Distinguished Senators, the Washington Nationals Blog That Is Great

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Lenny Harris for the Hall

David Ortiz says he's going to retire in about a year, so in the spirit of putting up Christmas decorations on November 1, it's time for Hall of Fame arguments.

I don't know if Ortiz should be in the Hall. Craig Calcaterra thinks he should be. He may well be right, but in mounting his argument he strung together some impressively illogical blithering about whether all of Ortiz' designated hittering should factor into it. I quote the entirety of the "The Designated Hitter Factor" section of his piece (except for the end).
He has played a mere 277 of his 2,257 career games in the field, spending the rest of his time as a designated hitter. 
The notion, however, that just because one has zero defensive value means one has no Hall of Fame case is silly.
No one is arguing that, right? Well, I'm sure you could find someone who refuses to consider DHs for the Hall, but this is certainly not engaging the real argument.

Baseball players' offensive output is graded on a curve. 300 home runs from a catcher means more than it does from a first baseman, right? Then it follows that those same dingers from a DH mean even less.
The DH has been part of the game for 43 seasons. It is not some novelty anymore.
OK. So? This is not an argument.
Relief pitchers are routinely inducted to the Hall of Fame now and they are specialists too. Many — specifically, one-inning closers — are the sorts of specialists that have only existed since the 1980s, really. If no one knocks them for not being all-around players no one should knock the DH.
Things that are different are different. Is this an argument that people should like the DH, or an argument that being a DH should have no bearing on a player's candidacy? Either way is dumb.
And the fact is that, with the possible exception of Edgar Martinez — who should be in the Hall of Fame in my view — David Ortiz has been the greatest (mostly) full-time DH in baseball history.
This is begging the question - "Ortiz is the best at something, so he's a HOFer." Being the best thing something - anything - is not a criterion for election. Being the best hitter or pitcher gets you in, sure. But it doesn't work for the best pinch hitter or defensive first baseman or third base coach.
It’s also the case that Paul Molitor and Frank Thomas would not likely have lasted long enough or produced enough as players to make the Hall of Fame without the aid of the DH as well.
Then it seems like the voters have already managed to factor in designated hitting into Hall of Fame candidacies, huh?

What I suppose Calcaterra is doing is arguing against the ideological anti-DH case for keeping Ortiz out of the Hall. In doing so, he ignores more reasonable arguments, which I guess makes it a lot easier for him.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Six Year Itch

The theme of the Nationals' 2015 is nostalgia. The team celebrated the tenth anniversary of its arrival by embarrassing the hell out of us like it was 2009 all over again.

Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer ensure that we're no longer humiliated by every Nats headline, as was the case six years ago, but the ratio is nevertheless unfortunate, and it got worse as the year wore on.

Or rather, it's getting worse as the year wears on - our embarrassments didn't end on October 4, which prompted the Sports Bog to compile the Nats' ten most embarrassing moments.

The Natinals jerseys screwup is the funniest one. Papelbon choking Harper checks in at #1, but I'd put Smiley Gonzalez there. Lots of teams have public disagreements in the dugout; I think we're the only one that's lost a GM because the FBI was coming after him.

Rob Dibble's on there, but Tom Paciorek was worse. Dibble was kind of fun.
"Rob Dibble here reminding you to bring a lunch!"
A couple of my favorites didn't make the list. Remember when the Nats were ordered by the DC Fire Chief to stop setting off fireworks because some hot explosives landed on a guy?

And that guy was in fact the D.C. Fire Chief? 2009 really was a hell of a year.

That same year saw Washington Post Nats beat writer "Chico" Harlan throw an hilarious little prissfit about how he was too good for his job.

I wonder why the Sports Bog didn't mention that one.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Penny Wise

This managerial situation is amazing. The Lerners seem not to realize that talented people expect to be paid for their services, and thus have embarrassed the hell out of us all once again. I would agree to manage the Nats on a one year, $1.6 million contract. The problem is that no one who should be managing would accept that.

It has probably worked out for the best. Managerial performance is even harder to predict than it is analyze, but we may well be better off with Dusty Baker. With the exception of headline writers, of course, for whom being teased with Bud Black must have been very trying.

Even if everything's OK this time, you have wonder to what extent the Lerners' parsimony and lack of appreciation for the manager role has held this team back. They have never paid top dollar for a manager, relying on people either too new or too old to command big salaries.

Like Matt Williams.

Let's say, hypothetically, the Nats were the team that poached Joe Maddon away from the Rays. Williams gets the Rick Renteria treatment.  With Maddon installed and the Lerners millions of dollars poorer, things would have played out quite differently. Would Jayson Werth have spent his season undercutting the manger? Would one of the closers have sulked himself into uselessness? Would the other closer have tried to strangle the Bryce Harper?

Probably not, but that's why Joe Maddon costs five million dollars.

"Hey now, fellas. No choking in the dugout."

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Uncle Blackie

Mike Rizzo has turned things over to his bestest buddy in the whole wide world, Mr. Black. For the last nine years he was manager of the San Diego Padres. Until they blew up.
There's a lot to like about this. For one thing, it shows that the Nationals are able to learn from their mistakes. Matt Williams was hired despite lacking any real experience because he interviewed well and was a Mike Rizzo crony from back in the day. Bud Black may have interviewed well, but neither of those other attributes is true of him.

I'm sure we're all going to enjoy how easy his name will make headline puns. You've got an evocative color AND a word that can mean friend or beer or marijuana. "Dank Bud Smokes Opposition." That kind of thing.

Plus he carries on the baseball tradition of dudes with last names that describe them inaccurately, like Cecil Fielder or Bill White or Mike Trout.

Is he a good manager? I don't know. Probably, right? People didn't seem to blame him for getting fired. I prefer to analyze these things in hindsight. It's much safer.

I may not be confident saying Bud Black is a good manager, but I'm sure he's an improvement.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Stable Condition

The Nationals fired Matt Williams, and the fact that the move was a year late doesn't mean it's not a good one.

Virgil points out that rumor is a monster, vast and terrible, fleet-winged and swift-footed, sister to Coeus and Enceladus, who for every feather on her body has as many watchful eyes below as many tongues speaking, as many listening ears.

Enceladus' sister is already providing us the with the names of possible replacements. Bud Black? Yeah, sure. Dave Martinez? OK. Cal Ripken? That's the stupidest damn thing I've ever heard.

I mean, the Nats just acknowledged that hiring a really good player with no managerial experience was a mistake. One has to hope that they're not going to follow up by hiring an even better player with even less experience.

Whoever they hire is going to have his work cut out for him. The Nats do have talent, but that talent comes with some issues. The main issue is that the guys playing for the Nats are weepy schmucks, at least one of whom isn't afraid to try to get his manager fired.

This stable may well be impossible for an outsider to clean out, and I'm going to suggest that they give that job to the man who filled it up.

Jayson Werth should manage the Nationals in 2016.

Just think of all the things that could go right!
  • Barry Svrluga said that Werth is insightful and thoughtful. That can't be enitrely because Werth spent all year giving Svrluga dirt about the team. Disregard for speed limits aside, Werth does seem smarter than the average ballplayer. He might be really good.
  • Major league manager is a full time job. Faced with the pressures of his new role, Werth might be tempted to give himself lots of time off.
  • It's pretty clear that the most difficult aspect of managing the Nationals is Jayson Werth. But if Werth is the manager, it becomes the easiest job in sports. Smooth sailing, Nats fans!

Friday, October 02, 2015


After a successful campaign, a Roman general could celebrate a triumph. He'd ride in a chariot through the city with his face painted red to make him look like a terra cotta statue. The crowd would cheer as they gazed upon the spoils of war, and the victorious soldiers would sing dirty songs about their leader.

At the end of the parade, the guy who lost the war would be ritually strangled. In the case of Vercingetorix, he had to wait around for five years between his surrender and the administration of the coup de grĂ¢ce.

The Nationals have gone to New York, not with dirty songs and painted faces, but with the resignation of a Gaul who's killing time until it's killing time.
This happened a few weeks ago. We're just now getting around to the strangling.
I haven't been paying much attention the last couple of weeks. It's not that I've been especially busy or whatever. I just don't care. The Nats aren't playing for anything, and . . . well, I mean, do you like these guys? It dawned on me over the course of the season that I don't.

And that was even before Barry Svrluga set down the recriminations. It turns out that the Nats don't like the Nats any more than I do. It further turns out that I was right not to like these guys, since they're the most emotionally fragile pack of narcissists that ever failed. I always figured that you had to be mentally tough to make it to the majors, but the 2015 Nationals put that notion to bed.

Among other things:
  • Drew Storen responded to his demotion by melting down, sulking, and breaking his thumb.
  • Ian Desmond responded to his impending free agency by taking a run at Cristian Guzman's "Worst Nats Shortstop Ever" title.
  • The whole team got all weepy over the Tyler Clippard trade, got even weepier about the Papelbon trade, and was just generally weepy about other dudes' paychecks.
  • Jonathan Papelbon attempted to demonstrate what happened to Vercingetorix, using Bryce Harper as a stand-in.
  • Jayson Werth got a day off and responded by being the biggest jackass in history.
That last one gets a block quote:
Incensed, Werth ripped the lineup card off the wall, bellowing that it was going to change. Then, according to several people who were present, he confronted Williams — not just about whether he would play that day but about what most of the clubhouse considered to be a chronic lack of communication with his players. Among the most jarring barbs, from Werth to Williams: “When exactly do you think you lost this team?” 
The Werth contract was never going to end up being a net gain. It was too long, too much money, and everyone who didn't make that offer to Werth laughed at the team that did. Still, it was looking good for a while there. Werth put up some good numbers as the Nats became a contender. He followed this up by going to jail, getting hurt, being the worst player on a team that included 2015 Ian Desmond, anonymously bitching to the media, and showing up and undercutting his manager.

He's truly the face of the team.

This season isn't a failure entirely because the players are blubbering children. The Lerners decided to get cheap when it came to improving the team. The only move Mike Rizzo made was like taking your car in for a sweet new sound system and instead installing a car bomb. Matt Williams is possibly the worst manager since Ted Turner. Still, it's not clear that these crybabies deserved any better.

I'm not going to cheer the triumphant Mets, but I'm not going to be upset when they get done strangling the Nats either.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monkey Business

Drew Storen's 2015 has been a reminder to call no man happy until he is dead.

Everything was coming up Storen for the first half of the season. He had a pile of saves and a minuscule ERA. His team was cruising to a division title, which would afford him the opportunity to get the Playoff Monkey off his back.

After that, he could look forward to a nice raise in arbitration, another pile of saves, and then a big fat proven closer free agent contract.

But Fate or Whatever had other things in mind. Nemesis struck in the form of provener closer Jonathan Papelbon, whom the Nationals acquired on July 28. The thinking - it was good thinking and I liked it - was that having two closers would be better than having one.

This thinking proved to be flawed, since it failed to account for Storen completely losing it and metaphorically gouging out his eyes with his mother's jewelry. He couldn't pitch anymore. His ERA went up by five, which is a lot. He walked everyone and had as much to do as anyone with the damn Mets slamming a door in the Nats' faces.

It all ended with Storen picking and losing a fight with some locker room equipment. Thumb broken, Storen will not pitch again this year, and we've probably seen the end of his Nats tenure.

The story evokes pity and fear. Storen has a tragic flaw - the fact that his self confidence is as fragile as fine china - but he's not a bad person. He didn't do anything wrong other than pitch badly, and he didn't want to do that.

Behold this Storen, who pitched pretty good and was a man most mighty; what setup man did not gaze with envy on his fortunes? Behold into what a stormy sea of dread trouble he has come.

Therefore, while our eyes wait to see the destined final day, we must call no man happy who plays for the Nats, until he has hit free agency, free from pain.