Monday, January 30, 2006

Even the Mailbag Was Completely Uninteresting

Hoo boy, is there ever nothing going on. Seriously, this is one of the Post's top stories at the moment (and the Will Carroll Award for Most Hilariously Oblivious Proclamation goes to Anna Benson: "I'm not like some bimbo sitting down at a table"). So it's time for one of those blog round-ups, which allow me to take advantage of my more imaginative cohorts. But if something doesn't happen soon, there's going to be nothing in the Natmosphere but round-ups linking to round-ups linking to round-ups ad infinitum. Starting here.
  • Are you interested in the controversy about the lease agreement but finding that all those words make you tired? Or are you like me, who doesn't give a damn about it but still enjoys colorful pictures? Either way, Brandon at Curly W has you covered with this fantastic graphic explaining the web of rogering.
  • Oleanders and Morning Glories, fresh off ranking all 30 major league mascots (plus the J Force: Fierce!) notes that the phrases "Alfonso Soriano" and "$50 million" are being seen together all too often and in too many different places for it to be coincidence. I'm trying not to think about it.
  • Basil at teh Fed looks at the bright side of there being nothing going on, giving credit to four baseball information sources for keeping him sane, though he leaves out one I would have added. And he makes an important point: football is alright, but people talking about football is the stupidest thing on TV. Are they really still having those Clayton/Salisbury fights? Mel Kiper does deserver credit, though, for giving the Baltimore accent the only national outlet it has now that Homicide's not on anymore.
  • Banks has a thorough run-down of what's going on: Jose Guillen's insane rantings, Rosenthal's propsed Soriano contract, the sad Sosa saga, Bowden's continuing obsession with Reds outfielders (Austin Kearns? Why not? sez Econo), and some signings most of us have ignored. Daryle Ward is on board, along with the awesomely named Valerio de los Santos, who sounds like he should teaching me either how to swordfight or pleasure a woman. But if he were that good at either of those things, he wouldn't be stumbling through a really half-assed baseball career.
  • Just A Nats Fan has an account of a trip to that Nats Caravan thing. The best part:
    When I reached the end of the line and Ryan Zimmerman, I asked him if he knew some in the Nats blogs nicknamed him “Dutch”. He looked at me like I was a freaking crazy lady and said, “what?” Awkward! I tried to explain, but not very well - he apparently was unaware :-)
    Well, he knows now.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Grumble

Ken Rosenthal brings bad tidings and a very bad idea.
The Nationals want to move Soriano to the outfield; Soriano intends to stay at second base. A trade is possible, but a more logical solution would be a juicy long-term contract that would entice Soriano, a potential free agent, to change positions.
You've got a selfish, stubborn player who's managed to make himself the least popular man in Nationals history before even playing a game. What could make more sense than making sure he sticks around? Seriously, it's a damn catastrophe that we're going to be paying this guy between $10 million and $12 million, and Soriano isn't going to sign anything guaranteeing him a drastic paycut.
The idea that Soriano's value is highest as a second baseman no longer is valid. Soriano has committed a major-league high 105 errors at second over the last five seasons; Jeff Kent and Ray Durham are next with 59 each, according to STATS Inc.
Wait . . . is this an argument in favor of an extension? "Soriano's incompetence at second reminds some of a young Jacques Clouseau. 'They gotta lock this kid up,' said one National League scout, a cigar clenched in his teeth, as he urinated on a copy of Moneyball."

All his whining aside, Soriano will play the outfield if he has to. He's worried about how much it's going to cost him in his next contract to move off second, but it'll be much more costly not to play at all. Soriano in the outfield will be anything but pretty, though. Depending on to whom you listen, Soriano is without exaggeration the worst second baseman in baseball, and there's little reason to think he'll be anything less than cataclysmic in the outfield. He's a known bad defensive player who'll playing a position he doesn't want to on a team he never wanted to join for a manager who is going to loathe him and in front of fans who are going to boo him with a ferocity they'd been saving up just in case Cristian Guzman joined al-Qaeda.

Speaking of guys who could spend the summer chasing down triples while having things thrown at them,
Outfielder Sammy Sosa appears headed to the Nationals.
It seems that junior general manager Jose Guillen is hard at work.
Jose Guillen said he has been in touch with Alfonso Soriano, the team's big offseason acquisition who does not want to play in the outfield, and at the same time has tried to persuade Sammy Sosa to sign with the club.
First we get Guillen because he's a close personal friend of Jim Bowden, as well as an occasional babysitter. Now, having run Brad Wilkerson out of town, Guillen is doing all he can to fill the clubhouse with grumbling Dominicans. Once again I feel like digging through my garbage for my season ticket renewal notice just so I can throw it away again.

Friday, January 27, 2006

I'm Still Writing Goat on my Checks

Special thanks to my dad for that awful joke.

This is buried amid some typical balloon juice about Sammy Sosa and Jose Vidro's knee.
In fact, [intergalactic trophy hunter Royce] Clayton, 35, has already had a lengthy conversation with manager Frank Robinson early this week. Clayton said it was the best talk he has had with a manager in years, and Robinson, according to Clayton, has encouraged him to compete for the starting job with the Nationals.
I would be shocked if this turns out to be true. Jim Bowden has $12 million and his reputation invested in Cristian Guzman, and he's going to play until it is absolutely clear beyond any shadow of a doubt that he can't do it. Which is to say, until Tom Boswell admits it. It would be pretty sweet for this Predator do what that first one did to Carl Weathers, though.

Will Carroll is using Oprah's mauling of best-selling author/complete butthole James Frey to tell us how virtuous he is.
For me, it's interesting in that fact-checking has always been a big part of my career.
If there's not beverage all over your monitor, you're either not enjoying a beverage or there's something very wrong with you.
I'm not a trained journalist, instead learning on the fly and occasionally suffering for it. I make mistakes, no doubt -- Washington Grays, anyone? -- but always make an effort to both admit those mistakes and to be as transparent as possible about how that mistake was made.
One paragraph and he's completely contradicted himself. Will was quite forthcoming about why he got the Grays wrong: he had a source, the guy at the hat factory. He went with this one guy's story and was completely, typically dead wrong. Where's the fact-checking in that journalistic process?

And while I'm at it, let me dredge up this Carroll Classic:
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.
In other words, "I make stuff up to get people talking about me." That's not exactly fair -- he misleads more than he invents. Saying Matt Lawton is "a name we're going to care about" is only vaguely dishonest. Similarly, saying "fact-checking has always been a big part of my career" is absolutely true in that working with Carroll and expecting to get anything that checks out here in the real world requires a tremendous amount of fact-checking, as Will admits. He's just not going to do any of it.
My "Dr. X" excerpt from "The Juice" not only made it past the test of my publisher and attorneys, but before Sports Illustrated ran the piece, I talked to no less than three people who closely checked the story. It was a hard process, due to the protected identity of my source, but I understood their job and, in the end, truth is truth.
It's interesting that Will defends the suspicious "Dr. X" portion of the book while ignoring the dubious and quite possibly fictional career of "John Albertson," a marginal big-leaguer who experimented with the roids. Basil, a fair-minded guy (except when it comes to the filioque clause) who does not share my vendetta, thinks the whole thing is made up. Care to reassure us on the rigorous fact-checking there, Will?

I used to think that Will's co-blogger Scott Long abandoned his worshipful attitude toward his patron only when he felt the White Sox were being disrespected. No longer! Will's comments on the James Frey schadenfreude-fest have prompted Scott to hail as a masterpiece a book he's never read but has only heard. And that he picked out because it had a pretty cover.
In late 2004, I picked up an audiobook at my library by an author named James Frey. Generally, I don't pick up a book from just looking at the front cover, but the artwork was interesting. . .

A Million Little Pieces is the most dynamic book I've ever heard.
I'm generally disinclined to pay attention to literary criticism from a guy who put's apostrophe's at the end of all word's that end in "s" anyway, but at least read the damn book before you start pontificating on the importance of authenticity in literature.


Above: another literary classic recently enjoyed by Scott Long. "Of all the Bronte sisters' oeuvre, nothing surpasses the artwork of Jane Eyre."

Further reading: James Frey parodies have become a genre unto themselves. My favorites can be found here and here. Scott Long, meanwhile, recommends Melville.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Alien vs. Royce Clayton

Speaking of the seemingly random pursuit of unneeded spare parts:
The Nationals also appear close to signing two veterans -- right-hander Felix Rodriguez and first baseman Daryle Ward -- to non-guaranteed minor league deals, giving them an opportunity to make the team in spring training.
And:
In addition, the Nationals are pursuing free-agent shortstop Royce Clayton, presumably to fill a utility role and push the team's starting shortstop, Cristian Guzman.
Let's dispose of the understandable one first: Felix Rodriguez was lousy and injured last year, and giving him non-guaranteed money to see if he can turn it around is fine. You can never have too much pitching, as Jim Bowden forcibly reminded us last year.

Daryle Ward has a very specific job: hit righties and back up at first base (the Post claims he "can play the outfield," which is kind of sweet. It has happened, but that doesn't mean it will or should happen again). Now it's time to force your memory to dig through the events of late 2005. As it stumbles over various outrages and catastrophes, it may find the story that Bowden already signed a guy to hit righties and back up at first base. Then he did it again. So now we have three defensively useless left-handed pinch-hitters. I'd rather have Daryle Ward than Robert Fick or Marlon Anderson -- Ward's the only one of the three with any power -- but if you already have the first two, there's no need for a third. The upside: Ward looks like Demetrius "D.H." Harris from TV's Playmakers!

Then there's Royce Clayton, a crappy shortstop to back up our crappy shortstop. We did this last year with Deivi Cruz, and it actually worked out pretty well. That says a lot more about Cristian Guzman than it does about Cruz. The problem with bringing in another Deivi is that it pushes someone -- possibly someone I like -- off the bench and gives Jamey Carroll absolutely nothing to do. I look at this way: if Guzman gets hurt, Carroll can take over for a while with no real drop-off. If Guzman is playing so badly that he needs to be benched long-term, we're screwed anyway so just let Jamey play. Clayton would be a good fit for a team that needs a backup middle infielder, but remember that Bowden spend the beginning of the off-season collecting second baseman the same way he later collected lefty pinch-hitters. No vacancy. Go away.


Above: Royce Clayton in action. Below: the limited edition Royce Clayton bobblehead doll.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

No Post Unfitting

Jim Bowden, our endlessly interim general manager, has a way of setting people off. The Post's Barry Svrluga revealed on Tuesday that the Reds' recently-departed front office refused to deal with Bodes, which must have stung him deeply, given his near-refusal to pursue non-Reds. San Diego GM Kevin Towers has something against Bowden as well (I can't find the story, so you'll have to take my word for it -- what, I don't look trustworthy?). And while the scorn of his fellow executives is certainly more telling than anything a bunch of dudes on the internet could say about him, the Natmosphere has had a few things to say about the Bowden regime, and not all of them have been complimentary. Bowden's interest in Sammy Sosa pleased almost no one, and his seemingly random pursuit of unneeded spare parts has only made people angrier.

Just as eras of war and civil strife produce great literature, so do times of turbulence elicit great blog posts. The Athenian playwright Aristophanes responded to the carnage of the Pelopennesian War by calling the politicians responsible a bunch of homos. Nate at Nats Triple Play demonstrates a similarly comedic touch, taking an apt metaphor and extending it like it's Stretch Armstrong.
Jim Bowden is not housebroken. You have to keep an eye on him, or he will ruin all your nice things, like starting pitching depth. . .

By now we should recognize the look in Jim Bowden's eyes. It the look that says, "I'm about to make a mess, and you're not going to be able to get me outside in time to prevent it." Sure, he says all the right things about non-guaranteed contracts and Spring Training invites, but Sammy Sosa is a brand new squeaky toy for Jim, and if somebody else makes a move for him, you just know Bowden's gonna lunge. Without an owner to take JimBo to obedience school, teach him to heel and clean up the big messy piles he creates, he's living on borrowed time. Nobody faults him for his enthusiasm, but he has yet to prove that he can distinguish between motion and progress.
That last sentence is something I've been trying to say for months, but I've never managed to put it that well.

Du Fu's melancholy poetry, inspired by the devastation of the An Lushan Rebellion, finds its Natmopheric counterpart at Oleanders and Morning Glories, where Harper sounds resigned to his and our fate.
The article mentions that the team hopes to catch “lightning in a bottle”. That’s Bowden’s philosophy in a nutshell. Grab as many mediocre players as you can and hope the right ones have the career years at the right time. If not, release and reload. It’ll get you a winner now and then, but only now and then. And the frustration it builds as you watch decent players get passed around and passed over to give new projects time…I don’t know if its worth it.
Brandon at Curly W's viciously ironic reaction to the loss of his innocence mirrors that of World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon.
Alright, that's enough. I have completely had it with Jim Bowden's bullshit. I'm so fed up, in fact, that I'm willing to eat the inevitable crow that will be served to me in the comments of this post. You remember me, right? I'm the guy that wasted 824 words defending Bowden in October and another 475 words re-defending him in November. Enough is enough. Jim Bowden is wearing out his welcome in Washington by making move after pointless move with no real plan in sight. . .

. . . after finding out that Bowden is looking to sign ***Ugueth Urbina***. You know, good ol' Ugie, who is currently being held in a Venezuelan prison on murder charges. Murder! With all that is amiss with the Nationals franchise today, the last thing we need is to acquire an accused murderer as a set-up man for Chad Cordero. Imagine the possibilities for Charlie Slowes: "Urbina killed 'em in the 8th and Cordero disposed of the carcass in the 9th!"
This phenomenon has yet to spread to this blog. Maybe I'm not mad enough yet.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Straight-Up G

No time to blog, but I have received an advance copy of Will Carroll's first hip-hop single. Check it, suckas. It won't work with Firefox, and there are some bad words on account of how real Will keeps it. You're going to be asking "When's the release date?" after you hear this.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Will Carroll: "Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta"

Will Carroll's back with more Pronouncements on Blogging, but this time he's keeping it real!

I'm pretty disappointed, actually. Watching Will compare blogging to rap should be hilarious, but it's just more of the same old drivel. He does, however, significantly up the jackass factor, a welcome addition to his usual techniques of pomposity and self-absorption.
Ice Cube called rap the "CNN of the ghetto."
No he didn't. Why can't someone do some actual reporting or at least fact-checking?
There's still some of that . . .
I guess Indiannapolis' Most Wanted would know. Moving on, homies.
[L]et's use the example of Aaron Gleeman. He's gone from a kid in a dorm room to someone read by hundreds, written a book, and developing a following.
Fun fact: Will Carroll hates Aaron Gleeman. No one knows why and, given Will's tortured logic and indecipherable prose, it's likely that no one ever will. At any rate, that's why Will goes out of his way to talk down to Gleeman, whose work Will claims to enjoy "in phases." Aaron can defend himself if he feels like bothering, but "hundreds" of readers my ass. Carroll no doubt thinks he's being clever -- gangsta-clever -- with these artful backhands. But he's just being a dick. Or, to put it in the gritty street patois Will is favoring these days, a punk-ass bitch.
Is Gleeman the blog to rap equivalent of LL Cool J? (Solid, not groundbreaking, but mass appeal.)
Is Carroll the blog to writer equivalent of James Frey? (Makes everything up, insufferable jackass.)

And since this post is pretty well content-free, I may as well take this chance to retell my favorite Will Carroll story. Will was on a roll at the end of May. Having just threatened to begin fixing baseball games if he didn't get a press pass, he really went off the deep end. In a conversation with a figment of his own imagination, he convinced himself that he was the biggest thing on the internet -- way bigger than Gleeman or even Kos -- by typing his name into a search engine and pretending every result was about him. Carroll County, Lewis Carroll -- it was all about Will, so take that Gleeman!

But really, Gleeman gets off easy, because Will's working edgy.
It's hard to wrap your head around Andrew Sullivan having something in common with Eazy E, but the comparison is right there. Sullivan's actually a bad example.
Alert the BBWAA -- nothing says "serious journalist" like AIDS jokes. Well done, Will, you insensitive bastard. You're keeping it real, dog.

"I'm straight fact-checking, yo! Y'all bitches need to stop blogging and start writing! AIDS!"

Friday, January 20, 2006

I'm Casting My Lasso Towards the Sky

It's an official holiday here at Distinguished Senators. I'm not going to pretend that the lack of news has nothing to do with it, but I always like to do a little something to observe Slim Whitman's birthday.

If nothing happens over the weekend, I may have to declare Monday to be Slim Whitman's Birthday Observed.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Just When You Thought This Team Couldn't Get Any Less Likeable

Former Cincinnati Reds reliever Rob Dibble could be in the running for the color job on TV.

Yeah, this guy. How many times per game, I wonder, will Dibble use the phrase ". . . never played the game" to win an argument?

Proving that this is a slow news day, other elements of the Natmosphere are all over this already.
  • Capitol Punishment doesn't like it and delights us with an excerpt from his Rob Dibble/Charlie Sheen fan fiction.
  • Federal Baseball makes fun of the poor man just because he doesn't know what words mean. I don't know whether that's ecstatic or ludicrous.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

RAR!

This is a nice change of pace: Jim Bowden is acting like an interim GM, locking up the youngish talent and not trading them away for complete jackasses who whine about having to play in the outfield and then ask for 12 million damn dollars.
The Washington Nationals signed catcher Brian Schneider to a four-year, $16 million contract yesterday and also came to terms with first baseman Nick Johnson on a one-year, $3.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with both players.
The Schneider contract is the more important. Basically, whoever's giving the dude financial advice needs to find another line of work. Schneider would have been under team control for this year and the next, meaning that, barring a longer-term deal, he would have agreed on one-year deals or gone to arbitration with the club and gotten a raise (or "rise" for you limeys) each time. He would have been a free agent after 2007 and, based on what we've seen lately, gone to California for too much money.

Jim Bowden has emulated Lawrence-for-Castilla Bodes instead of Everything Else Bodes in buying out two years of Schneider's free agency for a mere $4 million per. For purposes of comparison, that's about what Guzman's making, and Schneider -- not to damn him with faint praise -- is a hell of a lot more valuable than the Guz. This seems a good time briefly to talk about Schneider's on-field abilities, since the guy's so quiet and steady that I probably talked about him during the season less than any other important Nat. I'm pretty sure Deivi Cruz got more DS time than Schneider.

As Harper points out, Schneider is average -- exactly average -- as a hitter when compared to his fellow backstops, and that's fine. He's a not a complete black hole of suck in the lineup, and he's gotten better in each of his full seasons. That's just gravy, though; the pot roast here is Schneider's defense. For the purposes of this exercise, I'm using Baseball Prospectus' defensive stats, because they're easily accessible and support my point. Rate is like OPS+ for defense, a rate stat with an average player getting 100. RAR (Runs Above Average) is a counting stat. Mike Matheny and Jason Varitek won the Gold Gloves at catcher last year, so let's look at them. Matheny was good, putting up a 104 Rate and 28 RAR. Varitek won the award with his bat (102 Rate, 24 RAR). In 2005, Schneider's Rate was 111 and he save 30 Runs Above Average. This was better than both Gold Glove winners. Win Shares don't think quite as much of Schneider's defense (6th best in the majors), but he was the fourth most valuable National last year.

To sum up something that wound up a lot longer and boringer than I wanted it to be, Schneider's decent bat, superb defense, and relative youth (29 next year) combined with the lack of catching prospects coming up through the system make this a great, great deal.

Other arbitration news:
  • Alfonso Soriano wants $12 million; the Nats want to pay him $10 million. My hope is that they go before the arbiter, and the Nats make such a forceful case that Fonz doesn't deserve that extra 2 mil that he breaks down in tears and retires.
  • Nick Johnson settled for $3.2 million with incentives. As is always the case with Nick, if he plays it'll be a bargain, if he doesn't it won't. He'll be a free agent after the season, and I'm not keen on keeping him around for the long haul.
  • Brad Wilkerson signed with the Rangers for $3.9 million. Remember that in July when he's going to the All Star Game and Soriano is sulking about the black eye Frank Robinson gave him.

When?

It's a strange chain that leads to the acceptance of Sammy Sosa as a National. Jim Bowden --> Jim Bowden's kids --> Jose Guillen --> Sammy Sosa. Bowden apparently had some kids. Guillen was acquired because he was good with these kids. And now the Junior GM is giving us input: Sosa is rad!
"I believe Sammy can still play and help us," Guillen said. "He will do anything [manager] Frank [Robinson] will ask him to do. Sammy will fit right in. With the year he had last year, Sammy has a lot to prove, and I think he is going to prove a lot of people wrong.
When Croesus, king of the Lydians, was contemplating an attack on the empire of the Persians, he consulted the Delphic oracle to get Apollo's opinion on the move. The oracle's response was that if Croesus attacked Persia, a great kingdom would be destroyed. Of course, it turned out to be Croesus' kingdom. The moral of the story: Yeah, I'm sure Sosa's going to prove someone wrong. Just not me.

Nationals management is not relying only on the word of anger management class graduate Jose Guillen, if MLB.com's Bill Ladson is any indication. This mailbag and this transcription of a radio appearance give us a glimpse of Bowden's desperate argument: it's not that Sosa sucks, it's that he was in the American League!
Bowden believes that maybe Sosa had a tough time adjusting to American League pitching and needs to be back in familiar surroundings.
I noticed that with the Orioles last year. Sosa would come up to the plate with a look of complete panic in his eyes. "Wait a minute," he seemed to say, "I have already batted once in this juego de beisbol. When does the pitcher bat? WHEEEEEEEEN!?" and then he'd strike out . . . with terror. They play the same game over there, and it's not like Sosa had never seen Mike Timlin or Kevin Millwood before. But the pitcher -- WHEEEEEEEEN?! This makes Sosa sound like a delicate flower of a man having a tea party and feeding little cucumber sandwiches to his stuffed animals. If he's that startled by a 30-year old rule, imagine how freaked out he'll be playing for a team that didn't even exist when he made his eerie journey to the AL.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday the 13th

I'm still all worn out from yesterday's screed, and I got a court appearance coming up, so here's what you should read today:
  • Capitol Punishment talks about our new coaches. I wish Davey Lopes looked like a celebrity riper for parody than Billy Joel.
  • The Farm Authority provides some nifty profiles of the coaches.
  • Federal Baseball takes issue with a stupid idea discussed by a silly man on an atrocious blog. Also, Hall o' Fame discussion! The official position of Distinguished Senators is that we don't give a damn about the Hall except insofar as it concerns Rickey.
  • More HOF from Oleanders, Etc.
  • Over at the Triple Play, Nate's mad as hell and so on.
  • Banks of the Anacostia tells us not to worry about Sammy Sosa.
  • Will Carroll is going to . . . not take steroids for a year, I guess, and blog about it. I'm guessing he saw Supersize Me and thought, "Hey, that's a great idea! But I don't want to anything illegal or gross. Maybe this'll get me a BBWAA card . . ." If it works, expect a gripping series from me about the year I spent not shooting heroin.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Crapula

I'm convinced that Jim Bowden is drunk all the time, on a non-stop bender since early November, which was the last time he did something sane. Since then, he's openly pursued a new job, signed the same player twice, and traded our best outfielder (with fixins) for one of baseball's most selfish, best-paid jackasses. Imagine sobering up from this mess; it's the GM equivalent of waking up with cottonmouth and a relentless headache, clutching a vomit-covered traffic cone, a receipt indicating that you put up your mother's house to make bail, and an ominously vague notice that the tests came back positive. Not that I'd know anything about any of that.

But Bodes hasn't sobered up yet
.
The Washington Nationals were in discussions yesterday with an agent for former all-star slugger Sammy Sosa, talks that could culminate in a deal in which Sosa would try to rehabilitate his career in Washington after one of his worst seasons.
This only makes sense drunk. "Duuuuuude! Isn't that the guy that hit like, a hundred homers? He saved baseball! Sign him up, bro!" As anyone who watched the Orioles is well aware, Sosa is beyond useless. He can't hit anymore, he hasn't been able to field in years, and he spent last year dealing with a variety of really gross injuries and feuding with Miguel Tejada. Now, I'm not privy to what goes on in the Camden lockerroom, but I'll say it anyway: if you're feuding with Miguel Tejada, you're the dick.

Meanwhile, we've re-signed Marlon Byrd for one year and $800,00. Byrd is quite capable of the only thing Sosa can still do (hit lefties), but cheaper and better at everything else. He's a defensive asset and is less likely to get all pissy when he's asked to serve as the small half of an outfield platoon. But who could blame him if he gets pissy after he finds out he's lost his job to a washed-up, immobile, suspiciously-afflicted-with-acne-in-his-thirties, bat-corking malcontent?

I don't even care how much Sosa makes -- his mere presence is poison. He'll bring with him more media coverage than he deserves -- he is nearing 600 homers, after all -- play more than he should, suck, get benched, pout, start or join a clubhouse faction, and just generally make it even harder to root for this rag-tag bunch of jerkoffs.

The other day, I got the letter to renew my 20-game plan. I had already decided for a variety of reasons not to do it, but I was surprised at how good it felt to throw the damn thing away. I wish I'd waited until today.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I'll Let Sheinin Write This One For Me

If Sheinin's given up, why should I bother? Dave Sheinin of the Post, while not as much of a blinkered fanboy as at least one of his colleagues at the paper, is still a Ron Santo Award runner-up. But even that much homerness can't blind him to the fact that the Nats are going to be really bad this year, as he spent most of his Tuesday chat informing us. Some highlights:
I'm getting the feeling the Nats, after weeks of standing by their decision to trade for Soriano, may be starting to regret it.

In my opinion, yes, the Nats dropped the ball by not discussing the position switch with Soriano's people first. In fact, on the night the trade went down, a Rangers executive told me he thought the Nats were crazy if they thought they could talk Soriano into playing the outfield. That's because the Rangers went through the same battle with Soriano the year before -- and lost.

The Nats' starting pitching? It's not good, to say the least.

The thing that struck me about the Tucker deal is that the Nats would have one heck of a bench (Tucker, Marlon Anderson, Rob Fick, Damian Jackson) if they were a playoff team. Alas, they are nowhere close.

. . . I liked those guys better than I do Ryan Drese, Brian Lawrence and Ramon Ortiz. My point is, you're a good team if those pitchers are competing for your No. 5 starting job. You're a bad team if those guys are competing for No. 3.
Yeesh. It's one thing to hear this stuff from a dude whose main hobby is complaining on the internet about how dumb the Nats are. But Sheinin's a professional journalist, and we expect a modicum of team spirit. This is going to be an ugly, ugly season, and we may all be relying on Baltimore schadenfreude to get us through it.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Million Little Outfielders

Here I was preparing for the steel-toed boot to the gut and completely missed the haymaker headed for my temple.

That's my new style -- if best-selling author James Frey can turn five hours waiting for bail into three months hard time reading Tolstoy to an illiterate double murderer, I figure I'll pretend that all this crappy centerfielder stuff is hugely important and thus make you, the elusive reader, care.

So we avoided the boot -- Baltimore went ahead and took Corey Patterson off the market, so at least we'll get to see plenty of him this year -- but caught it on the side of the head with four knuckles of Michael Tucker.
The Washington Nationals added another veteran to their bench by signing outfielder Michael Tucker to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal yesterday . . . He will make $800,000 if he makes the team . . .
I can say with all sincerity that I have never once used up one thought on Michael Tucker (or, per the Post, Michael Tucker) before a few hours ago. His batting stats tend to be healthily below league average (to say nothing of positional average), he doesn't have much power, he doesn't steal any bases, and he hit a triple last year. He could hit righties a little bit before 2005, when he couldn't hit anybody. I suppose he can play anywhere in the outfield, though that's theoretical at this point -- 2005 saw him play exactly seven more games in center than Desi Relaford did. As long as he stays put on the bench, it'll be fine. The real danger here is that Frank has another weapon with which to club Ryan Church, and that danger is all the clearer and presenter when you consider the non-stop chatter about Brandon Watson we're hearing from the RFK trailer. Remember, Frank started Jeffrey Hammonds nine times last year, and he was only around for 13 games. Sure, Tucker's contract isn't guaranteed, but neither was Carlos Baerga's.

The other part of that article is that we signed reliever Luis Ayala for two years and a total of $2.2 million. That's all reasonable, although Ayala's been working like a Japanese beaver over the last few years and could explode at any time. If I can give some personal advice to Ayala: get yourself an agent who thinks you're a man, man.
"He's thrilled," said agent Joseph Longo . "He comes from a tough part of Mexico, and to get a two-year deal, he was almost in tears."
I'm not sure that's going to impress the fellas back home.

There's a new Mailbag, and I actually enjoyed this one.
Can the Nationals win with Frank Robinson as their manager?-- Arthur R., Toronto

Arthur, I'm going to give you more than one answer to this question. Yes, I strongly believe the Nationals can win with Robinson as the manager, but he needs the personnel to win. There are still question marks about the starting pitching and the offense entering Spring Training.

At the same time, I think that Robinson needs to change some of his managerial philosophies. He sticks with slumping players too long. Last season, for example, Vinny Castilla, Cristian Guzman, Preston Wilson and Brad Wilkerson should have been benched for a period of time because they were hurting the team during the second half. Robinson would always say that he was loyal to the people who helped the team enter first place in the first half. But that loyalty cost the Nationals quite a few ballgames after the All-Star break.

Just as Apollo spoke through a crazy old lady huffing gas in a cave, so Bowden speaks through Bill Ladson. The oracle continues:

I also feel that Robinson needs to sometimes revert to being the type of person that reamed out Giants pitcher Jim Barr, who showed up Robinson at Shea Stadium in the early 1980s.
Has the whole damn world forgotten about Tomo Ohka? And it's not like he was the only one, either. Apparently Ladson agrees with me that Robinson ain't the world's greatest manager, but thinks the problem is that he wasn't enough of a dick to his pitchers.
There were times last year I felt some of the players needed a tongue-lashing for the way they played on the field. For example, it made no sense that Castilla was doubled off first base twice on long fly balls to center field.
This goes right back to what Tavares said in October: Frank's most outstanding managerial attribute these days is apathy.
Who are the possible candidates to be on the coaching staff in 2006?-- Craig R., Long Island, N.Y.

Robinson and general manager Jim Bowden are trying their best to keep this quiet. I expect them to have debates for quite a while before a decision is made.
Yet more front office dissention!
With Alfonso Soriano saying he wants to return to the American League after the 2006 season, do you see the Nationals trading him for pitching or hitting?-- Dan H., Rockville, Md.

According to a source, the Nationals offered Soriano to the Orioles for shortstop Miguel Tejada and to the Red Sox for right-hander Josh Beckett, but the parties couldn't agree on a deal.

I guess it can't hurt to ask as long you don't have any shame.

Does It Come With A Pickle?

Corey Patterson? Why the hell would anyone be pursuing Corey Patterson? Patterson is like an extra arm: if you already have him, you might give some thought as to what use you can get out of him, but you don't go out of your way to make sure you have Corey Patterson. One of the only smart things Jim Bowden has done was get rid of a fast centerfielder who couldn't hit, and, toolsy though Patterson may be, I can't imagine that even Bodes is intrigued enough by this idea to undo one his pitifully few good works.

That might not be all there is to it, though (and big ups to Banks and teh Fed for linking all these links with their links). The Chicago Tribune throws that loveable teddy bear of a non-outfielder, Alfonso Soriano, into the stew. So, Patterson, Todd Walker, and Jerome Williams for Soriano and maybe a spare outfielder or two? I don't like it, but it sounds like something that would have some effect on the roominess of those infamous leather pants. That hypothetical package (the Cubs players, not anything in the pants) features a toolsy outfielder, and second baseman/former Red, and an unreliable pitcher. If this were a platter at a deli, it would be called the Bodes and never ordered by anyone.

Anyway, I'm not going to critique the specifics of a trade proposal that has yet to be proposed and probably never will be, but I will say that as little as I want Soriano on my team (I didn't think anyone could displace Guillen as the least likeable Nat, but here we are), you got to get more for him than the Bodes platter.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Good Carroll

I'm taking the day off, celebrating the happy news about Jamey Carroll. The thing about Jamey is that everyone -- even the hardest-hearted rat bastards -- loves him. We don't need him from a tactical standpoint, but that's far too small a thing to get upset about when your team has no owner and a GM who spends the offseason continually trying to out-retard himself. So hooray for Jamey, the good Carroll.

UPDATE: Evil Basil doesn't like Jamey. I think it's telling that even when Basil's being as evil as he can be, there aren't any swears.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Writing

Like pizza boxes in the corner of a dorm room, the little, insignificant bits of news pile up until it's an almost impossible task to clear them out. Look -- I used a simile! I have stopped blogging and started writing. Now where's my BBWAA card?

Preston Wilson is an Astro. You remember Preston, right? Nice guy, couldn't field, hit a homer every now and then. We gave up Zach Day and J.J. Davis to fill a hole we didn't have with a guy who couldn't fill it. The normally even-tempered Barry Svrluga uses this opportunity to take shots at the acquisition.
But Wilson's defense was shaky at best, and though Manager Frank Robinson and other high-ranking team officials realized upon his arrival that Wilkerson was, in fact, a better center fielder, Wilson resisted a move to left. Wilson's offense wasn't enough to prevent the Nationals from scoring fewer runs than any team in baseball and plummeting to a 28-46 record after the break. They finished last in the NL East.
A similar flavor attends the slight older news that Junior Spivey is now a Cardinal. You remember Junior, right? Nice guy, couldn't hit, broke his wrist in a batting cage catastrophe. We gave up Tomo Ohka to fill a hole for less than a month. Taken together, these two transactions provide an opportunity for enlightened instruction. Or something.
  • Jim Bowden, as far as I can tell, doesn't appreciate the concept of club control of players. If not for the Wilson and Spivey trades, Day and Ohka would still be the property of the Washington Nationals. Ramon Ortiz would be someone else's gamble, and we wouldn't be relying on Tony Armas to reverse several hundred years of personal history and actually go out there and pitch for once. One of the countless tragedies of the Soriano/Wilkerson trade is that we get only one year of Soriano before having to worry about re-signing him, while the Rangers get two of Wilkerson, and I'm sure they'll enjoy every hour of every day of it.
  • Note what the Astros and Cardinals gave up to get their new guys: $4 million dollars and no players and $1.2 million and no players, respectively. Both made higher salaries as Nationals and required the sacrifice of useful (at least) players from us. Note also the records of the Astros and Cardinals over the last few years. It's not a coincidence, as knowing what things are worth is a vital part of generally managing.
  • Jim Bowden isn't very good is what I'm getting at.
Meanwhile, there are shakings-up in the radio and the television booths. Dave Shea has lost his position as The Other Announcer, The One Who Doesn't Say "Bang Zoom." I could never tell him apart from Charlie Slowes, but apparently Shea is the one who can't say "Encarnacion." I'd say whoever decides these things got this one half right.

On the TV side, Ron Darling has left his colorless commentator job to provide awkward silences for Mets broadcasts. The only good part about Darling's tenure with the Nats is that the games were almost never on TV.

Things you should read:

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Interview with a Buzz Machine

The start of the new year is a time for reflection and self-improvement, and Distinguished Senators is no exception. 2005 was a banner year here: there was a baseball team to talk about, and sometimes I even did. Dayn Perry got on my shitlist, got his nose bloodied, and then stopped being such a creep. Professor Bacon won the hearts of millions and improved the blog's demographics with every gratuitous appearance. I finally received my due as an online journalist, making a Pulitzer -- or at least a Caldecott -- only a matter of time.

But as great as things were, there's always room for improvement. In 2006, you're going to see a new, leaner, more sinewy Distinginguished Senators. More hard news, more pictures of me in my cowboy hat, and interviews with baseball's hottest newsmakers and newsmaker-uppers. Our first score in that last category is a big one, as I convinced Will Carroll, an acknowledged expert in sports injuries, iPods, writing, journalistic ethics, and everything else, to sit down for a one-on-one. Expect more of this actual reporting or at least fact-checking in the new year!

(Note to literal-minded readers: that's not really Will Carroll. Well, it's actually his picture, but that's not him talking. See if you can spot the actual Carroll quotations!)

Thanks so much for joining us, Will. As you know, I'm a huge fan of yours.

With reason!

But there are those -- not me, mind you -- who take issue with your reporting style.

Are these the statistical racists? Or the chemical McCarthyites?

Well, remember when you said a player we cared about had tested positive for steroids . . .

Which don't help baseball players.

. . . right, which don't help baseball players, and it turned out to be Matt Lawton?

I care about Matt Lawton. So does his mother. I think as baseball fans, we should care about any athlete. Unless you're a blogging baby-smotherer or something.

You didn't think that was the slightest bit misleading?

Certainly not. I can only imagine what you factual bolsheviks are going to think of my next scoop.

Another scoop? Can you give us a hint?

Well, okay, but only because I like you -- I enjoy your blog in phases, you know -- and because if it turns out to be bull, no one will have seen it.

Thanks, Will.

No problem. And now buckle up: a perennial all-star major league has just announced that he's gay.

You're kidding!

Nope. Here's the story, in fact.

Um . . . there was nothing in there about anyone being gay.

Sure there was. Right here, Jason Johnson says "It's going to be nice on a team like this that has a chance to win every time they take the field." He's happy to be in Cleveland, and in my dictionary, "gay" means "happy." What are you, a grammatical skinhead?

I guess not. But Jason Johnson was never an all-star.

Who are you to say that? Johnson gives a hundred percent, he deals with diabetes -- which I know all about as a fully accredited injury guy -- and he's good to his mother. That makes him an all-star in my book. Really, what player SHOULDNT we call an all-star, and if I say, on national radio, "No, we shouldnt care" what does that say about me? It makes me sound like a national radio-appearing dog-poisoner.

Fair enough, and I'll take the lack of apostrophes as a sly reminder to "stop blogging and start writing." Now, Will . . .

I'm Bob Wickman.

Oh. Sorry, Bob. Now, Will, you've often taken shots at bloggers . . .

Buncha chattering neo-Nazis, you ask me.

Sure. But it seems like your advice, well . . .

Yes?

Well, leaving aside the "stop blogging and start writing" thing, there was the time you told bloggers to "do some actual reporting or at least fact-checking." And it just seems like every time you break a story . . .

I create discussion.

That's true, I guess. Could you tell us about your scoop that the Expos were going to be renamed the Grays?

Sure thing. I had a very inside source there. I can't tell you who it is, but trust me that you would be hugely jealous if you knew this guy returned my calls.

The guy who makes hats?

Yeah, him. He told me Grays, so I ran with it. Sure, it was wrong and I didn't make any effort to make sure it wasn't, but 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. Only a journalistic Klansman would object to that.

Okay. But a couple months later, you said, "After the Rose story in 2003, I’ve learned not to take people at their word, to get the documentation in hand."

Exactly. It's like when I made up that player to have something to put in my book. See, I'm a real journalist, and I deserve a Baseball Writers of America membership.

Even though you admit to making stuff up just to get people talking?

Look, a while ago I read my good friend Alex Belth's piece on the death of his friend, and it really got me thinking: I need a BBWAA card.

Pardon?

What I'm trying to say is, there's a lot of great stuff on the internet. Peter Gammons, Professor Bacon (if there are ten good bloggers, he's three of them), goats falling down, all kinds of erotic fan fiction -- that stuff's on the internet, and it's great. I'm on the internet too, so why don't I get to vote for the MVP? 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."

What did the GM say?

He thought I was Bob Wickman.