Deivi Cruz for Ben Cox? Sure, why not. I can stomach $136,000 for a utility infielder. But lest J.B. get any praise for this move, some stats:
Cruz's July batting average and OPS: .228 & .587 respectively. Positively Guzman-like. Now he's done better in August, but let's not go thinking this guy is the key to our offense. Before his benching Goooz was outhitting two other Nationals over the last month. Guess who? Brad Wilkerson and Nick Johnson. Maybe Deivi will help, I hope so. Goooz will certainly be a solid defensive replacement off the bench. And hopefully this will put an end to the "Let's make Ryan Zimmerman a shortstop" foolishness.
All I know for sure is my Guzman jersey is going to skyrocket in value, possibly becoming the only one of its kind in all the land. Unless Modell's dumps the leftovers in the 75% off bargain bin.
P.S. Goooz and his 4-year, $16 million contract are still going to be here next year. Watch this space for the "ReUse the Goooz" campaign to reinstall Cristian as the starting shortstop. Coming Spring 2006.
August 31, 2005
Deivi Cruz for Ben Cox? Sure, why not. I can stomach $136,000 for a utility infielder. But lest J.B. get any praise for this move, some stats:
August 30, 2005
Well, apparently we don't need to learn much of a new chant.
The Nats have traded for Deivi Cruz, a shortstop coming from the Giants. Trader Jim at work again, it seems. Cruz was batting .268 with five homers and 19 RBI in 81 games with San Francisco this year, as opposed to Gooz's .196 with three homers and 19 RBI in 114 games.
The radio announcers tonight seem to think Cruz can be in place for the nightcap to tomorrow's double header.
I had the chance to catch a Bowie Baysox game tonight. We arrived late (work and traffic) so we were there for the 4th inning to the end. Ah, the hoopla at a minor league game... it included kids running the bases (between innings), on field sumo wrestling, the Diamond Disco Dancers, and the "Five Guys" chant when the Baysox had the chance to score 5 in one inning.
Sharon was highly amused.
3-2 win over Atlanta with Cordero closing the door on the Braves. Even the announcers were complaining about the strike zone. It was, as Mel put it, "the size of a postage stamp". Great win by the boys.
Another of Mel's gems: "The one run wonders are back." I really hope so.
So I'm catching up on a few details in my office, and I happen to notice the division standings. With all the focus on the wild-card spot, I hadn't been actually watching our division standings.
There is just something wrong about being 67-63, a .515 average, and "only" being 7 games behind, and thus being last in the division.
That's just wrong.
Let's look at the NL Central -- St. Louis leads, and Houston -- our big competition for the wild-card -- IS 15 GAMES BEHIND. 15 games -- and that's second place. But wait, there is more. Milwaukee, third place, hasn't broken .500 at .489, and is 19.5 games behind. Last, Pittsburg, is 29.5 games behind.
Moving to the NL West, the leader, San Diego, has a .492 percentage. And Colorado, with their sad 52-79 record, is 12.5 games behind.
This really, really is wrong.
Like Dave said, since the team was in Atlanta suffering the aftershocks of the wrath of God (new Nats slogan: We Can't Lose If We Don't Play), we took in the 25th anniversary screening of The Blues Brothers at Regal Gallery Place Cinemas. Here's a verbatim transcript of my conversation with the concession stand guy(CSG):
Nate: A large Cherry Coke, please.
CSG: Would you like anything else?
Nate: No thanks.
CSG: Anything to drink with that?
Nate: A large Cherry Coke.
My first thought, "Maybe outsourcing customer service jobs to Bangladesh isn't such a bad thing." My second thought, the whole thing was reminiscent of the following exchange from the movie:
Mrs. Murphy: Help you two?
Elwood: Do you have any white bread ma'am?
Mrs. Murphy: Yeah.
Elwood: I'll have some toasted white bread please.
Mrs. Murphy: You want butter or jam on that, honey?
Elwood: No ma'am, dry.
Jake: Do you have any fried chicken ma'am?
Mrs. Murphy: Best damned chicken in the state.
Jake: Bring me four fried chickens and a Coke.
Mrs. Murphy: You want chicken wings or chicken legs?
Jake: Four fried chickens and a Coke.
Elwood: And some dry white toast please.
Mrs. Murphy: Ya'all want anything to drink with that?
Elwood: No ma'am.
Jake: A Coke.
So maybe concession stand guy was just staying in character.
Yesterday's rain postponement didn't change the Triple Play crew's plans -- we had already scheduled to see the Blues Brothers DVD release downtown at Gallery Place.
So this morning, I caught up on my Nats reading, and caught this morning's Thomas Boswell column.
I will admit, I was going into the week thinking much like the Nats were. This week would decide it. That the series against Atlanta was the complete key to success.
Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I'm wrong -- Bos's September sounds a lot more exciting than mine.
August 29, 2005
In therapy, this might be described as a breakthrough. As a fan, it was nice to see a player admit to what the fans have known for awhile now. So a thank you from me to Guillen for not hiding behind the "We've just got to get things going, we're still in this thing, tomorrow could be the turnaround" school of cliche. But what the hell were you thinking with that bunt?
I am considerably less satisfied with Jim Bowden's tirade. Said the G.M.:
"You know what? Be a man. Wake up, and do some damage. Or guess what? After that, Frank's going to do whatever he can do. . . . If they're not hitting, he might as well put other people in there. There are a lot of guys who can score no runs a game."
Yes J.B., there certainly are a lot of guys who can score no runs a game. And most of them seem to be Nationals. How do you suppose that happened? You built this team, why are you yelling at them? We should be yelling at you.
Ryan Drese looks to be done for the season, with surgery on his right shoulder probable. Ex-Nat Claudio Vargas picked up his 8th win for the D-backs last night. No commentary, just facts.
August 28, 2005
So the Nats lost both games this weekend 6-0. I had the wonderful luck to have yesterday's tickets and nothing beats watching the opposing pitcher throw a two hitter while you nurse a hangover.
On the other hand I did get to hang with my family so that was cool. Oh yeah, and it was free towel day. It's great when they give you something to wipe away the tears with.
August 27, 2005
- Nationals 4, Cardinals, 1
Note to Jeff Suppan: Thanks for skipping fielding practice. Note to little leaguers everywhere: Never give up on a slow roller up the 1st base line. Note to Esteban Loiaza: Just keep doing what you're doing, Stubby.
It's a CON-spiracy
Maybe this is why Comcast has a public image problem. They see I Want My Nats TV, a legitimate, locally-based, business-led protest movement, and label it an anti-cable crusade. Unable to comprehend that bar owners and patrons might have a legitimate gripe about not being able to see the local major league baseball team on local television, Comcast is attempting to position itself as the victim of powerful anti-cable special interests. Get a grip. Sit down, shut up, and televise the Nats. Do it now.
The revolving door in the Nats bullpen continues. 28-year old lefty Matt White comes up from New Orleans to face the best team in the National League. Talk about a good news, bad news situation. Travis Hughes gets shuffled back down to AAA to make room.
August 26, 2005
- Reds 5, Nationals 3
At least it was a nice day for a ballgame. Dave & I managed to catch the last 4 1/2 innings at RFK, which is to say we got there just in time for things to go to hell. The team managed just one run through 8 innings, and Livan battled through a start when he obviously didn't have it. But the Nats had their chances. In the bottom of the sixth, with Preston on 3rd, Vinny on 1st and two out, Frank lifted Jamey Carroll for Carlos Baerga. Jamey, one of our best contact hitters, was 2-2 on the day. Both Dave and I thought this was a questionable decision, to say the least. Baerga grounded to third, inning over.
On another topic, this is why I think Mike Wise is a hack. Compare today's column with this one from exactly one week ago. I wonder if all those about-faces make him dizzy? Although he's dead right about Jim Bowden.
August 25, 2005
- Nationals 5, Reds 3
Ho-hum, another 8.1 inning, 3 ER, 8K performance from John "Big Nasty" Patterson. When's he going to do something impressive, that's what I want to know? Like say for example pitching a complete game shutout. Oh wait, I was there. If John can keep swatting doubles like he did last night he might be able to jump back in to the Nats pitchers batting title race.
Mad props to The Chief for collecting his 40th save. John Wetteland who? It's nice to see that Guillen has discovered some home power, but no more of that Preston-esque fielding, ok Jose? Another solid night in the leadoff spot for ESPN Zone fan favorite Ryan Church, 1-3 with a BB, no Ks and a possibly broken toe. Welcome back, Wilkie.
Guzman JobWatch: Day 2
Maybe Cristian broke out the bucket of KFC and prayed to Jobu that Ryan Drese's arm would fall off. Or maybe Matt White has been working that voodoo down in N'awlins. In either case, a sudden outbreak of shoulder tightness has spared Goooz for at least a few more days. Suddenly the Nats need pitchers more than infielders. Goooz responded to his increased job security by having emergency dental surgery.
Hopefully, the Post's profile of Rick Short will be the publicity boost that insures Rick a September call up to the big club. What do the Nats have trouble doing? Hitting. What does Short do better than anyone in the minor leagues? Hit. Apparently you have to not be a GM to see the connection here.
The Ownership Tango
The Post is also reporting a nearly-complete lease deal for the new stadium, clearing the way for MLB to maybe, possibly, sometime in our lifetimes name an owner for the team. The new timeline: name an owner by Labor Day, transfer ownership by October 1st. Anyone want odds on that?
And finally, because I just can't resist: "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, Sidney."
August 24, 2005
Nothing much to report from the Nationals Q&A at ESPN Zone. Ryan Church, fresh off his 0-4 Tuesday night against the Reds was the featured player. I didn't hear much of the Q&A because there was a large group of kids making a holy racket, and I was sitting at the bar knocking back a beer and a burger. Up close, Ryan Church looks suspiciously like Brian Schneider with slightly different facial hair.
Tony Armas left last night's game with shoulder tightness. Ryan Drese is going on the DL with shoulder tightness. Has anyone looked into the possibility that shoulder tightness is contagious?
John "The Llama" Halama will take Drese's spot in the rotation, which might actually be an upgrade given how Drese has pitched lately. Travis Hughes is back from New Orleans to fill out the bullpen.
With wunderkind INF Ryan Zimmerman scheduled to appear at RFK at any minute (Is he here now? No? What about now?) Goooz has quietly been making slow but measurable progress back towards batting respectability. A 1-3 night at the plate raised his average for August to .246. The great thing about being Cristian right now is that every 1-4 game represents statistical improvement. The bad thing, of course, is the spectre of having to sit on the bench deciding how to spend your $4 million/year salary. Life is tough.
August 23, 2005
Apparently, Nate isn't the only person who was lamenting Preston F**ing Wilson.
Just as Wilkie continues to slide. ( I know I've benched him in my fantasy league for ages. Everyone tells me I should have dumped him.... but I do wear his jersey to games).
But then again, Nate wears Gooz's..... and he's hitting .194.
I don't read the Washington Times regularly, so I sometimes miss interesting little stories like this piece on the battle for Harrisburg. It seems that Peter "Satan's Little Helper" Angelos has opened up a second front in his war on Washington. Having failed to keep major league baseball out of D.C., Angelos is now trying to drive our AA team, the Harrisburg Senators, out of town. The irony is that if the Nats farm team left, Harrisburg would be even more like D.C., another capital without Senators.
Staying down on the farm, today's Times also has a glowing review of Nats SS-of-the-future Ian Desmond. Desmond, who Jim Bowden has already compared to Derek Jeter (wow, with Jeter and Rolen our infield is shaping up nicely), is hitting .268 at Potomac. But the 19-year old has drawn raves for his range and glove work, 14 errors in 42 games notwithstanding.
The Washington Post has positive press for Preston. If he continues his August clip, (.328, 4 HRs, 14 RBI, .971 OPS) I may have to rescind his nickname. But the 19 Ks in 18 games is still just uncalled for.
Finally, Nationals.com gives overdue props to Brian Schneider, the Nats second half batting leader at a healthy .365 (.291 overall for the season). Schneider credits some of his improvement at the plate to advances in clubhouse video capability. The Nats catcher's foray into the wonderful world of 20th century technology was first reported here by yours truly.
August 22, 2005
My personal list of the people who are screwing up the Nats goes something like this:
- Preston "F****n" Wilson
- Jim Bowden
- Tom McGraw
- Ron Darling
- Cristian "Goooz" Guzman
But Preston's playing better, Bowden hasn't done anything stupid this week (as of 2 pm Monday), I think Ron Darling might be slow, and everyone else dumps on Guzman. So I'm left with Tom McGraw.To be fair, I've never been sure exactly what a hitting coach does. Aside from the total train wrecks like Goooz, how exactly do you teach a professional baseball player to hit? A pitching coach can stroll out to the mound and have a conference with the pitcher. I've never seen a hitting coach jog over to the on-deck circle and have a heart-to-heart with a batter. I imagine that a hitting coach's in-game advice is probably limited to, "Go out there and put the g**d*** bat on the f****** ball or we're sending you to Poughkeepsie."
Nevertheless, it's not earth-shattering news that the Nats cannot hit with any consistency. They're last in the league in almost every offensive category. Last year they were last in the league in almost every offensive category. Between last year and this year the roster has changed, the stadium has changed and the front office has changed. What hasn't changed is the coaching staff.
I know McGraw is attached to Frank at the hip, and it would be almost impossible to get rid of him, but at some point doesn't he have to justify his salary by actually improving our hitters?
Dave did the recap, so I'll do the big picture.
The Nationals have 26 games remaining against the NL East, including 7 games vs. the Braves. The Nats get no credit for playing in the toughest division in baseball, and it drives me nuts. Every one of our rivals is at least 3 games over .500. Have a look at the wild card standings. It's the NL East plus Houston. That's just ridiculous.
And we're doing it all on a shoestring budget. The Nats (roughly) $49 million payroll is the smallest in the division, $11 million behind the Marlins. The Braves and Phillies have payrolls of $86 and $95 million respectively, while the Mets are shelling out $101 million for the privilege of holding down the basement.
We're getting more value for our money than almost any other team in baseball (excluding of course, the Moneyball Athletics, who have a $55 million payroll). The Nats have the foundation for a solid team. We don't need to pay a guy $12 million to do anything.
Don't look now, but Goooz is hitting .241 for the month of August. In 16 games he's 13-54, with 4 doubles, 8 runs and 6 RBI. You go Goooz!
Ryan Church for leadoff man! The forgotten outfielder went 2-3 with a run, RBI and 2 BBs Sunday. This offensive outburst prompted MelRon Protorling to remind viewers that Church was slated to be the Nats opening day CF and leadoff man before he pulled a groin during that ridiculously cold exhibition game at RFK. I say back to the future!
August 21, 2005
The boys are coming home again. 25 home games left.
So at the beginning of the road trip, I commented that this was make or break time. Well, we didn't get a clear picture, but we have gotten something to take away from the road trip: we're still in it.
The games against Houston were not so good (1-2), but then the Nats did exactly what they were supposed to do in Colorado by taking the series. The split with the Phillies wasn't ideal (but certainly not the worst situation). The weekend against the Mets was good baseball. Losing the first two was unfortunate, as was Livan's breakdown, but (like Nate), I was proud to be a Nats fan on Saturday. Pulling back from that 8 run deficit was just a thing of beauty, and I can't be upset about the loss. Sunday started great - 6 runs in the 1st. The Chief didn't look so good in the 9th, in particular with that error that should have been a double play. (Then again, the Nats in general didn't look so good in that inning)
So what does this all mean? A trip record of 7 - 6, which is telling me that they are hanging in there. And better than .500 for the trip.
Just like Saturday night's game, the Nationals keep it very interesting. It's never boring.
- Mets 9, Nationals 8 (10 innings)
Yes, it was another one-run loss. And yes, it was a game we had a chance to win and couldn't. But mostly, it was a game where the Nats dug themselves out of a crater and made an honest-to-God athletic competition out of it. I spend a lot of time commenting on the team's (many and varied) screw-ups. But last night I was proud to be a Nats fan.
Win the rubber match and come on home boys. We'll still be here for you.
August 20, 2005
- Mets 1, Nationals 0
Well, another 1-run loss. Who would've thunk it. 0 runs on 5 hits? There are days when I hate this team.
Cause & Effect
From Bill Ladson at Nationals.com:
[M]anager Frank Robinson said he is not afraid to use a Minor League pitcher down the stretch if Drese doesn't improve his work on the mound. But, according to a source familiar with the Nationals' Minor League system, the Nationals have nothing ready to compete in a pennant race right now. "That's why [interim general manager] Jim [Bowden] is frustrated," the source said.
Oh, so J.B. is upset by our lack of pitching depth? One wonders how such a thing could have happened... If Jim Bowden actually had the nerve to say that he is frustrated by our minor league pitching, he deserves to be drawn and quartered between the foul poles at RFK. At a glance comparison - Ryan Drese: 3-6, 4.98 ERA (as a SP for WSH) Tomo Ohka: 4-4, 4.14 ERA (as a SP for MIL) Claudio Vargas: 7-3, 3.35 ERA (as a SP for ARI) Sunny Kim: 0-0, 4.50 ERA (as a SP for COL)
At a glance comparison -
Ryan Drese: 3-6, 4.98 ERA (as a SP for WSH)
Tomo Ohka: 4-4, 4.14 ERA (as a SP for MIL)
Claudio Vargas: 7-3, 3.35 ERA (as a SP for ARI)
Sunny Kim: 0-0, 4.50 ERA (as a SP for COL)
August 19, 2005
- Nationals 2-5, Phillies 1-4
I'm okay with a series split, I really am. With a gun to my head I would have said that I expected to split the doubleheader. Just in the other direction, winning Armas's start and losing Drese's. But it's ok, because we won the game we should have lost, and lost the game we should have won. It all balances out, circle of life, karma, what have you. On to the Big Apple for a 3-game set with the Not-Yankees in the only major league ballpark that's more of a hole than RFK.
News & Notes:
Howdy and congratulations to John Thadeuz Halama, who pitched an inning of 1-hit relief in his Nats debut. Crafty way to avoid having to make a Sunday start. Proposed nickname: "The Llama."
A hearty "What the...?" to reliever Hector Carrasco, who's been unavailable to pitch the last few days because he injured himself trying to shag fly balls in batting practice. Hector, crashing into walls is Ryan Church's job, and it's all he has left. Stick to throwing at batters in close games.
Belated condolences to Matt "Bizilkie" Cepicky, who busted his knee all up earlier this week in New Orleans. A ligament is a terrible thing to tear. See you in spring training Bizilkie.
Farewell to Brandon "B. Dub" Watson, shipped back to New Orleans to make room on the roster for The Llama. He'll be back when rosters expand on Sept. 1st, but for now, follow the bouncing ball...
Matt Cepicky was brought up to fill Tony Blanco's roster spot when Blanco was injured. When Blanco came back, Sunny Kim was sent down, didn't clear waivers and was picked off by the Rockies. John Halama was signed to take Kim's spot down in AAA. Five minutes later, Cepicky was sent down in exchange for Brandon Watson, who got into all of 5 games before being sent down to clear space for Halama.
Does anyone else get the impression that Jim Bowden just does things for the sake of doing things?
Just Say "No" to Zimmerman
Listen up kids, this is very important. If someone comes up to you on the street and offers you a 21-year old third baseman, fresh out of college for your major league roster, just say "No!" If they tell you it's ok, he's got outstanding defense remind them how few 3B-to-SS conversions there are at the big league level, and that the kid has 5 errors in 51 games of AA ball. AA ball! When they praise his bat, point out that he has 30 strikeouts against just 10 walks, and your team has quite enough high strikeout guys, thank you very much. You might also mention that there are at least two guys on your AAA team worthy of a call-up, one of whom is hitting .399! Remember children, just say "No!" to Ryan Zimmerman. At least until next season.
And now for something completely different...
Congrats to the girls from McLean, Virginia who beat the girls from Orange, Connecticut 6-2 to capture that Little League Softball World Series. Take that, Nutmeg State, our suburbs are better than your suburbs. Frosty chocolate milkshakes for everyone!
August 17, 2005
"He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person."
Who says the mainstream media takes a monolithic approach to reporting the news? I do. Today the Post, the Times and Nationals.com all discovered, independently yet simultaneously, that Goooz's once-solid defense has taken a nosedive.
Nevertheless, Goooz is still my boy. Because faith is belief in the face of overwhelming evidence. That, and we still don't have any other big league-ready shortstops.
August 16, 2005
Monsoon-ball has been brought to a halt, at least temporarily. Indra willing, the game will be called and we won't be subjected to the painful spectacle of Ryan Drese attempting to locate his talent. Learned something interesting from MelRon Proctorling. While the umps have the authority to halt a game in progress due to inclement weather, the home team's general manager decides whether the game will begin in the first place. Maybe Phillies GM Ed Wade doesn't get The Weather Channel.
- Nationals 6, Phillies 3
Like a right-wing evangelical, the world I thought I knew has become confusing and frightening to me. Two four-homer games in a week? Four RBI from Preston "F****n" Wilson? An early lead? What in the name of Richard Ryan Short is going on here?
As a goodwill gesture I'm willing to give Preston a clean slate. All I want in return is playoff tickets and oh, let's say three grand to cover residual pain and suffering from his first month with the team.
From the Post:
"Hernandez said the fan wants an elaborate package in return for the glove: season tickets next year, playoff tickets this year -- and $18,000.
"He can have it," Hernandez said. "He thinks it's my lucky glove, but I'm not superstitious."
Hernandez had offered an autographed jersey and a brand-new glove"
What is wrong with people? It's a glove -- and that request package is ridiculous.
I saw this fan on his cell phone right after it happened (as we were at this game, and they put him on the jumbotron). If he were a real fan, you'd give it back because he asked. Don't be a dick.
August 15, 2005
It's been a nice little evening of baseball. Started out with the beginning and eventually the end of the Nats victory in Philly. It was a stellar 6-3 win for Livan and company with Preston "F****N" Wilson going yard twice. Guzman tried to make things interesting with a boot in the ninth but the boys pulled through.
The excellent first course was followed by the last 40 minutes of the celluloid gem Major League. After watching the Wild Thing and the Tribe KO the Yankees it was over to perhaps the greatest baseball flick of all time The Natural. I was just in time to see Roy Hobbs aka "Bob Woodward" win the pennant for the Knights.
After those two gems it was off to the West Coast feeds to catch the Mariner's put the 6-0 hurt on Kansas City. One remote flick up is the Angels vs. the Blue Jays. I'm not going to make it to the end of those games but a little West Coast ball is good way to cap off the night.
On September 1st, the Nationals major league roster will expand from 25 to 40 players. The roster expansion will facilitate the return of fan favorite Rick Short. Rick is currently doing his best Ted Williams impersonation in New Orleans, hitting a positively silly .400 with a 1.060 OPS.
Other possible call-ups:
- If Frank feels the need to add another player to an already overcrowded outfield Marlon Byrd, Matt Cepicky or Tyrell Godwin could be back.
- Infielder Brendan Harris, who had 3 hits in 9 ABs with the Nats earlier this year.
- Lefty pitcher Matt White, 6-5 with a 3.44 ERA in 13 starts for New Orleans.
- Reliever Travis Hughes, who pitched 4.1 scoreless innings for the Nats in June.
- 2004 1st-round pick (and W&M alum) left-handed reliever Bill Bray.
Of course, a lot depends on whether we're calling up people for a playoff push (Short, Byrd, Hughes) or an early spring training tryout (Godwin, White, Bray).
While the Nats were in the midst of a genuine, bona fide, electrified, three-game winning streak, encouraging developments were taking place off the field as well.
Major League Baseball set (another) tentative timeline for the sale of the franchise, which is beginning to look like a $450 million commodity. I don't care how much MLB charges for the team, but if the selling price is so high that it bleeds money from the team's operating budget I will personally lead the mob of angry peasants that tosses Allan H. "Bud" Selig in front of an Orange Line train to Vienna after a game. And I want an owner with ties to D.C. Ideally, the ownership group should include at least one person who has one of those home detention ankle bracelets that prevents them from leaving the boundaries of the District.
A draft version of the 2006 schedule has the Nats playing a three-game series against the O's May 19-21 at RFK Stadium with another three games at Baltimore. Bring on the B-W Parkway caravan!
Redevelopment money is already circling the new stadium site, dramatically improving the odds that the Triple Play crew can get blitzed before and after, instead of just during the game. Also, a very cool blog tracks the revitalization of Near Southeast D.C.
August 14, 2005
How beautiful that is.
The Nats offense woke up, and decided to just pound out runs. John Patterson had another great game, and you can understand his frustration at losing the shutout. Glad to see the pitching holds themselves to some high standards. The big inning with 5 runs, including a 3 run homer by Johnson and solo homer by Guillen just opened up the game. Even without those, the boys in blue played good ball -- using singles and doubles to move men around the bases.
The road trip is coming along well right now. I'm psyched they had the weekend they did to come back east -- it won't be a straightforward easy set of games against the Phillies and the Mets, and the energy of the weekend will help. It also should remind these guys that they can play offense.
- Nationals 8, Rockies 0
There is a certain segment of the Nats fan base inclined to complain about RFK. It's old, it's dank, there are no latte bars or prime rib vendors. For them I have a modest proposal. The Nats should play their home games from now til 2008 at Coors Field. Granted, that might cut down on attendance, which would make a TV deal even more crucial. But somehow I don't think the Nats hitters would complain.
The offense erupted for 8 runs on 13 hits, and Tony Armas, Jr. and the bullpen combined to produce the first shutout of the season at Coors Field. With John "Big Nasty" Patterson on deck for the series finale, a sweep looks eminently doable.
Go to Church!
Apparently Frank is having trouble fitting 5 outfielders into 3 holes. (There's an Aristocrats joke in there somewhere, but we'll do that later.) Guillen is a fixture in right, and B. Dub has to play somewhere if he's batting leadoff, leaving one spot for Wilkie, Church and Preston "F****n" Wilson. Let's look at the contenders:
Brad Wilkerson- Wilkie's great, he fields, he gets on base and he plays hurt. He also strikes out more often than Watson and I at happy hour. Even so, a healthy Wilkie is the obvious choice. But his shoulder's banged up and he's got that whole forearm nerve thing. So he gets a seat on the bench and a rehab assignment at Club Med.
Preston Wilson - Said Frank, "We traded for him for a reason. We felt like his bat would make us a better ball club." Also said Frank, "the numbers speak for themselves." If the true test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time, Frank's Mensa membership is long overdue. Maybe we can just leave Preston at Denver Int'l, like lost luggage.
Ryan Church - Is it possible Ryan knocked up Frank's granddaughter? Because he definitely did something to end up in the doghouse. Remember when people seriously considered Church a candidate for N.L. rookie of the year? Sure, he sucks as a pinch hitter, but he's still batting .295 with an .836 OPS. Play the kid!
August 13, 2005
- Nationals 4, Rockies 2
Just what exactly is a Rockie, anyway? Not that it matters I suppose, as long as we win. Nats, meet offense. This is how a baseball team is supposed to work. B. Dub draws a leadoff walk, Vidro singles him to third, Nicky's double drives in B. Dub, then Guillen singles in Nicky and Vidro. Viola, 4 batters, 3 runs, 1 inning. Now do it again.
August 12, 2005
- Astros 7, Nationals 4
- Astros 6, Nationals 3
The Nats 2nd half game of chutes and ladders continues, with too many chutes. The team came to Houston 2 games out of the wild card, they left 3 games out. It could have been worse. Like the team defense, which is beginning to look suspiciously like the team offense. Not hitting is one thing. Not hitting, running or catching is quite another.
3 of our 4 infielders have leg or foot injuries. Nicky's heel, Vidro's quad, and Vinny's knee basically reduce them to statues. They have no range, no speed and it's starting to affect their defense. Morgan Ensberg, caught in a rundown between 2nd & 3rd would have been out if (A) Vidro ran him down or (B) Vinny caught the ball. But neither of those thing happened and the Astros went on to score 3 more runs.
The Nats are clearly hurting, and I think it's time to sit some people down. Here's my proposed lineup, in batting order:
- CF Brandon Watson
- 2B Jamey Carroll
- 1B Nick Johnson
- RF Jose Guillen
- C Brian Schneider
- LF Ryan Church
- 3B Tony Blanco
- SS Christian Guzman
Give Wilkie, Vinny and Vidro time off to rest and heal up a little. Put Preston "F****n" Wilson on the bench where he can't strike out or misplay a popup. Play some of the young guys, since we're rapidly approaching a "rebuilding year" anyway.
The Washington City Paper has an interesting article about the Nats radio team, and insight on why it's impossible to listen to the game from the stadium.
August 10, 2005
So our good friend Adam Aaronson saw fit to include us in the links list off of his very funny blog What The Hell Is Wrong With People?.
There is some very funny stuff on there. Adam graciously reposted my personal favorite, "Microwave Popcorn" on 8/10/05. Check it out.
As a DirecTV customer, I haven't been suffering as much as some others (and Nate lives in the city, and has RCN, and Watson also has DirecTV), but I do follow a lot of DC media, so I thought I would comment on this.
A number of restaurant owners have banded together to campaign to fix the situation in DC with the complicated broadcast rights. They have a good angle on this -- the impact of being able to show games in public places is one of the economic benefits of a sports team. The campaign was started by Mike Anderson,who owns and operates Mango Mikes, Simply Fish and Ramparts Restaurant and Sportsbar in Alexandria.
I think it's worth supporting. I'm watching for opportunities to go to these places.
Check it out: http://www.iwantmynatstv.com
- Nationals 6, Astros 5
Cristian, you've got to work with me just a little. I go out on a limb every day to defend you. "He's got good career numbers, he makes up for it with his glove..." and this is how you repay me? Not only 0-4 at the plate, but bouncing a routine throw to first? Granted, you got hosed by 2B ump Wally Bell the play before, but Goooz you've got to buckle down. You're venturing into Preston "F****n" Wilson territory.
And speaking of Preston, he's got less job security than a Detroit autoworker these days. While I don't expect Brandon "B Dub" Watson to go 2-5 with a opposite field homer every night, he certainly could be the leadoff man for the rest of the season. Wilkie and Guillen occupy two OF spots, and unless B Dub has untapped potential as a shortstop he's taking the third. Which leaves Wilson where exactly? Even if Frank plays musical chairs in the outfield to rest people that's still a lot of salary on the bench. Not to mention poor Ryan "I used to be a contender" Church.
Much needed win for the boys in blue last night. Here's to hoping it's the start of a trend.
August 9, 2005
All right, that's it. We've all had our fun, but this has got to stop. The Guzman-hating must come to an end. Say it with me people: "Goooz is not the problem." Goooz was batting .190 when we were winning 1-run games, and now that we're losing 1-run games, he's still hitting .190. Christian Guzman is what we like to call a constant.
Today the Post annointed Goooz, "the first player Nats fans love to hate." It goes without saying that I wasn't interviewed for this piece, because my vote would have gone to Preston "F***'n" Wilson, who swings at everything up to and including the bags thrown by the peanut vendors, and the is only outfielder I know qualified to take a seeing-eye dog onto the field.
The article uses Dennis Walsh of Bethesda as an example of a fan fed up with Goooz's performance. Mr. Walsh has vowed not to buy any more Nats tickets until the team benches Cristian. As soon as I'm done here I'm going to go out and enlist Dennis in my crusade to boycott kimchee until North Korea dismantles its nuclear arsenal.
BallWonk, who is both wise and generous, quotes me here. And check out the swag at the brand new BallWonk store. Teddy-time buttons for all!
August 8, 2005
I wanted to do a bit of a recap, as well as a look forward.
Last week, I was actually at 4 games, which is a new one-week record for me. Tuesday the crew and I saw the Nats lose to the Dodgers, and we hoped to better times later in the week. Thursday, on a bit of a fluke, Nate and I saw the most amazing game I can think of from this year. The 7-0 shutdown was just a thing of beauty.... and thank goodness for that, because the rest stank. Friday's showing was just odd, what with crazy strike zones, Livan's tantrum, and our disappointment again -- oh, and Ludacris was at the game. The coolers they gave out were very nice, however. I went with Sharon's family to the game on Sunday, and watched the backup players suck as badly as the regulars. It was a beautiful day for a ball game, despite the stink from the field.
And here we are the night before the biggest road trip, a 13-game stint away from RFK. Quite simply, I think it's safe to say that this is it. No more excuses, no more reasons. Either they start winning enough games, or it's over. We can talk individual moves until we're blue in the face, but unless the boys in Red, White, and Blue start playing some baseball and delivering runs, playing good solid defense, and (keep on) delivering solid pitching, this year will be over.
The record stands at 58-53. Only 37 wins hits our initial lofty goal of 90 wins this year. To put this in perspective tho, 2004 had a record of 67-95, so it's very likely we'll at least do better than last year. 2003 and 2002 both had a record of 83-79. A .500 season is also not out of reach, and would be something we considered a fantastic year at the beginning.
In 13 games, we'll know what the target is. Either way, this has been a blast to ride. I can't help but have some high hopes, however.
Big 13 game road trip coming up... 3 games against our wild card rival Astros; 3 games to visit old friends in Denver; 3 games in Philly vs. the Blunts; and finally a 4 game series against the NY Not-Yankees. These 13 games could very well decide the Nats season.
The revolving door in the Nats outfield continues. In, Brandon Watson; out, Matt "Bizilkie" Cepicky. Watson will play RF while Guillen rests his shoulder, which looks like it won't need surgery. Aside from providing Watson the opportunity to get a custom jersey, Brandon will also give the Nats a true leadoff hitter for the first time since... well, since before they were the Nats. Check out B.W.'s minor league stats.
The Nats have found Goooz's replacement, 16-year-old SS Frank Cruz of the Dominican Republic. Frank should be ready for the big leagues just about the time Goooz's 4-year, $16 million contract expires. It's the easy transition from "Goooz!" to "Cruuuz!" that makes it all work.
August 7, 2005
- Padres 3, Nationals 0
So it looks like the closed door team before Saturday night's game was really about who won the "we don't have to go out there and lose again" raffle. The big winners were Vinny and Guillen, both of whom are probably even now booking 15-day vacations timed to coincide with trips to the DL. Consolation prizes to Vidro and Wilkie, who only had to pinch hit. With $16.5 of our $48.5 million opening day payroll riding the pine, the team suffered only a slight letdown, banging out just five hits while getting shutout by Padres ace Jake Peavy. They managed the same number of hits last night against Pedro Astacio, scoring two more runs.
If I were better at statistics I could compute the marginal cost of a Nats run, but since I'm not, I'm just going to make stuff up. All salary data courtesy of the USA Today baseball salary database.
- $48 million/3 runs per game = $16 million per run per game.
Clearly, the problem is that our hitters are underpaid. If it costs $16 million to generate a run, that one run accounts for the salaries of Wilkie, Vidro, Goooz and Schneider ($16 mil). The next run takes care of Guillen, Vinny, Nick and Preston ($12 mil), with enough left over to account for Ryan Church, Jamey Carroll, Carlos Baerga, and Tony Blanco (roughly $1.5 mil). Meaning the pitching staff has to account for the third run, and God help us if we want a fourth or fifth run.
The solution is obvious. The Nats hitters need a raise. Come on, J.B. you've liquidated most of our spare pitchers, there must be some petty cash around. Get on the ball.
August 6, 2005
- Padres 6, Nationals 5
Anyone who was worried that the Nats might lose their identity and start thinking of themselves as major league hitters can rest easy. Thanks in large part to home plate ump Larry Poncino's indecipherable strike zone, they managed 6 walks but just 5 hits off the Padres pitchers, and lost another winnable 1-run game. Livan had another tantrum, but this one was a bit more expected, seeing as how he gave up 12 hits and 2 BB in 5.2 innings. Guillen's talking about going on the DL until his shoulder is 100% healthy, which makes sense if you've seen him attempt to hit lately.
There Goes the Sun
Recalling Tony Blanco from AAA New Orleans cost the Nats reliever Sunny Kim, who was claimed off waivers by the Colorado Rockies. Kim will be joining Zach Day at Coors Field, making possible one of my wildest dreams: the Sunny-Day Watch. Apparently Frank didn't much care for Sunny, since the team could have optioned Matt "Bizilkie" Cepicky to AAA instead but chose not to.
In spite of Jim Bowden's continued assertion that it's all about pitching, pitching, pitching the Nats have gone from being a team with pitching depth (Day, Kim, Claudio Vargas) to a team with just 3 guys at AAA who've started a major league game (Ed Yarnall, Chad Durbin, and new acquisition John Halama).
And the Award for Stating the Obvious Goes To...
The Nationals braintrust, such as it is, has come to the startling conclusion that Brad Wilkerson is not a traditional leadoff hitter. Was it the career 620 K vs. 352 BB that tipped them off? Was it the fact that Wilkie was only hitting leadoff last year because Endy Chavez drew a BB as often as Christopher Reeve? We may never know.
But the new thinking in the organization is that AAA OF Brandon Watson would make a fine leadoff man. The 24 year-old Watson is hitting .367 in New Orleans with 26 stolen bases and an .850 OPS. Left unanswered in this potential roster shake-up is what would happen to Preston Wilson and Ryan Church. If Watson comes up to bat leadoff and play everyday, the Nats would have a brand new overpaid 4th outfielder and a rookie of the year candidate languishing on the bench.
Bethesda's ProFunds Advisors are the latest group to be in serious talks for the naming rights to RFK Stadium. Sure, fine, whatever... we'll take your money. But the deal should be similar to the one in place in Denver, naming rights for the field, but not the stadium. "ProFunds Field at RFK Stadium" fine. "ProFunds Advisors Stadium" not cool.
August 5, 2005
- Nationals 7, Dodgers 0
With Dave and I in the house Brad Wilkerson hit the first grand slam in Nationals history, and the Nats offense made a surprise appearance to provide pitcher John "Stretch" Patterson with more run support than he's had all season.
The Nats rejuvenated bats nearly overshadowed a highlight reel performance by Patterson, who pitched a complete game shutout, allowing just 4 hits and striking out a career-best 13 batters. Frank Robinson left Stretch in to bat in the bottom of the 8th with the bases-loaded and 1 out, so that he could pitch the ninth for his first career complete game.
After the game Patterson said,
"For the first time in my career, I feel comfortable in the clubhouse," he said. "I feel comfortable with the city. I feel comfortable with the fans. I love playing for Frank Robinson. He motivates me in so many ways because I have so much respect for him. . . . I feel like I'm in my element."
Other notable performances: Goooz went 2-4 with a run and 2 RBIs, raising his average back to within striking distance of.200; fear of being replaced by a minor-leaguer apparently motivated Vinny to stroke an RBI double; and Preston Wilson continued to display zen-like balance, going 2-4 at the plate, but misplaying a ball hit to the gap in left.
Dave really wanted a photo of the scoreboard after the game, but the stupid digital thing cycled off before we could get into position for a shot. So we'll just steal one from somewhere else, and post it here, just like real journalists.
August 4, 2005
It's 9:34, the Nats are up 3-0 in what sounds like a great pitchers duel. I'm sure Dave and Nate are screaming their heads off in our great seats in section 313.
I on the other hand am chained to my desk working late on a code release. I'm sure Dave and Nate will have a recap post. For now, I'm listening to the Mellifluous tones of Dave Shea and Charlie Slowes. Go Nats.
Wilkerson just hit a Grand Slam and Dave IMed me from his Sidekick :) It's nice to get a little what's up from your boys :)
- Nationals 3, Dodgers 1
Well, at least Nick Johnson got the memo. Nicky's 8th inning homer over the right field wall provided an insurance run for the Nats, adding to Preston Wilson's 2-run blast (which was basically to dead center, but we're ignoring that).
On the injury front, Jim Bowden's brainstorm-du-jour appears to have something to do with sending Vinny Castilla to the glue factory. J.B. is pondering calling up the Nats 1st round draft pick, 3B Ryan "Dutch" Zimmerman from AA Harrisburg. Normally I would say this sounds a bit extreme for a team that's only 2 games out of the wild card and just 4.5 back in the NL East, but Vinny is becoming a Guzman-like sucking black hole in the offense. And Dutch isn't the only potential replacement down on the farm.
Here's a look at the guys who could be manning the hot corner if Vinny goes on the DL:
Ryan "Dutch" Zimmerman: The Nats 3B of the future. Fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft. J.B. compares him to Mike Schmidt and Scott Rolen and believes he's already "one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball." Hitting a comfy .278 with 4 HRs and 17 RBIs in AA ball, but would ideally get more time in the minors before being called up.
Tony Blanco: Finally, an answer to the question, "What position does Tony Blanco play, anyway?" Rehabbing in AAA, he's hitting .283 in 15 games. Played in 39 games for the Nats this season, hitting .250 with 1 HR and 7 RBI. He wasn't used to spell Vinny before, which suggests that he might not be a very good defensive third baseman.
Brendan Harris: In the same boat as Blanco. Good offense, questionable defense. Was up with the Nats for 4 games earlier this year, going 3 for 9 with a homer and 3 RBI.
Kory Casto: Ranked by Baseball America as one of the best prospects in the Nationals organization, he's batting .305 with 20 HRs and 74 RBI for single A Potomac. But we're in big trouble if we have to bring a single A third baseman straight up to the majors. Probably would be in AA if it weren't for Zimmerman.
Rick Short: The Rodney Dangerfield of Nats baseball. Short's hitting a ridiculous .380 in New Orleans with an OPS of 1.009. He's hurt right now, but unless he lost his hands in a freak farm machinery accident he really ought to get a shot. He can't be any more of a defensive liability than Carlos Baerga.
August 3, 2005
Report from the ESPN Zone Q&A with Nationals C Brian Schneider:
The crowd was much smaller than when The Chief was in the house, probably owing equal parts to the Nats recent anemic play and the fact the catchers aren't as big a draw as closers. The numbers seem to indicate a steady decline toward my hoped for one-on-one session with Carlos Baerga.
Schneider, he best defensive catcher in the game, didn't even move behind the plate until his junior year of high school, and learned to catch in the minors. His favorite pitcher to catch was Bartolo Colon, who was briefly with Les Expos in 2003. Apparently the financial situation in Montreal was even worse than widely reported because Brian said that this was the first year the team has had a video room to study tapes of opposing pitchers before games. Maybe last year the coaching staff just made flip books with stick-figure pitchers.
Schneider acknowledged that the team knows to aim for the bullpens when hitting fly balls, but didn't say anything about putting this theory into practice anytime soon. During the autograph session he seemed slightly surprised when I told him he was catching for my fantasy team. Hopefully the added pressure won't cause him to crumble at the plate. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to ask him how he felt about getting mounted by the home plate umpire during last night's game.
In Other News:
Jim Bowden is apparently considering adding to our collection of crap-tacular backup infielders. He has expressed interest in ex-Mariner and Twin 2B Brett Boone, who's hitting a robust .221 with 7 homers and 37 RBIs on the season. Now if Brett were a shortstop, that might actually be an upgrade, but he's not. Brett is, of course, the son of Nats assistant Bob Boone, who seems to think he can get his son turned around at the plate.
A) If that's true, then why has he been holding out on the rest of the team?
B) If a 36-year old man can't hit without his daddy, is he really the kind of guy you want in Jose Guillen's clubhouse?
C) If so, can someone locate Christian Guzman's dad and get him on a plane, pronto?
I say (and I know Nate agrees with me) that the whining about hitting home runs in RFK ends. It's just done. We watched the Dodgers hit four -- count them, four -- homers last night at RFK.
From ESPN.com - "During batting practice, several Dodgers noticed that the best way to hit homers at RFK is to the gaps and down the lines, where each of Tuesday's four shots traveled.
"We kept them out of the middle of the field," Phillips said. "The middle of the field is big.""
We've been screaming this for ages. What's really curious is that all it took the Dodgers was one batting practice to figure this out, and it's the only trip here from the Dodgers all year. Every other team, including the home team, haven't figured this out.
That's just odd.
I also want to comment on Home Plate ump Jerry Crawford. For the entire 5th inning, the Nats Triple Play crew was watching Crawford spoon Brian Schneider and Dodgers catcher "Dave" Navarro. Every time Crawford bent down behind the catcher, he'd put a hand on the catcher's side, and it looked like he was spooning him. Way weird.
August 2, 2005
Things to look forward to for the week to come:
- 6 games against the truly awful Dodgers (47-58) & Padres (51-54);
- Another Nats Q&A/autograph session at ESPN Zone;
- Miller Light 6-pack cooler night;
- Stealth leaving theaters and going straight to video, so Dave can buy it without anyone else having to see it.
Oh, by the way, BallWonk agrees with me about Preston Wilson.
August 1, 2005
Just a quick post for a game-less Monday...
The Triple Play crew will be at RFK on Tuesday and Friday. I'll be there again on Sunday, taking my wife and some of her family to the game.
We're also enjoying restaurant week on Wednesday night.
This qualifies as a big enough story to break the unofficial no-O's policy of Nats Triple Play. Apparently, slugging 1B Rafael Palmeiro, the newest member of the 3,000 hit club, has been suspended by MLB for violating the league's steroid policy. Raffy flatly denied using steriods when he testified before a Congressional committee in March. So unless he just started shooting up after his testimony, the sweet-swinging lefty could be on the hook for lying to Congress too. All of a sudden, Sammy Sosa's "me-no-speak-the-English" approach to congressional testimony is starting to look pretty canny.
The All-Star break is nice, but the trade deadline really marks the beginning of the playoff push. With roughly 2/3 of the season gone, I think it's a good time to evaluate the major roster moves the team has made:
Marlon Byrd for Endy Chavez: Byrd's down in AAA, and Chavez plays mostly as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement for the Phillies. Basically, each took on the other's role. Grade: C
Claudio Vargas: It seemed like a good idea at the time. I, Claudio sucked in DC. But the much maligned former Nat turned in a solid July for the D-backs, with a 2.01 ERA in 5 starts. Hopefully that will be a career highlight, not the beginning of a trend. Grade: TBD
Junior Spivey and Ryan Drese for Tomo Ohka: The Spivey-Ohka trade wouldn't have happened if Drese hadn't been available on waivers. For my money, Drese and Ohka are basically a wash, and Spivey was a capable fill-in for Jose Vidro, then he had the decency to get hurt so we could give his roster spot to someone else. Grade: B-
Zach Day and J.J. Davis for Preston Wilson: We've already beat this trade to death. Wilson has added speed to the team, but he hasn't been the big bat we needed, and he's been mediocre at best on defense. Remember that he was also supposed to be the everyday CF to take some of the wear and tear off of Wilkie. But now Brad's back in center with Preston in left. I can't shake the feeling that we maybe could have gotten Matt Lawton or Jacque Jones in a package for Day. Grade: C -
Mike Stanton: Certainly the best of J.B.'s waiver-wire work. A solid veteran, Stanton hasn't been lights out, but he's given us two established left-handers in the pen for the first time this season. Grade: B+
Wil Cordero for Kenny Kelly: Not a trade, just a pair of waiver moves. Wil was picked up by the Mets, and is down in Norfolk playing for the Tides. Kenny's providing OF depth in New Orleans, where he has 3 walks and a stolen basen in 2 games. Kenny's 26, Wil's 33 and I'm all in favor of youth movements. Grade: B
Trade Deadline Recap
- Matt Cepicky: The Bizarro Wilkie?