Friday, December 30, 2005

Reds Right Hand

What I did on my Christmas vacation: I visited the first Chipotle and got myself suspended from the University of Miami football team, so I'm going to miss the Peach Bowl. I can't tell you what team policy I violated, but I can say that the team has no policy against smuggling sixteen panda cubs from China. Otherwise Michael Irvin wouldn't have lasted a week there.

Meanwhile, the Nats signed a couple pitchers. Ramon Ortiz gets one year, $2.5 million. Here's the best thing that can happen: RFK acts as a soothing salve on Ramon's oozing tendency to give up homers, Randy St. Claire teaches him a knuckleball or something, and he gives us 200 innings and a 4.50 ERA. More likely: those homers turn into Soriano-assisted triples, and we get 170 innings and an ERA in the fives. I don't think we're looking at another Esteban Loaiza here, but what the hell. We needed rotation-fillers, and rotation-fillers is what we get. Anyway, it's a fine signing. I would have preferred Ryan Franklin, a trickster figure in the tradition of Loki, Bugs Bunny, and the main character of a rather offensively-named children's book I saw at the Denver Art Museum, infamous Latin American trickster Pedro Urdemales. Cheat to win!

Tony Armas got $2.1 million. Armas has always bugged me, a holdover from my days as leader of the Tomo Ohka fan club. For a variety of reasons, Ohka never got the credit he deserved, while Armas routinely got more than he did. Get in a time machine, go back to May, and go shopping for Nats merchandise. You'll find (or is it "you found"? Time travel is hell on grammar) endless Armas shirts, and nothing for Ohka. Never mind that Ohka has been vastly better than Armas every year since 2002. Armas always got credit for his potential, potential it seems he'll always have. He isn't so much competing for a spot in the rotation as he is readying himself for another trip to the surgeon. For two mil, you can get all the Tommy Johns you'll ever need.

Will Carroll, a jolly embodiment of Christmas spirit, has brightened my holidays by admitting (again!) that he makes stuff up just to get people talking about him. This marks the second time he's owned up to his buzz machine strategy. A week and a half ago, Will confessed:
I have two jobs - generate content and generate interest. It's best when I can do both, but doing one or the other has some value as well.
And now:
If you didn't realize my predictions suck, then you haven't been paying attention. I admit they suck, know they suck, and make them anyway. Know why? Because the debate is interesting.
Hey, say whatever the hell you want, as long as it gets people talking! A player you will care about just got busted for the roids, and I'll bet you chemical McCarthyists can't wait to find out who! Will wants to be thought of as a real, grown-up journalist, and he's really hurting his case here. Make whatever Faux News/Rathergate joke you're most comfortable with, but it's an important part of real, accredited journalism to -- even if you are making everything up -- not admit it. It got Peter Gammons in the Hall of Fame, and if Will doesn't learn from his hero, he'll never stop whining about not being taken seriously. And I'll never run out of material.

Friday, December 23, 2005


I -- along with Bob, Bing, and the whole gang here at Distinguished Senators -- wish you a Merry Christmas and, depending on how long it is until I post again, a Happy New Year. And Happy Christmas to the limeys.

I'm really feeling the joy of the season, since my Christmas present was just delivered by a team of beaming Chinese zoologists.

Please say hi to (top row, l-r) Mr. Panda, Craphonso, Li'l ¡Livan!, Butterstick Is A Stupid Name, Gunnar, Buzz Machine, OHLINS, Mr. Panda II, Marbert, Dutch, and
(bottom row) Dayn, Li'l Giant Baba, Big Nasty, If Professor Bacon Was A Panda, The Fat One, and Ryan Junior.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sleeeeeep

The arbitraton deadline has come and gone, and I don't feel guilty about not mentioning it until just now. Long story short -- or rather, boring and technical story less boring and technical -- suddenly the landscape is littered with downcast baseball players whose teams didn't want them, and they're (practically) free to a good home. Svrluga runs it down.
[Blah blah blah] negotiations with free agents Brett Tomko and Shawn Estes -- discussions that have been ongoing for weeks -- as well as Joe Mays.
Tomko the best of these, and he's already turned us down once. The official excuse is that the tumultuous stadium/owner situation makes free agents reluctant to cast their lot with the Nats. I figure management's incompetence is another: no doubt Tomko was worried Bowden would wait until the deal was done to ask him to play shortstop. Estes is awful and the best thing you can say about Mays is that he might not be the worst guy named Mays to play major league ball.
[Ramon] Ortiz won 44 games for the Angels from 2001 to '03, but was 9-11 with a 5.36 ERA for Cincinnati last season.
Ortiz is durable and a fly ball pitcher. He might be a good investment.
[Josh] Fogg was once one of the Pirates' most promising starters, but he suffered the first losing season of his career (6-11, 5.05).
Fogg is not durable and has never had even an average ERA+. Leave him on the pile.
[Ryan] Franklin not only struggled (8-15, 5.10 ERA) for the Mariners, but was suspended for 10 days for violating baseball's steroid policy.
I like this Franklin. He's an extreme flyballer, and he knows his limitations and isn't afraid to exceed them by cheating. I'm looking at this guy to play for my favorite sports team, not marry my sister, so to hell with the morality of it. I want fighting spirit, and a guy willing to sacrifice the health of his testicles can play for me anytime.
[Dewon] Brazelton went 1-8 with a 7.61 ERA for Tampa Bay, which sent him to the minors only to have him disappear for three weeks because he didn't want to accept the assignment.
I'm thinking Brazleton wouldn't cost much, since his major league resume is only slightly more impressive than mine. Based on their choice of manager and reluctant outfielder, it would appear that Tavares and Bowden's 2006 strategy revolves around making sure the team is as dysfunctional as possible, and a pitcher who gets pissed off and disappears would be a fine addition. Another benefit: with Terrmel Sledge gone, Cristian Guzman is the only Nat whose first name we can expect to be routinely misspelled. Dewon fills that role.
[Wade] Miller went just 4-4 with a 4.95 ERA and managed only 91 innings for Boston because of shoulder problems.
Miller looks done to me, but he was really good for a few years with Houston.

Who of these guys should Bodes go after? Probably all of them. The Nats are now beggars and cannot be choosers. I'd go with Ortiz and Franklin, but there's nothing more than rotation filler out there.

As far as the Nationals' arbitration decisions go, you'll be happy to know that we offered a contract to Jamey Carroll. Sure, his position is filled by about 10 other guys, but Frank likes his hustle and you can trust him around your daughter. Based on what I've learned from Playmakers, that's a reasonable concern for management.

Junior Spivey's gone, and now we have nothing to remember Tomo Ohka by except my lingering bitterness. As I mentioned when we signed Robert Fick, Bowden doesn't know what things are worth. I used to think he was showing off when he bought a pack of gum and pulled a hundred out of his track suit, but now I'm not so sure. Cristian Guzman isn't worth $16 million, guys like Marlon Anderson don't get two year contracts, and a backup second baseman who can't play anywhere else is not a good return on a dependable starting pitcher.

Oh, and Tony Armas might be back! Armas makes me tired. I don't know what it is.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I Don't Want to Change Either

Alfonso Soriano is well on his way to becoming the least popular National since . . . well, we only have a one year history, so let's say Hitler.
"I don't want to change," Soriano said Monday night at a dinner held for major-league players by Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez. "If I haven't done it before, I won't do it now."

Soriano said he had a greater comfort level in the AL, and he plans to become a free agent after next season and sign with an AL team.
One sort of desperate, Dunkirkesque defense of the Soriano/Wilkerson trade was to point out the public relations value of the move. It got people talking, the argument went, and that's important! Just look at how happy Tom Boswell is!

Obviously, a bad trade doesn't become a good one based on PR value. Yeah, Boswell batted his eyelashes at Bowden again, but he's not hard to impress. Anyone with a W on his cap is an "all-star" or "100-RBI man" or "promising rookie." Of course, the moment a former Nat dons another hat, he's a sucker and Boz knew it all along. Beyond Boswell, it's not clear the Nats even got any good PR out of it. Soriano is proving why he hasn't been popular anywhere he's played: he's overpaid, selfish, and has already stated his desire to get out of here the moment he can. Consider that his numbers will almost certainly look bad in comparison to his production with the Rangers and that Frank Robinson will clash with him and will not be discrete about it, and Soriano's arrival could prove to be the best thing that ever happened to Cristian Guzman's self esteem.

The nice thing about Soriano's frequent and petulant pronouncements is that they give us more proof, if any was needed, of Bowden's incompetence. Soriano had already turned down at least two requests to move to the outfield: both the Yankees and Rangers asked him to. Bowden, without any plans to dump Jose Vidro off on someone, went ahead and acquired Soriano without talking to him, his agent, a family member, his priest, or anybody else about it. It wasn't a secret that Fonz wanted to stay at second, and a general manager who knew what he was doing would have done a little groundwork before pulling the trigger. Or, more likely, a general manager who knew what he was doing wouldn't have seriously considered the trade at all.

Here's another reaction to Will Carroll's disphittery. Warning: salty language, fucker!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Nasty

It could be that we haven't shown the appreciation to MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he deserves. Things are quiet on the personnel front, and it's tough for a stadium-ignoring blogger to bring the content. Tom Boswell's talking about football, the Venerable Svrluga's off covering darts or shuffleboard or something, and there aren't even any glacially-paced Post chats to keep us occupied. Yet Ladson keeps on churning it out, and we should thank him for it.

A related problem is that the lack of grist for the blogmill means anything new gets picked clean by the time I get around to it, and I'll thank you to pardon my mixed metaphor. So Ladson has a new mailbag, OMG and teh Triple Play have already had at it, and I'm feeling like the last jackal to the dead gazelle party. But what else am I supposed to talk about? A few thoughts:

There's a pretty nifty non-sequitur when Ladson responds to a question about Soriano's unwilling and as yet unagreed to position shift.
In 1994, when he was the GM of the Reds, Bowden signed shortstop Tony Fernandez to a free agent contract on March 8 of that year. The problem was, the Reds already had Barry Larkin at the position. Then-manager Davey Johnson put Fernandez at third base. Bowden said that Fernandez was very upset about playing a different position, but the Reds ended up finishing that season in first place.
I can't possibly critique this better than Naranja:
I’ll assume Ladson’s logic is “Making a player unhappy by position change will not necessarily mess up a team” rather than “Making a player unhappy by position change means you will finish in first place!” You just have to read between the lines.
Ladson projects our 2006 starting lineup. Keep it in mind in case you're still thinking about those season tickets.
As of now, I see this lineup:
LF Brandon Watson
2B Jose Vidro
1B Nick Johnson
RF Jose Guillen
CF Alfonso Soriano
3B Ryan Zimmerman
C Brian Schneider
SS Cristian Guzman
"Brandon Watson?" you might be asking yourself. "Who the hell is that and where's Ryan Church? Is he at church?" Church, it seems, will never get a fair chance from this team. No matter he does or is capable of doing, it's not good enough, and Frank and Boswell will continue to compare him to various slang terms for female genitalia. He's the Brendan Harris of baseball.

Another question:
Why are you so down on strikeouts? They're frustrating to watch, but they're not all that different from a ground out. -- Chris N., Alexandria, Va.
I've got a question for you, Chris N. Why do you hate children?

Some starry-eyed fan asks why there's no hype around John Patterson. Ladson responds:
Let's face it, "The Big Nasty" has done the job for one year, and one year doesn't make him a premier pitcher. Let's not forget that Patterson wasn't very good the last month of the season. Let's see Patterson do it again, and then I'm sure he would get recognized as one of the better pitchers in the game.
First, let me say that Ladson is completely right. Second, "The Big Nasty" is about the least appropriate nickname anyone could possibly think of for Patterson. While there are no set rules for this kind of thing, a man called "Big Nasty" must, by my reckoning, possess at least two of the following traits:
  • Exceptional height
  • Exceptional girth
  • Exceptional amount of hair, facial or body
  • A reputation for headhunting
  • An unusually severe chewing tobacco habit
  • A face only a groupie could love
  • A felony conviction
Patterson has only one, height. There's nothing nasty about Patterson; he looks like a baby deer and has never gone into the stands after a vicious heckler or amenable-looking blonde.

Above: The Big Nasty wipes away a tear after thinking about his childhood pet, Mr. Whiskers.

I only mentioned it in passing before I got distracted by the Olympian pronouncements of the mighty Carroll, but this big board thingy is freaking great. Brian and Scott over the Farm Authority are providing something really useful rather than filling up the idle winter hours with wacky pictures and character assassination.

Monday, December 19, 2005

In Phases

Just so you know, this is what it looks like when I post in spite of having nothing -- maybe less -- to say. Remember this during my next unexplained two-week hiatus.

Rick Short is following in the footsteps of Chad Rowan, Brock Lesnar, and King Kong.
Infielder Rick Short, arguably the most popular member of the Nationals because of his long journey to the big leagues, told MLB.com on Friday that he will not play for the team in 2006. Short's contract is expected to be sold to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japanese Baseball League. Short said an announcement will be made soon.
Too bad we didn't have any room on the bench for a dirt-cheap .300-hitting right hander. Guess there just wasn't anywhere to stash him what with Marbert Fickerson taking up so much space.

Above: Artist's conception of Rick Short's arrival in Japan and formal greeting by officials from the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Now this is some good internet.

Will Carroll
is just insufferable. Every so often, he stands up, clears his throat, and exhorts all bloggers to greater heights ("Why can’t someone do some actual reporting or at least fact-checking?"). He knows everyone hates it, but that won't stop him.
Over the past couple years and in the various incarnations of this blog, I've said things about bloggers and in nearly every case, I've gotten blasted far and wide.
I don't think Will realizes why, so let me suggest a reason: Will, you are a liar, a huckster, and a very bad writer. Sure, you've managed to scheme your way into getting paid for your nonsense, but that's no reflection on your ability and doesn't make it any less insulting that you're trying to help us. No one wants advice from you.
Of course, that implies that I care about most of this blasting, which couldn't be further from the truth.
That's a relief. Here I was feeling guilty.
I have two jobs - generate content and generate interest. It's best when I can do both, but doing one or the other has some value as well.
This sounds to me like an admission that Carroll will lie to get publicity. And to quote the man directly, "I wish I could give you more, but you know what a . . . whore I am." If only all whores were so forthright! Anyway, he bleats on for a while, then this:
Some come and go, like Aaron Gleeman, who's output is still prolific and appeals to me in phases. People think I don't like Aaron - even Aaron sometimes - but I do. I have high hopes for him.
Is it pathetic or hilarious that Will thinks he's attained such rarified heights that the merest nod of his mighty head makes the earth tremble? He doles out praise, but he can't be too effusive; you want to give young Gleeman something to strive for. You may please only him in phases, Aaron, but to be mentioned at all by the mighty Carroll is an honor that many would die for. And what the hell does "appeals to me in phases" mean, anyway? Is it a menstrual thing?
I was charged with a "guest writer" program at BP this off-season and for the most part, it's been a miserable failure. I looked at the list of the top ten and aimed for all ten, plus some people from outside the sphere. I got nearly nothing.
Very professional. "Hey all you guys I hired to write for BP: Fuck y'all. You appealed to me not even in phases. I have spoken. Love, Will. PS. You should have done some actual reporting or at least fact-checking like your hero, me."

John Sickels wants to know what you think of Bodes.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Punishment, Reward

A vision of 2005: the old man sits in the dugout. He gazes at the field, oppressed by age and constant bewilderment,. His only solace is that once -- once -- he was better than any of the men he watches. And he hates them. He hates their money, their vigor, their insistence on speaking Spanish and not listening to him. So he sits back, folds his arms, and thinks about his new golf clubs. First he thinks about playing golf with those clubs, but that reverie soon transforms into a delicious, guilty fantasy in which he holds one of the clubs -- the sand wedge -- and takes it upside Tony Tavares' head. He snaps out of the daydream as next to him, Eddie puts on . . . well, something. Hit and run, probably. Something happens on the field; people boo. Ah, but those clubs . . .

Prepare for many, many reenactments of that scenario, as Frank Robinson will be getting paid for another 162 games of desperately trying to stay awake. I think Frank's a godawful manager, but you probably already knew that. It's not even his (or his bench coach's) tactical and strategic decisions that bother me more -- not that they don't annoy me -- but he just doesn't have the attitude to manage. It's one thing to be tough -- Bobby Cox yanking a loafing Andruw Jones out of the game in mid-inning comes to mind -- it's another to be cranky. When Robinson humiliates and complains about his pitchers or when he insults Ryan Zimmerman, what purpose does it serve, other than making Frank feel a little better and giving me something to get on my high horse about? So yeah, he's awful and we'd all be better off if they paid him to "consult" or something. You know, subsidize his golf game in exchange for trotting him out at the All-Star Game.

The fun part is the lying.
"We felt our organization made positive strides last year, improving from 67 wins to 81 wins, being in first place as late as July, being in a pennant race until the second week of September," General Manager Jim Bowden said. "We're pleased Frank's strong leadership will be back."
Sure, Bodes. Sure. In case we forgot that all was not hunky-dory with the Nats in 2005, Svrluga reminds us.
The decision, though, was agonizing for both sides, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Some high-ranking Nationals front-office members occasionally become frustrated with Robinson's strategic maneuvers.
And as if to underscore that message, management took a step equivalent to moving a rowdy student to a desk in the corner away from his friends by firing all his buddies.
Organizational sources have indicated for weeks that changing some coaches was a condition of Robinson's return. . . Hitting coach Tom McCraw, first base coach Don Buford, third base coach Dave Huppert, bullpen coach Bob Natal and roving instructor Jack Voigt were all fired.
. . .
[Robinson] was stung by some of the departures. McCraw and Buford, both former teammates of Robinson, are two of Robinson's closest friends.
It's all part of following a third-world franchise. No owner, low payroll, and a manager who would have been fired just about anywhere else. I certainly don't blame Tavares for this decision; there wasn't much else he could do. I warn him, though, to avoid Frank when he's got a sand wedge.

How did I celebrate my birthday, you ask? Well, it's traditional in my family to do nothing that hasn't been described in a song by the Birthday Party, so after the ice cream and jelly, it's time for heroin and John Milton. Here's the song.

The Immaculate Dog Chair

There's not much to talk about except that adiumstay iascofay I'm ignoring, but the hell with it. It's my birthday and I don't have to entertain you people. In fact, you should be entertaining me. Find an animal that doesn't fit into this system of classification:

(a) those that belong to the Emperor,
(b) embalmed ones,
(c) those that are trained,
(d) suckling pigs,
(e) mermaids,
(f) fabulous ones,
(g) stray dogs,
(h) those that are included in this classification,
(i) those that tremble as if they were mad,
(j) innumerable ones,
(k) those drawn with a very fine camel's-hair brush,
(l) others,
(m) those that have just broken a flower vase,
(n) those that resemble flies from a distance.

And what could be more birthdayish than my favorite birthday song, "Happy Birthday" by the Birthday Party? Do yourself a favor and get it here. That's my present to you, the reader. It's no dog chair, but it's the best I can do.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Learning

Say what you will about Jim Bowden (and I really mean that -- don't let that comment verification thingy stop you), but he's making the most of this hands-on work experience he's getting. Maybe he's not perfect or even better than awful, but he's learning on the job.
. . . the Nationals announced the addition of utility man Robert Fick, who was signed to a one-year, $850,000 contract to back up at first base, in the outfield and even serve as a third catcher.
I guess this means the Marlon Anderson thing was a practice run. Bowden, just like, say, Richie Rich, pretty obviously doesn't know what things should cost, but he's trying to learn. He gave Anderson two years and literally almost millions of dollars. Somebody told him that didn't make sense (I know I did, but my opinion doesn't carry much weight in the RFK trailer), so he tried again. We got another defensively useless left-handed pinch hitter with no power, but at half the cost. All in all, I'd rather have Fick. He's more patient, and I suppose his novelty catching gimmick is slightly handier than Marlon Anderson's second base thing, given the rest of the roster (current second baseman count: 12. Or so. I didn't look it up).

But we have both, and it's not totally bad. Suppose we have a man on, the pitcher up, a righty pitching, no lefties ready in the bullpen, and a baserunner fast enough that we only need a single. We're ready! But wait: what if a couple innings later, the exact same situation comes up? Most teams could take advantage once, but we're in a position to jump on it twice per game. So once they go ahead and expand rosters to 50 players, this is a damn masterstroke.

Also in Nats News:
  • Joey Eischen's back. One year, $1.3 million. I guess we need a lefty, and the marginal value of such a player is particularly large for the Nats since we've cornered the market on lefty pinch-hitters. Eischen captured the hearts of Nats fans when he offered irrumation to Peter Angelos. I do not point this out disapprovingly.
  • Bodes is working on getting Alfonso Soriano to play the outfield. Let's hope he made his pitch without resorting to his usual appalling comparisons. "Fonz, if you don't move to the outfield, you're literally crashing a plane into this team."
  • "Sources" told Barry Svrluga that Frank Robinson, Eddie Rodriguez, and Randy St. Claire will be back. St. Claire's about the best thing we got going for us, so that's a relief. I wonder how Bodes is going to fill the rest of those coaching jobs. "You're turning down the third base coach job? Be symbolic. You should have told me on September 11, because that's what you're doing."
  • The Nats signed a bunch of catchers to minor league deals. This reminds me of the geography and demographics of McKey, Oklahoma in that I don't care.

I'm Doing the Time of My Life!

Not much to talk about today, aside from that thing I'm not calling a fiasco. Not because it's not, mind you. It's a stylistic thing. Anyway, MLB.com's Bill Ladson has another bad mailbag column, but I don't get upset about that anymore. I might as well pitch a fit every time Family Circus isn't funny. I guess there a few bits worth mockery. Ladson has selected some questions so dumb that they make him look like a damn genius, backing up my theory that he gets his questions from the same place the titans of journalism behind Parade Magazine's Personality Parade get theirs. Which is a long-winded way of saying that he makes them up.
With Miguel Tejada apparently wanting to get traded, what are the chances of the Nationals getting him for Jose Vidro and Cristian Guzman? That would open up second base for Soriano.
-- Tom P., Burlington, Ontario
Good idea, "Tom P." Then we can send Jamey Carroll and Jose Rijo to St. Louis for that Pujols guy -- we need a backup for Nick, after all. Here are parts of two Ladson answers:
That proposed trade will not happen because Vidro is hurt . . .

It's going to be impossible to trade Vidro because he is hurt right now.
Oh, come on, Bill. It's a pretty thin column to begin with, you don't even write half of it, and you're padding.
However, of the three the Nationals traded, I hated to see Terrmel Sledge go, because I believe he is going to be a star in the Major Leagues.
Sledge is going to be 29 next year and has yet to do jack in the majors. Name me one "star in the Major Leagues" who hadn't done anything by that point in his career. Monte Irvin doesn't count.
Brad Wilkerson is a great person and team player, but he must cut down on the strikeouts.
Yeah, well we didn't exactly trade him for Tony Gwynn. To be fair, Wilkerson strikes out even more than Soriano, and it's not a small difference either -- 20-30 a year. (By the way, why is Sledge going to be a star? "He can hit all types of pitching and doesn't strike out much." The man's obsessed.)
Maybe a change of scenery will work wonders for him.
This could well be true, but Ladson doesn't bother to tell you why. Does he know?

In completely hilarious news, Sidney Ponson is going to prison.

Just another number: Prisoner 1204 locked down in the belly of the beast.

It looks like the Man is taking away that saw he brought with him, so somebody should get him a keg of beer with a file in it. It won't take him long to get to the bottom, and maybe he can save us from spending $40 million on Jarrod Washburn.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

What the Fick?

Things have calmed down a bit after the post-Soriano trade hysteria. All we can do is wait to see if Alfonso really is the Tank McNamara nightmare of a selfish player he looks like so far. Meanwhile, the Nats are picking at the scraps left over from the free agent feast devoured by the GMs at the winter meetings. My promise to you: no more metaphors in this post. There may be a simile or a hysteron-proteron or something, though. I'm a painter, and I need my colory things that I paint with. The Post:
An organizational source said the Nationals were pursuing free agent Robert Fick, a former all-star with Detroit who played last year for San Diego. Fick could be a backup both in the outfield and at first base, and the Nationals particularly need someone to play behind first baseman Nick Johnson. In parts of eight major league seasons, Fick, 31, hit .260 with 65 homers and 299 RBI. He hit .265 for the Padres in 2005.
Those italics the Post are doing now are rather off-putting. Are they trying to look like an 18th century broadsheet? Anyway, I don't get Fick. We already have Marlon Anderson, who does exactly what Fick does: pinch hits, puts up some pretty unimpressive batting lines, sometimes stands in the field with a glove on his hand. Fick has this novelty gimmick thing he does where he catches sometimes, and if we're going to use him as a backup catcher, that would at least be zany. Sure, he's a lefty and Schneider's a lefty, but look: it's Robert Fick . . . catching! Plus he's some kind of dirty player bastard, but I can't be bothered to look it up.
The Nationals also are pursuing right-hander Brett Tomko, who would be a fallback measure should the club be unable to sign some of the higher-priced free agents . . .
Looks like the Nats are scraping the bottom of the . . . that would be a metaphor, wouldn't it? Restart: Looks like the Nats are desperate for pitching and lost out on the guys they actually wanted (that's the hysteron-proteron). Given that the market is allowing forty-something Kenny Rogers to get two years and $16 million, it's probably for the best that we're missing out on the big names. In fact, there aren't any actual big names out there, only guys whose names are (figuratively) big in comparison to, say, Brett Tomko. Tomko pitches a lot of innings -- over 190 in each of the last four years -- and has a shot to maybe post an average ERA. He's the poor man's Brian Lawrence, and that can be an okay thing, depending on the price. Give him another Esteban Loaiza deal and expect less than Estevey gave us.

Someday I'll write my Washington Nationals alternate history. Maicer Izturis at shortstop, Bob Watson as GM, and manager Rickey Henderson's job in danger owing to differences with new owner Scrooge McDuck. Now I've got another coulda been:
Before acquiring Soriano, the Nationals balked at a three-way trade that would have landed them Reds outfielder Wily Mo Pena, with Blue Jays pitcher Miguel Batista going to the Reds and Nationals outfielder Brad Wilkerson going to the Jays.
Anyone who read my violent reaction and subsequent violent reaction to someone else's less than violent reaction to the Soriano trade can guess what I think of this. Soriano: 29-year-old bad defensive player with power, speed, no strike zone restraint, and a $10 million salary under club control for one year. Pena: 23-year-old good defensive player with power, speed, no strike zone restraint, and a sub-$1 million salary under club control for . . . hell, I don't know. Years. Pena is something of an unknown quantity, having not yet put in a full major league season. We know he hits for power and strikes out. He and Soriano have a similar offensive profile, but Pena is more desirable in pretty much every way. It can be argued that Soriano's a better short-term move, but we shouldn't be making short-term moves. A 23-year-old power hitter who brings defense, saves us money, and -- though he's been known to bitch -- would be playing the position he wants to play would have been a much better return for Wilkerson & Co. Hell, I might even pick this over Option C: keep Wilk.

But we must consider motive, since that makes it so much easier to attack baseball executives personally. The Soriano trade is a no-lose situation for Jim Bowden. If it works out (by which I mean, "if Soriano hits 30 homers, avoids openly warring with Frank, and then bolts"), he has some resume-padding for his next job. If it doesn't, well, shit -- he's going to be out of here anyway after the team is bought. At least he got his name in the papers and some sweet lovin' from Boswell.

Let's take a spin around the Natmosphere. If I may say so, I've been doing a splendid job of ignoring the whole stadium lease . . . well, I shouldn't say fiasco. Everyone says fiasco. Anyway, go to pretty much all the other blogs for that stuff. Spinnin':
  • OMGWTFLOL has a great description of Boswell:
    Tom Boswell is no longer a journalist, not as far as the Nats are concerned. Having seen baseball leave DC, he won’t be party to it happening again. In response, he has become a salesman for the Nats. Before almost every WP column he puts on his loud sportcoat and wide tie and tries to convince you that the broken window is free airconditiong, that the different color side door is “stylish”, and that Crisitian Guzman could possibly hit .290 in 2006.
    There's more, but I didn't want to take the whole thing.
  • Capitol Punishment is on a crusade to prove that you can't say Soriano's crappy based on park effects. You can still say he's crappy because he makes twice as much as Brad Wilkerson and is ten times as much of a pain in the ass. Here's part one.
  • Speaking of part ones (parts one?), Nats Triple Play is reviewing Jim Bowden's first year on the job. Here's part one.
  • Banks of the Anacostia tries to find a loving home for Jose Vidro.
  • Basil attended a wrestling show.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Bitter Postscript

It's 24 hours later, and I have yet to see a defense of the Soriano/Wilkerson 'n' Friends trade that was even close to convincing. So I'm going to take out my wrath on a really incompetent one. DCist felt the need to weigh in on the transaction, and while it's not as intricately insane as a Boswell column, it's short enough that I can rip it up without hurting my puzzler. I'm skipping the first paragraph so as not to nitpick, only mentioning that it's a classic example of action being mistaken for improvement.
But the Washington front office pulled the trigger on a doozie this week, bringing in former Yankee and Texas Ranger Alfonso Soriano, in a move that makes the Nats' lineup much more dangerous and much faster on the basepaths.
Faster, yes. Soriano is not a better hitter than Wilkerson. He's even less a better hitter than Wilkerson plus Terrmel Sledge.
In Soriano's five full years as a major leaguer, he's averaged over 30 homers and 30 steals a year as an infielder, where he's shown great ability and range.
Allow me to present two statements I feel are equivalent to this one: Livan Hernandez has averaged over 230 innings over the last six years, but he's really known for his matinee idol good looks. DCist furnishes exhaustive coverage of cake stores and the local indie music scene while providing insightful and well-researched sports coverage.

Author Ryan Avent provided no proof that Soriano has "shown great ability and range," so I feel like a cad defending the opposite (correct) position by using them; I'll keep it short. According to Baseball Prospectus, Soriano has never had even an average year at second. Win Shares -- and keep in mind that that's a counting stat -- has Soriano with fewer defensive Shares than the proverbially bad Jose Vidro, even though Vidro only played half a season. Anyway, he's awful.
The knocks on him are his penchant for swinging at high fastballs, breaking balls away, passing blimps, and anything else that catches his eye while he's in the batter's box, and he's known for dogging it in the field when he gets tired . . .
That's fine. Let's move on.
. . .but Frank Robinson is a motivator who's sure to get the most out of his new plaything.
For one that, "his new plaything" is really creepy. Stop saying it. For another, Frank isn't a motivator, he's a dickhead who gets along with Jose Guillen.
It's likely that Alfonso will spend time in the outfield anyway, given All-Star Jose Vidro's status as an elite second baseman.
Does Avent watch the games, or just simulate them on a Playstation? Those of us who watched them remember that Jose Vidro wasn't in all that many of them. Sure, he's an elite video game second baseman: turn off injuries and don't try to steal, and you're in business.

The bigger problem here is that Avent doesn't bother to mention a potentially serious problem: Soriano wants no part of the outfield. Here's what the man himself said about it:
"I'm going to play second base," Soriano told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Thursday. "I don't think they want me to play the outfield. I think that if they traded for me, it's to play second base. Obviously I have the control. Of course I'm not going to play the outfield."
Isn't that worth mentioning? It's not like it's top secret information that you needed inside sources to get -- some dumbass blogger mentioned it yesterday. Back to DCist:
In getting Soriano, the Nats traded away Termel Sledge . . .
Two r's in Terrmel, champ.
. . . and Brad Wilkerson, who was a fan favorite and Chevy Chase Bank spokesperson, but who struggled with his hitting down the stretch.
That's it about Wilkerson? All his accomplishments with the Nats and his status as the last Expo don't merit a mention? Nothing about his injury or on-base skills or defense? Not one damn thing in the whole article about park effects? How are you supposed to talk about this trade without at least alluding to the vast difference in hitter-friendliness between RFK and Ameriquest Field?
The deal also includes a Washington minor leaguer to be named later.
They went ahead and named the minor leaguer within an hour of the trade, if I recall correctly, and there are those who think he's pretty important to the deal. But why should he start researching all the way at the end?

It's a lousy, unresearched, rah-rah piece that provides nothing -- maybe less -- perceptive about the trade or its implications. Coming as it did the day after another DCist piece embarrassingly fantasized about the Pulitzer committee realizing the power of online media and giving DCist an award makes it not only ironic, but actually hilarious. So now I feel a little better about the whole thing.

Meanwhile, there's plenty to read -- plenty that's actually worthy of reading -- elsewhere. The Post article I referred to earlier should be read in full, as it offers a terrifying glimpse of the kind of stiff-necked me-first kind of player the guy we acquired might be.
One Rangers official defended Soriano, saying, "He is a good guy. He's certainly not a malcontent." But, he added, "They're going to have a big problem if they try to move him [to the outfield]."
If I were a Rangers blogger, I think I'd have fun with this unnamed official. "Yeah, he's great as long as you don't ask him to do anything."

Svrluga has a piece about Brad Wilkerson and his reaction to the trade. At first I felt sorry for Wilkerson, but then thought about it for a second. He's leaving a team that's not going to contend where he played next to a guy who hates him and is completely supported by the incompetent and apathetic manager and where he plays in a park that hurts his numbers and therefore his salary. You've gone to a better place, Brad.

Boswell is the most myopic and dishonest homer I've ever seen not writing under a pseudonym. I expect one of my fellow bloggers to take on this compendium of lies; I'm really not up to it. [Update: here's Basil. He's nicer than I would have been, but that's what makes him Basil.]

For a sane, intellectually honest defense of the trade, go to Banks of the Anacostia. JammingEcono is my favorite guy who disagrees with me all the time.

"I've Made a Huge Mistake"

I guess I should talk about the Soriano trade. I'll try to keep my take relatively brief, and I won't be showing a lot of my work because it's boring. "Blah blah OPS+, blah blah road splits, blah blah Value Under League Variable Average." No one wants to read that and I don't want to type it, so just trust me that I have thought this out. I hate the trade, and here's why:

Brad Wilkerson is simply a better baseball player than Alfonso Soriano. Soriano might have more power, and he's certainly faster. He plays a more vital position, though he plays it badly. Wilkerson is a better hitter -- any power difference is more than made up for in Wilkerson's willingness to take a walk once in a while (Soriano appears to be allergic). He's far more flexible, playing four different positions at least capably, and he's actually younger since Soriano got caught in that post 9-11 Dominican timewarp.

Then there's the money. Oh lord, the money. Wilkerson made about $3 million last year and is arbitration-eligible. He'll get under $5 mil for 2006. Soriano, meanwhile, made $7.5 million last year and should be around $10 mil for the next. He'll be our highest-paid player and a major drain on our payroll flexibilty. Even worse, he'll be a free agent next after 2006, while Wilkerson would have remained under our control for an extra year.

So, Wilkerson is a better player who costs half as much and we're the ones throwing in the extras? Why didn't Bowden ask the Rangers for a kick in the balls and a genital assault to be named later? Anyway, Texas also gets Terrmel Sledge and pitching prospect Armando Galarraga. We probably won't miss Sledge. I know little about Galarraga, though I've been assured that he makes this deal even worse for us -- stay tuned to Nationals Farm Authority for more on that.

So why did Bowden do it? Soriano hits a lot of homers and steals a lot of bases. Three of our main priorities this offseason were 1) pitching B) leadoff hitter and III) power hitter. Soriano can't fill the first (unless he really wants to earn his ridiculous salary), but no doubt Bodes thinks he fits the last two. He's wrong, but that's what makes him so loveable. Soriano is no leadoff hitter. His career on-base percentage is .320, and it was only .309 last year. Keep in mind, though, that whatever they're calling the Arlington ballpark favors hitters the same way Jessica Cutler favors guys with five hundred bucks to waste. Soriano's road OBP this year was .265 -- Guzman territory. He really a good base-stealer, but his on-base skills are much better suited for the ninth slot than the first. A better case can be made that Soriano's a power threat. He really does hit a lot of homers and doubles, especially for a second baseman, though once again he's helped to a stunning degree by his home park.

There are two ways the trade could turn out well. Brad Wilkerson had a bad season in 2005 as he suffered from a nerve injury in his forearm, which sapped his power. All my indignant statements this winter about Wilkerson's radness are based on the assumption that he's all better. If he's not and if his power won't return, then yeah, this is fine. The other development that could make this worthwhile is a trade of Jose Vidro. Vidro, as I've lamented time and time again, gets a very healthy paycheck as he devolves from underrated big-hitting second baseman to chubby bumbler. Things could be even worse if Vidro sticks around, since Soriano is apparently going to be thrust into the outfield. Soriano is not a good defensive player even at a position he knows all about. He's spent as much time in the outfield as I have, and he's made it known that he doesn't like the idea. Maybe he'll figure it out. Hell, maybe I'm the next Dom DiMaggio. You never know until you try.

This trade makes the Nationals older, more expensive, and worse. We've given up our best hitter -- not to mention our Nick Johnson injury insurance -- for a $10 million dollar rental who's a good bet to get on base less than 30% of the time. It's a terrible, terrible move, and we can only hope that it's Jim Bowden's last.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Operation: Hot Rumor

I know you come here for the gratuitous personal insults and special guest appearances by international superstar Professor Bacon, but I guess I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't comment on all the Hot Stove action. Yes, the stove is heatening -- literally -- in Dallas, and the increased calorific intensity of the scalding cooking device is fueled by rumors. Hot rumors. On the stove.

Here's what the Post has to say after lamenting the lost opportunity to pay $11 million smackers a year to A.J. Burnett. His wife's from Bowie and he turns us down!
"I feel it's been made very clear by the commissioner's office and by [team president] Tony Tavares that we have the dollars to go get one of these premium pitchers," [tracksuit-clad bumbler] Bowden said.
There aren't any more premium pitchers, but that's nit-picking. I, at least, am comforted by management's apparent determination to make a big signing for the sake of making a big signing. There is no flaw in that plan of attack.
The Nationals should know by Wednesday whether they are in the running for [marijuana enthusiast Matt] Morris. St. Louis must either sign Morris or offer him arbitration by Wednesday or it loses the right to negotiate with him until May 1.
Morris has long been one of my favorite players, and while my emotional attachment makes his presence on the Nats a little less nauseating than that of, say, Brett Tomko, he's going to get too much money from someone [UPDATE: more than $8 million per from SF?]. It's only a matter of time before that poor bastard's arm falls off for good.
Millwood, who had the best ERA in the American League for Cleveland last season, will almost certainly get four years and well over $40 million, and one Nationals source said the club's offer is more than that.
Eesh. Remember when Millwood was mediocre and settling for one-year deals? Dude has a fluke season and suddenly he's getting Burnett money. No thanks.
A cheaper option, but one fraught with peril, would be Rogers, the 41-year-old former Texas Ranger who was suspended for shoving a TV cameraman last summer. "It's an issue," Bowden said. Any deal would likely be for one year with incentives.
I can understand Barry Svrluga saying Rogers' arrival would be "fraught with peril" -- Kenny hates the media -- but Bodes should know better. I mean, this is the guy who brought over proven jackass Jose Guillen because his (Bowden's) kids liked him (Guillen). And there's a big difference here: Rogers slapped around a camera man. That is a bad thing to do and criminal. Guillen, on the other hand, has pissed off teammates everywhere he's been. The Angels, if you'll recall, were overjoyed to get rid of him, and he's already had it out with Brad Wilkerson. Rogers is worse from a legal and probably moral standpoint, but from a baseball standpoint, Guillen's sins are far greater. I consider there to be almost no behavioral risk in signing Rogers, though the physical ones are very real. The fact that Rogers could be had for "one year with incentives" immediately makes him a better candidate than Morris or Millwood; he's no less of a pitcher.

"Fraught with peril, huh? I'll show you fraught with peril! KENNY SMASH!!!!"

Moving on:
On other fronts, the Nationals continue to pursue Florida center fielder Juan Pierre via a trade, but Bowden said it would almost certainly have to involve another team because the Nationals don't have a good match for prospects.
Don't put yourself out, Bodes. Pierre isn't worth losing sleep over.
They continue to talk to Arizona about right-hander Javier Vazquez.
This is interesting, even beyond Frank's mutterings. Vazquez was a complete badass while in Montreal and protected by the sheltering presence of Randy St. Claire. In the two years since, he's been slightly below average, though still good for some inning-eating. We have ample evidence of St. Claire turning around the careers of Livan "¡Livan!" Hernandez and Hector "Tamer of Horses" Carrasco; could he work another miracle with Vazquez? That'd be three, which is a pretty important number when it comes to miracles.
Bowden dismissed rumors that Washington is about to swap outfielder Terrmel Sledge for San Diego leadoff man Dave Roberts, indicating that Pierre would have to be traded to another team before the Nationals went after Roberts.
I don't mind this one. I had an infatuation with Roberts that lasted about an hour and a half last winter. I'm not bully on Sledge having much of a career, and my biggest objection would be playing time: Roberts would, barring any other deals, be taking at-bats away from Ryan Church. Then again, Roberts, despite being 33 and playing in Petco Park, had easily the best year of his career in 2005 and doesn't cost much. Defensively . . . well, he's an upgrade on Preston Wilson, at least. If we're going to trade Sledge, I'd rather seem him go for something that really fills a need (i.e., pitching), but Roberts would be a good fit for RFK.

And now, what you all came for. Put your hands together and get those apples ready, here comes the Professor!



Tuesday, December 06, 2005

In Lieu of Talking About the Actually Important Things Going On . . .

Sometimes I get distracted by, say, a shiny object or lying megalomaniac and lose focus. Perfect example: just yesterday, I was thinking to myself, "I remember that I think everyone in Nationals management is dangerously incompetent except for Randy St. Claire. But why?" Once again, MLB.com's Bill Ladson lends a helping hand.
Manager Frank Robinson said that he is willing to manage [Javier] Vazquez again.
Well, that's big of him. Really going the extra mile there, Frank.
The two worked together in 2002 and 2003 in Montreal. When Vazquez played for the Expos, he was sometimes criticized for being too concerned about his pitch count and the lack of run support, but Robinson said that he understood why Vazquez was that way in Montreal. "A lot of pitchers are like that," said Robinson. "Pitchers that pitch their hearts out and lose tough ballgames are going to have a say about lack of run support. When it comes to pitch count, pitchers are more aware about the wear and tear on their arms. They think about their career and longevity."
Q: Hey Frank, why is Vazquez such a pussy?
A: Because he's a pitcher!

Would you hire a manager who can't stand and constantly undercuts Latin Americans? Californians? Dudes with goatees? No, of course not, and that's why it's such a mystery that an obvious pitcherphobe like Frank gets to be in charge of so many of them. There's a reason I'm not invited to speak at Will Carroll fan conventions, and that same logic should keep Frank out of the dugout.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Pinheads

The short history of the Washington Nationals is curiously intertwined with that of the Los Angeles Angels. The Expos, thanks to the intransigence of Peter Angelos and incompetence of Major League Baseball, lost good-natured slugger Vladimir Guerrero in free agency to the Angels, surely the greatest tragedy of the relocation (from the Washington fan's perspective only, of course). The link was strengthened when the Nats acquired the temperamental, mercurial Jose Guillen from the Angels in exchange for Juan Rivera (both young and promising) and Maicer Izturis. The best part, of course, was the Pine Tar Affair, when Frank Robinson -- possibly using inside info from Guillen -- got L.A. pitcher Brendan Donnelly ejected and suspended for having pine tar on his glove. Angels manager Mike Scioscia went nuts, Jose Guillen, a man hated by pretty much everyone on the other side, tied the game with a homer, and the Nats went on to win. Afterwards, Frank called himself the Intimidator and Scioscia fumed about it. Their feud was paralleled in the sad, sort of assy-smelling world of blogs, as Angels and Nationals bloggers revealed themselves to be frothing halfwits and smug jerk-offs, respectively.

It's all merely coincidence, but it's odd how often I find myself thinking about the Angels. And now they have another former Expo/National to dance with them on their pinhead, as Hector Carrasco has struck gold in California.
The Washington Nationals lost their second pitcher in a week yesterday when right-hander Hector Carrasco , a valuable setup man who started games late in the season, signed a two-year, $6.1 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
Let me state once again that I'm appalled by the fact that we don't have an owner. Boondoggle, national disgrace, all that. Yet the actual damage done to the team is hard to detect. So far, it's saved us from probably overpaying for one pitcher and definitely, wildly overpaying for this one. I sort of talked about Carrasco before, and I think I actually made some sense in among all the nonsense about magic and goats. Basically, he's not going to have a 2-ish ERA again and probably won't be an effective starter again, but I figured he was going to get paid as though these things were at least a pretty good possibility. And I was right! So have fun with Hector, Angels fans, and hope that "deadly changeup" Randy St. Claire taught him sticks. I predict you're all going to forget about him pretty quickly (check out the paltry notice the signing got in this very special Angels blog), and then one day in 2007 you're going to check out the team's payroll, and here's what you're going to say: "3 million for Hector Carrasco?! Great Caesar's ghost!" Or something like that.

As for us, here's the advice I had a month ago:
. . . take the Carrasco and Loaiza money and give it to Kenny Rogers, who's actually good and brings with him the intriguing possibility of someone getting his ass kicked.
He's still out there, still handsome, and still pissed off at the Fourth Estate. If anyone can do something about Thom Loverro and Mike Wise, it's Rogers.

Speaking of idiots who write for a living, which Will Carroll is more annoying: asshole braggart Will?
One of the best things about my job is getting to do things that most of us wish we could. Talk to players? Attend the World Series sans a new mortgage? Write about baseball? Tell people "I'm at work" when sitting at the ballpark? Check.
Or the Will who uses a legitimately tear-jerking remembrance of a dead friend written by someone else to position himself as the Rosa Parks of baseball writing?
I've ceased hoping that the BBWAA will open their doors to us, yet I still lobby and dream. Like I told a GM recently, "you don't have to talk to me or read your column, but there's a kid out there who will have your job someday who does. I'm writing for him and hoping he remembers me."
Those are some pretty selfless noises coming out of a gasbag so desperate for official recognition that he used a bunch of references to Lewis Carroll and Carroll County to prove that he's teh biggest thing on teh internet. No, he's only doing it for the children, which is why he threatened to start fixing games if he didn't get his BBWAA card.

Above, center: A lying, megalomaniacal charlatan windbag flanked by the people he does it all for: the children.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Good Days

It's a shame when news like this hits when I'm in my Annoyed Disinterest mode.
. . . Robinson is likely to be asked back but he will have to make major changes to his coaching staff if he wants to return.
Yeah, whatever. This is awful, of course. On my personal list of Most Incompetent Nationals, Frank is second; he's behind Guzman and just ahead of Ron Darling. I've railed on Frank time and time and time again, and there's no need to into it again now. Suffice it to say that his apathy is matched only his irritability and that his continued presence can have no possible benefit.

The upside exists, as do so many of the best things life has to offer, only in our imaginations (or, if we're lucky, in the papers). Remember what we assumed was Tony Tavares' farewell to Frank?
There are leadership issues within the locker room. There are guys who have to stand up and show better leadership. Frankly, our coaching staff has to show better leadership.
That was just part of it. He bitched and bitched about Frank, and it was the most fun I've had since the season ended. So even if this winter is a complete loss, as it will be, we can at least take comfort in the fact that Wilkerson and Guillen won't be the only two Nats who hate each other.

So even though Frank will still be around to demean our pitchers and bunt our way out of games, let's try to remember the good days.