Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dave!

I'm taking the day off, so use the time you'd normally spending poring over my every word to read this. Dave Sheinin has been superb this spring, and this story's the high point so far. I hope the Soriano situation gets as ugly as possible, just to see what'll happen.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Hey!

Hey, Pedro Astacio! Astacio was a really good pitcher once, but this fact was largely unknown at the time. A 5.00 ERA and 200 innings while spending half your time at Coors Field is quite an accomplishment, but he hasn't done anything that cool in a while. Yeah, he was good for San Diego last year, but three years carries more predictive weight than 60 innings, you know? This is where I'd normally go into Ramon Ortiz Signing Mode -- you know, "What the hell, it's not much money and we need depth." But Needham highlighted my objection last week.
It's an interesting gamble, but, again, I'm not really sure how he'd fit in, and it's doubtful that he'd be willing to start the season in New Orleans. As it is, we have three pitchers (most of whom have as many questions as Astacio) fighting for the final two spots. Depth is important in the starting rotation, for sure, but it's easier to have depth with players like Darrell Rasner whom you can send down to the minors at the end of spring training, instead of having to cut them, like you probably would with Astacio.
Regular readers of bitter, pissed-off Nats blogs are going to be hearing "Darrell Rasner" a lot, since Bodes gave him away for -- and I mean this literally -- nothing. Back to the point, the Astacio signing is bad news for Jon Rauch, and I like Jon Rauch, so I don't like it. Astacio isn't good enough to guarantee a spot in the rotation, and his status precludes the roster flexibility that could actually make him useful.

Speaking of Darrell Rasner and bitter, pissed-off Nats blogs, check out this run-down of the Bowden's unforgiveable carelessness with starting pitchers. Some Tomo Ohka would be might good right now.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Or Did He Cut the Dreads?

As you've probably already heard, Brian Lawrence is out at least until August. There are two things worth noting about this:
Don't listen to Boswell. Not ever, but particularly not now -- there's no need to panic. We'll be fine. Well, "fine" is a relative thing; we'll be bad, but this isn't an utter disaster. For one thing, it means Jon Rauch, formerly the odd man out of the battle for the last few slots on the pitching staff and out of minor league options, will probably be joining us in April, which is good news for my extensive collection of Giant Baba memorabilia.

On the other hand, we could see a replay of that unpleasant part of last season where we actually ran out of pitchers. Lawrence isn't all that good, but he throws 200 innings like clockwork. I suppose that last part should be the in past tense now. We've got a bunch of pitchers, but not many we can rely on to give seven innings every five days. Rauch recently had the same surgery Lawrence is anticipating, and John Patterson is coming off an unprecedented workload. There's no more reason to think Tony Armas will be healthy than there is to look forward to the sun not rising tomorrow. Ryan Drese was hurt last year, and Ramon Ortiz has it in him to suck really, really bad. So we'll see.

The other big news of the weekend was Frank trying to scare Cristian Guzman into playing well.
Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said he might ask shortstop Cristian Guzman to begin working out at second base and/or third base at some point this spring, in the event the team chooses to give its starting shortstop job to newly signed veteran Royce Clayton, bumping Guzman to a utility role.
My first reaction to this was a hearty "HA!" Yours was probably similar. Guzman's not a popular guy, being as he is a fat, incompetent money-leech. But the welfare of the team should come before any sick joy we derive from seeing the punishment of the emblem of the Bowden Regime, and the team probably won't be any better with Clayton as the full-time shortstop. Guzman, as I've mentioned about thirty times in the last couple of months, is not actually as bad as he was last year. That was an aberration, a nightmarish abnormality in an otherwise somewhat-less-than-mediocre career. Clayton is no better and is on the team only, as far as I can tell, to keep Brendan Harris off it.

If we're going to sit Guzman, Alfonso Soriano would be a better choice to replace him, as long as Princess Alfonso decides he's up to it (note to Bowden: this time make sure he'll do it before you announce it, dipshit). Yes, it would make our infield defense bad to the point of Dada absurdity, but it solves a pretty sticky problem Bodes dealt his way into, and it would add a nice kick to the offense. At least it gives us options -- Clayton is just the same problem with cooler hair.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Talkent!

I can't say I ever paid attention to him before I started doing this, but I am assured by reasonable men that Tom Boswell is a widely respected and highly skilled sportswriter. That makes it all the sadder that the arrival of the Nationals has turned him into a pathetic fanboy. Boz just concluded a chat on the Post website, giving us a sneak peek at the bizarre contortions we'll see throughout the season as he tries to convince everyone that Jim Bowden is incapable of error.
Loved Wilkerson. A gamer. Wonderful personality and respected teammate. I hope he hits 35 homers a year for the next seven years in Texas __and he might. But he was hurt a lot, has always struck out a ton and was totally spooked by RFK's deep fences. The team does NOT want to move in the RFK fences. So Wilkerson's effective power, IMO, was cut way down. And the Natys may be in RFK for three more years.
Spooked? Really? It wasn't Wilkerson crying about the fences. And though Boz mentions that Wilkerson was "hurt a lot," he neglects to specify. Wilk dealt with nerve problems in his arm for pretty much the entire year, which messed up his swing and ruined his power. In spite of that, he managed to get on base and play four positions competently. All indications are that he's better and that he's going to be an all-star for Texas. But pointing any of that out might make one question Bowden's wisdom, and Boz won't stand for that.
When Soriano hits it, it's gone.
That remains to be seen.
Just more talkent and a bigger up side.
Oh, bullshit, unless "talkent" is something other than a typo. I have a theory that it's hard for people to remember on a certain level that Soriano is three years older than we thought he was when he broke in. Soriano is older than Wilkerson, and 30 year olds with no strike zone judgment tend not to have bright futures.
A lot of people will really miss Wilkerson, even though the guy hit .248 with 11 homers and 147 K's in 565 at bats and was only a nice smooth outfielder. That is a LOUSY season.
It was a BETTER season than Soriano had. Something isn't true just because you capitalize it, Boz.

But that's all typical, and you certainly can fashion a reasonable argument using the same raw materials Boswell used. Soriano is fast and does have a lot of power. Wilkerson isn't fast and didn't have a lot of power in 2005. But where Boz really breaks new ground in the field of Defending Bowden No Matter What is here, where he argues for Soriano as a positive clubhouse influence.
And he makes everyone else around him more confident. Don't worship stats so much that you forget that the game is played by real people. You need a few who SWAGGER. In Soriano, Vidro, Nick Johnson, Guillen, Livan, Patterson, Cordero, Schneider (defenisvely) and, probably, Zimmerman, the Nats actually have quite a few players who __in their specialties and their roles__ have this find of baseball presence.
So when Soriano struts through the lockerroom like Kevin Federline, his teammates will take heart and start jacking dingers, I guess. But -- and pardon me while I pretend this makes a damn bit of sense -- if eight other guys have _in their specialties and their roles_ SWAGGER, why did we need another? Is it possible to have too much SWAGGER? I wonder if Boswell has considered that maybe a guy making more than anyone else in the clubhouse who has already stated his desire to get out of there the instant free agency kicks in and who's refusing to help the team by switching positions could actually hurt team chemistry with his SWAGGER.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Spring Training Update: Spring Training Still Lame

Soriano's in camp, and nothing was resolved. Really, the most interesting thing here is the difference between the fairly rosy picture of the situation in Ladson's not-subject-to-the-approval-of-MLB-or-its-clubs piece and Dave Sheinin's version in the Post, which has the inside skinny.
Although both sides did their best to appear conciliatory during Thursday's news conference, privately they are far less so. A source close to Soriano said the player is "very mad" and remains adamant about refusing the position switch. "It's going to be ugly," the source said, "because I'm telling you, he won't play."
Note that when I say "most interesting," I don't necessarily mean "interesting."


Who wins the forced smile contest? I say Frank.

Then there's Boswell, who proves that there is absolutely no situation in which he won't at least imply that Jim Bowden's a genius.
When the Nats got a chance to trade for Soriano, they not only saw it as an insurance policy at second base but also as a move that would ensure a motivated Vidro on reporting day. And that's what they got.
Wilkerson, Sledge, Galarraga and six million dollars is all it takes to get Vidro on the treadmill? It'd be worth it at twice the price.

Will Carroll's been embroiled in an imbroglio (that's a gnarly figura etymologica right there) about Mark Prior or something. I've mentioned it only in passing because it's kind of dull and doesn't lend itself to my usual point-at-the-moron polemical style. I mean, when bad writer Will says "stop blogging and start writing," that's easy. When chronic truth-mangler Will tells us to do some actual reporting or at least fact-checking, I don't even need to say anything. And if it's not easy I won't bother, which is why we've seen so little of Dayn Perry in these pages since he gave up the Imaginary Girlfriend of the Week. He's still noxious, but the effort required to point that out these days would make me feel a little bit obsessive.

The important part of the story is that Will made a claim about Mark Prior's health, got publicly beat up on it by people who have a much larger audience than some dude with a blog, and hid behind his source. It's a familiar MO to those us who have been punishing ourselves by watching the Will Carroll Show, and this particular incident is helpful because it's provided us with another all-time Classic Carroll Cuote. In the comments to this post, commenter tem213 breaks the bad news that a guy with a BBWAA card doesn't like Will.
Will, Paul Sullivan takes a nice little shot at you in tomorrow's tribune

Re: the Mark Prior injury report: "And because anyone with access to a Web site can pretend to be a journalist, they often do."

Just an fyi

Will's response:

Why do you think that's aimed at me?

We ought to be able to get a couple of months of snark out of that one.

I Want a Soriano Jersey but I Don't Know What Name Goes on the Front

He's so loveable!
"I am not thinking of outfield right now. I have time to think about it. I'm not thinking about the outfield. I have one week to work out at second base before going to the [World Baseball Classic]. We have time to work it out when we get back."
I'm thinking about the outfield. Specifically, the part of it that used to contain Brad Wilkerson BOWDEN YOU BASTARD.

PS I'm totally rooting for Bygone Sports. Sure, they're litigous squatters, but anything that results in Senators or Grays is fine by me.

I Haven't Posted Today!

And now I have. So, who's going to Hard Times tonight? I'll see you there.

PS Take a look at Will Carroll being called on his BS by people who appear not to hate him. I love it when reasonable-sounding people back up my spittle-flecked rants.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Most Wonderful Day of the Year

It's Cristian Guzman Day, at least at MLB.com.
Guzman lost eight pounds and had laser eye surgery in the offseason.
I don't care if he grafted Ted Williams' head onto his neck -- mere body modification isn't going to make Guzman a good player.
The eye surgery appeared to work, at least for one day, as Guzman was hitting mostly line drives in batting practice.
See why I hate Spring Training journalism?
"Last year is the past," Guzman said. "This is 2006. Everything is new. Everybody is going to know the Guzman of a couple of years ago."
He just makes it too easy. The Guzman of a couple years ago sucked. So did the Guzman of three years ago and the Guzman of the year before that. True, they didn't suck as bad as the Guzman of last year, and that's the point. All Cristian has to do is suck as bad as he did in 2004 and suddenly Bowden's a genius.
"[Tuesday] is the first day I took batting practice in the [United States], and I can see the ball real good. I took BP in [the Dominican Republic], but it was a little bit dark," Guzman added.
I guess because of when the Dominicans scorched the sky during their war with the machines.

The Post chooses not to focus on Guzman today. Unfortunately, Sheinin leads off today's report with a discussion of makeup of the Nats' bullpen, and that is exactly the dividing line between stuff I care about and stuff I don't. It gets better later, though.
The issue of how to fill the Nationals' backup catcher job may have revealed an acute difference of opinion between Robinson and General Manager Jim Bowden.
There are exactly three things I'm looking forward to this season: 1) ¡Livan! 2) Dutch and 3) Frank vs. Bodes.
Last week, Bowden said he envisioned the team eschewing a traditional backup catcher and using the combination of Robert Fick and Matt LeCroy -- both of whom are more comfortable as first basemen and have limited catching experience -- to share the backup duties behind starter Brian Schneider.
I still don't think it's going to happen, but it is a neat idea.
On Tuesday, when Robinson was asked his thoughts on that possibility, he said, "From what I read, that's the perfect scenario. . . . I would think that would be something coming from the manager, wouldn't it? I'm not going to comment and second-guess the general manager."
Uh oh. I choose not to read anything into the fact that MLB.com's Bill Ladson omits any mention of this comment from Frank.

The Cruelest Half-a-Month

The Nationals are entering their second season, and that fact is making things a lot easier on me. Here I was trying to express my unhappiness with Spring Training when I realized that I already did it last year.
I hate Spring Training. It's torture, and not the good kind you pay for. It's like decaf coffee or the last season of NewsRadio or watching a baseball game that doesn't count and the last six innings are played by dudes you're never going to hear of again. It's just like that last one, in fact.
But I'm still slogging through all these damn meaningless Spring Training stories. Every day, the Post, the Times, and Ladsonland write about the same thing and say nothing. But at least today we get three synoptic stories about the only thing I still like about baseball: ¡Livan! Dave Sheinin reminds us why all this talk about John Patterson being our ace was premature at least.
With one notable exception -- "The day people think I went crazy," Hernandez said with a laugh -- the extent of Hernandez's pain, and the seriousness of his knee injury, was only hinted at last year. He hid it well, leading the Nationals with 15 wins and leading the majors with 246 1/3 innings pitched, despite dealing with various degrees of pain for all but the first month of the season.
Damn right.
It also was his 31st birthday . . .
Hmm. I think this needs a little editing.
It also was his "31st" birthday . . .
That's better.
. . . though he looks almost exactly the same as the rookie who was the most valuable player of the 1997 World Series for the Florida Marlins.
What's a couple of chins between friends? I sure don't look the same as I did in 1997.
Now it can be told: On the day Hernandez "went crazy," he wasn't crazy at all. Just hurting.
I refuse to entertain any notion that Livan isn't crazy.

And that's the downside of this being the second year. I've already said everything I can say about Livan, and we're left with this.

The other big news coming out of Viera is that MLB.com's Bill Ladson is still frantically trying to get us to call John Patterson "Big Nasty." We've already been through what an inappropriate nickname that is for Patterson, but this affords us an opportunity to compare and contrast. One, two, three stories about Patterson on Monday, and Ladson's is the only one with "Big Nasty." If I didn't know better, I'd think Ladson was using his position as the near-official but not-subject-to-the-approval-of-MLB-or-its-clubs voice of the Nationals to impose this bizarre nickname on the rest of us.

Working against that theory is the evidence that Patterson is apparently tired of looking like a baby deer and decided to spend the winter big nastifying himself.

Besides the ill-advised facial hair, there is some heartening news about our boy John.
Patterson was working on a changeup that was taught to him by pitching coach Randy St. Claire.
This has a chance to be something more than the usual Spring Training "I'm 100%!"/ "I'm finally in shape!"/ "I grew a beard that will make me look nasty on the mound!" nonsense. Take the whole Nationals front office and coaching staff: St. Claire is the only one of them who's proven himself to be worth a damn. His coaching made Hector Carrasco good and Livan great. If he can improve Patterson anywhere near as much as he improved Carrasco, we really will have a new ace.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Sheinin's Got A List

Remember on Monday when I had that Tourette's outbreak and complained about the lame-ass Post piece about Tony Tavares' living arrangements? I'm glad I didn't mention the guy who wrote it, because Dave Sheinin just took what should have been a puff piece about what a hard worker Jose Guillen is and made everyone -- everyone -- look bad. Arrogant, selfish stupid, careless; everyone gets something.

Those made to look bad include:

Jose Guillen.
Jose Guillen is a guy you want to keep happy. Other teams have seen what has happened when he is unhappy, and it is messy. . . But from where this Guillen sat, it was possible to see that Guillen lurking menacingly in the distance.
Guillen again.
What could the Nationals do to make Guillen happy? Acknowledge to the fans how much pain he played in late last season, as the team fought to stay in playoff contention. Fix the potentially combustible lineup issue between second basemen Jose Vidro and Alfonso Soriano. Maybe move in the fences at RFK Stadium, so his blasts no longer die at the warning track. And show him the love -- soon -- with an offer for a contract extension that validates his status as a franchise cornerstone.
Jim Bowden.
"We'd like to lock up all three of our big potential free agents -- Jose Guillen, Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson," Bowden said.
The Nationals medical staff.
On Nov. 21, Guillen checked into a Miami hospital for what he thought would be a half-hour procedure to repair a slight tear of the labrum in his left shoulder. When the surgery was finally completed 3 1/2 hours later, he said, the doctors told him the tear had been complete.

"It was pretty ugly. I saw the pictures," Guillen said. "It was not a slight tear, like [the team's medical staff] said. It was pretty much broken in half. . . . I was kind of mad at those guys, because they should know what was going on in there.

Above: the Washington Nationals' medical staff laps up luxury and raps up a storm.

Frank Robinson (for letting Guillen play).
"But one thing that bothers me is that a lot of people don't know what I went through last year. I bet you there was nobody in baseball -- nobody -- who could play through this injury. Only my family knows how much pain I was in every day after games. I don't like to make excuses, but my doctors said they don't know how I could have played with that injury."
Guillen, part 3.
"Everybody knows about this ballpark, how many home runs I lost there," he said. "I'd like to see somebody coming from another team [where he has hit] 40 home runs -- let's see how many home runs they hit here. I'm not going to mention no one's names. But just come here. And we'll see who has the real power here."
Alfonso Soriano.
Since the Nationals already have the veteran Vidro at second base, they have asked Soriano to move to left field, and Soriano to this point has refused -- creating a messy situation that threatens to get worse when both players are expected to report to camp next week.
Guillen one more time.
That wasn't a demand. It was just a firm suggestion. Guillen is not choosing sides -- just hoping everyone gets along. And he is not unhappy with the organization, really. But he could be a whole lot happier.
And Bowden again. Actually, I think this wins it for Bowden.
"[Losing a draft pick is] more affordable for our budget anyway," Bowden said. "I doubt we could have signed all three first-round picks anyway."
That's some good GMing.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Right Enemies

I guess it's Stupid Crap on the Internet Day. Sammy Sosa's agent starts us off.
"He decided he didn't want to put himself in the position of possibly underperforming to the very high standards he sets for himself," Katz said. "So he is gratefully and respectfully declining the Nationals' offer."
Right, it's not because they wouldn't give him a million dollars. It's because of his high standards.

As long as I'm reading the Post, no it's not.

I've mentioned a couple of times that I wish I'd kept my season ticket renewal invoice just so I could make myself feel better by throwing it away again whenever the Nats do or contemplate something unbelievably stupid (i.e., weekly). This makes me wish I'd kept it just so I could let this high-minded philanthrophist renew for me.
Since I'm struggling to get the wording right so that it doesn't come off like I'm a rich prick who doesn't care about fans, it took a little while.
I think you needed a little more time.

Ken Rosenthal runs down the four best and four worst moves of the offseason. Go ahead and guess what the worst one was.
1. The Nationals' acquisition of second baseman Alfonso Soriano from the Rangers for outfielder Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge and Double-A right-hander Armando Galarraga.

Nationals G.M. Jim Bowden likes to think big, but this time he over-reached; this would be a bad trade for the Nats even if Soriano were willing to move from second base to the outfield, which he isn't.
And this is from a guy who thinks we should extend Soriano's contract as soon as possible. Which may say more about Rosenthal than anything else, now that I think about it.

Hoo boy, this is fun. Will Carroll? Nailed.
Perhaps Carroll thinks he can get away with that because he published his article behind the shield of "pay content", and since the BP pay content audience is mostly BP disciples, now one is going to question the published Will Carroll. Well, any jackass can get published in this country, especially if they "get creative." How else can Ann Coulter's books be explained? Because Carroll didn't think he was going to get challenged, perhaps that is why he authored an article with steaming cow pies.
Baseball Prospectus? Nailed.
I suppose that is some improvement in civility from 2001 when Sean Forman critiqued Pitcher Abuse Points, leading to a vicious debate in which the congenial blokes from Baseball Prospectus sent a Cease and Desist Letter to Baseball Primer, threatening them with a copyright infringement suit. Some of my readers might think I am "being creative" now; I'm not; this nonsense really happened. Most importantly, most of the neo sabes proved themselves incapable of listening, so fuck them; there is no pulling punches these days.
Some other guys? Nailed.
In terms of pitching abuse studies, putting [Keith] Woolner and [Rany] Jazayerli next to Wright is like putting Sponge Bob and his side kick, Patrick, next to Neil Armstrong. Wright was a true pioneer while Sponge Bob and Patrick are cartoon characters that kick up dirt in uncharted waters so their creators can make money. The idea that Woolner and Jazayerli "showed" anyone value is ridiculous. In fact, it is safe to say their work on Pitcher Abuse Points put research back at least five years. Oil spills on Alaskan shorelines are easier to clean up that the mess they pumped into the baseball environment. It takes a long time to make strawmen disappear.
I don't know if he's right, but he's got the right enemies.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Monday, February 13, 2006

Ignorance of the A's is No Excuse

Before I committed myself fully to this miserable team we follow, I knew everything. I read the general interest sites, team blogs -- I even had a Baseball Prospectus subscription, which isn't something I'm proud of. I had opinions on pretty much every move that every team should make. When I started this blog, that began to change. I'm not complaining -- this is a lot more interesting than Kansas City's bullpen, and I've learned that when you say something about a team you don't follow obsessively, you always get something wrong.

It's gotten really bad this offseason. The other day it took me about three hours to recall where Juan Encarnacion ended up even though he signed with my second-favorite team. I don't know nothing except as it relates to the Nats. Sure, I've got a link to USS Mariner over on the side, but I never click on it. Here's what the AL West portion of the Offseason Roster Move Ledger looks like in my head:

Los Angeles Angels
  • Fell for the Hector Carrasco Myth
Oakland A's
  • Overpaid for Esteban Loaiza but it's okay because Billy Beane did it
Texas Rangers
  • Dorked Jim Bowden right in his keister.
Seattle Mariners

See what I mean? The entry for the Nationals is long, thoroughly cross-referenced, and little more than a catalog of swears. Every other team gets pretty much what you see there.

So I need your help. It's possible that someday I might want to be a little less ignorant, or maybe I just want to steal some ideas read some good writing. What team blogs do you think are worth the effort it takes to point your eyeballs at them?

Swears? Don't Mind If I Do!

Hey, stuff happened! Let's all try to enjoy stuff just because it's stuff, you know? We shouldn't get all bogged down in what actually happened, because then we'll be sad. Let's just be glad that stuff did, in fact, happen.
  • Alfonso Soriano lost his arbitration case, meaning he'll make $10 million for his one miserable year of service in Washington. Even though he lost, Soriano was awarded the biggest salary in the history of arbitration (well, only in the history of baseball arbitration, I guess). He made $7.5 million last year and hit a whole bunch of shiny homeruns, so the Nationals certainly knew he'd get something record-breaking even though he's clearly not worth that much. But Bowden got him anyway, and it wasn't for free. I'm not angry, Bodes -- I'm just disappointed.
  • Just kidding. I'm real fucking angry.
  • Another tidbit from Fonzie's arb case:
    The case was heard in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, with attorneys Mel Southard and Greg Torborg, the son of former Major League manager Jeff Torborg, representing the Nationals.
    Here, in case you're interested, is Greg Torborg's brother. He's on the right. I wonder what they talk about at Christmas.
  • Remember when I was talking about how little there is to like about the Nats?
    The Washington Nationals yesterday sold the contract of utility infielder Jamey Carroll to the Colorado Rockies
    It had to happen. There were just too many guys owed too much money for Jamey to stick around. Of course, it wouldn't have had to have happened if Bowden hadn't pulled all those Bowdens earlier in the offseason. (NB: In this case, to "pull a Bowden" means to sign a player for no reason other than to have signed a player. It has nothing to do with leather pants or tracksuits or hideously inappropriate analogies. In this case.)
  • Good news?
    Sammy Sosa is seriously considering retiring from baseball instead of accepting an offer from the Washington Nationals, a source close to the player told ESPNdeportes.com.
    Could the gun Bowden's been using to shoot himself in the foot have run out of bullets?
    "Sammy doesn't think of himself as someone who has to beg for a spot on a big league roster," said the source.
    And that's one of the reasons I don't want him on the Nats. He's not good enough to start. A guy with his skills could certainly be a valuable bench player, but that's not how Sammy thinks. He thinks that it's still 1998 and that everyone loves him and calls him the "Caribbean Bambino." Sammy doesn't want to be on the bench, so don't offer him a spot.
  • How could anyone care? Do you feel sorry for Tony Tavares because he lives in an apartment instead of his house? This is such a stupid fucking story, and it's not even the first time they've done it. Who cares that Bodes lives in a hotel? WHO COULD POSSIBLY CARE?
  • Wait, I'm not done with this ridiculous story. This is from the first paragraph:
    To the best of anyone's knowledge, not a single player has purchased a house in the Washington area, preferring to rent instead. The shorter the lease, the better.
    Later, we get this:
    It is not uncommon for players on all teams to rent an apartment in the team's home city, but spend their offseasons wherever "home" is.
    Look, we're all plenty upset enough about the stadium mess without the Post bringing this Will Carroll-quality bullshit. They couldn't find a sob story about a damn ice dancer with a sick grandmother so they had to use this to fill space? The Post is supposed to be a real newspaper, and it better start fucking acting like one. I don't want to have to read the Times.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Miles of Smiles

It doesn't look like it, but I do some pretty serious research before I post this stuff. And let me tell you, I've learned some interesting stuff from my main research tool. Among them: there's another Will Carroll out there, and he's infinitely radder than the one I've been bitching about. Fans of Capitol Punishment may find the extent of their fandom tested by this concept. And finally, Matt LeCroy is going to be wildly popular with Nats fans. My initial estimation that he's a fat, loveable hayseed is holding up, and OMG points us to an example of the man's community spirit. But you don't need us to tell you how much like this guy. Just look at him -- he's always smiling! So I'm going to start your weekend off right by presenting Matt LeCroy and his miles and miles of smiles!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bullseye!

Now that that's all past us (or is it?), I can resume my complaining. Have you ever watched a monkey fling poo at a dartboard? If you have, you'll know what I mean when I say this: the monkey will hit the occassional bullseye. But you won't notice because the dartboard is covered in poo. (Note: info in link is buried in among some Tony Tavares whining about how he can't sell tickets because of the City Council. I know, it doesn't make any sense to me either.)
Yesterday, in fact, he signed first baseman-catcher Matt LeCroy, previously with the Minnesota Twins, to a one-year deal worth $850,000. LeCroy, 29, could back up both Nick Johnson at first base and Schneider at catcher.
This a very nice signing, and LeCroy is a really useful guy in addition to being, as far as I can tell, a fat, loveable hayseed.

His stats don't look all that impressive at first glance, but that's why he's not a starter. What LeCroy does is obliterate left-handed pitchers. His anti-lefty OPS last year was 1025. Just for the sake of comparison, the best OPS on the Nats last year was Nick Johnson's 887. 1025 is huge. He doesn't bring much defensively. Dude's a natural DH, and all this talk about him catching seems rather fanciful. He caught a grand total of one (1) inning last year, and though he did quite a bit more squatting before that, he's only gotten older and (I presume) huskier since then. Talk of an avant-garde LeCroy/Robert Fick backup catcher platoon is fanciful. I think it's a neat idea, but I'm pretty sure Frank wouldn't agree.

And that brings us to the dartboard. LeCroy is useful and the price is right, but there's no room for him. Bowden's minor signings have gotten better and better even as he's run out of space to stash these guys. The Marlon Anderson contract was silly; too many years, too much money, not a very good player. Robert Fick was better: one year, better player. Daryle Ward was even better than that, but by then we had already filled his job twice. Daryle Ward and Matt LeCroy would make a great platoon first baseman for when Nick Johnson gets hurt, but we don't need two other guys for the lefty half. Even leaving those four out, there's still Brandon Watson, Ryan Church, Damian Jackson, Marlon Byrd, Jamey Carroll, Bernie Castro, Royce Clayton, Michael Tucker, Sammy Sosa (probably), and whoever gets the backup catcher gig. I didn't mention the martyred Brendan Harris on purpose -- he's doomed to AAA until Bowden is fired, gets his head out of his fundament, or sends him elsewhere. There's so much poo on the dartboard that it takes the thrill out of this bullseye.

Also buried in Tavares' whining:
The Nationals have also sweetened their offer to former Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa, who spent last season with the Baltimore Orioles, changing it from a minor-league deal to a major-league deal -- although it would still not be guaranteed unless he makes the team in spring training -- in order to make it more palatable to Sosa, who needs 12 more homers to become the fifth member of baseball's 600-home-run club.
I want no part of Sammy Sosa. None. At all. I don't care how little he makes or how unguaranteed his contract is. I don't care if he pays us. We already have too many players, and another one will just push someone else off the end of the bench. And considering the state of Sosa these days, it'll almost certainly be someone who can help us more than Sosa can. You want right-handed power and incompetent defense? Matt LeCroy isn't there to mow the damn grass.

"Oh, but if it doesn't work out, they'll just cut him loose." The hell they will. This is Sammy Sosa, the guy who hit all those dingers and saved baseball or whatever. They're not going to sit him when he's at 590. So don't let him get to 590. Let him go begging in Japan -- that's something we can all enjoy.

Back to Normal

Lease passed, crisis averted, Bowden doing the stupidest thing.

Here's what Dennis Miller would say about Sosa, Soriano, and Guillen being on the same team if he cared: "I haven't seen so many pissed off Dominicans in one place since the Albigensian Crusade."

It's Like I Said All Along

. . . nothing to worry about. I think the best thing we can do now is go find people who went to bed before it was over and laugh at them. Here's one! Here's another one, and don't forget Boz!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

What's Going On?

I have no idea! But I am paying attention (kind of). Watch this space.

UPDATE: Here's something to watch (and feed apples to) while you wait.


adopt your own virtual pet!

Heart

Bill Ladson and I are worried. Like all other right-thinking people, we Jamey Carroll, but Jim Bowden is working against us. The only move Bodes has made this winter that hasn't pushed Jamey further down the depth chart was the one where he actually signed him. It made little sense from a strategic point of view then and even less now. Bernie Castro, Damian Jackson, Marlon Anderson -- well, at least he could still back up Guzman. Now that Phase 1 of Bowden's plan to take credit for Guzman's return to merely sucking has been put in action, even that job is filled.

Even if there isn't really a place for Carroll on the Nats' bench, everyone wants him to stay. My position is that the list of things to like about the Nats is horrifyingly short, and we're going to be lousy anyway, so we might as well keep Jamey around just to make us all feel a little better about things. MLB.com's Bill Ladson goes to the next level in defending Carroll in his latest mailbag. The man is desperate. You can feel it.
Every time Jamey Carroll is mentioned, his name is accompanied by the phrase, "the most fundamentally sound player on the team." What exactly does that mean?
-- Michael L., Washington, D.C.

It means that Carroll can do the little things, like bunting and running the bases very well. Manager Frank Robinson also admires the fact that Carroll is one of the few people in baseball who takes batting practice seriously. For example, the skipper often talks about how Carroll does situational hitting in the cage, like hitting the ball to right field or up the middle, on a daily basis. Robinson even went so far as to say that Carroll would make a good manager some day.
He can't hit in real life, but he's a stone killer in batting practice.
Should the Nationals try to trade Carroll? He probably won't get much playing time with Marlon Anderson, Robert Fick and Royce Clayton on the bench.-- Dustin C., Nova Scotia, Canada

I don't think the Nationals should trade Carroll because of those little things that he does so well. In fact, he was the only one on the team last year that did those things well. However, I think Carroll will be traded before Opening Day because he is not a run producer, and the front office feels he is not a good enough to replace a Cristian Guzman or Jose Vidro defensively.

Leaving aside Ladson's singularly high opinion of Vidro's defense (there's only one worse second baseman out there, and he is a National), can you sense Ladson almost pleading the front office to keep Carroll around? Batting practice! Little things! It won't help. Jamey doesn't have a guaranteed contract, he wasn't brought in by Bowden, and he's never been a Red. But even though Ladson's arguments reek of desperation, he's at least trying to convince the Nats to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. Usually they do the wrong thing for no reason.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Wag

Well, that didn't take long. I tried to make a point on Friday, but I was too preoccupied with Predator for it to make much sense. Cristian Guzman is going to be better this year, and probably quite a bit better, than he was in 2005. His '05 was an aberration; he's a bad player, but he's not that bad. 2006 will see him return to something close to his career norms -- probably a little worse given the ballparks. But that won't stop our ever-pliable local sports media from attributing the improvement to one or more of the following:
  • Guzman's fighting spirit
  • Frank Robinson's managerial brilliance
  • Jim Bowden's foresight in bringing in Royce Clayton to "push" Guzman
And we already have our first example!
The signing of veteran shortstop Royce Clayton to a minor league contract to compete against Cristian Guzman (.219 last season) will bring out the best in Guzman this spring. GM Jim Bowden didn't exactly give Cristian a vote of confidence, telling The Post's Dave Sheinin: "We're not going to sit back and watch Cristian Guzman have another year like he did last year." I predict Guzman will vie for comeback player of the year honors.
George Solomon's a real pro. He just packed all the tail-wagging inanity of a Boswell column into three quick sentences.

Speaking of tail-wagging, Puppy Bowl II lived up to the hype. The addition of a Kitty Halftime Show was genius. Some were bothered by the blatant product placement of Bissell machines cleaning up the puppy puddles in preparation for the kittens, but that was all forgotten when the confetti poured from the ceilings and confused the hell out of the kitties.

My vote for MVP went to Sheeba, the miniscule Shiba Ibu (whatever the hell that is) whose small size belied her ferocity. Danny is the current leader, which surprises me, as I expected the beagle vote to be split.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Context

Predators -- or "Yautja" if you want to get technical about it -- have claimed many victims. From humans to Aliens (or "Xenomorphs" if you want to get technical about it) to Carl Weathers, from cinema to graphic novels (or "funny books" if you want to get technical about it) to the only source of innovation in modern entertainment: fan fiction.
Sam Max, a brave soldier pulled out his survival knife already stained with the glowing green blood of the killers and ran for the nearest one with a scream. I seen the blade of that knife penetrate its stomach, I heard it scream, but it only staggered backwards then stood straight up after a second and unsheathed its wrist blades. Sam had that "Oh nuts" look on his face, he didn't run but stood his ground and let it happen.
Cristian Guzman could soon have that same "Oh nuts" look on his face, because there's a Predator coming after him.
The Washington Nationals yesterday signed 15-year veteran shortstop Royce Clayton to a minor league contract and told him he would have an opportunity to compete for the team's starting job this spring -- a clear signal to incumbent Cristian Guzman that, big contract or not, his place in the starting lineup is not guaranteed.
As I said before, I don't believe this. Clayton in his senescence is the same hitter as Guzman pre-2005 meltdown -- maybe a little better because more of his OPS value in his on-base percentage. Guzman has a few advantages: youth, $12 million dollars left on his contract, and unbeatably low expectations.

Guzman's 2005 was an absolute disaster, and don't let any homer nonsense about his red-hot September tell you otherwise. A 219/260/314 line is just unheard of for an everyday player. Want to see it in context? Check out the bottom ESPN.com's batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. There is no context. Guzman was so bad, ESPN refuses even to acknowledge his performance. It's like trying to get a German to talk about what he was doing during the '40s.

The problem with this is that it's going to make everyone forget what a lousy player he is even when he's not so bad that ESPN decides it's impolite to talk about it. Guzman's had one good year in his life, and that was back when the Mariners were a powerhouse and John Rocker was closing for the Braves. Since then, he's developed no ability to get on base and lost his power, which was only an illusion created by triples in the first place. It was that player, a 270/310/370 kind of guy, that Jim Bowden signed and dubbed the cornerstone of the franchise. So they're expecting him to suck.

And that's what will to happen. Guzman will hit .290 or something in Spring Training and Bowden will proclaim him all better. He'll hit .260 during the season, and everyone will forget about him because they're saving their bile for Soriano. Tom Boswell, who unbelievably never stopped defending Guzman, will say "I told you so" and prompt a regrettably personal attack from me. Royce Clayton will be quietly released, and Guzman will waddle his way through the last three years of his contract unmolested. And we'll be here with that "Oh, nuts" look on our faces, we won't run but stand our ground and let it happen.

I Think About Puppies on My Day Off

I'm taking the day off. I guess I should be glad nothing's happening -- the last time something happened and I didn't lose hair was November 3. If you can't get enough talk about what a mess this team is, here's Ladson.

Meanwhile, the Puppy Bowl hype is coming at you non-stop! Even in the apathetic and deaf community! "Almost genius" my ass, Sandy Deane! I'm wondering if I should liveblog this thing.

Highlights of last year's Puppy Bowl. What are you, made of stone?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Appendix

Today's essential reading is this post at Banks of the Anacostia, where the advisability of a long-term extension for Jose Guillen is discussed. It's well-argued and full of fun charts, and I'm certainly not here to refute it or anything. Rather, I present a commentary. Further reading. If the BotA post were to be published with a foreward by Norman Mailer, this might make a good appendix.

I think both JammingEcono and Farid in the post that inspired him are rather too optimistic when it comes to Guillen's good behavior. Yes, he more or less behaved himself last year. But it wasn't all that long ago that he made himself so unwelcome in Anaheim that the Angels suspended him for two weeks in the middle of a pennant race. Or that he probably lied about willingly taking anger management classes. Or that, at least as of March, they still hated him over there. Just because it hasn't happened here yet doesn't mean it won't, especially if Frank Robinson isn't around to keep him line.

Econo notes (with the help of rad charts) that Guillen's OBP is right around average even though his walk rate is lousy. This is due in part to his solid batting averages, but a not insignificant factor is that Jose gets plunked a lot (and it happens disproportionately against teams Guillen used to play for). His 19 led the NL in 2005, and it apparently is a repeatable skill: 15 in '04 and 14 the year before. It may not look like much, but for a guy who walks under 40 times a year, it's an important addition to his OBP.

Whither Guillen's shoulder? I sure as hell don't know, but Guillen isn't the most durable guy. He's not Nick Johnson or anything, but his shoulder ruined him late last year (427 OPS in September), he could miss the start of this season, and he wore down at the end of 2004 as well (606 in September). So that's something to think about.

I quote Econo's conclusion:
At the end of the day, I just don't believe that Guillen brings enough to the table to merit a long-term deal. If JimBo wants to sign him to a 2 year deal for around $10M, I could get on board. Anything more than that, and I'd think we were overpaying for what Guillen produces.
I pretty much agree. All this analysis was prompted by Guillen saying that "Money is not going to be really an issue" as long as he stays in Washington. He'll be making $3.7 million this year, and that's a real bargain. Would he be willing to stay under $5 million on an extension? If he is, sign him for as long as he wants. We should be able a trade a guy making that little even if he goes nuts.


Ah, the revolution of the earth. Or something. In December, it was noted that spent my birthday in 2005 complaining about Linda Cropp and that I spent my birthday in 2004 complaining about Linda Cropp. Now it's February, and it should come as no surprise to anyone who remembers last February that it sucks and there's nothing to talk about. Last year, I was rescued by the greatest idea in entertainment since they started fixing wrestling matches: the Puppy Bowl! The Puppy Bowl is back this year, and in case you were worried about a sophomore let-down, they've added the only thing that could possibly make it better: a kitten halftime show! It's going to be great. Check out the roster, vote for the MVP (which they allow before the airing of the Bowl), put together puppy puzzles, and see video previews. I would have no hesitation in signing Badger to an extension.