Friday, April 29, 2005
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Just before the game, St. Barry Svrluga, who is good and whom we deserve not, conducted a chat on the Washington Post website. Regular readers of this and any number of other Nats blogs are aware of the radness of Svrluga, but there was a disturbing exchange in there, one that I hope turns out not to be a portent.
You see what Svrluga's doing here? He's not reporting; he's advocating. Maybe he's just presenting an alternative the reader's take, but Barry sounds unfortunately Boswellian here. Castilla's contract is the lesser issue, but I'll say three things: 1. Svrluga ignores the draft pick we lost to sign him; 2. that he "has been much better than expected" is just asinine - we're 22 games in; 3. RBIs are a tool of the Father of Lies and do nothing but mislead.
Bethesda, Md.: I see where the Nats have extended Bowden's contract. I wonder if they're aware that he is the most lowly-regarded GM in MLB by the writers at the Baseball Prospectus -- the smartest baseball analysts in the business for my and many others' money. Big mistake. Christian Guzman? Vinny Castilla? (Park effects - what are those?)
Barry Svrluga: There are certainly all kinds of views on Bowden, and you're right, there are certainly those who don't have a high opinion of him. I will say this, though: What was this team supposed to do at shortstop and third base? They got Castilla, who has been much better than expected, for the relatively cheap price of two years, $6.2 million. No, he's not going to lead the league in RBI, as he did last year. But if he drives in 80 or 90, that's well worth the money. Guzman is struggling big-time on offense, and it's legitimate to say they may have overpaid. But if he doesn't make those two moves, the left side of the infield would've been Brendan Harris and Maicer Izturis. Don't talk to me about Tony Batista. No one really wanted him back. And keep in mind: Bowden will have to prove to a new owner that he's worth keeping. Bottom line: If he does the job, he'll be around. If he doesn't, someone else will be here.
Svrluga's best argument for the woeful Guzman signing is "there weren't any alternatives," which is a cop-out. It would have been a reasonable point had Bowden not signed anyone - and it would have been true. But Bodes went ahead and signed one of those non-alternatives, and we're stuck with his pudgy ass for four years. Currently we have a shortstop who can't hit and allegedly can field. Maicer Izturis is a shortstop who can't hit and allegedly can field, and I can think 16 million further reasons that he's preferable to Guzman. Barry Svrluga is a sharp guy and unquestionably a cut above the average sportswriter. That's all the more reason to hope he's playing devil's advocate and not positioning himself for a Ron Santo Award.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
There was a downside to my trip, though. Based on the last week, it's quite clear that the Nationals rely to a great extent on my presence, just as Hulk Hogan relies on his legions of Hulkamaniacs. Consider this: when I left the States, the Nats were 7-3 and in the process of sweeping the Diamondbacks. What happens while I'm enjoying the charms of the Mediterranean and leaving my unaccustomed wedding ring in the bathroom more often than not? Disheartened by my absence, the Nationals win twice and lose five times, going from first place to fourth. Guillen and Castilla stop hitting, Guzman keeps sucking, and nobody pitches - but I don't need to tell you this; you were right here suffering through it while I was drinking cheap Maltese wine and saying "Gozo" in an hilarious Baltimore accent (try it!). Perhaps you're not convinced, but surely it's not coincidence that while I was sitting in Newark trying to convince some really snippy immigration guys to let me back in the country even though I sold my passport to a cab driver in Rabat, the Nats pounded out 11 runs and humiliated our suck-ass rivals, the Mets. Am I reading too much into the events of a week? Blame exhaustion and jet lag. Those who were already polishing Jose Guillen's MVP trophy a week into the season have no such excuse.
So I'm back, and I promise not to get married and leave the country again until the season's over, but I don't have much to say right now. I noticed while watching the game last night that Cristian Guzman not only a really crappy baseball player, he's also very pudgy for an alleged speed guy. He's certainly no stouter than I am, but my job doesn't involve legging out triples. I was glad to hear him getting booed by a very noisy RFK crowd.
I won't be participating for a while in any game chats, as had become my custom late in my bachelor days. Unfortunately, and you'll have to indulge me in a little tech-speak here, my computer done blowed up. You have options, though. Yuda.org has a new game chatter feature, and Balls, Sticks, & Stuff is bringing together Nats fans and supporters of our other suck-ass rival, the Phillies. If this works, Tom G. could well go down in history as the John Paul II of Phillies/Nats relations - no mean accomplishment.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
C. Jones, 3B
A. Jones, CF
No Vinny again, and that's about all I have to say about the lineups. Let's Baseball!
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
C. Jones, 3B
A. Jones, CF
I guess Frank saw Andruw Jones in center last night and decided he couldn't take any more of Wilkerson out there, so Church gets his first crack at it. Carroll's a slap-hitter type, so we could be seeing some hittin-n-runnin. I guess Castilla's just getting an old man day off. I don't know how much of the game I'll be around for, but have fun.
- FaNATSic.com is "an online communityof fans of the Washington Nationals and the game of baseball. The goal of faNATSic.com is to promote the Washington Nationals organization by bringing fan together in an interactive and fun online community." There's a message board and news aggregations and whatnot.
- John's Box o' Rants is a veritable of box of rants. He's pretty annoyed with Frank, or at least he was on Monday.
- The New Home Team describes itself as "the journal of a Red Sox fan who happens to live in a city given the gift of a major league baseball team for the first time in 34 years." Alex was at the RFK exhibition game:
The best moment was turning around as I was riding up the escalator at the Stadium/Armory metro station and seeing a thousand Nationals fans streaming onto the platform.I agree, actually.
- Oleanders and Morning Glories is newly on All Baseball and the new home of Harper Gordek from Nationals Baseball, as well as veteran Nats/Expos blogger Jean-Pierre Allard.
- In case you're on your way to the Nats game and need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, go to Capital Weather, which will provide detailed forecasts and the likelihood of delays and cancellations.
Monday, April 11, 2005
C. Jones, 3B
A. Jones, CF
Davis is in against the lefty; Frank uses Johnson over Baerga again, which is good. Bennett finally gets a start. The Braves are a having a hard time with injuries; Marcus Giles is out (good for Nats Fan Ryan, bad for Spectator Ryan), as is Johnny Estrada. Enjoy.
Frank Robinson baseball is about feel, faith and knowledge gleaned from 69 years. He does not understand how these young executives with their power ties and their CD-ROMs suddenly took over baseball.Blah blah. Seriously, this makes very little difference (CP agrees, which means I'm right). If you were watching the game yesterday, you may have heard the announcers talking about this. Their point was that Frank wasn't going to rely on a spreadsheet that told him some bench-rider was 4-5 vs Josh Beckett or whatever and start that guy in favor of Brad Wilkerson. Anyone who knew the first thing about sabermetrics would realize that there is no conflict there. Nothing will get you mocked more mercilessly on the Baseball Think Factory than paying attention to a sample size that small - those guys are just as nerdy and just as nasty as those jerks at the Star Trek convention who so rudely pointed out the flaws in my Klingon pronunciation.
So this is a non-issue - Frank's the manager, not the GM. But that won't stop me from a couple of digressions. First, Post reporter Mike Wise, whom I'd never noticed until today, is on my shit list.
In some ways, Robinson's approach is refreshing. At a time when baseball's recent history and character are being severely tested by steroid use and internal obfuscation, along comes one of the game's genuine legends, using his heart, mind and gut to determine risk vs. reward. He's not breaking out his homework in the dugout.Sporstwriters, among other, hated Moneyball, because it made everyone except Billy Beane and a couple of his friends look like drooling halfwits. That's a reasonable objection (I recently reread the part about how you'd have to be a retard to draft Prince Fielder. I'll just let that speak for itself), but what the hell do steroids or Bob DuPuy's content-free prattling have to do with Moneyball? I can manage (occasionally) to comment on issues of import without taking a shot at Dayn Perry, so what is it with sportswriters? Not everything you don't like is Billy Beane's fault, Wise.
My other digression: I have two main complaints with Frank so far. The first is that he's leaving his starters in too long. Even I could tell John Patterson had nothing left yesterday, but Frank was determined to leave him so he would have to use a pitcher to get just one out. Ditto with Loaiza on Tuesday. And that ties in to my other objection: Frank doesn't pinch-hit enough. What was there to prevent a double-switch yesterday? As long as Soul Patch Ryan Church is playing left and not center, he and Terrmel Sledge are more less interchangeable, and Frank seems intent on using one or the other - not both. Jose Vidro is a lousy defensive second baseman - get Jamey Carroll in there in the late innings. That's two double switch opportunities right there. And this lineup is full of guys to pinch-hit for. It's the eighth inning, men on second and third, two outs, and we're down one. Who'd you rather see at the plate, Cristian Guzman or Sledge? There is a right answer to that question. Guzman should be hit for in any important situation with the Nats down. Brian Schneider is a decent hitter for a catcher, but that's different from being a decent hitter. Hit for him too - Gary Bennett's getting bored on the bench. And now the game's about to start; rant over.
Series vs Philadelphia, April 4-7
Series vs Florida, April 8-10
Maybe I'm a pessimist, but I think the Nats' performance against the Marlins is a lot closer to the actual talent level of the team. In fact, a series like that is exactly how I've been predicting the Nationals would do. Good/great starting pitching (all told, 20 innings and only five earned runs), and atrocious offense. Yeah, Dontrelle Willis is a good pitcher, and Josh Beckett is a really good pitcher, but let's see if they both manage complete-game shutouts against the next team they face. And when you've got a guy like Brian Moehler facing you - a reclamation project, the emergency starter for their emergency starter - that's when you have to start beating the hell out of people, especially when the guy spots you three walks. Two runs in four and third is not what a good team does against Brian frigging Moehler.
Braves tonight, Day vs Hampton. It'll be fun to compare the slow-motion argument style both managers use with the umps. "And Cox is out of the dugout . . .
. . .
. . .
He's not happy about that strike three call."
Saturday, April 09, 2005
1. No Dontrelle Willis
3. Ryan Church's first start (though not in center, oddly enough)
4. Cristian Guzman is no longer hitting second, and Nick Johnson is
5. The Marlins lineup is just bizarre
Lo Duca, C
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Tim Worrell, take a bow. The Nats have won two in a row and their first series, and you're the man who made it possible. On Wednesday, you came in with the Phillies up one and proceed to allow a veritable conga line of baserunners. One third of an inning, four hits, four runs. Today, you came in with a one run again and let Guillen hit a triple. Nick Johnson drove him in, and we were all set up for Vidro's and Cordero's 10th inning heroics. A city thanks you, Tim Worrell, and your 19.25 ERA is appreciated.
Anyway, that was a hell of a fun game, and shame on you for not being there for the game thread. Be there next time. Frank made some questionable decisions and some good ones. He left Loaiza out there way longer than he should have - there's no way he should have pitched into the seventh. But he did the smart thing by bringing in closer Chad Cordero in a tie game.
It continues to be insane that Cristian Guzman, the worst non-pitcher hitter in the lineup, hits second. I don't expect it to continue much longer - we'd be in real trouble if he rapped out a couple of doubles from that slot. Brad Wilkerson - who got on base eight times in a row between the last two games - is still in the leadoff position, and there arguments on both sides. The best belong to Chris at Capitol Punishment, who's in favor.
Since Wilkerson is the team’s best hitter (Sorry, Jose fans), it makes sense to give him the most chances at the plate, and the most chances to help the team win, whether it’s with a double over the centerfielder’s head, or a leadoff walk. Hitting him lower in the order gives us fewer chances to watch the Hobbit meander around the bases. Over the course of a season, you can expect the lead-off hitter to come to the plate (ballpark) fifty more times than the fifth place hitter. That’d be fifty more plate appearances for him to show off his awesome goodness.That's it, as far as I'm concerned. The leadoff hitter debate hides a more important problem: it's not that we lack a leadoff hitter, it's that we lack hitters. This isn't the best time to mention it, what with the three consecutive 10-hit games, but the Nats are not a good offensive club, and our leadoff quandry is a reflection of the fact that we have precious few hitters with good on-base percentages. Consider, if you will, the Marlins, our next opponent. They start their attack with Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo. Neither is a star, neither can slug over .400, but both can get on base in the .370s. Endy Chavez was supposed to be like that, but he couldn't add that last 60 points of OBP (even though it's so easy). So we're left with the choice of two not-very-fast guys who should probably be hitting farther down. It speaks well of the team that they realize that they need a guy who takes pitches and gets on base at the top.
Wil Cordero's out, and I'll leave the jokes to Needham. He left the game and was on the DL before the inning was out. Carlos Baerga is called up from New Orleans to replace him. One immobile righty pinch-hitter/occasional starter's as good as another, right?
Guzman, SS, dammit
Pretty much what I figured, except for some reason I thought JJ Davis would be in center. It's still B-Wilk out there. I'll see you in the comments. Go Nats!
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Late Update: Nationals in First Place!
Here's the lineup:
I don't get it. Church is back, but Frank said he might keep him out against a lefty. But Sledge can't hit lefties either, so there's no advantage. I'm surprised neither Cordero nor Davis is out there. [NEVER MIND - he's a righty and I'm an idiot] Oh, and batting Guzman second is just crazy. [This remains true, however] Anyway, more later. Who will be the second Nat of the Day? Oh, the excitement!
- Sounds like Day has the sinker working. I have no idea if it looks like he has the sinker looking, thank you very much Peter Angelos you FUCK!
- It'd be nice to have one inning without a base-running cock-up. Just one.
- Wilkerson must really want that autographed copy of Saving the Pitcher. Whatever it takes to motivate you guys.
- Wilk singles, and here comes Cristian to kill another rally . . .
- I hate being right sometimes.
- Vinny must be feeling the sting from the Lame Duck Award. That's what it sounded like, anway. Up yours, Angelos.
- Nick's making a bid to repeat as NotD! And Philly's pitching coach is named "Doobie"! I wonder if that's a nickname.
- I just looked it up - it's "Dubee." That's disappointing.
- I just realized that Brett Myers is not a lefty. What am I, Tom Boswell? Geez. That's embarrassing.
- Well there goes Zach Day's autographed copy of Saving the Pitcher. Dammit.
- They're bringing in a lefty to face Wilkerson even though Bwilk doesn't really have a platoon split (862 vs 850 OPS last year). Or maybe they figure Myers is out of gas, and the lefty has a slight advantage.
- Triple! I have successfully second-guessed Charlie Manuel.
- And the cornerstone of the franchise does it again. Someone remind me - why did we trade Izturis?
- GUILLEN! I take it all back, baby! I trust you with my children!
- I'd pinch hit for Schneider here. Get Cordero in against the lefty. I don't trust a one-run lead.
- Never mind. Ignore me. Schneider's great.
- CYCLE! I know who's winning NotD! Brad's finally going to get himself some national attention. Linda Cohn will sing his praises!
- That was my favorite inning EVER.
- I just saw them talking about Bluegrass Brad on ESPN2. I think you have to be a female basketball player to get on ESPN1. Speaking of which, Sic 'em Bears!
- Hey, if we pull this out, and the Braves beat Florida (currently at its crisis on ESPN2), we'll be in first place!
- Wilkerson just made the front page of ESPN.com. Jim Bowden is so jealous he can't stand it.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
So since nothing happened today, here are some scattered thoughts and links and stuff.
- Ryan Church could have played yesterday, but Frank Robinson wanted to be careful with his groin. A groin is a precious, fragile thing, like a baby's smile. Frank also mentioned before the game that he's probably sit tomorrow against a lefty starter (Brett Myers). I'm guessing we'll see JJ Davis in center, and I wonder if Wil Cordero will get a start. I don't expect Wilkerson to be platooned, but Sledge will be on the bench and possibly Johnson. Bear in mind that those last two sentences were pure speculation. Pure like a baby's smile.
- Thinking that my Nat of the Day feature is just too positive, Chris at Capitol Punishment today presented his first Lame Duck Award to Vinny Castilla. That's what running into an out at second and booting a line drive get you. But does it get you an autographed copy of Saving the Pitcher like my award does? That's what I thought.
- Is Yuda returning to the rewarding world of baseball blogging? I hope so, and his last three posts are promising. First he stuck it to Baseball Prospectus for yet another snide, off-handed anti-Nats comment. He followed up with a season preview (Yankees in third, eh?). And today he provides a report from the opener in Philly. Keep it up, Yuda! Join us!
- Nationals Review makes me feel a little better by picking the Cardinals to win it all. See, it's not just me!
- Basil from Nationals Inquirer, charitable soul that he is, has adopted a wayward young pitcher. Danny Rueckel is sure to blossom with such care.
Monday, April 04, 2005
No matter! Our first game is in the books and there are thousands yet to come. We had our first hit (Wilkerson), first run (Johnson), first homer (Sledge), first error (Schneider), and first sellout, even if it was in Philly (Attendance: 44,080, 101.3% full). Tomorrow's an off day for some reason, and we get Zach Day vs. Brett Myers Wednesday at 7.
Congratulations are due to our neighbors to the northeast. The Orioles looked pretty good in their opener, taking down the A's 4-0. I mention this because I really like Rodrigo Lopez, who is one of the many pitchers who remind me of "Landlord" Tomo Ohka. Except Mexican.
I'm starting a new feature. We'll see how zealously I update it, but I'll try to appoint a Nat of the Day after each game. Anyone have any ideas on how to punch up the presentation a bit? Especially the title - that's pretty weak-looking. Not like Nick Johnson - that's a beautiful man.
I fixed Dayn Perry again. First I (sort of) stopped him from writing like a depraved creep - even if he's not fixed, there's been unmistakable improvement. No more imaginary girlfriends, for instance. Dayn's other big problem has been his unreasoning hatred of the Nats, which you may remember from the end of last year, when I was angry. But the little twit has changed his tune again. In a list of the things he's most looking forward to today, this checks in at number 5:
Of course, the freshly minted Washington Nationals will be in action on opening day. They also boast two of the most underrated performers in the game—ace Livan Hernandez and outfielder Brad Wilkerson.Once again, my ridicule makes a difference. Why do I do it? For the children.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
RFK was better than I was expecting. My major league park experience is limited to Fulton County Stadium, Coors Field, Camden Yards, and Veterans Stadium. I don't remember Fulton, and Coors and Camden are a lot nicer. RFK beats the Vet. As acceptable as the inside was, though, damn is that thing an eyesore from outside. The 60s were an ugly time, making the selection of the dude ranch W for the Nats' caps all the more puzzling.
You know why I like blogs? I'm watching the Red Sox and Yankees on ESPN right now. ESPN is steadfast in their attempts to convince us that these two teams are the only ones that matter and that we are concerned about steroids to the exclusion of all else. I'm pretty sure the vast majority of fans are happy baseball's back and not as interested in steroids as the hordes of ESPN types who see the scandal as a precious opportunity to look like real journalists for once.
Happy Opening Day, the first of many. It's been a long time coming.