Distinguished Senators, the Washington Nationals Blog That Is Great

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Amazing. Immediately after I lamented the end of my symbiotic relationship with the news-breakers at Formula PR, Dan Guzman of WUSA-TV stepped in to the fill the void. Dan, no doubt driven by a burning desire to rehabilitate his last name among the Nationals cognoscenti, passes along this exclusive look inside the new ballpark that I had kind of forgotten they were building. Story by Dan Guzman, photos by Dan Guzman, video presumably by Dan Guzman: add some paisley and a fuzzy guitar solo and you could call it the Dan Guzman Experience.

It took less than a day for the folks at channel 9 (right?) to solve one of my blogproblems, so I assume that they're already hard at work blowing the lid off what I've termed "VenezuelansWithCarthaginianNamesGate." I mean, if you're going to name your kids after history's most notorious repeat losers, there are better choices, like Jim Kelly or Adlai Stevenson or Bowser.

So, with "content" out of the way, I resume pimping. That article that I want you to click on is still there, thirsty for clicks and even moreso for diggs. And now there's bonus content in the form of insane comments! Here's a fun game: try to identify which of the comments almost make me regret writing the damn thing.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I Hope You Like Our New Direction

You may recall from the much-heralded relaunch of Distinguished Senators my commitment to bringing you the very best of all the press releases that landed in my inbox. I thought it went well for a post, but then my source at Formula PR stopped sending me releases. I figured we had a "you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" relationship, but I guess I was wrong. Perhaps it was unwise of me to steal that line from Superbad about the unusual location of my back.

So with that avenue closed, I was forced to devise a new format. The new Distinguished Senators will consist of two things:
1) My attempts to get to the bottom of the Venezuelan proclivity for Carthaginian names and
B) Helpful directions to things on the Internet that you should read.

As for the Venezuelans, it's very puzzling. Asdrubal Cabrera? Anibal Sanchez? Even Omar Infante's dead brother has one. Hours of research turned up nothing. Clearly, someone -- someone powerful -- didn't want me to find the truth. My current theory, therefore, is that Venezuela was flooded with Carthaginian war criminals after the Third Punic War, and that their descendants are busily planning a fourth.

Meanwhile, I looked far and wide for features on the internet landscape that you, my beloved and closely-knit community of readers, fans, and cultists should make a point of seeing.

I could find only one, and it's right here. The author is someone whose jokes I've been laughing at for years. What I need is for all of you to click on that link -- or, if that link displeases you, this one -- as many times as you possibly can and from as many computers as you can manage to sit in front of.

And I don't know if you've heard of this Digg thing, but let me tell you: I just found out that there is no time like the present to sign up and start digging away. The only flaw I can see is that they won't let me "digg" the only thing I think anyone should be reading more than once. So that's where you come in.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

How Long Must The Truth Go Unrecognized?

Alex Christopher, telling us what we're not ready to hear about the reptilian aliens under Denver International Airport.
AC: If Phil is right, and all this hooks up to the deep underground base that he was offered the plans to build back in 1979, and that what this other man told me in private that there is a lot of human slave labor in these deep underground bases being used by these aliens, and that a lot of this slave labor is children. He said that when the children reach the point that they are unable to work any more, they are slaughtered on the spot and consumed.

DA: Consumed by who?

AC: Aliens. Again, this is not from me, but from a man that gave his life to get this information out. He worked down there for close to 20 years, and he knew everything that was going on.

DA: Hmmm. Who do these aliens eat?

AC: They specifically like young human children, that haven't been contaminated like adults. Well, there is a gentleman out giving a lot of information from a source he gets it from, and he says that there is an incredible number of children snatched in this country.

DA: Over 200,000 each year.

AC: And that these children are the main entree for dinner.

DA: How many Draconians are down there?

AC: I have heard the figure of 150,000 just in the New York area.

Unendable inbox presence Lee Sinins, telling us what we're not ready to hear about the sham that is the playoffs:

Some of you may recall that, several years ago, I announced that was withdrawing my recognition of the postseason and of the World Series winners due to the meaningless of small sample sizes in baseball. . . And to those who consider this to be insanity, well, I consider recognizing a team as a champion because of small sample garbage to be insanity.

Lee, surely there is no one who would dare question you, right?

Since I'm getting so many messages from people who say they found "errors" in my list of champions, I need to send this to everyone.

There are no errors in the lists.

Those lists of champions are the champions recognized by me.
He's like a Martin Luther for our time, ready to bring down the Establishment in the interest of Truth!

And Sinins has a point too.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Formula

Right. So I don't have anything to say, which was bound to happen sooner or later. Probably sooner. But lately I've been immersed in the marketing potential of blogs. I mean, I don't think there is much -- at least not with anything I'm involved in -- but going by the only emails I get these days, somebody must think there's potential. So in the spirit of the time I quoted an email from MASN as a transparent excuse to post a YouTube of that awesome Nike commercial with Bootsy Collins, I am for the time being dedicating Distinguished Senators to bringing you, the reader who probably either knows me personally or clicked over here because Needham was nice enough to put me in his reader thingy, the latest developments in Nationals-related PR.

Our first update comes from my close, personal friend Ashley Hanley of Formula PR, who sends along the news that they're going to let kids talk into microphones at the ESPN Zone. Who's now? Your 12-year-old!
ESPN Zone and the Washington Nationals have teamed up to host the Junior Broadcaster competition, a search for the next generation of sports announcers. Children 12 and under will compete for the opportunity to work in the broadcast booth on September 2 during Nationals’ Kids Run the Show Day at RFK Stadium. On August 20, entrants are invited to ESPN Zone, located at 555 12th Street NW, where each will have the opportunity to showcase their sports-announcing chops. Two Junior Broadcasters will be selected at the end of the competition.

“Junior Broadcaster is about having fun and getting talented young sports fans onsite to give announcing a try,” said Leigh Friedman, ESPN Zone’s regional marketing manager. “However, for some ambitious individuals it’s more than that. It’s a competition and they come out to win. We’ll get entrants from all over the area and even outside the state, so we’re excited to see what kind of talent emerges as a result of this contest. Deciding on a winner will not be an easy task.”

Wow, a quote from ESPN Zone's infamously hard-to-reach regional marketing manager. Very impressive, Ashley, and we all look forward to hearing from you about the next event Formula PR has the honor of promoting by mass email. Or, more likely, the last event Formula had the honor of promoting, because I've got a bit of a backlog in my inbox.

Friday, July 27, 2007


In an unbelievable turn of events, one that should but almost certainly won't serve as a wakeup call to the shiftless proprietor of this site, those wishing to read my thoughts on the Nationals must direct themselves to a Mets blog. Mets Today was rad enough to solicit my thoughts on the team, and what follows is certain to be the most insightful ten questions and answers you'll read about the Nats on a Mets site this month. Guaranteed. So get over there, don't embarrass me in front of the Mets fans, and make it seem like you're accidentally bringing up Jesus Flores every chance you get.

As for this place, well, I figure as long I have an outlet to whine about my favorite team once or twice a year, and I can go ahead and turn Distinguished Senators into a full time Chris Hansen fan page.

Above: Our generation's Eliot Ness. He has your chat logs.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dmitripalooza: Final

Dmitripalooza has to be dying down soon, right? Once the Nationals start playing again, alternative storylines will develop, like the one where Dmitri Young gets traded and the one where all remaining Nats fans shake their tiny fists at the cold, merciless Plan and the soulless men who serve it. So one last Meathook post, then I'm done for a while.

The Examiner's Phil Wood has added his voice to the off-key chorus calling for Meathook retention. There's no point in engaging his case. He says nothing Boswell didn't already try to say in his chat, and his arguments are nothing more than window dressing to his actual motivation, which is pure puppy love.

I understand the temptation among Nats fans to love the one you're with. The team is not very good and pretty colorless, and fans need to attach themselves to something. But this Dmitri Young thing is so obviously borne of desparation -- it wouldn't be happening if Zimmerman had done anything of note -- that it's just undignified. I'm not saying you have to wait until marriage, Nats fans, but it's only been a few months. Don't give up your hearts that easy.

Meanwhile, and I really don't like harping on this, two more profiles of Young appeared before the All Star Game. The Times and the official organ both chimed in with efforts that would have looked like puff pieces even without the existence of Barry Svrluga's piece. Coming as they did after it made a certain shared omission all the more pronounced.

These are not rhetorical questions; I can be convinced on this issue, and I am looking for feedback: Am I expecting too much? Should I look at these pieces like they're glad handing celebrity rag material rather than real journalism? Is it unreasonable to expect a mention of Dmitri Young's beating the hell out of his girlfriend in the retelling of his story of redemption? The answer seemed pretty clear to me a week ago, but it seems that the journalistic consensus is trying to change my mind.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Monday, July 09, 2007

The List Is Incomplete

Problems with the home run derby:
  • Chris Berman
  • Too many people talking
  • Too many of those people are idiots
  • Chris Berman had obviously never heard of Alex Rios until today
  • Chris Berman trying to get himself over with his dumbass nicknames during player introductions
  • Whichever moron decided to let Berman do player introductions
  • Counting Crows
  • Too many commercials
  • Where's Rickey?
  • Harper's NEGATIVE ATTITUDE, which makes it IMPOSSIBLE for me to ENJOY THIS THING
I may have more later.
  • Berman's still talking
  • Those kids in the outfield can't catch a damn thing
  • Is Jon Miller on the PA? He's there and were stuck with these doofs? Here's a little math for you, ESPN: Jon Miller > 10 babbling idiots. Nice job on getting rid of Dan Patrick, though.
  • Almost an hour and 45 minutes for the first round.
And the biggest problem of all:
  • I have to go to work tomorrow and can't stay up to watch this thing

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Out of Their Minds

Of course the Nationals should trade Dmitri Young. I can't believe there's even an argument about this. He's as much a part of the Nats' future as flying cars. Early indications are that Jim Bowden wants too much for him, which indicates that he thinks about the other 29 GMs the same way they think about him. Or maybe he just loves Da Meathook the way Tom Boswell loves Da Meathook.
The Nats are out of their minds if they trade Dmitri.
No, and that's a stupid thing to say. Even if you could do enough heavy lifting to mount a reasonable argument for hanging on to Dmitri (and don't think for a minute that Boswell is going to), an honest arguer would have to admit that there's some merit to the idea of trading him. This is Boswell at his worst: not just wrong, but unwilling to allow dissent. BLAH BLAH BLAH, as the man himself is wont to say.

1) He's good,

He's playing over his head, and everyone not wearing homer goggles knows it.

his teammates love him

And how exactly does that fit into the Plan?

and he wants to stay.

So did Soriano. The difference is that Soriano had options.

2) Throughout his career, he hasn't gotten injured much despite being the captain of the Bad Body Team. He throws himself __well, sort of__ at ground balls. He runs out a triple and bounces back up. You might even see him in leftfield sometime. Then, perhaps, he could be the most comical leftfielder I have ever seen as well as the funniest first baseman. (He may NOT be the worst. But he's close. There are high school first basemen __probably 1000+ of them__ who scoop low throws better.

I got eyestrain looking for a point here. I think he's making two observations: 1) it's funny to watch fat guys run! and B) Dmitri Young is bad at everything but hitting. Can't argue with either one of those.

So maybe Boswell isn't making very good arguments, but at least he's been staying on point. Right?

3) Will Nick Johnson come back at all this year? Will he come back next year? If he does, how good will he be? Once Bo Jackson started having "hip problems," how did that work out? When has any Johnson injury NOT turned out to be significantly worse than THE WORST available medical analysis. Nick and John Patterson don't look the same and they don't have the same reputation. Nick (maybe because he looks the part) is seen as a tough guy. But both have one thing in common. They only play when they feel 100%. And they don't feel 100% too often, do they? Patterson is a more extreme case. He's only had one 9-win season. Johnson has had productive seasons. But I see no reason the Nats should be wedded to Johnson as their "1st baseman of the future" for the 2010 time frame when they want to contend. Maybe he can be part of that Plan. Or maybe you should use him as a tradeable piece when he's healthy so you can develop or sign a 35-homer bat to put at 1st base. Wait, what were we talking about? Caller? Hello?

Wow. I have to admit that I wasn't expecting Boz to go into his tarditional "tough guys play hurt" routine -- he didn't even mention Ryan Church. When I mentioned earlier that this chat was Boswell at his worst, I hadn't even read this part. The only thing worse than snotty BLAH BLAH BLAH Boz is Dr. Boswell, MD, an experienced practitioner who diagnoses all baseball injuries as vaginitis.

The only part of this I'm going to bother to argue with is the Johnson/Young dilemma that Boswell's invented. There isn't one. Neither one of these dudes is going to be around 2010, and keeping Dmitri Young for the last few months of the season because Nick Johnson gets hurt all the time is the kind of logic parody you only find in Boswell chats.

In other Post/Meathook news, Barry Svrluga has a very much worth reading profile of Young. There's a lot of interesting stuff there, including quite a bit I didn't know. I didn't know he went into the stands after a fan, for instance. I also don't particularly blame him.

Once again, though, Young's assault on a female acquaintance is glossed over. Svrluga goes deeper into it than most -- we hear about his guilty plea and community service -- but it's treated essentially as a victimless crime, one more obstacle for this great but troubled man to overcome.

Enjoy the All Star Game, everybody!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Soriano Reaction

Too many boos. I'm disappointed. What, you wanted him to turn down $8 million (or whatever) annually for you people? Yeesh.

UPDATE: All the cheering for Ramirez' double indicates that there are plenty of Cubs fans there tonight. I know they weren't booing Soriano, so I can only assume that almost all the Nats fans were. I reiterate and amplify my earlier Yeesh.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


I sort of re-learned two things today from watching the Braves game. One is that TBS, once home to little more than the Braves and Andy Griffith reruns, is about to show the All-Star Game, some of the playoffs, and eventually a whole pile of regular season games. I'm in favor of this. I've always found Turner's sports programming, both baseball on TBS and the NBA on TNT, to be about as good as it gets. More Joe Simpson and Ernie Johnson? Less Joe Buck and Tim McCarver? Imagine my eyes lighting up like Jim Bowden watching a really fast centerfielder ground out to second base three times a game.

The other thing I re-learned was that the All Star Game is imminent, and that's bringing me down. The Nationals' only All Star is Dmitri Young, and it's hard to argue with the selection. And that's the problem: our token, only-there-because-everyone-gets-one player is a scrap pile gamble no one else wanted who's not even going to be around next year. I mean, yeah, good for Dmitri and keep it up, but it's disappointing that he's the best we could come up with to represent the curly W. Looking at the rest of the NL roster makes it sting even worse. There's 24 year old Russell Martin. There's 23 year old Prince Fielder and teammates David Wright (24) and Jose Reyes (24).

We don't have one of those. Who's our Jose Reyes? We're leaning pretty heavily on Ryan Zimmerman to give us something to brag about to fans of other teams, but he has yet to prove that he's not the fourth-best third baseman in a five-team division. The All Star Game is an exhibition for the world's very best baseball players. All I can think of is that we don't have any of them.

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.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Looks like the Nats are as happy to be back home as I am. But hey, there's no shame in losing to Brad Penny. And it was only Simontacchi -- all you want from him is innings. Just wait until we get to our real starters . . . oh. Wait.

So today marks the first time I've ever learned something useful for interesting from the Washington Post Express. It wasn't something I couldn't have learned elsewhere, but you get what you pay for: Trevor Hoffman is a mere three saves from 500, and the Padres are in town this weekend. As records go, it's not the most impressive. I don't see anyone spraying spittle arguing about whether or not Bud Selig should be there for it, for instance. But it is both unprecedented and a nice round number, and that makes it something that it will have been nifty to have been in the stands for.

The Padres lost tonight, so we have to hope for that they win two close games to close out their current series with Pittsburgh. That way, there will be something pleasant and memorable for us when the Nationals get their asses handed to them.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hot Brown!

So I went to Kentucky, and I felt like I was home. Everyone loved grits. Wherever there wasn't bourbon, there was at least the talk of bourbon or candies filled with it. Larry Glover, the play-by-play man for the Lexington Legends, did pretty much what I would do if I had such a position: complain about the Reds and mock the Yankees. It was like listening to a more mellifluous me coming out the speakers of my rental car.

What would be considered here at home to be hillbilly gluttony, alcoholism, and boundless jackassery blended beautifully in with the scenery down in the Bluegrass State. The Nationals certainly enjoyed a similar feeling during their recent jaunt through the bombed-out remains of the National League Central.

You think the Nats came up with that whole "Hey, we're out of starting pitchers -- we have any journeyman in the pen?" thing? The Cardinals started that game. Mike Bacsik is nothing but a Braden-Looper-come-lately. The Nats are something of a novelty in the NL East. Perfect example: sucking. Not all that much sucking in our division. In the Central, it's the tie that binds this six-team band of misfits together. The Brewers have lost six in a row and still command -- with all the mastery of a late-career Hitler over his imaginary divisions -- a healthy five game lead.

Naturally, an organism placed into a perfect environment will thrive, and the Nationals did just that, winning five of seven. This period of winningosity may well end when the NL West sends its representatives to meet us starting tomorrow. Whatever the result, we can take heart from the last week. We may be the worst team in the division, but, as Larry Glover and I certainly agree, that's better than being the worst team in the worst division.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Here's how jaded the Nationals have made me: the last two years when we ran out of pitchers, I noted it. I ranted, I raved, I took cheap shots at a fellow man's choice of leather trousery. This year, it took me until the second start by some reliever with the obviously made-up name of "Levale Speigner" (is this an anagram? Anyone?) to notice. The reason, no doubt, is that the starters are so lame (literally, in some cases) that the drop-off when you pull a former Fort Myers Miracle out of the pen and beg him for five innings isn't all that much.

We lost to the Reds, which happens a lot. If I'm reading this right -- and there's every possibility that I'm not -- the Nats are 2-10 vs. Cincinnati over the last two years, and not a year has gone by that I haven't recycled that joke about how we're scrappy but the Reds beat the "s" out of us. Because I love it.

The game proved the importance of venue on how the game is played. Rather than a low-scoring, making-pitchers-look-better-than-they-actually-are affair typical of RFK, we got dingers flying out of the bandbox. The result, a two run loss, is familiar enough no matter the environment.

Game Notes
  • Nook Logan had two strikeouts, got caught stealing, and did something else bad that I forgot about.
  • The winning pitcher sounds like a sex act I want no part of.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Make Up

Does winning three of four from the Braves make up for losing our first series with Baltimore? For most of you, probably not. I don't even hate the Orioles, but I'm disappointed as well. I don't want to be called a pessimist, but a division title might be outside the range of the Nationals' abilities, and I'm rooting for Atlanta to do it if we can't. Anyone but the Mets.

A similar question: does Nook Logan's Sunday make up for his Friday? Sunday saw him at his Nookiest: two stolen bases on two consecutive pitches, a walk, and of course the double that called the Orioles' strategy of spending millions of American dollars on their bullpen into question.

Friday's performance was a Nooklear disaster. As you know, Logan's there for speed and defense. Replacing Ryan Langerhans in center field, Logan slipped in a painful-looking way and handed Kevin Millar a single. Millar, having transmogrified at some point into the much more athletic Freddy Bynum, later came around to score. In the 9th, he walked and stole second -- good! But then he failed to take third on a ground ball and was stranded there when he should have been using his Nookish velocity to tie the game. If one were feeling uncharitable, one could charge Logan with costing the Nats two runs in about a third of a game.

Logan isn't the kind of guy who's going to hit two-run doubles all that often. No one is claiming that for him. It's all about the speed and defense. But every time either or both of those abilities let us down, it shrinks Nook's usefulness margin drastically. It's the same reason I get a little queasy every time Zimmerman airmails a throw over Belliard's head -- if he doesn't have the D going for him, he doesn't have a lot.

Speaking of Ronnie Belliard, I can't help but giggle whenever I see him pretending to be a first baseman, as he was on Sunday. What's the thinking here? I have a couple of theories.
  • The Nationals are attempting to hasten Nick Johnson's recovery by appealing to his sense of team loyalty and pity. See what we're reduced to without you, Nick? Please come back, baby. Please.
  • Manny Acta lost a bet.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Vacation Over

Well that all felt dreadfully familiar. Was there any moment where you thought we were going to win? Well, OK, was there any moment after Renteria's homer where you thought we were going win? It's like we got a four day vacation, and now it's back to work.

But at least no one got hurt . . . oh, wait. At least no one good got hurt.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Bob Carpenter: "Strucken out"

Well . . .

It was better than that wussy Shawn Hill's almost no-hitter, at least.


To: Nats Fans Booing John Smoltz
Re: Booing John Smoltz

Cut it out, assholes.


Time to Turn Around and Watch This

I'm having a hard time with the recently concluded weekend. My normal practice is to skim over the recaps, make too much of something that happened in the handful of innings I actually saw, and craft a narrative that, while it may not tell the whole or even a significant proportion of the weekend's events, at least lets me string together a few paragraphs that make sense when put in succession.

To do justice to Friday's game alone would require more narrative skill and a better attention span than I can bring to bear. Troubled hitting coach Mitchell Page was struck down before the contest with a frightening-sounding mystery illness, and he has my best wishes. Shawn Hill -- and I'm sure you're aware of all this, so go ahead and just scroll on down to that Popeye video if you're bored -- no-hit the Marlins for five innings before hurting his shoulder, leading to the most bizzarely cheery DL stint I've ever seen. Add in the circumstances around Chad Cordero's bereavement leave, and there have been a lot of eerie and unpleasant things around the Nats lately.

But no one cares because we swept the Marlins. A wave of ill-considered, probably short-lived optimism has swept over us like a heavenly Tang tsunami. "We're not #30!" goes a chant no one is saying, and none has been harder hit with this paroxysm of not-shame than Nats play-by-play man and ethnic profiler Bob Carpenter. Reproaching us for our worries about a "slow start," Carpenter pointed out that “If the Nationals win 2 of the their next 3, they’ll be 14-26, the same record as they had this time a year ago, when they won 71 games.”

Uh, Bob? I may not have been able to watch the 2006 season, but I could smell it. 71 wins is not a goal. It wasn't fun to sit through, and Carpenter of all people should know that. I guess he's relieved that this won't be a historic, 130-loss season, but I'm with the Lerners on this one: the only difference between 50 wins and 70 wins is draft position.

But I guess I should shut up now because there's a no-hitter going on.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Juiciest Fruits of the Internet Tree

I have very little in the way of words today. I decided that my sabermetrically sound, dry-as-unsold-brisket take on Nook Logan and Cristian Guzman can wait for another day -- a day when I've come up with some jokes. So I'll let other media do my communicating. Choi Hoon, who of all my heroes has the fewest stolen bases and leadoff home runs, has a typically puzzling piece on Chipper Jones. Here's Larry being invited by Sleep's brother Death to crawl into a volcano or something.

This one is somewhat less baffling.

Here's one for the ladies: Buck Martinez, with moustache buddy.

No doubt you palookas have been wondering how a 21st-century gazookus like myself speaks such perfect 1930s slang. You didn't dass ask for fear of being biffed and buffed. Well, here's your answer. Honestly, I can't think of a more educational two minutes and fourteen seconds anywhere.

A skillful writer could probably craft a pretty compelling metaphor out of this.

Discussion Question: What's your favorite song about Jimmy Carter? Mine is "Jimmy Carter Says Yes." Can our government be competent? Listen to find out what Jimmy Carter's answer is! More here.

Rickey caught a foul ball!
So let’s get some things straight. First of all, of course Rickey’s going to catch the ball instead of the kid. Rickey’s taller than the kid, by at least two feet. Scientists call that Natural Selection. And even if that wasn’t the case, Rickey’s got great ups. That ball was Rickey’s the minute it left the bat, and everyone knew it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Macta, Rickey, Carpenter

Another sweep! At least the Brewers are kind of loveable. Basil summed this up with his usual insight:
This is a talented and exciting team, folks. I listened to the BrewCrew radio broadcast for a couple innings on my XM while driving around Friday and Saturday nights, and Bob Uecker's excitement seems explained by something other than a hidden flask of hard liquor. Miller Park was rocking.

I have a feeling the Cubs may yet prove a bugaboo for the 2007 Brewers, but isn't it something that Milwaukee fans can revel in this level of excitement? It's been fashionable to mock Bud Selig's self-serving "Hope & Faith" language, but it seems evident that several baseball towns have lacked the same in the last decade. But now Milwaukee is rid of the Seligulan legacy and looks like it has a winner. It's a win-win.

This good will was reinforced by Don Sutton's obviously sincere affection for Milwaukee, his favorite stop in his five-team career. It appears that the Cardinals have in fact penny-pinched their way out of a chance to repeat, so I say go Brewers. I was worried that, having had our bones picked clean by the Cubs, there's be nothing but backbone left for the Brewers, and I'm somewhat relieved that we didn't show much.

The game was apparently the Citizen Kane of terrible managing, and I urge you to stay tuned to Channel Needham (as if you weren't already) for some grade A excoriation. I can feel it coming in the air tonight. Somebody -- somebody whose name rhymes with Anny Macta -- is about to get his ass kicked.

Meanwhile, Rickey! Big ups to a pair of anonymous tipsters (I'll call them Chris N. and W.F. Yurasko) who alerted me to Rickey Henderson's musings about a comeback. If Clemens can do it, Rickey's awesome thinking goes, why not Rickey? The headlines are overblown, though; even Rickey recognizes that it's not going to happen.
"I'm through, really. I'm probably through with it now. It's just one of those things. I thank the Good Lord I played as long as I played and came out of it healthy. I took a lot of pounding."
You're probably expecting me to call for an invitation to Rickey to join the Nats. While he would be an improvement on Robert Fick (am I joking? I don't think I am), I am opposed to a Rickey comeback. If Rickey gets back on the field, he leaves himself open to the cruel jibes of loathsome vultures like ol' "Bathhouse" John Feinstein. Plus, it would mean that we'd have to wait that much longer for Rickey to join his peers in the Hall of Fame, and once that happens, we as a nation will take a moment to reflect on Rickey's gifts to humanity. No one will dare speak against him.

Don Sutton Watch
First off, I've been negligent in not noting that the infamous Larry Flynt joke was prompted by a question sent in by the Natmosphere's own Joe Riley of Nats Power. Based on his experience, I suggest that we bait Sutton by sending in questions likely to send him into questionable territory. For example, "Hey Don, what do you think 'Brown Sugar' by the Rolling Stones is really about?" or "What's your favorite Chick tract?"

An interesting development: an anonymous commenter at teh CP reports that Bob Carpenter, Sutton's partner in crime, mentioned during the sausage race yesterday that the Italian sausage had "offly fair skin." The only explanation: Carpenter and Sutton are having a suspension contest. First one to get taken off the air wins one million dollars.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Be Aggressive

Since the start of the 2006 season, I've been tracking the on-field indignities suffered by Nationals fans. There's a line between rooting for a bad team and rooting for a humiliatingly bad team, and I've developed a sixth sense that tingles whenever the line is crossed. That first series against the Mets last year really set it off. Remember when Pedro Martinez hit eight or nine of our guys without the umps saying a word of warning? And then Felix Rodriguez hit a Met and everyone wearing a W got ejected? It wasn't the losing. It was the sensation of being pantsed.

This season, Dmitri Young's been providing that feeling, and he did it again last night. The Nats didn't look good against the Brewers exactly, but they were part of a crisp, well-played ballgame. And they even had a chance to win as they fought back against a dominant Chris Capuano to put two men on in the ninth. Then up lumbered Da Meat Hook. It's not nice to laugh at a man's disability, if having a big fat ass counts as such, so I'll focus on his performance. With a strike on him, Milwaukee closer Francisco "The Cordero Who's Better At Closing" Cordero threw an obvious waste pitch. It hit the dirt well before it got anywhere near Dmitri -- I think it bounced three or four times before the catcher got it. Young took a huge, pants-ripping, all or nothing fat guy swing and missed by a couple yards. Then the exact same thing happened again. It looked like an instant replay. A cloud of dust, a huge pair of gray pants tearing, game over. He looked like a beer league softball all star called up to face a major league pitcher.

It's about to get worse: Tony Batista has joined the team. Batista is an unusual player. The all or nothing approach Young took last night -- well, that's a normal at-bat for Tony. He's the kind of guy who can hit 32 home runs and still have to go begging for a job in Japan the next year. We last saw him in the Caribbean World Series and couldn't believe that he was only 33. He has skinny little Tyrannosaurus Rex arms, which is even weirder looking what with his gut and ass having a perpetual protrusion contest below them. He looks like a fertility idol.

If he hits a homer, the crops will grow tall and fruitful.

The Nationals just got a little bit funnier and a little bit less major league.

Don Sutton Watch
I'm still reeling from the Larry Flynt joke from last night. So many questions: why was it so jarring? Did anyone say anything about it to him behind the scenes? Would it have been funnier if he'd said Teddy couldn't outrun his cousin Franklin?

Whatever the answers, Don continues to justify close attention. After Felipe Lopez led off with a homer, Sutton said "What was that? Be aggressive. B-E aggressive." So I guess he spends a lot of time on the internet. Or maybe I'm projecting.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Two Observations As We Get Outclassed By the Brewers

Separated at birth

Geoff Jenkins (left) and Jandek (right)

A Fact About Don Sutton
When Don Sutton gets bored (with the game, with Carpenter, with Matt Chico), he starts working edgy and saying things like "Teddy [Roosevelt] couldn't outrun Larry Flynt." That's the only good reason I can think of for keeping Chico around.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

And Puzzled I Shall Remain

I don't see much of the weekend games. I got stuff to do. That lawn isn't going to mow itself, and the damn zoning board won't let me buy a herd of ill-tempered goats to do it for me. But I'm not regretting it this weekend, because getting swept by the Cubs isn't something I necessarily want to savor every moment of.

Here's something to think about: we've had Ryan Langerhans for three games now. How is he being used? Let's take a look.

May 4: defensive replacement in 8th inning for Casto

May 5: defensive replacement in 6th for Casto

May 6: started, 2 hits in 3 ABs, pinch hit for by Da Meat Hook with two men on in the 7th

The Nats are apparently thinking that the dude isn't good enough to start more than once a series and isn't good enough to be entrusted with an important at-bat. Then why did you trade for him? Nook Logan's coming back tomorrow -- how many defensive replacements do we need? If you're willing, as the Nats seemingly are, to trust the results of Atlanta's experiment in letting Langerhans hit (the result: he can't), then there wasn't any reason to get him. I continue to be puzzled.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Yet Another Ryan

I had no idea the front office was this vindictive. Trading my favorite player just because I linked to that Rosenthal article? That's cold.

I don't like it. That's not an overwhelming emotion. The word that keeps popping up in my head is "whatever." This isn't a huge deal, even if it is my favorite. So keep that in mind.

In terms of absolute talent, we lost. Snelling is still only 25, and with a little luck he could be an excellent hitter for years to come. Ryan Langerhans is 27, and in a couple of years he has the chance to be 29. He can't hit, he's out of options so we can't send him to the minors, and he doesn't even have the decency to be right-handed.

The counterpoint: Snelling makes Nick Johnson look like Cal Ripken. There's no reason to think he's going to play enough games to make an impact. Langerhans is apparently a great outfielder -- he'd have been playing center in Atlanta if Andruw Jones didn't already have it on lock. Jim Bowden's stated goal is give up offense to get defense, and that he did.

But that's dumb. Give up offense? We don't have any. We can't spare a hitter, especially if Manny Acta's serious about putting Guzman back in the lineup. Especially especially if he's also serious about giving Nook Logan a starting job. The only way this trade makes sense, in fact, is if it leads to Logan being jettisoned. The Nats are very worried about outfield defense, and that's a good thing to be worried about. But it's not worth it if you're letting Nook Logan bat four times a day. But if Langerhans is our everyday centerfielder, I could live with that. When I said he couldn't hit, I certainly didn't mean to suggest that he was as bad as Logan.

Even if that happens, it's quite possible that this trade makes us not a bit better. The A's, probably a more intelligently-run team than the Nats, like Snelling better than Langerhans. The Braves, certainly a more intelligently-run team than the Nats, liked "a player to be named later or cash considerations" better than Langerhans -- that's just the technical term for the proverbial bag of baseballs. Needham looks at the defense and concludes (or maybe summarizes someone else concluding) that "at worst, he's a league average performer." Well, no. At worst, he's a guy hitting .063 who's just been dumped by two good teams in the space of a week.

Apropos nothing, the worst-written subheadline I saw today came with this Michael Wilbon column.
Golden State is trying to disprove the NBA axiom that says the superior team always wins against regular-season juggernaut Dallas.
Ah, yes. I remember Hubie Brown repeating that one ad nauseam. "Now Marv, the superior team always wins against regular-season juggernaut Dallas, a'ight." It's one of those things that you get tired of hearing no matter how true it is. Defense win championships, every team makes a run, the superior team always wins against regular-season juggernaut Dallas.

While I Look For My Black Armband

I'll talk about Snelling later. This is time sensitive, though: Ken Rosenthal, who wrote that piece on how terrible the Nats are being run, is chatting about it at the Post at 1 today. Could be interesting.

UPDATE: It wasn't that interesting, unless you're interested in what a bunch of pathetic whiners share with me an interest in the Nationals. "You�ve given us 4,917 words of negativity. Is there anything positive that you can think of ?" Nice job with the question marks, crybaby. That wasn't even the worst one.

Unrelated in any way: for some reason ESPN thought some O's executive resigning was a big enough deal to put on the ticker. It's not, but it's a shame I didn't hear about this Joe Foss earlier. He would have been a nice addition to my shit list.
Perhaps Foss' most lasting contribution to the Orioles was negotiating and finalizing a compensatory deal with Major League Baseball after the Montreal Expos moved to Washington before the 2005 season.

Included in the landmark deal was the creation of a regional broadcast arm, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which airs Orioles and Washington Nationals games as well as other Beltway-area sporting events, but is owned primarily by the Orioles.
So what does an agent of pure evil do after successfully screwing us for years? He's going to run nursing homes!
Joe Foss, Orioles vice chairman and chief operating officer since December 1993, tendered his resignation Friday and will leave May 11 to become chief administrative officer of Erickson Retirement Communities in Catonsville. . . [Foss] said he'll be "added to the executive team" of Erickson, which manages 20,000 residential units on 19 campuses in 10 different states, including Charlestown in Catonsville, Oak Crest in Parkville and Riderwood in Silver Spring.
I'm glad they named some of the homes. If you're looking for a nursing home, I'd recommend you stay away from these. Given this guy's history, I'm sure there's going to be some serious senior-browbeating and will-tampering going on.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Sure, the Nationals are terrible. Can't hit, can't field, about to put Cristian Guzman back in there with a not-insane expectation of improvement. And yeah, local interest is at an all-time low, all-time being defined as about two and a half years. The Nats are reduced to sending some dude to my office to beg us to buy steeply discounted tickets (true story) (I didn't buy any). But at least the front office is doing the right things. Building the farm system, putting good men in charge, making sure that the minor leaguers have all the sunflower seeds they need.

Or maybe not. Ken Rosenthal -- sort of a younger Peter Gammons without the rock star wannabe weirdness -- has a surprisingly long and in-depth look at the dysfunction in the Nats' front office. I say surprisingly because the piece can be of interest only to Nationals fans, and of those only the ones who spend too much of their time thinking about the team. So I'm glad it's there, but I'm surprised the Dayn-lovers at Fox Sports considered it worth effort.

It confirms what people who have more dealings with the business end of the Nats than I do have known for a while: things doesn't work. Quite a bit of it I'm willing to dismiss: there are quite a few former employees who don't have anything good to say about Bowden, and that's to be expected. Rather more troubling is that no one in baseball except Stan Kasten has anything good to say about Bowden. Similarly troubling is that the Nats can't seem to anything right and chalk it up to inexperience. Well sure, it's not like that one Lerner or that other Lerner or Stan Kasten has any experience . . . hey, wait a damn minute! If they can't run a baseball team, why is Kasten hanging around? Eye candy? Needham fodder?

I'm not in a very analytical state of mind right now -- that picture of Feinstein has me kind of dazed -- and I look forward to what the Natmosphere has to say about this thing. It doesn't make me despair over the future of the franchise, but I'm a bit less sanguine than I was this morning.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Feinstein, You Ignorant [Promiscuous Woman]

The Post, adhering to its tarditional policy that its sports opinion pieces are to be as bad as its reporting is good, ran a piece by this John Feinstein guy about teh roids. It's nothing you haven't heard before. Maybe you agree with the premise, and maybe you don't, but I hope we can all agree that it's illogical, poorly-argued, and just not very good. But whatever. No one over there bats an eye when Boswell changes his mind about everything every couple of weeks, so this kind of thing is bound to happen.

The reason I'm bothering to talk about this is that Feinstein takes a completely gratuitous shot at Rickey "RICKEY!" Henderson. Yes, that Rickey. The greatest leadoff hitter of all time, greatest base-stealer that ever lived, and greatest living American. RICKEY! I was so mad I had to go back over this thing after I wrote it and bowdlerize myself.
Lots of bad guys have set important records. Rickey Henderson was as hard to take as anyone. Who can forget his, "I am the greatest of all time," speech after breaking Lou Brock's record for stolen bases.
Bad guys? Who the [heck] do you think you are talking about Rickey like that? Bad guy? Ask Tony Gwynn if Rickey's a bad guy. Hell, if you feel so bad for Lou Brock, ask him. Brock helped Rickey write that speech, you know. Because Lou Brock isn't a player-hating [glans]. Calling Rickey a bad guy should be a felony, and comparing him -- as this [rear-facing orifice] does -- to Pete Rose and Ty Cobb should be a gas chamber bounce.

You've got to know your place, Feinstein, and yours is way below Rickey. Rickey's better at everything than you are at anything. He's a better ballplayer than you, he's a better dresser than you, and he's a better [goshdarn] columnist than you.

Above: Rickey with the fans.
Below: Feinstein with a naked man.

If you want to whine about steroids, fine. Just don't bring Rickey into it. Does Rickey come to where you work and slap Tony Kornheiser's [REDACTED] out of your [REDACTED]? No he does not. So stop player-hating and maybe spend a little more time on your next book so the New York Times doesn't [defecate] all over it. Just because you're the poor man's Mitch Albom doesn't mean you should be taking your frustrations out on Rickey.

I mean, really, who's setting a worse example for the kids? Rickey, who has triumphed over every obstacle that's been set in front of him, including being way too old to play baseball? Or John Feinstein, who's been known to throw around the term "[ucking-fay] refs" on live television, where it could be heard by children?

Don't be a [vinegary feminine hygiene product], Feinstein. Keep Rickey's name out of your mouth.

Monday, April 30, 2007

It's A Dull and Rusty Razor

Do I pick these players because they need to someone to argue for them, or do they need someone to argue for them because I pick them? I don't know what it is, but as soon as I stopped worrying about Ryan Church, things started to go well for him. The moment I declared my allegiance to Chris Snelling . . . well, you can't say his luck's gotten worse, but he has endured a string of setbacks at the hands of the front office. Over the last couple weeks, he's been losing starts in left field to the likes of Michael Restovich and Robert Fick, the latter of whom proves conclusively -- as if we needed any more evidence -- that a gritty, scrappy attitude and left-handedness can get you a long way baseball, even if that's pretty much all you've got going for you.

Now we've got Kory Casto, already vanquished once in this positional war, back from AAA. This move comes, of course, just as I'd forgotten how to spell his name. It also comes as Snelling isn't hitting. He's down to a Guzmanian .208 average, and he's not making up for it with power. What he is doing is getting on base, with his antipodean mixture of walks and hit by pitches giving him a more than respectable .367 OBP. And that's part of what makes me think Snelling should be playing every day -- his batting can't not go up. There's no way he keeps hitting .208, and when he snaps out of it, that tasty on base percentage is a nice foundation to build on.

Manny Acta sees it differently, though: Casto is going to play every day until the little-missed Nook Logan comes back, whereupon he becomes the fourth outfielder. Snelling, out of options and therefore un-Columbusable, gets to sit on the bench and wonder why he went through all that rehab.

This may well be the right decision for the team, but who's pretending to care about that? Not the front office, that's for sure. At this point, it's every Nat for himself and every blogger for his Nat, so I don't feel too bad in hoping that Casto and the three or four other outfielders I need out of the way fail miserably.

We dropped the series with the Mets, which is predictable, but at least we got some nice pitching out of it. Jerome Williams, who was responsible for six innings of it, is on the DL now, but I didn't feel the need to put an "unfortunately" on the beginning of this sentence, which only now have come to the end of. For one thing, six innings of no runs doesn't mean he doesn't suck. More importantly, watching this guy work is pure torture. There's already far too much Steve Trachsel on the MASN family of networks, and I have no desire to watch a Hawaiian Steve Trachsel imitator take three hours to get through five innings.

A word on Tony Randazzo, the umpire who possibly cost us the rubber match with the Mets. Maybe you remember -- in the seventh, down a run and with a man on second, Snelling and Fick came up to hit. They thought they were playing baseball, but Randazzo without warning switched the game to single player Random Strike Call, and they both struck out. Keep in mind, though, that the night before he blew a double play call that let us score a run. It didn't give us a win, but it did make us take a long time to lose, and that's something. Maybe he was trying to make up for his gaffe on Sunday, or maybe -- and Occam's holding a razor to my neck and telling me that this is the explanation -- he's just not very good at his job.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I Also Miss Deivi Cruz and Keith Osik

This is no fun at all. Brian Schneider's losing balls everywhere you could think of, including under his own, and Robert Fick is not only starting over Chris Snelling but making the kind of mistakes that would get Ryan Church benched, suspended, demoted, and maybe executed.

So, last night. That's the kind of game you have to win to get out of last place. We're not going to get out of last place, so we didn't win. And vice versa.

It's a shame to waste such an effective start by Jay Bergmann, but that's one of the nice things about this team: expectations are so low and accomplishments are so modest that a heartfelt but metaphorical pat on the butt and and a "good effort, kid" are all that's really merited or forthcoming. I mean, it's not like we wasted a no-hitter or anything.

Over at teh Journal, Barry Svrluga asked some questions.
1. Who is the former National you miss the most?
2. Who is the National acquired in a trade or free agency who you most like?
3. What deal would you most like to see undone?
1. ¡Livan!, obviously. I don't know what makes me miss him more: watching another four-inning start from some 25-year-old I'd never heard of before March, or realizing that Church, Bergmann, Zimmerman, and all the other fresh-faced white kids stuttering through the same old cliches might as well all be the same person.

2. Chris Snelling. That's all covered right here.

3. One of the first ones: Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis for Jose Guillen. I know you all loved Guillen because he hit a little bit and yelled at Angels, but he's a bad person and a pain in the ass, and better he does the more convinced I am that there's no justice in the world. Plus he didn't do a damn thing for about 7/12 of his Nats career.

Rivera and Izturis aren't All Stars and they keep getting hurt, but they both had very good 2006s and cost less together than Guillen did alone. Furthermore, retaining Izturis would have meant that Cristian Guzman wouldn't be getting four bills a year from us to hurt the team by playing or hurt the team slightly less by getting injured, AND there's a better than even chance that we would have gotten to watch Barry Larkin's farewell tour in a Nationals uniform. No Guillen or Guzman? If you gave me a time machine and a choice to go back and stop Hitler or go back and stop this trade, I'd have to think about it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Will's Corner

The corner Will Carroll's painted himself into keeps getting smaller. Ever since he first "discovered" the gyroball (i.e., looked at the pictures in a book he couldn't read), he's had to walk back expectations of it as qualified, scrupulous experts have horned in on his turf.

The most direct, embarrassing setback came when Daisuke Matsuzaka himself denied throwing the thing, and things have only gotten worse since then. The problem is that Matsuzaka signed with Boston, and the Red Sox are always on national TV. Thus we -- not to mention Orel Hershiser, Joe Morgan, and all the other professionals in ESPN's employ -- can judge for ourselves. Hell, with all the technology we've got on the internet tubes nowadays, it's be easy!

NOT SO FAST, YOU COPYRIGHT INFRINGERS! Will would love to break it down for you, show you in slow motion that Daisuke's a liar and Will was right along, but . . .
See those pretty pictures on the front page? They cost money. Video? Way more. If we doubled subscription prices and ad rates, we’d have almost enough.
Will cares about nothing more than his credibility, but he's not about to post or even link to something on Youtube that's copyrighted, even if it would prove him right. Will wants you to see it, but a law's a law, which you'd probably understand if you weren't staring slack-jawed at "pretty pictures."

Here I am setting myself for a lecture from Will and doing his job for him. Here's a gyroball video that's helpfully translated so Will doesn't have to beg someone to figure out what it says for him. There's got to be gyroball somewhere in here, right? I mean, there would be if Matsuzaka actually threw it. And here's a video that's, like, nothing but science. I'm sure a fully qualified expert like Will could glean some gyriffic info from that.

Finally, here's what looks like Bob Wickman awkwardly talking into a webcam. Looks can be deceiving, though, because it's actually Will Carroll talking awkwardly into a webcam.

Note where he mentions that Daisuke's "every game last year was available on the web." I know it would take a lot fact-checking and actual reporting to get through them all, not to mention cutting into time allotted to posting the wildly popular Baseball Prospectus Video Unfiltered programs that have been burning up Youtube, but the world needs to know what the world's foremost expert on imaginary pitches has to say about this one.

I will say, though, that Will and I have something in common: disdain for his fans and correspondents. See at the end of the post how a friendly inquiry on a subject Will's staked out as his specialty gets you not only a condescending crack about pretty pictures, but also some simultaneously pious and smart-assed demands for increased awareness of universally ignored law. Will respects his fans just as much as I respect Will's fans.

Monday, April 23, 2007

David Halberstam, R.I.P.

I was saddened this afternoon to hear of the passing of author David Halberstam. In an eerie coincidence, I had this very morning picked up Summer of '49 -- by no means for the first time -- to read on my commute.

Halberstam was best known for his political writing -- Vietnam, Kennedys, that kind of thing. That's how he got his Pulitzer, and that's what his obituaries will lead off with. I don't know anything about any of that, but let me explain briefly how I know he was a great writer: I hate the Yankees; I hate the Red Sox; I hate nostalgia. Summer of '49 is about the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the formative memories of Baby Boomers, and it's still one of my top five baseball books.

More satisfying if less accomplished is October 1964, a morality tale in which the good guys win because the Yankees are racists. I heartily recommend both and regret that there will never be another installment.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Slap A Fonzie On It

That was a rough weekend. I'm not talking about mine, which wasn't all that bad -- it looks like most of the charges are going to be dropped, and what the hell, I've always got that second kidney. I'm talking about the Nats, who have reverted to the frustrating ways of their first week.

I've commented once or twice that while the Nationals are losing a lot, they're doing so in a salubrious manner. Their scrappy, never-say-die performances teach the youth the importance of teamwork and good attitude. Their competence teaches the youth the importance of making sure not to humiliate yourself even if you have no hope of winning. And Ryan Church's performance teaches the youth that you can have a full, productive life even after Frank Robinson has called you names.

Now, however, I wouldn't recommend letting your kids watch these guys. Scrappiness doesn't do you a lot of good when you're losing by six runs twice in a row. Competence wasn't much in evidence when Matt Chico walked seven Marlins in 4.2 innings, or when Jerome Williams gave up nine runs in six. As for Ryan Church, well the honeymoon with his new manager lasted only 18 games. I'll get to that later.

The Nats have settled into last place with a clean, mechanical click; the right piece in the right hole. The sound resonated with finality. Maybe you heard it. We're home now, and we won't be leaving soon.

Ryan Church was yanked from Sunday's game with no explanation other than "he's not injured." Mark Zuckerman at the Times scooped everyone:
So Ryan was, in fact, benched by manager Manny Acta for not hustling down the line on his second-inning grounder today. Acta said he won't tolerate lack of effort, so he didn't hesitate to pull Church from the game and insert Chris Snelling in his place.
There comes a time when even Church's staunchest defenders have to concede that maybe there is some substance to all the complaints about his attitude. I'm not talking about me here -- I got to that point ages ago; I just don't care. A home run counts whether or not the guy hitting is a gritty, dirt-rubbing-in-it gamer. Brian Schneider not liking your look in the clubhouse is not, to my mind, a disqualification from the profession of baseball.
The Nationals' experience with Frank Robinson has led me to classify managerial discipline in two categories: Ohka Discipline and Soriano Discipline. The former is vindictive, the unprofessional action of an angry man. The latter is constructive, setting the tone for a successful team. Which is this? It could be because I like both the guys involved, but I'd say that it looks good so far. Acta hastens to point out that he's "a Ryan Church fan." Church is appropriately contrite: "I know I messed up. I got the message loud and clear. We'll leave it at that." This one gets a conditional Soriano.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Not Last

I'm going to be honest with you: I didn't stay up for this one. I went to bed after the 11th inning ended with, by my count, the five hundred twenty-fourth groundout with a man on second base.

As a battle for last place, though, it was perfect: epic, endless, boring, ignored. And we won! So bask in the glory of fourth place and try to forget that whole walking the pinch-hitting pitcher incident. It's all behind us, and we're guaranteed our spot in not-last at least until Friday night.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Like Shalamar in '81

I enjoyed the hell out of that baseball game. Yeah, we lost, but I've hardened myself to that eventuality, and there was a lot of good in this one.

The Virginia Tech caps were a perfect idea; a truly dignified tribute -- Washington Senator at the BPG board deserves a great deal of credit for this, as do the Nationals.

Chris Snelling, my new Ryan Church, was on fire: four times on base, including a triple. He had such a good game that Kory Casto had to go to Columbus to escape the shame of it all.

It was a tense game. The Nats got behind early, but got back into it thanks to the left side of Atlanta's infield suddenly displaying hands like Sonny Liston. In Renteria's case, I think we can chalk it up to Panda Express, and I'm sure you can come up with theories that explain what happened to Chipper.

The seventh inning was the game of base ball as it is played today at its best. Down one run and with men on 1st and 2nd, Ryan Zimmerman stepped in against Rafael Soriano, and they had themselves a classic one-on-one battle, with the RZA fouling off pitch after pitch until chasing a slider to strike out. Dmitri Young followed with an even better at-bat, fighting off pitches until he lined one into left field, only to have a perfectly-positioned Ryan Langerhans rob him of a game-tying double. It hurt, but it was a good kind of hurt. Character-building, you know?

The Nats lost, but at least we can blame it on Tom Boswell. If he really cared about the Nationals, he never would have written this bad hoodoo magnet of a column. But it's ok, really, because even though the Nats have lost a lot (the winning percentage stands at .286, and that's even after our recent "hot streak"), they've been in enough games long enough that it's not a soul-crushing chore to sit through them. This could change for the worse and probably will, so I'm enjoying it while I can.

Up next are the Phillies, who have been showing their brotherly love by keeping us out of last place. I doubt I'll be so magnanimous if we lose these.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Thanks, Jobu

Chris Snelling's radness and the public's awareness thereof continue to grow unabated. Barry Svrluga posted on his day off, which indicates that he's getting a little too into this whole blogging thing. The signs are all there: pleas for more comments and an unseemly interest in his own ranking within "teh community." Things may look bad for Svrluga's sanity, but good for us -- dude's a hell of a blogger, and if being behind the United blog prompts him to keep the content coming, then we -- the Nats fans -- win.

So anyway, Svrluga mentions a completely awesome play that Snelling pulled off in our win against the Mets on Saturday, when he conned overrated pretty boy David Wright into handing us a run.
With two outs in the fourth inning, Brian Schneider was on third and Snelling on second when Felipe Lopez hit a grounder to Mets third baseman David Wright. Snelling began running from second, and Wright kind of double-pumped the ball as he got it out of his glove. Lopez, hitting left-handed, was scooting down the line.

So Snelling thought to himself, "Oh, we can get a run here." He had taken off toward Wright, and Wright decided against throwing the ball across the infield, instead opting to tag out Snelling. "I was trying to get in a run-down," Snelling said, a hugely heads-up play. If Wright throws out Lopez at first, the run Schneider would score from third wouldn't count -- even if he crossed the plate before the out was recorded -- because it's a force play at first. But if Snelling gets tagged out -- not a force because runners were on second and third only -- the run would count if Schneider crossed the plate before Wright put the tag on Snelling.

So Snelling retreated toward second. Wright ran him down. "I didn't think I was in a run-down long enough," Snelling said. But he was. Schneider crossed the plate just before Wright put the tag on, and the Nationals went up 3-1.

I'm a smart guy, and that's too much for me to figure out. And I'm talking days later in the comfort of my den while I sit at my blogging desk in my smoking jacket and cravat holding a glass of cognac between my index and middle fingers -- I can't imagine figuring that all out in the microseconds Snelling had.

Above: This is what me contemplating Chris Snelling's baserunning would look like if I were a squirrel. Big ups to the master squirrel posers at Sugar Bush Squirrel. Please note the tiny bottle of Remy Martin to the right.

On the other end of the mind meets baseball spectrum is Chris Snelling's on base percentage. Needham notes that Snelling's OBP is impressive, especially when put up against his uninspiring batting average. But here's the thing: he's not walking all that often; he's getting on by letting pitches fly into his body. It's a simple, direct solution to the problem of not wasting outs. If I may engage in a little national stereotyping, it's an essentially Australian way of getting on base -- the baseball equivalent of making movies, making songs, and foightin' 'round the world.

Tonight's game - the last thing I was expecting. There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball, another 12 in Japan, and a couple hundred more in Division I college ball, and the Nats are the last one that I would have thought could have toughed out as crappy a start as Matt Chico had tonight. Five innings, five walks, no strikeouts? That's a recipe for a blowout unless you have both skill and luck on your side, and the Nationals have been lacking in both.

Tonight it hinged, as always, on the fat guys. Ronnie Belliard dropped another one, but he did have a hit and a run, and Da Meathook made it a definite fat guy night with three hits, two doubles, and two driven in. When Jobu lets the fat guys contribute that much and lets the rookie starter get by unpunished with that kind of pitching line, it's pretty hopeless for the other team.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

To Franklinton

That weekend went pretty well. Yeah, we lost a game, but it wasn't humiliating, and I didn't see it anyway. Then we won one -- jacked a bunch of dingers and upheld the long-standing tradition of having Mets pitchers throw at us in April. Finally, El Nino stepped in and cancelled half the schedule, bringing with him two happy benefits: 1) We don't lose the series, and 2) We don't have to look at the Mets or their terrible stadium or their cheesy little moustaches for a while.

So it looks my yearly prayer to the baseball gods is paying off so far. I didn't ask for much -- requesting a World Series or 60 wins or something is hubristic and sure to end in disaster. Remember when Mo Vaughn fell into the dugout and messed up his ankle on his first play with Anaheim? That's because some Angels fan got ambitious and wished for an MVP. All I asked for was a .500 record against the Mets and a whole lot of Chris Snelling.

Above: A baseball god. Is very bad to drink his rum.

The gods saw to it that we're .500 against New York, and now they're looking after Snelling for me, too.
Manny Acta decided Thursday to make Chris Snelling his starting left fielder, a decision that has proven to pay off and could lead to Kory Casto's demotion to Class AAA Columbus.
After backing up Casto for most of the first two weeks of the season, Snelling was inserted into the lineup Thursday and has remained there since. And when he hit two-run homer and added an RBI groundout in yesterday's 6-2 win over the New York Mets, the 25-year-old outfielder further cemented his place with the Nationals for the immediate future.
I wonder why this wasn't the situation from the beginning of the year. Snelling and Kasto are the same age, and all indications are that the Aussie is a better player. Why were they so desperate for Casto to win out? I really don't know. Maybe they explained it while I was in Europe taking important photographs. I know they wanted to get Casto regular playing time, but this is (technically) a major league ballclub. If you need more time in the nursery before you can contribute, well, that's why Lucas Sullivant founded Columbus, Ohio.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"No, Not Really. I'm Just Here For the Cruise."

At the thankfully still going Nationals Journal, Barry Svrluga poses a question that I'm sure has been asked more than once in the trailers the Nats are operating out of: "Will you remain interested throughout the course of the summer?"

The responses to the post are positive, but that's to be expected. People who post on Nationals Journal are a subset of people who read it, who are themselves a subset of people who are interested enough in the Nats to go to the trouble of finding online discussion of them. The hardcores, in other words. It's like going on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer cruise to Alaska and asking who likes Buffy.

My response to Svrluga's question . . . well, I know I resort to quoting Zhou Enlai far too often around here, but it's too soon to tell. I haven't made it through a whole season yet, but there are a couple of things working to make it possible that this is the first: 1) TV coverage the whole year. This is really, really important. B) Trust me, losing interest in an 81-win team only to be enthralled by an 18-win team is exactly the kind of thing I'd do. I think I'm a Dadaist at heart.

A helpful comparison can be made with the team forcing us to preempt BookTV, the Baltimore Orioles. The O's are bad, of course, and have been for a very long time. No hope to compete, little hope of a future, etc. I follow the Orioles, so I know what I'm talking about when I say that they're the worst kind of team to follow. They're going to win 70 games, but they aren't going to win 90. Last night I went to bed after the 10th inning -- I figured that if they lost, that's no reason to stay up. If they won, well that's just one of the not quite 81 they'll slog through. They lost, by the way.

The Nats, on the other hand -- Oh, the Nats! If they lose, it's comedy. Bunts into double plays, fat guys dropping balls, Disorderlies-style comedy. It's like Stan Kasten hired the Three Stooges to fix his plumbing in the middle of a hoity-toity dinner party! (And you're welcome for that link -- God bless the internet and all who sail on it.)

A win for the home nine, though, is a stunning upset, a do-you-believe-miracles once in a lifetime (well, once in a weektime at least) event. Every Nationals win should be commemorated with a bronze statue and an epic poem. The Nats' season is -- for lack of a more original metaphor -- a roller coaster ride of humiliating lows and lung-taxing highs. The Orioles' season is like getting up and going to work every day, and I get enough of that without having to listen to Jim Palmer talk about it.

UPDATE: I was thinking of hundreds of different ways the Nats could blow that game (meteor shower makes Church drop a fly ball, Bill Buckner comes out of the stands to play first, hara kiri). It never occurred to me that they'd win. Where should we put the statue?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fat Guys Dropping Balls

I gotta say, my first Nats game was not satisfying television. It could have been. The main thing I took away from it was fat guys dropping balls. In many other contexts -- the circus, a sumo tiebreaker decided by juggling, the Caribbean World Series -- this would be high entertainment. But as jaded as I've forced myself to become about my favorite team, they're still my favorite team, and that kind of thing can't help but hurt.

Dmitri Young does no team credit. I've found that any predeliction has something that's very difficult to justify to outsiders. For example, I enjoy a little mixed martial arts from time to time. I'm not huge fan; I'm not going to pay for it, but I'll watch some human cockfighting when it's on. The problem is that most UFC bouts have a point -- and this point can stretch for several excruciating minutes -- where the one muscular man wearing nothing but some little combat panties is lying right on top of the other muscular man wearing nothing but some little combat panties, and neither of them is doing much but breathing heavily. Try explaining that to a wife or girlfriend or parent or spiritual advisor.

As a Nats fan, that point came last night during Dmitri Young's first at-bat. He's a fine figure of a man with his zeppelinish ass, his jersey protruding over his belt like he's trying to hide a tortoise flat against his belly, and his not insignificant yellow sheet. Seeing him wheezing his way up to the plate, my wife turned to me and said two words: "Professional. Athlete." I knew she was just trying to get me to hit the recall button on the remote and get us back to MASN1 so she could indulge in elaborate house-playing fantasies about Brian Roberts, but she had a point nonetheless.

And then he dropped a ball. My attention wandered, but as far as I'm concerned the game was decided by a big fat guy (Young) and a little fat guy (Ronnie Belliard) having baseballs clank uselessly against the instruments they carry specifically to hold them, and that's not an honorable way to lose. Plus no one could hit. Because we suck.

Sorry to be a downer, but I'm just catching up to where the rest of you have been for a week or so, and I'm finding that it's true what everyone says: we suck. But to cheer you up, my absolute favorite Korean baseball cartoonist, Mr. Choi Hoon, has finally gotten to the Nationals, and the results --as usual -- make me realize that I've wasted my life by not learning Korean. Here's Bodes sightseeing:

And here's Da Meat Hook dispensing wisdom. Or something.

Thank you and goodnight.