Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bells

Looks like the Nats are as happy to be back home as I am. But hey, there's no shame in losing to Brad Penny. And it was only Simontacchi -- all you want from him is innings. Just wait until we get to our real starters . . . oh. Wait.

So today marks the first time I've ever learned something useful for interesting from the Washington Post Express. It wasn't something I couldn't have learned elsewhere, but you get what you pay for: Trevor Hoffman is a mere three saves from 500, and the Padres are in town this weekend. As records go, it's not the most impressive. I don't see anyone spraying spittle arguing about whether or not Bud Selig should be there for it, for instance. But it is both unprecedented and a nice round number, and that makes it something that it will have been nifty to have been in the stands for.

The Padres lost tonight, so we have to hope for that they win two close games to close out their current series with Pittsburgh. That way, there will be something pleasant and memorable for us when the Nationals get their asses handed to them.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hot Brown!

So I went to Kentucky, and I felt like I was home. Everyone loved grits. Wherever there wasn't bourbon, there was at least the talk of bourbon or candies filled with it. Larry Glover, the play-by-play man for the Lexington Legends, did pretty much what I would do if I had such a position: complain about the Reds and mock the Yankees. It was like listening to a more mellifluous me coming out the speakers of my rental car.

What would be considered here at home to be hillbilly gluttony, alcoholism, and boundless jackassery blended beautifully in with the scenery down in the Bluegrass State. The Nationals certainly enjoyed a similar feeling during their recent jaunt through the bombed-out remains of the National League Central.

You think the Nats came up with that whole "Hey, we're out of starting pitchers -- we have any journeyman in the pen?" thing? The Cardinals started that game. Mike Bacsik is nothing but a Braden-Looper-come-lately. The Nats are something of a novelty in the NL East. Perfect example: sucking. Not all that much sucking in our division. In the Central, it's the tie that binds this six-team band of misfits together. The Brewers have lost six in a row and still command -- with all the mastery of a late-career Hitler over his imaginary divisions -- a healthy five game lead.

Naturally, an organism placed into a perfect environment will thrive, and the Nationals did just that, winning five of seven. This period of winningosity may well end when the NL West sends its representatives to meet us starting tomorrow. Whatever the result, we can take heart from the last week. We may be the worst team in the division, but, as Larry Glover and I certainly agree, that's better than being the worst team in the worst division.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Jade

Here's how jaded the Nationals have made me: the last two years when we ran out of pitchers, I noted it. I ranted, I raved, I took cheap shots at a fellow man's choice of leather trousery. This year, it took me until the second start by some reliever with the obviously made-up name of "Levale Speigner" (is this an anagram? Anyone?) to notice. The reason, no doubt, is that the starters are so lame (literally, in some cases) that the drop-off when you pull a former Fort Myers Miracle out of the pen and beg him for five innings isn't all that much.

We lost to the Reds, which happens a lot. If I'm reading this right -- and there's every possibility that I'm not -- the Nats are 2-10 vs. Cincinnati over the last two years, and not a year has gone by that I haven't recycled that joke about how we're scrappy but the Reds beat the "s" out of us. Because I love it.

The game proved the importance of venue on how the game is played. Rather than a low-scoring, making-pitchers-look-better-than-they-actually-are affair typical of RFK, we got dingers flying out of the bandbox. The result, a two run loss, is familiar enough no matter the environment.

Game Notes
  • Nook Logan had two strikeouts, got caught stealing, and did something else bad that I forgot about.
  • The winning pitcher sounds like a sex act I want no part of.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Make Up

Does winning three of four from the Braves make up for losing our first series with Baltimore? For most of you, probably not. I don't even hate the Orioles, but I'm disappointed as well. I don't want to be called a pessimist, but a division title might be outside the range of the Nationals' abilities, and I'm rooting for Atlanta to do it if we can't. Anyone but the Mets.

A similar question: does Nook Logan's Sunday make up for his Friday? Sunday saw him at his Nookiest: two stolen bases on two consecutive pitches, a walk, and of course the double that called the Orioles' strategy of spending millions of American dollars on their bullpen into question.

Friday's performance was a Nooklear disaster. As you know, Logan's there for speed and defense. Replacing Ryan Langerhans in center field, Logan slipped in a painful-looking way and handed Kevin Millar a single. Millar, having transmogrified at some point into the much more athletic Freddy Bynum, later came around to score. In the 9th, he walked and stole second -- good! But then he failed to take third on a ground ball and was stranded there when he should have been using his Nookish velocity to tie the game. If one were feeling uncharitable, one could charge Logan with costing the Nats two runs in about a third of a game.

Logan isn't the kind of guy who's going to hit two-run doubles all that often. No one is claiming that for him. It's all about the speed and defense. But every time either or both of those abilities let us down, it shrinks Nook's usefulness margin drastically. It's the same reason I get a little queasy every time Zimmerman airmails a throw over Belliard's head -- if he doesn't have the D going for him, he doesn't have a lot.

Speaking of Ronnie Belliard, I can't help but giggle whenever I see him pretending to be a first baseman, as he was on Sunday. What's the thinking here? I have a couple of theories.
  • The Nationals are attempting to hasten Nick Johnson's recovery by appealing to his sense of team loyalty and pity. See what we're reduced to without you, Nick? Please come back, baby. Please.
  • Manny Acta lost a bet.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Vacation Over

Well that all felt dreadfully familiar. Was there any moment where you thought we were going to win? Well, OK, was there any moment after Renteria's homer where you thought we were going win? It's like we got a four day vacation, and now it's back to work.

But at least no one got hurt . . . oh, wait. At least no one good got hurt.

Monday, May 14, 2007

UPDATE

Bob Carpenter: "Strucken out"

Well . . .

It was better than that wussy Shawn Hill's almost no-hitter, at least.

Memo

To: Nats Fans Booing John Smoltz
Re: Booing John Smoltz

Cut it out, assholes.

Love,
Ryan

Time to Turn Around and Watch This

I'm having a hard time with the recently concluded weekend. My normal practice is to skim over the recaps, make too much of something that happened in the handful of innings I actually saw, and craft a narrative that, while it may not tell the whole or even a significant proportion of the weekend's events, at least lets me string together a few paragraphs that make sense when put in succession.

To do justice to Friday's game alone would require more narrative skill and a better attention span than I can bring to bear. Troubled hitting coach Mitchell Page was struck down before the contest with a frightening-sounding mystery illness, and he has my best wishes. Shawn Hill -- and I'm sure you're aware of all this, so go ahead and just scroll on down to that Popeye video if you're bored -- no-hit the Marlins for five innings before hurting his shoulder, leading to the most bizzarely cheery DL stint I've ever seen. Add in the circumstances around Chad Cordero's bereavement leave, and there have been a lot of eerie and unpleasant things around the Nats lately.

But no one cares because we swept the Marlins. A wave of ill-considered, probably short-lived optimism has swept over us like a heavenly Tang tsunami. "We're not #30!" goes a chant no one is saying, and none has been harder hit with this paroxysm of not-shame than Nats play-by-play man and ethnic profiler Bob Carpenter. Reproaching us for our worries about a "slow start," Carpenter pointed out that “If the Nationals win 2 of the their next 3, they’ll be 14-26, the same record as they had this time a year ago, when they won 71 games.”

Uh, Bob? I may not have been able to watch the 2006 season, but I could smell it. 71 wins is not a goal. It wasn't fun to sit through, and Carpenter of all people should know that. I guess he's relieved that this won't be a historic, 130-loss season, but I'm with the Lerners on this one: the only difference between 50 wins and 70 wins is draft position.

But I guess I should shut up now because there's a no-hitter going on.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Juiciest Fruits of the Internet Tree

I have very little in the way of words today. I decided that my sabermetrically sound, dry-as-unsold-brisket take on Nook Logan and Cristian Guzman can wait for another day -- a day when I've come up with some jokes. So I'll let other media do my communicating. Choi Hoon, who of all my heroes has the fewest stolen bases and leadoff home runs, has a typically puzzling piece on Chipper Jones. Here's Larry being invited by Sleep's brother Death to crawl into a volcano or something.


This one is somewhat less baffling.


Here's one for the ladies: Buck Martinez, with moustache buddy.

No doubt you palookas have been wondering how a 21st-century gazookus like myself speaks such perfect 1930s slang. You didn't dass ask for fear of being biffed and buffed. Well, here's your answer. Honestly, I can't think of a more educational two minutes and fourteen seconds anywhere.

A skillful writer could probably craft a pretty compelling metaphor out of this.


Discussion Question: What's your favorite song about Jimmy Carter? Mine is "Jimmy Carter Says Yes." Can our government be competent? Listen to find out what Jimmy Carter's answer is! More here.

Rickey caught a foul ball!
So let’s get some things straight. First of all, of course Rickey’s going to catch the ball instead of the kid. Rickey’s taller than the kid, by at least two feet. Scientists call that Natural Selection. And even if that wasn’t the case, Rickey’s got great ups. That ball was Rickey’s the minute it left the bat, and everyone knew it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Macta, Rickey, Carpenter

Another sweep! At least the Brewers are kind of loveable. Basil summed this up with his usual insight:
This is a talented and exciting team, folks. I listened to the BrewCrew radio broadcast for a couple innings on my XM while driving around Friday and Saturday nights, and Bob Uecker's excitement seems explained by something other than a hidden flask of hard liquor. Miller Park was rocking.

I have a feeling the Cubs may yet prove a bugaboo for the 2007 Brewers, but isn't it something that Milwaukee fans can revel in this level of excitement? It's been fashionable to mock Bud Selig's self-serving "Hope & Faith" language, but it seems evident that several baseball towns have lacked the same in the last decade. But now Milwaukee is rid of the Seligulan legacy and looks like it has a winner. It's a win-win.

This good will was reinforced by Don Sutton's obviously sincere affection for Milwaukee, his favorite stop in his five-team career. It appears that the Cardinals have in fact penny-pinched their way out of a chance to repeat, so I say go Brewers. I was worried that, having had our bones picked clean by the Cubs, there's be nothing but backbone left for the Brewers, and I'm somewhat relieved that we didn't show much.

The game was apparently the Citizen Kane of terrible managing, and I urge you to stay tuned to Channel Needham (as if you weren't already) for some grade A excoriation. I can feel it coming in the air tonight. Somebody -- somebody whose name rhymes with Anny Macta -- is about to get his ass kicked.

Meanwhile, Rickey! Big ups to a pair of anonymous tipsters (I'll call them Chris N. and W.F. Yurasko) who alerted me to Rickey Henderson's musings about a comeback. If Clemens can do it, Rickey's awesome thinking goes, why not Rickey? The headlines are overblown, though; even Rickey recognizes that it's not going to happen.
"I'm through, really. I'm probably through with it now. It's just one of those things. I thank the Good Lord I played as long as I played and came out of it healthy. I took a lot of pounding."
You're probably expecting me to call for an invitation to Rickey to join the Nats. While he would be an improvement on Robert Fick (am I joking? I don't think I am), I am opposed to a Rickey comeback. If Rickey gets back on the field, he leaves himself open to the cruel jibes of loathsome vultures like ol' "Bathhouse" John Feinstein. Plus, it would mean that we'd have to wait that much longer for Rickey to join his peers in the Hall of Fame, and once that happens, we as a nation will take a moment to reflect on Rickey's gifts to humanity. No one will dare speak against him.

Don Sutton Watch
First off, I've been negligent in not noting that the infamous Larry Flynt joke was prompted by a question sent in by the Natmosphere's own Joe Riley of Nats Power. Based on his experience, I suggest that we bait Sutton by sending in questions likely to send him into questionable territory. For example, "Hey Don, what do you think 'Brown Sugar' by the Rolling Stones is really about?" or "What's your favorite Chick tract?"

An interesting development: an anonymous commenter at teh CP reports that Bob Carpenter, Sutton's partner in crime, mentioned during the sausage race yesterday that the Italian sausage had "offly fair skin." The only explanation: Carpenter and Sutton are having a suspension contest. First one to get taken off the air wins one million dollars.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Be Aggressive

Since the start of the 2006 season, I've been tracking the on-field indignities suffered by Nationals fans. There's a line between rooting for a bad team and rooting for a humiliatingly bad team, and I've developed a sixth sense that tingles whenever the line is crossed. That first series against the Mets last year really set it off. Remember when Pedro Martinez hit eight or nine of our guys without the umps saying a word of warning? And then Felix Rodriguez hit a Met and everyone wearing a W got ejected? It wasn't the losing. It was the sensation of being pantsed.

This season, Dmitri Young's been providing that feeling, and he did it again last night. The Nats didn't look good against the Brewers exactly, but they were part of a crisp, well-played ballgame. And they even had a chance to win as they fought back against a dominant Chris Capuano to put two men on in the ninth. Then up lumbered Da Meat Hook. It's not nice to laugh at a man's disability, if having a big fat ass counts as such, so I'll focus on his performance. With a strike on him, Milwaukee closer Francisco "The Cordero Who's Better At Closing" Cordero threw an obvious waste pitch. It hit the dirt well before it got anywhere near Dmitri -- I think it bounced three or four times before the catcher got it. Young took a huge, pants-ripping, all or nothing fat guy swing and missed by a couple yards. Then the exact same thing happened again. It looked like an instant replay. A cloud of dust, a huge pair of gray pants tearing, game over. He looked like a beer league softball all star called up to face a major league pitcher.

It's about to get worse: Tony Batista has joined the team. Batista is an unusual player. The all or nothing approach Young took last night -- well, that's a normal at-bat for Tony. He's the kind of guy who can hit 32 home runs and still have to go begging for a job in Japan the next year. We last saw him in the Caribbean World Series and couldn't believe that he was only 33. He has skinny little Tyrannosaurus Rex arms, which is even weirder looking what with his gut and ass having a perpetual protrusion contest below them. He looks like a fertility idol.

If he hits a homer, the crops will grow tall and fruitful.

The Nationals just got a little bit funnier and a little bit less major league.

Don Sutton Watch
I'm still reeling from the Larry Flynt joke from last night. So many questions: why was it so jarring? Did anyone say anything about it to him behind the scenes? Would it have been funnier if he'd said Teddy couldn't outrun his cousin Franklin?

Whatever the answers, Don continues to justify close attention. After Felipe Lopez led off with a homer, Sutton said "What was that? Be aggressive. B-E aggressive." So I guess he spends a lot of time on the internet. Or maybe I'm projecting.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Two Observations As We Get Outclassed By the Brewers

Separated at birth

Geoff Jenkins (left) and Jandek (right)

A Fact About Don Sutton
When Don Sutton gets bored (with the game, with Carpenter, with Matt Chico), he starts working edgy and saying things like "Teddy [Roosevelt] couldn't outrun Larry Flynt." That's the only good reason I can think of for keeping Chico around.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

And Puzzled I Shall Remain

I don't see much of the weekend games. I got stuff to do. That lawn isn't going to mow itself, and the damn zoning board won't let me buy a herd of ill-tempered goats to do it for me. But I'm not regretting it this weekend, because getting swept by the Cubs isn't something I necessarily want to savor every moment of.

Here's something to think about: we've had Ryan Langerhans for three games now. How is he being used? Let's take a look.

May 4: defensive replacement in 8th inning for Casto

May 5: defensive replacement in 6th for Casto

May 6: started, 2 hits in 3 ABs, pinch hit for by Da Meat Hook with two men on in the 7th

The Nats are apparently thinking that the dude isn't good enough to start more than once a series and isn't good enough to be entrusted with an important at-bat. Then why did you trade for him? Nook Logan's coming back tomorrow -- how many defensive replacements do we need? If you're willing, as the Nats seemingly are, to trust the results of Atlanta's experiment in letting Langerhans hit (the result: he can't), then there wasn't any reason to get him. I continue to be puzzled.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Yet Another Ryan

I had no idea the front office was this vindictive. Trading my favorite player just because I linked to that Rosenthal article? That's cold.

I don't like it. That's not an overwhelming emotion. The word that keeps popping up in my head is "whatever." This isn't a huge deal, even if it is my favorite. So keep that in mind.

In terms of absolute talent, we lost. Snelling is still only 25, and with a little luck he could be an excellent hitter for years to come. Ryan Langerhans is 27, and in a couple of years he has the chance to be 29. He can't hit, he's out of options so we can't send him to the minors, and he doesn't even have the decency to be right-handed.

The counterpoint: Snelling makes Nick Johnson look like Cal Ripken. There's no reason to think he's going to play enough games to make an impact. Langerhans is apparently a great outfielder -- he'd have been playing center in Atlanta if Andruw Jones didn't already have it on lock. Jim Bowden's stated goal is give up offense to get defense, and that he did.

But that's dumb. Give up offense? We don't have any. We can't spare a hitter, especially if Manny Acta's serious about putting Guzman back in the lineup. Especially especially if he's also serious about giving Nook Logan a starting job. The only way this trade makes sense, in fact, is if it leads to Logan being jettisoned. The Nats are very worried about outfield defense, and that's a good thing to be worried about. But it's not worth it if you're letting Nook Logan bat four times a day. But if Langerhans is our everyday centerfielder, I could live with that. When I said he couldn't hit, I certainly didn't mean to suggest that he was as bad as Logan.

Even if that happens, it's quite possible that this trade makes us not a bit better. The A's, probably a more intelligently-run team than the Nats, like Snelling better than Langerhans. The Braves, certainly a more intelligently-run team than the Nats, liked "a player to be named later or cash considerations" better than Langerhans -- that's just the technical term for the proverbial bag of baseballs. Needham looks at the defense and concludes (or maybe summarizes someone else concluding) that "at worst, he's a league average performer." Well, no. At worst, he's a guy hitting .063 who's just been dumped by two good teams in the space of a week.

Apropos nothing, the worst-written subheadline I saw today came with this Michael Wilbon column.
Golden State is trying to disprove the NBA axiom that says the superior team always wins against regular-season juggernaut Dallas.
Ah, yes. I remember Hubie Brown repeating that one ad nauseam. "Now Marv, the superior team always wins against regular-season juggernaut Dallas, a'ight." It's one of those things that you get tired of hearing no matter how true it is. Defense win championships, every team makes a run, the superior team always wins against regular-season juggernaut Dallas.

While I Look For My Black Armband

I'll talk about Snelling later. This is time sensitive, though: Ken Rosenthal, who wrote that piece on how terrible the Nats are being run, is chatting about it at the Post at 1 today. Could be interesting.

UPDATE: It wasn't that interesting, unless you're interested in what a bunch of pathetic whiners share with me an interest in the Nationals. "You�ve given us 4,917 words of negativity. Is there anything positive that you can think of ?" Nice job with the question marks, crybaby. That wasn't even the worst one.

Unrelated in any way: for some reason ESPN thought some O's executive resigning was a big enough deal to put on the ticker. It's not, but it's a shame I didn't hear about this Joe Foss earlier. He would have been a nice addition to my shit list.
Perhaps Foss' most lasting contribution to the Orioles was negotiating and finalizing a compensatory deal with Major League Baseball after the Montreal Expos moved to Washington before the 2005 season.

Included in the landmark deal was the creation of a regional broadcast arm, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which airs Orioles and Washington Nationals games as well as other Beltway-area sporting events, but is owned primarily by the Orioles.
So what does an agent of pure evil do after successfully screwing us for years? He's going to run nursing homes!
Joe Foss, Orioles vice chairman and chief operating officer since December 1993, tendered his resignation Friday and will leave May 11 to become chief administrative officer of Erickson Retirement Communities in Catonsville. . . [Foss] said he'll be "added to the executive team" of Erickson, which manages 20,000 residential units on 19 campuses in 10 different states, including Charlestown in Catonsville, Oak Crest in Parkville and Riderwood in Silver Spring.
I'm glad they named some of the homes. If you're looking for a nursing home, I'd recommend you stay away from these. Given this guy's history, I'm sure there's going to be some serious senior-browbeating and will-tampering going on.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Dysfunction

Sure, the Nationals are terrible. Can't hit, can't field, about to put Cristian Guzman back in there with a not-insane expectation of improvement. And yeah, local interest is at an all-time low, all-time being defined as about two and a half years. The Nats are reduced to sending some dude to my office to beg us to buy steeply discounted tickets (true story) (I didn't buy any). But at least the front office is doing the right things. Building the farm system, putting good men in charge, making sure that the minor leaguers have all the sunflower seeds they need.

Or maybe not. Ken Rosenthal -- sort of a younger Peter Gammons without the rock star wannabe weirdness -- has a surprisingly long and in-depth look at the dysfunction in the Nats' front office. I say surprisingly because the piece can be of interest only to Nationals fans, and of those only the ones who spend too much of their time thinking about the team. So I'm glad it's there, but I'm surprised the Dayn-lovers at Fox Sports considered it worth effort.

It confirms what people who have more dealings with the business end of the Nats than I do have known for a while: things doesn't work. Quite a bit of it I'm willing to dismiss: there are quite a few former employees who don't have anything good to say about Bowden, and that's to be expected. Rather more troubling is that no one in baseball except Stan Kasten has anything good to say about Bowden. Similarly troubling is that the Nats can't seem to anything right and chalk it up to inexperience. Well sure, it's not like that one Lerner or that other Lerner or Stan Kasten has any experience . . . hey, wait a damn minute! If they can't run a baseball team, why is Kasten hanging around? Eye candy? Needham fodder?

I'm not in a very analytical state of mind right now -- that picture of Feinstein has me kind of dazed -- and I look forward to what the Natmosphere has to say about this thing. It doesn't make me despair over the future of the franchise, but I'm a bit less sanguine than I was this morning.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Feinstein, You Ignorant [Promiscuous Woman]

The Post, adhering to its tarditional policy that its sports opinion pieces are to be as bad as its reporting is good, ran a piece by this John Feinstein guy about teh roids. It's nothing you haven't heard before. Maybe you agree with the premise, and maybe you don't, but I hope we can all agree that it's illogical, poorly-argued, and just not very good. But whatever. No one over there bats an eye when Boswell changes his mind about everything every couple of weeks, so this kind of thing is bound to happen.

The reason I'm bothering to talk about this is that Feinstein takes a completely gratuitous shot at Rickey "RICKEY!" Henderson. Yes, that Rickey. The greatest leadoff hitter of all time, greatest base-stealer that ever lived, and greatest living American. RICKEY! I was so mad I had to go back over this thing after I wrote it and bowdlerize myself.
Lots of bad guys have set important records. Rickey Henderson was as hard to take as anyone. Who can forget his, "I am the greatest of all time," speech after breaking Lou Brock's record for stolen bases.
Bad guys? Who the [heck] do you think you are talking about Rickey like that? Bad guy? Ask Tony Gwynn if Rickey's a bad guy. Hell, if you feel so bad for Lou Brock, ask him. Brock helped Rickey write that speech, you know. Because Lou Brock isn't a player-hating [glans]. Calling Rickey a bad guy should be a felony, and comparing him -- as this [rear-facing orifice] does -- to Pete Rose and Ty Cobb should be a gas chamber bounce.

You've got to know your place, Feinstein, and yours is way below Rickey. Rickey's better at everything than you are at anything. He's a better ballplayer than you, he's a better dresser than you, and he's a better [goshdarn] columnist than you.

Above: Rickey with the fans.
Below: Feinstein with a naked man.


If you want to whine about steroids, fine. Just don't bring Rickey into it. Does Rickey come to where you work and slap Tony Kornheiser's [REDACTED] out of your [REDACTED]? No he does not. So stop player-hating and maybe spend a little more time on your next book so the New York Times doesn't [defecate] all over it. Just because you're the poor man's Mitch Albom doesn't mean you should be taking your frustrations out on Rickey.

I mean, really, who's setting a worse example for the kids? Rickey, who has triumphed over every obstacle that's been set in front of him, including being way too old to play baseball? Or John Feinstein, who's been known to throw around the term "[ucking-fay] refs" on live television, where it could be heard by children?

Don't be a [vinegary feminine hygiene product], Feinstein. Keep Rickey's name out of your mouth.