Monday, July 31, 2006

Bang! Fizzle! Where Were the Fireworks?

All that for nuttin', huh? What a disappointment!

Well, sorta.

When I read the tealeaves earlier this week, I thought that this was what was going to happen, and I can't say that it really bothers me. Bowden stuck to his guns, and he did what he felt was right -- something that might not necessarily be a Bowden decision.

From day one, Bowden said that he wanted each team's best prospect. Nobody was willing to give that up, which, I suppose, is understandable. But that doesn't mean that Bowden should've lowered his price. He knew what he had in Soriano: Two months of prodcution + 2 first-round draft picks.

Look at it as a reserve price auction. Let's say that you're selling an engagement ring because your fiancee hated your leather pants, and there was an ugly incident where she was beating and scratching you in front of a cop. When you're selling it on Ebay, you're probably going to set a reserve price. You don't want some schlub like Billy Beane coming in and paying $1.75 for a ring you just laid several thousand rubles for.

There were lots of names flying around, but in every case (Twins: Garza; Tigers: Maybin; Angels: Kendrick/Wood), they just weren't being included in the other team's offers, so Bowden decided to take his prize and go home.

That's not a bad thing.

Now, a few things can happen. If the team chooses to re-sign him (and that's a debate for another day), they hold on to Soriano when he made it clear (even if it was just a negotiating position) that he wouldn't re-sign if traded. If he decides to go elsewhere, they still get those two first-round draft picks, something that's far from valueless. Sure, they're a crapshoot, but I'd rather have a small chance of drafting the next Alfonso Soriano than having a much higher chance of getting the next Gary Majewski via trade.

So, good for Bowden. I guess the only concern I have is whether his obsession with Soriano and the accompanying trade talk prevented him from making deals for Ortiz, Armas or Hernandez, but given how crappy they've been pitching, it's unlikely the Nats would've received anything useful anyway. (And there's a chance that Armas and Ortiz could return draft picks at the end of the season anyway).

I suspect the peanut gallery's out for blood. Tell me where I'm wrong!

  • Update:

    Svrluga's story is up. I love his lede:
    His locker was adorned with streamers and banners and signs of affection that ranged from a bottle of premium tequila to a bowl of fruit. And when Alfonso Soriano walked into the visitors' clubhouse at AT&T Park -- still a Washington National more than two hours after Monday's trade deadline had passed-- the room exploded in applause and impromptu chants of "Sor-i-a-no! Sor-i-a-no!"

    It's good to be the king!

    Tom Boswell seems happy with the decision, and he nails an important aspect:
    Huge contracts are a tough nut, good will or not. But even if Soriano ultimately leaves town, the Nats may have made the right choice anyway because they did the right thing for the right reasons. Many will remember it. The small loss Washington may suffer in personnel -- the difference between the good-but-not-great prospects they could have gotten yesterday and the two draft picks they'd receive as compensation if Soriano leaves -- may be dwarfed by the credibility they immediately gain with their fans, their players and their biggest star.

  • Everyone's favorite writer has some interesting news.
    According to two sources who requested anonymity, Soriano would like to make more money than Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, who signed for three years and $39 million last December. Soriano is looking for something in the range of five years, $80 million. The sources believe that Soriano is willing to backload the contract, realizing that that the Nationals are looking to build for the long-term future of the franchise.

    Read it, too, for the quotes from Kasten, and the front office's attempts to lay this at the feet of Soriano's agents. The Nats are playing a delicate game here. They want to sign the guy, but if it doesn't work out, for PR reasons, they need to make it look like it's not their fault that Soriano didn't re-sign.

  • Basil at Federal Baseball, as is per usual, has the must-read on the situation, as he tries to come off the fence, separating how much his dislike of Bowden personally can shade one's views of the trade. It's a longish read, but well worth it.

  • Rumor-rama

    Just passin' them along....

    MLB Radio said that the Nats turned down an offer from the Angels that would've netted the Nats Ervin Santanta, Erick Aybar and Dallas McPherson. I suspect that that's going to be the core of an offer the Nats will accept by the end of the day. Santana's not an ace, but he's a decent 2/3 who's cheap as hell for the next five years. If the Angels dump McPherson out and put in a low level pitcher or two, I can see that working.

    The Tigers traded for sack-o-crap Sean Casey, so they're likely out. It seems like it's down to the Angels and the Twins, although I haven't heard anything too serious about the Twins -- of course they're running an awfully tight ship.

    More as it comes in....

    I, unfortunately, have a meeting which should be 1 hour, but typically runs three. If you're looking for the latest, check out GameDay where a bunch of idiots who think they're smart are discussing options. That'll be one of the first places to copy and paste someone else's report.

    4:07 and still no word. The last word I heard was Minnesota. Sometimes it takes a few minutes for things to trickle in, but with something this large, it's likely to leak out pretty quickly.

    Seventeen Down, Ten To Go

    What started out so promising, three wins versus the Giants, making a 6-game winning streak, ended with a thud thanks to a sweep by the Dodgers. Crap's going to keep happening this season thanks to the inconsistent pitching. But better to take our lumps now, sorting out rotation and bullpen so that we know what we're working with next year. Wins and losses aren't going to matter so much, so just enjoy the games and the talent for what they are.

    Today's the big day and by the time the Nats take the field Soriano, Livan, Ortiz and Armas could all be wearing different uniforms. This could be a very different team. Aren't you glad we have such a patient manager who understands how to work and develop younger players, letting them take their occasional lumps as part of the growing process?

    Nats Record: 3-3
    Overall: 46-59 (14/17)
    Runs Scored: 27 (4.5/g); 482 overall (13/16, but only 8 runs out of 8th place)
    Runs Allowed: 38 (6.3/g); 547 overall (15/16) Factor in the park and, wow.
    Expected Record: 46-59. Hey, look at that! We've finally found our white whale! To bad it's a 71-win whale.

    What's Good?
    1) Batting Eyes. I wrote about their increased plate discipline the other day, and it continued this week. Nick Johnson led the way with 8 walks, but 5 other batters had 3 or more

    2) New Orleans Relievers. I still can't get over Micah Bowie. He gave up one measly homer to Ray Durham (one of about 15 he hit this week), but other than that, nada. He pitched 5+ innings this week and has emerged as the setup guy this team has been looking for. I still expect him to crash hard, but then I expected Hector Carrasco to crash, too. Saul Rivera had two effective outings this week, too. Just when it looked like he was about to get rocked back to NO, he stepped it up. I wonder what kind of adjustments he had to make? Travis Hughes got the callup and saw just one inning. Only goggle-eyed Roy Corcoran got knocked around from the Z-Troop (6 runs in mopup duty).

    3) Felipe Lopez' legs. It's nice to have a shortstop that hit a little, huh? Lopez stole 5 bases this week without being caught once. Nobody really talked much about his speed, but he's a 30-base kinda guy, even if he's not a tremendous basestealer. He simply gets caught too much. But, when you get on at a .350 clip like he does (and it was .440 for the week), you can overlook that!

    What's Bad?
    1) Starting, Starting, Starting. Consider: Ortiz at 5.84 was the Nats 2nd most effective starter. Mike O'Connor at 15.75 wasn't the worst. (That honor goes to Tony Armas' 18.00 ERA). Brutal.

    2) Brian Schneider. Maybe I should just copy last week's entry? It's time for an MRI.

    3) The bench. With as few ABs as they get (Frank really loves to run his starters into the ground!), they're going to have a bad week every now and then. Other than Ward (who else?), Matos, Fick, Jackson and Castro were pretty worthless, combining for just two hits.

    Game O' The Week
    Aren't you getting sick of these come-from-behind victories? Down one to the Giants on Tuesday, Armando Benitez did what he does best: Blow up. Robert Fick walked to lead off. Felipe Lopez ripped a single past the statuesque Ray Durham and Ryan Zimmerman smacked a single that tied the game. After Nick Johnson was IBBd, Austin Kearns hit a can of corn to left, which was deep enough to score Lopez, giving the Nats another win. Ho hum. ;)

    That's been the amazing thing about this team. They've won probably what? 10 games or so in their last AB? You've got about a 1 in 4 chance of seeing a walkoff!

    MVP Award
    Ryan Church's line is a big FU to Bowden and Frank. .368/ .458/ .526. He led the team in hits and doubles. (7 and 3)

    Cy Young Award
    Pedro Astacio didn't get the win, and he certainly pitched better than his 6+ inning, 2 ER performance looks like (thanks to some crappy relieving by Mike Stanton). But he put the Nats into a position where they could've and should've won. That's better than the rest of the pitchers.

    LVP Award
    Always assume Brian Schneider. .176/ .176/ .176

    Joe Horgan Award
    Mike O'Connor's injured elbow wins this award. He didn't have the most ghastly ERA (Armas and Corcoran outduled him), but he wins for his tremendous K/BB ratio: 0/5.

    Sunday, July 30, 2006

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Garbage In, Garbage Out Edition

    Jim Bowden's transactin' finger must be quivering in anticipation. But he got an appetizer over the weekend.

    For the second year in a row, he's traded Mike Stanton. This time, he got the Giants to cough up a reasonably promising young arm, Shairon Matis (stats). Federal Baseball has the rundown.

    For what it's worth, the two prospects we got for Mikey last year have had mixed results. Yadir Peralta has decent peripheral stats (strikeouts, walks, homers), but his ERA is high. Rhys Taylor just hasn't pitched much.

    Still, getting three players for a stiff like him is something. Did the guy even have three good games?

  • NFA has the goods on the other two moves. First, the Nats sent Michael O'Connor down to New Orleans. The Nats have two off days coming up, and don't need a fifth starter. Plus, well, there's this matter of him stinking lately. Why's he stinking? Lack of command of his pitches you say? Yeah, that's a big reason. But it could also be the elbow problem that he just admitted to. Gulp.

    Who knows how long it's been affecting him, but that could explain a lot. He's going for an MRI, and we'll see how serious it is.

    The concurrent move is the callup of Ryan Wagner, the third piece of the Kearns/FLop trade. Wagner, who was the last first-round pick that Bowden made while with the Reds has had a scary few years. When the team traded for him, they attributed it to bad mechanics. He got lit up in his first appearance with New Orleans, but has worked 8 scorless innings since. Did they get it worked out? We'll find out!

    Check out that link, too, for a discussion of what his callup could mean in terms of contract status and Wagner's arbitration eligibility. There's a chance that this could bump his contract up because it might make him a Super-2. (If this paragraph makes your eyes glaze over, don't click!)

  • Banks of the Anacostia reads Will Carroll so that we don't have to. Apparently the Nationals are finally starting to negotiate with Soriano's agent. Too little, too late? Keep your eye on his site tomorrow. He's been hammering the trade story harder than I could ever care to! (He also looks at some revised Angels rumors)

  • Didja know that RFK has a bar now? Me neither! Curly W has the essential info!

  • Why Soriano Must Go

    About 30 hours to go before the trade deadline, and the Soriano rumors continue to fly fast and furiously. Sure, we love Soriano, and his hitting carried the offense back when Clayton, Guillen, Schneider, and Vidro were stinking up the park.

    But when it all comes down to it, he's gotta go. Here's why.

    1) Free Agency. I cannot emphasize this enough. At the end of the year, he has a right to choose who he wants to play for next year. The Nationals will be competing against 29 other teams in an auction. Unless the Nats are willing to outbid every other team (and even then there's no guarantee), Soriano's not coming back next year. In short, keeping him through the deadline does NOT guarantee (or even increase, really) our chances of keeping him.

    2) No Extension. Sure, the team's talking about it, but if you read Ladson's latest version of the front office spin, there's a stunning lack of actual action there. Read it closely. The only thing they're doing is having Jose Rijo talk to Soriano. Big Whoop. Sure, his agent follows the player's wishes, but there's no chance they get a contract done between now and Monday, especially since (and this is the rub!), no one appears to be talking to his agent!

    This, combined with Kasten's loud public pronouncement that No-trade clauses are worse than Hitler (in reaction to Soriano's request for stability), seem to be starting the groundwork for a campaign to lessen the effects of Soriano leaving. Since fans are in an uproar over keeping him, if they're able to paint him as greedy, or wanting things (no-trades) that even the great Atlanta Braves didn't give, then they can lessen the fan reaction to losing Soriano -- "See! We tried. He just was unwilling to compromise." Think back to last year, and how statements (starting in August, but culminating in a November Ladson piece) indicated that Wilkerson was going to be a goner.

    3) The future. If those two signs are pointing to Soriano not sticking around next year (or at least the chances of him staying being very slim), what's next? By any account, there are a bazillion and one teams interested in him. If the Nats can get a top prospect or two (Kendrick, Hughes, Maybin, etc), they absolutely have to deal him. Think of it this way, for two months of Soriano, the Nationals have a chance to acquire six years of a player.

    Sure, some'll point to other can't-miss prospects who did, but that's why the Nats need to demand near-MLB-ready prospects. Someone slugging in A-ball could hit a roadblock in double-A. But if they're hitting in triple-A, and they hit in double-A, they've already been tested. If they're already dominating Triple-A (check out Kendrick's stats), they are highly likely going to be a pretty good major leauge player.

    If the Nats get one elite prospect and two lessers, that's up to 18 years of players for 2 months of Soriano. Reread that sentence. Eighteen years. All for a player who has no guarantee to re-sign.

    4) Payroll. Assume that the Nats hold on to him next year. We're looking at a contract with a minimum of 4/$48 million. On an open market, it's much likely to be higher than that, but let's play conservative. Nick Johnson gets a $2.3MM raise. Brian Schneider bumps up $800K. Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez are arbitration eligible and are likely to make $4-5 million more combined. Even woeful Jose Vidro's going to be making half a mil more.

    That's a lot of extra money tied up into the same players. Unless the team is going to bump up the payroll by $25-30 million, there might not be room for Soriano's salary. And given all the noise about building for the long-term, what would you place the odds of a $25-million payroll increase?

    Well, I suppose there'd be room for Soriano's salary if you don't want any pitching upgrades.

  • Everything points to the team needing to trade him, but... there are some reasons to keep him.

    If the Nats aren't getting those major-league-ready prospects, keeping Soriano might not be a bad thing.

    At the end of the season, the Nats can and will offer him arbitration. Then, one of two things happens. If he accepts, he stays with the Nats on a one-year deal. If he declines, which is much more likely, he's still free to negotiate with the team, but if he signs with another team, we'll get their first-round draft pick AND an additional first-round pick in the sandwich round before the second round begins.

    If Bowden is getting offers for B-level prospects stuck in double-A, then maybe holding on to Soriano and taking those two first-rounders will be a better option. That, from a PR aspect, might work, too. If Soriano walks because someone offers him 6/$90 million, then it's much more palatable to the average Nats fan, especially if some of that money that the Nats had budgeted is plowed into the starting rotation.

  • So what's gonna happen? I dunno. Google keeps us abreast of the latest rumors.

    If I were a betting man, I'd say that Soriano sticks around. I don't think that the Nats are going to get a Kendrick or a Hughes, and holding on to Soriano for the picks (not to mention good will) might be more beneficial to the team.

    All signs point to a trade making sense, but two months of production and two draft picks has tangible value. If other teams aren't willing to meet that price, well... screw 'em!
  • Thursday, July 27, 2006

    The Invisible Man

    With the powerful voice of Frank Robinson and his larger than life spectre, there's not a lot of room to hear from his lieutenants. When's the last time you heard a quote from Randy St. Claire? Have you heard anything about how Davey Lopes has helped the baserunning? Me neither. Yet, when I was looking at the stats the other day, there's one coach who's speaking loudly, Mitchell Page.

    Page, you'll recall, came over from the Cardinals juggernaut. He is an alcoholic, and the Cardinals fired him when he couldn't get it under control. Jim Bowden, always with an eye on hitting talent and hard-luck cases, offered him a job as the roving minor-league hitting instructor. By all accounts, he succeeded, and his work with Marlon Byrd last year, after which Marlon tore the seams off the ball, is held up as the model of his success. Byrd certainly succeeded last year. This year, not so much.

    But the strength of Page isn't found in the individual, it's in the aggregate. First, what's Page's philosophy? Well, it's hard to figure out because he doesn't really talk. But Phil Rogers helpfully wrote about it for ESPN a few years back. He wants his hitters to have good ABs, to look for pitches they can drive, emphasizing their strengths as batters. Don't swing at the pitchers pitches. Go after yours. And when you're behind in the count, ease up on the swing and concentrate on getting the ball in play.

    It's not quite the A's Moneyballish philosophy of taking and raking, but it's close. Be aggressive when necessary. If your pitch is the first one, great. If not, don't chase, but let the pitcher come to you.

    Well, they're not having a ton of success with two strikes. Overall, the team is batting .188. That sounds terrible, until you realize that the entire NL is only batting .190 in that situation. They're slugging .295, but that's 3 points higher than the NL average. I don't have data from last year, and I can't seem to find it anywhere. If you know of a source, I'd love to see it, but it certainly seems like they'd be doing better here, if only because the offense was so uniformly terrible last year.

    Strikeout-wise, they're not really doing all that much better. They currently rank 8th in the league with 683. Last season they finished in seventh. In both seasons, there are four or five teams bunched up closely, and the numbers are practically interchangeable.

    So it doesn't seem like he's helped much with the Ks, even as there's slight evidence that they're better with two strikes.

    But where Page seems to have made the most difference is with the other aspect of plate discipline, bases on balls. The team is walking a TON more. Last season, they finished 11th in the league with 491. This year they're up to third with 362 already. That's a HUGE improvement. That's a lot of extra baserunners.

    I wanted to break that down further, to see which players are contributing. Here are the players on the team listed with their walk rates, simply the percentage of walks they have per plate appearance. (for all Nats with 80+ ABs) I've subtracted out intentional walks.
                2005   2006
    Soriano 4.4 6.9
    Zimmerman 9.4 7.6
    Vidro 8.1 8.1
    Johnson 13.4 14.9
    Clayton 6.6 4.8
    Schneider 5.5 7.4
    Guillen 4.1 4.2
    Byrd 6.9 9.3
    Anderson 6.9 5.9
    Jackson 9.3 7.8
    Ward 6.1 11.5

    Wow. Other than Zimmerman (and he only had 60 or so PAs last year), Anderson and Jackson, everybody increased their rate or stayed about the same.

    Soriano's improvement is striking, as is Nick Johnson's. Even players who aren't making good contact, like Schneider and Byrd, made great strides in their discipline. If they're making outs, it's not because they're swinging at slop.

    Their power, too, is up. And it's not all Soriano. Last year, they were dead last in homers with a pathetic 117. This season, they already have 108. Doubles are up, too, from fourth to second.

    They're hitting for more power. They're walking more. What more could you want? The runs aren't really there yet, thanks to some unlucky situational hitting (especially with the bases loaded), but that should even out.

    What matters is that their approach is different, and that their component stats are there. The runs will come.

    If Brian Schneider hits what he's capable of doing, and with a full season from Lopez and Kearns, the offense is not going to be a problem next year, even without Alfonso Soriano. Though it'd be nice to have him!

    So, thanks, Mitchell Page. We never hear a word from you, but the results speak loudly enough.

    How 'Bout That Trade Now?

    Tough night for Majewski and Bray.

    Unfortunately, the Natives are getting restless.

    They're not fans of Clayton either.

    Six Pack O' Fun

    Another beautiful day for a ballgame in what could be Alfonso Soriano's and Livan Hernandez' last starts at home as Nats. If it does work out that way, they both went out with a bang.

    Livan Hernandez pitched effectively against the Giants' B-team, tossing up another quality start and seven more innings of three-run ball. When Micah Bowie came in to relieve in the eighth inning, I totalled up Livan's performance, and was stunned to see 0 walks. Not only that, but he struck out 5 batters. Both have been big problems for him this season. Whether it's the trade talk, improved defense behind him, or just another late-night movie (Little Man, perhaps? -- don't you love reading bad reviews?), he's pitching more like the Livan we had wanted at the beginning of the year. Too little too late for our playoff chances, but if it's good enough to get an arm or two (not to mention being free of his $7 million contract next year), it might not be completely worthless.

    The crowd cheered Soriano, getting louder when he ripped another leadoff homer. Man, we're going to miss him. Trading him is like being grounded by your parents. It sucks at the time, but a few years later, you realize that, gee, maybe your parents were right. (if I'm not lazy, I'll have a post on that soon...)

    I really like the way the offense looks now (anf if i'm not lazy, I'll have a post on that soon, too!) They almost all have excellent approaches at the plate, and they have as deep a 1-7 in the order as any team in the league. If this entire lineup returns (and if Schneider just approaches his career averages), that's a championship-quality offense. They hit for power. They hit for average. They have good plate discipline. They stink with the bases loaded, and can't get runners home from third to save their life, but.... That'll even out, right?

    But, still, the pitching.... oy.

    Six in a row is pretty incredible. I don't know if they can keep it up, especially with as much as they're relying on the offense, and with the changes looming on the horizon. But I'll take it! On to LA.

    Brisket Is Taking Over The World!!

    You can say many things about Stan Kasten, but saying that he's behind the curve ain't one of them.

    He's an evil genius!

    Two More Posts...

    Two more quick posts worthy of your time...

    OMG wonders what the Nats could do with all the money if they dump Soriano and some of the other contracts on the team.

    Federal Baseball looks at the sad case of Jose Guillen.

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Must Be The Brisket Edition

    Ho-hum. Another day, another win. Aren't you getting tired of the monotony? No? Me neither! Let's sweep those bastahds! Reading between the lines, I don't think that Frank likes Felipe Alou, if only because he got sick of being compared to him all those years in Montreal. Think he enjoys the spankings?

    Yesterday's game was the result of what happens when a deep lineup that's shown an ability to come back faces Armando Benitez. If ABe is throwing strikes, he's passable. But when he comes out throwing balls, he's garbage, and as enjoyable as it was for us, it was just as bad for Giants fans.

    Astacio pitched better than his line indicated, because he had the misfortune to be relieved by Mike Stanton. When Stanton comes in with runners on base, he knows that he can give up three bases before it starts affecting his record. The man's an inherited-runner-scoring machine, which is why his already high ERA is still deceptively low.

    Zimmerman and Kearns will get lots of credit for their 'clutchness', but the two unsung heroes of that inning were Bobby Fick and FLop. Fick worked the count -- as much as Benitez would allow him -- and didn't come out flailing. He let Armando get himself into trouble with a patient approach at the plate. After Soriano swung at balls 6, 7 & 8 to strike out, Lopez ripped a sharp grounder past the immobile Ray Durham, the key blow of the inning. Both were needed to set up Zimmerman's heroics, and the setup guys rarely get the credit they deserve.

  • STFU!!!!

    Jose Vidro and Alfonso Soriano can both go to hell.

    Sez Ladson: "Vidro said recently that if left fielder Alfonso Soriano is traded before the July 31 deadline, it would be a devastating blow to the franchise."

    You know what a devastating blow is, Jose? The Nats paying you $8 million to be fat, out of shape, broken, immobile, and a singles hitter -- and for the next two feckin' years. We wouldn't need Soriano if you were hitting your weight (or even a fraction of it!)

    Sez The Sun: "To be honest, it's tough to say I'd come back if they trade me because you know if they trade me I'm going to think that I cannot be good for this team, because they traded me, because they [do] not need me anymore," Soriano said.
    Screw you, you striking-out sack of crap. If you don't want to be traded, then tell your money-grubbing agent and your money-grubbing soul that you're willing to talk extension over the next four days. Put your money where your freakin' gaping maw is or shut the hell up.

  • Speaking of idiots....

    Former Nats' President Tony Tavares, who blindly served his MLB masters while fecking over the Nats fan base is getting his. He's being sued by Joe Deoudes, the former ticket manager of the Nats. Allegedly, Tavares slapped him. From everything I've heard/read, Tavares is a major-league quality A-hole with a temper that'd even make Robert Fick embarassed.

    Were this not the ticket manager (who fecked everything up staff or no staff) I'd have more sympathy, but hopefully it results in a multi-billion-dollar settlement, paid out by Major League Baseball, the rightful owners of the team at the time of the alleged cough incident.

  • The City and the Lerners hate each other already. The Post profiles Mark Lerner, who's really going to be the face of the ownership group.

  • Frank Robinson continues to prove that he's a master motivator. I can't wait til he's gone. "Church has been there what, two games now? Escobar's been here playing how many games? Twelve games? You guys already got the center field problem all set," Robinson told reporters.

  • On the trade front, this is the story to watch. If the Brewers do decide to put Carlos Lee on the market, the price for Soriano goes down. Why pay $50 for a bottle of Evian if you can get the tap water for free?

  • Wednesday, July 26, 2006

    If You Wondered Why I Hate Bowden....

    Take a look at this crap. The man's a ham. He sees a TV camera or a reporter with a recorder and his chubby little cheeks engorge with blood like a teenager first discovering late-night Cinemax. He's an exhibitionist. The man loves attention. He loves promoting himself, making others aware of how wonderful he is, and how wonderful his job is (and how wonderful he is at his job!)

    Are these the kinds of statements of a truly professional executive? Or are these the statements of a megalomaniac? Sure, the reporters love him. He fills their notebooks and column-inches with tripe. The stories write themselves.

    But don't you feel embarrassed reading these things?

  • The fire department is in my office right now hosing down my phone because all it does is burn

  • "We've talked trade with 27 teams today," Bowden said.

    But have you talked to any of them more than once?

    "Yeah, I would hope so," he said, incredulous.

    Well, there are 29 other teams in baseball. What about the other two? How'd you miss them?

    "We've got several hours left in the day. We're talking to more teams per hour," he grinned, creating a new statistic.

  • I'm averaging 1 1/2 hours of sleep a night. I keep getting calls, text messages. I put that [BlackBerry] on 'vibrate' but I still hear it and jump out of bed. It's [Boston GM Theo Epstein or Yankees GM Brian Cashman]. They're crazy.


    On and on it goes. Shut him the hell up.

    It certainly seems like he's more enamored with being the center of attention than anything. While that's probably a bit unfair, I wish he'd be a pro, instead of a hackilicious PT Bowden huckster.

    He's an executive, not a used car salesman. But you wouldn't know it from that. And that's why it's hard to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    If you act like this, no one's going to take you seriously, even if you do good.

  • Tim Russert Doesn't Do The Wave

    What a night for a game! I hadn't been in a few weeks, and other than the 92-degree dewpoint causing me to sweat in places that I wasn't aware had sweat glands, it was a pretty enjoyable two-and-a-half hours.

    Coming into the game, I was expecting a typically small crowd. Instead, over 33K showed up. But it wasn't just the raw numbers in the seats; the sections were full. Usually there are huge splotches of orange and purple, but not last night. Not only was it a big crowd, it was a lively one, getting into the game action, especially when the perjurer-in-chief hobbled up to the plate.

    In the first inning, as soon as the idiot Shea Hillenbrand made the second out, the boos cascaded as if Dick Cheney were getting ready to throw out the first pitch all over again. It was as lound a booing as poor (ok, so he's not poor) Lance Cormier received last April when he pegged a non-gimpy Vinny Castilla. Just in front of me in section 421, someone held a giant * sign in what appeared to be a 755-point font. He got booed everytime he came to the plate, and the four Nats who made the plays retiring him were treated like conquering heros, vanquishing the giant ogre. Bonds even got it when he made a play or two in the field, for daring to put out one of our fair nine.

    The Nats employed a strong shift on Bonds. Zimmerman slid around to shortstop, even playing closer to the middle than usual (allowing him to catch a popup in short center field). FLop played in the spot where Jose Vidro normally stands, watching grounders roll by. Nick Johnson played right on the line (where he'd made a terrific lunging catch of a 'double' as he zipped past first and curved towards foul territory). Marlon Anderson played in short right field, halfway between where Lopez and Johnson were playing. Austin Kearns played really short in right, not more than 30 feet or so behind where Marlon Anderson was and roughly where he'd be playing if a right-handed pitcher were batting. (I guess they think that if he gets it in the air, it's gone anyway!) Ryan Church shaded towards right, and Soriano played straight-away, where he made a terrific sprinting catch of a liner that seemed destined to split the gap.

  • Ramon Ortiz looked blah. He lucked into a few noisy outs that would've made things look worse than his 6-inning, 5-run performance already does. The culprit, as it frequently is with Ramon, is his inability to miss bats. He can't get much by hitters, so they put it into play, frequently hard. Sometimes they're caught. Sometimes they're not, especially the ones that go over the fence. He struck out four, but that's sort of deceiving. The last two came with what he knew would be his last two batters of the game (since he was due up in the bottom of the inning). He reared (rore?) back and blew it by the eighth place hitter and the pitcher for Ks 3 and 4. Woo.

  • It still amazes me that there was a scenario where Micah Bowie could be pitching to Barry Bonds with the game on the line without it being the 17th inning. He came in, threw strikes, and was effective, save for the tater to the locked-in Ray Durham -- who appears to have less range than Vidro.

  • Chad Cordero made things interesting in the ninth, with an assist to FLop. The grounder to him was slow, and I immediately knew it was going to be an error, even before the ball got to him. It was a fairly slow, routine grounder, and the runner didn't have much speed. It's one of those plays where a fielder almost has too much time to think. Instead of relying on reflex and muscle memory, they're thinking it through and too self-aware. He brought his arm forward, released the ball too late, and the throw skidded into the dirt right in front of Johnson's glove for an error.

    So much for my theory about NJ saving FLop errors on throws, huh?

  • Ryan Church impressed me with the bat. As bad as he looked 2 months ago, he looked as good last night. He knocked in three, and had a terrific AB in the 8th, after the Giants had cut the lead to one. Facing a 3/4-delivery lefty specialist with a runner on third, Church fought back from an 0-2 count (including a questionable strike two call) to drive a ball deep enough to right to score the run.

    I watched Church all the way back into the dugout, where he got the usual assortment of fist bumps. I wondered if Frank was going to react, but he stayed at the far end of the dugout, glued to the railing. A few seconds later, Frank limped down into the dugout, presumably to say something to Church. I wonder what that conversation was like.

  • Brian Schneider continues to be a sinkhole. He can't hit for crap, and given how he's practically an automatic GIDP, we're almost to the point where he should bunt runners over, even if the pitcher is coming up! :) He had a tough AB in the 8th against that same lefty specialist. He fought off a number of tough pitches, fouling 4 or 5 in a row straight back, presumably right on the fastball. He turned on the next one, driving it high and deep to right, but it hooked foul. That's probably the best ball he's hit in a month. Predicably, he struck out on the next pitch.

  • I hope it's just a one-game thing, but Soriano started showing signs of the same kind of funk he was in about a month or two ago. He was hacking at pitches, with little discipline, and hitting weak fly balls to short right. When he's hitting flies to right, he's off. Of course, in a week, that's not really going to be our problem, is it?

  • I really like the lineup now. Subbing Kearns and Lopez for Guilen and Clayton gets rid of two automatic outs in the lineup, giving the Nats a solid 1-7, at least. If Schneider were hitting like he did last year, this would likely be one of the deeper lineups in the NL, and probably a top-5 offense, when adjusted for park. It's a good sign going forward.

    Now about that pitching...

  • Tim Russert is a bad fan. Not only does he hog some of the best seats in the house just because he's a 'celebrity', leaving them empty 68 games a year, but he doesn't do the wave. (Well, maybe that's not a bad thing!) But the bastard leaves early too. How could you leave that game early, especially with the distinct possibility of Barry Bonds facing off against Chad Cordero with the game on the line?

    You deserve the Bills, Tim!

  • Tuesday, July 25, 2006


    Remember when the Nationals (ie MLB) and the DC SEC renovated a ball field in DC to help get DC kids playing baseball?

    Well, someone has stolen the bleachers to sell them for scrap. Predictably, DC's finest (file photo) have no freakin' clue where they went either.

    "Whoever did it should be ashamed," said Noel Cyrus, Ballou's athletic director. "It was there for the whole community. For a few people to take it upon themselves to make a few bucks -- if they're from our community -- they need to move out."

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Check N' Go Edition

    Sometime yesterday morning, Ted Lerner stopped at his local 7-11, but himself a coffee, a danish, and a money order for $450 million. A few minutes later, he sent it off to Bud Selig, who probably danced around like a glee-filled madman. Now, we can officially welcome our new Lerner overlords. How soon til they start getting booed?

  • Noted manly man, Jose Guillen is having Tommy John surgery to repair a torn elbow ligament. Wus. Unless he's going to start hitting baseballs with his elbow, I don't know why he can't play through it.

    Recovery for a pitcher is typically 18 months. Position players can usually come back sooner, and knowing Jose's stubborness, he's certainly going to try.

    I have to wonder, though, did all of Jose's nagging minor injuries cause this? Did he alter his swing/throwing motion because of the strained rib/sore wrist? Did that place unusual strain on his elbow, leading to this? How long has he been playing through the pain -- Frank had to pull him from a few games recently because he was unable to throw.

    Finally, it should put to rest the idiotic notion that Luis Ayala's arm injury was caused by the WBC. The Nationals had a player in their care who suffered the same injury. Injuries happen. They're not the WBC's fault.

    As far as his future, he's free at the end of the year, even if the Nats are still on the hook for his care. In a year or two's time, he's going to seem exactly like the kind of guy that Jim Bowden loves -- the injured retread who's trying to fight for past glory. I suspect we haven't seen the last of him.

  • I never mentioned it because I'm a horrible blogger, but John Patterson had exploratory surgery a week or so ago to figure out what the hell was wrong with his arm. It actually turned out to be really good news (relatively speaking). He was having nerve compression in his elbow, and the surgeons were able to dig the nerve out, repositioning it. As nasty as that sounds, that's a HUGE positive sign, especially given the likely Tommy John alternative. It's likely that Patterson will be able to return this season, and if the nerve stays in place, his return shouldn't have any real long-term implications. His arm should be ok -- well, as ok as Patterson's arm is ever going to be. Still, I think they should take their time with him and not push him, especially in a lost season, but having him come back for a few fixed-pitch starts would be helpful for him to shake off the rust, but also for his confidence.

  • Mike Rizzo (file photo), formerly of the AZ Diamondbacks, was named Assistant GM and VP for Baseball Ops. Rizzo is highly respected, and has had much success with the D-Back's farm system. Presumably he'll run the entire scouting operartion, to include majors and minors, something that's been severly lacking in MLB's 'stewardship'.

    Here's the AZ Republic's hagiography of Rizzo. NFA looks at how quickly he was able to turn around the AZ system.

  • Worthless sack o' crap, Damian Jackson, will be activated from the DL today, sending Melvin Dorta back to Harrisburg from whence he came. Jackson, you'll recall, came down with Whooping Cough. Or was it heartburn? Either way, he'll resume his role as chief rally-killer/ defensive miscuer.

  • I've stopped caring about the MASN mess, but some news today:
    --The FCC wants to send the battle to an administrative law judge. Yawn.
    --MASN says that a recent ruling sending them to arbitration signals that they've won, and that the only thing left to decide is the price. Yawn.

    These could be part and parcel of the same thing, but, frankly, I don't really care at this point. MASN and Comcast can both to get hell as far as I'm concerned. If they're not the same, then this two-pronged war has about as much excitement and titillation as the average freshman-year dorm filled with Axis and Allies buffs.

  • Todd Jacobson, who writes for the Freddyburg Free Lance-Star, and who, presumably, has also been told that I'm pure evil, has a blog. He usually writes from the games, giving an inside glimpse at the sort of thing that nutballs like us would find interesting, but just aren't newsworthy enough to make it to the pulpy pages.

  • The always wonderful Near SE DC development website has images of the proposed parking garages outside the new stadium. Thoughts?

    I think I've linked this before, but in my advancing age (next week is my 74th birthday), I've forgotten. Here's the webcam of the stadium site, showing the progress of the construction. Sorry, no T&A today.

  • Humberto Sanchez, who would've been one of the prizes in a trade with the Tigers has a sore elbow.

  • This report says that the Chicago Tribune (so much for primary sources!) says that there are four finalists for Soriano: Chicago, Detroit, Anaheim and the Yankees.

    I still don't think there's much of a match with the Yankees, but from what I've read, Big Stein is pushing hard for him, even as Cashman is resisting.

  • Hot Blogger Action!!
    --The Federalist handicaps the President's race.
    --One of the Curly Wers took a bunch of photos from the game the other day. He's clearly a communist as 1) He hates the President's races 2) He took a picture in a bathroom 3) He got to the game late and left early. For shame!
    --Just A Nats Fan took a bunch of pictures, too.
    --Sick of pictures yet? Tough! Nats 320 has a bazillion and one.

  • Monday, July 24, 2006

    Soriano: He Gone

    ESPN sez that Soriano could be on his way to Chicago for Brandon McCarthy and some chaff.

    I'm not sure what to make of it, but McCarthy's an interesting pitcher, who's had decent success in the minors and majors, even as he's never truly been dominant. He's put up good minor K rates, and has shown good control, even as he's fairly homer prone (which isn't uncommon for a youngin'). Minor league stats.

    More later... if something happens!

    I'm not sure what the other names are, but here's John Sickles' look at the ChiSox Top-20 prospects -- actually a mid-season review of his pre-season top-20.

  • Nothing yet, but Banks of the Anacostia looks at the rumors, and finds a juicy one about Los Tigres that's worth a quick click.

  • Svrluga's story is up, adding nothing new, other than a quick character study of PT Bowden:
    One National League executive said over the weekend that Bowden -- a notorious wheeler-dealer whose cellphone voice mail currently answers, "I can't come to the phone because I'm in the middle of trying to make a deal" -- could be trying to lure division rivals into the bidding for Soriano, hoping the fear of losing a playoff berth would be enough to surrender better prospects. That suspicion first arose when the Seattle Mariners were reported to have interest in Soriano last week.

    "That'd be just like him," the executive said of Bowden.

  • Sixteen Down, Eleven To Go

    Up, down, up, down it goes. It's been an interesting two weeks as the Nats have struggled to adjust to the newish roster. Kearns and Lopez replaced Guillen and Clayton. Alex Escobar and Ryan Church returned from the dead. Mike O'Connor bounced back from the minors (and stunk), and Tony Armas uninjured himself. Oh, and Luis Matos fell onto the roster. What a weird period of adjustments!

    And then there's the pitching staff. If you had Micah Bowie as one of our setup guys at the beginning of the season, well, I'm sure there's a loony bin that has internet access.

    There'll be some struggles, but with Johnson, Zimmerman, FLop, Kearns in place for next season, there's a core of a passable offense. Now let's just sort out the pitching, separating the wheat (Rauch) from the chaff (Gryboski).

    Nats Record (since the ASB): 5-4. Things started off poorly against the Pirates, but the Cubs are the magical elixir that cures what ails ya.
    Overall: 43-56 (26/30) To get back to .500, they'd have to win 38 of their last 63 games a .603 winning %. Over a full season, that's a 97-win pace. Think they can do it? Me neither.
    Runs Scored: 48 (5.3/g) The offense certainly enjoyed the Cubs pitching staff. Overall, they've scored 455, which is good for 11th in the league.
    Runs Allowed: 39 (4.3/g). The pitching hasn't been great, but, again, they enjoyed the Cubs offense. (Ramirez excepted) Overall, the staff has allowed 509 runs, which is tied with Cinci for fourth worst in the league -- factoring in the parks, we're much worse than them. Ouch.
    Expected Record: 44-55

    What's Good?
    1) Alfonso Soriano's Trade Desire! The storyline over the next week is where he ends up? Detroit? Seattle? Peru? Meanwhile, he's playing like a madman beating the snot out of the ball, upping his value with every extra base hit he crushes, 11 in all! For good measure, he's walked 8 times and stolen 5 bases. I hear that the brisket was his idea.

    2) Everybody's Eye! The team loped towards first slowly a lot, led by the Walking Stick's 9 BBs. Austin Kearns, despite some struggles with the back had 8, as did Soriano. This is one area that the Nats have made HUGE strides in compared to last year, and it's part of the reason (not just A-Sor) that the offense has been 'better'. They were 11th in the league last year. This season, they're fourth.

    3) The bullpen! Yeah, I know, I know. Take away Kevin Gryboski, and they were actually passably effective, even if not dominant, combingind for a 1.9 ERA. (5 runs in 23+ innings) Chad Cordero led the way with four scorless innings. Saul Rivera wasn't far behind with three scoreless appearances.

    What's Bad?
    1) Brian Schneider. He continues to struggle with just four singles in 19 ABs. At least he only hit into one double play.

    2) Pedro Astacio. Giving up three runs in six innings to the Cubs isn't great. The list of pitchers who've had quality starts against the Cubs recently includes Brian Moehler, Boof Bonser and Geremi (yeah, that's spelled right) Gonzalez. But he was knocked around by the Pirates, which is almost inexcusable!

    3) LOB. FLop and Kearns bore the brunt of criticism when they left a combined 1,412 men on base in the Pirates series, but that's been a problem for the Nats over the entire season. They're batting .249 with RISP, which is 11 points lower than their overall average.

    Game O' The Week
    Down four to the Marlins with Dontrelle Willis on the mound, it seemed hopeless. But not on Tuesday. A pair of runs in the sixth (one thanks to a Nick Johnson double), set up Nick Johnson's AB in the seventh. With the bases loaded (thanks to an IBB of Ryan Zimmerman), Nick faced off against Dontrelle, ripping a 2-2 pitch hard up the middle driving in the tying run.

    Kevin Gryboski gave away the tie in the bottom, and all seemed lost. But, again, they'd fight back. Robert Fick tied the game with a clutch homer in the 8th. And Alex Escobar drove home Ryan Zimmerman (who had doubled), giving the Nats a game-winner.

    Chad Cordero put the tying and winning runs on base, but, in the end, nailed it down, in one of the more enjoyable games of the year.

    MVP Award
    Soriano, no doubt. He hit .457/ .568/ 1.057. That's incredible, even for just 9 games.

    Cy Young Award
    Chad Cordero made that Florida game interesting, but in the end, four scoreless appearances is four scoreless appearances.

    LVP Award
    Brian Schneider's .211/ .286/ .211 was, by far, the worst of the week -- even when you factor in FLop's errors.

    Joe Horgan Award
    Thanks for playing Kevin Gryboski. I hope you enjoy New Orleans.

    Sunday, July 23, 2006


    The magic of last season peaked in early July when the Nationals swept the Chicago Cubs, giving the Nats an improbable 50-31 record. That wasn't just a peak, though. Peak implies something majestic and gradual. The descent since then has been anything but. (And more in the manner of my favorite Price is Right game -- non-Plinko division)

    Could the Grand Reopening and its sweep of the Cubs get us back to where we were in some sort of weird reality warp. Perhaps we need to burn Guzman at the stake? Maybe just click our heels three times while saying "There's no place like RFK?" I dunno what'll work, but if you figure it out, let me know!

    Wait, it's gotta be the brisket, right?

  • Friday night's game was wonderfully maddening with an early lead, a middle deficit, and a late win. Watching your team come from behind is certainly the most rewarding type of victory.

    Ryan Zimmerman, as you undoubtedly know, has shown an amazing ability to drop bunts down the third base line when the 3B is playing deep. To date, he has something like 9 or 10 bunt hits, and has only been thrown out once. In the 7th inning, while down a run, he led off the inning, and the camera zoomed tight, in MASN's version of Fox' nostril cam. And there you saw it. Zimmerman, while standing in his normal batting stance, peeked. Without shifting his head, he glanced all the way to the left, seeing if Ramirez was still deep. He was, and the first pitched found its way to the no-man's land between the pitcher and the hard-charging third baseman. Another hit.

    It was a game of bloop hits. Marlon Anderson's bases-clearer was an opposite field flare that Matt Murton seemed to brutally misplay. The 8th inning rally started with Soriano and Anderson bloops into center. Alex Escobar's game-winner was the only really well-struck ball of the inning, driving in two, but at the cost of a hamstring -- Escobar looked like he took one from a sniper.

    That feels like the kind of win we had last year, but it rally fits more into this season, where we've stolen a number of games. Last year was more of the take a lead and hold on for dear life kinda season -- in part because Tony Blanco hit in critical situations instead of Daryle Ward.

  • If you're not sure whether Soriano wants to stick around, take a look at the way he hit in Saturday's game, with a number of scouts likely watching. He ripped four hits: three doubles and a triple (but also some pisspoor baserunning). Felipe Lopez had his second straight two-hit game and Austin Kearns hit his first RFK homer.

    But the story was Livan's decent outing. Six innings and three runs would've earned him a non-curly L last year, but this year, we'll take it! It's his second straight quality start (even if his Bucco and Cubbie oppenents are anything but quality.) His velocity, so they say, was up, and it greatly increases the chances (say, from 0% to 5%) that they'll be able to ship his carcass off to another team, presumably in a piano case.

    You know you want him, Omar! Pssst! He won a World Series MVP!

  • Then came Sunday.... Over the last two years, how many times has the imaginary NY Post headline generator in your head come up with some variant of "Church On Sunday?" Today, the Sacred Cow made his triumphant return to the starting lineup with a monster blast to the upper deck in right, right over where Jose Guillen's injured corpse would've been standing had, well, that sorta worked in my head. Nevermind!

    Felipe Lopez (getting his third 2-hit game in a row) started the scoring, getting a flare to drop in for center, scoring two runs. After Church's shot, Soriano chipped in another, continuing his stretch of torrid get-me-the-hell-to-a-good-team play.

    But it was Tony Armas' pitching which carried the day. Improbably he worked into the seventh inning, giving up one measly run. Armas worked quickly and efficiently, perhaps, like Livan, showcasing him for a trade to a contender.

    You'd think that more teams would be on Armas. Sure, he's an injury risk, but he's been pretty solid (4.35 ERA), and he's cheap.

    Amazingly, this is the first sweep at home in over a year. But then, I guess, given how they've played, that's not all that surprising.

  • Just one thought....

    The starting pitching looked pretty good this weekend, and most of that is because of the Cubs truly dreadful lineup.

    But with Jose Vidro out and Marlon Anderson playing... and with the rangeless Royce Clayton being replaced by a rangier (even if he's error-prone) Felipe Lopez.... and with a gold-glove-type Austin Kearns roaming in right replacing a gimpy, hobbling, non-throwing Jose Guillen.... isn't it possible that the team's defense contributed some to it?

    That'll be something to watch in the coming weeks, especially if they do find a home for Jose Vidro.

  • Saturday, July 22, 2006

    Ryan Church Freed!?

    NFA points to this NOLA Zephyrs notes column indicating that Ryan Church has been recalled (to replace Alex Escobar who left last night's game with what looked like a hamstring injury?).

    If so, I'm happy for the kid. And my overly inflated ego is going to assume that it was my passionate advocacy that made the difference.

  • Update:

    Charlie Slowes, on the radio, says that Church has been recalled. I didn't catch it, but it seems like they sent Dorta back down?

  • Friday, July 21, 2006

    Habemus Lernum

    Halleluia! For it hath been done!

    The paperwork for Major League Baseball's sale of the Washington Nationals to a group led by real estate developer Ted Lerner was completed Friday night.

    Control of the team will shift once a money transfer is completed Monday, incoming team president Stan Kasten said during the team's game against the Chicago Cubs.

    "Any remaining issues are complete," Kasten said.

    The Lerner group was chosen in May by commissioner Bud Selig from among eight bidders to buy the former Montreal Expos for $450 million

    Throw in a nice come-from-behind win, and it's a pretty good night to be a Nats fan!

    Thursday, July 20, 2006

    Introducing Our New Left Fielder...

    Jose Guillen finally (and mercifully) went on the DL for the elbow/wrist/rib/forearm/goiter/kidney problem that's been affecting him all season. Unfortunately for the Nats, he's done it about 4.5 months too late. He hasn't been healthy one game this season, and any continued playing of him to increase his 'trade value' has been folly. He'll be on the DL til after the 7/31 deadline, but an August trade wouldn't be out of the question were he 1) hitting or 2) not persona non grata in Pittsburgh, Tampa, Arizona, Cincinatti, Colorado, Oakland and Anaheim.

    By my unscientific calculations, the only teams he hasn't played for are the Baltimore Orioles and the Cleveland Infants.

    Mevlin Dorta gets the call, if only because he's the only infielder left in the entire organization who hasn't been suspended for steriod abuse. Dorta's not much of a hitter, batting .277/ .329/ .381 at double-A Harrisburg. He can play all over the diamond and he's got a little bit of speed. Maybe he'll turn into Joe McEwing. (and no, I'm not sure if that's a compliment)

    At any rate, he gets the call not because he's good or because he's ready, but because he carries a tiny glove. And with Jose Vidro hobbling like that out-of-shape cripple he really is and Damian Jackson still suffering from whooping cough, we're one twisted knee from seeing Robert Fick at third base.

    Dorta should stick around for a few days til Bodes brings out the vacu-pump and sucks out the blockage in the outfield, and giving this roster some sort of non-dartboardish construction.

    But as he plans it, and as the Soriano rumors keep (as your limey friend would say) hotting up, there's going to be a deficit of outfielders pretty soon. Kearns in right, sure. Escobar in center, yep. But Matos? Pass!

    So is there anyone on the farm who could help out? Marlon Byrd? Nah. He had his chance. Again. And again. But, hmm... there's one name that sort of looks familiar. I vaguely remember this Church kid. Didn't he do something last year? I can hardly remember.

    The Ryan Church saga has been a tiring one. He had a lot of promise last year (and probably played over his head.) He made a game saving catch in Pittsburgh, but hurt himself when he crashed into the wall. He wasn't right for a time after that. He did the unthinkable. Instead of playing through the pain and sinking the team like Manly Man Jose Guillen, he went on the Disabled List. Later in the year, the guy asked out with a broken toe, the wus! It was only his pinky toe!

    Anyway, the guy got a rep as soft, and because of the wall-crashing injury (and perhaps regression to the mean) he stunk in the second half. You know what happened this year. He came out flat in Spring Training, then the team started throwing out words like 'complacent' 'fire' 'drive'. He got sent down at the beginning of the year, despite there being ZERO evidence that his replacement, Brandon Watson, would have any chance of success. Watson, as almost anyone with a pulse could've told you, flamed out, and Church got his chance.

    And he made the most of it, completely destroying the ball in a way that no non-Soriano National was. His April was tremendous, hitting .244/ .380/ .659. To put those numbers in context, that OPS total is roughly what MVP candidate Carlos Beltran is doing this season. The man was hitting.

    But then, uhoh. Cough, cough, sneeze, sneeze. He came down with the flu. But, having learned his lesson last year that, short of dismemberment above the elbow, you must play through pain, he shouldered on. Bill Ladson reported:

    Outfielder Ryan Church left Friday's game against the Cardinals in the sixth inning because of flu-like symptoms.

    "There's a bug that has been around for a while," Robinson said. "He went as long as he could. He couldn't go anymore. He didn't ask out. I took him out."

    Church didn't show up to the park the next few nights as he was trying to get healthy. He didn't appear in a game til May 2, pinch-hitting in two games before coming on as a pinch-runner in the third. He got his first start on May 6, going 0-3, but with two walks.

    He would start each of the next four games, getting just three hits in fourteen ABs while striking out six times. He did look out of synch. I'm not going to defend him for that, but he was far from the only Nat whose head wasn't on straight as they dropped 3/4. He pinch-hit on the 18th, then got another start on the 19th, going 0-4 with a K. And that was it. He was gone.

    His May was brutal. Coming off the flu, and with a few games missed, he hit .167/ .286/ .167 in 24 ABs. You can't defend that performance.

    But, I can point to the randomness of numbers. Here are the Nats batting totals since 7/8 (chosen randomly to get totals roughly equal to the 24 AB sample Church has). Is Soriano really a .387 hitter? Is Jose Vidro really a .182? Is Lopez going to hit .080 the entire year? The point is that you can't make a judgement based solely on the numbers, especially when there are 40 ABS preceeding that showing that he can beat the snot out of the ball.

    It's clear, from reading between the lines, that there's something deeper going on there. Some of the writers have hinted around it, but no one's actually talked about it. It'll turn into one of those "now it can be told" sorts of stories when he retires. But for now, it's a nebulous mystery.

    Now, when I started out writing 7,500 words ago, I didn't intend to write a defense of Church. I just wanted to see how his minor league stint was going, and see if there was any chance that he'd fight his way back on to the team. Short answer: Nope.

    Church has stunk up the park in New Orleans, and he's been very unpopular with the fans. It seems like he's a headcase, completely unsure of himself, but with the way he's been jerked around the last 18 months, it's probably understandable.

    For the season, Church is hitting .235/ .337/ .373. Brutal. Just brutal.

    When I looked at the boxscore the other day, I saw that he had a homer. Then another. Hmmm.... I guess he's starting to get his act together. So it was time to take a closer look.

    He has been on fire in July.

    Through the games of July 17th, he's had 40 ABs, almost double that horrid May sample that earned his demotion. And what's he done? .325/ .404/ .550. Scorching.

    He's getting hot at the right time. It's probably too late to work him into the trading plans, but if there's a hole at the major league roster, how can the team overlook that performance? He's finally doing what they asked him to do: go to New Orleans and hit like he's a major leaguer. If he keeps it up, can they keep him down?

    Yeah, I'm pulling for the kid. And he's probably not as good as I think he is. But they've dicked him around for two years for not being tough enough, all while letting Jose Guillen kill the team while being injured. When other struggle, they play through it. When Church struggles, he gets yanked. Or demoted. He really needs to be left alone, given consistent playing time, the way Marlon Byrd got it so that he can prove that he can cut it or, like Marlon Byrd, that he deserves a one-way ticket to New Orleans.

    I'll be keeping a close eye on him, pulling for him to get his chance. If he keeps playing like his July, no one can say that he hasn't earned it.

    Wait Til Next Year

    MLB's sticking it to the city one last time, and the Post buries the lede:
    The Lerner group had hoped to take ownership of the franchise from MLB by this week. But MLB's latest fight with the city has delayed the handoff, District government and baseball officials said.

    Oh well.

    Don't let the headline scare you. Essentially it's a warning letter. Nobody, at least from the tiny number or facts actually contained in the article, is in danger of doing anything. There's too much money involved (read: financial penalties for DC) for it to evolve into something larger.

    I wonder how much of this is directed by the Lerners as an FU to the city over the parking. They're in a good position to use MLB as the bad cop, getting DuPuy and his henchmen to do the dirty work for them.

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006

    Race To The Bottom

    With another loss (1-0, sigh), the Nats are only 7 games away from the inevitible, the number 1 pick. Right now, we'd have the fifth pick, so when Chicago comes to town (they're in 3rd), I hope the Nats go out there and rest on their laurels. A Cubs sweep would be great!

    But enough about that crap.

    It's Tuesday's game that makes me smile. What a fun game. It's the kind that's memorable because the Nats had NO business winning the damn thing. They pitched like crap. Hit like crap. Fielded like crap. Yet somehow, the mingling of mierda produced a beautiful smell. (tortured metaphor alert)

    The play that's going to stick with Marlins and Nats fans is Reggie Abercrombie's bunt homerun. Basil at Federal Baseball had the definitive breakdown of that play, which was about as brutal a play as you'll ever see on a major league diamond. If you didn't see it, the video's here, but I'd advise against it. It's traumatic.

    Michael O'Connor got the start, and completely stunk up the park in the first inning. He had zippo control, and was wild high with all his pitches. That's fine if you throw like Pedro used to. But the kid's doing it with smoke and mirrors, and he got punished. But after that, he settled down, pitching effectively into the sixth inning.

    I've thrown out a theory before that I'd love to be facile enough with retrosheet to check. It seems that when a team rallies from a deficit of, say, four runs or more, if they don't take the lead, they end up losing the game more often than not. And when the Nats stormed back with two runs in the sixth and seventh innings to tie the game, I figured it was going to be another test of my theory.

    The seventh inning rally was a marvel. Dontrelle was flinging the ball with his typical herky-jerky motion, keeping the Nats off balance, more or less. Robert Fick fought off a tough pitch, pulling it into right field. Luis Matos (who knew?) drove a ball to right for a double. Soriano popped up, and it was time for the moment of truth for Felipe Lopez.

    Lopez would stink underwater, and hitting against a LHP, he might as well just give up and try to lean into a pitch. In his short time as a Nat, he's left more men on base than even Jose Guillen! But what's this? Ball 1. Ball 2. Ball 3. The bastard's gonna do it! The next pitch was a terrible call by the ump. A ball that was high, and probably outside, but it was fairly close. A gimme pitch on a gimme count. Instead of trotting to first, Lopez had to keep swinging. With two strikes, Dontrelle reared back, flung his right arm in front like a third-rate magician, then followed through with his left, slipping a strike right on the inside corner. You could just see Lopez lock up. Everything had been high, and wild. This was perfect. A perfect pitch at the right time. That pretty much sums up the FLop experience so far.

    Then came the choice. Ryan Zimmerman was at the plate, and Nick Johnson was on deck. Dontrelle Intentionally Walked Zimmerman to load the bases. Bad move. Even though Johnson fell behind early, with two strikes, Dontrelle left a pitch high over the plate that NJ ripped hard up the middle off the mound and through into centerfield, tying the game. It wasn't a beautiful hit, but it was the right swing, as the ball sailed right back through the box.

    But in the bottom of the inning, right on cue, Kevin Gryboski wasted no time in untying the game. Aha! My theory is right!

    Anyone watching probably assumed we were done. With a craptastic bullpen, and a flaccid offense, we'd probably done about as much rallying as we possibly could've.

    Kearns struck out (again!?!?! the bum!). Marlon Anderson (in for a hobbling Vidro) struck out. Game over, man! But Robert Fick!?!? What? Deep to right it went, and the game was amazingly tied. Watch the pitch he hit. He didn't hit a mistake. He hit a ball low out of the zone and just golfed it, a beautiful swing on a less-than beautiful pitch. Great hitting.

    Mike Stanton did his damndest to cough up the lead, allowing a single, but then picking off the runner. But, continuing the little league defensive theme, FLop (or maybe Vidro) failed to cover second in time, so no one was around for NJ's throw on the pickoff. Safe was the runner, and Stanton had to grit his ancient teeth harder, getting Joe Borchard (who?) to pop to right, ending the inning. Phew!

    The top of the 9th went quickly, thanks to another Felipe Lopez out (Washington: Where shortstops go to die). With two outs, Ryan Zimmerman (who else?) ripped a double to left, and then came another intentional walk. Maybe Girardi thinks he's Frank Robinson? Alex Escobar was at the plate, with the game on his bat, only because noted Manly Man Jose Guillen pussed out of the game with an elbow injury. And he came through! Perfect hitting, again, ripping the ball right back through the box on a fastball that caught the fat part of the plate. Gotta love those intentional walks, eh?

    How the hell were the Nats winning? They weren't doing anything right, but for those two hits up the middle.

    So in came Cordero, trying to get his first save in a month. A month!

    With the way he pitched, it was easy to say. Two bunts in a row, one for a hit, one for a sac, put the tying run at second. Then came butchery #, well, I lost count of how many there were, but this was a doozy. Cordero tried the pickoff, but yacked the throw, putting Almezega at third with just 1 out.

    The winning run, Miguel Cabrera was at the plate. So what does Frank do? Yep. Sure. Let's intentionally walk him! It worked well for Girardi. It's bound to work here, huh?

    Keep in mind that Cordero is an EXTREME flyball pitcher. Last season he only induced two double-plays -- and that wasn't for a lack of baserunners! Sure, Cabrera's an All-World hitter, but, man. I just don't get Frank sometimes.

    But as Cordero frequently does, when his back's against the wall, he fights hard. 3 strikes later, Mike Jacobs was pulling his head off his helmet as he stumbled back to the dugout. But Cordero wanted to make it more interesting, walking Wes Helms, pushing that winning run that Frank just had to put on to second base. A hit loses the game!

    That wasn't any matter for Cordero, at least, even though this had all the signs of being a typical (and probably deserved) Nats loss. Wham! Wham! Wham! went the fastballs, and Josh Willingham flailed helplessly as Cordero overpowered him, something he hasn't done in months. Nats Win! Nats Win? Wow.

    What a game.

    Ah, That Explains It

    While he's been linked to the Mets and Rangers in vague trade rumors, the mystery of Livan's suckiness has been uncovered. Turn your speakers down and 'listen' to this.

    Hablo solo un poco del espano, but I'm pretty sure that whatever the hell he's saying, it's disrespectful of women.

    From the look on his face, Livan seems to be thinking "Donde estas las hamburguesas?"

    Thanks to whoever the hell it was that dug this crap up.

    Tuesday, July 18, 2006

    Who Will Buy This Wonderful Feeling?

    There are just thirteen more days in the glorious Alfonso Soriano experiment. With the trading deadline inching closer, the rumors are getting hotter. And heavier. It seems pretty clear at this point that the Nats are going to get something of value for Soriano, which makes his trade a necessity. For all the talk of wanting to resign him, the prospects they're going to get back are likely to be more valuable than the draft picks they'd net if they lost him. There's simply no guarantee that Soriano would resign with the team, even as he's expressed a willingness to do so.

    And, truthfully, I suspect that whatever contract he's going to get is going to pay him far more than he's worth. Soriano has been a magical player this year, and the contract he's going to get is going to reflect that. The winning bidder is going to have to hope that he continues to have seasons like this, instead of like his three previous seasons, when he was merely very good. Very good can win a pennant. But it's harder to do when you're paying for excellence.

    But before we think about money, let's keep our eyes on the real prize, the trading deadline.

  • Detroit:
    The Nationals want three prospects and have asked that prized right-hander Humberto Sanchez (stats)be included in the deal. Sanchez (5-2, 3.19 ERA at Triple-A Toledo) has pitched superbly since his promotion from Double-A Erie. He started and pitched one perfect inning in the All-Star Futures Game and has an overall potential that compares favorably to that of rookies Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya.

    Washington officials are requesting a package that includes Sanchez, rising prospect Jair Jurrjens (stats) (3-2, 2.78 at Double-A Erie) and a position player. Their first request was 2005 first-round pick Cameron Maybin, but the Tigers will not trade him. The parties may, however, settle on Erie outfielder Brent Clevlen (stats), a former second-round pick, currently with Erie.

    Banks of the Anacostia has a closer look at these three.

    Their columnists are certainly pushing for it. Push! Push harder!

  • Seattle:
    the Nationals want to pick up can't-miss young talent in exchange. Apparently they have settled on the Mariners' center fielder, Adam Jones, as the player they most want in exchange.

    On the surface, it doesn't seem like a deal Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi would be likely to make. Seattle has the money to make that kind of deal, but Bavasi has stressed -- Seattle PI

    The Internet report mentioned outfielder Adam Jones as one player Bowden would seek. Seattle sources say this is a deal-breaker because Jones, an immense talent, is regarded as the center fielder for now and the future....

    Several scouts at Yankee Stadium opined Monday that Bowden may be floating Seattle as an interested party in an effort to get the Los Angeles Angels to move on getting Soriano. --Seattle Times

    the Mariners could A) ensure that he doesn't go to the Angels; B) boost their offense, the fifth-worst in the American League and C) obtain a player who could prove a difference-maker in the A.L. West race, helping improve the job security of general manager Bill Bavasi -- Ken Rosenthal

  • Angels:
    Apparently, the Angels' search for a big bat has not yet reached the nation's capital. Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said on KSPN/710's "The Big Show with John Ireland and Steve Mason" that the Angels are not one of the seven teams to have asked him about slugger Alfonso Soriano.--OC Register

    Angels consider the current asking price too high and would not surrender premium talent without signing him to a contract extension. To this point, the Nationals are not believed to be willing to allow another team to negotiate an extension in advance of a trade.

    In an e-mail Friday, Washington General Manager Jim Bowden said of the Angels: "They are not a club that is presently involved in trade discussions with our club." -- LA Times

  • Yankees:
    The Yanks have monitored the Washington corner outfield duo of Alfonso Soriano and Jose Guillen, but are not as enthralled as has been re ported in some corners. The Yanks are prioritizing defense and while Guillen and Sanders are good de fensive players, Soriano is not, which along with his huge price tag in both dol lar and prospect costs and his looming free agency make him less appealing.--NY Post

  • Those seem to be the main suitors, although Bowden has claimed that as many as seven teams are involved. I'd imagine that you can throw the Cardinals. (Here's one suggesting the Dodgers). Maybe the Blue Jays will get interested -- they're right in the race, too.

    Regardless, it's going to be a fun few weeks. Enjoy Soriano while you can, because from the number of rumors out there, Bowden's sure to get something. We certainly know he's not afraid to pull the trigger.

  • Monday, July 17, 2006

    New Team, Same Results

    Add, subtract, do whatever you need. No matter the calculation, permutation or combination, the limit approaches an infinite suckiness.

    Armas was blah. The big blow was a two-run single to the opposing pitcher. If it seems like the Nats get the bejeesus beaten out of them by the opposing pitcher, it's because they do. They've walked 10 times, been HBP another and before tonight, had driven in 11 runs -- which is actually an improvement from last season. Armas, all things considered, has probably been the Nats' best starter. But his inability to go more than 5 innings is maddening.

    The Please-God-Get-A-Hit-So-We-Can-Trade-Your-Sorry-Ass Jose Guillen Express rumbled to another RBI late in the game. Guillen has done a good job of upping his trade value from "HA!" to "Meh." He's on a 7-game hitting streak, with RBI in the last 3. His current .277 OBP (wow, Guzman's was .260 last year) is as high as it's been since playing Boston a month ago. Jose Guillen fun fact: Since May 1, his OBP has been above .300, well, never.

    Still, Barry sez that the Dodgers and Yankees are interested. Send relievers!

    Barry also says that there are four main suitors for Soriano: Detroit, Seattle, Angels, Yankees. I'd suspect the Yankees are out, because of their unwillingness to send Hughes. Seattle's the most recent entry, but they lack the top tier prospects that Bowden should deman. The Angels are probably the best fit. They're loaded with prospects and really need outfield help. But their GM has traditionally been unwilling to part with his babes, as he continues to hoarde infielders and washed-up veterans as if they were tabbies and he were a cat lady.

    The guy I'd most want is uberprospect Howie Kendrick, a 2B. (stats) Just to give you an idea of the kind of run he's on, here's the PCL leaderboard. Click on any column to sort. Good luck finding one where his name's not at or near the top.

    Banks of the Anacostia has a good look at the Seattle and Detroit offers, giving a quick overview of the players the Nats would/should/could take.

    But back to reality, FLop had a homer (yay!) but made two more errors (boo!) Austin Kearns got the night off to 'clear his head'. But really so that the team could keep Jose Guillen out there in 2006's version of 2005's Preston Wilson's drive for 90 RBI.

    Micah Bowie is proving himself useful, as the long man this team desparately needed, but lacked. Every inning that he eats up is an inning that Rauch or Cordero don't need to pitch. And with the starters still having as much luck getting through the 7th inning as I have with winning that Pulitzer, he's pretty damn valuable. Rauch, sadly, has fallen off his pace-o'-death, but it's early, too. Frank did most of his damage with Majewski in August and September.

  • Anagram O' The Day, Austin Kearns: Nauseant Risk

  • Armas In, LeCroy Out

    The Nationals activated Tony Armas today and DFAd Matt LeCroy. They have 10 days to trade or release LeCroy. (Although I suppose they could try to send him to the minors -- if he consented.)

    Hopefully LeCroy will catch on with an AL team that needs the RH side of a DH platoon. He's a good guy who got screwed over on this team in terms of role and playing time.

    O'Connor is due back tomorrow. I'd suspect that Damian Jackson would get the wack -- although it could be Matos, too. If Jackson's chocking fit doesn't ease up, maybe they could DL him. We'll see tomorrow.

    Sunday, July 16, 2006

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Memo To Frank Edition

    To: Frank Robinson, Hall of Famerâ„¢
    From: Chris, Internet Doofus

    1) The bullpen's not hard, Frank. Stop managing by the seat of your pants. Cordero's the closer. He pitches the 9th in save situations. He should also come in when the game's tied in the 9th and the Nats are home, or when there's a fire in the 8th inning. Pitching him in extras on the road is fine. There's little sense saving him for a save situation that'll never come.

    Jon Rauch is the new Majewski. Perhaps we can change his number, or make him gallop to the mound to country music like the Trucker did? Will that make it easier for you?

    Mike Stanton *gulp* is a 7th/8th, LOOGY. He should almost never face a right-handed batter.

    Stretch out Corcoran and Gryboski. One of them might be able to do a Rauch impersonation. But give them more than one batter at a time. One failure doesn't mean you should bury them either.

    Saul Rivera's a 5th/6th inning option when the starter starts dying.

    The roles are there. Just use them and stop bitching about how unsettled the pen is.

    2) I've taken the liberty of resending the memo I sent to you on double switches. Please reread it and incorporate it. Saturday night, you left Roy Corcoran in to bat in a tie game in the 9th inning because you failed to doubleswitch.

    That whole inning was a mess, Frank. You made defensive changes and then left Micah Bowie in for a batter or two before yanking him. Had you pulled Bowie at the start of the inning (when he was due to face a few righties) you could've double-switched Matos into the 9th spot, avoiding the ugly 9th scenario. Of course with the way Corcoran pitch (Subject for another memo: Don't ask a 'kid' fresh up from the minors to execute the feckin' wheel play in his first game), it wouldn't have mattered.

    3) With interest, I read your comments to's Bill Ladson with respect to Soriano's sac bunt in the 11th inning of today's game.
    Robinson didn't like what Soriano did because the Nationals have been having a tough time trying to score runs.

    "He is trying to help the ballclub to get that guy in scoring position, but he has to realize how tough it has been to get that guy in from third base with two out and [Felipe] Lopez, who is hitting behind him is struggling also," Robinson said.

    A few things concern me, Frank. First, there were no outs when he did it, not two. Were you paying attention? Second, it wasn't left just to Lopez. Behind him: Vidro, Johnson, Zimmerman. Somehow I like their chances of getting a run in. Third, while I, too, loath the use of the sac bunt with a runner on second (just get a feckin' single!), I'm amazed at your restraint, considering how that's always been one of your favorite plays. Congrats, btw, in cutting down the number of sacrifices this year. Maybe this is part of the overall strategy you're employing. Regardless, I'd love to hear why you've changed.

  • Three of the Nats top picks have started the long slog to the majors in the Gulf Coast League.

    First-rounder Chris Marrero has had a hot bat early, hitting .409/ .409/ .545. He hasn't walked, but he's cranked out three doubles. Raw homerun power is typically rare among players that young. Doubles are traditionally an indication of future power potential. If he continues cranking them out, that Pat Burrell description might not be that far off.

    Stephen Englund has been playing center. The hits have dropped in (.333), but he has 0 XBH and just one walk. (Of course that's one more walk than me this season!)

    The other first-rounder, Colton Willems, has appeared just once, pitching two shutout innings, walking one, King one.

    I'll check in with the periodically. Evaluating them at this point doesn't make much sense.

  • Tradee Ryan Wagner got his first game with New Orleans in, getting knocked around for four runs in an inning. Oy. Ryan Church hit a homer, but it's just his fifth. He's gone completely to hell down there. The posters to the Zephyrs forum at the Times Picayune website sure seem to hate him. Meanwhile, execrable catcher Wiki Gonzalez has gone AWOL from New Orleans. Good riddance.

  • The official groundball pitcher of this ol' blog, Ryan Drese, made a rehab start for Harrisburg, pitching three shutout innings. His return would be incredibly surprising. Anytime any variant of the world ulnar is tossed out, it's smart to assume the worst.

  • Shawn Hill has started throwing again, but there's no timetable for his return.

  • Ladson reports that the Nats are interviewing Mike Rizzo for the Ass-GM job. Rizzo has been in charge of the Diamondbacks minor leagues, which is regarded one of the top systems in the game.

  • Utterly worthless Damian Jackson has missed the last few games with esophogyial spasms. I guess his throat's tired from all the choking?

  • John Patterson is THIS close to being shut down for the season. Woohoo!

  • Been keeping up with the latest Alfonso Soriano trade rumors?

  • I'm forgetting what I wrote, but the Nats lost Brandon Watson to the Reds on waivers (eh).