Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Something I'd Hate

The changes in the broadcast teams this year have been for the better. I really like Dave Juggler Jagermei . . . the guy who replaced the guy who didn't say bang zoom. The new TV play-by-play guy is innocuous enough, and I started out pro-Tom Paciorek. But, as I've mentioned once or twice, I can't watch the Nationals, so small sample size caveats apply. The sample size got a little larger this last weekend when our unbelievably heated series with the Orioles merited extra TV time, and that was enough to turn me against Paciorek.

I don't think I ask for too much from my broadcasters. As long as you're not as big a loudmouth jackass as Rick Sutcliffe, I can pretty much ignore you. I can even tolerate Joe Morgan, as his awesome accent and awesomer suits make up for the nonsense he often forces Jon Miller to be polite about. Not everyone, I realize, can be Buck Martinez, and that's okay.

But Paciorek ventured into Ron Santo territory this weekend, and that's unforgivable. Cubs broadcaster Ron Santo holds two important distinctions: being maybe the best player not in the Hall of Fame and being maybe the worst broadcaster in the history of sports. Here's what Ron Santo says when something bad happens to the Cubs: "Nnh." Or "Oof." Or maybe "Augh." No analysis, just a pissed-off noise. It's completely unprofessional and the distillation of all the anti-intellectual homer tendencies that are always trying to ruin sports for me. You can probably see where I'm going with this, but here's a quick summary of Tom Paciorek's contributions to Friday night's broadcast.
  • Corey Patterson triples. Paciorek: "Oh."
  • Jeff Conine doubles. Paciorek: "Yrgh."
  • Ryan Church flies out. Paciorek: "Blugh."
At least it's somewhat understandable when Santo does it. He has, after all, been a Cub in one form or another for about eighty years, and one can appreciate the kind of blow it is for the old guy when things don't go the Cubbies' way, as they never do. But Paciorek's been involved with the Nats for about three months, and it's hard to believe that them blowing a lead is the bowling ball to the gut kind of experience he makes it sound like.

In a more positive development, I noticed a while ago that they've started playing "Hail to the Chief" when Chad Cordero comes out. I think that's completely, 100% great, which surprises me. It seems like something I'd hate.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Well-Fed

So all of a sudden Ryan Church is in AA. No, I didn't forget an "A," he's actually a level below Brendan Harris and Brandon Watson. There are excuses for that, but I'm not going to bother to mention them. The end result is that Frank Robinson -- and bear in mind that there are still people who think he's a great manager, and that their analysis almost always includes the phrase "586 home runs" -- has at times gone to war with an outfield of Alfonso Soriano, Alex Escobar, and Daryle Ward. Two thirds of that outfield have been the subject of special "This Dude Can't Field" pieces by Barry Svrluga, and the other one can't even hack it as a first baseman. As I've said before, there's a fine line between bad managing and sabotage, and Frank crossed that river and kept running.

Church certainly has struggled, and I (big surprise coming) blame Frank. Remember Tomo Ohka, how he walked everyone? Remember when he got to Milwaukee and suddenly stopped walking everyone? And remember how Frank would yank him out of games after -- or while -- he walked someone? I think we're seeing the same thing with Church. Maybe it means Church is soft, or maybe it means Frank's bad at his job. Probably both.

In other depressing, I-can't-believe-I'm-a-fan-of-this-joke-of-a-team news, the Nats can't spend a (relatively) little bit of cash to do something about the bullpen.
If the Nationals were to release a player currently on the major league roster, they would be responsible for paying the player until or unless another franchise signed him. So though Bowden believes there are several players in the minors who are, as he put it, "knocking on the door," he can't simply release veterans because it would essentially be adding to the payroll.
I think this is just a ploy to get me to care about the new owners. So far my interest has been limited to watching various hack sportswriters bonk their heads together trying to cram those heads up Lerner and/or Kasten ass. George Solomon is winning, in case you were wondering.
Theodore N. Lerner radiates the dignity one expects of an 80-year-old billionaire who has lived and worked here his whole life . . .
You've noticed that, haven't you? People who have lived in DC their whole lives have a certain nobility of bearing. And anyone who has a billion dollars got it from God for being a good person.

But I'm just being negative. Unlike my main man Thomas Boswell, who accentuates the positive to the point of lunacy. Some horse we would have all forgotten about in a year anyway broke its leg the other day, and the fact that 1,000 pounds of walking Alpo's hospital stay is front page news is the only thing preventing Boswell from being the dumbest thing in the Post today.

We won our heated, hateful series against Balitmore, and I blame the 15,000 empty seats per game on worries about the brawls that are de rigeur whenever Baltimorean goes against Washingtonian Virginian. The Nats hadn't won a series before that since beating Pittsburgh back at the beginning of the month, but Boz doesn't care.
These days, the Nats are just beginning to imagine a decent season despite a horrid start. Livan Hernandez had his second back-to-form start in a row Sunday with seven innings. John Patterson is due back in a couple of weeks. Maybe things won't be so bad after all.
Yeah, it's not bad at all! Alex Escobar Damian Jackson could be the solution in center field, and that's assuming we needed one -- my theory is that all those dropped balls in the outfield have been lulling our enemies into a false sense of security. Joey Eischen is bound to turn it around and become the gritty, foul-mouthed stopper we need. And as for the starting rotation, there are five pitchers there -- just like the Yankees!

William Blake ran out of Proverbs of Hell that apply to Boz, so I made one up. I think it sounds pretty authentic.
The well-fed ass is ever full of dung.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Svrluga: "You're a Damn Liar, Boz"

Tom Boswell, stating the indefensible:
And [Alfonso Soriano] hasn't butchered even one simple play.
Tom Boswell, backing up so fast I think he hit a deer:
Soriano's throwing has improved. Far more important, he seems to care. And he hates it when he screws up. However, he's missed several balls that a smooth "average" left fielder would have caught. He's definitely below average.
Barry Svrluga, not being a homer idiot:
But there is no question Soriano is costing the Nationals runs. That he has four errors -- tied for most in the majors for an outfielder -- and an abysmal fielding percentage of .951 tells only part of the story. Six games into a nine-game trip that continues today in Chicago against the Cubs, Soriano's adventures in left have played out awkwardly.
Jose Guillen, not being a homer idiot:
"We have to accept he's not a normal outfielder," right fielder Jose Guillen said. "You see when he tries to charge a ball and misses some of those line drives."
An anonymous scout, not being a homer idiot:
"He's awful," said one scout who has worked three Nationals series this season. "He's not a left fielder."
Alfonso Soriano himself, informing Boz that he's full of crap:
Asked last weekend if he felt comfortable in left field, the answer was quick, sure, and to be expected. "No," he said.
I point all this out not to criticize Soriano, whose general effort and good humor make me think a lot more of him as a human being than I did in March, but to draw attention to Tom Boswell's distortions and lies, which I'm still pissed about. That thing he said about Soriano not botching plays was a lie. It was impossible to defend (as Boz proved a day later), impossible to talk around (as Svrluga proved today), and evidence that Boswell doesn't think much of the intelligence of his audence.

As this Baseball Think Factory thread helpfully points out, he's still doing it. Here's what Boz said today about Barry Bonds.
When Pierre robbed him of what would've been homer No. 714, Bonds waved his arm disparagingly, dismissively at Pierre as if his excellent play in a close game were disgusting, an affront. How dare you?
Thanks to the internet, we can check this for ourselves. Go here and click on "Pierre robs Bonds." Watch Bonds' smiling, playful reaction to Pierre's catch and marvel at what a lying son of a bitch Washington's premier sports columnist is.

I'm overreacting, and I know it. But I'm sick of Boswell talking down to his audience as if Nationals fans were a pack of rubes who'd never heard of this game and, thanks to our ignorance, need to be told what to think about it. I'm sick of him dismissing well-reasoned criticism of his opinions by saying "Blah blah blah." Mostly I'm sick of the endless fact-mangling with which he supports his arguments. Boswell is -- for some reason -- well-respected, and his opinion carries weight. We should expect at least basic honesty from him, but all we get is condescension and lies.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I'm Fighting This Assignment

What level of frustration are you at? The way to tell this is to recall your reaction when Chad Cordero gave up that completely predictable walk-off grand slam to Jeff Francoeur on Saturday. So was it head-slapping frustration? Saying "fuck" a lot frustration? Laughing maniacally like somone in a Twilight Zone episode frustration? Me, I ain't frustrated at all. It's been a couple of weeks since I've laid eyes on a National, so as far as I'm concerned they barely exist. They're the thing on the radio breaking up the most annoying commercials in radio history (which is worse, the #1 Nationals fan groceries or the old guys singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"?). Sometimes I see something about them in one of the poorly-edited free newspapers I read in the morning when I don't have a book. So that makes my favorite baseball team essentially a cross between Elliott in the Morning and Nepal.

I missed the weekly Nats game I'm allotted because on Friday I went down to the rock and roll show. So I present:

The Distinguished Senators Concert Review
Pinback at the Black Cat - May 12, 2006

Pinback was very good, and all the Pinbacks did their best. They were totally Pinbacking. Pinning it back and letting it fly. Not even the fact that one of them (I call him Pinback #1) looked more and more like Jack Black as the show went on could ruin my enjoyment. To learn more about Pinback, check out their Myspace page and listen to "Penelope," which was the highlight of the show.

There was, regrettably, an opening act. If you've ever wondered what "Weird Al" Yankovic would sound like if he had less talent and more profanity, investigate Pleaseeasaur. Otherwise, don't.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Simple Play

Remember the episode of Charles in Charge (actually, I think it was a two-parter) where Charles got hit on the head and became Chaz, a leather jacket-wearing, floozy-humping bad-ass? Then he got hit on the head again and reverted to his earlier, more virtuous persona? That's kind of what happened to me. Here I was, cruising along, bringing content on the regular, when I made the mistake of reading one of Tom Boswell's email columns. It's disappeared from the internets, but maybe you remember it. Among other things, Boz posited that Gary Majewski's game-losing error against the Mets on May 1 wouldn't have happened if the Nats had an owner. It was a great example of projection: Boz is real upset about the ownership situation, so naturally all the guys whose posters adorn his bedroom walls are too.

Driven mad by the madness of the idea, I spent a week just sort of staggering around, gasping and trying to figure out a reason to go on living. Some things are too weird for the feeble mind of man, and this was one of them. How ironic that my salvation would be another Boswell column, this one even more gnarled and wicked than the first. Reading that twisted mess of nonsense acted like a frying pan on my muddled head, returning me to my accustomed angry state.

I'm not Christopher Hitchens and Boz isn't Mother Teresa, so there's no way I can do a better job taking this apart than already Harper did, and I demand that you read his account of Boswell's pennant-waving distortions. There is, however, one particularly low-hanging fruit I want to rant about.

Boz loves Alfonso Soriano, and that's fine. It's obvious that he loves Soriano solely because he's a Nat, but who am I to judge? And even I have to admit that there's a lot to like about the guy. His power, his speed, his hot start, his striking cheekbones, and his surprising (to me, at least) effort and good attitude about his new position. But that's not good enough for Boswell, so he stoops to lying outright.
In left field, he has only one error but five assists, a ratio that many thought would be exactly the opposite. He's misjudged a few difficult fly balls and looked awkward, but has also outrun the ball for a few fine catches. And he hasn't butchered even one simple play. [emphasis mine]
I haven't seen much of the Nationals, but I know that isn't true. I'm also a blogger, so I'm disinclined to do a lot of research. So I used my favorite research substitute, the wisdom of Google. This statement, "And he hasn't butchered even one simple play," is the most dishonest argument I've ever seen Boswell use. I hesitate even to call it dishonest, since it's so obviously wrong that it couldn't deceive anyone who's even vaguely paying attention. Boswell is beyond mere distortion at this point; he's lying. And that bothers me, because he'll never be called on it in any meaningful way. Sure, the blogs will complain, but he'll never see it. He'll get some snarky questions in his chat tomorrow, but he'll either ignore them or toss off an equally snarky and entirely inadequate response.

For all the idealistic talk about the free exchange of ideas and whatnot on the internet, it doesn't work out all that well in real life, unless misspelled personal threats count as "ideas." But there is something to be said about the instant feedback available to bloggers and message board posters -- it keeps you on your toes. You have to be ready to defend yourself, and that means (one would hope) that you put just a little extra effort into not babbling like a concussed halfwit. Boswell, tenured and well-respected hack that he is, is cozily insulated from this kind of feedback. Which is probably a good thing, because no one wants to pick on an old man, and that silly homer wouldn't last a week blogging.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Hijinks, Tycoons

Here's something I just thought of: I can't watch the Nationals. They're not on TV. I don't know if you heard anything about this, but it's true. Channel 20 is some nonsense with Tyra Banks. Channel 10 is some kind of basketball exhibition. Channel 3 is showing the sitcom hijinks of Bernie the Entertainer or Cedric the Mac or someone. The Nats, according to the Internet, just came back from a five run deficit, and I can't watch it. With the result that I don't care.

We've got some owners, but I can't watch the Nats so I don't care. I'm finding it hard to take personal joy from some millionaires who wouldn't hire someone to piss on me if I were on fire paying millions to some other millionaires for the right to pay the salaries of a bunch of millionaires who happen to wear a W on their heads when they play baseball. And seriously, I don't have anything against millionaires. I ain't a commie. But when I can't watch the Nats, I honestly don't give a damn who's signing the checks. And when I'm selling plasma and any other fluid anyone's interested in buying to pay for my home, away, alternate, spring training, and 2001 Giants Livan Hernandez jerseys, I don't find myself rooting for the real estate tycoons who are supposed to fix everything.

You may have noticed a lack of posting here lately. Guess why. That's right, I can't watch the goddamn Nationals. I notice, thanks to the Internet, that Jason Bergmann pitched well over one inning for the Nats tonight. Who's Jason Bergmann? Beats the hell out of me. I can't watch the Nationals, so I couldn't pick the dude out of a lineup.

Pretty soon, either the Nationals or the team they're playing (Padres, maybe? I dunno) is going to win the game. As for me, I'm going to bed. I'd stay up if there were anything good on TV, but . . . you know.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Time To Play B-Sides

I ran out of bloggin' time, but I would be remiss if I didn't point out that ¡Livan! is back, pendejos! He's still not going to win any games because he's on the Nationals, but he's going to lead the league in moral victories. And actual losses.

New Baseball Bias column! (At some undefined point later in the morning.) Will a buyer of unknown origin fix what's wrong with the Nats? Click on the Blue Oyster Cult album cover to find out how many words I waste saying no!