Sunday, June 28, 2009

M is for . . . Let Me Get Back To You On That

I'm going on vacation, so you'll have to wait a week for the resumption of the triumphant Nationals alphabet. I apologize for any weeping and depression that may ensue, but it's not like I can throw off my gauntlets in the middle of a LARP and drop internet rhymes on everyone.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

K is for Kontrived

K is for striKeout, which means it’s for Dunn
Strike three sailing by him – that’s not very fun
As bad as that is, it’s nothing at all
To Dunn in the outfield, dropping the ball

L is for Lannan, our top lefty hurler
With eyebrows so long he could use a hair curler
Batters may be distracted - they must be surprised
When they see the sasquatches over his eyes


Thanks to FromOldBooks for the letters and apologies to John Lannan. I just couldn't think of anything for the Lerners. By the way, if I ran a newspaper this would be my Michael Jackson headline: "It Was Thursday - What a Black Day." "Smooth Criminal" is my favorite Michael Jackson song, which I'm gradually realizing is unusual.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I is for Interim

I is for Interim, like our GM
Will Mike Rizzo stay on the job in the end?
I can think of one good reason he'll get the spot:
Just not being Jim Bowden counts for a lot

J’s for the Journalists who cover our team
The fans thirst for content, and they produce reams
The season is long, and it must be a slog
It only gets worse: now they have to write blogs

Thanks to FromOldBooks for I, and thanks to Chico Harlan for letting me photograph his iced-out J chain.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

G is for Guillen

G is for Guillen, from back in the day
A hot-headed fellow indeed was Jose
Bodes brought him in – I don’t think he was kidding –
Based on his skillfulness at babysitting


H is Hernandez, my main man Livan
Who’s been growing sideways since he has been gone
He’s not very good – take a look at his stats
But he turns into Maddux when facing the Nats

And here's a special bonus stanza for Nate:

G's for GUZMANIA!, a grievous affliction
(What else to call a fat shortstop addiction?)
The fandom's so giddy at Nats Triple Play
That a guy's got to wonder if they've seen Cristian play

Thanks to FromOldBooks for the letters, the Latin -ictio third declension feminine ending for making the Guzmania part so easy to rhyme, and extra special thanks to puppies for being so cute.

Monday, June 22, 2009

E is for Expos

E is for Expos, our Frenchy forebearers
Who decamped to the south for a ballpark much fairer
Since then they’ve performed with a maladroit touch
Je regrette, Montréal, but you ain’t missing much
F is for Flores, poached from the Mets
Which adds to the long list of that team’s regrets
We’ve been waiting around for Jesús to save us
But he keeps getting hurt, so we’re stuck with Nieves

Thanks to FromOldBooks for the letters, thanks to me for the dope rhymes, and thanks to the Mets for Jesús Flores.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

C is for Cristian

C is for Cristian (no H in his name)
We used to be better when he came up lame
He’s now got new eyeballs, new shoulder, new spleen
He’s a whole new ballplayer – is he man or machine?








D is for Dibble, with his World Series Ring
He played the game; that’s why he’s got the bling
If ever you question his statements or hunches
It’s cool that you do, but bring own lunches

Thanks again to FromOldBooks for the letters.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A is for Acta

I think it's time for a little culture around here. Let's begin!

A is for Acta, our soon former boss
Every win to his credit, to his debit each loss
Add these things up and it’s quite plain to see
That he won’t be around by the time we hit Z








B is for Bowden, or Bodes to his pals
Dudes love the Segway, leather pants thrill the gals
If you ever meet him, he’s surely not bland
But check for your watch after shaking his hand





C and D on Monday. Thanks to Liam at FromOldBooks for the letters.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tank!

Manny Acta's still the manager, and I think I've figured out why. Obviously, management doesn't think he contributes to winning games. Why else would they let it be known, in their typically loathsome, passive-aggressive manner, that they're going to fire him?

But now losing doesn't look so bad. 16-year-old catcher Bryce Harper, subject of a self-parodically overblown Sports Illustrated cover story, is well on his way to figuring out how to get himself into next year's draft.
Harper, the Las Vegas high school catcher who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, will forgo his final two years of high school, get his GED and play community college baseball next year at the College of Southern Nevada. His father, Ron, made the announcement Saturday at a tournament in Oklahoma City...

Harper will turn 17 on Oct. 16, and by finishing high school he will be eligible for the 2010 draft, where he is expected to be the No. 1 pick and command a multimillion-dollar signing bonus.

We've already seen the rewards a team reaps for tanking it for a year. Tank for two years, it turns out, and it just gets better. We can't let Jim Riggleman get in the way of this kind of haul.

Last week, I made fun of Dave Sheinin for defending the Nationals against the charge that they drafted cheap. I don't know if this is an actual controversy - is anyone who doesn't work for the Nats or isn't Dave Sheinin disinclined to believe this? Well, just in case, here's my point made for me:

On Tuesday, the Nationals used their third-round pick -- No. 81 overall -- in the amateur draft to select Trevor Holder, a University of Georgia senior who had a 7-5 record and a 4.48 ERA this year. Holder hadn't been ranked by Baseball America among the top 200 prospects, and even Holder himself didn't think he'd be drafted so high.
Well the Nats must know something everyone else doesn't, right?
But the Nationals, who'd tracked Holder since high school, had five years of information on him and liked what they saw.
Yeah, that's some Scouting! We're getting a leg up on everyone with only the sharpness of our eyes!
The team also liked the idea of signing Holder quickly, and at a discount rate. On Friday, just before moving out of his apartment in Athens, Ga., Holder agreed to his first professional contract, which included a $200,000 bonus; the previous year, pick Nos. 80-82 all signed for between $490,000 and $525,000.
Oh. Never mind.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

It's A Hollow Snarl

Hey Dibble, what happened to edgy?

Remember that laughable slapfight the Robs Dibble and Neyer got into earlier this week? R-Dibbs seems to have scrubbed it from his Twitter. It happened June 7, but check it now. On the 6th we get a telegram dispatch from the last good Nats game:
John Lannan CGVs The Mets 21 1st pitch strikes, 1st CG in The Show. Nice job
Then on the 8th we're treated to a stream of random capitalizations.
talking to Andy Larouche of the Pitrates about The Nate McClouth Trade, At 5 o'clock we will have David Price on to talk about the Draft
Where's the beef, Dibble? I mean, if you're going to post for photos like this...

...you can't then turn around and unilaterally squash the beef with a pencil-necked, never-played-the-game former roofer like Rob Neyer.

I'm honestly disappointed.

By the way, if you were going to start a mock Dibble Twitter thingy, could you do any better than this?
Got some cool new shades for the game tomorrow
That's an actual entry. He wrote that himself. What can you say? Dude's unmockable.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Signability!

Look, I don't know nothing about no draft. I'm just as elated about the start of the Drew Storen Era as the rest of you, but I'm pretty clueless beyond that. That's what this guy does, and let's all be glad he's there.

The story that seems to be coming out of this, though, is that after taking Stephen Strasburg, the Nats went all Chris Rock at the rib place on us.

Above: Chris Rock as Mike Rizzo, weighing his options

Apparently the Nats had promised that they weren't going to be cheap this year. They'd take the best available player. While their actual strategy may well be defensible, that's clearly not what they did. Dave Sheinin over on the Post site tries to make the case for the defense. And fails.
Finally, a word about the Nationals' picks at Nos. 10, 50 and 81 overall: There was a lot of dissatisfaction expressed among commenters on this blog, and elsewhere, about the quality of those picks. Many accused the Nationals of outright lies when they said they took the best players available with those picks.
Well yeah. They didn't take the best players, and they said they would. That's lying, right?
But my view is, when you're facing something as monumental and complex as the Strasburg negotiations, the last thing you need is a bunch of difficult negotiations among your other picks. If the Nationals constructed their draft board out of players they felt would be relatively easy signs, then made their picks based on the best player available on their board, I don't have a problem with that.
Man, what kind of evasive Obi-Wan Kenobi bullshit is this? "You see, when they said 'best players,' they meant 'best players that wouldn't cost any money.' Because of the italics, you see."

What the hell, Dave? You don't work for the Lerners, and that's the only legitimate excuse for this kind of nonsense I can think of.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Beef: It's What's For Lunch

So many stupid things happen to the Nats that I forget probably half of them. Here's another one to throw on the pile.
D.C. Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin yesterday ordered that all fireworks displays at Washington Nationals games be suspended until a safety review can be conducted, after fireworks debris landed on him as he watched a game, a department spokesman said today.
I don't know about you, but I'm picturing a guy who looks like William Howard Taft in an old-timey fireman hat with his moustache singedand his face strategically charred like he'd been smoking a loaded cigar.

This is not the first assault on our favorite team's right to explode things whenever they want. Back before they'd even played a gam, some pinko "neighborhood commissioner" and another crybaby halfwit who pretended to be scared of Grateful Dead fans tried to stop it. But it didn't work, because this is America, dammit! And America it remains.
The fireworks are coming back for the Washington Nationals, days after debris from some pyrotechnics fell on the local fire chief as he watched a game.
U-S-A! U-S-A!

So, the draft is tomorrow. Probably you knew this. Here's my prediction: with the #1 pick, the Nats will take Stephen Strasburg. With the #10 pick, they'll take somebody I ain't never heard of. So that's why I'm not all that excited about the draft itself, and that's why I won't be attending the Official Draft Party (It's Cool! Bring a Lunch!). The real excitement comes afterward, and it's not the good kind. I've been trying not to think too much about it, frankly, because a Nats-type screwup this time won't be funny, like typos on jerseys or setting fire marshals on fire.

Speaking of lunches and the necessity of bringing them, Federal Baseball brings further proof of my theory that Rob Dibble prepares himself to commit self-expression on the internet by getting drunk and listening to rap. Following the example of Jay-Z vs. Nas, Game vs. 50 Cent, and N.W.H. vs. the Jam Boys, he's now beefing with ESPN columnist Rob Neyer. Neyer calls Dibble a dumbass, Dibble calls Neyer a roofer - please, guys, squash this beef before someone gets shot! Or before I have to read any more of your weak-ass insults!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

That's Cool; Bring A Lunch

In my office, we rely on daily calendars to amuse ourselves because the alternative is me complaining about the Nats all day. I have a baseball calendar, replete with birthdays and impossible trivia questions. One coworker has a trivia calendar - each day brings a new question about geography or history or whatever. It's like Jeopardy for people (like me) who can't stand Alex Trebeck.

They're usually pretty easy, but last week we had a clock-meltingly surreal one. Here it is - let's see if you can figure it out: "Where on the human body is fear of open spaces?" Take your time.

The answer, of course, was "agoraphobia," which successfully answered maybe half the question. It was quite an enigma - was the calendar just messing with us? Was it a dada art experiment? Did it actually think it was right? We don't know and we never will.

In a similar vein, Rob Dibble posted something on the almost always not worth reading MASN website. He's apparently embroiled in one of those fun internet feuds where the participants never name the people they're beefing with. The post itself gives absolutely no indication what the hell he's talking about.
There are some local writers and bloggers that would like to try and twist what I say as to why the Nationals are not playing well. To me thats about as low as you may want to go. My street cred comes from experience, and though I sometimes might not come across as kind and gentle the way some people might think it should, let me try and get you up to speed with MY experience.
This is followed by a series of anecdotes about the Cincinnati Reds, culminating is some incredibly awesome trash talk.
If you want to challenge my street cred, that's cool, but you better bring a lunch because we're going to be here all day.
That's just beautiful. Bring a lunch, snitches, cause Dibble's got the crazy street cred! That's cool, but bring a lunch! Lunch is essential in this endeavor!

I'm not being sarcastic - this is my favorite thing on the Nats-related internet since Chico Harlan's "I hate my job" coming out party. It's not just because "That's cool; bring a lunch" is about to become my stock response to everything. This post also proved that Rob Dibble and I have identical blogging preparation techniques. In case you're wondering - and I should be charging for this kind of expertise - I have a time-tested two part regimen to prepare myself for the rigors of typing on the internet.
  1. Get drunk
  2. Listen to rap
Dibble is clearly replicating or at least approximating my pre-blog routine of Fighting Cock bourbon and Ghostface Killah. How else to explain the incoherence and unironic gangsta talk? I have a drink, and then I think "I work magic at a liquor store" is a deeply meaningful statement. Dibble and I are soul mates in this, and you ought not front on our street cred.

As far as the actual argument goes and as far as I understand it, I'm on Dibble's side. Anderson Hernandez should unquestionably be beaten about the head and neck until he stops thinking about things other than fielding ground balls. Maybe it won't help, but he sure isn't paying attention now, so it couldn't hurt. Where on the human body is fear of getting the hell slapped out of you? Fielding!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

St. Claire the Thaumaturge

You could argue that in the history of the Washington Nationals, Randy St. Claire was the only member of the non-playing part of the team that ever did a damn bit of good for anyone. We've had terrible hitting coaches, bad managers, and worse GMs. We always had a good pitching coach, though.

St. Claire did two remarkable things, remarkable both for their on-field impact and how easy they are to pin down, which is unusual when you're talking about coaches. 2002's Livan Hernandez was a fat failure of a pitcher. He could eat food and he could eat innings, but you didn't want him doing either. In 2003 he joined the Expos, and St. Claire laid hands upon him. By which I mean he messed with his arm angle until Livan became ¡Livan!, a legitimate Cy Young-quality pitcher. As I've lamented before, this amazing transformation and inspirational three year run got less press than that little hobbit Japanese girl pitching a third of an inning in a semi-pro league. That doesn't make it any less awesome.

Later, he fixed Hector Carrasco, the very definition of a journeyman. By teaching him some sort of magical changeup, Carrasco briefly became a really, really good pitcher, bailing the Nats out when they had their annual "We're out of pitchers!" crisis in 2005. Hector very directly credited St. Claire with his turnaround before signed with the Angels.

And . . . that's it. And I guess that's the problem. Two miracles, the thinking probably goes, don't make up for years of lousy pitching, especially this terrible one we're in now, so they fired him. Obviously, it's not all St. Claire's fault. Or even mostly his fault. Maybe it's not his fault at all. I'm guessing, though, that the Nats made some personnel decisions based on the hope that St. Claire could get that third elusive miracle. Daniel Cabrera had lost his fastball - Randy can fix his mechanics! Scott Olsen, after years of violently resisting arrest, can't strike anyone out anymore - Randy will take care of it! Neither happened. They emphatically didn't happen, and that combined with the bullpen's incredible ineptitude combined with the fact that Mike Rizzo needs to get in some firin' practice before he trains his guns on Acta mean that St. Claire's gone. He won't be the last.

As summer follows spring and a blown Nationals lead follows a Nationals lead, so the new pitching coach follows the old. I don't know anything about Steve McCatty, the former AAA coach who's stepping into this thankless role, but what Mike Rizzo is saying about him isn't making me sanguine.
He goes back to the days where pitchers pitched a lot of innings and they were really tough burly guys on the mound, and I think he's gonna bring an edge to the pitching staff, a toughness, and kind of a really tough-minded mindset not only to the starting rotation but to the bullpen guys, too.
This is meaningless to the extent that it makes any damn sense at all. Burly? That's what we're after? If only we had more huskiness, things would be fine. It's those portly pitching staffs that get it done. You need gentlemen of a certain carriage.
Randy, as we all know, is a diligent film-worker and a mechanics-oriented pitching coach. Steve is more of a gut-feel [guy], more of a mental aspect kind of the game, and he's a much more old school pitching coach than I think Randy was. He was kind of the modern guy who worked diligently with films, how to attack hitters and that type of thing.
I fear that this is faulty reasoning. Allow me to summarize: science and hard work didn't do it, so we're going with some witch doctor oogy-boogy bullshit. Well, I guess it can't get any worse.

Monday, June 01, 2009

I Before E

On Friday I donned native garb and went to walk among the infidel in Baltimore. It was a special occasion - the arrival of Matt Wieters. Maybe you heard something about it.

Once I got accustomed to the weird accents and garish orange garb of the natives, I realized something: I was having approximately a million times more fun than I ever did at a Nats game. Approximately.

It's not because I'm an Orioles fan. I've been to scores of meaningless, indifferently-played O's games that left me with the same "Hey, at least it's baseball" feeling as most Nats games gave me. This time was different, though, because the Orioles are a team on the rise, and their fans are keenly attuned to it.

Wieters didn't do anything, but it didn't matter. There was enough spillover excitement for Nolan Reimold and Luke Scott and Brian Bergeson to carry everyone through Wieters' fruitless at-bats. The fans, their sweat reeking of Old Bay and National Bohemian, were satisfied that their team had good, compelling players and a rotation filled with talented, homegrown pitchers. Perhaps they reflected on the twin masterpieces of the Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard trades. It also helped that they won.

The good news about the Orioles is hugely magnified because I'm looking up at it. Fans of the even competent teams would scoff. But as a Nationals fan, I couldn't help but envy every single thing I saw, from the pretty ballpark to the 8+ inning pitching performance to the complete lack of a Nat Pack.

Meanwhile, the Nationals have lost . . . what, five or six or ten or fifteen in a row? All to the sound of Josh Willingham bravely throwing himself into outfield walls but forgetting the part where he catches the damn ball? People are now talking openly about poor Manny Acta being led to the altar to appease the bloodthirsty gods of Base Ball. I'm a diehard - I'm still here. But who can blame the casual fan's eyes for drifting Wietersward?