Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Windowless

You see that article in the Post about how much better things are now that Jim Bowden's gone? I don't know - something about that thing rubbed me the wrong way.

Some of is just really obvious "the king is dead, long live the king" stuff - I mean, we heard a bit about the horror of the Bowden Regime while it was going on, but it's just so much easier to complain about the guy when he's no longer around and is presumably handcuffed to a desk in the basement of FBI headquarters with a phone book-shaped bruise on his face.

The story around which Chico Harlan (who's embarrassed by all this) chooses to build the story is pretty flimsy. The agent for recently-signed reliever Joe Beimel gets a call from Mike Rizzo while Bodes is still GM. He hangs up on Rizzo. Four months pass, Bowden resigns and is hauled off in a windowless van by straight-faced men in black suits and sunglasses and - mirabile dictu! - a deal gets done. Clearly Rizzo is some kind of miracle worker.

Or (and just let me know if this doesn't make any sense) Beimel's agent discovered that the free agent market had turned scatological and suddenly his objection to landing his client with the Nationals disappeared. Like magic!

Also note the list of Rizzo's general manager-type moves provided by Harlan (who's just plain embarrassed): the acquisition of the some roster-filler that may or may not make the team; the Dmitri Young nonsense that the team's going along with because Bodes promised; and the Beimel signing, which was, according the beginning of this article, Bowden's idea.

I don't miss Bowden or anything, and I don't doubt that everyone hated him. Rizzo's probably fine. In fact, I don't really have a point here except that 1) this article is actually kind of worthless and B) anyone who just now started hating on Jim Bowden is about four years too late and needs to find more positive ways to kiss ass.

Meanwhile, I'm just going to keep linking to this. Unlike Chico Harlan, I have no sense of embarrassment.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Pride Is Back

You ever get internet nostalgia? The thing's been around long enough that it's inevitable. I miss ugly Geocities pages and Old Man Murray and websites with rumors about Diesel and Razor Ramon. But mostly Old Man Murray.

I'm pleased to announce that, thanks to some murky technological developments in the (probably Eastern European) parts of the internet that I do not and do not want to understand, Distinguished Senators is now once again home to a very special, part of internet nostalgia: as of my last post, random-ass comment spam has returned.

Man, does that ever take me back. I remember back in the day when some no longer extant blog whose name will not be mentioned but whose proprietor was schismatic had this 12,000 word comment that was just a list of . . . something. Porn sites? Something like that. Blogger subsequently came up a filtering system. It was a pain in the ass, but at least worked. Not anymore, though! Stay tuned to the undercarriage of this very post for more!

In completely unrelated news, those dudes who were reading my thoughts and columnizing them did it again. This time they even hired an accomplished male model to pose as me to give the content an immediacy it had previously lacked. Plus, you know, chicks come a-runnin'.

You may notice, if you happen to give it a click, that they're calling my contributions "Nationals Pride," and that name is already taken. So I'm officially submitting a request for suggestions. All the good "Nationals" puns are taken. Anyone got anything else? Readers? Spambots? Anyone?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I Knew It!

I have long suspected that my thoughts were being monitored, read, indexed, and catalogued. What could I do? The accepted method for preventing this is the use of tin foil, and I could have wrapped my trademark cowboy hat in it. But when the integrity of the inside of my brain comes into conflict with fashion, fashion wins. Obviously.

So I left my thoughts unprotected, unlike my legs, which were protected by stylish leather chaps, but very much like my ass, which was unprotected by stylish leather chaps.

I was therefore relieved to find out that my thoughts were being tracked not by the government - not even by a government - but by some website that distilled them into column form and was even kind enough to put my name on the result. I think that kind of consideration deserves clicking; maybe even many clickings. Don't you?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Central Casting

So, it turns out that the Washington Post's Nationals beat writer hates his job.
“I don’t like sports—I am embarrassed that I cover them,” Chico Harlan says. “I can’t wait to stop. It is a means to an end and a paycheck.”
And who can blame him? I mean, this guy had to watch Paul LoDuca in the outfield.

He apologized for this intemperate burst of honesty, and in doing so led us into Chico Harlan's Fantasy World, where archetypes that exist only in his head abound.
I didn't want to be portrayed, though, as some central casting sportswriter: the sort who always dreamed of athletic glory, lacked the skills, and chose the next best thing. That's not me.
You know anyone like that? I can honestly say that I don't, and it strikes me that Harlan could only have further revealed his ignorance of and distaste for the whole milieu if he'd said something like, "You don't cheer in the press box, even when the home team kicks a home run in the last period."

Well, whatever. As they would say on the internet, snotty j-school grad is snotty. I really don't care - he does a fine job, and the knowledge that he'd rather be Woodward and/or Bernstein bothers me less than that he pretends his first name is Chico.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spanish, Guitar and Awful Hair, Manny, Sugalumps

You'd think that just posting once a week I'd be able to come up with something. But thinking like that is what led to the Spruce Goose, Daikatana, Communism, and Lenny Harris: Hitting Coach. Julian Tavarez said some funny stuff, but the only jokes I could come up with about it are far too edgy for a space as high class as Distinguished Senators. So here's some Youtube videos, some of which I haven't watched.

Here's ¡LIVAN! talking in Spanish about . . . hell, I don't know. Even if I had watched the thing, my Spanish is as bad as my Akkadian. Enjoy!

Hoo boy is that guy ugly. Did he say anything rad? Anyone?

Here's Cristian Guzman performing a tune for us - he's our very own Bernie Williams! I don't understand why when "doing" a "gig," as they say, he looks like Moqtada al-Sadr, but I'm sure he has a good, artistic-type reason.


And here's Manny Acta talking about Toby Keith and related issues.

That's really endearing, actually. Manny deserves better than this shit-making team.

Finally (and I shouldn't have saved this for last, since I can't imagine that anyone's still with me at this point), the greatest thing English-speaking culture has ever produced. Seriously, I cannot overstate how awesome this is. I have tried, and it didn't work.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Met With a Paradox

Good news for fans of things existing: scientists have determined that, contrary to some apparently reasonable theories, things - everything, for instance - do continue to exist even when they're not being observed. Don't ask me how they did it, but quantum physicists have managed to look at photons without really looking at them. The verdict is that they're still there even when they don't know we're watching them, which is kind of a relief.

Something like this happened to me recently. I could have sworn that I saw a very intelligent article about the Smiley Gonzalez mess. Specifically, it related that the Smiley Gambit was a terrible, laughable (in the sense that people on the scene who worked for good teams actually laughed) move; that even if Lugo or whatever actually were 16 when they signed him, the Nationals overpaid. This was common knowledge at the time. A case, as I recall it, was made that this hugely important signing, a representation that the days of MLB-enforced cheapness were over forever, was just another bone-headed pratfall.

The problem is that I didn't bookmark this article or send myself the link or whatever. Basically, I didn't observe it for something like a week, and in that time it stopped existing. Except that quantum physicists are now telling me that that's not how things work, so something else must have happened. Maybe I dreamed it. Anyway, if I could have posted about that article, I would have reiterated the point that, although the organization has been purged of anyone who may have had a personal financial interest in overpaying for second-rate prospects, the numbskulls who signed the checks are still around and can never be purged since they own the damn thing. Keep in mind also that not only did these marks get juked out of $1.4 million (at least), they also failed to budget for their first round draft pick. I wasn't hugely upset about the non-signing of Aaron Crow at the time, but ever since it's come out that the Nats blew about a third of what Crow wanted on Smiley, it's been bothering me a bit.

And really, if you have on the one hand some guys who successfully relieved a sucker of well over a million dollars American, and on the other hand the fools who were soon parted from their money, whom would you rather have in charge of ripping off others on your favorite team's behalf? Because the situation now is that we got people running this team who, whenever they walk past a sharpie leaning against a wall wearing a purple zoot soot and flipping a coin, appear as cooing pigeons with big dollar signs on their sides.

The other thing about quantum physics is that while photons and whatnot continue to exist even when people aren't observing them, baseball teams don't. So they better keep racing those presidents and unveiling re-worked Screeches until those season ticket numbers get a little healthier.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Casimir Pulaski Day

Happy Casimir Pulaski Day, everyone! As far as regional holidays go, this is definitely my favorite. It's much better than Lee-Jackson Day. Please enjoy this artistic representation of the last thing many a redcoat ever saw:

You limeys are about to get PULASKIED!

A further Bowden thought that has very little to do with Polish cavalry commanders: It seems like Bodes had been on kind of a hot streak, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of his more recent moves had an impact on that thus far only hypothesized entity, a Good Nationals Team. Jesus Flores, Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes - good players, acquired for very little.

But didn't Bowden's moves always seem like that, only to fall apart when confronted with on field reality? I don't want to single anyone out, but I can't help but be reminded of a certain outfielder whose name rhymes with "Costin' Earns." Also, if that unnamed outfielder wanted to follow Milledge into the field of terrible hip-hop, there's his name right there.

I asked Casimir Pulaski about all this, but he just gave me that "why are you spending all this time worrying about a children's game when you could be trampling Englishmen with a horse, you peon" look. It's this look:

*Snort*

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Ave Atque Vale, Bodes

We're finally rid of Jim Bowden. Let's be honest: he had his moments. He pulled off some really nifty deals. Jesus Flores for nothing, for instance. He pulled off some other deals that sure seemed like coups, but didn't work out for one reason or another - the infamous Cincinnati hijacking, after which everyone we got turned into a pumpkin. Or my personal favorite, Vinny Castilla for Brian Lawrence.

He had other virtues as well. He couldn't keep his mouth shut, he couldn't keep the tracksuits in the closet, and he couldn't keep himself off that damn Segway. For a franchise desperate to establish a brand name, these kinds of things are, if not important, at least worth something. Look at the racing presidents.

His virtues, though, are swamped by a tidal wave of whatever the opposite of virtues is. Not all his deals were good ones. I still think shipping out Maicer Izturis and Juan Rivera for Jose Guillen was a huge mistake; even huger once the Guzman contract is appended. Smiley Gonzalez for $1.4 million proved to be a loser as well. But beyond any individual decision, Bowden presided over a team that had gotten steadily worse, with a stagnant player development system and lagging fan interest that not even the dopest tracksuit could allay. A lot of things had to go wrong for the Nats to lose 102 games last year, and the fact that Bowden wasn't responsible for all of them doesn't mean he wasn't responsible for any of them.

And that's why it's worrying that it took a massive scandal to finally bring Bowden down. You can't find fault with Bodes getting the GM job in the first place. The Nats were wards of MLB, and there was no guarantee that whoever took the job would keep it for more than a year. Better men than Bodes turned it down, so they settled. Bowden was a stopgap, a bargain bin GM for a bargain bin franchise.

My hope, and I don't think I was alone in this, was that the new owners would come in and hit reset, that they would purge all the vestiges of the Nationals' embarrassing orphan background. New stadium, new players, new management - imagine my disappointment when the first thing the Lerners and Kasten did was confirm Bowden in a post he hadn't earned. There was to be no clean break; the owners were not saviors. They were just some guys with a lot of money and too little judgment.

Jim Bowden should have been fired on Day 1 of the Lerner regime. The fact that he wasn't is a sign of complacency, and nothing that's happened since has changed my mind. And that's why, as welcome as Bodes' final dismissal is, I'm skeptical that much will change. That 100-loss season, that unsigned top draft pick, that million-plus paid to Dominican con artists - these things happened under management that is by and large still with us. If Bowden is responsible enough for these things to be fired, what about his bosses?

Still, it's at least a step in the right direction. We won't get a completely fresh start, but at least Nationals management will not consist largely of people being investigated by the FBI. The team's Dominican operation (at least) has to be rebuilt from the ground up, but a good GM can do it. Let's hope we get one for a change.

As for Bodes, I just hope he uses all his newly-found free time to write a book.

Heartache to Heartache

A quick non-Bodes note. MLB Network has demanded that I pass along the following announcement:
On Monday, March 2 at 9:00 p.m. ET, MLB Network will debut the first-ever original film from MLB Productions, We Are Young: A Baseball Family, the story of MLB players and brothers Dmitri and Delmon Young, who overcame personal struggles to persevere in the Major Leagues. . .

We Are Young: A Baseball Family, the first-ever original film by MLB Productions, chronicles a seven-year period of MLB players and brothers Dmitri and Delmon Young, and their demanding father, Larry, who helped guide them into the Major Leagues. The film documents Dmitri, currently on the Washington Nationals, who makes the All-Star team in 2003, watches with joy as his brother is selected as the number one pick in the Draft that same year, but then begins to battle alcoholism and is released by the Detroit Tigers in 2005. Soon after, Dmitri comes close to death due to an undiagnosed case of diabetes, and then bounces back to make the All-Star team in 2007 and become the National League’s 2007 Comeback Player of the Year. We Are Young: A Baseball Family also chronicles the controversy that has surrounded Delmon—the first overall pick in the 2003 Major League Baseball Draft—ever since his 50-game suspension for flipping a bat in at an umpire during a Minor League game. Delmon would learn a valuable lesson, and eventually is called up to the Major Leagues in the fall of 2005, where he would make an immediate impact with Tampa. After finishing second in the American League Rookie of the Year honors the next season, Delmon was traded to the Twins. Monday will mark the television debut for the 96-minute film, which was selected for inclusion in the first annual U.S. Sports Film Festival, held in Philadelphia last October.
Could be interesting. And it emphasizes what I love about the MLB Network: Their first in-house documentary is about two less than famous players on two less than famous teams. If ESPN had done this, it would have been a 13-part series about the relationship between Derek Jeter and A-Rod. Plus they named it after Pat Benatar lyrics!

Bowden Resigns

From the Nationals Journal:
Jim Bowden resigned this morning as Washington Nationals general manager. The team has not yet named a successor, even on an interim basis.
Another original Nat bites the dust, and Bowden's one of the few (according to my recollections) who wasn't traded to Arizona. More later.