November 30, 2005

25th Man?

Surely Bill Ladson, scribe of the front office's house organ, wouldn't flat out lie to us? If Rocket Bill is to be believed, Brendan Harris has a future with the Nationals. Pravda DC has the scrappy, dare I say Carrollesque infielder competing for a bench spot in 2006.

After leading the Nats Arizona Fall League team with a .376 average, Harris batted .500 (6-12) over 5 games for Team USA in Olympic qualifying competition. A strong fall season at the plate, combined with error-free fielding at 2B, 3B and SS revived the Nats interest in Brendan, who fell off the team's radar after a rough 2005 spring training. Harris got a short cup of coffee with the big team this year, going 3-9 with a pinch hit homer, but if there's a Flying Spaghetti Monster in Heaven he'll play a much larger role in 2006.

Sadly, a larger role for Brendan is equivalent to another nail in Jamey Carroll's coffin. I hold out hope that Jamey will accept a one-year contract to be the Nats roving bunting instructor until such time as we can trade Marlon Anderson to a team that can afford a million dollar lefty pinch hitter.

MoneyPark: The Art of Analyzing an Unfair Lease

Moneyball was the book that really brought me back to baseball. I read it on a plane headed to Vegas (along with Bringing Down the House, which brought me back to gambling and near financial insolvency, but that's a seperate post.) While I enjoyed the underlying theory, and still more or less worship at the shrine of OBP, what I really liked about the book were the individual stories: Bill James, Voros McCraken, Paul DePodesta, and the legions of mathematicians, economists, financial analysts and general wingnuts who contributed to the development of "new baseball knowledge."

Likewise, never before has so much legal, political and cultural analysis been devoted to parsing the nuances of an as-yet-incomplete stadium lease agreement. Capitol Punishment, working off info from Brian at the BPG forum, uncovers a potentially fatal chink in Bud Selig's armor. Turns out the Commisar has no clothes (just try getting that unfortunate image out of your head). Federal Baseball chips in the CliffsNotes version. Highlights of the highlights:

While MLB has the right to go to arbitration to "enforce" the stadium agreement, the damages (in the form of lost revenue) won't kick in until the stadium doesn't open in 2008;

If MLB voids the stadium agreement before then they could relocate the team, but they'd have no right to damages at all.

The general consensus is that MLB won't move the team. There's no other market that will be close to as lucrative as DC, and with the Marlins shopping for a new home locations are limited. (I think contraction is still a possibility, but unlikely.)

I won't credit the City Council with being canny enough to have seen this coming, but they are professional politicians, and can exploit an opportunity with the best of them. For months MLB had the city over a barrel, but couldn't close the deal. Now it may be the Council's turn for revenge. As I said before, MLB may finally have gone too far out on a limb. With no right to specific performance of the stadium agreement, and no realistic chance of relocating the Nats again, Bud may shortly find himself pining for the days when a $24 million guarantee would have gotten him a $535 million ballpark.

None of this means that the stadium debacle and the attendant national disgrace won't drag on for months yet but hey, anything to forestall the Juan Encarnacion signing, right?

November 28, 2005

Adios, Stubby

It's patently obvious that Jim Bowden hates Mexicans. First it was poor Vinny Castilla, shipped off to the border town of San Diego. Now Esteban "Stubby" Loiaza has fallen victim to Trader Jim's nativism, relocating to the Left Coast for $21 million over 3 years. Do I think this contract is 1 year too long and $1 mil per too rich? Yep. Do I wish the Nats had been in a position to at least make a competitive offer? Sure. Am I perplexed as to how we can still possibly be in the $50 million A.J. Burnett sweepsteaks? You betcha.

Unless we want to seriously entertain the prospect of a Hernandez-Patterson-Lawrence-Drese-Rauch/Rasner starting rotation next year, it's time for the Nats to start combing the local flea markets for pitching. Both Capitol Punishment and Banks of the Anacostia have done a little advance scouting of the 75% off irregular pitchers bin. The good news: Cheap Arms! The bad news: Yeeeech!

In the Silver Lining department, we are now entitled to Oakland's 1st round draft pick (22nd overall), since Stubby was a Type B Free Agent. And if we can get someone to take Hector Carrasco and Preston Wilson, well that's two more 1st rounders. Lord knows we need the prospects, seeing as how the readers of voted the Nats farm system the worst in baseball. Read all about it (and my semi-stirring defense of our crappy minor leaguers) over at Basil's spot.

I'm just saying, Luis "El Guapo" Ayala, (Los Mochis, Mexico) might want to keep a bag packed.

November 26, 2005

Dispatches From a Turkey Coma

The Washington Post columnists have used the long holiday weekend to revisit the Nats ownership situation. Stagnant no longer accurately describes the state of negotiations, the two sides have been immobile long enough to qualify as petrified. Boz, who as Capitol Punishment points out is at his best writing as a fan, still sees signs that MLB will name a local ownership group (the Lerners) but now frets that delays and cost overruns will result in a second-class facility, endangering the "stadium as economic development engine" model.

Mike Wise crawls out of whatever slimy fissure he inhabits to cast a vote for the Dread Pirate Smulyan. If the Nats blogosphere took a vote for least favorite local columnist, T(h)om Loverro of the Times would win in a justified landslide, but Wise would still get my vote. Mike Wise's ability to willfully misrepresent whatever subject he happens to be covering is unparalleled. In today's column he lauds Smulyan for having *gasp* African-American minority partners, while denigrating Colin Powell's participation in the Malek bid, and tacitly accusing Fred Malek of anti-Semitism. If I needed another reason to dislike both Wise and Smulyan, here it is.

Elsewhere in the Post, the final numbers are in, and the Nats made
$10 million in after-tax profit for MLB. The article notes that the team's competitiveness was key to the higher than anticipated revenues. Hmmm... competitive teams are profitable teams. And the ownership delay is damaging what? The Nationals ability to compete. Therefore...? In any case, profits are expected to decline next season as the cost of holding RFK together with paperclips and chewing gum increases.

Speaking of stadiums, the D.C. City Council wants a
vote on the finalized lease agreement, assuming we ever get one. A majority of the council is on record saying they will nix the lease if MLB won't agree to pay for cost overruns. Bud & Jerry aren't about to agree to that, but some people already have, namely Fred Malek and Franklin Haney. Is this a negotiating ploy to push MLB toward one of the city's favored ownership groups?

Finally, from the Irony is Dead department, lauds the charitable and community work of the franchise and players. Prominently mentioned, Jamey Carroll, Brad Wilkerson and Gary Bennett, all potentially leaving the Nats this offseason. I guess it's true that no good deed goes unpunished.

November 23, 2005

For the love of all that's good and decent, it's only November 22nd!

I'm looking at my Calendar and it says November 22nd. It's not even Thanksgiving yet. Why on earth are they already playing Christmas music? It's bad enough that they stretch the holiday out for the entire month of December but now it's starting in the middle of November. I went into Subway on Monday to get lunch and they were playing Christmas music. I sincerely thought about jumping over the sneeze guard and throttling the manager when he turned it up. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas and I love the pageantry that goes along with it. But I like Fall too and I'd like the chance to enjoy it. Besides there's only so many times you can hear "Step into Christmas" by Elton John before you're ready to kill someone.

November 22, 2005

The Da Vidro Code

Every since Marlon Anderson showed up on our roster I've been trying to come up with a rationale for the signing that doesn't include "Trader Jim is attempting to screw us on his way out the door to Boston." It hasn't been easy. But there is one piece of information floating around that might be the key to interpreting JimBo's new infielder mania. What the hell is up with Jose Vidro's knees?

The latest report is that Vidro will, once again, forgo surgery and continue attempting to rehab his right knee. This marks at least the second time that Jose has delayed the operation this offseason, and the third or fourth if you count from the middle of 2005. All these delays seem to have the blessing of various surgeons and team doctors, including St. James of Birmingham, patron saint of ligament repair, but it does make me wonder. The Nats front office, in this case at least, probably know things that the wider fanbase does not. Are they preparing for life without Vidro in 2006?

Damian Jackson and Marlon Anderson combined are set to make just over $1.6 million this year. That's a lot to pay for two utilitymen/pinch hitters, but it's reasonable for a 2B platoon. Now if Vidro were definitely going to be out next season, that money would be better spent on Junior Spivey, Mark Grudzielanek or another full-time second baseman. But since Jose's health in no worse than uncertain, you don't want to spend $3 or $4 million on a back-up 2B.

If there's any validity to my entirely unfounded speculation, JimBo's obsessive hording of infielders becomes a little more understandable. You can still question whether Jackson/Anderson is a better 2B platoon than Carroll/Harris/Short, and I would, but at least that's more of a traditional baseball argument and less a discussion about whether GM pro tempore Bowden has gone off his meds again.

November 19, 2005

Weekends with Gary

Why Meeting Bill Ladson is Not a Reason to Go to Mo's

Like a chump I stood in line outside the Springfield Mall Modell's for 45 minutes today, followed by another half hour standing inside the store, followed by way too much time watching Screech pantomime with the audience. All to listen to Charlie Slowes revive his ESPNZone trivia contest, and to watch Gary "Tex" Majewski and Jose "Jose" Guillen model two new jerseys, both of which look suspiciously like last season's BP jersey. There was also an autograph session, but only the first 100 customers got to partake, and I was customer No. 118.

But I did get to meet Bill Ladson, and when I say meet I mean stand next to and stifle the urge to ask probing questions like, "Hey Bill, who do you think will be doing the catching next year?" I'm saving that one for the next Nationals Mailbag. Bill was at the event to file
this insightful bit of reporting. Bill sweats alot for a man not wearing a coat in late November. I also heckled the Comcast SportsNet camera guy recording the event for posterity. What, they can be at the media events but they can't show the games?

An impromptu conversation with disgruntled fellow Nats fans who also did not receive autographs, left me with these observations:

1. The Nats bologsphere accurately reflects the mood of the larger fanbase regarding the ownership issue. It's rare in Northern Virginia to hear the D.C. City Council praised for anything, but everyone I spoke with approved of their increasingly hardline stance on the lease negotiations. If Bud is waiting for public opinion to turn against the city, I hope he's holding his breath.

2. The Marlon Anderson signing is interpreted as the disappointing end of Jamey Carroll's Nats career. Jamey's character, hustle and decency were praised, and there was some concern about what the loss of good clubhouse guys like Carroll and Baerga would do to the team's chemistry in 2006.

November 18, 2005

The Last Straw

Meet Marlon Anderson, the Nats new $1.85 million left-handed pinch hitter for the next two seasons. If Marlon gets a hit every single time he comes up to bat in 2006 he's earned his contract. Otherwise I have had it with Jim Bowden. The Nationals are operating on a roughly $50 million dollar payroll. Bowden just promised about $1 million of that to a guy whose job is to get one at bat a game. And then he promised it to him again in 2007!

Earlier this offseason the Nats blogosphere debated Jim Bowden in philosophical terms. Agree with his decisions or not, isn't it better to have someone in charge, making decisions? I think it's time to revisit that discussion. Leaving aside the Vinny Castilla-Brian Lawrence trade, inertia might have been the Nats best friend this winter, if only to keep J.B. from overloading the roster with subpar utility infielders.

The big losers here are Jamey Carroll, Rick Short and Brendan Harris, all of whom should probably start looking for a new gig in 2006. Darn you Bowden, Darn you to heck. (Distinguished Senators has a much more satisfying, profanity-laced take on the Marlon Anderson signing.)

Google Bombs Away!

Bud Selig is a national disgrace, not that you needed me to tell you that. Der Selig's latest mealy-mouthing on the Nationals:

"We want to move as expeditiously as possible. I'm very sensitive about all these issues... We need to select an owner. We need to get a lease done. We just need to move ahead."

As Tonto said to the Lone Ranger, "What's this we stuff, cowboy?" Bud is the one who still has three ownership interviews to conduct. If that's what $100,000 and the promise of $450 million more gets you in the way of personal service from the Commish, no wonder baseball owners are all grouchy SOBs.

One faint ray of hope comes from the rumored merger talks between the Lerner family and former Atlanta baseball exec Stan Kasten. The Lerners have the deep pockets and family control, Kasten has the baseball-insider mojo, and no one named Smulyan is involved. What's not to like?

Today's Post also reports that the city council reacted favorably to plans for the new stadium. I'm remaining agnostic until I see pictures. Speaking of the stadium, negotiations continue at roughly the speed of cold molasses. Capitol Punishment and Curly W have the in-depth analyses.

Beantown Bound Bowden Redux

Trader Jim gets a 2nd interview with the Red Sox, putting him in the same category as the ex-Orioles GM who's not Mike Flanagan, and a host of nameless candidates possibly including Screech. (And I don't mean Dustin Diamond.) Please Boston, take him before he trades Brad Wilkerson for Juan Encarnacion. We'll even throw in Tyrell Godwin!

Thankfully, J.B.'s busy interview schedule didn't prevent him from treating free agent SP A.J. Burnett to a hamburger Happy Meal with all the trimmings at a Miami-area McDonalds. Behold the power of the $50 million payroll. The Nats' free agent marketing campaign, "Washington: It's like Tampa Bay but with slightly more money and less organizational talent!"

November 17, 2005


  • USA 7, Nicaragua 4
It's not exactly the Yanks-Red Sox, it's not even the Chiba Lotte Marines-Yakult Swallows, (and shouldn't the Phillies really get busy and change their name to Philadelphia Swallows?) but it's baseball and the boys in red, white and blue are undefeated after 3 games in the regional Olympic qualifying tournament. The latest victory comes courtesy of National infielder Brendan Harris, who hit the go-ahead 2-run homer in the bottom of the sixth.

Brendan is having himself a nice winter, following up an impressive Arizona Fall League showing with a 5-9, 2 run, 3 RBI, 1 HR, 0K start to the Olympic tournament. His .556 batting average currently leads Team USA. If Harris doesn't get a legitimate shot to compete for a utility infielder spot with the Nats this spring I despair for the future of the franchise. Of course the Damian Jackson signing means that Brendan, Jamey Carroll and Rick Short will be fighting for two roster spots at best.

But Only If They Throw In The Parker Brothers Too

Count me as a convert to the cult of
Milton Bradley. News of Trader Jim's misguided lust for Juan Encarnacion sparked a "What About Milton?" movement in the Nats blogosphere. OMG and new Nats Blogger Banks make the case for Uncle Milty. Summarized: we need a CF and leadoff man, Bradley can play center and hit leadoff. Sure he's crazier than a shithouse rat, but so what? Is he going to disrupt the burgeoning clubhouse chemistry between Guillen and Wilkerson? Predictably of course, the Nats are said to have no interest in the Dodgers outfielder.

November 16, 2005

ESPN Noticed... ESPN Cares!

Tim Kurkjian has apparently pulled his head out of [the sand - ed.] just in time to register that Washington's baseball franchise is still ownerless, rudderless and just generally -less. Timmy joins Frank Robinson, The Washington Post and Chris Needham among others in strongly encouraging MLB to just name a f****n' owner already. While attention from "The Worldwide Leader in Sports, Entertainment and Stupid Sports-Themed Game Shows" is nice, it reinforces the painful truth that few people outside the DC-MD-VA region have noticed or cared about our predicament.

T.K. places most of the blame squarely where it belongs, on Bud and the gang, but he can't resist a little dig at the city for not immediately kowtowing to all of MLB's idiot demands. He identifies the usual suspects, Malek, Lerner and Smulyan, as the prime contenders but notes that only Malek and Franklin Haney have promised to pay for construction cost overruns on the new stadium, making them very popular with the D.C. city council.

Mostly though, Kurkjian's column underlines the utter powerlessness of our position. Ultimately baseball will do what it wants, when it wants with the Nationals, and there's not a thing we can do about it (except sending nickels to the league offices postage paid.)

Prospects?! We Don' Need No Stinking Prospects!

And it's a good thing too, because we really don't have any. Both Baseball America and John Sickels evaluate the Nats top minor leaguers and find much to be desired. Beyond Ryan Zimmerman, who pretty much has to stop being considered a prospect now that he's the 2006 starting 3B, the earth is cold and barren. Nats Farm Authority has an independent evaluation of BA's top 10. Possibly the biggest offensive contributor in our minor league system? Triple-A Offensive Player of the Year Richard Ryan Short.

November 15, 2005

Attack of the Fifty Foot Lake Monsters

In lieu of actual baseball news, of which we have none, Triple Play proudly presents the re-christened NY-Penn League affiliate of the Washington Nationals, your Vermont Lake Monsters. The former Vermont Expos were officially re-branded today, though Nats Farm Authority had the scoop last week.

In possibly the first ever case of a team being named after its mascot, (Washington Screeches, anyone?) the Lake Monsters name derives from their mascot Champ, the Loch Ness-type monster said to live in Lake Champlain. Vermont ditched the Expos red, white and blue for
uniforms that have a color scheme similar to the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs.

What does all this mean for the farm system? Nothing. But it's nice to see that the
new uni craze extend to all levels of the franchise. Stay tuned for the Zephyrs new 2006 outfits, hip-waders and yellow rain slickers.

November 14, 2005

Alternate Universe

On the heels of the new price-gouging ticket plan, MLB has decided to strap the ol' milking machine to Nats fans proverbial udders and wring the last nickel out of the franchise before handing the mauled carcass off to an actual owner. The scam du jour? Alternate jerseys, which are to be unveiled at high noon this Saturday at the Modell's Sporting Goods in Springfield Mall (convenient to the ninth circle of hell that is the Mixing Bowl, estimated completion date: once Bud Selig has finished interviewing all the sub-contractors.)

BallWonk has been tracking the sordid history of Unigate. I'm torn. I have no interest in providing MLB with another cent of my recently-hard-earned money, but Guillen the Barbarian and Tex Majewski will be signing autographs, and line priority will undoubtedly go to those who purchase something. Some commenters on the Nats blogosphere have suggested staging a protest of MLB's handling of the ownership issue, but organized chanting makes Guillen angry, and in any case unless Bud, Bob or Jerry puts in an appearance I think I'll allow my rotten tomatoes to continue to over-ripen.

November 12, 2005

Dollars and Sense

Just as everyone assumed, the delay in naming new ownership has less to do with Bud's need to have all the candidates over for tea and bratwurst than with maintaining leverage on the city during the stadium lease negotiations. The Post is reporting that the sticking point is D.C.'s demand that MLB guarantee the $6 million dollar annual lease payment the city is to receive over the 30-year run of the lease.

Now let's leave aside that this is a standard lease term for almost every public project of this type, that the city is raising (at least) $535 million to build the thing with no contribution from MLB and that the revenue guarantee is essential in obtaining bonds to finance the project. Ignoring all that, D.C. is asking for $180 million in guaranteed income over the life of the lease.

That's less than 1/3 of what the construction will cost, and just a little over half of the profit that MLB will immediately realize from the sale of the franchise. MLB has already milked the city like an overworked cow for the Nats relocation, getting D.C. to refurbish RFK and agree to finance 100% of the cost of a new stadium. Thus far the league has contributed absolutely nothing to the process, and it looks as though the city is ready to draw a line in the sand here.

For the duration of the negotiations Bud Selig has wielded the ownership question like a stick, using it to beat back all attempts to reconsider the stadium legislation or make substantial alterations to the lease. But now he may have overplayed his hand. As Frank Robinson noted, the Nationals have already been handicapped in free agency and for the 2006 season by not having owners in place to establish a budget and direction for the team. The good news is though that the damage has already been done. Now it really is no detriment to the team to not have an owner by Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Valentine's Day, or whatever other arbitrary date Bob DuPuy announces next. So D.C. should hold the line, demand that MLB guarantee the rent and stonewall whatever other asinine conditions Jerry Reinsdorf tries to impose at the 11th hour.

And if the San Juan Nationals end up back at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in 2007, hey, thanks for the memories and let's get to work pressuring Congress to repeal that anti-trust exemption.

November 11, 2005

Gentlemen, Start Your Arms Race

Well, the exclusive negotiation period of free agency has come to an end without any marquee re-signings, so Stubby and El Matador will now determine their (inflated) value on the open market. They will join A.J. "Don't Call Me Carol" Burnett, Kevin Millwood, Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner and a host of lesser free agent pitchers. This is a fairly thin free agent market, so salaries will probably get out of whack quickly, (though there was a much deeper pool of talent last year and salaries still got out of whack quickly) and my inclination is to say goodbye, thanks and good luck to Esteban and Hector and go looking for their 2006 equivalents. Capitol Punishment has a rundown of the 2nd-tier free agent hurlers.

Rumor has it that Diamondbacks SP Javier Vazquez will request a trade to an east coast team, so that he can be nearer to his home and family in Puerto Rico. Javier's remaining 2-year, $24 million contract make it next to impossible for him to return to his Expo roots, but maybe he'll satisfy another team's need for pitching, freeing up a free agent for the Nats. Positive spin.

In other news, Boz reads the ownership debacle tea leaves and predicts an eventual victory for the Lerner family; The Chief gets 1 lousy third place vote for the NL Cy Young, and checks in with the Arizona Fall League.

Happy Veterans Day!

November 9, 2005

Hurry Up and Wait

You know, I'm starting to not even want an owner. I mean really, what does an owner bring to the table anyway? The Nats led the NL East by 5 1/2 games without an owner, they made roughly $30 million without an owner, they had Tampa Bay-style feuds between the coaching staff and the front office, all without the help or hindrance of an owner.

And that's all just as well, because the Nats aren't going to get an owner, not this year anyway. Bud Selig announced that a decision would not be made in time for the owners meeting next week, and to add insult to injury, there's not even a timetable for the process. Bud wants to interview all eight ownership groups personally, and his busy schedule of highway on-ramp ribbon cuttings have left him three meetings short.

As galling as that may be, I accept that it's MLB's perogative to monkey with the time frame as they see fit. What I will not accept is the continued credulous repetition of the line that the stadium lease negotiations are somehow inextricably linked to the ownership announcement. Nothing in any agreement between MLB and the city of Washington requires the lease to be formalized before new owners are announced. It's simply another of Bud's arbitrary hurdles. I am convinced that if Bob DuPuy announced that the Nats sale was conditioned on the city procuring a cape of finest dodo feathers for Bud, the press would blame the resulting delays not on MLB's intransigence, but on an extinct bird.

Welcome to the Suck

Today’s Movie Review – Jarhead

Matt Watson – 3 1/2 Baseballs

In times of peril and war, it’s occasionally useful to look back upon our past and try and learn something from the events that unfolded there. It might not provide all the answers but as the saying goes you’re bound to repeat your mistakes if you don’t learn from them.

Jarhead is the autobiographical story of marine lance corporal Anthony Swofford. We’re introduced to Swofford, played with grit and restrained emotion by Jake Gyllenhaal when his drill instructor starts mashing his head into a blackboard. As Swofford’s fellow marine Troy, played by Peter Sarsgaard offers again and again, “Welcome to the Suck”. From here the movie follows “Swoff” and his compatriots through their training in scout and sniper tactics and their eventual deployment to the gulf during Operation Desert Shield. Sheparding them through their ordeal is Jaime Foxx as Staff Sergeant Sykes. Foxx brings a humanity to the stereotypical superior officer and he provides one of the movies best performances.

To augment his story director Sam Mendes provides visually stunning backdrops. From the shear vastness of the desert to the towering infernos of the burning Kuwaiti oil wells the audience is continually overwhelmed. His films always carry themselves with a stylized look and feel that adds as much to the film as any of the performances. The scenes in the desert are particularly engrossing. Those scenes combined with the excellent sound editing make Jarhead a must for the big screen.

Few war movies examine war and military service for what they really are; an exercise in hurry up and wait. Mendes offers us a bleak look at the nature of 21st century warfare that does a very good job of imparting the sense of frustration that threatens to devour the marines as they wait and wait for their chance to do the thing they’ve been training for, kill the enemy. Their sheer boredom is palpable. That combined with the crushing loneliness of leaving wives and girlfriends behind can be a hellish recipe for disaster. As “Swoff” explains “For most problems the marine is issued a solution. If ill, go to sickbay. If wounded, call corpsman. If dead, report to graves registration. If losing his mind, however, no standard solution exists”. It’s only through the tough love leadership provided by Staff Sergeant Sykes and their reliance on each other that these marines manage not to become casualties before the war even starts.

When the war does finally come for our marines it’s a relief to both them and the audience. They’re finally going to see action, to get to use their training, to fight for themselves and their country. Like all wars not everything goes as planned. In one very poignant scene Swofford and Troy wait with baited breath to assassinate an Iraqi officer just as they practiced a thousand times but even that threatens to undo them.

You can’t watch this movie without examining Vietnam as the movie itself forces such comparisons again and again. Vietnam was the war that everyone wanted to forget. The Gulf war was the war that everyone wanted to remember. We swooped into Iraq, laid waste to the enemy, and threw parades for the victors when they returned. The question never asked is what price did we pay for that victory? Was it worth our soldiers’ youth and innocence? How can we profess to care so much about our values when we leave them broken and shattered during times of war? These are questions not easily answered, not in Vietnam, not in the Gulf War and certainly not now. The only truth this film offers is indisputable. War is hell, always has been, always will be.

November 8, 2005

Beantown Bound Bowden?

Witness the titanic media frenzy that is the Jim Bowden to Boston story. Translation: it's a slow GM meeting and Manny hasn't demanded a trade to Neptune yet. (Note the tasteful bypassing of the Uranus joke.)

While most of the Nats blogosphere engages in Harelquin romance-quality daydreams about Theo Epstein, Brandon over at the Curly W hyperventilates a bit about what Trader Jim's departure could do to the stability of our already wobbly franchise. My take: relatively little. Whether J.B. stays or goes, the Nats have too many holes and too little cash to think about solving all their problems in one off-season, especially since it's looking like we may have to ask Santa for a new owner for Christmas.

Elsewhere around the Nats blogosphere, Ball-Wonk embarks on a mission to convert the heathens, against my advice; Chris Needham rubs our noses in his crass corporate overindulgence; Nationals Interest slams our beloved National defense; and Basil mails it in.

November 5, 2005

Sympathy for the Cap'n

The Tavares-Bowden putsch continues. Speaking of the Nats coaching staff in today's Post, Trader Jim says,

I recommend to all of them that they seek employment elsewhere. There are no guarantees here. I put a memo out to all the other clubs, providing each of our coaches' phone numbers, so that those clubs can notify them if they're interested in hiring them. Their situation is extremely clear.
Except that it's not. Bowden talks as though the coaching staff has less job security than the front office staff, which just isn't so. The front office's stated reason for doing this is to give the fabled "new owners" the flexibility to name their own coaching staff. But that's a bit of a canard. The new owners would always have the right to fire the existing staff en masse and put their own people in place, including replacing Tony T. and Trader Jim. It seems to me that this is really about what Tony & Jim would like to do with the coaching staff, namely firing everyone who's not Randy St. Claire.

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of
Medal of Freedom winner Frank Robinson's "manage by gut, dance with the arthritic veterans that brung ya" school of management. I've been calling for the ritual sacrifice of hitting coach Tom McGraw for months, and if he takes 3rd base coach Dave Huppert with him fine by me. But just because I have issues with our coaching staff that doesn't mean I'm okay with our pseudo Team President and pseudo GM running them out of town under the guise of ownership autonomy.

Trader Jim can make player personnel decisions, because someone has to. But as he so elegantly said, the coaching staff doesn't go to work till February anyway, so why not at least put them on temporary 3-month contracts (much like his own)? Giving them the right to negotiate with other teams is the right thing to do. Leaving them in limbo about their future with the Nats is not. Because in case he hasn't noticed, they're all in the same boat with Cap'n Hook.

November 4, 2005

He Came, He Saw, He Left

Adios, Vinny. Thanks for the memories. ( I can recall two or three good ones.) Seeing as how this is the first bit of actual baseball news to come across the wire since the earth-shattering Jackson-Castro signings, the Nats blogosphere has fallen upon it like a pack of ravenous marmosets. Capitol Punishment has the most comprehensive post, Distinguished Senators and Federal Baseball applaud Trader Jim, and even the missing and feared dead BallWonk puts in an appearance to eulogize Vinny's DC career.

I really have nothing substantive to add. The Post has the basics of the Castilla-Lawrence deal. Vinny wasn't in the Nats future plans beyond next season anyway, and they managed to get a servicable starting pitcher in return. As J.B. says but rarely does, you can never have too much pitching. Lawrence and Ryan Drese can battle it out for the 4th and 5th rotation spots, or maybe one will replace Hector "El Matador" Carrasco as the swingman. Either way the Nats added value.

The team also got significantly younger. The Castilla trade and the likely departure of free agent Carlos Baerga jettisoned roughly 75 years from the roster, and left the Nats with less veteran leadership. Given Cap'n Hook's preference for veteran teams, is this another sign that his days in DC are numbered?

In slightly less breaking news, J.B. continues to turn the Nats organization into his own personal episode of This Is Your Life, naming former Reds player and coach John Stearns manager of the Double-A Harrisburg Senators.

November 3, 2005


On Sunday I ran my second marathon. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in DC. It's called "The People's Marathon" because there is no qualifying time and no prize money. I ran a really good race coming in at 4 hours 36 minutes and 24 seconds. That's 15 minutes better than my time last year. Dave, Nate, and the gang were out in force cheering for me which helped tremendously at mile 24. Thank you to everybody who came out to the race.