Friday, March 30, 2007

So . . .

I'm going to Italy. Back in a week. Anyone need anything?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Season Preview

It's the 2007 Distinguished Senators Season Preview! Previous editions were read and in some cases enjoyed by literally tens of people, and this installment is sure to be the best yet. We've got rodents, we've got Korean, and we've got an unashamed ignorance of anything that happens west of Philadelphia. It's going to get a little thin at the end because I don't pretend to know anything about the American League or the west, so of course I saved the American League West for last. And it's pretty long, so don't read it all at once, because this is the last content you'll be getting from me for a while. So buckle up and get Vegas on the line, because my predictions are ironclad.

NL EAST
New York
Atlanta
Philadelphia
Florida
Washington

Mets: So yeah, the Mets are going to win the division. I'm not happy about it, but it would be surprising if my happiness just now started to have any bearing on anything. And speaking of my fragile happiness, I got myself a brand new pet peeve in the playoffs last year. It seems like everywhere I went, someone was making sense of the NLCS by citing stuff that happened 20 years ago. "Well, we'd better hope Willie's boys play like it's 1986 and not 1985." This was being presented as serious analysis, and it's just stupid. To paraphrase Rick Pitino, Keith Hernandez is not walking through that door.

Braves: I'm fascinated by the Braves, in large part because I don't know who a lot of these guys are. I was aware of Brian McCann's incredible season, but only vaguely. Like how I'm aware of the fact of agriculture, though it doesn't weigh heavily upon me. But this looks to be an interesting team: storied veterans, ambitious youngsters, and Bobby Cox's grumpy ass watching over them all. I think I would have enjoyed following the various personnel moves and positional battles Atlanta's had to deal with, as these fellows have. I have this weird suspicion that the Nats aren't going to win the division this year, and if that happens I'm pulling for the Braves, not least because their recent signing of Mark Redman will give me a chance to dig into my endless supply of pictures of rappers.

Above: When there's smoke in the air his nose like Basset Hounds.

Phillies: I like old players. The older the better. If Julio Franco were wearing any other uniform, I'd have a shrine to him in the pantry. This creates problems for me from time to time. Randy Johnson is a hideous redneck headhunter who looks like he participates in Civil War reenactments and on the wrong side, but he's really old. What do I do? There is no such conflict with Jamie Moyer, however, and I'm glad to see him on a team where he'll be regular presence on my television. One thing I don't like: clown red uniforms. So on balance, screw the Phillies.

Marlins: You already forgot about Anibal Sanchez' no-hitter, didn't you? Here's something to guarantee that you'll remember it for the rest of your life.


Nats: So Bill James once wrote this essay about how everyone thought free agency and whatnot was going to ruin competitive balance in the 1970s, but it didn't happen until the 1990s. He was so wrong he might as well have been talking about Pete Rose, but that's beside the point. The 2007 Nationals are going to be what I thought we were getting in 2005, i.e., a really really atrociously bad baseball team. I thought the first edition was going to be awful, and they weren't. I thought the 2006 version would fulfill my prediction, but they were just run-of-the-mill, Orioles-style bad. Finally the apocalypse is upon us.

It'll be interesting to see, inter alia, how long it takes for the opinionists in the media to get angry. At this point, it's not like anyone doesn't think they're going to be really bad, but no one seems to mind. The Plan is still getting the benefit of the doubt, and it's easy to be flip when the awfulness of the team you have to watch all the time is still only theoretical. I figure by June, Tom Boswell's columns will be nothing but jaggedly sarcastic variations on Nats marketing catchphrases. "Stan Kasten can pledge his allegiance . . . to my ass!"

NL CENTRAL
Um . . . Astros
Cardinals
Brewers
Reds
Cubs
Pirates

Astros: I have no idea. None of these teams is that good. The Astros have a disturbing willingness to let Guzman-level offensive zeros play every day, but if their continued enabling of Roger Clemens' yearly prettiest-girl-at-the-dance routine pays off, they could do it.

Cardinals: Why are they being so damn cheap? I mean, they've got a new ballpark, a rabid fanbase, and a frigging world championship, and they're nickel and dimeing themselves out of what should be the easiest divisional crown since . . . well, since the 2006 NL Central. You can make an argument that they're not any worse than they were, but they won 83 games last year, so that really isn't good enough. I was about to pick them first, but I really can't justify it.

PS You should always read Yard Work, and you should especially read this. That site gets just transcendent sometimes.

Brewers: How long have we been waiting for these guys to get good? Seems like a while, but maybe I'm getting them conflated with Cleveland. Well, it's time to strike, because the iron is hot. Here's the secret decoder ring for that last sentence: "iron" means NL Central, and "is hot" means sucks. And "strike" means win 85 games.

The only thing I regret about canceling my MLB Audio subscription is that I won't get to hear Bob Uecker. If TBS maintains their long-standing policy of showing Major League five times a week, that'll take the sting off it.

Reds: I remember when Dunn/Griffey/Kearns were going to be a historically great outfield and push the Reds over the top. Hell, I was a Cardinals fan back then, and I worried about it. Couldn't sleep, lost hair -- all that. That's got nothing to do with nothing, but I'm getting to the point that I feel like I've been following baseball for a while. I remember a time before Sean Casey, and now he's already washed up. Clearly, I have nothing to say about the Reds.

Cubs: Yeah, whatever.

Pirates: Every pious complaint I make about the state of the Orioles applies here, too. This isn't based on anything but personal observation, but Pittsburghers seem to have a well-developed interest in their own baseball history, which is downright impressive considering how bad they've been for so long. They deserve better -- the decor at your typical expatriate Pittsburgh bar needs the kind of update that only a World Series can provide. By the way, that's one hell of a ballpark. You should see it.

NL WEST
Los Angeles
Arizona
Padres
Giants
Rockies

Dodgers, featuring special guest posters Dayn Perry and his trusty thesaurus: The Sidesteppers of the Municipality of the Heavenly Messengers anticipate that the annexation of the erstwhile supreme hurler of their bêtes noires will engender supplementary conquests.

Diamondbacks: New uniforms! Exciting prospects! ¡Livan! This is the first time in my life I've wanted to be anywhere near Arizona. Seriously, I've been thinking about it, and the D-Backs might be the funnest team to be a fan of right now. They've got a farm system to make Stan Kasten drool, and there's nothing sweeter than seeing a young athlete you've been observing for years establish himself as a major leaguer. Well, I suppose there are sweeter things in, like, real life, but we're focusing on baseball here. I'm not talking about a child's laugh or whatever, you sissy. If you're looking for that kind of thing, go here while I talk about Randy Johnson.

And they got Randy Johnson, which has got to be fantastic. According to sociologists, 95% of this glorious nation hates New York City, and Phoenix is no exception. Johnson is going to be way better here than he was with the Yankees, so that's one point. Plus his return reminds everyone of the 2001 World's Series of Base Ball, a triumph for Yankees-haters everywhere, so that's two points.

Then there's the new uniforms, which may not be great but are certainly an improvement. I'd always been vaguely embarrassed about the very existence of the Diamondbacks. They conformed to every detail of the stereotype of the classless expansion team, and as a modern baseball fan I felt somewhat responsible. All that purple, the swimming pool in the ballpark, the awful name voted on by locals, the whole thing. They were like the Rockies, but with a more effeminate shade of purple. Now the purple's gone, so all they have to do is change their name and move to Boston.

Padres: Cornering the market on Gileses, just as the Nats are buying up all the Ryans. I'm still waiting for my offer.

Above: the only Giles not under contract with the San Diego Padres, with hind.

Giants: Barry Bonds is going to be huge this year. His knee's better, he's out to piss everyone off, and he's going to overshadow completely another almost 80-win season. Which isn't a tragedy or anything.

Rockies: The Rockies have a chance to the be this year's Marlins. And by that I mean "finish well under .500 and not make the playoffs."

AL EAST
New York
Boston
Toronto
Baltimore
Tampa Bay

Yankees: You don't need me to tell you about the Yankees. I feel about the Yankees the same way I feel about American Idol: it's this thing that everyone's always going on about, and I just don't get it and wait for it to blow over. It worked with the New Kids on the Block.

Red Sox: You know what Daisuke Matsuzuka doesn't do? There are many correct answers to this question: photosynthesis, play the balalaika, throw the gyroball, write detective fiction. For some reason, gullible sportswriters accept that he doesn't do three of those things, but can't get their minds around the fact that he doesn't throw a gyroball. They're fixated on the damn thing. Which he doesn't throw. I felt like repeating that because you're going to hear he does over and over again from lazy, ink-stained wretches who use their deadlines as an excuse for not figuring things out for themselves and repeating utter codswallop until it becomes conventional wisdom.

Blue Jays: Seriously, how many of you remember that the Jays wound up in second place last year? They could finish first this time around (well, theoretically they could) and the headline on ESPN would be "Yankees and Red Sox: What Went Wrong?" Serves them right for Alex Trebeck, I guess.

Orioles: Another year in the mines. The only thing to look forward to is Buck Martinez saying "Chad Bradford." That's gonna be pungent!

This was one of the first entries I wrote, but thinking about it further, the Orioles really make you appreciate baseball. Yeah, they're not going to be very good. No, they don't have a chance. But I'm still going to watch, and there are things to look forward to. Miguel Tejada is a great player in his prime. Erik Bedard could be one of the best pitchers in baseball. Nick Markakis might be at the start of a Hall of Fame career. You're going to see Daniel Cabrera scare the hell out of batters, Corey Patterson run really fast, and Leo Mazzone rock back and forth all season long.

The fact that such a sad franchise can afford the viewer so many pleasures is a perfect encapsulation of baseball's awesomeness.

Devil Rays: I wouldn't begrudge the Rays their utterly meaningless existence except that it seems like they play the O's 40 or 50 times a year, which means that I spend far too much time watching games from the hideous domed putt-putt course they call home, and every time I see that place I die a little.

AL CENTRAL
Cleveland
Minnesota
Detroit
Chicago
Kansas City

Indians: I love this division. Nobody's too good, only Kansas City is too bad, and you know Ozzie Guillen is going to blow up in a totally hilarious manner at some point. I picked Cleveland simply because, all things being equal, they're the only team whose youth makes improvement likely.

Twins: I still can't believe Justin Morneau won the MVP. But I'm one of those stat-head dorks grizzled newspapermen are always complaining about, and I think the MVP -- as well as everything else you foolish hyoo-mans are concerned with -- should be decided by a series of ones and zeros.

Tigers: Remember when the Marlins won the World Series (the second time) and suddenly speed was cool? And teams were getting in line for the chance to give Juan Pierre money? I hope the lesson that managers take from the Tigers' unexpected success is that heavy smoking is cool. We need more public figures who smoke heavily.

White Sox: But that probably won't happen -- I didn't notice a lot of managers calling Magglio Ordonez names after the Sox won.

Royals: Everything you need to know about the Royals is right here.


AL WEST
Oakland
Los Angeles
Seattle
Texas

A's: Just when I think my ignorance can't get any more ignorant, I get to this division. Are we still supposed to mention Moneyball when we talk about the A's? I'm serious; I haven't been keeping up.

I like that Jason Kendall, even though by all accounts he's as dumb as two donkeys tied together. He's got an odd statistical profile: no power (career high in HR: 14), little patience (career high in BB: 79, but that's 20 more than he's had in any other year), and he doesn't strike out (career high: 79, but that was another aberration). You look at his batting line and you think middle infielder, but he's a 150-game-a-year catcher. It looks like he's declining quickly -- what used to be little power is now deadball era-type power -- but he still gets on base, thanks to decent batting averages and lots of HBPs. That decline's come too soon perhaps for a Hall of Fame bid (he's only 33 this year), but I'm rooting for him to bounce back.

Angels: Every angel exhausts his species. Especially these two:

And as long as I'm stealing images to fill out comments about team I don't know nothing about and care nothing about, let me assuage my guilt by telling you to investigate the works of Nedroid. If you're going to listen to my dumbass baseball predictions, listen to this: Beartato is the star of the new millennium. This one's my favorite. Beartato, suckas. Get used to it.

Mariners: The Mariners have a chance to be this year's Marlins. And by that I mean "get their manager fired."

Remember when they won 150 games or whatever because they got rid of A-Rod? I guess they need to do that again, because it's been all downhill from there. Ichiro's had enough of this crap. He's going where the action is. He didn't come all this way to let some Orioles cast-off "baseball man" (defined as someone who's been fired twice) tell him what to do.

Rangers: So, the Rangers . . . should I just wrap this thing up? I think I'll just wrap this thing up.


ILL-THOUGHT-OUT BUT NONETHELESS GUARANTEED TO COME TRUE MISCELLANEOUS PREDICTIONS
MVPs: Pujols and Ortiz
Cy Youngs: Schmidt and Halladay
Wild Cards: Arizona and Boston
World Series: Dodgers over Yankees
Kenny Rogers suspended for: upon being discovered with a copious amount of wood glue on his glove, giving the home plate umpire a brisk, open-handed slap across the jaw
Cristian Guzman's batting average: .214
Cristian Guzman's on-base percentage: .214
All Star Game result: don't care
Number of times I re-use that squirrel picture: 7

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Essais de Théodicée sur la Groin de Logan

Theodicy is the branch of theology that endeavors to explain the existence of evil in a world governed by a benevolent and all-powerful God. Providence is the idea that God provides for and takes care of us. Sometimes the difference is a matter of perspective.

Nook Logan messed up his right groin (I only have one myself) on Saturday and is probably headed for the disabled list. Rough stuff. Here's a guy who's struggled for years, shuttling from the minors to the majors and back. He finally finds a team desperate enough to give him a chance to be a starter. Just as his dreams are in reach -- WHAM! -- one of his groins fails him. A theologian's rationalizations, I think, would be no comfort to Nook Logan right now.

Consider the Nationals, though. This works better if we pretend that the team is a sentient animal, one that's incapable of taking care of itself. It lives in some kind of open to the public pen, surrounded by slack-jawed yokels watching its every move. Its handlers do their best for it, constructing a shiny new pen and making sure it gets the best diet they can afford. But sometimes things get a little tight, and the Plan just doesn't have room for the top-of-the-line chow in the budget. So they're going to feed it Nook Logan, which at the very least is going to give the Nationals a very severe case of indigestion, the worst it's had since so much money was sunk into that four year's supply of Guzman. Well, Logan's injury, like a bolt from the heavens, may have just saved the Nationals life. That'll make you think and make you grateful, and you're not particulary concerned that some poor fellow just lost a groin.

And that's pretty much how I feel. I'm sure Nook Logan's a nice guy and all, and we're all brothers on Spaceship Earth and all that crap, and I suppose on some kind of philosophical level I'm deeply concerned about his groin. Or, to be more precise, I know I should be deeply concerned about his groin, but I'm not going to lie to myself. Nook Logan can go ahead and schedule a full-on double groinectomy if that means Chris Snelling gets to play every day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Off Topic

It's no news to dedicated consumers of Nationalistic bloggetry that the Nats are having a hard time holding peoples' interest. Instead of bellyaching, though, I'm making my own interest. You can probably guess what that means: Terps! And -- what the hell -- Orioles!

It was kind of a rough week for my beloved Maryland scholar/athletes. They dropped their second ACC series on the road to Miami the One in Florida, and then got roughed up at home by James Madison. Perhaps the 27-0 drubbing of Coppin State, called off after eight innings, made them feel better, and they're head into a weekend home series with Clemson on a high note, having beaten VCU just tonight.

No doubt you're wondering how Brett Cecil's doing. Quite well, thanks for asking. He picked up his sixth save of the season on Sunday when he faced five batters. He did take the loss on Saturday, but it was in a valiant effort: he entered in the seventh inning and would have gotten the long save if he hadn't been betrayed by his defense. So, an actual loss but a moral victory, and I hope the scouts appreciate it.

I've got a new position player to start following: freshman outfielder AJ Casario. Not only did my wife chat with his stepmother at a game, he's hitting .387. Not a lot of power, and a less than enviable K/BB ratio, but .387 is .387, and he's, like, 18, so lay off. He went 7 for 11 against Miami, so it's not like he's just fattening up on Coppin State, either.

In other Ich bin ein Marylander news, the Orioles are all screwed up. Still. Tom Boswell had a really good column as to why, prompting to me to wonder why he can't make this much sense when he's talking about the Nationals.
"I just thought that Brian [Roberts] should stay an Oriole, not that the front office didn't think so. They were looking at it from a standpoint of improving the ballclub," Angelos said Sunday, confirming that he nixed an offseason deal for slugging first baseman Adam LaRoche. "And they may have been totally right. I looked on it as the retention of a player that came through our system and who is of such great value to the club for all the things that he does out there with the public and in the hospitals and so on."
I mean, honestly. It's like some dumbass who thinks Preston Wilson should have gotten a big fat extension because of his community service is running the team. A major league team, not that he hasn't tried to make that difficult to figure out as possible. You can make the argument that the O's shouldn't have made the canceled-at-the-last-minute Roberts for Adam LaRoche trade. I would have done it, but it's not a Bowden vs. Bavasi slam-dunk. But this particular non-trade isn't the problem. Boz:
What Angelos refuses to grasp, no matter how many times he is told, is that the issue is not the merit of any particular trade, free agent signing or draft pick. The problem, and it is absolutely central to the Orioles' organizational disaster, is that Baltimore is cursed with a billionaire who is constantly injecting himself at the last minute to reverse decisions that have been made after long labor and best judgments by his baseball people.
It's really a shame. I'm not exactly an Orioles fan, though my marital status, my hatred for a fair number of the O's divisional rivals, and Buck Martinez make it so that I'm rooting for them more often than not, and it would be nice to see them win half the time. It's going to be tough going a whole year without seeing one meaningful game on MASN that doesn't have Frank Robinson playing right field.

Speaking of MASN, Dick Heller has a column I didn't read about how much we should hate it because it means mad scrilla for Angelos. I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, 300 more baseball games on basic cable is awesome. ¡Livan!-level awesome. On the other, though, I've learned what can happen when you make a deal with the Devil. The Green Angels, for instance, sold out for mainstream pop success, and they got it. But look what happened with the bill came due:

I know we have a lot of readers from Haiti and Cote D'Ivoire, and I really want to drive this point home for them.

And this one's for all my kamraten holding it down in Sweden.

So don't enjoy MASN too much, because I can only imagine what kind of brollopspresent Angelos has waiting for us.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Whims

It's Chris Snelling Day! The Post, the Times, and the Official Propaganda Organ all covered the wild card in the outfield horse race, if you don't mind me mixing my metaphors. Snelling is making the most of his opportunity: Ryan Church isn't hitting, Nook Logan isn't hitting, and Snelling is healthy, which is really the only problem he's ever had. Of course, that's like saying that the only problem with the Nats is that their players aren't any good.

Given the occasion, this seems to be the right time to announce a very important conclusion I came to some time ago: Chris Snelling is now my favorite National.

It's been hard for me since ¡Livan! was traded. I weighed all the possibilities, and I came up with nothing. Ryan Zimmerman's the obvious choice, but he's going to be everyone's favorite player for the next ten years, destined to be wildly overrated by everyone within a fifty mile radius. It's the same thing that turned me against Cal Ripken. As good as Zimmerman is and will be, he's not a very interesting story. Great baseball player kicks ass in college, kicks ass in the minors, kicks ass in the majors. I can't relate to that, and it doesn't lend itself to insights on the human condition, which is what we're all after when we watch baseball. Right?

Nick Johnson is a marvelous, efficient player, but he's as exciting as watching George F. Will watch Ben Stein watch paint dry. So forget that.

John Patterson kind of lost me with the whole "Call me Big Nasty! Everyone call me Big Nasty!" thing, and my near-clinical pessimism makes me suspect that he's never going to be very good for very long.

All other candidates -- including Chad Cordero -- are out because they're either likely to be gone too soon or unlikely to be in the majors this year. Absence does not make my fickle heart grow fonder.

So what was it about Livan Hernandez that made me such a fan? It came down to three factors: ¡Livan! is unique; my team screwed over another team to get him; and he required my advocacy. I hope we remember what it was that made ¡Livan! so unusual: his girth, his Cuban raftiness, his much much better-looking half-brother, his hitting ability, his uncertain age, and his lackadaisical pitching style. This was before my time as a fan, but he was acquired for pretty close to nothing as far as talent goes (Jim Brower and Matt Blank in case you're curious), so ha ha take that Giants. And finally, ¡Livan! was criminally underrated for most of his Expos/Nationals tenure. Despite being completely awesome in 2003, even better in 2004, and still really good in 2005, he didn't receive even one Cy Young vote over that span. Naturally, this brought out my pronounced activist streak, and I spilled far too many words trying to convince the world of his radness. Like here (special guest stars in that post: a Replacements reference, a long-defunct blog, Will Carroll being well over 100% wrong about something, Yuda).

Chris Snelling, despite lacking in physical size, fits quite neatly into the ¡Livan!-shaped hole in my fandom. Uniqueness? Well, he's Australian, which, though not unique, is at least out of the ordinary. Given the endless catastrophe's of Snelling's career, you'd hope he has someone to offer him the spiritual guidence he needs to keep going at it. And he does: Yoda.
The Yoda thing. Well, many people have asked me this and it's hard to explain to a person why I write the name of an ugly looking green guy in my autograph. I do it not because of what he looks like. It started back when I watched Star Wars every day for about 5 years, all through my high school years. I do it because it's my focal point. To me a focal point is something to get your mind off worrying about your technique. When I'm feeling down or unconfident I go back to what he said to Luke Skywalker on planet Endor just when Luke is about to fight Darth Vader in 'Return of the Jedi'. He says, 'Try not, do or do not, there is no try'.
How's that for unique?

And that kind of quirkiness is one reason Mariners fans were so sorry to lose Snelling. The main reason, though, is that a suddenly and unexpectedly cutthroat Jim Bowden plundered the Mariners to get him. Hell, I would have given up Jose Vidro just for the three-fourths of his salary Seattle sent over. To get that plus my new favorite player plus a pitcher who has a pretty good chance to replace Livan at least lardwise . . . well, that's one for the ages.

As for advocacy, the recent turn of events detailed in the articles I mentioned up top make mine much less essential as well as putting me in a difficult position. Thanks to Manny Acta's and Jim Bowden's stubborness about letting Nook Logan play every day, my favorite player is competing with my sacred cow, Ryan Church. I can hold out hope that Logan takes his proper seat on the bench before too much damage is done, leaving us with our correct Snelling-Church-Kearns alignment. But until then, Snelling should be the starter, if only because he can probably lift a bunch of rocks with his mind while balancing on one arm.

Monday, March 19, 2007

First Base

We may look back and conclude that it was Nick Johnson's broken femur rather than any conscious personnel decision that made the 2007 Nationals unwatchable.

Driving this home now is the latest twist in the low-stakes competition for the interim first base post, which, depending on how Johnson recovers, could mean a whole season's worth of work for the lucky winner. Coming into camp, it was clear that Nats management wanted Larry Broadway to win the job. Broadway is a prospect only in the same sense that William Hung is a wildly popular recording artist: it's certainly not true now, and it may never have been true at all. He (Broadway, not Hung) has failed to impress in spring training. His .333 batting average is nothing to be ashamed of, but it's kind of cheating when you do it with nothing but singles.

So Broadway's been sent back to AAA and his spot, both on the roster in the desperate hopes of the brain trust, is occupied by Dmitri Young. Looking at this Post piece, the ghost of Jose Guillen reminds us how risky this is. Opinion of Young, as it was with Guillen, seems divided between those with experience of him (negative) and those who are dealing with him for the first time (positive), with Jim Bowden again on the sidelines assuring us that everything's going to be just fine.
Tigers left fielder Craig Monroe declined to answer a question about Young on Thursday, and another Tigers player interjected, "I think what [Monroe] is saying is, 'If you don't have anything good to say about someone, don't say anything.' "
It's worse than that, though, because Young's offenses are much more serious than Guillen's -- Jose was a hot-head who got exiled from Anaheim for locker room incidents. Young beat up his girlfriend and skipped out on his court date, among other things. Plus there's the fact that he can't play first base.
One Tigers official, informed that the Nationals plan to play Young at first, said, "Believe me, they don't want to do that." Young's last appearance there for the Tigers ended disastrously, with Young making three errors in a game July 31 at Tampa Bay. After that, Young would play only 23 more games for the Tigers -- all of them as DH.
On top of that, Young hasn't had a good enough bat to carry first base since William Hung's heyday. Put it all together, and there's a miniscule chance that this is going to work out satisfactorily.

The alternative is even worse: we haven't heard much about Travis Lee because there's nothing to say about him. He can't hit. He can maybe field. He's more suited to a job as Matt LeBlanc's stunt double than as a major league first baseman.

There is a way out of this mess. Kory Casto is one of few nice things in the Nats' farm system, and now that he's gone from third base to the outfield, he's picked up a first baseman's glove. This is the right thing to do, for a number of reasons.
  • Casto's upside is higher than that of any of the other options, including Broadway. He's already displayed impressive patience and tantalizing power, and it's not going to take much for him to be a defensive improvement over Da Meathook.
  • Casto is one of our guys. It's a lot more satisfying to root for someone who grew up in your system and is going to be around for a while. The fan appeal of the players shouldn't be the primary factor in deciding who plays, but a team that's admittedly not really trying to win should probably throw the cranks a bone every now and then.
  • In the glorious tradition of Cristian Guzman and Terrmel Sledge, Kory Casto will be a real test of who's paying attention; that name requires an almost monastic concentration not to spell wrong.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Up Yours, Leather

I stopped reading Deadspin a while ago because . . . well, I really don't know why I was reading it in the first place. Because everyone else was, I guess. I was interested, though, in seeing who they'd get to do their Nationals preview. The Twins got Aaron Gleeman, the internet's leading Twins guy. So good job there. Some of the others were doled to out the site's various cronies and hangers-on, but at least they were fans of their subjects.

We got Dan Shanoff. Who's Dan Shanoff? I'm just finding this out for myself, because as a Nats fan, I have no reason to know who he is. He's some out of work blogger. Is he a Nats fan? No. Is he a Nats expert? Not unless a Google search counts. Does he have any business writing a preview of this team? Not as far as I can tell. Maybe it's funny -- I never found "You're with me, leather" either funny or believable, so I'm not one to judge the comedic standards over there.

OK, so there's a crappy article about my favorite baseball team. Big deal. What bothers me is the idea that they gave it to Shanoff because they couldn't find anyone else to write the thing. Did Needham want too much money? Did Basil not want to ruin his cred with Can't Stop the Bleeding? Did Ball Wonk die? I could go on, but the point is that the Nationals have an usually large and unusually talented cadre of bloggers, which Shanoff himself acknowledges. So why do we get an ill-informed non-fan turning an uninterested and uninteresting pile of links as a preview? Does getting shit-canned from ESPN lend one that much celebrity appeal?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Because, See, You Can Get It From Turtles

To follow up on yesterday's whine: how lame is Spring Training? The guys getting paid to blog about it are barely bothering anymore.

But that's OK, because I've got Terps fever! Well, a mild case. Not full-blown salmonella or anything, but that's just because they're out of town. You probably didn't hear about this because those losers at the papers didn't want you to hear about it, but the Terps went down to wherever it is North Carolina State plays (somewhere in the state of North Carolina, I'm pretty sure, but I can't get any more specific than that) and took two out of three from an apparently favored Wolfpack, and it's just a damn good thing that there's no rule about getting beat so bad in the third game of a series that they retroactively say you lost the first two.

I say apparently favored because the only thing I know about college baseball is that teh Terpz rool(!), and these dudes said NC State was going to sweep them. Hah! Seems like any sucker with a Blogspot account can just start yapping about baseball . . . well, never mind that. Instead, let's focus on a guy I really need to come up with a nickname for, lefty closer Brett Cecil. "Beanie and"? "County"? "The Marquess of Salisbury"? Clearly, I need to get out of the nickname business.

At any rate, Cecil picked up two more saves, bringing his total up to 5. Which I guess is kind of a lot this early on. I hope this guy gets drafted by a team I like (hint, hint). Remember what I said before, Stan. I'm giving you this advice for free.

Trees in the park! Cherry trees! That's pretty damn neat. Not neat enough to get me to blow a hundred bucks on season tickets this year, but still neat. Neat neat neat. The real story here, though, is that the stadium's evidently going to be open on time. This fact snuck up on us quietly, but it really is one of the most amazing things that's ever happened. Remember when it kept almost getting killed? Marion Barry was going to stop it, then Linda Cropp, then I stopped paying attention but it seemed like every few months some other hurdle appeared. Yet here we (almost) are, and I don't know who should get the credit. But I'm going to go old school and give it to Jack Evans. Keep up the good work, Jack.

I already like this blog. He's got the right attitude. "The ’07 Nats could possibly be the worst team in the history of baseball." Damn right. No getting around that. A certain attitude is needed if we're get through this season -- bemused apathy or something similar, and think Your 2007 Washington Nationals has what it takes to make it through to October without losing it. It's right over here. Click on it.

Personal to the person who got here looking for information on where the Puppy Bowl is filmed: Silver Spring, MD.

Monday, March 12, 2007

It Happens Every Spring

Spring Training has so far gone just as I predicted. It's been, from a fan's perspective at least, a complete waste of time. My own personal interest in the Nats and their works was just starting to bloom anew, only to be crushed under the muddy boot of meaningless games and Viera datelines. It can't end fast enough.

The big story out of Florida has been that everybody sucks. There was some foolish optimism about the pitching -- Tim Redding or Jason Simontacchi or one of these other guys was going to put it all together maybe by discovering a baseball-repelling substance or breaking his arm and having it heal in such a way that it gives him a super fastball.

When I put it that way, it's not all that surprising that it hasn't happened yet. It would require more interest in this nonsense than I have to determine exactly who's sucking and how much, so I'll just leave it as a generality: they all suck. I fully expect those three words to become a refrain throughout the season, because it's not going to stop.

Similarly predictable are the early returns on Nook Logan. Minors, majors, spring training -- he can't hit and he never will. For the love of Richie Ashburn, what's it going to take for this team to realize that for a speedy centerfielder to be useful, he has to be a better hitter than, you know, me? The propaganda ministers over at the official site didn't even sound convinced this time around. "He can hit lefties!" "He can . . . um . . . I guess he can bunt." He's a poor man's Brandon Watson, who's a poor man's Endy Chavez, and I swear Ladson almost said that once before he caught himself.

Also sucking is Ryan Church, but there's a vital difference here. Church has something of a pedigree. While Nook has never hit, Church has. Not at an MVP level or anything, but enough to be useful. And the most joyous difference we've noticed between Frank Robinson's and Manny Acta's managing style is that the former seemed to judge his players on the basis of grittiness and guttiness and testicular mass (figuratively) (I hope), while Acta has already awarded Church the job based on -- get this -- the fact that he's good at baseball. Truly a new breed of manager.

Meanwhile, Ryan Zimmerman didn't sign a long-term deal with the Nats. Astoundingly, this has produced news. Maybe the adverb at the beginning of this sentence should have been "preposterously." Or, depending on how drunk I am, "completely retardedly," because this is pretty close to the exact opposite of news. I don't know if we can chalk it up to the lack of actual news or the healthy ignorance of fans about the arcane rules of major league indentured servitude, but Zimmerman is owned by the Nats -- lock, stock, and nickname -- for years. Years. Seriously: by the time we have to worry about whether or not Ryan Zimmerman will be a National, not one player on the roster now, in March of 2007, will still be wearing the curly W.

So the fact that Zimmerman's people talked to Kasten's people and nothing happened other than the inevitable renewing of his unbreakable contract is about as newsworthy as the sun rising tomorrow then, after a certain period, setting.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Kasten: "If Bodes is OK with Ryan, He's OK with Me"

From Sports Illustrated:
The marriage of holdover Nationals GM Jim Bowden and new team president Stan Kasten was predicted by some to be a tough one from the start, and while there are whispers the odd couple isn't seeing eye-to-eye, Kasten strongly stressed that those rumors are untrue. "That takes me by complete surprise,'' Kasten responded by phone. "I think everyone's on the same page, and I know we've made a lot of progress from what was a difficult situation when we took over. Even Jim's critics would have to admit he's had a pretty good run of moves.'' [Festive, Mexican-themed emphasis mine]
Kasten didn't name any names, but I know when someone's talking about me. And the sooner he starts using Distinguished Senators for all his personnel decisions, the better this crazy thing's going to go. Here's a tip for you, Stan: I've got the inside line on a mysterious new pitch. Call me.

Will Carroll Has the Goalpost Movers on Speed Dial

From a Baseball Prospectus chat:
bmcginni (Indy): Speaking of the mystical gyro ball...why is it that scouts can't tell if Dice-K is even throwing the gyro? I read that in Matsuzaka's first start the scounts couldn't tell if he was throwing it, the hitters thought he was, and Matsuzaka wouldn't say. What would make it effective if nobody even knows for sure whether it exists because you can't tell if it's being thrown?

Will Carroll: First, does it matter? All I want to know is that the ball ends up in the catcher's glove, not the cheap seats. If you want to call it a slurve, a sinker, a shuuto, a backup, or Pee Wee Herman, it doesn't matter. If the ball comes at the hitter's waist, then drops, is it a hammer curve, a splitter, or a gyro? If it tails in, is that a riding fastball, a sinker, or a cutter? We're too focused on the description when we should be focused on the process.
Totally. We don't want to get caught up in labels here, people. Especially if, say, we completely misinterpreted a book about a new pitch because we couldn't read it and didn't bother to have it translated. And then, say, we just looked at the pictures until thought we had it figured out. And we've been contradicted so many times by people who know so much more about this than we do that we are -- here, in this chat -- taking the first step to claiming that whatever the hell we're teaching high school kids in Indiana isn't a gyroball at all, but actually something even newer and better and -- best of all -- something we can name after ourselves. The Carroll Ball? The Slick Willy? The Juiceball? The Buzz Machine? The Powerful Paralyzing Perfect Pachydermous Percussion Pitch?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Second Mike Piazza Post in the History of This Blog

Apropos nothing: when Mike Piazza goes into the Hall of Fame, is "Florida" going to show up on this plaque? In case you've forgotten -- and forgetting about this is probably a sign of normalcy, especially compared to the amount of time I've spent thinking about it -- the Dodgers traded Piazza early in the 1998 season to Florida. He played five games there before being shipped to the Mets, who desperately needed him, as their starter until Piazza showed up was apparently Alberto Castillo.
Above: Hyperbole
Five games, seven days, four singles and a triple -- that's the extent of Piazza's Florida career. It was pretty incongruous: Piazza, making $8 million and coming off a year in which he should have won the MVP, making a layover on the worst team the National League had seen until the 2007 Nats, the infamous Firesale Marlins.

Don't worry, Mike. It'll be over soon.
Thanks to the pretty rad Hall of Fame website, doing some actual reporting or at least fact-checking was a breeze. The nearest equivalent to Piazza's situation I could think of was Babe Ruth's forgotten final 28 games, when in 1935 and at the age of 40, the Babe's career petered out with the Boston Braves.

Not a photoshop. As far as I know.
Look at his plaque, and there it is: "Boston-New York, A.L.; Boston, N.L. 1915-1935." Just in case, I checked the next most similar situation I could find rattling around in my brain, which actually wasn't very similar at all. The shortest stop in Rogers Hornsby's career was also the Braves, although he spent a whole year with them. But his plaque not only doesn't have Boston, it doesn't list his teams at all. So I'm guessing that feature of the plaques wasn't regularized until later. My fact-checking didn't extend that far.

So then I thought -- and O what a marvelous tale this is in the telling! -- of a totally, almost perfectly comparable dilemma. Ryne Sandberg (whose middle name is "Dee," which I guess spurred him on to great feats of athletic prowess, because that's just girly -- Sort of a boy named Sue effect) started his career with 13 games and a 1-6 batting line with the dumbass Phillies, who proceeded to trade him for Ivan DeJesus. Hey, you don't win one championship in 125 years by being smart. Anyway, Philly's on the plaque.

So, to answer my own irrelevant question: Yes, Florida will be on Mike Piazza's Hall of Fame plaque. And now you know . . . the rest of the story. Good day.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Gyroball!

There's a sweetness in revisiting aspects of your life that you've set aside. Visiting your old high school, for instance, or hiding in the bushes outside your first girlfriend's house. So it was with me; first with blogging and now with the inevitable companion to blogging, batting Will Carroll around like a kitten with a shiny foil ball.

And did I ever used to do that a lot! I notice, as I lovingly peruse my own archives, that January of 2006 alone saw me pretend to interview him, call him on the hypocrisy of mocking James Frey while also calling his co-blogger/ass-kisser a moron for adoring James Frey and for being too damn dumb to even read his book (special guest star in the comments to that post: Probably Bill Ladson!), and get pretty annoyed at his AIDS jokes and fumbling attempts to backhand Aaron Gleeman.

Those were good times, weren't they? Since then, though, it's become harder and less rewarding to follow Will's absurd adventures in the land of pseudojournalism. For one thing -- and if you're looking for an indictment of sports journalism, here you go -- keeping up with Will actually costs money. Sure, I'll read Carroll's hilarious proclamations of his own importance if they're on some blog, but the crew at Baseball Prospectus (Swingin' Joey Sheehan and the Doctrinaires!) sure isn't getting my forty bucks again.

The other reason for my letting up is that Will's spent most of his time talking about this damn gyroball, and I A) don't care and 2) don't have the kind of knowledge of the subject matter that would allow to me to critique Will's blatherings with any kind of authority. But with Daisuke Matsuzaka, allegedly a constant practioner of the arcane art of the gyroball, making his major league debut, Will's been all over the place (or sulking when he's not mentioned). What finally sent me over the edge was this piece by the Post's own Dave Sheinin -- a Distinguished Senators Most Favored Sportswriter -- which pretty neatly summarizes how the cynically credulous coverage of the gyroball is allowing Will to spew his falsehoods far and wide.

What was supposed to go here was a recitation of events. Thanks to Google and my new favorite Cubs fan, though, I don't have to do any of the work. A fellow named Koch over at CubDumb has been doing some very important work, and, unless you're one of those DS fans who tunes out when Carroll comes up, you owe it to yourself to read this and then this. Seriously good stuff. Basically, Will has been wrong about this pitch (or pitches or whatever) at every step. His well-documented shamelessness, though, serves him well here, as he's quite comfortable just changing his story as the facts necessitate. At first, Will described this magical superpitch that a mysterious, inscrutable far Eastern hurler threw regularly. This blew up once someone (Jeff Passan in this case) did some actual reporting or at least fact-checking and found that -- Oops! -- Matsuzaka doesn't even throw it. Events continued to unfold in pretty much this pattern: Will claims something, an actual journalist or player or physicist contradicts him, and Will adjusts, always hoping to be recognized as the expert in spite of the fact that -- whatever truth there is behind all this double-spin mechanics and whatnot -- Will's uncovered none of it. From the Boston Globe:
"The Secret of the Miracle Pitch" has never been translated into English, and given all the confusion surrounding the pitch, it's perhaps apt that the man who has championed it in the States doesn't speak Japanese. Yet Will Carroll managed to procure a copy of the book, and though he couldn't read it, he deciphered the book's myriad illustrations and drawings, and fashioned himself as something of a gyroball guru.
That's how a real journalist says that he thinks you're full of crap, Will.

Whatever the facts of the "gyroball" are -- and I'm in no position to figure that out -- it's clear that Will Carroll has no idea. It's also likely if not certain that they're far more prosaic than Carroll and the mainstream press' coverage are letting on -- maybe so prosaic that it's just a cut fastball or something. That doesn't make for good copy, though, and that's why I'm annoyed with Sheinin and company. Here's how almost all of these stories have gone:
  • Part I: Obligatory reference to Bruce Sutter
  • Part II: Obligatory reference to Godzilla
  • Part III: Carroll's claims are presented
  • Parts IV through VII: Carroll's claims are refuted by Al Leiter, Barry Bonds, Bobby Valentine, Robert Adair, and a cast of thousands
  • Part VIII: The Big Finish. "[It's a complete fraud], but maybe, just maybe, this [made-up] pitch could revolutionize baseball."
They know it's crap, but it's like reporting on Bigfoot or UFOs or Atlantis: if you humor the nutcase, he'll give you a story. Welcome to your journalistic niche, Will.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

New Blog Day

I didn't watch the Nats game on Saturday because I was cheering on the Terps again. I must be good luck, because once again they came from behind to win. The scouts were out in force to see starter Ryan Moorer (who, judging by his name, must be just like me only moreso) and lefty closer Brett Cecil. Keep in my mind that my scouting skills are pretty much on par with, say, my ukelele abilities, but this Cecil could be one to keep an eye on. He terrified the three unfortunate Lafayette scholar/athletes he faced in the ninth, striking out the side and causing the second victim to humiliate himself pretty badly. Seriously, every time this guy throws a fastball, an angel loses his wings. Filthy, filthy stuff. But, you know, sample size and incompetent observer caveats apply.

So, given that I haven't seen a Nat in a while and that nothing interesting seems to have happened, it's new blog time! Like Brussels sprouts or parsnips or cauliflower, Nats blogs spring from the ground, luscious and verdant, in February and March, so I'll be taking a look at some of the new ones. Because I'm all about supporting the community. And churning out content without bothering to come up with something to say.

First up is Nationals Review, which plans to provide statiscally-minded weekly updates. I hope Charlie has more success with that weekly thing than I did. Here's a representative post covering Ronnie Belliard and the candidates to fill in for Nick Johnson.
Ron’s .237/.293/.371 Aug/Sept with the Cards doesn’t seem any worse than what Guzman has to offer. So basically a bad month for Belliard is a normal month for Guzman. Belliard and Lopez makes for an above average hitting middle infield, guys that can do a decent job of getting on base, and could put up a combined 25-30 home runs. . .

What could be really scary for fans and enticing for RFK hot dog vendors is that if Lopez gets hurt, Belliard and Guzman could combine to form the pudgiest middle infield in the history of the game, possibly only the addition of Deivi Cruz at third base could make it any funnier.
Let's not sell Tony Batista short in that category. His gut gets extra oomph because it's next to his little Tyrannosaurus Rex arms.

At the opposite end of the fan spectrum is Nationals Power. I'll let proprietor Joe Riley explain himself:
You won't find cutting-edge statistical analysis here, I'm simply not equipped to do that, and there are already so many more-qualified bloggers who can analyze statistics, both passionately and dispassionately. What you WILL find here is unbridled enthusiasm for a find organization. If you want my views on the hot dogs, the stadium sound system, wonderful vendors and how the beer tastes, then bookmark this site today.
Joe appears to be well-situated to give important information on a subject important to many if not most Nats fans: beer. Check this post out, and let's hope he makes insider beer updates a regular feature.

It's about time we covered a blog that sounds like it should be pronounced with an exclamation point at the end: NATSTASTIC(!) More Belliard is fat analysis:
Minus of signing Belliard: he's not exactly the physical build of your proto-typical 2B. Plus of signing Belliard, Tony Womack, hero of the 2001 World Series, will likely not make the team. Just to put this all in perspective, Zimm graduated from high school in 2001.
Thanks for making me feel old, NATSTASTIC(!)

We've got two entries at MLBlogs, which I don't know anything about. Do you have to pay for those? Doesn't Lasorda have one? Anyway, This Base For Rent isn't new, and I hate it when I miss these things. Sorry. And here's some props for teh community, which makes me feel even worse.
The newness of the team gave fans (and bloggers alike) to get in on following a franchise in its infancy in a new city. It’s been interesting during the past couple months in which I’ve followed the team day in and day out just how often the Natosphere members blog and how detailed and well-written each blog is. And this is the off-season.
Another neighbor of Mr. Lasorda is DC Daily, which seems to be digging The Plan.
So the franchise that is responsible for producing Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, Gary Carter, Randy Johnson, half of the current Indians, Javier Vazquez, Orlando Cabrera, Vladimir Guerrero, Vidro, Brian Schneider, and Ryan Zimmerman is now being run by the man, Stan Kasten, who helped rebuild the Braves before their decade-plus dominance of the NL(tee hee), and Kasten has hired Tom Rizzo, the man responsible for the most recent rebuilding of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and then Kasten hires a Manager best known as a talent evaluator, in Manny Acta. This finally sounds right.
Not enough paper, you say? Get to The Nationals Report and behold the papery wonder! Kyle is focused -- he didn't bother with the usual "this is my first post" post, instead launching right into a middle infield preview, including Smiley Gonzalez.
So what if he’s only 16 (so he says), I gotta give the kid some face time. The buzz is that he could be a franchise type player, with comparisons to Ozzie Smith and Miguel Tejada. USA Today also reports that he’s working on a cure for cancer. Won’t see him for years to come but one of the Nationals few bright prospects.
Finally, while searching the internet for answers to my many ball punishment questions, I stumbled on a blog called Capitol (sic) Punishment. I looked and looked for a quotation worth putting up, but "Chris" doesn't make it easy. Here's a typical one:
I . . . fear . . . the FBI knocking on my door.
Well, the color scheme's pleasing, at least.