Monday, August 29, 2005

Tee Time

It was my first time in a while at RFK, and it would have been heart-breaking if I weren't already so damn jaded. The Nationals, in case you weren't paying attention, lost in humiliating fashion to a team that approached this contest with the hard-nosed, win-at-all-costs mentality usually reserved for NFL teams playing the last game of the preseason. Yes, the Cardinals' B-team made our home nine look rather foolish, but that didn't stop the embarrassingly kind RFK crowd from giving John Halama a standing ovation for his performance: 5.1 innings and two guys on base who wound up scoring after Tony La Russa realized the caliber of team he was dealing with and started calling the trick plays. I'm not saying we should emulate the Philadelphians and start throwing batteries, but can't we reserve the ovations for pitchers who have turned in at least a quality start?

As long as I'm complaining, I may as well complain about the complaining of others. The Washington Post's Mike Wise recently favored us with a pessimistic column that puzzlingly compared the Nationals to a "three-month Rehoboth romance." I understand the implication, but I can't say that I see the point. But that's not why I'm treating Wise to coveted Distinguished Senators coverage. After pointing out the problems the Nats are having, Wise lays out a three-point plan for the future. I'll work backwards:
2. Should Jim Bowden, the interim general manager, return? No. For every Guillen, you still cannot get away from the lack of productivity from the left side of the infield: Cristian Guzman at shortstop and Vinny Castilla at third.
Quite right, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Wise elaborates, and I don't disagree. Bodes has got to go. I do disagree with this, though:
1. Should Robinson return? Yes. Less than a week from turning 70, he's gotten more out of this lineup than most expected and has put to bed any notion that he has neither the fire nor managerial sense to stay in the game. He's the only manager Jose Guillen has ever truly responded to. He still engenders complete respect in the clubhouse. Questionable managerial moves aside and his lofty place in the game notwithstanding, Robinson has done enough to warrant at least another year with the Nats.
That's almost all wrong. "He's gotten more out of this lineup than most expected." If by "lineup" Wise means "offense," I hasten to point out that the Nats are butt-naked last in the entire major leagues in run-scoring. If by "lineup" he means "team," then I'd have to agree that they're better than I thought they'd be, but I fail to see why Frank should automatically get the credit, especially from someone so eager to jettison the general manager.

"He's the only manager Jose Guillen has ever truly responded to." Fair enough. Frank gets credit from me for two things: 1) handling Guillen and B) baiting Mike Scioscia into making a complete ass of himself.

"He still engenders complete respect in the clubhouse." This is an outright lie. Tomo Ohka hated him, and so did Claudio Vargas. Even if they were the only ones, that's enough to prove Wise's worshipful statement wrong, and I'm pretty sure they're not. Frank doesn't have the respect of a significant proportion of his players, and he doesn't deserve it. He needlessly humiliates his pitchers on the mound, then throws a fit and forces bad trades when they don't enjoy it. He slept through the Expos' last season in Montreal and is on his best behavior in Washington because he knows cameras are on him. He sees this job as a sinecure to subsidize his golf habit. The bottom line is that Frank Robinson doesn't care about this team as much as you do.

Finally,
Sunday's debacle prompted Bowden to whine about the incompetence of the offence he assembled. Let's see if we can have some fun with his bitching.
"[I] know by [Labor Day] there's going to be enough choices for [the new owner] that he doesn't have to [keep my silly jumpsuit-wearing ass around] if he doesn't want to," Bowden said."Be a man, wake up and [stop doing] damage or guess what? After that, [the owner] can do whatever he can do. By the time it gets to [Labor Day], [I'm still] [suck]ing, he might as well put other people in there. There's a lot of guys who can [avoid signing the worst hitter in the history of baseball to a four year contract]."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Invisible Man

When it comes to how the Nationals are being run, it's the little things that get to you. That's by necessity, since there are no big things. Other teams get to worry about big things: whether to trade Manny Ramirez, "brain-dead Carribeans," hairdressers -- you know, the big things. Nats fans are stuck contemplating the true worth of Sunny Kim and whether Tomo Ohka or Frank Robinson is a bigger jerk. So keep that in mind as I pick my nits.

We had plenty of outfielders before Jim Bowden acquired Preston Wilson, and we still do. Ryan Church is rotting on the bench when he should be solidifying his Rookie of the Year case, for instance. Meanwhile, the offense is atrocious, and it's largely owing to the infield. Vinny Castilla's been in a free fall since the eleventh game of the year (I'm serious -- his OPS was 1449 on April 16 and has fallen steadily to its current 698). Jose Vidro was fine until he missed two months but has hit Vinny-style since, and you know he's not helping us with his glove. Both these players are old and gimply and could use some time off. If only there were someone who could fill such a role. There's Jamey Carroll, but he's busy giving us the occasional day off from Cristian Guzman, and he can't hit either. Regular Distinguished Senators readers (if there are any) probably know where I'm going with this: Free Brendan Harris! Harris is putting up a solid 281/332/424 in AAA at the moment with 10 homers and 17 doubles. He's not exactly ripping up the league, but he's obviously not overmatched, and he did hit in the majors before being inexplicably shipped back down. He plays third and second and is more than capable of giving our ailing infielders the time off they need (which in Castilla's case is the year and a couple months until his contract expires).

Instead we get another frigging outfielder. Nothing against young Brandon Watson, and his call-up could wind up being a good thing. He has a homer and a double tonight, not that I expect that to keep up -- remember Preston Wilson's first at-bat as a National? Anyway, Nationals Farm Report profiles the new guy for us. His batting average in New Orleans was .357, and though it may have been a rather empty .357 (low on walks and power), he'll probably be of more use than poor Matt Cepicky was. Nonetheless, he simply doesn't fill as great a need as Harris would, and he'll be just the latest unworthy outfielder to steal playing time from Church. Little thing though it may be (it's not even the worst move Bowden's made this week), this team doesn't have the talent not to sweat the small stuff.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Frank Had A Plan It Was His Master Plan

What a crappy weekend of baseball. Some observations, since I can't maintain a train of thought for more than five minutes.
  • Remember Saturday's game when we're forced to get rid of Ryan Drese because of his bad attitude. Drese became the latest victim of Frank Robinson's Pitcher Humiliation Plan, being lifted in a 2-2 count to Dave Roberts in the 7th. Joey Eischen proceeded to give up a go-ahead RBI double, and Drese proceeded to look pissed off and puzzled on the bench. Don't worry, Frank -- I'm behind you! All those pitchers who get a little prickly after being publicly humiliated just have bad attitudes!
  • Speaking of assholes who make it hard to root for the Nationals, Jose Guillen recently caused the normally mild-mannered Brad Wilkerson to explode during a team meeting on Friday.
    According to another source, the only heated exchange was between outfielders Jose Guillen and Brad Wilkerson. Guillen told Wilkerson that he wanted him to take charge a little more in center field. Wilkerson responded by saying that that he would take charge a little more, but that Guillen never listens to him. Guillen became very upset. Heated words then followed . . .
    I wonder whose side the halfwit homers will take in this dispute. Both these guys are sacred cows. Anyway, you'll be happy to know that ¡Livan! broke it up.
  • Who's the radio play-by-play guy? Charlie or Dave? Whichever one of them it is, I'm sick of him. The "Bang! Zoom!" thing is really wearing thin even though I don't hear it very often anymore. A bigger problem is his bizarre recalcitrance in telling me what the damn score is. Unless it's the end of a half-inning, he acts like it's classified information. The final straw came last night, when I flipped on the radio after studiously ignoring the first five innings. Not to bore you with my own play by play, but the Padres were down by one run and had men on first and third with none out in the 6th. Mark Sweeney hit a single to center, scoring the man on third. Meanwhile, Brad Wilkerson convinced Mark Loretta, the man on first, that he as going to catch the ball, which prevented Loretta from advancing and led to a force out at second base. That's pretty neat, but let's not forget that the play scored the tying run in what wound up being a one-run game. Here's how Dave/Charlie called it, as I recall: 1) decribed Wilkerson's play 2) described Wilkerson's play at somewhat greater length 3) mention briefly that a Padre scored 4) described Wilkerson's play again 5) called Wilkerson a genius 6) shockingly told me the damn score. I don't know if it's homerism or just bad announcing, but Dave/Charlie utterly missed the point of that play, and he's lucky I don't know which one he is.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ho-Hum

I picked a hell of a boring game to have to write something about. The big story, I suppose, is that the Dodgers, who entered the game 10th in the NL in dinger production, cranked four homers in supposedly dinger-proof RFK. It's not much of a story, but at least it makes Jose "One Homer at RFK" Guillen look pretty bad. Remember back in June when we couldn't lose at home? The Nats would score maybe three runs, Chad Cordero would let three guys get on base and still get the save, and it was all very routine and predictable? Last night's game was the photo negative version. The Dodgers got out to an early lead, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who thought, "Well, that's the end of that. And hey, the Law and Order where the Falun Gong lady incinerates herself is on!" Guillen stranded three more men on base and the Nats scored four runs just so this would be another of those significant one-run losses. Ho-hum. The point? There isn't one, but wasn't June fun?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

My Name is Ryan and I'm Here to Say

Check this: I'm going to pay attention to this baseball game tonight and totally write something about it. It'll be just like the good old days. Meanwhile, I'm going to fix the links, because that's easier than writing something. If I ever follow through with my plan to make a living by rapping about blogging, here's what I'm going to say: "I got more links than Jimmy Dean." Now I just need something that rhymes with that and won't lead to my saying "and I love Fruity Pebbles in a major way."