Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fat Guys Dropping Jaws

So the Nationals -- you probably knew this -- are non-embarrassingly bad. I know the day after a 13-run loss isn't the best time to bring it up, but it's true. Worst record in the league? Not us! Now, if you look at our expected record based on our runs scored vs. runs allowed, you should probably keep it to yourself, because that's almost as pointless as it is boring. I subject myself and you it just this once because it backs up my theory: while the Nats' record in real life is 32-46, it should -- in the theoretical world of sabermetrics where carts inevitably precede their horses -- is 28-50, which is more what I was expecting.

What explains the discrepancy? Grit and gamerosity? Luck? Cheating? The Kabbalah? No. Clearly, the answer is fat guys. Back at the start of the season, I noticed that our fat guys contingent -- then limited to Dmitri Young and Ronnie Belliard -- was losing games all by themselves. They were dropping balls, wasting at-bats, and embarrassing me in front of Orioles fans.

But no longer! Starting with Ronnie Belliard: he's fine, I guess. He didn't make fun of Manny Acta in public even after being stationed at first base, so that says a lot for his character. And he hasn't dropped any balls that I've seen.

Dmitri Young has become the story of the season. And while the praise is perhaps too effusive at times, I'll concede that it's difficult for a sportswriter to weigh the relative merits of a great batting average on the one hand and a history of domestic violence on the other.* Young has rebounded quite nicely from his early-season woes, batting-wise if not physique-wise.

The best fat guy of them all came out of nowhere. Once our fat guy of the future, the fat guy we were going to build the team around, Cristian Guzman had become an afterthought fat guy. But after coming back from an opening day injury, Guzman was on fire. He put up an unprecedented and nearly impossible 850 OPS. Then he did the right thing: knowing he wasn't going to be able to keep from sucking for the duration of the season, he messed up his thumb and took himself out of commission for the rest of the year. He gives his fellow Nationals an inspirationally incapacitated teammate to win for, and he gives Jim Bowden something to crow about. And don't think he won't.

*Wait a minute, no it's not. Seriously, Kurkjian, what the hell? "That legal thing" my ass.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Breaking News

I just received a completely inexplicable email from MASN. It says it's for immediate release, so I'm releasing it. IMMEDIATELY!
MASN to Add “Super Slo Mo” Video Replay to Orioles and Nationals Home Games(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Providing fans even more access to Nationals and Orioles baseball, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network will add “Super Slo Mo” video replays to its production of home games, starting with Tuesday’s Beltway Battle at Camden Yards.
Wow, "Super Slo Mo"! I can't believe I didn't notice that they didn't have this before. And I can't believe they're bragging about it. This whole thing -- the technology and especially the terminology -- makes me feel like it's 1975 and MASN's keeping the funk alive.

Above: There is no chance that when the Sun absorbs the Earth this won't have been the greatest commercial in the history of sporting goods. Glory be, the funk's on me.

I've gotten a flood of emails about how Levale Speigner's adequate performance against the Twins on Saturday refutes my theory that 1) he's a golem and B) a golem that I destroyed by revealing the kabbalistic power behind his name, for which I am very sorry. I respond thusly: he's totally a golem. As the instructions clearly indicate, creating such a creature requires, among other things, purity of purpose. If it requires purity of purpose to create a golem, it follows that the lack of such a purity would enrage the monster. The Twins, of course, are cheaters. Dirty, filthy, lying cheaters. They have two World Series titles, both of which they won by cheating. In a just world, they'd be wiped from the face of the earth, their fields plowed with salt and their players and trophies returned to Washington to make up for Calvin Griffith. The world's not just -- as proven by the fact that the Sports Turf Managers Association gives out an award named after the Twins' now retired cheater in chief -- but that didn't stop the Nats' own golem from exacting a little bit of justice from those almost-Canadian-accent-having bastards.

A bit of friendly advice: dude, settle down. This kind of cri de coeur -- and it's not the first one we've seen over at teh 320 -- is ultimately pointless. Screech's Best Friend (if that is his real name) takes criticism of his favorite team very seriously; far more seriously than it could possibly deserve. Is his point that negativity (the kind of negativity that can only be detected in legions of venomous strawmen) is damaging to the Nationals as a franchise? When Needham says they're cheap, or I say that they're exploiting rabbinic wisdom to win some ball games, does life imitate art? Can our criticisms actually affect the business in a negative way? No, of course not. That's silly -- both factually impossible and indicative of a seductive kind of bloggy arrogance. The idea that anything any of us says has any bearing on anything is preposterous.

So if it's not arrogance, we're left with a fan who's just generally annoyed that everyone's not on the bandwagon along with him. And that's exactly the kind of sentiment that holds up so poorly to scrutiny that one must be careful not to mention of the offenders by name, lest one get called on it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

It's Still A Pretty Impressive Managerial Feat

This is hard. I'm really trying here, but everything's working against me. The Nationals are bad but not so bad that it bears constant repeating. My new editorial stance is that maybe the people running things aren't hopeless buffoons, and I'm regretting it every time I sit down to write and find the tank where I keep my righteous indignation empty.

I've always tried to use the crappiness of our favorite team as a way to explain the mysteries and tragedies of the human condition -- I'm sure you were already aware of that. But I think I ran out. I watched that game on Sunday. David Wells jokes are always fun, and that sure was a big ol' dinger Dutch hit, but the most profound thing I could think of was, "Huh. Sure is wet."

I had this whole thing worked out where I was going to explain that Levale Speigner was a golem whipped up by a master rabbi in the front office (instructions here). Check this out: just as the golem is animated by the word of power inscribed on its forehead, so Speigner's pitching ability came from the kabbalistic power of his made-up name. It's got something to do with the Tetragrammaton, I think. I'm kind of out of my league here, to be frank.


Levale Speigner fields questions from reporters.
A golem is undone when he loses his word of power. For example, if it has "truth" on its forehead, erasing the first letter spells "dead," and that's it for the golem. That whole truth/dead thing works a lot better in Hebrew than it does in English, by the way. In the same way, my actual reporting or at least fact-checking that revealed the mystical power behind Speigner's name ruined the poor automaton's ability to pitch.


Speigner is beloved throughout the area for his community service.

The facts back this up. My post coincided with "Levale's" first disaster start, and he hasn't had anything but since then. I had unwittingly erased his word of power.


Speigner confers with pitching coach Randy St. Claire.

But ultimately I decided not to do the golem thing because it was pretty stupid.