December 29, 2005

Diogenes! Diogenes!

Sketchy, unsubstantiated media reports have the Nats signing pitcher Diogenes Ramon Ortiz to a 1-year, $2.5 million deal. Ortiz was particularly craptacular for Cinicinnati last season, but maybe some combination of Randy St. Claire's voodoo and RFK's spacious confines will rejuvenate the plucky Dominican barbershop mogul.

If D.R.O. is actually in the fold, here's a look at the Nats potential 2006 starting rotation:

Livan Hernandez
John Patterson
Ramon Ortiz
Brian Lawrence
Ryan Drese

Not likely to win us any pennants, but not all that much worse than the 2005 spring training lineup:

Livan Hernandez
Esteban Loaiza
Zach Day
Tomo Ohka
Tony Armas, Jr.

Update: Sketchy, unsubtantiated media reports confirmed by sketchy, insubstantial GM Jim Bowden.

December 27, 2005

Home for the Holidays

The holiday season is a time for joyous reunions with rarely seen family members. With that in mind Rocket Bill Ladson tears himself away from his third bucket o' eggnog to report that the Nats have resigned veteran lefty Mike Stanton to a one-year, $1 million deal (or, to put it another way, $725,000 less than Marbert Fickerson will be making.) Stanton pitched effectively for the Nats last season, and $1 million for a left-handed pitcher is practically free. With Stanton and Joey Eischen in the bullpen Cap'n Hook and Eddie "Mr. Smee" Rodriguez will be free to make even more unnecessary and counterproductive pitching changes.

In the spirit of holiday reconciliation, Jose Vidro pulls a Tupac and tosses an "I Ain't Mad at Cha" in the general direction of noted T.O. impersonator Alfonso Soriano. In an attempt to divine a silver lining from this situation, I'm looking forward to the inevitable Vidro-Soriano showdown wherein a wiry, quicker Soriano repeatedly rabbit-punches Vidro but is ulimate defeated when Jose sits on him and refuses to get up until Alf agrees to go stand out in left and pretend to care.

Elsewhere: The Nats blogosphere is mostly quiet, undoubtedly sleeping off their holiday cheer. For seasonal goodness Federal Baseball has Part 1 of a Natsmas Miracle!

December 22, 2005

Beauty and the Beast

Today’s Movie Review – King Kong

Matt Watson – 4 Baseballs

It’s not everyday you get to see a 25 foot tall gorilla run amuck in New York City. For that matter it’s very rare to have an epic film like King Kong provide both white knuckle, squirm in your seat action and a poignant story with a lot of heart. On one hand you have a forbidding island with treacherous shores, vicious dinosaurs, giant insects, and fearsome natives. On the other hand you have a misfit group of adventurers made up of the beautiful Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) a down on her luck vaudevillian struggling to get by, Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) the talented playwright and screen writer, and Carl Denham (Jack Black) the success at any cost movie director. These elements are woven together to form the perfect stage for the real star of this show, Kong. Director Peter Jackson takes all the lessons learned from Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and puts them to good use. Kong is larger than life. He’s expressive, impressive, and most importantly completely natural. Kong is not a monster here, he’s simply an animal. There is no malice in his actions which is a necessity to allow the audience to identify with our furry hero.

The movie follows Carl Denham and his movie crew as they embark on a voyage to mysterious Skull Island to make a travel picture. From the get go it’s clear that Carl will stop at nothing to get his movie made, not even bankruptcy or the police. The crew is traveling on the SS Venture a dilapidated steamer that usually freights around live animals for zoos and circuses. The crew of the Venture is your typical rough and tumble crowd complete with a surly captain. After a very harrowing arrival, the crew wanders through the ruins of the island filming for the movie only to find that they’re not alone. When Ann is kidnapped and presented as an offering to Kong our intrepid crew sets out to save her. Once on the other side of the wall the movie really picks up speed and we’re treated to one heart pounding sequence after another. It’s here that the special effects shine. We’re treated to some fantastic chase sequences, some devastating falls, and some skin crawling uglies. There’s something utterly entrancing and very satisfying about seeing a giant ape do battle with a dinosaur. Eventually fair maiden is rescued from her captor and Kong is trapped and brought back to New York to be exhibited to the public, the famous 8th wonder of the world. The New York of the 1930’s is vividly recreated here and provides a lush backdrop for the climax of the film.

At three hours, the movie is long and probably should have been cut down but it doesn’t suffer from the inclusion of extra material. Still, it provides enough room to thrill the audience and allows them witness the disintegration of Carl’s humanity, the budding heroism of Jack, and forming of a beautiful friendship between a girl and an ape. At one point Ann and Kong sit mesmerized by the beautiful island sunset, content to just sit back and take it all in. I feel a little bit like that when I think about the movie. It’s well worth it to sit back and take it all in.

December 21, 2005

Holiday Carroll

It's just like the Soriano trade announcement, except this actually is good news. The Nats brain trust offered arbitration to Jamey Carroll. The one-year contract will probably be in the $600,000 range. Here's hoping Jamey signs it. If nothing else it will keep him from having to move, seeing as how he's the only National with a home in the DC area.

Arbitration was also offered to Luis "El Guapo" Ayala, Marlon Byrd, Nick Johnson and Brian Schneider. Junior Spivey, T.J. Tucker and Alex "Killing Pablo" Escobar were not offered contracts, though Tucker has already signed a minor league deal and Escobar might.

I'll have more to say later, but tonight is "Big Monkey Movie" night for the Triple Play family of products and services, so I have to go summon the state of zen that will allow me to ignore Jack Black for 3 hours. You want in depth analysis, go read someone else's Nats blog. It ain't like there's a shortage.

Baseball Set Me Up

According to the story in the Washington Post this morning, former Mayor and noted Crackhead Marion Barry has been trying to put together his own plan for getting the stadium deal done. Apparently Barry was working with Jonathan Ledecky. Barry would strong arm MLB into choosing Ledecky, and in turn Ledecky would promise to pay for any cost overruns on the stadium.

First off, why in the world would Ledecky partner with Marion Barry? The man is a national joke and a disgrace to Washington D.C. He's the embodiment of everything that is wrong with DC politics. It can't look good to MLB when one of the prospective owners is hanging with a crackhead.

Second, this does a good job of illustrating how tenous this situation is. You've got politicians trying to implement their own agenda as opposed to trying to do what's best for the city. Does DC need baseball? Yes. Is it a good idea to have the ballpark in SE? Yes. What's not to understand? If this deal falls apart, and it sure looks like it's going to, the city council should be thrown off of Key Bridge.

December 19, 2005

Big Build Up, No Payoff

All right everyone... lunchbreak! Mayor Tony Bowtie has requested that the stadium lease agreement be pulled from the agenda tomorrow. Blogger groupthink says Tony didn't have the 7 votes needed to get the deal done. The vote hasn't been rescheduled, but expect the mayor's people to spend the holidays arm-twisting, log-rolling and stealing loose change from Salvation Army buckets to make the stadium financial picture slightly more palatable.

Quasi-News with Rocket Bill

Alleged journalist Bill Ladson is back with another
hard-hitting mailbag where he covers (I kid you not) the likelihood of Roger Clemens pitching for the Nats, reveals that Alf will play wherever we damn well want him to and smile while he does it, explains why Wilkie was singlehandedly responsible for the failure of our offense last season and makes Ryan Church completely disappear.

Big ups to Federal Baseball for the GNR cover (now where's my Chinese Democracy?) And a belated plug for the Farm Authority's Nats Big Board.

Offseason Filler: Cosmic Harmony

From time to time I have been criticized for being a Bitter Disgruntled Crank. What people fail to realize of course, is that Bitter Disgruntled Cranks are immune to criticism, it's one of the benefits of BDC status. That being said, if I dropped dead today (and given my holiday credit card bill that might not be such a bad thing) I would be completely at peace with the universe.

35-7. Over Dallas. At home. With a playoff spot on the line. And I saw every freaking second of it live, in person. I'm not married, I don't have any children that I know of, so this ranks pretty high on my list of life's milestones. FedEx Field has been rightly criticized for being sterile, generic and pretty much the antithesis of RFK. But I was there yesterday and I can testify that the upper decks at FedEx were swaying and bouncing just like the old RFK bleachers.

Tomorrow, when the DC city council torpedos the baseball stadium I'll go back to being a Bitter Disgruntled Crank. Today, all is right with the universe.

P.S. Avery Johnson is an ass.

Elsewhere: Distinguished Senators illustrates Rick Short's arrival in Japan, and OMG has the Rick Short headline I should have written.

December 17, 2005

Short Term Loss

Sayonara, Rick and best of luck. Rick Short told intrepid quasi-reporter Bill Ladson that he expects the Nats to sell his contract to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese Baseball League. I suppose that's one way to pay off the extra $5 million we're going to owe Soriano this season.

Baseball is a f****d up game. All Rick Short did last season was hit .400, slug .933 and hit home runs off of John Smoltz and Dontrelle Willis. But next season he's going to be the star of his own
bad Tom Selleck movie. Now I don't expect Rick to hit .400 and slug .900 in a full season off the bench, but perhaps if we hadn't spent $1.7 million on lefty pinch hitter/backup 1B/OF Marbert Fickerson, we'd have room for sweet-swingin' $350,000 makin' Rick Short.

December 15, 2005

Draped in Bunting

All hands on deck for the return of Cap'n Hook! Unloveable curmudgeon Frank Robinson will be returning to the helm of the S.S. Natty in 2006. Along for the ride on our ship of fools: bench coach "Fast Eddie" Rodriguez and pitching coach Randy "Wanna See Me Outduel Tomko?" St. Claire. Cast adrift on the open seas: first base coach Don Buford; third base coach Dave Huppert; bullpen coach Bob Natal and alleged hitting coach Tom McCraw.

Quick Analysis: Hallelujah, let's go find us a real hitting instructor. And with Huppert gone, someone may actual score from second this season. Mitchell Page (aka How Marlon Byrd Got His Swing Back) is the most likely candidate to take over for McCraw. The base coaches are pretty much up in the air, but don't be surprised to see yet more former Reds make an appearance.

Second analysis: With both Robinson and Rodriguez back, the in-game strategy will be virtually identical to last year. While it doesn't make any sense to saddle a manager with a bench coach he doesn't like, it makes even less sense to bring these two back as a team. Expect plenty more hit-and-runs and sacrifice bunts. Let's hope Marbert Fickerson has as-yet-untapped Jamey Carroll-esque bunting ability.

December 14, 2005

We're Ficked

First, the good news. A hearty welcome back to lefty RP "Scary" Joey Eischen, who signed a 1 yr./$1.3 million deal to stay with then Nats. As far as I'm concerned just the off-chance that Joey will threaten to sexually abuse Peter Angelos again is worth $1.3 mil in today's market.

Next, the indifferent news. The Nats signed a boatload of catchers to minor league deals, hoping that one of them might be able to at least knock down pitches when Brian Schneider takes a day off.
NFA has the rundown.

And finally, the bad news. Along with Eischen signed doughy lefty backup 1B/OF/C
Robert Fick. As you might expect, I have a minor quibble with the signing that can be summed up thusly: Robert Fick is Marlon Anderson! Marlon Anderson is Robert Fick!! FINKEL IS EINHORN!!! EINHORN IS FINKEL!!!! For proof take a look at the numbers Banks of the Anacostia posts in support of the signing. From here on out, I will be refering to our conglomerate lefty backup 1B/OF as Marbert Fickerson. Distingushed Senators argues that this is an encouraging sign that Trader Jim has a learning curve.

But wait, there's more. The august D.C. City Council
ripped Tony Bowtie and Nat Ghandi a new one yesterday. Exhibiting truly superwoman endurance Miss Chatter chronicled the whole hearing in more or less real time, which makes a depressing read considerably more entertaining. I've been optimistic that in the end, after everyone involved was done posturing, things would fall in line and the lease would be approved. Today I'm much less sanguine about the prospects for getting this deal done. If I had money to bet, I certainly wouldn't lay it on December 20th.

And the hits just keep on coming. Not only do the Nats have too many reserve lefty 1B/OFs and too few stadiums, but now it appears they only have enough left in the budget to pursue
craptastic third-string starting pitchers. Here's the relevant info:

In other news, the Nationals are trying to get starting pitching, but Bowden said he is not entirely confident that he will land a frontline starting pitcher. The team has offers on the table to Kevin Millwood and Jarrod Washburn, and has shown interest in Shawn Estes, Pedro Astacio and Brett Tomko.
Shawn Estes, Pedro Astacio and Brett Tomko. And that's for our #3 starter mind you. Just let that sink in for a minute. Then go check out Federal Baseball for the breakdown. Then commence to weep hot, bitter tears.

December 11, 2005

The Bowden Manifesto

On the heels of the report that Jim Bowden will not be offered the General Manager's job in Boston, and will therefore likely be with us at least through next April, I've embarked upon a reexamination of his brief tenure with the Nationals. Yesterday I offered some thoughts on Trader Jim's major preseason acquisitions. It's easy now, in hindsight to grade these moves based on their success or failure, but I'm less interested in the outcome than in the process and thinking that went into the decisions.

Bowden's first major in-season roster shuffle involved swapping Endy Chavez to the Phillies for Marlon Byrd. At the time, both outfielders were having down years and the trade was mostly about securing something in return for Chavez, who had worn out his welcome with the Nationals.

Claudio Vargas was the first Nationals starting pitcher exposed to waivers in 2005. The decision was glossed over at the time, because he pitched horribly for the Nationals, contributing just 12.7 innings over 4 starts, with an ERA of 9.24. There was some discussion of whether it was necessary to waive Vargas, but he was out of minor league option years. Arizona claimed Vargas off waivers.

An injury to second baseman Jose Vidro was the catlyst for a trade that sent starting pitcher Tomo Ohka to the Brewers for second baseman Junior Spivey. At the same time Bowden claimed starting pitcher Ryan Drese off waivers from Texas to replace Ohka in the rotation. The Ohka-Spivey trade was motivated by the belief that neither Jamey Carroll nor Brendan Harris could be an everyday second baseman, though Spivey's numbers in Milwaukee were comparable to the stats Carroll was putting up at the time. Ohka was in manager Frank Robinson's bad graces despite posting a 3.33 ERA over 10 games for the Nats in 2005, but it was Drese's availability that made Ohka expendable.

Easily the most talked about trade of the season was the deal that sent starting pitcher Zach Day and minor leaguer J.J. Davis to Colorado for centerfielder Preston Wilson. The Wilson trade occured at a time when the Nationals were short of outfielders, with Brad Wilkerson subbing for an injured Nick Johnson at first base and Ryan Church rehabbing a bad shoulder. Wilson was another established veteran, in the Vinny Castilla/Jose Guillen mold. He was advertised as a defensive improvement in centerfield, although his numbers didn't bear that out. Day was another starter who fell out of favor with the coaching staff after being injured.

A little success can be a dangerous thing, and that's what the Nationals experienced in the first half of 2005. The need to impress a new fanbase, combined with an improbable 5 1/2 game lead in the NL East put Jim Bowden in a "win now" frame of mind. He traded for recognizable veterans like Preston Wilson and Junior Spivey rather than attempting to develop younger players like Ryan Church and Brendan Harris. Combined with manager Frank Robinson's affinity for veteran players, Jim Bowden's acquisitions prioritized short-term success.

Some of that focus is reasonably attributable to the instability of Jim Bowden's own situation, but he evidences a clear preference for veterans and prospects from outside the Montreal/Washington organization, and no particular desire to lay the foundation necessary to revitalize the farm system and improve the long-term prospects of the franchise.

December 10, 2005

He's All Ours

The Boston Herald is reporting that the Red Sox have settled on a co-General Manager arrangement for the 2006 season, and Jim Bowden won't be involved. So JimBo is officially all ours, at least until his current contract expires in April. The outside chance that Beantown would swoop in and rescue us from our long National nightmare sustained many a fan through the offseason, but cold reality has settled in over D.C. like a wayward Alberta Clipper.

As the
completed stadium lease agreement, its hour come round at last, slouches toward the Wilson Building to be born, it is possible that Bud Selig will name an owner for our team before the newest Nats fans reach voting age. But even if that rosy scenario plays itself out, Trader Jim will still be making all the personnel decisions this offseason. With that in mind, I've decided to make an attempt to understand The Man Who Will Be GM.

Any honest attempt to walk a mile in Jim Bowden's shoes would treat his career extensively. It would note his
unheralded beginnings with the Pittsburgh Pirates, chronicle his meteoric rise through the ranks of Marge Schott's thoroughly dysfunctional Cincinnati Reds, and humbly observe the fall from grace that swept him out of baseball entirely a decade later. A truly intrepid investigator would plumb Bowden's early years for clues to the GM he would one day become. That kind of labor-intensive quasi-cyberstalking is best left to other, more qualified bloggers.

Instead, I've opted to begin my review in 2005, Year 0 A.B. (After Baseball) of the current Washington dynasty. It's worth noting that this piece takes us back to pre-
Triple Play days when Watson, Dave and I were enthusiastic, uncritical Boswellian Nationals boosters, basking in frigid exhibition baseball. I anticipate that this will be my longest post in the history of Nats Triple Play, so it will be published in two parts. The first post will address Jim Bowden's 2005 preseason acquisitions.

Nationals Farm Authority
compiled and evaluated every personnel move made in the brief history of the Nats farm system. I will for the most part defer to that excellent analysis. Limiting myself mainly to decisions that directly impacted the big league club, my goal is to identify patterns and trends illustrative of Jim Bowden's philosophy and its impact on the franchise.

The Nationals franchise that Jim Bowden joined in late 2004 was a team with a recent history of turmoil. Repeated threatened with contraction, shuffled between two "home" stadiums hundreds of miles apart, and subjected to years-long (mis)management by MLB, relocation to Washington should have provided some welcome stability. But in many respects the team was still adrift. It had no owner, its home stadium needed a complete retrofit and relations between MLB and the city government turned acrimonious even before the relocation agreement was finalized. In this atmosphere Bowden was tasked with rehabilitating a once-proud franchise and winning over a skeptical, twice-burned fanbase. And doing it all on an interim basis, with no job security and no one to lay out a long-term plan for the organization.

Nevertheless, Bowden hit the ground running in D.C., signing big name free agents
Vinny Castilla and Cristian Guzman to lucrative multi-year deals. Both signings addressed team needs. 2004 SS Orlando Cabrera left in a mid-season trade to Boston and 2004 3B Tony Batista found employment in Japan, leaving questionable in-house replacements like Macier Izturis and Jamey Carroll behind them. At the time both contracts were criticized for their size and length, but it's fair to wonder if Bowden had to overpay to attract established stars to an unstable franchise. Another, less defensible feature of the signings was their timing, which required the Nationals to surrender draft picks for both players. Castilla and Guzman were certainly recognizable to casual baseball fans, and could be sold as improvements just by virtue of not being associated with the 2004 Montreal team that went 67-95.

In the 2004 Rule 5 Draft Bowden and the Nationals selected
Tony Blanco from the Cincinnati Reds. This wasthe first significant manifestation of Bowden's fascination with players from his previous organization, though it was not an unreasonable move for a team with a thin farm system and no expectation of competing in 2005.

Bowden's other preseason blockbuster was the trade that sent
Juan Rivera and Macier Izturis to the Angels in exchange for mercurial outfielder Jose Guillen. Guillen was another established player with credentials, having hit 27 HRs and driven in 104 runs the previous season in Anaheim. While Izturis was clearly not ready to be an everyday contrbutor in the big leagues, Rivera put up solid if unspectacular numbers for the Expos in 2004. Guillen's 1-year contract with a club option year was much less extravagent, but Bowden again displayed a preference for veterans from outside the organization at the expense of homegrown, if slightly less developed players.

The Nationals pitching staff was decimated by injuries in 2004, but returned to health in the offseason, and when Bowden was unable to entice a top-flight free agent pitcher to Washington he settled for
Esteban Loiaza, who struggled through half a season in Chicago and completely imploded in 10 games with the Yankees. Loiaza brought veteran presence to a relatively inexperienced staff, and his one year deal with a mutual option was reasonable for a pitcher with his experience and potential upside. At the time there was no reason to think that Loiaza couldn't be signed to a more substantial contract following his 2005 "audition".

Tomorrow: Jim Bowden's 2005 Season-in-Review

December 9, 2005

Homer J. Boswell (or the Fightin' Bowdens)

When I woke up this morning to crusty ice-covered snowy goodness sure to delight school children everywhere, I was really looking foward to a nice cup of coffee and the WaPo Sports section. Then I got to Boswell's column. Let's just say that the opening sentence, "This offseason, the best thing the Nationals have going for them is GM Jim Bowden." did not whisk me away to my happy place. I had a nice little rant all worked up, but Federal Baseball beat me to it. So you can go look over there for a little Boz-bashing while I pull the old bait-and-switch.

Snuggled right next to Boswell-impersonating-"Booster Rocket Bill "Ladson on the front page of the Sports section was an
article by underappreciated staff writer Dave Shenin on our newest 2B, "Alf" Soriano. (I opted for Alf over Fonzie, but I'll be happy if either sticks.) There are many, many gems in this piece, starting with the opening paragraph:

The Washington Nationals arrived at baseball's winter meetings five days ago with a modest amount to spend on 2006 payroll, an acute need for starting pitching -- and no owner or clearly defined future. They left Thursday afternoon with significantly less payroll room, a star hitter who plays a position where they had no opening -- and, of course, still no owner.

Amen Dave, amen. But the best is yet to come. Farther along, Alf himself talks about moving to the outfield:

"I'm going to play second base. I don't think they want me to play the outfield. I think that if they traded for me, it's to play second base. Obviously I have the control. Of course I'm not going to play the outfield."
Mmmm... conciliatory. But fear not, for Trader Jim is nothing if not a master negotiator:

"We don't always get [to play] the exact positions we want sometimes," Bowden said before leaving Thursday. "But you do what's best for the organization to win. There will be unhappy people, but our job is to win. . . . "

Indeed, compromise is in the air. But like any good storyteller, Dave Shenin saves the best for last. Channeling Pravda DC's Bill Ladson, Shenin quotes an anonymous Nationals official:

"What is he [Soriano] going to do, sit out? Jim Bowden has never backed down from a fight."
Now, some people would question the logic behind trading for a 10 million dollar, arbitration-eligible all-star just to pick a fight with him. But not Fightin' Jim Bowden. Fightin' Jim will trade for who ever he damn well pleases, and put them where ever he damn well wants. If they complain or dog it, he'll go toe-to-toe with them and won't back down, at least until he lands the Red Sox job or his contract runs out in April.

December 8, 2005

Midnight Massacre

That's the tagline I'm hanging on this trade. And while I may be wrong, I'm not uncertain. Trader Jim, desperate to do something to justify his presence at the Winter Meetings (and his continued presence on the payroll) made exactly the kind of big, splashy trade that generates a ton of media light and heat, but no fire. In case anyone missed it, though I don't see how you could have, Brad Wilkerson, Terrmel Sledge and Armando Galarraga went to Texas in exchange for Alfonso Soriano.

Let's clear up some preliminaries: I don't like Soriano. Didn't like him in New York, didn't like him in Texas, fully expect to not like him in D.C. He's a lousy contact hitter, has no (zip, zero, zilch) patience at the plate, had awful stats away from Arlington, may actually be worse than Vidro at second base, and has never shown any inclination to play the outfield. Plus, he has a reputation for being a bad clubhouse guy.

Now, on to the merits: Trading Terrmel Sledge? Fine, good guy, coming off a bad injury, no better than a 4th OF, clears a logjam for Ryan Church and Marlon Byrd.

Trading Brad Wilkerson? Not great, but okay. He was the Nats most marketable player, he was due for a raise this year and FA next year, he's been hurt, and he really didn't have a natural position in this lineup (I tend to agree with the consensus that Wilkie is not a natural 4-5 hitter.) What depth the Nats had was in the OF, and with *shudder* Marlon Anderson to back up Nicky at 1B, I understand the rationale for moving Wilkie.

Trading Armando Galarraga? Inexcusable. I'll leave it to the farm system expert to lay out the full case, but it comes down to this: What is the one huge, glaring, neon-flashing weakness on the team? Starting pitching! Trading away one of our few legitimate SP prospects without getting any prospects in return is massively stupid.

And finally, moving into fantasy: If Soriano moves to CF and becomes an above average defender, or if we move Jose Vidro's contract and get prospects in return, or if we flip Soriano at the trade deadline this season for high-end prospects, I will eat my share of crow and reevaluate the trade. I will also travel to the All-Star Game to cheer for Cristian Guzman.

Elsewhere: More in-depth analysis from Capitol Punishment, generalized feelings of dread from OMG and Nats Blog and a truly depressing conversation thread shaping up over at Federal Baseball.

December 7, 2005

Aeon Flummoxed

Today’s Movie Review – Aeon Flux

Matt Watson – 2 Baseballs

Back when MTV actually mattered, they used to air this strange cartoon that featured a leather clad heroine always on the run. Whenever I caught it in the wee hours of the morning I always felt like I didn’t have enough information. I could never quite get a grip on what was going on. Intentional or not, Aeon Flux produces the exact same feeling.

In the year 2011, the “industrial virus” will kill 99% of the people on the planet. Those that are left are grouped together in the last city on earth Bregna. This is man’s last hope and turns out his best effort at utopia. We see a garden city where there is no suffering, no poverty, and apparently no freedom. The city is ruled by the Goodchild dynasty and they are in turn opposed by the rebels, the Monicans.

The best weapon the Monicans have is our heroine, Aeon Flux, played by the very talented Charlize Theron. It’s her job to bring down the regime. She has help from her sidekick Sithandra, who happens to have hands for feet. While it makes for interesting hand to hand combat as Nate succinctly put “I don’t approve of hand feet”. Aeon is living a double life as a regular citizen and when her extra-curricular activities become known her family suffers. When the time comes for the Monicans to attempt a coup, Aeon is hell bent on revenge.

Aeon Flux is a visually stunning movie. The garden city provides some very dramatic backdrops and the entire production has a very tangible style. It’s futuristic without being flashy and you wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the fashions on the runways in Paris. The film uses technology as a style tool as well, weaving it in and out of the characters lives to show how far they’ve come from cell phones and email.

While the visual accomplishments are impressive, the film is just that, a visual accomplishment. There is very little depth here and the audience is never given a firm place to sink their teeth in. Apparently there is a war going on but we never find out why the Monicans are fighting. The government apparently provides everyone with homes, food, clothing, and a job. What is there to fight over?

In the end, Aeon Flux is shallow trip through the science fiction ocean. It borrows heavily from the Matrix movies and reminds me a little of Logan’s Run, but it never really cements its own identity. The movie presents a unique look at the future, but never enough information for the audience to get from here to there.

December 6, 2005

Virtual Milwaukee Lies in Ruins

The Natosphere's collective google-bombing campaign is a rousing success. The patently obvious truth that Bud Selig is a national disgrace has garnered coast-to-coast media attention. From hometown WaPo columnist Marc Fisher to Seattle's Sports Beat and everywhere in between.

Will this have any effect on the ownership situation, or the new stadium that is beginning to sound like the world's largest platinum bidet? Nope, but it is intensely satisfying given the general powerlessness of Nats fans over all things Nats-related. Kudos to the Nats blogosphere, and rest assured that the Triple Play crew was honored to do our little part.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You...

A whole lot of nothing, really. Rocket Bill Ladson chimes in with the not-quite-breaking news that A.J. Burnett will not be a Washington National, despite being the only man on the planet with strong emotional ties to Bowie, Maryland. I am considerably less bummed than most of my fellow bloggers, mostly because I expect A.J.'s arm to fall off in June. (I'll also take credit for being within $5 million of the final contract price without going over, thereby winning the showcase showdown.)

Tom Boswell reiterates his love for all things South Capitol Street, deftly synthesizing reams of argument from DCist into one column. Unfortunately, alleged WaPo columnist Tony Kornheiser also picks today to weigh in on the stadium deal.

Meanwhile, in the parallel universe he inhabits, BallWonk reports from Day 2 of the 2005 Nationals National Convention (catchy title BW).

Stupidity on a snowy morning

So a meeting downtown meant that I was to take the metro this morning, as it was a) easier and b) the simple fact of the possibility of snow meant that the roads would be full of stupid people who don't know how to drive when that one half inch is on the ground.

Walking to the metro station after parking, I see a very fashionably dressed woman walking just in front of me, struggling to keep her balance. The snow coverage last night was light - about an inch - but there was some ice on my car, and some patches here and there. I wore sensible shoes because of this.

I look down, and notice she is wearing high heels.... But not just any high heels. Oh, no. This insane woman is wearing 5 inch stiletto heels. Tiny little points. This woman, who can't weigh more than a buck twenty-five soaking wet, is trying to balance herself on ice while wearing 5 inch freaking heels.

Now, I have nothing against high heels (I like them, in fact, unlike certain other footwear I can't tolerate). However, I loathe stupidity, and nothing says I'm a stupid person better than stiletto heels on ice.

December 5, 2005

Quick, Call Arthur Andersen!

The Nationals may be in desperate need of some creative accounting. NBC4 is reporting that the latest cost estimates for the new stadium may top $700 million! This has the potential to scuttle the deal entirely, since I don't see the DC City Council overlooking a hundred million dollar rounding error.

If nothing else, this is going to throw a King Kong-size monkey wrench in the bond sale timeline. I assume HOK is going to have to go back and redesign the stadium to cut costs, delaying council approval, bond sales, ownership announcement, construction start and the entropic death spiral of the universe.

Now we get to listen to DCist bitch and moan some more about an extra $100 million worth of food stolen from the mouths of babies. I just knew someone was going to f*** this up!

Update: 12.06.2005

Cooler heads than mine have prevailed. WaPo is reporting the $700 million figure as an absolute worst-case scenario number, including several amenities already dropped from the proposal. Capitol Punishment has all your analysis needs. My overwhelming sense of impending doom is somewhat abated.

December 3, 2005

Don't F*** This Up

Alright, everybody stay calm. Just hand us the lease agreement and nobody has to get hurt. Shut your piehole Reinsdorf, thanks for the $20 mil, but don't think we didn't notice that nothing got done until you left town. And Catania, I don't want to hear one word out of you... not one word. Sit there and vote "No" like the irrelevant independent-former-Republican you are, but keep quiet. Tony Bowtie, Croppzilla... feel free to take a victory lap after you hand over the agreement. We are suitably impressed with your collective political acumen, but God help you if you screw this up at the 11th hour. Nice and easy now, just hand it over...

Banks of the Anacostia concisely summarizes the mood of Nats fans, MissChatter analyzes the deal, and Curly W looks at the still-rocky road ahead.

And Flights of Angels Sing Thee to Thy Rest

The long expected departure of reliever-turned-starter Hector "El Matador" Carrasco has finally arrived. St. Barry reports that Carrasco inked a 2-year, $6.1 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California of the United States of North America of planet Earth. (I will not, will not, will not call them the L.A. Angels, Artie Moreno can change the team's name to the Rio de Janeiro Beach Bunnies, but they'll still play in Anaheim. Just like the Mighty Ducks. Here endth the rant.)

No word on what the Nats were offering El Matador contract wise, but you can bet it wasn't in the neighborhood of 2 years at $3 mil/yr. That's
Marlon Anderson money. Like Esteban Loaiza, Hector was a Type B free agent, so we're in line for the Angels 1st round pick, though it's more likely we'll end up their 2nd rounder.

A Hazy Shade of Winter

Baseball's Winter Meetings kick off next week in Dallas ('cause when I think baseball, I automatically think Dallas. But seriously,
Saskatoon was all booked up?) Trader Jim at the Winter Meetings is like a Weight Watchers class touring a Marshmallow Peeps factory; it's going to go bad and it's going to be messy. Rocket Bill Ladson has JimBo's shopping list: 2 starters, 2 sluggers, a leadoff hitter and a backup catcher. (Actual line from the article: "Backup catchers are hard to find." Now that's comedy.) Notably absent from the list, cold fusion and world peace.

December 2, 2005

Beers and Barstools

The NTP crew ventured out of our routine and headed downtown to Dupont Circle last night for dinner and beers. First off, it bears mentioning that all three of us are useless when it comes to navigating around Dupont Circle. We walked the long way around the circle arguing the entire time about whether or not we should cut through the middle, only to realize that we had gone the wrong way. So then we cut through the middle to go back where we came.

So after twenty minutes we wander down to 20th and P streets where we take one look at Pizza Paradiso decide the wait is too long. Next up is Johnny's Half Shell which also has a 45 minute wait. Alberto's Pizza by the slice it is :) This is the second time we've been stuck for a place to eat in DC and ended up doing the Jumbo slice thing. Maybe we should just plan on that from the beginning.

After gorging on pie it was over to the Brickskellar for one of the best beer selections in the world and one of my personal favorite juke boxes. We sat at the downstairs bar and had 12 or so beers between the three of us with Dave's wife showing up late. You gotta love 60's soul and beers with names like Dragonhead Stout and Old Fezziwig Ale. There was also some random conversation about celebrity vampires and who's the most underated 80's band. Good times :)