Friday, June 30, 2006

You Can Tell I'm Mad When I Go Crazy With the Dashes and Happy Fourth Everyone!

How am I supposed to celebrate the independence of a country that allows Jim Bowden to walk the streets as a free man? Not just "free," but "employed." Not just employed, in fact, but "employed in a position with enough authority and job security that he can utterly ruin something I'm rather fond of." As opposed to before, when he could just ruin it a little bit for a little while.

So after two years, here's where we stand: Yes, we have a team, and that's the main thing. Everything else -- everything -- has gone wrong. I won't exhaust the list of petty stuff (laughable uniforms, lousy broadcasters, PNC Bank ads), because we're beyond. Our new owners are showing dismaying signs of frugality. Stan Kasten just proved himself -- maybe beyond any hope of redemption -- incompetent. And then there's Jim Bowden. Good old Bodes, the kind of guy you're glad is in baseball as long as he's got nothing to do with your team. An embarrassment as a baseball executive and maybe as a person. A symbol, as if another one was needed, of the Nationals' status as a second class franchise. He was the GM no one wanted -- hell, the GM other GMs wouldn't even talk to -- and they plucked him out of a TV studio because MLB didn't care and Bob Watson already turned them down.

And now -- gulp, steel yourself and say it -- Jim Bowden is our GM. Not the interim GM, and not the guy who won't make any moves until the real bosses take over. Jim Bowden is the real boss. It's obvious at this point that the Nationals aren't going to become a premier franchise anytime soon. Before we could hope. Now we just have to hope we're not the Pirates.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ahhh

Well, I feel better. The 2006 season got off to a very bad start. As I detailed in this Baseball Bias column (and may the earth rest lightly upon you, Baseball Bias), we pretty much got our head flushed in the toilet on the first day of school. You probably remember this, but Pedro Martinez and company hit -- with baseballs and malice aforethought -- everyone in the lineup, more or less. Finally, having taken more than any reasonable team could be expected to take, the Nats responded and received two suspensions, while the Mets got off without even a slap on the wrist. And we lost the game and the series. It stung like hell, and it was more than just being pushed around by the Mets. It was a reminder of our pathetic status -- no owner, little money, embarrassing management. As fans, we weren't in a position to talk trash to anyone.

This weekend's series against the Yankees finally sure changed my mood. The Yankees are everything the Nationals aren't: rich, successful, and professional. Their fans display an astonishing sense of entitlement, while ours work themselves into exhaustion trying to find a bright side in, say, parking garage negotations. And we did more than beat them. Alfonsono Soriano running wild like he was Jackie Robinson, Daryle Ward trying his damndest to kill himself huffing from first to home on Jose Guillen's triple, and finally Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off Father's Day home run -- we got a season's worth of highlights in one weekend.

It doesn't change much from a practical standpoint. Two wins against the Yankees don't cancel out four against Colorado, and we're still looking at a fire sale in the near future. Still, watching the Nats this weekend (and what a novelty it was to be able to do that), I had an odd feeling. It took me a while to figure it out: I was proud to be a Nats fan.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Current Events!

A riddle: What's the only thing worse than a busker?

A busker in an enclosed area.

Lawn 9, Me 0

Well, the Rockies swept the Nationals. Given that it was due in large part to the proverbially loveable Jamey Carroll and Baylor University's own Jason Jennings -- not to mention how happy it makes occasional Yard Work contributor Charlie Monfort -- I can't get too upset. Should I be worried, though?

Probably not. This kind of reminds me of last May. The Nats were playing pretty well, and surprised the hell out of me by staying not insignificantly above .500. But then they dropped two of three to the Blue Jays and got swept by Cincinnati, which prompted one of my all-time favorite jokes (because if I don't toot my horn, who will?):
The Nationals have often been described as "scrappy." This may be true, but the Reds just beat the "s" right out us.
What happened next? The Nats dropped another series to the Cardinals and then won 14 of 16 to vault into first place. Remember how rad that was? It probably won't happen again this time, but my point is not to worry too much about a sweep to a traditionally unimpressive team. Even though this was four games. At home. And Jamey Carroll beat us.

Speaking of which, I noted last year that Jose Guillen beats the hell out of teams he used to play for, a stat that fits neatly with his public persona (continually offended maniac). The conclusion:
Guillen versus former teams:
.333/.410/.688, 9 HR, 16 RBI in 93 ABs

Guillen versus non-former teams:
.297/.346/.478, 15 HR, 54 RBI in 387 ABs

He hits homers almost twice as frequently against his former employers, doubles at a better rate, strikes out less often, and perhaps most interestingly, gets plunked at a higher rate.
I'm not going to go through all his numbers this year, but he has hit half of his six homers against his former employers in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and it's a real disadvantage for the Nats that they don't see the AL West this year.

But what of mild-mannered Jamey Carroll? He has only one former employer, and he just got through destroying them: 8 hits, 3 walks, and 7 runs in four games. He's hit one-third of his homers against the Nationals. Sample size be damned: I conclude that, underneath the mild, Godly exterior, Jamey Carroll is determined to regain his manhood by exerting his dominance over the team that sold -- not even traded -- him like a piece of virgin meat. DAMN that's hot.

And the theme of vengeance takes us into the weekend, as the Nats host the Yankees. Alfonso Soriano's career line against the Yanks? .358/.402/.593 with 4 doubles, 5 homers, 10 RBI and 15 runs in 81 at-bats. And I think I just did a better job of getting you all keyed up for this series than Major League Baseball itself is capable of, if an email I received from them today is any indication.
Round two of Interleague Play should fire up fans' memory banks.
I remember when we didn't have to pretend that the Padres and Mariners were rivals.
The Orioles visit Shea Stadium, where Jerry Koosman, Jerry Grote, Ed Charles and the rest of the 1969 Mets performed their Miracle.
I remember that! I was so excited I sent a telegram to William Howard Taft, but he was busy hunting dodos.
The Dodgers and A's face each other in a reprise of the '74 and '88 Series.
Easily the highlight of my life until I was born.
And for those with really long memories, the Tigers and Cubs -- who played in the World Series 61 years ago -- meet again.
I bet the Cubs lost! And everyone was white! MLB ignored the really cool precedent here: the last time the Yankees came to RFK, the fans ran onto the field and started a riot so bad that there wasn't another baseball game in Washington for 37 years. If the marketing geniuses at MLB suggested that kind of excitement was about to ensue, I might have some interest in attending. But as it is, I figure a 9-0 forfeit loss is a lot less likely than a 9-0 regular loss, so I guess I'll just mow the lawn.

UPDATE: Another email, this one just for Nats fans!
Get your tickets now as Nationals stars Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson battle their former teammates!
In other words, "You're rooting for guys a great franchise didn't want anymore!" Way to rub it in, you bastards.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Discussion Question

If Jamey Carroll single-handedly beat us tonight, how upset would you be? What if he single-handedly sweeps us? What if he fouls off a ball that hits Bowden in the head? And Bodes is rolling around holding his head and he's all "Dawwwg . . . why you gotta . . . play me like that . . ."

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Game Notes 6-8-06

  • I think Philly's starter forgot to finish spelling his first name
  • Bang
  • Zoom

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I'm Leaning Toward CillyCelebs.com

Davey Johnson! You have to figure he won't be spending more than, say, five months as "consultant to general manager Jim Bowden." In other words, meet our new manager. An improvement over Frank? I'm too shortsighted and drunk to remember much about the guy -- I barely remember Preston Wilson -- but here's Bill James, the last and hairiest defender of Pete Rose:
. . . did you ever notice that Dave Johnson (as a manager) has the world's largest collection of disgusting personal mannerisms? He picks his teeth with his fingers, tucks his hands in his armpits, scratches his head, shakes and pats his unmentionables, spits, drools.
One quibble: "unmentionables" means underwear, and I'm pretty sure James is talking about balls. At any rate, Johnson's dugout behavior (ball-scratching vs. sleeping) is certainly a downgrade, but I expect him to be an improvement in all other areas. So yay.

Above: One result of a Google image search for "Davey Johnson"

The problem -- and I'm sure alert readers are way ahead of me here -- is that this scenario also makes it look quite likely that the Jim Bowden regime is going to last at least another year. On the one hand, I'm glad they're not holding the DUI against him. The other hand is much larger, and I think it has gangrene.

This is where I'm glad I'm carrying around so much apathy. I mean, what the fuck? This is Jim Bowden we're talking about. Yeah, I know there's this perestroika or whatever going on because Soriano's hitting a couple homers a game, but that doesn't make him not Jim Bowden. A while ago, I cautioned against hailing the Nationals' new owners as saviors. Now I feel like the anti-Will Carroll. Which is to say, I'm so fucking right. Not that I take any joy in it. With another year of Tracksuit Jim on the horizon, I'm thinking about starting one of those celebrity gossip blogs. It seems like people will read one of those no matter how crappy it is.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Feeble Kick

Hey, the Nats! I know I've sounded this note once or twice before, but a list of things on my television more frequently than the Nationals would include the Orioles, Samoa Joe, and Australian Rules Football. Combine that with my natural shiftlessness, and there's little chance of my summoning the pungent combination of vinegar and other fluids that make Distinguished Senators such a wild ride and its author a hero to children everywhere. It's hard for me to kick against the pricks, as they say.

Anyway, take a look at Alfonso Soriano. He doesn't seem to be interested in this, but I am.

Notice anything different about him? Notice that he's dressed like a baseball player, rather than an actor playing a baseball player in a commercial where they were too cheap to get the MLB license?

Here's Ramon Ortiz to remind of what a real baseball uniform looks like, as opposed to one designed by the people who brought us Turn Ahead the Clock Night. Is it coincidence that the Nats won not only this game, but also the next three? Yes, of course it is.

Speaking of the future, the amateur draft was today, and I've developed a test so that you, the reader, can figure out if you're a homer. With their first round pick, the Nationals selected Miami high schooler Chris Marrero. You don't know him from Adam, and neither do I.

Above: Chris Marrero in action.
Not really, but you didn't know that.

Is your response something like "Great pick! I think Marrero will be a real contributor!" Congratulations, your certificate is on the way.

The test works just as well with the following names: Colton Willems, Sean Black, Stephen Englund, Stephen King, Glenn Gibson, and Zechery Zinicola. Fifth round pick Cory Van Allen, however, is the perfect embodiment of the scholar/athlete and will be a contributor -- the question is not will he win a Cy Young Award, but how many will he win. How do I know? I just know.