Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dolphin Burns

Who's all hyped for the Battle of the Beltway? Okay, now who had forgotten about it? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Remember how excited we were this time last year? Maybe I'm just speaking for me, Needham, Basil, and Svrluga, but one year ago today there was real excitement. The demotion of Endy Chavez and awardation (yeah, that's a new one) of the centerfield job to the eminently worthy Ryan Church was the perfect way to end Spring Training.

I can't expect the anticipation of the start of the second season to match last year, but Spring Training has been a month-long kick in the crotch this year. Brian Lawrence blows up, Soriano can't figure out how fly balls work, nobody hits, and we get the crap beat out of us (last place in the Grapefruit League!). As a final and symmetrical indignity, the still eminently worthy Ryan Church is sent to the minor leagues because Old Man Robinson has a speed fetish, hitting and defense be damned.

I am excited about the season starting, but I can't say I'm any more pumped than I was a month ago. Being in Hell isn't as much fun as South Park makes it look.

Other stuff:

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

We Are In Hell

As if it weren't difficult enough being a Nats fan. We have no owner and we don't get to watch our team on TV -- those alone would be enough to make the Nats a laughingstock, so why are we also saddled with this bumbling clown of a GM? Why does this happen to us? How can Jim Bowden think that what he's doing is right? I may have an explanation.

I have discovered a system of thought, an ethos if that's what that means, that approves wholeheartedly of Jim Bowden's reign as General Manager. Unfortunately, it means that we're in Hell. English poet and artist William Blake, dead now some 180 years, envisioned a place where everything Bodes does makes perfect sense in his Proverbs of Hell.
...as the sayings used in a nation, mark its character, so the Proverbs of Hell, shew the nature in Infernal wisdom better than any description of buildings or garments.
"What in the hell are you talking about?" is probably what you're yelling at your monitor right now, but settle down and check it out:

Bowden is often criticized for his discomfort with inaction. He doesn't feel like he's doing his job unless he's not only wheeling but also dealing. We didn't need Preston Wilson, he didn't make us better, but Bodes wasn't going to sit on his hands and not trade for him. Hell approves.
Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.
When Bowden finds a player he wants, he goes after him with the tenacity of a starving pitbull. It took him a year to get Alfonso Soriano, but he stuck with it.
He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.

Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.
It's no secret that, for all Bowden's frenetic activity, he tends to focus on one or two areas. This winter, he stockpiled second basemen and lefty pinch-hitters. I wondered why, and you probably did too. But it makes perfect sense in Hell.
You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.
Bodes isn't just a Hell-approved GM. He's also a Hell-approved dresser, as the underworld apparently loves flashy tracksuits and leather pants.
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.

Exuberance is Beauty.
Will he learn? Hell says yes.
If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.
We can only hope. Our GM isn't the only proof that we Nats fans dwell in Hell. Frank Robinson's managerial style is well represented in the Proverbs.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.

The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.
If only Tomo Ohka knew about the horses and tygers. If you weren't amazed that William Blake perfectly foresaw the only environment in which the lousy management of the Nationals would be celebrated, get ready to be amazed by his most unnerving description of Hell and its works.

When thou seest an Eagle, thou seest a portion of Genius. Lift up thy head!
We are in Hell.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Boo Bowden, Yay Sheinin

Here I was trying to be positive. Me yesterday:
[B]oth the Ladson and Zuckerman mailbags indicate that Ryan Church will beat out Brandon Watson for the starting CF job.
Jim Goddamn Bowden today:
Outfielder Ryan Church was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans on Tuesday by the Washington Nationals, meaning rookie Brandon Watson and Marlon Byrd will share time in center field.
Me yesterday:
This speaks well of Nats management, since they're deciding this even though Church's spring numbers aren't as good as Watson's. If Nick Johnson has a bad spring, you don't hand the first base job to Daryle Ward, you know?
Jim Goddamn Bowden today:
General manager Jim Bowden said Tuesday's decision came down to Watson having a better spring than Church.
Church will be back, and I guess we could have a contest to guess if it'll be owing to Watson's ineffectiveness, Guillen's injuries, a Soriano trade, or Other. And I have learned my lesson about assuming that Bowden won't do the worst the possible thing in every situation.

Have you ever read
something you agreed with so completely that the best explanation was that you went into a fugue state and wrote it yourself? I'm pretty sure that's not what happened with today's Dave Sheinin chat, but I don't remember where I was at one in the afternoon. The police have some theories, but I don't buy them. Anyway, here are some highlights.
As for Bowden's record as GM, well, there have been hits (Zimmerman, Guillen, Loaiza) and there have been missed (Guzman, Soriano, Ohka). My own opinion is that there have been more misses than hits.
I'd add that there's a tendency among Bowden defenders to counter a list of his bad moves with a list of his good ones, as the issue can be decided on a one-to-one basis. But not all moves are equal, and Esteban Loiaza does not make up for Cristian Guzman. The big moves are bad ones.
There is certainly something to be said for results, and the Nats overachieved last year in a big way. However, the opposing viewpoint is that many of the players behind that impressive season were already on board when Bowden took over (Cordero, Patterson, Hernandez, Johnson, Ayala, etc.), and that Bowden's moves did little to enhance the team and, in fact, in some cases damaged the team.
Word.
But that said, some of Bowden's worst moves do not appear to have been forced by financial constraints. He signed Guzman, for instance, very early in the free-agent market, for a price that most observers around the game thought was exorbitant. And this winter, with extra money to spend because of a boost in payroll budget, he spent the majority of it on Soriano. Now, Guzman might still end up being a good shortstop for the next three years, and Soriano might hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases this year. But I doubt it.
Preach it.
If you are going to investigate someone for something they did outside of MLB's own drug policy, you should also be prepared to investigate Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and all the dozens of other players of whom there exists evidence of steroid use, despite the lack of a positive test. To investigate Bonds alone, I think, is unfair.
Not to shift gears, but this is dead on. Those singling out Bonds aren't trying to punish him for being a steroid abuser but because he's the best steroid abuser. As far as I'm concerned, Jason Giambi's 313 home runs are more tainted than Bonds' 708.

I don't know if I was blinded by the ineffable glory of Barry Svrluga and ignored him or if Dave Sheinin got better over the winter, but the man has been the highlight of mainstream Nats coverage this spring. As annoying as some of the other baseball writers on the Post can be, we're very lucky to have Sheinin and Svrluga covering out beloved, God-forsaken baseball club.

Monday, March 27, 2006

A Nasty Day

It's a nasty day for Nats fans. Leaving aside a humiliating Spring Training defeat that serves as a preview for many, many regular season losses, we have some long-term type problems. Jose Guillen, like the mistress who keeps bugging you to leave your wife, is nagging about an extension again, and he thinks it would be nifty to get . . . say . . . $10 million a year for . . . oh, let's say five years. That's some big talk for a guy who might start the season on the DL, and it's clearly insane. There's confidence and then there's self-delusion, and even I don't think Bodes would fall for this. What Bodes might do is talk his best buddy Jose into settling for less money, and he'll have no compunction about saddling the new ownership with his rapidly-aging, chronically disgruntled babysitter.

In the meantime, I'm sure Guillen will give 110% and be a positive delight in the clubhouse until his extension is worked out. Nope, no grumbling about being disrespected or nothing.

And in other unlikeable player news, it looks like that whole Andruw Jones transformation thing isn't working out.
Alfonso Soriano, the Washington Nationals' left fielder, had a line drive sail over him in the top of the first inning Sunday, then hit the first pitch he saw well over the left field fence in the bottom of the inning, a preview of the give and take he might provide all season. Yet he provided the performance against an uneasy backdrop, for some members of the organization don't think he's working hard enough to improve in the outfield.
Here's the book on Soriano: his athleticism should allow him to be a great defensive player, but he just can't concentrate. I'm disinclined to see it as a moral failing, but it's a factor nonetheless. And if his wandering mind keeps him from staying focused at second base, how much attention will he be paying at a far less eventful position, one he has no interest in playing? This isn't going to change, either. All discussion of Soriano makes it sound as if he's a near-rookie still learning how to play the game. He's 30 years old, and he is what he is.

Which makes this all the more sick-making.
It is believed that the Nationals offered Soriano a five-year, $50 million extension.
For Christ's sake. Soriano isn't worth $10 million this year. What kind of dipshit do you have to be to think he will be when he's 35 fucking years old? Answer: this kind of dipshit. I can't expect Bowden to realize that he's not good at generally managing and should just sit on his hands, but I can sure as hell expect him to realize that he's about to be relieved of his duties. If the new guys want to throw $50 million at Soriano, let them do it. This is none of your business, Bodes. You're done. Out. On your way back to Cold Pizza. Stop doing things, Jim Bowden.

In other Bowden screw-up news, Cristian Guzman is on the DL and will miss the start of the season. But this isn't really all that bad. Guzman, Clayton -- we're screwed either way.

Actual good news: both the Ladson and Zuckerman mailbags indicate that Ryan Church will beat out Brandon Watson for the starting CF job. This speaks well of Nats management, since they're deciding this even though Church's spring numbers aren't as good as Watson's. If Nick Johnson has a bad spring, you don't hand the first base job to Daryle Ward, you know? Church and Watson are more similar talent-wise than Johnson and Ward, but Soul Patch has earned the benefit of the doubt.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

2006 Season Preview

It's season preview time here at Distinguished Senators, and I for one have been looking forward to it for some time. The season preview is when I let my biases roam freely, unhindered by any concern for facts or decency. And while the swears may be down a bit from last year, but let me assure you than I have far less idea what I'm talking about than I did last time.

NL EAST
Atlanta
New York
Philadelphia
Washington
Florida

Atlanta - I'm rooting for the Braves, which I guess Nats fans aren't supposed to do. I won't be cheering them on against the Nats, if that makes you feel any better. But this is a great organization. They do things the right way. They don't insult departed players, play desiccated vets in favor of competent rookies, or trade for Alfonso Soriano.

Florida - It was real neighborly of the Marlins to sell off everybody just to keep us out of last place. On the other hand, it ups the pressure on the Nats pretty severely. Imagine if we do finish behind a team that's thinking about starting some dude named Uggla at second.

New York - I'm still too busy laughing about Victor Zambrano to say anything about the Mets. They picked up some important dudes, but something will go wrong.

Philadelphia - I mocked the Phillies last year for having Jon Lieber as their opening day starter. They have not fixed this problem. Did you notice how they spent the whole off-season trying to trade their best player? Say what you will about Jim Bowden, but at least when he tries to trade his best player he gets results.

Washington - The Nats were quite a bit better last year than they actually were, and no I don't care if that makes any sense. We won more games than we should have, and any attempt at predicting our 2006 performance must begin with figuring out why. Tom Boswell, depending on what fearsomely illogical viewpoint he's arguing, will tell you it's because 1) Frank's a genius 2) SWAGGER 3) the players wanted an owner 4) Guzman hit .325 in September! That's fine, but I'm more willing to chalk it up to my old friend Dumb Fucking Luck. The problem is that DFL isn't a very reliable guy, and he'll probably be spending his summer in Detroit or Milwaukee or somewhere like that, leaving us to suck really bad. But what the hell -- I was wrong last year, and I hope I'm wrong again.

NL CENTRAL
St. Louis
Houston (WC)
Milwaukee
Chicago
Cincinnati
Pittsburgh

Chicago - I haven't heard a lot of Cub fan bleating about how this is their year, so maybe they're more reasonable than I'd given them credit for. You would have to be pretty delusional to think Juan Pierre is going to solve all your problems.

The Cubs totally suck, but you know that, so I'm going to go on a tangent. Now, the Cubs have all these great young pitchers who keep getting hurt. You can blame Dusty Baker or high school or whatever, but which one of them has actually stayed healthy? The fat one. Look at the Hernandez brothers -- el hermano delgado is like the Tony Armas of pitching, while el hermano gordo is completely indestructible. Bartolo Colon, C.C. Sabathia -- hell, David Wells is coming up on 50 and routinely downs his age in beers, and he's still good for almost 200 innings a year. Some team is going to figure this out and gain a huge advantage when they stop training their pitchers like they're baseball players and start training them like they're sumo wrestlers.

Cincinnati - The NL Central has a pretty deeply entrenched underclass, doesn't it? The Reds kept Adam Dunn, at least, but that doesn't make up for Tony Womack and Scott Hatteberg being the right side of your infield. It takes some balls to charge money to watch a team like this.

Houston - I have developed an almost religious belief in the ability of the Astros to shrug off any off-season setback, finish ahead of the Cubs, and scare the hell out of me. So here's the scenario: that fat cocktease Roger Clemens stops farting around and comes back; he, Roy Oswalt, and Andy Pettitte kick ass again; Lance Berkman (.416 career OBP!) wins the MVP; and they pull of a mid-season trade to pick up a high-priced rental who propels them into contention after sucking like a Hoover for his previous team.

Milwaukee - I'm not quite ready to believe the hype, but that's more my own contrariness than any actual analysis. Still, being a Brewers fans is probably kind of fun right now. I put them ahead of the Cubs just to rub it in.

Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh's still in the league?

St. Louis - Yeah, they're a mess at second and left. But they exact same thing was true going into the 2004 season, and they won the pennant. The rotation is thick with quality, and Pujols, Edmonds, and Rolen can make up for a lot of So Taguchi. I keep waiting for Jim Edmonds to fall off the proverbial cliff, but I'm starting to get the feeling that he's going to be playing part time for someone and hitting 20 homers a year long after Scott Rolen tearfully announces his retirement.

NL WEST
Arizona
San Diego
Los Angeles
San Francisco
Colorado

Arizona - Why did I pick Arizona to win the West? Because I think the Dodgers and Giants are going to suck and I'm sulking about the Padres, that's why. They're not going to do it.

Colorado - I don't want to talk about it. This could have been a premier fucking franchise with just a little bit of goddamn competence -- they led the league in attendance their first seven years, and don't act like you already knew that. They drew almost 4.5 million people their first year. You know how many teams have done that? None. But they pissed it all away and now they draw like the Marlins. It's a damn shame.

Los Angeles - Anyone else chuckle when DePodesta got fired? I'm in the middle of my own personal Moneyball backlash, so yeah, I giggled a little bit. It's Michael Lewis' fault. That dude's a prick. Anyway, the Dodgers have a much crappier rotation than I figured, and they're pretending Nomar Garciaparra's a first baseman. I was about to pick them to win the division, but then I wondered what happens after J.D. Drew and Nomar get hurt, not to mention the fact that they have 1996 All Stars Kenny Lofton and Sandy Fucking Alomar starting. This team could really suck. Not as bad as the Rockies or anything, but still.

San Diego - Brian Giles was the best free agent signing of the winter (NB: last year I said it was Adrian Beltre, so ignore me), but I'm still really pissed at the Padres for having the gall to make the playoffs last year despite being quite obviously worse than the Nats, to name just one. So I hope they do badly.

San Francisco - The Giants seem to be collecting Cardinals, but not . . . like . . . the good ones. I expect Bud Smith and Bo Hart to make appearances at some point during the season.

AL EAST
New York
Boston (WC)
Toronto
Baltimore
Tampa Bay

Baltimore - I really want the Orioles to be good, if only so that there's a non-Buck Martinez reason to watch the games, but there's not a whole lot to look forward to this year. Tejada's always fun, and Nick Markakis could be a guy to watch. Other than that, it all comes down to Leo Mazzone. Will he be able to harness the raw power of Joseph Gribble look-alike Daniel Cabrera, or will Cabrera be the next Bruce Chen? And will Mazzone be able to harness the lefty slop of Bruce Chen, or will Chen be the next Bruce Chen?

Boston - Man was that Theo Epstein shit lame. This is still a damn solid team, and the Wily Mo Pena trade is going to wind up being a steal. Did you ever notice that when Bodes talks about getting a guy he actually should get it never happens, but the instant he mentions picking up some lame-ass scrub it's fucking guaranteed he'll wind up at RFK? Get yourself ready for Nook Logan right now is what I'm saying. Hey, this wasn't about the Red Sox. Good. Fuck the Red Sox.

New York - I'm going out on a limb here, but the Yankees could be pretty good. A little luck with the starting pitching, and I'll have another reason to ignore the AL. And it's really nice of them to keep Bernie Williams around. It's just like the American WBC team letting Al Leiter tag along just to be, you know, charitable.

Tampa Bay - I bet a lot of you are rooting for this ragtag bunch of misfits to pass up the Orioles. It ain't gonna happen. Yet.

Toronto - As you may recall, the Jays spent piles of money this winter. It won't do them any good -- they won't be vaulting over the traditional and tiresome powerhouses in this division, and if they were going to up the budget like this, why didn't they just hang on to Carlos Delgado? They couldn't have been all that upset about the national anthem thing. Getting rid of Delgado so you can afford B.J. Ryan (no, I would not enjoy having that as my nickname, thank you) is like selling your car to get a swanky new pimp cup.

AL CENTRAL
Chicago
Minnesota
Cleveland
Detroit
Kansas City

Chicago - Goddamn that's a sweet rotation. It might be enough.

Cleveland - These jockjaws really let me down at the end of the 2005 season, and I'm still a little mad. Remember that? There could have been a bunch of three-way ties and one-game playoffs and stuff, but Cleveland screwed it all up. I forget exactly how. So I guess I'm rooting against them, but it's more likely I'll forget all about it as soon as I quit typing.

Detroit - Well, Kenny Rogers isn't going to jail, so that's good news, and that right there is the best uniform in baseball, so they at least have that. Who knows, maybe they'll surprise everyone. I have no idea. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the Detroit Tigers, I got to admit.

Kansas City - Nats fans, take note: the Royals have an owner and an apparently rather nice ballpark, and they've been spinning their wheels, doing absolutely nothing, and making their fans cry themselves to sleep every night for a decade. So two things to keep in mind here: 1) having an owner isn't going to fix everything and b) we don't have it as bad as we could. Except for the TV situation.

Minnesota - Tony Batista! Nice job on that one, you idiots.

AL WEST
Oakland
Los Angeles
Texas
Seattle

Los Angeles - You've already forgotten about Hector Carrasco, haven't you? Nice team, but not as good as Oakland. The starting rotation is really deep, and the bullpen is nice, but I don't see where the offense is going to come from. It'll be interesting to see the production of the first two martyrs of Jim Bowden's reign of terror, Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis.

Oakland - This is a good team. Seriously, there's not much not to like here -- they're my Wishful Thinking Because I Hate the Yankees Best Team in the AL. So why are they making their stadium 10,000 seats smaller? I mean, what the hell is wrong with these people? I'd love to watch this team. You think I relish the idea of going to RFK and seeing Ramon Fucking Ortiz?

Seattle - Jamie Moyer didn't retire? Damn. I guess I was thinking of Kirk Reuter. Seattle is going to suck, but you're used to that by now. Maybe they'll get WBC/contract year Adrian Beltre instead of suck-ass Adrian Beltre. That might be good for third place.

Texas - I should hate the Rangers. First they stole our team, then I lived in Texas for four years and was surrounded by homer-ass Juan Gonzalez fans, then they robbed us of Brad Wilkerson. But I guess the statute of limitations has run out on the first two, and it's not their fault Bowden insisted on trading his best outfielder for some magic beans. If they hadn't ripped him off, someone else would have, though I guess they could have called a social worker or something. But mostly I feel sorry for the Rangers because they're relying on Kevin Millwood to be their ace. Good luck with that, y'all.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Score

And just like that, it's over, and the national sports media can go back to ignoring us. I'm surprised it didn't take longer, but Soriano was going to cave. Some of the more gullible will chalk it up to the persuasionary skills of the good cop/bad cop team of Jim Bowden and Frank Robinson, but it actually came down to the persuasionary skills of ten million damn dollars. Now that the game's over, let's take a look at the box score.

Winners:
  • Bodes -- Look, there are a lot of people who actually liked the Soriano trade and a lot of people with short attention spans. The former will be delighted that our big-name slugger!!!! is playing, and the latter will recall only far enough back to remember today, when Bowden got out this mess. They won't remember that he created it.
  • Us -- I don't think much of Soriano, but he's more valuable to us playing than . . . you know . . . not playing. Hey, maybe he'll steal 50 bases. That would be fun to watch.
  • Brad Wilkerson -- Dude gets to play in a bandbox for a team that actually wants him and isn't a laughingstock. It's a shame he has to change banks again, though.
Losers:
  • Alfonso Soriano -- He does get ten million damn dollars, which is nice, but he's having a hard time. His public image is shot to hell, he's in the outfield even though he obviously really didn't want to be, and the combination of the damage to his rep and RFK's spacious outfield is going to ruin free agency for him. How many rally-killing strikeouts or misplayed line drives before the booing becomes permanent?
  • The Nationals pitching staff -- The scouting report for hitters vs. the Nats might as well just say "Hit it to left." Soriano was -- without exaggeration -- the worst second baseman in baseball, so it's probably a good thing that he's taking his wacky errororama to a more secluded spot. Still, bizarre Ken Rosenthal predictions aside, he won't be any good. There has been some talk about putting our sulking free agent-to-be in centerfield. I don't know at exactly what point bad management becomes sabotage, but it might be right there.
  • Frank Robinson -- I'm no fan of the guy as a manager, but a 70-year-old man shouldn't have to deal with this kind of crap. None of this is his fault, but he was the guy Bodes was expecting to fix it for him. This keeps up and they might not even have to fire Frank. He could get pissed off enough to quit.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Objection

So, now everyone from coast to coast knows what I've been saying since he was first handed the keys -- Jim Bowden is very, very bad at his job. This vindication, unfortunately, comes at an incalculable cost to my favorite baseball team. Does it make me a bad person that I don't care? I figure this is more entertaining than anything the Nats are actually going to do during the season. Bodes getting rid of Wilkerson sent me over the edge, man, and now I don't care about nothing. I just want to see it all burn.

Naturally, I'm hoping Bowden employs the little-used Disqualified List and that Soriano spends enough time on it to prevent him from reaching free agency. Mainly I'm looking forward to next year's arbitration hearing.

Bodes: As you can see on this handy chart, your honor, after averaging 39 home runs and hitting .280 over the previous five years, Fonzie contributed 0 home runs last year and hit .000.
Arbitratorer: Hmm, yes. Very damning. Hmm. Mr. Agent?
Agent: Your majesty, not only has Mr. Bowden made a mockery of this proceding by wearing a shiny tracksuit in the courtroom --
Bodes: OBJECTION! I look hella fly, yo!
Arbitratorer: Overruled. Hmm. You look like a damn idiot.
Agent: . . . he is twisting the facts. Look at Mr. Soriano's defense: from 21 errors in 2005 to none in 2006.
Arbitratorer: Hmm. I heard Joe Morgan say defense wins championships. The defendant is awarded $30 million and gets to play anywhere he wants. I have spoken!
Gavel: Bang!

Does Soriano deserve our sympathy? I can state without hesitation that he doesn't deserve a 600 word apologia, so I guess my answer would be no. Maybe even "hell no." But if sympathy for the devil is what it's going to take to keep us all focused on the real culprit here, the one who's actually destroying our team, then sure. Send him a card with a little bunny on it or a shiny bauble to lift his spirits. Just make sure you're burning effigies of Bowden while you do it.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Spring Break

I'm taking a day off. I'm not going to think about Soriano, I'm going to treat myself to not reading Boz, and maybe I'll stop waking up in the middle of the night shrieking. See you on Monday.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I Really Wanted One of Those T-Shirts They Were Selling

Sweet, we got bailed out by the South Koreans! I guess that makes us even.

It should be so easy to turn a debilitating injury to Cristian Guzman into an on-field positive, but Jim Bowden doesn't do things the easy way. So now I find myself in the bizarre position of rooting for Cristian Guzman to play a full season for my favorite team. It burns a little bit, you know?

Dammit, they bought off those Bygone Sports guys. No Senators or Grays for us, so I guess I should get around to changing the name of this here blog. I'm thinking maybe some kind of pun involving "Nationals" followed by a word that commonly follows "national." Nationals Institutes of Health, maybe. Nationals Geographic. Any ideas?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Still Sick

I think I caught the bird flu. I'd do something about it, but I need the eggs.

Oh hey -- the ballpark. I don't care. As long as it's surrounded by bars and they don't play "Sweet Caroline," they can build it out of pink formstone as far as I'm concerned. I hope it's called "Eastern Motors Stadium."

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sick Day

Remember when the boys asked the Cybil at Cumae what she wanted, and she was all like, "I want to die"? That's pretty much where I'm at right now, so I'm taking the day off. *cough cough*

Meanwhile, everyone's talking about the Great Outdoor Fight, and you should really catch yourself up. Start here. Ribeye? Mimosa?

UPDATE: I couldn't resist, not when Tony Tavares is lying to make Bowden look good.
Nick is in a walk year, so you either signed him or you lost him.
You mean you had to sign him right now? Before the new owner's named? That must be a new rule or something. And look who totally agrees with my post from yesterday -- a mysterious "member of a potential ownership group."
"I'm concerned about the timing. If you believe new owners are going to be named fairly soon, what's the rush?"
Tavares sounds a little bitter, which I guess is understandable from a guy who's about to lose his job.
"If somebody doesn't like Brian Schneider's contract, they can trade him," Tavares said. "If somebody doesn't like Nick's contract, they can trade him."
What if someone doesn't like Cristian Guzman's contract? Or what if someone likes Brad Wilkerson's? I guess I read too much Boswell -- I expect a more rousing defence of Bowden's scorched earth policy.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Bad Metaphors

Things Jim Bowden is bad at:
1) Free agent signings
2) Trades
3) Metaphors
4) Dressing himself

Things Jim Bowden is good at:
1) Negotiating contract extensions.

He's proven it time and time again. He's managed to secure himself a couple extensions, which is damned impressive considering . . . well, if you're reading this I'm sure you know what I'm about to complain about. But I'm living for giving the devil his due, as they say, and Jim Bowden is 2 for 2 in lengthening the contracts of his current players. You may recall when he straight-up conned Brian Schneider into agreeing to stick around for four years, and now he's done it again.
First baseman Nick Johnson agreed to a $16.5 million, three-year contract extension with the Washington Nationals on Saturday, a deal that ties him to the club through the 2009 season.
The details:
The 27-year-old first baseman will keep his contract for this year, which pays him $3.2 million and includes incentives for games played and plate appearances. He then will be paid $5.5 million in each of the next three seasons. Should he be traded before the end of the 2008 season, the final year of the deal becomes Johnson's option to accept or decline.
I've mentioned that I was not, in a general, theoretical sense, in favor of locking Johnson up. He gets hurt literally every year, and this time I actually mean literally. He's not fast and tends to the . . . husky -- all those factors make him a bad bet to age gracefully. But $5.5 million -- that sounds good at first. Then you look at what Sean Casey's scamming the Pirates out of, and it looks even better. Everything I was about to say about injuries and whatnot was already said by Bodes himself, so I'll let him:
"If he doesn't have the injuries, he's in the $8-$10 million a year range," general manager Jim Bowden said. "But he's been hurt, so we hope he gets healthy, and if he's healthy he has a real good deal. And if he doesn't get healthy, we still have a good deal for what he brings to the table."
Nick Johnson is our best hitter. Nick Johnson minus one-fourth of the season is still our best hitter. He will go on the DL repeatedly over the course of this contract, but he's making little enough that he'll still be worth it.

So I was all full of happy feelings for Bodes. It felt kind of weird and I didn't like it. The problem was solved, though, when I read this.
Washington's next priority is to sign outfielder Jose Guillen and second baseman Alfonso Soriano, who are free agents after this season. Bowden said multiyear offers have been made to those players.
As much as I dig the Johnson deal, it does raise an unpleasant question: who the hell does Jim Bowden think he is? The general manager? Sorry, Tracksuit, you're the interim general manager. "Interim" is a Latin word meaning "gone the fucking instant we decide who has the pleasure of firing you." That didn't mean much back when we had no hope of a ballpark or an owner and the Nats were going to be contracted or moved to Oaxaca or whatever. But now all the political eczema has cleared up, Selig's probably already picked an owner, and you lost any chance you had of becoming a real, grown-up general manager when you made the consensus worst move of the offseason.

I'm complaining now before something bad happens -- prophylactic invective, if you will. Bodes has done well in this area so far. With no depth in the system and a slim free agent pickings, Schneider needed to be locked up, and if Johnson thinks so little of his future earning potential that he'll settle for Kyle Farnsworth money, you have to jump on that. I'm not worried about Soriano -- he won't be sticking around unless he's promised a salary even Bowden would have qualms about leaving for his successor. But Bodes has no business guaranteeing a living to his close, personal friend and occasional babysitter Jose Guillen. Not only is Guillen literally a ticking time bomb, he also lacks even one arm that hasn't required recent surgery.
Guillen declined to comment on his contract situation, but a baseball source said that Guillen is not willing to take a discount like Johnson.
You're a fool, Jose. If you turn down what I'm guessing is going to be a very generous handout from Bodes, who's going to pay your rapidly disintegrating carcass to bitch about the fences, feud with your pitchers, and throw batting helmets at your manager? I guess that depends on whether Bowden gets another GM gig.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

He'll Tell Us What To Do!

It's been an eventful couple of days for Jim Bowden. First he gets all pissed off and blames the team he put together for playing badly, which isn't the first time he's done that.
"I don't want to be embarrassed. I don't have any criticism about effort. I don't have any criticism about the work ethic. I don't want to be embarrassed," Bowden said. "Hey," he added, "how do you like my new lime green tracksuit?"
Then he's rewarded with a contract extension.

Neither of these stories is as important as it seems at first. Taking the latter one first, this doesn't mean Bodes won't be out on his ass once we get a new owner. It just means he keeps getting a paycheck after that happens, so I hope Tony Tavares is on his Christmas card list. As far as the cuts, I think Harper's right.
I’ll add that it’s a ingenious plan to look like a strong GM. Invite too many cooks to the kitchen, then throw a bunch out when the broth tastes funny. Look at the strong leadership!
Exactly. We have too many players, and some guys are going to get cut. This way, Bodes gets to look like a hard-nosed talent evaluator instead of just a guy with too many second basemen.

If there's one thing I've learned in this cold, puppy-killing world, it's that you won't be disappointed if you keep your expectations good and low. It's a lesson quite a few of the Nationals should learn. This article by Barry Svrluga makes the Nats sound like they're awaiting the imminent arrival of the Messiah, who will strike down their enemies and get them some decent video equipment.
"I believe it's going to be a different scenario," outfielder Jose Guillen said. "An owner who comes here and pays $450 million, he's going to have money and spend money. Just look at the situation last year. I know Jim wanted to make some moves, and he did okay, but we didn't have much money, and it could be a different story. Money talks. Look at the Yankees and the Red Sox and the Cubs. When they need something, they can go out and get it." . . .

"They're spending $611 million on a stadium?" Patterson said. "That's setting a pretty good example of what they expect from baseball in the future there. Washington, D.C., could definitely be a hot spot for free agents to play."

There's no reason to think the new owner, whoever he may be, is going to give us a $200 million dollar payroll and a string of pennants. How many teams spend that kind of money? One, and I'm not sure I'd want that owner anywhere near my favorite team. Indeed, there's little reason to think that things will get better at all once the team is sold. Svrluga observes:

The Nationals' projected payroll of $60 million already is an increase of $7.2 million from last year, and the total would have ranked the team 20th of the 30 major league clubs a year ago.
Think about that: ten major league teams, all with owners and ballparks and all that stuff, spent less on payroll than the supposedly hopelessly hamstrung Nationals, and none of those owners just spent $450 million to buy the team. Cleveland and Oakland's successes suggest that it isn't our payroll that's holding us back, and while a more settled ownership situation would be nice, there's no reason a good GM couldn't have done something positive with the Expos/Nationals team Bowden was handed. But, you know, they handed it to Bowden.

So don't expect too much from the owner. That way, if he keeps the payroll low and hires his dim bulb golfing buddy to run the time, you'll be prepared. If he turns out to be Steinbrenner without the felonies and general jackassery, you'll enjoy it all the more.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I Wrote All of This on March 8

After today's loss to the Cardinals, The Nats are 1-6 in the Grapefruit League. My position has always been that Spring Training is a sick joke that deserves no more of your attention than an episode of whatever idiots-peeing-on-things show MTV is getting the teenagers to watch these days, so I'm not going to draw any conclusions. But I won't hold it against you if you want to start freaking out.

In the interest of fairness, I suppose I should mention that you actually didn't have to pay Baseball Prospectus to hear Will Carroll's long-awaited take on Barry Bonds. On the other hand, he didn't say a damn thing. And I don't just mean about Bonds: Mark Prior, Scott Rolen -- Will has an opinion on nothing but his own greatness. Which he's in favor of.

I'm enjoying the World's Base Ball Classic. I got to listen to Venezuela vs. the Dominican, and I found myself totally pumped for it, just as today I was surprised to discover that I was rather upset that the US lost to Canada. It's not as good as real baseball, but it's a much better March diversion than the Kia Tigers.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

It's Hard Out Here For A Buzz Machine

I don't know about you, but when I heard that there was solid evidence that Barry Bonds had been spending the last eight years injecting a veritable Long Island iced tea of steroids into his ass, I immediately wondered what baseball journalism's number one expert on sports medicine had to say about it.

Then I checked Will Carroll. I mean, the guy named not only his awful blog but also his book after the roids, and has been vocal (and quite dishonest) in expressing the absurd idea that performance-enhancing drugs don't enhance performance. He's been particularly interested in the Bonds issue, going so far as to characterize criticism of Barry as "statistical racism and chemical McCarthyism."

So you can imagine my disappointment when I headed over to the Juice Blog to find Scott Long's sad schtick supplanted by a statement that averred nothing but Will Carroll's whoredom. Let's run it down.
  • Will hasn't read the book.
  • He'll talk about it at Baseball Prospectus, so get your 40 bucks ready.
  • He's still right about everything.
  • Read his book.
  • "I am available to discuss this in the media. For interview scheduling, contact me through the Baseball Prospectus site."
  • No comments on this post.
To sum up: some huge news breaks, news that coincides directly with Will Carroll's self-proclaimed area of expertise. Will issues a statement in which he says next to nothing about it, asks for your money twice, and makes it clear that he won't be answering any questions posed by someone not "in the media." Let's remember this the next time this money-grubbing fraud waxes idiotic about the "new media" or whatever.

In other news, this is nice.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Puts My Trust in God and Man

Last week, the Post's Dave Sheinin did a nifty job of making the Post's Tom Boswell look silly. It probably wasn't on purpose, as it's not difficult to hit a target that big accidentally. He did it again today. The subject: Church.
Some in the Nationals organization felt that -- full-speed collisions with large, immobile objects notwithstanding -- Church did not do enough to get on the field last season. In other words, he was not willing to play with pain. The insinuations came in the form of blind quotes and non-specific criticisms that never fingered him by name. But Church knew.
I'm sure some of it sounded like this.
Right now, besides maintaining his form at the plate, Church has only one thing left to prove. And it's a touchy point, especially for a young player. He has the courage to make a play like the wall bash in Pittsburgh. But yesterday, with his name on the lineup card, he didn't play because his chest was still bruised from the collision. "No chance. I can't lift my arm above my shoulder."

Nats vets will be watching. Baseball is a tough game, not in terms of NFL-like violence but in its demand for month after month of grinding performance in the face of countless nagging injuries. Injuries that the normal citizen would certainly never consider minor. All rookies must prove their stripes in terms of play-hurt doggedness, not just heroic one-play grit.
Sheinin, the sane one, responds:
The fact is, the crash into the wall in Pittsburgh left Church unable to get out of bed or even turn on the shower without assistance. If anything, he came back too soon, causing more problems later on. As for the pinkie toe -- suffice it to say that a broken pinkie toe earns someone no sympathy. But Church said he could not even put on a shoe, let alone play baseball.
We're still waiting for Boswell's apology. One fun fact I was reminded of in that old Boz column: the player held up as the paragon of "month after month of grinding performance in the face of countless nagging injuries" is Brad Wilkerson, the same guy Boswell trashed because he didn't hit enough while he was playing hurt. That thing that Boz does where his opinion on a guy does a 180 once he's not a National anymore? I think that's my favorite thing Boz does.

As far as Ryan Church goes, it's a damn shame that he has to compete for his job. Even if Guillen is healthy and Soriano does wind up in the outfield, there is simply no competition for the third spot. Bill Ladson calls Brandon Watson "the only true leadoff hitter in the organization" so often he probably gets a nickel every time he does it, but all that means is that he's fast. Church isn't a slowpoke himself, and he, unlike Watson, can hit. I like Marlon Byrd, but I like him even more as the short end of a CF platoon with Church. I'm actually kind of hopeful here. Last year, the Nats surprised and thrilled me by ditching the Watsonesque Endy Chavez in favor of Church, and I think reason will win out this time as well.

The injuries? It's quite possible that Church is just one of those guys who takes a long time to heal, or maybe he's plain reckless. So what do you about it? Do you question his manhood because he's not in center when he can't raise his arm, or do you make sure you have a backup plan in case you lose him for a while? We know the Nats don't have the latter, so let's hope they don't resort to the former.

One more thing about the article: I'm hard on Frank Robinson, and I was expecting him to be at his worst talking about playing through injuries. But he made a lot of sense in this piece. Just thought I should mention that.

Thomas Boswell: Great Writer.
Perlozzo may be a remarkable upgrade over Lee Mazzilli, who had to rely on his subordinates to lip-sync strategy for him so much that he became known as Milli Mazzilli.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oh Definitely

It's been a literal (by which I mean the exact opposite of literal) rollercoaster of emotions for Nats fans the last few days, and I seriously don't know how you got through it without my guidance.

In case you missed it, lease! I'm assuming all this crap is over with for good, but I don't know what I'm talking about. I really hope we don't get a crappy owner. You know who I'm talking about.

Jose Guillen: Fine!
The original recommendation of surgery had been made Friday morning by Edward St. Mary, a hand specialist based near the Nationals' spring training headquarters in Viera, Fla. St. Mary's diagnosis was of tenosynovitis, or inflammation, of the extensor tendon in the wrist.

"When I got the description of what was going on with [Guillen], it just didn't add up," [competent doctor Timothy] Kremchek said in a telephone interview Saturday.
Did this guy go to Will Carroll Medical School? Anyway, this is really good news, even though I had ready a couple of really damning quotations from Guillen and Boz about how Nick Johnson and Ryan Church need to be tougher and play through injuries, the Jose Way. I have little confidence that Guillen will make it through the season healthy, though, so I'll (literally) keep my powder dry.

Ken Rosenthal is a hell of a reporter, but even the most reasonable person can have a bizarre idea that clings to his writing like -- literally -- an insane howler monkey. You can probably name a good dozen of the shrieky little bastards on my back. Rosenthal's simian symbiote is the idea that the perfect solution to the Soriano Scenario (or, if you prefer, Sorianario) is to throw literally tons of money at it.
The best way for the Nationals to persuade second baseman Alfonso Soriano to move to the outfield is not to say, "Jose Guillen might be out for three months. We need you more than ever."
No, the best way would be to demonstrate that such a shift would be in Soriano's best financial interests.
The Nats could make that case rather easily if they were under new ownership, easing Soriano's pain with say, a five-year, $60 million contract.
It's so insane, you can't believe Boz didn't say it, right? And Rosenthal means it -- this is the second time he's presented this five year plan to ruin the Nats. His reasoning hasn't gotten any better since the first time. Soriano's a terrible second baseman, and the secret's out. But if he moves to the outfield -- BAM! -- Andruw Jones. No, I'm serious; that's actually in the article.

There's little reason to think Soriano, a 30-year-old who has played in a major league outfield exactly as often as I have, would be good at it. Even if you think his athleticism gives him a shot, what kind of sense does it make to give not only an extension but a raise to a guy you expect to be the centerfielder of the future when he's shown neither the ability nor the willingness to do it? Do you relish the idea of a 35-year-old Alfonso Soriano cashing $12 million in paychecks from your favorite team? If so, thanks for reading, Mr. Boswell. Love your work.

Speaking of Boswell, the man showed why he's on the cutting edge of Nationals opinion-making. Back when we thought Guillen was heading for surgery, Boz put forward the controversial and indeed revolutionary idea that, if Soriano refuses to make the position switch, we should maybe start thinking that he might be a little selfish. Wow! I still don't know what I think of this. I mean, shouldn't we give the guy a chance before we call him selfish? Bodes knew what he was doing, after all.

By the way, I hear regularly that Boswell may be a ridiculous homer but a great writer. I'm not saying that's wrong, but how do we explain this?
Someday, in the encyclopedias where nicknames are included, does he want to risk the moniker Alfonso (AWOL) Soriano?
He was up against a deadline, maybe? Carbon monoxide leak? My theory: he went back and read that thing about SWAGGER. You'd have to be Sgt. Rock to get through that without getting at least a little tiny concussion.

One last thing,
and this goes out to all the Cards fans. I have a feeling this might be your year!

Are You Happy or Just Relieved?

The Post:

Major League Baseball today signed a lease for the Washington Nationals use of a proposed $611 million stadium project along the Anacostia Waterfront, clearing the way for the city to begin construction of the stadium and baseball to move ahead with the sale of the team, according to sources familiar with the process.

Sweet -- now I don't have to guilty about ignoring this anymore. The fun part is where MLB reveals the depth of their trust in the reliability of DC city government.

A major condition was that the document does not become legally binding if the city enacts further legislation that is contrary to the stadium funding plan that it passed last month, sources said.
Probably a good idea. Now how about an owner?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Power to Surprise

Oh crap, the season's over! Yes, we managed to beat the Kia Tigers, who appear to be some kind of Korean Washington Generals, but, just as I predicted back in June, John Patterson got destroyed -- three hits and two runs in one inning! Chad Cordero was even worse. What the hell are we going to do? If Patterson turns into a pumpkin, we've got nothing but Livan. And who's going to close? Soriano? We're doomed. I'll see you next March.

I mean, yeah, it was just an exhibition game and Patterson was on a 35-pitch limit, but anyone who thinks Ian Desmond is a top prospect based on a good couple of weeks in Florida last year should at least have the decency to panic about this.

There are two morals to this story: 1) Spring Training is completely awful and B) I'm a bitter, unpleasant man who holds pointless grudges. Lots of pointless grudges.

Speaking of grudges, Sheinin's latest gives me the chance to blow off some steam.
Because .397 Septembers fool no one, the Nationals' decision to hand the third base job to Zimmerman this season was not made without some trepidation . . .
Hey, Dave - I know someone who's fooled by .325 Septembers, and he also happens to the be the dean of dumbass baseball writing in the nation's capital!
The case for Bowden is so strong it's fascinating he doesn't get the benefit of the doubt here. Yes, Guzman hit .219. But he hit .281 after Aug. 1 and .325 in September with 12 RBI. Can't we give the guy a second chance?
I wonder if Sheinin meant to call Boz a nitwit. God, I hope so. There is also some heartening news in this piece, as we are informed that most people in the Nationals organization aren't as prone to bad comparisons as Jim Bowden is.
Zimmerman had not even played a professional baseball game yet when Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden compared his defensive abilities to those of Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt -- a staggering statement that had others in the organization rolling their eyes or cringing.
Beautiful. I can't wait to hear the stories that are going to surface after Bowden is finally out of here.

And finally, Ladson brings us the coolest thing I read about the Nats today:
Hollywood sighting: Actor Mickey Carroll was spotted at the game on Wednesday. He is making a tour of Spring Training camps. Carroll is best known for being a munchkin in the "Wizard of Oz."