Distinguished Senators, the Washington Nationals Blog That Is Great

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Swinging Things

It seems like every year we have a chance to talk about on-field violence, and every year we have a chance to talk about Bryce Harper being an idiot and missing games because he's an idiot, depriving our beloved Nationals of their best player, who is an idiot.

This year it all happened at the same time, and I'm overwhelmed with emotion. It's like a wedding and a graduation at the same time, which I'm sure someone has tried to pull off.

I'm sure you're not coming to Distinguished Senators for game recaps, but the basic story is that Hunter Strickland, a hulking Georgian who pitches for the increasingly annoying Giants, gave up a couple homers to Harper back in 2014 and is angry about it. To be fair, Harper did give him a look after one of them.

Given the opportunity to face Harper on Monday, Strickland plunked him in the hip, rendering those two and a half year old dingers null and void. They never happened. I'm serious — go to Retrosheet. They're gone.

Harper charged the mound, fruitlessly threw his helmet, and commenced to swinging them things.
Above: The Battle of the Dudes with Basic White Guy Names
This is where I would normally scold Harper for removing himself from the rest of this game and some others that will happen later. But I'm on his side here. Let's add up all the factors:
  1. Bryce was right to be angry, and the predictability of the whole thing made it worse. F.P. Santangelo told us this was going to happen while Strickland was warming up.
  2. We can afford Harper taking a few games off. They can suspend him for 112 games and we'll be fine. The point I'm trying to across here in list item #2 is that the Mets are an absolute joke of a franchise.
  3. It was so rad! Did you see Michael Morse accidentally just ruining a couple of his teammates? Did you see how they had to haul Strickland off like a psychopath? Did you see?
I love fights. I love real fights, I love simulated fights, and I especially love fights where fights aren't supposed to happen, like a baseball diamond or Ukrainian parliament.
Probably none of these guys is named Hunter or Tanner or Cooper or Haberdasher.
I'm not going to feel guilty about this. A baseball game with a fight in it is better than a baseball without one, so I want to thank Bryce Harper for punching a guy in the face. Enjoy your time off, buddy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Please Eliminate Two

I don't like clutter, throws to first, or symbolic safety regulations. It's time to get rid of base coaches. Both of them.

The idea occurred to me as I watched some Brave get awesomely thrown out on his way to home plate. It was great! Very exciting, and exactly the kind of thing I want more of. It was then that I realized that these damn base coaches are getting in the way.

Consider the first base coach. He's there to help a baserunner decide how far to lead off, when and if to steal second, etc. And that's good, right? We all know a steal attempt is the most exciting play in baseball.

Wrong! Sure, the actual attempt is fun, but consider all the garbage leading up to it. Throws to first. Fake throws to first. Fake throws to third followed by a throw to first. Talmudic arguments about balks.
Less of this
These people are wasting our precious time. Even a fractional decrease in throws to first base is worth putting 30 former ballplayers out of work, as far as I'm concerned.

What of the third base coach? Just think how many plays at the plate those bastards prevent us from enjoying. The guy is there to make sure baserunners have information, particularly about batted balls that are outside their field of vision. Teams obviously want batters to have that information, but I don't.

Ill-informed baserunners are funner baserunners. The more action on the basepaths the better, and the third base coach is there specifically to prevent action on the basepaths.
More of this
Furthermore, the info provided by a third base coach serves as a crutch for dummies. I think ballplayers with the ability to read the situation and take a base at the right time should be rewarded. Canning all these coaches makes baseball a purer meritocracy.

What we have here is a divide between the desires of the team and the desires of the fan. The teams want their players to have as much information and guidance as possible, and if the trajectory of game times has shown us anything, it's that baseball teams are willing to test fans' patience to the utmost in the pursuit of a tactical advantage.

There's no reason that we should have to put up with this. I'm not suggesting regulating coaching staffs per se — they can hire all the batting coaches, nutritionists, life coaches, and acupuncturists they want. But there's no reason we have to let any of these people stand on the field. Players get to stand there. So do umpires. We don't need to let anyone else out there.

Plus, if it weren't dangerous, they wouldn't make them wear those stupid little helmets, right? I'm trying to save lives.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Nature's Blue Jay

The Blue Jays ruined this weekend for me.

Last week the Jays went to Atlanta and had one of those "Screw you!"/"No, screw YOU!" kind of series where each game is more violent than the last. The lasting result is that Braves first baseman/all time legendary Nats-slayer Freddie Freeman is out for a while because some Canuck plunked him on the wrist.

It's a damn shame that this happened . . . against some AL team. If anyone was going to break Freddie Freeman's arm, it should have been us.

Remember when John Lannan broke Chase Utley's wrist? I'm not saying I wanted Utley's wrist broken — remember, this was long before he tried so hard to murder some Met on the basepaths that they had to make a rule about it — but the fact that it was a division rival generated more heat than if it had been a Diamondback or whatever.

You have to build these programs if you want butts in seats.

It's too bad this all happened against Toronto. Atlanta doesn't care about Toronto, Toronto doesn't care about Atlanta, and the teams aren't going to see each other frequently enough for this ever to turn into a real blood feud. This is exactly why I hate interleague play.

So the Jays ruined this series. They really are like Canada geese. Consider:
  1. Canada. Sure, not all the Blue Jays are from Canada, but not all Canada geese are from Canada either.
  2. They're dicks and everyone hates them.
  3. It's possible that Rougned Odor once punched a Canada goose in the head so hard that its helmet and glasses went flying off.
The Canada goose is nature's blue jay.
I miss Freddie Freeman. He was a good nemesis. I mean, what's Achilles without Hector?

And if you're going to lose a series to the Braves (who aren't trying), you want someone like Freddie Freeman there to take the sting off. No shame in letting Freeman beat you.

I like Kurt Suzuki, but he isn't anybody's Hector.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Did you hear the news that Bryce Harper knows how much he'll be making in 2018? Did you read anything into it?

It's none of my business, but I think you should resist that impulse.

I understand it, really. What could be more important to a Nats fan than Bryce Harper's long-term plans? And when there's something that important that you have no control over, you start looking everywhere for hints.

It's like when some cavemen really needed it to rain. Like, if it didn't they would die, which might even be more important than signing Harper. Anthropologists tell us it went like this:

Cave Man #1: "Dude, if it doesn't rain we're going to die. You think it's gonna rain?"
Cave Man #2: "Beats me."
CM1: "Come on, what do you think?"
CM2: "Man, I don't know. Leave me alone. I'm trying to draw that time I stabbed an aurochs on this wall over here."
CM1: "Sure, but do you think it's going to rain?"
CM2: "OK, fine. Look. You know there are always clouds when it rains? Clearly whoever makes the rain come likes clouds. Now get out of here."
CM1: "THAT'S IT! I'm going to find something that looks like a cloud to kill. Then it'll rain!"
Sheep: "Well, shit."

This majestic beast got hella stabbed.
Feel free to predict the future from the flight of birds or whatever, but the birds don't have anything to tell you.

When I said nothing could be more important to a Nats fan than Harper, I was thinking long-term. In the here and now, holy crap something has to happen with this bullpen.

We all knew going in that the Nats considered blowing two leads a week to be an unavoidable but acceptable result of the construction of this year's roster. It even made sense to me, but that was before the games started, when it was easier to be philosophical.

This has turned out to be difficult to watch.

I don't have a point here or anything. I'm just mad.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Special Occasions

So, who's excited for this hot interleague rivalry we got going on right now?


It seems like Nationals vs. Orioles never got off the ground. They didn't even play until the Nats' second year here. Once they did face off, it did not turn out to the be apocalyptic explosion of regional resentment and long-held grievances that I was expecting.

The New Yorkers looked like they were having fun, and for a while there the Cards and Royals couldn't hook up with punches being thrown, but Nats/O's never seemed much more intense than when they'd pretend the Mariners and Padres were rivals.

So here we are watching the Nats play some random AL team about whom the fanbase's interest tops out at mild contempt. (I'm guessing. It's not like I've ever had my finger on the pulse of Washington Nationals fandom.) They're trying to tell us that Matt Wieters returning to Baltimore is interesting, but I don't think even he cares.

Wouldn't you rather be watching the Marlins?
I miss you guys. Except for you - second row from the top, third from the left. You seem churlish.
I know that's an odd thing to say and mean - based on all available evidence, not even Marlins fans want to watch the Marlins - but I'm serious. I turned against interleague pretty early on, mainly because I like watching my team play the guys in the division. There's more at stake, and I enjoy learning about my enemy.

I don't like west coast trips, visits from the Pirates, or interleague games. I like beating up on the chumps who populate our division and cultivating a wholesome hatred for Freddie Freeman.

If that's not a minority opinion among the public, it's definitely one among the people who make decisions. I've never understood the mania for uniformity that got rid of the league presidents, separate sets of umpires, and the idea that interleague play is for special occasions.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Delicious Soft Serve

I wonder if the Nats are overqualified for the wrong game.

I heard Mark Zuckerman on the sports talk radio today, and he made a point about Adam Eaton: Eaton's the kind of guy who wins difficult at-bats, and that's vital in the playoffs.

I know Michael A. Taylor has his virtues - defense, cheerful demeanor, his batting helmets don't take up much room - but grinding out plate appearances against tough pitchers isn't one of them.
This enterprising fan has acquired one of Taylor's tiny batting helmets and filled it with delicious soft serve.
The Nationals haven't done all that well in the playoffs, and we can't blame it all on Drew Storen. They also have terrible at-bats against great pitchers like Clayton Kershaw and the shambling, visibly decomposing corpse of Jake Peavy.

It's not hard to imagine this offense clubbing the hell out of everyone until it matters and then going dark against the likes of 55-year-old Tim Hudson.

And then there's the bullpen situation. I realize it's only May, but the relief corps has been not only bad but also unavailable. I barely know who Koda Glover is, but the fact that some dude with a 90 ERA+ is so vital to our plans that we need to worry that he's injured . . . it's not good.

Even if the Nats win the division by 20 games, we're going to need reinforcement unless we want to be remembered as the poor man's 90s Braves.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Late Mistake

My wife asked me if I remembered the Beavis and Butthead where Beavis composed and performed a song that went:

Dammit dammit son of a bitch
Dammit dammit son of a bitch
Son of a beeeeeetch sonofabitch sonofabeeetch

Of course I called her a damn liar. Nothing so perfect could exist in this world! But she was right. It was during a song by a band called the "Comateens" (good lord) that Beavis didn't think much of. Butthead didn't like it either.
While this shook my faith in the terribleness of creation and in the untrustworthiness of my wife, Beavis' song became my go-to refrain when something goes wrong. How handy!
Washington Nationals center fielder Adam Eaton, who was carried off the field Friday, has a torn left ACL and will not play again this season...
Dammit dammit son of a bitch, etc.

Eaton wasn't around long enough for any of us to develop an emotional attachment to him, but dammit (dammit son of a bitch) if I'm not going to miss him. He got on base and stuff. Big fan of that. And even if you didn't have the same regard for him that I do, consider the mess we're in now.

Babyhead's back. Son of a beeeeetch.

Michael A. Taylor's tenure with this team has been frustrating. He didn't hit, can't hit, and will not hit, but he's always right there when the center fielder of first resort gets hurt. He's going to suck up an unacceptable number at bats in a completely useless manner until management does something about it.

And here's the thing: This team just scored 23 damn runs, which doesn't even seem like it's possible. Problem solved, right?

No, the problem is not solved. Mike Rizzo needs to get on the phone 29 times and say something like, "You guys give up yet? Who's playing center for you assholes? What's this gonna take?"

I'm serious. 29 times. Don't do any research. Go in there like a bull. Coffee is for closers.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Fresh. Local.

These ESPN layoffs got me to thinking: Is this the first time Jim Bowden's been fired without completely, obviously deserving it?

It also got me to thinking about local, hand-crafted, artisanal baseball content.

It's like with tomatoes or Korean fusion tacos or whatever. Yeah, there's a lot of hippy-dippery involved, but the fact is that a tomato or a Korean taco that traveled only 25 miles to get in your mouth tastes better than one that came from California. That it's served by a cheerful dude with a beard and a butcher chart of a pig tattooed on his arm is just a bonus.

I'm trying not to project my personal habits onto nation-wide trends here, but I stopped watching regular season non-MASN baseball some time ago. I wonder how big the audience is for relatively meaningless baseball that's not your favorite team. And when it comes to your favorite team, there's more material than anyone can realistically consume - you've got a whole cable network, podcasts, newspapers, all kinda stuff. Even blogs if you're really desperate.

One of the good things about living in the future is that you can watch whatever you want all the time. Maybe you've seen people getting nostalgic about poring over box scores in the morning paper while listening to Jack Benny on the Philco, being careful with how much oleo they put on their toast because of the war.
Above: A young me concentrates so as not to miss the news from Sportsman's Park or Iwo Jima.
We don't have to do that any more, and in the same way we don't need to get our highlights from people who are only going to spend 40 seconds on our team before going to back to talking about the Yankees and/or Tim Tebow. We don't need the game of the week to see exotic teams from the far-off Central Division, either - anyone who cares about that kind of thing can watch the Brewers whenever he wants.

I don't know if there's anything to this. This Forbes article suggests that there is - national baseball broadcasts (not counting the playoffs) are steadily declining even as regional sports networks do better and better in spite of Bob Carpenter.

ESPN's problems are bigger than this, but it's not clear that the network has any purpose for baseball fans anymore. Not when you can get fresh, GMO-free baseball content that didn't have to be trucked in from Connecticut.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Game Over (Alchemically)

Is it too early to proclaim "Game Over" on the 2017 Major League Baseball season? The Nats just swept the Mets in their crappy city, their crappy borough, and their crappy stadium. So we win. It's too much to come back from.

I guess. I warned you that I wasn't going to do the math, but if the Mets aren't mathematically eliminated, they're definitely eliminated according to some other discipline. Let's say that they're alchemically eliminated.

Enough about those idiots. There is seldom a reason to talk about the Mets in May, and this year is no exception. It's a franchise defined by cocaine and failure.
Also terrible announcing. Left to right: Cranky old man sexism, diseased adenoid voice, who cares
So let's talk about us. The Nationals have the best record in baseball, and it would be even betterest if we had a bullpen. So at this point we're back to me talking about Nostradamus again. The difference, I suppose, is that when Nostradamus predicted the Gulf War or whatever, everyone in France wasn't saying the same thing.

I mean, I know that the Nats are going to win the division easily and trade for a closer and maybe but probably not win the World Series. You know that the Nats are going to win the division easily and trade for a closer and maybe but probably not win the World Series. Everyone knows that the Nats are going to win the division easily and trade for a closer and maybe but probably not win the World Series.

So what do we do in the meantime? We've got five months to kill. Do you people have hobbies? Embroidery? Stamp collecting? Actually watching these games and listening to Bob Carpenter?

Do we pretend that all this stuff that's about to happen matters? There are going to be some ups and downs. Dudes are going to be injured and then not be injured any more. Maybe Bryce Harper will say something "outrageous" and we'll all pretend to be entertained by it.

A bunch of stuff that ultimately doesn't matter is going to happen, and then it's going to end. Probably badly. I'd say it's a metaphor for life, but that's too depressing even for me.

Sunday, April 09, 2017


You know how when you live around here, in this area that all of a sudden we're supposed to call the DMV like those letters don't already mean something else, you almost never go bask in the tributes to star-spangled glory that dot our nation's capitol? Like that statue of FDR's little dog?

U-S-A!! U-S-A!!!
Well I had friends from the provinces in town, so I actually went to look at monuments. Some of them were pretty nice, but the best part was that I didn't see one damn pitch of one damn Nationals game this weekend.

I was looking at monuments to American greatness, while those of you who stayed home were looking at a monument to being completely terrible at baseball.



I skipped this offseason, but I had assumed things were under control. Little did I know that at some point it was decided to dig up Jeremy Guthrie, run a few volts through him, and run him out there. If we're going to win anything, it's on the strength of our starting pitching, right?

Well we have a problem then, because teams with good starters do not sneak into the Graveyard of Crappy Orioles Opening Day Starters and stand for a while leaning on their shovels, lightning crackling ominously behind them, while they decide to dig up Guthrie instead of Sir Sidney Ponson because it's less weight to carry.
The Nationals brain trust discusses options for the starting rotation
It's not Guthrie's fault. We probably would have lost that game even with a real pitcher - and remember, against the Phillies - and we're going to lose basically all the games until at least one dude in the bullpen manages to get someone out.

I guess it's too early to panic, but it's exactly the right time to get annoyed. They'd better figure this out - I'm running out of monuments to look at instead of this monumentally bad baseball team.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Prediction or Prophecy

You ever watch those Nostradamus shows? The ones where under- or ill-accredited experts explain that when some dead French guy refers to the Danube as the "Hister," he's actually predicting World War 2?
What fools we were to ignore Nostradamus' warnings about Matt Williams!
I can't get enough of them. But I do think they miss what must have been a significant part of Nostradamus' life.

If the dude knew what was going to happen all the way from Henry II getting killed in a jousting accident to 9/11, he must have been bored out of his mind.

Can you imagine? Every time anything happens, everyone runs around like it's news, and you're sitting there fuming because you wrote a cryptic poem about it years ago but no one would listen.

Sure, maybe you said "Mabus" when you meant Obama or Bush or the other Bush or Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein or Arafat or Napoleon, but it's all right there. It must have been exhausting for the poor guy.

I can relate - it was exhausting for me last year. My prediction as of April was that the Nats were going to win the division easily and then crap out in the playoffs. As the season wore on, it became clearer and clearer that that was exactly what was going to happen, so I kind of checked out.

So no predictions this year. I can, however, pass along a recently-discovered quatrain from Nostradamus himself. Did the great prophet predict the outcome of the 2017 Washington Nationals season? Only time will tell.

A leader of dust, a bearded criminal
Inspired by national attitude ignited
Will conquer the division of the Orient
And then crap out in the playoffs

Monday, April 03, 2017


I was able to watch the season opener, having been laid up with a fortuitously-timed cold.

I know what you're thinking, but this was the real thing. I wanted to go to work. In the spirit of the Wrestlemania season, this is a shoot cold. I'm not working anyone.

So we can all agree that the one game we're all paying super-close attention to is the one that sets the tone for the rest of the season, right? Even though it's 50/50 if Adam Lind is even on the roster in September?

Things I liked:
  1. Yay we win!
  2. Blake Treinen hella closed!
  3. Strasburg was rad as hell!
  4. Bryce Harper hit a home run and so did some other guy so we won!
Things I'm worried about:
I have two issues with the lineup, which is all the issues the issues with the lineup.
  1. This is not a good defensive team. Daniel Murphy is still shipping up to second base; Jayson Werth is one year closer to being a full-on inexplicably-adored mummy; Adam Eaton in center is not something a team with a center fielder would do.
  2. This is not a good offensive team. I "analyze" a team's offense by how far down the lineup I go before I find a batter less interesting than whatever lunatic ancient alien/Nostradamus show is on the History channel. The Nats made it all the way down to Dutch Zimmerman hitting in the fifth position. That's not great.
It'll get better once Rendon returns from whatever seemingly tiny injury is keeping him out, but we're down a Wilson Ramos. No one likes Matt Wieters more than I do, but let's not pretend that he can hit.

Tonight's the night

Sunday, April 02, 2017


"I could do the math, but I choose to take a nap."

"If you're good at something, never do it for free."
-The Joker (attributed)

These two aphorisms are the new twin mottos of Distinguished Senators. One comes from an outlandish fictional character whose unbelievable antics have entertained us for years, and the other is from some Batman movie.
Above: Rap game Katy Perry
To explain:

1. My disinclination to do the math is not a new development. It took a genius like RiFF RAFF, a veritable neon icon, to summarize my philosophy on it. It was over a decade ago that I wrote maybe three posts including some cutting edge Bush administration-era baseball statistics before I realized that I was sick of that stuff.

From that point, I asked my audience to take my word for it - if I say someone (for instance, Jayson Werth) can't hit, believe that I looked it up or at least made a reasonable assumption. I'm not going to bore both of us with math.

And by "both," I do mean, in many cases, literally two people.

2. The Joker bit really made me think. Was I a good blogger? Maybe not in terms of output (at this point I'm at about four posts per annum). But if any of these posts was any good, I was - according to a guy who got turned by acid into a clown - making a mistake.

So all I need to do is figure a way to get paid for blogging, right? That's some cutting edge Bush administration-era blogthinking right there, my friend. Is there a word for something that is more unlikely than something that is impossible?

The only solution then is to stop being good at it. And that works together very nicely with RiFF RAFF's example. Knotty baseball problem? Just type something fast and stupid and then take a nap. It's not like I'm getting paid for this.

Here's hoping there's a difference to notice.