June 25, 2007

Guzmanic Depressive

You have GOT to be kidding me! This isn't even funny any more.

2005: Traditionally mediocre shortstop mired in an historically awful season. Sure, it was terrible, but it was terrible in an epically bad, interesting, watchable way.

2006: When Royce Clayton is your starting shortstop, God has it in for you team. (See also, Toronto Blue Jays, circa 2007.)

2007: Renewal! Redemption!! Re-GUZ-ification!!! In the midst of a career season GUZMANIA! is struck down by Josh Barfield's stupid oversized head. (Seriously, it's like an orange on a toothpick!)

Now Guzie's gone for the season, with torn ligaments in his thumb. FLop goes back to shortstop, Belliard to 2B, and D'Angelo Jiminez prolongs his pointless major league career. It's not fair. It's not right. It just is.

But we've been down this road before. Every year in fact. And so we begin again. Nats Triple Play, the official home of the GUZMANIA!: Great in '08! campaign.

June 24, 2007

How to ruin a good game in one easy overstep.

Goddamn it.

The relative quiet of the NTP site recently has been for a variety of reasons. I'll speak to mine -- I've been busy as hell with work. Crazy busy, the kind of busy that likely isn't healthy. I think I've made myself sick due to this much work. I say this to set the stage.... I committed to catching three games in a row at RFK to take my mind off work, enjoy some beautiful summer weather, and drink some beer. Wednesday and Friday I was going to the games with Watson and Nate (and the fourth ticket taken by Watson's date on Wed and Nate's on Friday), and then with my wife and some of her friends for tailgating and game watching on Saturday.

This had to brighten my mood, right?

Wednesday was what it was -- a loss, but the team was competitive and they were playing well. It was a return to the ballpark for us, and while I greatly miss Hard Times Chili Dogs, it was a good night out, despite the loss. I was encouraged.

Friday was a great game -- a win, a solid play, Brandon Watson's bat comes alive, and the blooper reel for all time.

Which brings me to Saturday. Beautiful day, fun tailgate, and seats that made me appreciate where we normally sit.

First, I'll do my review of fan experience, since I don't normally sit in section 505. I don't think the vendors even bother to go to the upper deck. I may gripe that I can't get a beer vendor to come by in section 313, but it was nothing like 505. Seriously -- send some vendors up there. There are less places to get beer and food in the upper level than below as well -- half were closed. It was a pain getting food and beer.

That didn't dampen my mood, however. I was there to enjoy the game and relax. All I wanted was a good ball game. I managed to find enough beer to enjoy.

But what really got me was, like everyone else, the ninth inning.

I won't do play-by-play. Others do that well.

I'm also not going to bemoan Cordero. Chief blew a save, and that certainly was frustrating. But he's been doing well, and I even went into the inning knowing he couldn't pitch without a guy on first. I just wasn't expecting the homer.

But what I will call for is the head of Nook Logan on a stick. There has been defending of Nook Logan dating way back. His quote about being aggressive and blowing the game and not being aggressive and blowing an earlier game (I couldn't find the quote, but saw it on today's pre-game) is just moronic.

I'm OK with the Plan. I'm resigned to paying money for a team that isn't going to win most of the time. I'm trying desperately to enjoy the games I'm paying for. But when the team is rallying -- playing hard and clawing their way back -- to blow it with an overrun in the name of being "aggressive".... that I just can't stand.

I'll sign Chris's Memo.

Just go away.

I'm going to go back to work. That game sure as hell didn't make me feel any better.

June 20, 2007

My, Captain Smith, These are Lovely Deck Chairs!

Jason Simontacchi gives up 10 runs on 10 hits in 3 innings of work, so with retribution as swift and sure as the hand of God the Nats axe Winston Abreu and Levale Speigner. Eh, whatever. Whoever had June 20th as Day 1 of the Crappy Pitcher Shuffle wins a coupon for one savory brisket sammich.

Welcome back, Luis "El Guapo" Ayala. Hope the elbow holds up. Just say "¡No!" to the Jon Rauch/Jesus Colome "Let's pitch everyday!" rehab regime. Welcome back, Chris Schroder, hope you brought your little toy piano. Chief likes music to nap by in the late innings of a 14-run blowout.

Condolences to Robert Fick on the passing of his mother. Hopefully he uses the next week to grieve and completely ignore the Nats. Fick's temporary absence opens the door to Brandon Watson to play centerfielder for a week. Question: Do we root for a hot start to hasten Nook Logan's departure, or a complete collapse to put an end to the B-Dub experience? My answer, serious but non-life threatening illnesses for every outfielder without Ryan in their names.

Game Note: The Nats had 1 RBI in last night's unmitigated disaster. GUZMANIA! strikes again!

June 14, 2007

Pilgrims in an Unholy Land

Tonight the NTP crew takes a long trip up a short parkway for our annual visit to enemy territory. And naturally, tonight the Blowrioles decide to trot out one of their two decent starting pitchers, Moneyball draftee and recent reclaimation project Jeremy Guthrie. So we're probably in for three hours of rampant disease, malfunctioning Jumbotrons, and Jeremy Guthrie's first no-hitter. But c'est la vie say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell. At worst we'll leave with a season split, and nine more months of not even having to think about Bal'mer, hon.

Perusing the Orioles blogs in preparation for this series, I believe I have identified a key stumbling block in the development of a natural Washington-Baltimore rivalry. The Nats and Os are seriously hamstrung by sharing a common enemy: Peter Angelos. Down here in Natopia it's common to assume that we hate Darth Pete. And that's true, but it's a calculated, dispassionate sort of hate. Up Dundalk way they hate Havana Pete with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns. Orioles fans hate Angelos infinitely more than we ever will, or ever could. And rightly so.

So we'll go to Camden Yards, and boo the Birds, and the Baltimorons will descend on GEICO/XM-Sirius/Raytheon/BET/Stupid Flanders Park and heckle the Nats. But until that glorious day when both fanbases unite in rapturous harmony as Angelos is ridden out of OPACY on a rail, we'll have far to much in common to ever be proper rivals. Damn you Peter Angelos, the nascent Os-Nats rivalry is just one more thing you've ruined.

June 10, 2007


from deep in the NTP bunker:

"Gee, Levale Speigner's great, glad we didn't try to replace him."
"Yeah. Joel Hanrahan? What were we thinking? Pass me another vodka gimlet."

So, after back-to-back homecoming celebrations for Guzman and Speigner, sounds like Tony Batista's in line for a big afternoon.

June 9, 2007

The Return of GUZMANIA!

Revenge is a dish best served in cold climates. And even though Minneapolis in June will never be mistaken for Minsk in January, it's fitting that a relocated player and his relocated franchise converged on the Metrodome last night. Even more fitting that Cristian Guzman put on one heck of a show as the third Washington franchise beat up on the first Washington franchise in a game that wasn't nearly as close as its 8-5 final score.

Before last month, Cristian's tenure in DC was almost uniformly terrible. Leaving aside a hot September of 2005, if he wasn't a Mendoza-line hitting drain on the offense he wasn't contributing at all, missing all of 2006 to rehab from shoulder surgery. And to make matters worse, after a solid spring he pulled a hammy Opening Day and missed the entire month of April. Needless to say, these were trying times for Guzmaniacs. But Goooz's performance over the last 5+ weeks has justified our continued faith.

In the month of May Guzie hit .299, got on base at a .354 clip and slugged .425, good for a .779 OPS. Not All-Star numbers, but solidly above average and certainly more than anyone was expecting from our #2 hitter. He slapped singles through the infield, doubles into the gaps, triples into the corners. He even swatted one memorable homerun at the Great American Matchbox. Was it a $4M month? No. But it was worlds better than what we'd seen previously.

It might have been just another tantalizingly hot month to punctuate an otherwise dismal contract. But improbably, teh Guz just keeps getting hotter. Over 31 June at-bats his line is .484/.500/.677 with two doubles and two triples. Were it not for Da Meat Hook's equally under-appreciated
hot streak, Guzman would be the talk of Nationals baseball. Has Cristian, at age 29, turned the corner, figured it out, and put himself on the road to becoming a consistent contributor with the bat? Don't know, don't care. I've taken a lot of grief for my particular case of GUZMANIA! and now that even the hardcore skeptics are beginning to come around, I'm going to take this opportunity to wallow in it.

One difference I've noticed in Guzman v. 2007 is an improved batting eye. For his career Cristian has averaged one strikeout every 6.9 plate appearances. Not bad, he's always been a bat-on-ball type of guy. But this season, that ratio is down to 1 K every 9.3 plate appearances. And there's been a corresponding increase in his walk rate as well. After drawing a free pass once every 20.5 trips to the plate for his career, Guzman's taking a walk every 14.4 plate appearances this season.

It was overshadowed by his Spring Training shoulder injury and the subsequent lost 2006 campaign, but Guzie did have
laser vision corrective surgery after the 2005 season. And he was swinging the bat pretty well in the first few days of '06 before he was shut down. So maybe something fundamental has changed for Cristian. Maybe he's seeing the ball better, laying off those bad pitches and jumping on the mistakes. Or maybe not. Time will tell. But Guzman's 2007 stats are a lot closer to his 2001 All-Star campaign in Minnesota than they are to the black hole of 2005. It's a new month, a new GOOOZ! and there's still plenty of room on the bandwagon. You know what you have to do...

2007: The All-Star Campaign! Vote early, vote often, vote here!

June 7, 2007

Best Available Player

That's all I'm asking. With the sixth overall pick in this year's amateur draft I want the Washington Nationals to select the best available baseball player. With 5 of the first 70 picks there's plenty of time to go with toolsy, projectable types. Hell, in the eighth round we can even get Trader Jim an "Endy v.6.0." But with the first pick I want the best available ballplayer.

I want Uncle Teddy, Cousin Mark, Stan the Plan and P.T. Bowden to belly up to the bar, pry open the change purse, and lay out all the cash required to sign a genuine, bona fide, electrified monor... err, prospect. I don't care if his agent is Scott Boras, Scott Proctor or Scott Speedman. I don't care if "slot" money is $4.5 million and this kid is asking for $8.5M and a white tiger. Don't care. Get it done. Best Available Player.

I'm behind "The Plan" in all its inscrutable, opaque glory. Staff up, invest in the farm, run the Nats like a season-long tryout camp. It's all good. But June 7, 2006 is the day when the rubber meets the road. If the team passes on the best guy on the board, one day after announcing the new stadium's substantially increased ticket price structure, we'll know we've been sold a bill of goods.

The kid wants too much money? So what?! You're not spending it on securing Tony Batista's long-term deal. The agent is a pain in the ass? So's Bowden. Lock the two of then in a room together, there's no potential bad outcome. The guy wants a spot on the 40-man roster? Simple calculation: Is he better or worse, right this moment, than Jimmy Levale Speigner.

When the number six pick rolls around, there will be a potentially great player on the board, be it Matt Wieters, Rick Porcello, Mike Moustakas or Smilin' Ross Detwiler. Take him. Or else.

UPDATE: Smilin' Ross Detwiler it is. Time will tell if he works out for the Nats, but it's a good, solid pick, and that's all I ask.

June 2, 2007

Work in Progress

Some of you (if anyone still reads this thing) may have noticed a slight content deficit here at Nats Triple Play over the last few weeks. All the usual reasons apply: jobs, family, vacations, general malaise. Even with three more-than-casual fans there are only so many ways to say "Gee, Levale Speigner sucks, wish we had somebody to replace him. What? Joel Hanrahan? OK, never mind, pass me another vodka gimlet."

But that's not to say that we haven't been kicking around some ideas deep in the NTP bunker (aka Dave's basement bar.) So in the days to come, keep an eye out for these exciting features:

  • The Levale Speigner Anangram Generator - "A Green Elves Lip"; "Reveal Gene Lisp"; "Leave Spleen Rig" and many more! Hours of family-friendly fun!
  • NTP's 2007 MLB Draft Preview - With the 340th overall pick will the Nats select Iowa high school middle infielder Brent Glopnik, or Middle Tennessee State left-hander Johnny Walker-Black? We'll tell you.
  • The GUZ Meter - Sure, GUZMANIA! is a force of nature, but that doesn't mean it can't be measured, tracked and quantified. Check back regularly for a graphic representation of the power of teh Goooz. Remember, as Guzie goes, so goes the Nats!
  • 101 Reasons to Avoid Andruw Jones in Free Agency - Reason Number 72: DC schoolchildren have enough trouble with spelling as it is.
  • Semi-Annual Blogroll Cleanup and Catfish Feast - Are we missing a potential masterpiece of ill-informed speculation? Let us know. And, as always, the Catfish Feast takes place the first Tuesday in July by the banks of the mighty Anacostia. You should get there early, space fills up fast.
  • The NTP Crystal Ball - We look forward thru the hazy veil of time to show you the Nats roster on August 1st. Hint: Say "D'OH!" to D'Angelo!