. And all this time, I thought it was Garrett Mock's second cousin.

Monday, April 04, 2011

An entirely NEW way to watch the Nationals lose!

Well, sort of.

For Christmas, alms-giving people that we are, my wife and I purchased iPod Touches. Not for family or friends or our neighbors or the less fortunate, mind you, but for ourselves; I guess that's the mechanics of it, since we got them for each other. I got hers and she got mine -- and that's not even true since I was sick the weekend we bought them, so she ended up going to the Apple Store by herself. But at least we waited until Christmas day to open them. "Oh hey, what a surprise!"

A few months have passed, which is ample time for me to report that an iPod Touch is also great for:

a) checking out utterly pointless stuff on Twitter, such as how long it takes Ryan Hannigan to round the bases after homering;

b) deciding you don't care how long it takes anyone to do a home run trot; and

c) watching actual baseball.

That last one was a rather serendipitous occurrence from the other night when, in the midst of recompensing for inflicting the better half to far too many hours of March Madness, I decided on a whim to pony up for the MLB app. My intention was just to follow some box scores on the sly, but the reward was slamming, entirely unknowingly, into a whole bunch of free baseball. Thank you, Volvo!

In the past few days, among other things, I've seen Trevor Cahill pump himself up for a first pitch, heard Vin Scully do his thing, and witnessed Evan Meek screw the pooch. I've been exposed to a lot of baseball, pretty much all I'd ever want out of the experience of viewing MLB games on a 3-inch or whatever screen -- except, of course, no Washington Nationals. They're blacked out.

At first, the blackout process seems innocuous -- pleasant, even. A little prompt comes up on the screen asking if you mind if MLB determines where you are in the world. That's a little Orwellian, but at least the request is phrased nicely. Then, to illustrate how special you are, you're sent to a screen where your location is depicted as a nice bold circle smack in the dab of your geographic region. And, most of the time, you're congratulated for residing in a perfectly cromulent -- no, a great! -- place. Except for when you're . . .

Not that I'm complaining; I'm only blacked out of games involving two specific teams. They're the two teams I'd be most inclined to follow, mind you, but it's only two teams. At least I don't live in Nevada, or Tennessee, or wherever it is that is the epicenter of the blackout rules. Jeff Passan should report live from there someday, just to give us an even fuller accounting of the carnage.

But, you know, I am complaining. Sure, it's a complicated enough subject that "Just end the blackouts already, Budzilla!" isn't a sufficiently persuasive rhetorical flourish. You've got 30 different teams, each with their own little fiefdoms, and those 30 teams have entered into 30 different contracts with 30 different carriers, and sometimes the team is different than the carrier and sometimes the difference between the team and the carrier is no more than a legal fiction, but no matter what you've got a local carrier that is selling advertising time in its local broadcasts, and when everbody grabs a piece of a pie everybody can get quite messy. (Let's pretend that the preceding sentence applies to the Nationals in more than a minority interest sense.)

I know only the bare essentials of this topic, but the teams sell their TV rights based on how many people are around to watch their games, and the carrier sets its ad rates based on the demographics of the coverage area, and this system isn't robust enough to account for some chucklehead in Des Moines who wants to flip on oh, let's say, a Brewers game for a couple of innings.

However, if the chucklehead from Des Moines really wants to check out that Brewers game, he should be permitted the opportunity to do so, at a cost. Similarly, if I want to watch the Nationals game on my iPod Touch -- if I really, really want to do so -- I'll pay for it. That is to say, I'll pay extra, above the baseline MLB.tv subscription, as a "tax" to defray the hardship to MASN for watching the Nationals other than by watching the Nationals on MASN on my television.

Or should I say our television -- which reminds me of why I'd consider paying an additional fee for watching the Nationals on a separate device. Anyway, this solution is hardly a novel idea, and I'd have to think that Commissioner Selig has "top men" working on it now.

Of course, sorting out how to sort out millions and millions and millions of dollars would take some time, and taking some time is a theme of Selig's activities -- whether selecting a new hairstyle or deciding what is to be done with the Athletics. But I'd just like to put it out there that I'd certainly consider paying the standard MLB.tv rate plus a Nationals-specific viewing fee, right now, and that's keeping in mind that the Nats aren't really any good at the moment. My motivation might be even higher when they become good, and whenever they do become good I'd appreciate having the same opportunity to watch them on my iPod as that chucklehead from Des Moines would.

As for now, though, I suppose I can settle for enjoying free April baseball on my iPod, even if it doesn't involve the Nationals.