Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Rome

Rick Ankiel continues to impress. Not as a ballplayer, because he's been awful, but as a story. Not only is he in many important ways just like a dinosaur, he appears to be just a heck of a nice guy.
During his first trip back to St. Louis as an opposing player, Ankiel thanked Cardinals fans with an advertisement in the city’s main newspaper.

“Many Thanks to Cardinals’ fans and the City of St. Louis for your support and cheers over the years,” the ad read, with a picture of Ankiel smiling. “It was a privilege and an honor.”
So that's nice, and he even played pretty OK during that series, so we shouldn't mistake his kindness for weakness.

Did you notice how all during the Brewers series Santangelo was whining about all the shifts? The complaints just kind of zipped into one side of my head only to escape from the other side without sticking to anything, but they did increase awareness of all those shifts. Turns out the Brewers are trying something pretty interesting.
The Brewers use spray charts to set their defense, and in many cases, that means defensive shifts that put infielders in odd places. It's common for most teams to position three infielders on the right side to play defense against power-hitting lefties such as David Ortiz, Adam Dunn or Jim Thome.
But thanks to information in spray charts that indicate where a batter is likely to hit a ground ball, the Brewers are taking infield shifts to a different level, sometimes to the extreme. For example, the Brewers' infield shifted against the Nationals' right-handed batters Jayson Werth, Michael Morse, rookie catcher Wilson Ramos and Rick Ankiel, a lefty.
I'll be interested to see if this winds up helping. As the data available to teams become more detailed, we could see some seriously crazy stuff. Only two of the dudes out there are restricted in where they have to be on defense. A maniacally charismatic manager could maybe find seven strong men without well-developed regards for their own safety and have them stand right in front of the plate. I'd think about that for the major league minimum.

Important news in the field of blogging equipment: Costco is apparently selling giant jugs of good-quality bourbon for basically nothing. Now, I live in a police state (as far as liquor blogging paraphernalia goes) bordering another police state. BUT! Say I put up an add on this thing and clicked on it from as many computers as I could get to. Could I write off gas for a road trip to Delaware on my taxes? Something to think about.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lunch

You hear about this Rob Dibble controversy? It's about the silliest thing ever, but it gives me an opportunity to take a snarling walk down memory lane.

Rob Dibble was fired from his analyst job after Stephen Strasburg's season-ending injury prompted him to make some of those feral "walk it off, rookie!" noises that you may remember from when Ryan Church ran into a wall.

He recently claimed that Strasburg's dad was so incensed that he emailed the Nats, and that's what prompted the pink slip. Stan Kasten, formerly the guy in charge of apologizing for Jim Bowden, disputes that and hopes Dibble "gets whatever help he needs."

This argument is so trivial that it doesn't matter who's actually correct. Therefore, I'm siding with Dibble.

I know the guy's easy to hate; I've certainly taken shots at him. But Dibble's done some good. He provided a necessary counterweight to Bob Carpenter's cult recruiter cheerfulness. Remember the time he went all Dada and told you to bring a lunch? He wasn't here long, but he left memories that will endure forever. Some of them are even good.

Stan Kasten, on the hand, never did a thing for us. This is a guy who couldn't get rid of Jim Bowden without the help of the FBI. And when the Smiley Gonzalez scandal finally did break, Kasten bravely stood up and blamed everyone in the world but himself.

For all the talk about Kasten bringing the lessons of the Braves dynasty to Washington, the best thing about the Kasten Era was that we lost 100 games only twice.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Beat the Mets

I got to say - I don't expect much from this team, but I do expect a certain level of competence against the Mets. So good work and keep it up.

PS. Ok, I'm annoyed, and MASN has a damn problem.

I was watching MASN and wondering when the O's game was going to come on. That's when I heard the Manny Ramirez news, from Johnny Holliday and Ray Knight. They said: "Manny Ramirez is retiring." I thought to myself, "Huh, ain't that a thing?" and took another pull from my Jim Beam rye on the rocks.

An hour later, I get on my trusty personal computer and find out that Manny Ramirez is retiring . . . because he's facing a 100 damn game suspension for drugs.

I got no inkling of this from MASN. Knight said something about how Manny was maybe too involved in the steroids controversy, so they didn't completely avoid that aspect, but they certainly avoided the substantive part of it.

This is a dereliction of duty as far as I'm concerned. For once in my life, I relied on MASN to keep me hipped to the baseball news. They failed totally. "Manny Ramirez retires" is at best half the news.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Reversal

I guess it wasn't about getting Desmond out of the leadoff spot after all.
Ian Desmond will return to the leadoff spot tonight rather than swapping places with Danny Espinosa as Manager Jim Riggleman had originally planned. Espinosa will play tonight against the Marlins, but Riggleman simply changed his mind after saying yesterday he planned to hit Desmond, who began the season 0 for 13, seventh in the lineup and move Espinosa to leadoff.
It's been a bad day and a half for the two levels of management just above the players. Let's review!
  • Jim Riggleman reverses his own inexplicable mistake and moves Desmond down in the order.
  • Riggleman makes me watch a couple old men in the middle infield instead of playing the starters.
  • Third base coach Bo Porter kinda loses the game by faking out Jerry Hairston with all the ankle-breaking elan of a prime Allen Iverson.
  • Riggleman, concluding after less than one try that his new lineup wasn't optimal, moves Desmond back to leadoff.
So yeah, that's a pretty sour mixture of indecisiveness and incompetence, like a cocktail made of Coors Light and dishwater. Jayson Werth kinda lost the game too, but at least he hits doubles.

But none of that matters, because ¡LIVAN!'s pitching tonight. There should be a name for beautiful days like today. I mean, we had Strasmas last year, but ¡LIVAN!'s been bringing us joy since day one. Livanoween? La Fiesta de Santo Gordo? National 82 MPH Fastball Awareness Day?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A Post

They've rolled out the B-team four games into the season. Santangelo likes it, but I kinda want my money back. I wasn't prepared for a Cora - any Cora! - in the starting lineup just yet.

Other than my disgruntledness, the big effect here is to hide for a day the drastic reshuffling of the lineup. Ian Desmond, who's looked as bad as anyone can over three games, is no longer leading off; Danny Espinosa is.

Bob Carpenter was quick to point out that "This isn't about getting Desmond out of the leadoff spot." He didn't explain what other objective aside from getting Desmond out of the leadoff spot was to be achieved by getting Desmond out of the leadoff spot, so I'm going to go forward with the assumption that this was primarily about getting Desmond out of the leadoff spot.

Why was he ever there? I realize that this roster doesn't give you a lot of good options there, but Desmond doesn't get on base. It's just not part of his skill set. Other than just picking the up the middle guy with the most seniority, I can't figure out the thought process that wound up with him batting first anyway.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Greek for "Ankiel-Lizard"

Ankylosaurus was an herbivorous dinosaur that wielded a club made out of a bunch crap that congealed at the end of its tail. The typical Ankylosaurus found its target only occasionally, but it did enough damage on those occasions to make its Cretaceous contemporaries think twice about messing with it.

Rick Ankiel is an omnivorous outfielder that wields a club made out of wood, which he swings with the wild desperation of an also-ran dinosaur being eaten by a Tyrannosaurus rex. Like his namesake, he seldom finds his target, but he makes sure it hurts when he does.
Rick Ankiel is the Than lan moc cau of baseball. And in my book, that's worth 1000 đồng.

Unlike the Ankylosaurus, which didn't exactly stand out among the really impressive animal life of 100 million years ago, Rick Ankiel has had one of the most compelling stories in baseball.

Ankiel came up with the Cardinals as a pitcher sometime during the pre-Nats dark ages. He boasted one of those preposterous curveballs that in other contexts would cause one to criticize a video game for being unrealistic. Unfortunately, his other go-to pitch was a fastball to the backstop, which he debuted and used perhaps excessively during the 2000 playoffs. It was an awful sight, and Ankiel was sent to the minors to work on some of those things that a pitching coach really can't help you with.

That should have been the last we ever heard of him. He pitched all over the Cards minor league system, threw some of those Desmond-style random target fastballs, and had some injuries. News filtered up through whatever it is that protects the casual baseball fan from every dispatch from Knoxville that he was going to try baseballing from the other side, as an outfielder.

The crazy thing was: it worked. He displayed both the power and whiffiness of an Ankylosaurus' tail, along with the ability to handle the outfield and gun down anyone who remembered his pitching career and figured it was safe to run on him. He hit a three-run home run in his first game back in the majors since his playoff humiliation and went on to have a couple quite decent seasons as a major league outfielder.

Isn't that nuts? I mean, that never happens. One of the things that happens when you watch baseball for a while and take the long view is you see the same stuff happen over and over. Great players get old, bounce around, and retire. Pitchers blow out their arms, try to come back, and retire. GMs rob Dominican teenagers, get investigated by the FBI, and get fired. Ankiel's career path is, if not unique, enough to set him apart from all the other soul patched hopefuls that march over the green fields of baseball every year.

And now he's here, bringing with him his rich backstory and his distinctive, dinosaur-with-a-bone-club-on-its-tail skillset, and I'm all for it. I'd rather watch an interesting player than a good one, and Ankiel's about the most interesting non-Cuban ballplayer out there.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Phew!

I don't know about you, but I need a breather after all that excitement. Good thing we get the night off, so that we can follow up an afternoon of of ¡LIVAN!'s gelatinous majesty with an evening with a band called Livan in Falls Church. 8 pm at the State Theater. Get your tickets here.

So let's see here:
  • ¡LIVAN! rules
  • Offense sucks
  • Bullpen rules
The last time all those things happened at once, we finished at .500.