Wednesday, July 26, 2006

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!


    • The wave is passe, let's move on from it. John Madden used to make a big deal about how they never did the wave at RFK. I don't recall Sweet Caroline being played last night, hopefully a trend.

      I thought Ryan Church should have been about to catch Matt Morris' double and I half expected him to be benched. I am glad he found his bat though.

      By Blogger WFY, at 7/26/2006 9:38 AM  

    • At Yankee Stadium, when people start the wave, the Bleacher Creatures start the "Take it to Shea" chant. seems about right!

      I made a mental note to write about Church's defense, but forgot.

      I'm on the fence about that double. He was playing really shallow, because it was the pitcher. Morris cranked the hell out of that ball, hitting it about as hard as Ray Durham's. He got fairly close to it, but it's hard to say that many would've caught it.

      Overall, though, he has a funky way of catching balls. He'll slowly float towards the spot in a hurried manner, making it look like he's not really sure where the ball's going to go. Then he'll stop, but he won't really get into catching position, making you really nervous. He leans back, almost flexing his back knee, squatting down, shielding the ball with is glove, before making a routine catch, but one that has your heart beating faster the entire time.

      It's hard to watch, and he is in control the whole time. It just doesn't really seem like it.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/26/2006 9:43 AM  

    • I noticed the home plate ump's strike zone was consistently low last night.

      All the pitchers were getting away with below the knees pitches(I thought they were anyway - I was watching on TV so Paciorek's ultra-hammy impressions may have caused hallucinations. Do you think he gets big laughs at the Paciorek family reunion? Where his relatives all tell him, "you're so funny, you should be a comedian!").

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/26/2006 9:54 AM  

    • I'm upstairs right behind the plate, so I can't tell high/low, but in/out is a perfect angle. He seemed to be pretty good about calling the corners, especially as Morris was consistently pitching inside.

      Sorry about Paciorek. I just hope he didn't do his Cookie Monster (Ray Romano) impersonation.

      I probably should put scare quotes around impersonation.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/26/2006 9:56 AM  

    • I thought he was consistent on the corners as well.

      High or low, it sure didn't seem to matter when Correia was slicing through the Nats, anyway.

      "I probably should put scare quotes around impersonation."

      Hah yes you should. And you should have some chowduh with that.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/26/2006 10:18 AM  

    • As for our Catcher deficit, maybe we should get Fasano for the rest of the year. I here he's available & cheap

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/26/2006 11:26 AM  

    • The Yankees signed him.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/26/2006 11:27 AM  

    • There's no wave in baseball.

      In fact, in soccer, the presence or absence of the wave is an indicator of how intense a contest is. The more interesting the game, the longer one waits before some jackass tries to get the wave going.

      By that logic, when you see the wave, people have stopped really caring about the game, and I hate that. I hate sitting with people who don't care about the game--I'd prefer to sit with people who don't *know* the game, but want to find out to sitting with people with a disrespect for the game.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/26/2006 2:16 PM  

    • How much of Schneider's problems might be due to the lack of a real back-up catcher? Minus the time he spent on the disabled list, he's started 70/86 games -- that's a pace of 132 starts. Maybe he would do better if he could be cut back to a 120-125 game pace.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/26/2006 3:35 PM  

    • Certainly a possibility, and I'm sure it's hot helping. But he hasn't hit from day 1.

      I'm still leaning towards an injury.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/26/2006 3:37 PM  

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