Thursday, March 31, 2005

2005 Season Preview

So I decided to write a season preview. About two-thirds of the way through the National League, I realized how bored I was. I sounded like Dayn Perry when he stops talking about boobs and goes into Neyer wannabe mode. If I were a better writer than I am, I would have junked the whole thing and written about something else. But it's impossible for me to be a better writer than I am, so I just wrote the whole think as flippantly and swearlogically as possible. So if you're an impressionable kid, don't fucking read this. You might also want to skip it if you're a Cubs or Twins fan.

NL East

1. Florida Marlins
2. Atlanta Braves
3. New York Mets
4. Philadelphia Phillies
5. Washington Nationals

I guess I'm going out on a limb here. You're not supposed to pick against the Braves until they actually don't win the division. And if you do go with someone else, it shouldn't be the Marlins. Let's not forget, though, that Florida spent a fair amount of time in first place last year, and the addition of Carlos Delgado should make a huge difference in their offense. And Miguel Cabrera could be going into the Hall of Fame in 25 years, so pay attention now. I met Jeff Conine once. My roommate called him "champ."

Anyway, the division is wide open, and the only things that would shock me would the Mets in first and the Nats anywhere but last. I'm thrilled enough to have a team that I don't have to delude myself into thinking that they're the 1969 Mets, the bones of their kings new-covered with flesh. What about the Phillies? You probably knew this since they're playing the Nats, but the Phillies have Jon Lieber as their Opening Day starter. Jon Fucking Lieber! I mean, I'm sure he's a nice guy and all, but when you come right down to it, he's not much more than Tomo Ohka without the unchanging expression and ninja tricks. Worst number one starter in the division by a huge margin.

NL Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Houston Astros
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Milwaukee Brewers
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

I'm not speaking as a fan (if I were doing that, Chicago would be in ass-naked last. I hate the Cubs): the Cards are going to win this division and make it look easy. Again. Are they as good as last year? Nah, probably not, but they don't have to be, since Houston and Chicago got worse and they won by thirteen games last year. "But Ironhead," the Cubs fans whine, "what about the pitching?" Well, guess what team gave up the fewest runs in the NL last year. You only get one guess because I'm making it pretty obvious, but here's a hint: they added Mark Mulder. And don't give me any of that "but if someone gets hurt" bullshit. That's true of every team in history, first off. Furthermore, the Cards' main rivals are counting on Iron Man Nomar Garciaparra and a pitching staff that's already lousy with injuries.

Elsewhere in the division, I wouldn't be surprised to see Houston, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee finish in any order. The Reds could score some runs if Austin Kearns or Ken Griffey stays healthy. If Kearns and Griffey stay healthy . . . eh, who am I kidding? Pittsburgh's going to be worse than we are.

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Diego Padres - Wild Card
3. San Francisco Giants
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5 Colorado Rockies

Hell, I dunno. Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta is a sabermetric genius, and I'm favor of all that stuff, but I can't imagine the spreadsheet that tells you not to sign Adrian Beltre for $13 million a year. Still, they've got a solid team, even without Distinguished Senators favorite Jose Lima. I picked San Diego for the Wild Card because I don't think anyone in the Central's good enough and because the East teams are all going to beat the hell out of one another. This is kind of a lame division. I'll just pretend it doesn't exist. "LA vs. San Francisco on ESPN, eh? Is the PCL trying to get recognized as a major league again? Well, go Seals!" The Rockies are like the Orioles in that they have a great ballpark and used to sell tremendous numbers of tickets but pissed it all away. Unfortunately for the Rockies, they don't have the excuse of a team moving to Salt Lake City to cover up their shitty management.

AL EAST

1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees - Wild Card
3. Baltimore Orioles
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Whatever other team plays in this division

The Sox have crazy depth. Their rotation is twelve or thirteen deep. The Yankees are very brittle and have Bernie Williams hobbling around in center. But I'm done talking about these damn teams - I'm sick of the national sports media and MLB acting like the Sox and Yankees are the only two teams that matter, so screw 'em. Baltimore is pretty solid this year. They get a lot of offense from positions generally lacking in that area (catcher, short), and the acquisition of Sosa ameliorates the problem of not getting offense from positions rich in jacked dingers. Too bad they're relying on a pack of wild youths and baseball's biggest, fattest fuck-up to pitch for them (Fun Fact: Sidney Ponson briefly attempted a boxing career. It was derailed when opponents discovered that his navel was vulnerable when he taunted his adversary). Toronto is worse than they were last year but might have a better record. Given their bad luck last year and their moves during the offseason, I think it's theologically defensible to say that God hates the Blue Jays. I know Tampa Bay has an exciting crop of prospects and whatnot, but they wear green. I ain't worrying about any team that's green. The best thing that can happen in Tampa this year is if Lou Piniella gets so pissed off that he rips out his own heart and shows it still beating to the ump. It could happen.

AL Central

1. Minnesota Twins
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals

I thought about making some far-out pick here - I mean, it's only the AL Central; who gives a rat's ass? And the thing about wacky picks is that no one remembers if you're wrong (of course the Hanshin Tigers didn't win the AL Central!), but you can use that one time out of a thousand that you're right to make yourself look good for years (I'd say this is what Will Carroll has done, but I can't recall him getting anything right). Eventually I decided to go a little out there and pick the Indians, but that's what everyone else is doing, so I picked the Twins to be the big fish in the small pond for the fourth straight year, whereupon they will get humiliated by the Sox. No offense to Ball Wonk, but I hate the goddamn Twins. Minnesota stole our team by virtue of being full of white people (I take solace in the fact that our Walter Johnson is and always will be the best pitcher in the history of their franchise). They cheated to win two World Series, they play in baseball's ugliest facility, and they have a stupid-ass name. I'm not even going to mention the "Kirby Puckett doing what Dayn Perry can only talk about" incident because Puckett was acquitted. On the other hand, they're all kinds of old school but still win their division every year and produce high-quality major leaguers at a remarkable rate, which is a nice reality check for the guys with the special editions of Moneyball with Billy Beane's words in red (yes, I've used that gag before, but I still think it's funny). I got nothing to say about the rest of this half-assed division. The Orioles would win it. Yeah, that's right - the fucking Orioles.

AL West

1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Oakland Athletics
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Texas Rangers

Now this is a division. No Royals in this pack. I know I'm in the minority here, but I like the Angels' new name, at least the "Los Angeles" part. For one thing, it was the original name of the franchise. More importantly, the L.A. Angels were in the old PCL, which I mentioned before and which was rad. As far as I'm concerned, the Dodgers and Giants should have been compelled to change their names to Angels and Seals respectively when they moved to California; Seals may never come back, but at least we can enjoy the Los Angeles Angels, easily the best name for an expansion team ever. The "of Anaheim" part is silly, of course, but that's politics. Deal with it, Anaheim: no one wants that in their name except for some silly-ass hockey team named after a fucking Disney movie. For fuck's sake.

The other good thing about the Angels is that they, like the butthole Twins, drive SABR-types nuts. If you'll recall, last year the A's were supposed to win the division easily because Billy Beane's a genius and everything. He is - I'm not denying that - but the Angels cleverly responded by spending four hundred million goddamn dollars. Some fraction of that went to lardy or just adequate pitchers, but quite a bit lined the pockets of MVP Vladimir Guerrero. The result: even after being ravaged by injuries, the Angels pulled out a one game victory over the Beaney Babies. This time it won't be so close. The Angels don't do things the way I would do them ($8 million a year for Orlando Cabrera?!), but they have enough money and homegrown talent that it doesn't matter (plus they fucked Jim Bowden up pretty bad in getting Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis - who constitute a good bench pretty much all by themselves - for a dickhead they didn't want anymore anyway). Meanwhile, the A's are tightening the belt and hoping a bunch of kids can the get the pitching job done. Elsewhere, the Mariners made the best signing of the offseason is grabbing Adrian Beltre for a relatively low price. They also added Richie Sexson, who performed perhaps the raddest act in Major League history when he knocked out part of his own picture on the Jumbotron with a home run. It came at the cost of the rest of his season, but shit - that was worth it. Texas will once again score a lot of runs and hope Chan Ho Park can pitch in with an ERA under 8. Hey, remember when Park tried to dropkick that guy? That was sweet.

Playoffs:

Cardinals over Padres
Marlins over Dodgers
Cardinals over Marlins

Red Sox over Twins
Angels over Yankees
Angels over Red Sox

World Series: Cardinals over Angels

Awards, National League
MVP: Carlos "Skinny Chuck" Delgado, Florida
Cy Young: Jake Peavy, San Diego
Manager of the Year: Jim Tracy, Los Angeles

American League
MVP: Victor Martinez, Cleveland (yeah, it's a long shot, but I really like Victor Martinez)
Cy Young: Johan "Johnny St. Ann" Santana, Minnesota
Manager of the Year: Who's managing Texas? Showalter? Him.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Apres Endy, Le Deluge

Who would have thought the demotion of one lousy baseball player would spark such a tidal wave of reaction in the tiny world of D.C. baseball? Chris of Capitol Punishment is ecstatic. Basil is waxing philosophic at the Inquirer. Both are contemplating the very nature of their fandom. Barry Svrluga is in top form.
The demotion of center fielder and leadoff man Endy Chavez to Class AAA New Orleans didn't exactly send ripples through baseball. Doesn't really run neck-and-neck with trading for, say, Randy Johnson now, does it?

But Washington became a baseball town because the demotion of the presumed starting center fielder six days before the season opener was BIG NEWS. Forget that almost no one in the Washington area has ever seen this guy play in person. Forget that people sipping lattes in Seattle have no idea who we're talking about. Forget that Chavez is a sub-mediocre player who probably belongs in the minors. Washington is a baseball town because a baseball story -- not one about city council squabbles or television rights -- carried the day.

Verily, Barry is good, and we deserve him not. Anyway, as long as the other bloggers are rationalizing the betrayal of their former teams, here's mine: I started this blog in June and instantaneously my interest in the Cards dropped from "obsession" to "strong partisan interest." I still rooted for them, still maintained my crush on Jim Edmonds (completely Platonic, or so I told my therapist), and still felt a visceral thrill as the Cards beat the shit out of those whiny, good for nothing Cubs. But they had been replaced in my affections by a team that existed only theoretically, which was a good thing when the Cards ate it in front of everyone in the Series. The heart wants what it wants, and mine wanted the Nats. So there.

Thomas Boswell also got in on the act, penning a column that irritated the hell out of me. Inning-Endy is being treated like an assassinated emperor: now that he's gone, people are lining up to sing the praises of his successor and assure everyone that they always hated that last guy. That's fine, and Boswell's main point is that Endy refused to listen to advice and that his own stubborness is what's derailing his career. Fair enough, but it rubs me the wrong way when a writer says something like this:

They just wanted him to get on base 4 percent more often than he did last year. That's all -- 4 percent.

And it would have been so easy. Everybody showed him how. But, for some reason, Chavez couldn't or wouldn't listen.
Boswell thinks Chavez should have been able to take his on-base percentage from his customary .300-ish monstrosity to something in the .360 range and that it would have been easy. Well, it's not easy, Boswell. If it were, everyone would add 60 points to his OBP, and Cristian Guzman would be a good player. No, a .360 OBP isn't easy - certainly not as easy as figuring out which players are still on the damn team you're alledgedly covering.

The Boz also conducted a chat today, which actually wasn't bad. But he's annoyed me a couple times, so I nitpick.
L.A. via D.C.: Did you ever read "Moneyball"? Your thoughts on using a more statistical based analysis for players and drafting over (but not in place of) scouting?

Tom Boswell: Yes, loved it. (Hey, I'm in it...once.)
That rang a bell with me, so I dug up my copy of Moneyball. Boswell is mentioned at the end of page 81:
By 1981, in response to a pile of letters asking him what he thought about a new baseball offense model created by the sports journalist Thomas Boswell, [Bill] James was able and willing to write that"the world needs another offensive rating system like Custer needed more Indians (or, for that matter, like the Indians needed another Custer). . . . What we really need is for the amateurs to clear the floor."
Ouch! So Boswell either gets points for mentioning this literary bitch-slap in an endearing episode of self-effacement, or he just forgot about it. Boswell's "new baseball offense model," by the way, is called Total Average, and is used today by Thomas Boswell and no one else. More Boz:
Sledge is caught in a numbers game. Three good players for two positions -- LF and 1st. But he'll get at least 400 ABs. Frank loves him. (So do I.) People get hurt every year. So other folks get to play. Terrmel will get his chance. He's a very smart hitter, could be a surprise. Had a better OPS as a rookie last year than Barry Bonds as a rookie. (No, I'm not comparing them AT ALL.)
For a professional writer, Boswell sure doesn't seem to know what words mean. Comparing them is exactly what you're doing, and it's just as idiotic now as it was the first time you said it. Just 4 percent less bullshit, Tom. That's all -- 4 percent. Those bits aside, it was a good chat. Seriously.

In other news, Distinguished Senators has pulled an exclusive interview with Nationals center fielder "Soul Patch" Ryan Church.

Q: "Ryan, what was your reaction when you found out that you'd get a shot at starting in center field?"

A: "That's Patch-tastic!"

Hah hah! Indeed it is, and thanks for your time, Ryan. Tune in tomorrow for the rambling, self-indulgent, and foul-mouthed Distinguished Senators 2005 Season Preview.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Church on Time

We are limping out of Spring Training. Tony Armas has resumed his customary position on the disabled list. Jose Vidro and Vinny Castilla are nursing various ailments. No one's hitting, and the whole team's effort has been called into question by both Frank Robinson and the Post's estimable Barry Svrluga. And it's nothing but bullshit on the TV front:
The Washington Nationals' season-opening game is not certain to be televised in the Washington area, team President Tony Tavares and TV industry executives said yesterday.
Let me go on record as saying that the opener will be on TV, but the fact that baseball has allowed things to go this far without getting a deal done - to say nothing of the lack progress in finding us an owner - just goes to show you that you should never be surprised at the incompetence of Major League Baseball. But one thing, one very important thing, has gone right.

Inning-Endy Chavez is gone! Bowden has finally given up his delusion that Chavez is a worthy lead-off hitter or even major league player, it would appear. Chavez was sent to AAA today along with reliever Gary Majewski and History's Tallest Player, Jon Rauch. But wait, it gets better: who has the honor of replacing Inning-Endy? None other than my third-favorite Nat, a man I've been compaigning for since January 26th, "Soul Patch" Ryan Church!
Robinson indicated that his preference would be to play Church, 26, in center, leaving Wilkerson in left, and keep Terrmel Sledge as the fourth outfielder. Church hit .343 with 17 homers in 347 at-bats with Class AAA Edmonton last year, but just .175 after being recalled to Montreal [No fair- he was sick, you heartless bastards!].
This is fan-frigging-tastic. I thought there was no way Church would even be on the team, much less starting in place of Sledge. Church won't be an all-star, and he's probably not a natural center fielder. But he's too old to need any more seasoning in the minors, he's proven he can hit, and he keeps Chavez and Sledge out of the starting lineup. Assuming Robinson gets his wish of Church starting in center, Bowden has finally, after five months on the job, fixed a hole. Now all he needs is a time machine to go back and fix shortstop and third.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Seriously, This Isn't Worth Reading

I got nothing today. Jim Bowden tried to trade Nick Johnson and Terrmel Sledge for Aubrey Huff but was rebuffed. Capitol Punishment thought it was a good idea, but I'm not so sure. It comes down to this: do you want a sure thing in Aubrey Huff, who can be counted for a 300/360/500-ish line and a full season, or do you take another chance on Nick Johnson being brilliant? The team seems pretty unhappy with Nick, and they certainly know things I don't, but I'd stick with Nick. What's the harm? If he's hurt or ineffective, we come in last place. If he's great, we come in last place and trade him for prospects.

I didn't mention Sledge in that paragraph on purpose. Sledge doesn't matter.

You can tell the Nats are getting popular. Giant Jon Rauch already has his own action figure.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Rhyme-Biting Addict

Magically, the influence of the arrival of the Nationals on the buying habits of Orioles fans has diminished overnight.
In the first four months of direct competition with the Washington Nationals, the Orioles have sold about 1.5 million tickets, and they expect to sell about 100,000 more before Opening Day, according to Matt Dryer, the team's senior director of advertising and promotions.
Eleven days before Opening Day 2004, the Orioles had sold about 1.7 million tickets - nearly 12 percent more than this year.
Amazing! I guess you drop another one to the Cards in Spring Training, and - BAM! - 5% gone. I direct you to Nationals Inquirer for further analysis. Also amazing is the fact that Peter Angelos' propaganda comes through clearer in a Washington paper than in a Baltimore one. So once again, up yours, the Washington Times.

Baseball Crank has been running a series of projections based on Established Win Shares Levels. He recently did the NL East, and it's pretty wacky. The whole system is explained here, but when you've got the Nats third and the Braves last, it's busted, so why bother?

Dayn Perry, March 19:
[Jim Bowden] then traded for Jose Guillen at a cost of Juan Rivera, who is, in rough terms, a cheaper and younger Jose Guillen. Livan Hernandez is one of the most underrated arms in the game . . .
Sound like anyone you know? If you'll recall, most observers were less than pissed about the Guillen trade. I was (am) furious, and my reasoning was exactly the same as Perry's. And of course, praising ¡Livan! is my second favorite gimmick, right after calling Dayn Perry a greasy pervert. Perhaps we came to these conclusions independently, which would utterly destroy my world view and probably force me to commit ritual suicide. More likely, Dayn Perry is straight biting my rhymes. Punk-ass must not realize who he's dealing with.

I have one comment on the steroid mess. That big guy who hit all the homers for the A's and Cards? McGWire. There is no "u" in that name. You know who you are.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

17%

I'm annoyed with the Washington Times. No, it's any of the Moonie stuff - I wanted to get mass-married, but my fiance wouldn't let me. Rather, it's that they're putting Peter Angelos propaganda on the front page.
Ticket sales for the Baltimore Orioles have declined 17 percent from a year ago, a drop that the club officials attribute primarily to the arrival of the Washington Nationals in the District.
Yeah, ticket sales are down for the O's, but couldn't Times reporter Eric Fisher have done some reporting before he started parroting Havana Pete? This a front-page article, and there is not one other explanation put forth for the ticket slump. I shall now address Eric Fisher in an apostrophic manner: you used to be good, Eric. Remember when you scooped the Post day after day? You were on top of everything. So what the hell is this crap? Feeling the heat now that the Post's coverage has surpassed the Times' in every way? Fortunately, when the mainstream media (or semi-mainstream in this case, I guess) let you down, you can turn to the blogs. What do you think, Capitol Punishment?
The Orioles are claiming that ticket sales are down 17% from a year ago. Considering how many consecutive losing seasons they've had, and how, until recently, Steve Kline was their only notable addition, they were destined to decline in attendance, even without the presence of the Nationals. (A 17% decline puts them just a smidge behind their 2003 attendance level, and until last year, their attendance had been in decline every year since 1997.)
That sure seems like something that Fisher could have mentioned. Yurasko?
Maybe, instead of constantly whining about the Nats, the Baltimore braintrust should have been engaging their fanbase with things like alternate hats that had a "B" on them (rather than "O's"). A Maryland flag on the sleeve and Baltimore on the road uniforms would have made a lot of sense too. Play up the Baltimore/Maryland pride Petey, people love that. You cannot go to anything in Maryland where you do not see the "Maryland With Pride" logo.

Just a crazy idea, but being positive might have been more appealing to people than constant negativity. Also, bad-faith dealings with Angelo$ have ensured that many people who would have made some trips from the D.C. area to Camden Yards no longer will.
I'm not qualified to speak for Orioles fans, but you don't have to be a clairvoyant to figure out why they might be upset. They're sick of this shit. They're sick of losing seasons (seven and counting), they're sick of being told they can't or won't support the team. Orioles attendance was way up last year as the fans were excited by the high-end free agents joining the team. But the O's sucked again, and their owner seemed more interested in keeping the Expos out of DC than in improving the team. As much as I applaud the fiscal restraint shown by management this winter, the fans saw failure as the O's lost out on every major free agent they pursued. Sammy Sosa helps, but the luster's come off him. The Orioles are blessed with a great ballpark, a strong tradition, and a loyal fanbase, but Angelos insists on pissing away his advantages. I'm not claiming that the advent of the Nationals is having no effect on O's attendance, but there's no reason to think it's the only reason or even the main one. No reason, that is, unless you read the Times, which deserves our censure and more for this garbage.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Heart's Filthy Lesson

I'm back, and I have a new plan to win universal adoration. You're probably not interested in what I was up to, but here it is regardless: I was at an undisclosed location dressing like an idiot and coming in third place in the pairs competition. It was my partner's fault; the concept was "Future David Bowie with Shotgun and Numchuk Twiggy." The concept was great, and I looked fantastic. But my partner spent too much time on her hair and not enough on the numchuks - plus she barely even looked like Twiggy.

It took me the whole weekend to get my bad-ass expression just perfect, so I didn't have the chance even to think about the Nats, except to say a little prayer to ¡Livan!. But I learned something very important from the whole ordeal: I'm more than willing to look like a complete jackass in public in exchange for attention, any kind of attention. This makes me a perfect candidate for the latest, greatest idea in the field of annoying people at sporting events: the Nat Pack!
Have an outgoing personality? The Washington Nationals want to talk to you. The Nats are interviewing candidates Tuesday for the "Nat Pack" - the hospitality crew for D.C.'s new baseball team.

Nats entertainment manager Josh Golden says they won't be so much cheerleaders as a pep team. They'll be launching T-shirts into the crowd, running the between-innings promotions and rallying the fans.

Golden says he's looking for a certain type of personality rather than experience, although a background in acting, promotions or working with children wouldn't hurt. Auditions are being held Tuesday at RFK Stadium.
Sounds like a job for Future David Bowie! And even if I don't make the squad, or if I do but fail to win the hearts of a city (a la Dancin' Homer), at least I can rest assured that a bunch of peppy assholes are going to be throwing stuff at us while we're trying to enjoy our eight dollar beer.

Hey, remember Jim Bowden? Yeah, he's still running the Nats, which is certainly a blow to my stuck-up blogger attitude. Bowden, of course, likes making trades, and there could be another one a-brewin'. Bodes realizes that Inning-Endy Chavez ain't no good and that there's no center fielder in the organization to displace him. Rumors are swirling, as rumors tend to do, but most of talk involves Wily Mo Pena from the Reds in exchange for Zach Day from the Nationals. I'm late in getting to this because I had a hell of a time finding that Future Bowie jacket, but that just saves me work: Chris "Sniffles" Needham at Capitol Punishment didn't like the idea, John at Nationals Pastime did. I'm with John. I just don't think that much of Day - what's his ceiling, third starter, maybe? He's currently the fifth starter, and we have two guys waiting in the wings for that job, one of whom is very tall. Wily Mo Pena (full name: William Moore Pena) is by all accounts a superior center fielder, an impressive slugger (.526 SLG and 26 homers in 110 games in 2004), and only 23 years old. No, he doesn't have a batting eye (108 Ks, only 22 BBs last year). But there's no denying that he'd be a significant upgrade over Chavez, who has all of Pena's plate discipline problems but none of the power. This rumored trade would be a shocking act of thievery even without considering the strengths (depth of mediocre pitching) and weaknesses (no center fielder) of the team. So shocking, in fact, that I can't imagine Zach Day by himself would get it done. If Bowden pulls this off, though, I would forgive him for Juan Rivera. And what could mean more to Jim Bowden than my forgiveness?

Time for another brief love letter to Barry Svrluga. The Washingtons Post and Times both featured profiles of Jose Guillen today. This subject has been a particular interest of mine, as you may recall, so I was eager to see if either of these articles actually said anything. The Times version didn't - typical stuff about how Guillen once was lost but now is found, etc. Barry Svrluga in the Post, however, dug a little deeper and came up with something worth reading. Specifically, talking to Nats front-office guy and longtime Guillen acquaintance Jose Rijo made all the difference:
"He's their best player, or one of them," Rijo said. "But he don't understand that the manager is the boss. He's got to do his job the best way he can go about it. If the manager thinks he's got to pinch-run for him, he's got to understand what's going to happen.

"The little things in life that make you a better person, he doesn't understand them yet. He hasn't started doing all of them yet. Will he start doing them? Yes, he will. But right now, he hasn't proven he can do them all the time."

The fact that Rijo isn't merely regurgiting the company line - "Guillen's learned his lesson and will never do anything bad as long as he lives" - makes his testimony believable. Yeah, Guillen's doing fine so far, and he appears to be a charming guy. But all of this is meaningless, and we won't know if he's actually changed until he's tested during the season. What happens when Frank Robinson pinch hits for him or even benches him? Rijo is rooting for Guillen but realizes that this is an issue, and Svrluga deserves credit for not handing in a puff piece, something his colleagues seem all too happy to do.

The Wrong Time for a Long Weekend

Is it bush league to put up a message welcoming readers of a popular site after getting a link from that site? Well, call me Lee M. Bass, the Bambino of Texas Oil Tycoons: Welcome Hardball Times readers, and many thanks to Craig Burley for the nicer-than-I-deserve shout-out. And thanks to "Texans for Public Jusitce" (sic) for the use of one of their Bush League Trading Cards. Keep fighting the Power!

I'll have a real post tonight. Promise.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Jon Rauch Is Tall Week: The End?

If you thought I had nothing before, I got even more nothing today. Seriously, I can't even think of anything for Jon Rauch and Barry Svrluga to talk about. That's not going to stop me from using the picture, though.

"Hey, I hit a homer against Roger Clemens once."
"Sweet. You want to go to Panera Bread? It's in the Japanese temple back there."
"Totally. Happy Friday, everyone! Ryan's got nothing!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Oral Roberts is Going Down!

I'm bored again. I'm not interested in steroids, I don't have March Madness, and I'm tired of hating Peter Angelos. That's not to say I hate him any less than I ever did, but I don't have the fighting spirit to bitch about him. Now, if he tried to stop fireworks at RFK, then we'd be talking. But yeah, I mean, go to Hell, Angelos. Totally.

Spring Training continues despite my best efforts to convince them to start the season in mid-March. Nothing really dramatic has happened, but we are starting to get a sense of who's popular with the decision-makers and who's on the outs. Inning-Endy Chavez' struggles have been well documented, but Bowden and Robinson seem inclined to stick with him no matter what. He took a walk yesterday - his first of the spring. Zach Day, who might pitch tonight, is in danger of losing his fifth starter job, and Bowden would be perfectly happy to stick him in the bullpen. Jose Vidro has gone from rehabbing a surgically-repaired knee to nursing a hyperextended elbow. He's in no danger of losing his job, but we may be seeing more of Jamey Carroll and Brendan Harris than was planned. Nick Johnson is on thin ice, apparently. He's on the trade block, and they're tinkering with his swing. Terrmel Sledge is alos being offerred, but it's more because they don't have a place to play him.

Who's helping himself? My pick for starting center fielder, "SoulPatch" Ryan Church, is having a good spring, but is doomed to start the season in the 504 (that's New Orleans, in case you don't listen to Master P). Day's possible replacements, John Patterson and Jon Rauch, are doing well. It's especially gratifying to me that two of my pet causes, ¡Livan! and Tomo "Landlord" Ohka, are pitching masterfully. Ohka's pencilled in as the fourth starter, which is a damn insult considering that the two guys in front of him have proven histories of failure and not pitching. The biggest revelation in Spring Training, though, has been Washington Post reporter/blogger Barry Svrluga. Svrluga's columns are honest and insightful. His blog posts are amusing and . . . well, insightful. He understands the value of a running gag and appreciates how good the first Son Volt album is. We're lucky to have him as our beat reporter, and I hope he keeps blogging.

Speaking of running gags, Jon Rauch is Tall Week marches on. Let's see what he and Barry are talking about today:

"So, you think you've got a shot at fifth starter, Jon?"
"Damn right I do, Barry! You seen Zach Day out there? More like Zach Gay! Ha ha ha! You want to use that on your blog?"
"No."

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Guaranteed Content-Free

Once again, I got nothing. I was all set to mock Will Carroll for his TV appearance last night, but he wasn't bad. He certainly looked good next to that crazy-ass bodybuilder. He's being a jerk about it on his blog, but that's not worthy of any kind of screed. So let's once again admire this awesome picture of Jon Rauch and Barry Svrluga from Spring Training.

"How's the weather up there, Jon?"
"Just fine, Barry, but would you mind not pointing that thing at my package?"

Monday, March 14, 2005

Giant Smoke

Cripes, I got nothing to say. I was working up some really intelligent stuff in my head, but then I saw a guy in a Cypress Hill t-shirt. I naturally assumed the Klan was after me and got so scared I forgot it all. So I shall again leech off the hard work of other bloggers. I'm going to be first against the wall when the revolution comes.
  • It's been a Year of Yurasko! The priceless (good thing it's free) William World News started up on March 11, 2004. Celebrate by checking out this history of expansion team caps. We win, by the way. The Rockies weren't too bad.
  • Basil of Nationals Inquirer is the in the Post. He's just one of several area fans interviewed about the Nats in video games. I remember struggling through seasons as the Rangers just so I could wear old Senators unis. Not anymore! One thing I've learned from MVP Baseball: that Tony Armas is a pretty good-looking cat.
  • Capitol Punishment is all over who's on the outs; namely, Zach Day and Inning-Endy Chavez. I've been hoping that Jon Rauch gets the fifth starter spot. He's the tallest player in history, even taller than Giant Baba! And his name is German for smoke! We're not going to win any games, so we may as well go for novelty.
  • I don't link to Nationals MLB News as often as I should. Dig this preview of the AA Harrisburg Senators. You're not going that kind of depth around here.
  • Any Baseball Prospectus subscribers out there who want to tell me what Will Carroll said about Mark Prior in the Team Health Report? Carroll's going to be on CNBC tonight (in about an hour from this writing), in case you want to see the face of evil.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Hi, I'm Larry

Time for another rumor round-up. First, Gammons:
The comebacks of John Patterson, Tony Armas and Tomo Ohka have put the Washington Nationals at the point where they may be able to move a starting pitcher in a deal for a productive outfielder.
Then Rosenthal:
The Nationals, seeking another bat, could offer a package of first baseman Nick Johnson and outfielder Ryan Church. G.M. Jim Bowden doesn't want to trade pitching, and the team is growing increasingly impatient with Johnson.
This could wind up being an opportunity to decide once and for all who's king of the rumor-mongers. Gammons and Rosenthal agree that Bodes is after a hitter. Gammons says he wants to trade pitching, and Rosenthal directly contradicts him. So we'll see.

It's difficult to comment on these things without knowing whom Bowden's pursuing. Nick Johnson and Ryan Church are two of my favorite Nats, so we'd better be getting someone completely awesome in return if that one happens. But given Bowden's proclivities, he's probably after Raul Mondesi.

Remember that communist who didn't want fireworks at RFK because she hated America? The Examiner (hat tip to DCist) has further coverage of the whiny-ass denizens of Kingman Park. It's not just Roman candles and America they hate; concerts are out too. Because of the Klan.
Lisa Alfred, a resident of nearby Barney Circle, remembers a Grateful Dead concert in the early '90s when fans, apparently with harmless intent, left a few cardboard skeletons on neighborhood front yard fences.

"When people came home from work," she recalls, "there were all these skeletons. And if you live in a black neighborhood and you don't know about the Grateful Dead, who knows? You might think it was the Klan."
If you were a damn retard you might think that. Obviously, Lisa Alfred was annoyed that a pack of patchouli-smelling stoners left shit on her fence. But she wanted to put herself above criticism, so she busted out the race card. She's not a cranky idiot, she's scared of the Klan and their trademark dancing hippie skeletons! Well, I'm from the Internet, so I'm not afraid to call this woman a halfwit crybaby.

Of all Will Carroll's crimes, this may be the worst. The man has destroyed the meaning of the word "joke." My last post had the news that Will was moving his blog to a rural Indiana newspaper. But - get this - it was all a joke! Wait a minute . . . just saying something that's not true isn't a joke. If I introduce myself to someone and tell him my name's Larry, that's not a joke. Now, if I say "Hi, I'm Will Carroll, and this is my lovely wife Dayn," that's a joke. Shit, I think I'ma start doing that. That's comedy gold.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Local Content About the Area

The Post is seeing what it wants to see.
A week into their Grapefruit League schedule, the Washington Nationals are beginning to see results in one of their top spring projects: turning center fielder Endy Chavez into a legitimate leadoff hitter. . .
Although he has yet to draw a walk in 12 plate appearances . . .
But it's okay because he's fast, right?

That's about all I've got, so it's time to go to the cheap laffs. The inscrutable, poorly-translated Japanese media isn't following Tomo "Landlord" Ohka around like they do Ichiro or any number of Matsuis, but he still gets some coverage. The best part about this is when that coverage, run through some half-assed translation program, turns into highly evocative poetry.
Pitcher Tomokazu (28) of landlord Nashonalz who aimed at the revival from the right hand neck fracture pitched well, and the exhibition game first starting call and three times were thrown out and pitched well ..one safe hit no lost point 3.. ..the deprivation.. ..San.. ..the shake...
Whoever writes the best pretentious English grad student-style review of "San . . . the shake" wins . . . hell, I don't know, mad props. Unless I feel like sending you an autographed copy of Saving the Pitcher. Speaking of which:
What could make Will Carroll's blog better? It's already got fantastical, H.G. Wells-like rumors and purple prose wholly inadequate for what it's trying to describe. Remarkably, Will has found the one thing that could improve the living work of art that is Will Carroll Presents: more coverage of southeastern Indiana! WCP is moving and to the Tri-County Post-Messenger, American's most hyphenated newspaper. What does this mean? "What you see here won’t change much, outside of some local content about the area, which will give us an interesting balance." Good; local content about the area is my favorite kind of content of about the area. I hope Will keeps talking about fantasy rotisserie baseball and his favorite music songs as well.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

You Gotta Have Heart

I don't often report news, having switched to a mostly monograph format. Or endless rant format. Whichever. But anyway, I'm often asked when single game tickets go on sale, so I'll report this. Saturday at noon. Write it down.

I read a book. I'm not bragging or anything, but I couldn't think of a snappy lead, so I went minimalist. Damn Senators by Mark Gauvreau Judge is the story of the 1924 Senators' World Series win, among other things. The author is the grandson of Joe Judge, the longtime (1915-1932) first baseman for Washington. I was concerned that the book would focus excessively on Judge, who's one of those nice guys for whom things went pretty well - in other words, a boring biography subject. But Judge is judicious (ha!) in dividing up his coverage; the book talks as much about Walter Johnson as it does about Joe Judge. Damn Senators is a fun read, and the '24 season is something with which Washington baseball fans should acquaint themselves, being that it's the only thing that separates the Senators from the St. Louis Browns.

Unfortunately, the bitter conclusion of the book leaves a bad taste. For whatever reason, Judge feels compelled to follow the Senators not only through the decline of history's only good Washington teams but all the way to the end in 1971. Judge is bitter:
Washington supports a mediocre hockey team, a women's basketball team and the Washington Wizards, perennial NBA second-raters. But, as I write this, there is still no baseball here . . .
I'm not inclined to defend the WNBA, but "mediocre," "second-raters," and "women's" are being presented as equivalent. I wonder what Off Wing Opinion would think of that.

Judge is also bitter because his grandad isn't in the Hall of Fame. He blames this on a Sports Illustrated article in which Joe Judge argued that the Hall was full of guys who didn't deserve it. It's pretty clear to anyone not named Judge that Joe didn't deserve it either (a poor man's Keith Hernandez is a fair assessment, I think), but I can't blame the author for his advocacy.

To sum up: if you read only one book about Washington baseball, it should be Beyond the Shadow of the Senators. But if you're up to reading two, Damn Senators is worthy.

I'm boycotting Baseball Musings for the duration of this ridiculous pledge drive. It's a nice blog, but I could list fifty I'd sooner pay for, and giving the shill at the end of every post is hella gauche. So since I'm boycotting, someone let me know when it's over.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Just A Man and His Will to Mislead

There are a couple of things you have to remember when writing about the Nationals. 1) There's no "h" in Cristian, and B) there are two "r"s and one "l" in Terrmel. The other important thing to remember? "Why can’t someone do some actual reporting or at least fact-checking?" Anyway, Sledge is the man of the moment, as noted bad-ass Barry Svrluga of the Post profiles him.
"It'd be real hard for me to trade a guy like him," Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden said Monday, "because they don't come often."

Sledge is almost as intriguing as anyone with the Nationals this spring because of what he could bring -- on the field or in a deal.
I don't get it. I'm sure Sledge is a nice guy, and the article indicates that the high regard Bowden and Frank Robinson have for him is owing largely to his focus, his discipline, the "eye of the tiger." That's fine, and it does matter. Hell, the lack of the eye of the tiger is one of the reasons I hate the Guzman contract. But let's not go overboard; fighting spirit can take you only so far. Sledge spent five years in the minors, which is not something untradeable player generally do, and managed a 109 OPS+ in his rookie season. That's nothing to be ashamed of, but you don't exactly slap the franchise tag on a guy like that. I'm starting to get a nasty feeling, like an oncoming cold, that Bowden would sooner trade Nick Johnson than Terrmel Sledge. And if you think I've been bitchy so far, just wait til that happens.

Related: In a recent Post chat, Tom "Juan Rivera is a promising young Nat!" Boswell came up with the worst argument for anything in the history of arguments. And I'm from the Internet, so that's saying something; the most logical argument I run across in a typical day is something along the lines of "LOL FAGIT!"
Don't count out Terrmel Sledge's chances to start. He had a better OPS as a rookie than Barry Bonds.
Well, I'm convinced. Here's another fun fact: Terrmel Sledge had more home runs in his rookie year than Babe Ruth had in the entire decade of the 1960s.

A Suggestion for the Post

A better title for their "Nationals Journal", in which Barry Svrluga and Co. report from Spring Training, would be "Greetings from Florida, You Miserable Shivering Bastards."

Monday, March 07, 2005

Some Yalie Stole My Coat Today

Yesterday was Gammons, today is Rosenthal.
The Nationals could replace Endy Chavez in center field, or at least use him in a platoon. Alex Escobar — called "too good to be true" in the early exhibitions by GM Jim Bowden — could alternate with either Chavez or another left-handed hitter, Ryan Church. Terrmel Sledge, the probable fourth outfielder, could move into a starting role if Nick Johnson is injured and Brad Wilkerson moves to first. Church, drawing trade interest from the Royals, has a minor-league option remaining, making it likely he will stay.
A Church sighting! I've criticized Nats management a time or two, but I appreciate that they're unsatisfied with what they have in center. Inning-Endy is fast and hits for a decent average - that would enough for some people. So kudos to Bodes and Frank and whoever is involved in this for realizing that Endy - at least the Endy we've gotten to know over the past few years - shouldn't be leading off or even starting.

Another thing to think about: Gammons made a trade sound likely, and Bowden has mentioned this as well. Rosenthal thinks that the Nats are looking to solve their problems from within. We'll see, I guess. That Rosenthal column also mentions that the Reds are open to trading one of their outfielders, an impressive group that includes Ken Griffey, Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, and Wily Mo Pena. They want pitching in return. Well, I don't like guys who get hurt all the time, and if Cincinnati believes in the potential of Tony Armas, perhaps something could be worked out. I believe that Bowden his exhibited symptoms of a man-crush on Pena. Give in to desire, Bodes. Between Wilkerson and Guillen is . . . Obsession.

The invaluable William World News has some fun with D.C. sports numerology. This seems like the kind of thing that could start interesting arguments among people more knowledgeable than I. ¡61! is the only number I care about.

And now, a special report:
Dayn Perry: the Road to Recovery
Loyal readers know all about the Dayn Perry saga. How he really pissed me off with a wish that the Nats fail. How my anger manifested itself in knee-slapping, tears running down my face, "get a load of this retard" mockery when I saw the sub-Man Show boobs-and-sarcasm gimmick he was working at FoxSports.com. I like to think I made a difference, and I went so far as to claim that I fixed him. Gone was the Imaginary Girlfriend of the Week, a feature in which Dayn opened the latest issue of Maxim, picked a starlet, and . . . well, you can figure out the rest. It made women shudder and men feel a little better about themselves. Sure, Dayn's "work" still featured the occasional gorilla-suit rape fantasy, but he was getting better. And now, his transformation is nearly complete. Check out this column - nothing. It's mostly about things he doesn't like on TV, and there's nothing in there that inspires pity and fear in the manner of a Greek tragedy. Mainly eye-rolling and yawns. Dayn Perry columns were distinguished by their reliance on flame-baiting and onanism. Now the onanism is gone, the world is a happier place, and when do I get my medal?

Sunday, March 06, 2005

This One Goes Out to All You Boppers

Gammo. Gammo! GAMMO!
The Astros keep pestering the Mets about Mike Cameron, but it is looking less and less likely that New York will move Cameron because they have to get a strong corner bat in return, and right now there may not be any on the market." One possibility for Houston is Terrmel Sledge, as Washington is looking for a bopper and will move Sledge and/or Endy Chavez.
That stray quotation mark isn't the only thing that doesn't make sense here. I read it and couldn't make it work. Then I started drinking and read it again - still nothing, but I did notice the quotation mark. Houston is after a center fielder, but they don't have a good hitter to give up. So instead, they're going to trade for a good hitter from Washington, who wants a good hitter in return. Unless Gammons is suggested a three-way trade, with Houston getting Cameron, the Mets getting Sledge and maybe Chavez, and us getting a bopper. So, in the parlance of the multiple-choice test, D) Cannot answer based on information given.

More Gammo:
Good news with the Nationals: Tony Armas and John Patterson are both throwing well. Patterson said this is the best the ball has come out of his hand since before he got hurt in the Arizona organization. "John really started to throw well last season when he hurt his groin," catcher Brian Schneider said. "He can be very good for us."
Typical Spring Training optimism. I suppose I should say something like, "If Armas stays healthy and lives up to his potential, he could be a solid #2 starter for us." But I'm all about forced, self-concious iconoclasm (not literally), so screw it. Also, Landlord Ohka doesn't get enough respect. He's out there throwing 200 innings while Armas is sitting in a bar with his arm in a sling hitting on girls by telling them about his #2 starter potential.

Still more:
To not read Will Carroll's spring Team Health Reports and his in-season Under The Knife is to miss perhaps the best column in the business.
It's been oft mentioned that Gammons needs an editor, so I take it upon myself to make this logical:
To not read Will Carroll's spring Team Health Reports and his in-season Under The Knife is to miss perhaps the best Will Carroll column in the business.
There, that's not insane. Even I agree with that. And lest we forget, another thing I agree with:
Why can’t someone do some actual reporting or at least fact-checking?
Basil of Nationals Inquirer, who gave me the idea to link to the Catholic Encyclopedia, has a fun live-blog thingy of the Nats/O's exhibition. By the way, here's the coolest thing in the Catholic Encyclopedia, which I use at work all the time. Anyway, Basil posits a couple of nicknames. I relish the thought of calling Jared Sandberg "El Nepotista," though not quite enough to hope that I ever see him at RFK. I appreciate the Dennis Miller-esque erudition of George "the Heretic" Arias, but I don't see it catching on. My plan is to find a mention of Arias in the inscrutable, poorly-translated Japanese press and go for the cheap laffs. That's where Landlord Ohka comes from, although that doesn't make anyone laugh.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Anger Management

"Why can’t someone do some actual reporting or at least fact-checking?" These words have been ringing in my head ever since Will Carroll took it upon himself to raise the bar for all us bloggers. "Why can’t someone do some actual reporting or at least fact-checking?" Every night in bed, they circle around and around in my skull. "Why can’t someone do some actual reporting or at least fact-checking?" Every day at work, they prevent from making up for the sleep I didn't get the night before. "Why can’t someone do some actual reporting or at least fact-checking?" Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. So I got to work: I threw off my blanket, put on my Jimmy Olsen hat, and told my boss I was leaving early. This one's for you, Will. You are the wind beneath my wings.

Here's the deal: as you may have heard, Nationals outfielder Jose Guillen got himself a suspension from the Angels last year. After being hit by a pitch and lifted for a pinch-runner, Jose threw his batting helmet somewhere in the vicinity of Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia, the spelling of whose name I'm not afraid to admit I had to look up. Guillen was suspended for the last week of the regular season, a week in which the Angels were battling with Oakland for the AL West championship and the opportunity to get mangled by Boston. Obviously Anaheim thought Guillen's transgression(s) serious enough to deprive themselves of a guy who'd been their second-best hitter over the course of the season, and Angels GM Bill Stoneman was quoted as saying, "Unfortunately, this was not the first time something has cropped up with Jose."

But he's a changed man! Guillen is everyone's best friend, he's learned his lesson, and he's quick to point out that he took anger management classes without any prompting from anyone. He said so to the Post. He said so to the Times. He even said it on ESPN yesterday, as did Jim Bowden. But have a look at this San Francisco Chronicle article written by Susan Slusser on January 17:
One requirement of Guillen's suspension was that he attend anger-management classes.
Naturally, I was confused. Guillen in February tells everyone covering his new team that the classes were his idea. But a non-Washington source from January indicates that he was forced to. To clear this up, I sort of followed Will Carroll's advice and sent out some emails. Susan Slugger of the Chronicle and Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post were gracious enough to respond. Sheinin indicated that he was going by what Guillen said, so we have no confirmation of Guillen's claims. Slusser told me that she believed the classes were part of the suspension (probably a condition of the settlement detailed here). Unfortunately, we'll likely never know the real story; Slusser also informed me that the only parties privy to such information aren't allowed to tell anyone.

I think Guillen's lying, and I don't think he's learned a thing from any of this. The only ones reporting that the anger management classes were Jose's idea got it from Jose. A non-Washington source reporting a month earlier tells a different story, one that doesn't make Guillen look as good. But perhaps more importantly, Guillen's and Bowden's claims that everything's better now ring false when you really look at what Jose's said about the situation. For one thing, he didn't need those classes.
I didn't really need anger-management classes, but I'll do whatever I can and maybe they'll help me. I wanted to see what was going on and learn to react better. I'm fine, though. I don't think I have any problem, but maybe I'll take something good out of it.
Sounds like someone hasn't taken the first step of admitting he has a problem. Furthermore, Guillen tells us that his good behavior is conditional.
"If I'm producing and you sit me, though, we're going to have a little problem."
What happens if he and Frank Robinson have a different definition of "producing"? What if Frank wants to mix it up and get Sledge or Church in the lineup or (God forbid) pinch run for Guillen? And of course, none of this is his fault.
"When I talked to [Angels manager] Mike [Scioscia] and [general manager] Bill [Stoneman] over there, I think they know they overreacted a little bit. There were some stories that were not true."
I haven't followed Scioscia's career closely, but he doesn't seem to have a lot of problems with his guys. He's not Larry Bowa or anything, and I'm inclined to take his word over a that of a player on his seventh team in seven years. But everyone likes him, right?
"I never had a problem with my teammates."
I guess that depends on how much value you place on what his teammates say. Or on what Guillen himself says, for that matter.
This winter, Guillen accused [Angels pitcher Jarrod] Washburn of being one of the players who lobbied management to cut him loose . . .
That's one teammate he had a problem with, evidently. What about the rest of them?
The mere mention of Jose Guillen's name still produces rolled eyes, bemused smirks and staccato harrumphs from his former Anaheim Angels teammates. . .

The fact was, the Angels believed they were better off without Guillen . . .

"It was management's decision, and I'm not here to say if it was right or wrong," [Angels pitcher John] Lackey said. "But I'll say this: Chemistry has a lot to do with winning."
Bowden has a good personal relationship with Guillen, and his kids love him. As far as I'm concerned, that makes him less qualified to make a judgment on his stability. Any jackass has friends who will defend him, especially if he's good at something and a millionaire - Pete Rose still has guys who follow him around. It's quite possible that Guillen will work out fine in Washington. He certainly has the support of management, and the fans are more than willing to give him a chance. But the way he left Anaheim has been dimissed as irrelevant, and it should not have been.

This Is Where the Title Goes

Here's some stuff before my investigative report, in which I blow the lid off something no one else cares about. Tune in tonight at 10!
  • The Nats remain undefeated after beating hated rivals Bethune-Cookman. As is traditional in College Park, I dragged my sofa outside and set it on fire to celebrate the triumph.
  • Nationals Pastime, or as I call it, Nats Pastizzle, has a good recap/scouting report on yesterday's game.
  • Ben Jacobs of Hardball Times is ranking the offseason of each MLB team. We come in 25th out of 30, between Pittsburgh and Colorado. He likes the Guillen trade, but the rest of it sounds pretty familiar if you frequent this humble blog.
    That was the end of the good things this offseason. After that, they decided it would be a good idea to sign Vinny Castilla and Cristian Guzman, thus saving everybody the trouble of waiting until the end of the season to see who finishes last in the NL East.

    Seriously, what were they thinking not only signing Castilla and Guzman, but giving them a combined $23 million? By picking up these two, Washington has pretty much guaranteed that the left side of its infield will combine to get on base less than 30 percent of the time while not providing nearly enough power. . . . By the way, the Nationals also lost two draft picks because they decided they couldn't wait to sign these two awesome out-makers, and gave them all that money before the arbitration deadline. I think it's safe to say that neither player would have been offered arbitration, but I guess they just couldn't risk losing them...
  • Phil Wood (in an Examiner column that's not online) reveals that Jim Bowden's hero as a GM is . . . Syd Thrift. Well that explains a lot.
  • I have a theory that the quickest, most efficient way to demonstrate that you know a little bit about baseball but not much is to advocate Roger Maris for the Hall of Fame. This morning, Mike Greenberg did just that, putting him on what I like to call the Dan Patrick List of Smug Broadcasters Who Don't Know a Damn Thing.
  • Veronica E. Raglin hates America. The Post reports that the Nats were planning to shoot off fireworks after every Friday home game, but Comrade Raglin, the "advisory neighborhood commissioner in nearby Kingman Park" put the kibosh on it, no doubt following the injunctions of whatever sinister foreign dictator pays her salary. "Settle down, jackass," you're not doubt saying, "they're just fireworks." Shut up, commie! There's nothing more American than baseball and fireworks. The baseball bit has been done to death in various books, movies, etc., all scientifically designed to make you want to hug your dad, but the fireworks have been overlooked. You don't have to be some effete Euro-type to realize that America is a violent country. Our national anthem is a harrowing tale of kick-ass explosions. Our nickel is adorned with the (noticeably) male buffalo, Nature's most vicious creature. The violentest people in the world, the Irish, were welcomed into this country and allowed to become law enforcement officers. It's part of our national heritage, and we should embrace it just as the English still have a queen or the Canadians still base their economy on beaver pelts. And what are fireworks but harmless, rad examples of violence? As far as I'm concerned, every moment a firework is not exploding is an affront to everything this great nation stands for. Victoria E. Raglin may be able to promote her Red agenda in the People's Republic of Kingman Park, but I won't stand for it.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Good 1, Evil 0

Well, we won. It feels kinda good - better than losing, at any rate. I stopped watching after two innings, despite my boss' advice to hang out at the crappy bar where I was watching the game and have several beers. It's good to have a boss like that - and he's related to Mort and Walker Cooper! So anyway, I don't have a lot to say about the game, except that it was disheartening to hear Frank Robinson imply that he was sticking with today's lineup. Letting Inning-Endy and Guzman bat 1-2 is chivalrous in the sense that you're not giving yourself an advantage over your opponent, even if your opponent is letting his pitcher lead off. In the words of Speed Racer, however, I want to win and that's all. I did have a pretty involved post in the works, but a friend came over and we wound up watching From Justin to Kelly, so it'll have to wait until tomorrow.

One more thing: a highly placed source informs me that the EA baseball game has a rather stunted franchise mode, specifically in the way player contracts are handled. Anyone have the ESPN one, and if so, is it any better?

Free Baseball

In case you didn't know, MLB.com is showing the broadcast of the Nats/Mets game for free. FREE! Go here.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Church of My Heart

Barry Svrluga rules. This paragraph appeared in the Washington Post:
Last year, he couldn't hold onto the leadoff spot -- one he acquiesced to Wilkerson -- because he walked just 30 times in 547 plate appearances, a horrific rate. He hit .277 and stole 32 bases, but it hardly mattered, because his on-base percentage was just .318, including an unforgivable .291 when batting first. The result: He scored just 65 runs. This year, the goal has been clearly stated. The Nationals want Chavez to score 100 times. Doesn't matter how. Just think that way. Make it happen.
That's right, a sports reporter for a major newspaper just said a good batting average and stolen base total "hardly mattered" because of a poor on-base percentage and walk rate. And this after he provided an intelligent, honest analysis of the two versions of Vinny Castilla. The Times routinely scooped the hell out of the Post in the pre-Nats months, but the Post might have a leg up now.

Inning-Endy is the only Nats starter whose job is in danger. Everybody wants him to get to on base more, and I don't see it happening. He's not a young guy, at least by baseball standards - 27 this year - and it's unlikely that he's going to turn into Wade Boggs at this point. And remember this: Endy is out of favor for his bad OBP on a team that obviously doesn't care much about OBP. Jose Guillen and Vinny Castilla are both high-power, low-patience hitters, but Jim Bowden liked their approach enough to acquire their services. Cristian Guzman can't get on base or hit for power (though he is speedy and has good makeup, according to the former Executive of the Year). Being known for your lack of patience on this team is like being known as the wussy one at a Cure concert.

I don't think Endy would be even the nominal starter if management had confidence in any of the alternatives. Capitol Punishment has a thorough run-down of the guys fighting for the last few spots on the bench. I like Ryan Church (whom I'm going to call Soul Patch until I get tired of it), but it all comes down to who has options left. In other words, if the Nats can send a player down to the minors without losing him, they probably will. That means Church and infielder Brendan Harris, both major league-ready and not getting any younger, stay south while the rest of the team comes to D.C. and forms like Voltron, so the best guy to beat out Inning-Endy will be wasting time in AAA. New Orleans might have a pretty good team this year, at least until Guillen starts a fistfight with Frank Robinson and Jose Vidro gets destroyed trying to turn a double play.

Worth reading: former ESPN minor leagues expert John Sickels has his list of the Nationals' top prospects.
After that you have three position players that I like, Broadway, Harris, and Church. I don't see any of them as stars, but rather solid contributors.
"Solid contributor" is prospect-talk for "better than Endy."

Here's something you won't hear me say often: Yay Phillies!
Del Unser and Mickey Vernon will throw out ceremonial first balls when the Phillies begin the 2005 season against the Washington Nationals, the National League's newest team.

Unser, a member of the 1980 World Series champion Phillies, will throw out the first ball at Philadelphhia's home opener on April 4 at Citizens Bank Park.

Unser, 60, was the right fielder in the Senators' final game on Sept. 30, 1971, at RFK Stadium. In that game, the Senators led the Yankees, 7-5, with two outs in the top of the ninth inning when many of the 14,460 fans stormed the field. The game was eventually forfeited to the Yankees.

Vernon, one of the Senators' greatest players, will throw out the first pitch before the April 6 game, at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Born and raised in Delaware County, Vernon won two batting titles in Washington, in 1946 (.352) and 1953 (.337). A seven-time American League All-Star first baseman, Vernon played most of his 20 seasons with the Senators.

He managed the Senators during the 1961-62 seasons and through 40 games of the 1963 campaign.

The Phillies managed to find a couple of worthy fellows with ties to both teams. They deserve credit for honoring their own history while at the same time welcoming Washington back to the majors.