June 30, 2008


Dr. Lewis Yocum woke up this morning and saw his shadow, which as we all know, means 12-18 more months of Chieflessness. Where the f#ck did that come from?

I've often said I think the team's training and medical staff gets a bad rap. Injuries happen to everyone, and athletes are notorious for not being forthright about their health. But this goes beyond that. Now we're well into "Can't Anyone Here Read An X-Ray?!" territory. More than being a problem for the club, this is almost embarrasing incompetence. Cordero's been rehabbing a torn back muscle for months. All that time, and even before that, and no one noticed he had a torn labrum? If that's true, I would think it borders on malpractice. If the team knew and just didn't say anything, what's the point of that?

This isn't a common wear-n-tear type injury, and Chad's not some veteran warhorse. It's also not like Nick Johnson's annual, sure-as-the-summer-solstice season-ending trip to the DL. It's a whole other previously undiagnosed major injury on top of the major injury he was already on the shelf recovering from. For all those folks who have been looking for a litmus test for the Lerner's pocketbook, this is it.

You don't wanna sign big name free agents to ridiculous contracts? Fine, I can get behind that plan. But you've got to keep the players you have, and the youngsters you're trying to develop, healthy. Take the money you're saving by signing Guzman instead of Rafael Furcal and hire some doctors. The Dominican Republic is for recruiting SSs, not MDs.

June 25, 2008

GUZMANIA!: The Extended Remix

Even NTP, the wellspring of GUZMANIA!, will admit that when Cristian Guzman's yeoman-like performance is the highlight of your season you're in a bad place. Still, that's no reason not to make the best of a bad situation. Like it or not, Guzie is the most consistently productive offensive player on the 2008 Washington Nationals. He's also the starting shortstop for a franchise almost comically devoid of MLB-caliber middle infielders.

Apparently the front office has taken note of this less-than-ideal situation and offered Cristian a 2-year contract extension, terms undisclosed. The two year extension seems to be Trader Jim's preferred modus operandi, (see, e.g. Young, Dmitri; Belliard, Ronnie; Pena, Wily Mo) probably because it's hard to get too worked up over even the worst two year deal ::cough::AndruwJones::cough::.

Of course, some people will find a reason to take offense to anything. Harper's cheesed that an extended bout of GUZMANIA! would prevent the Nats from signing Rafael Furcal this offseason. A superficial purusal of this franchise's history by Furcal's agent and a 15-minute meeting with P.T. Bowden would probably accomplish the same result, but why quibble about the purely hypothetical?

If and when an extension is signed, we will celebrate appropriately. If Guzie goes, we will pray fervently for Type-A free agent compensation. In the meantime we will vote early and often for our favorite potential 2008 All-Star!

June 23, 2008

NTP Takes On: The House That Ruth Built

Seeking a temporary escape from crappy baseball, the NTP crew, significant others and assorted hangers-on in tow, headed north this weekend for the Saturday afternoon Yanks-Reds game at historic Yankee Stadium. The official cover story was the 30th birthday of an NTP acquaintence. The truth, of course, is that we were scouting ex-Nats farmhand Daryl Thompson's MLB debut.

Nate: One of the worst kept secrets in baseball is that the "cathedrals of the game", historic old parks like Fenway, Wrigley and Yankee Stadium, tend to be, when you get right down to it, decrepit sh*tholes. It only stands to reason. 50,000-odd people tromping through 80 or so times a year for 70 or 80 years, things are going to get worn down.

Dave: Yankee Stadium is a dump. I understood the appeal at Fenway. It's charming. Another dump, but it has charm. Yankee Stadium had none of that for me -- historic, yes. Charm, not so much. Our seats were upper deck, and in the shade. Good view, and the company of friends on a beautiful day really goes a long way. I was quite surprised at the scoreboards being as small as they were. With as much money as New York has, I was expecting more ad revenue opportunities to have been taken.

Oh, and when the water stopped working... yeah, that really impressed me. When the toilets don't flush, you have a winner.

Matt: After hiking up the Matterhorn to get to our seats I realized how lucky we were to have RFK. Yes RFK was old but the place wasn't a claustrophobic maze of blue concrete. The concourses at Yankee Stadium are ridiculously narrow. Cram 50,000 people in for game day and it's a little tight. That and the nosebleed seats are so far away you need binoculars to figure out who's pitching. I spent ten minutes trying to figure out if number 33 or number 38 was pitching for the Yankees. I never did figure it out. The sight lines for our seats were good, but wow, we were far away. As a sports fan I understand the nostalgia you can attach to a building where so many great moments happened but I think a new Yankee Stadium is way past due. The only real bright spots were Bob Sheppard, the long tenured PA announcer and the fact that the Reds came through with the win. I'm glad we went but I have no desire to go back.

Dave: Now, I will give it up for the travel. To get to the stadium, we took the Yankee Clipper from Hoboken up to the Bronx. The water tour of the city, combined with the beers available on the boat meant I was three beers deep by the time we got to the stadium on a beautiful day. This would be a rocking good time if you could leave from National Harbor or Alexandria and get up to Nationals Park. Travel back was just as pleasant, and as my wife will attest, you can keep drinking even on the way back. Only a quick break for innings eight and nine from the beer!

Nate: The Nationals Park water taxi franchise should have been ready to go from Day One. The Yankee Clipper was a 90 minute cruise with multiple stops and there's no reason an Alexandria-National Harbor-Anacostia Waterfront loop couldn't be done in an hour or less. It's definitely another item for the Nationals Park "Room to Improve" punchlist.

Speaking of stadiums, if the exterior is any indication, New Yankee Stadium is going to restore Bronx baseball to its rightful status. The architecture remains iconic and I don't doubt that the Steinbrenners spared no expense on the fit and finish. The Evil Empire has slumped a bit in recent years, but it looks like they'll have a facility worthy of their history by this time next season.

Dave: The new park looks like a Roman Coliseum. Impressive and daunting as hell. I'm inclined to bet that you don't get the views of the city you do at Nationals Park, but then again, you're in the Bronx. Nothing quite the same to look at. Now, I will say, they sold the place out. They have 50,000+ fans on a regular basis. And their fans are very into the game. Clapping, paying attention. You see why they're passionate about their team. They're involved. That's impressive, and it's not something to turn your nose at.

Matt: In any case, the New York fans are in for a real treat next year. They get to abandon their dingy, no plumbing, hellhole of a stadium for a brand-spanking new monument to the MLB luxury tax. The real question will be if the new stadium provides a grace period from the fans demands for a championship because I don't see that team getting better anytime soon.

Nate: Oh, and in spite of Daryl Thompson winning his MLB debut, you still do that Kearns/Lopez/Wagner trade 100 times out of 100.

June 12, 2008

Nats Switch to Horseshoes, Hand Grenades

Images property of Getty. MSPaint property of NTP.
Because sometimes close ought to be good enough, dammit!

June 11, 2008

Time to Call It a Season

Zimmerman out 4-6 weeks, minimum. I'd say it's been fun, but my pants would probably ignite.

To (mis)quote the classics: "Sorry folks. Park's closed. The Big Chicken out front shoulda told ya."

And to those harping on the team's beleaguered medical staff, no, this is not where they got their degrees. Possibly because they couldn't get in. Now, here, maybe.

Monday Night Heat

Watson and I made it out for Monday's game. The heat of Hell was on in Washington, and the stadium was no better. But before the team hit the road we figured it would be good to swing by. I had some colleagues in town for a conference from the weekend, so got some extra tickets and headed out.

It was simply too hot to sit in our seats. Just awful heat. And Nationals Park showed what a great place it is to go... we wandered the stadium, watching the game from various vantage points including the Red Loft, and I can say, you can watch the game from just about anywhere. It helps a lot. Ice cream from Giffords, hanging out in the loft, watching from the outfield.. it was easy to move around to stay cool and still watch the game.

Not nearly as engaged in the game as we normally are, but still a fun night out. My out-of-town friends were certainly impressed.

June 7, 2008

Draft '08: Something to Crow About?

No professional baseball franchise (except possibly the Pittsburgh Pirates) issues a post-draft press release that reads:

Hoo, Boy! Folks, we just f&@%#d that up ROYALLY! I wouldn't bet a red cent on seeing our first round pick in the majors this decade. After that? Well, I'm not saying the cleaning crew got blitzed last night and rearranged our draft board alphabetically without anyone noticing, but I'm not saying they didn't, either. To be perfectly honest, after the 10th round we let Skippy, the owner's idiot nephew, make every third pick. Really sped things up too. And I think we've got a fair chancing of getting Kimbo Slice, Drew Henson and Big Brown to agree to terms.

No, draft picks are the like the children of Lake Wobegon; everyone's above average. All the hitters are "potential impact bats" and all the pitchers are one developing pitch away from being good enough to start in the majors today. Granted, for a Nats prospect that's not a particularly high bar to clear.

So when you look at Aaron Crow, be mindful of the struggles of Ross Detwiler in Hi-A ball with Potomac. Remember that Destin Hood is a much less polished version of the not-especially-polished Michael Burgess. But also know that Daniel Espinosa probably just became the Nats middle infield prospect closest to his major league debut, and adding Adrian Nieto to a catching corps that includes Jesus Flores and the under appreciated Luke Montz would go an awful long way to shoring up a key position down on the farm.

A talent pipeline can't really be said to exist until it flows all the way from Hagerstown (or Florida or Vermont) to Washington, and you'd be right in thinking that we're not there yet. But a series of drafts that combine quality with quantity can make that happen. Is 2008 one of those drafts? We'll know soon enough.

June 3, 2008

A Saturday night in Charm City

So this is late and slightly less timely, but it's not like we have people beating down our doors telling us to get off our asses and write. You can file your complaint with our complaints department, located conveniently in Nate's office.

My wife and I spent Saturday night up at Camden Yards to catch the O's/Red Sox game. This was lucky happenstance that we had the tickets to the game. A friend of Sharon's had landed a block, and I discovered I had tickets to a Sox game.

I had two big reactions to the game, which was very exciting and I was much more into that I thought I would be. I texted both Nate and Watson that I was cheering on the O's that night. Mostly because...

Red Sox fans may officially be more annoying that Phillies fans. There are plenty of articles about annoying Boston fans (that second one is a personal favorite).

I really felt for Orioles fans on Saturday night. Sitting there in my curly W cap, surrounded by a sea of annoying Red, that Boston humility really is gone. When a Boston fan yelled out "How many World Series does Baltimore have?", I saw the humility disappear in a cloud of smoke. Let's quickly do the math, shall we? Since 1954 when the Orioles came to Charm City, they have three World Series wins. Since 1954, Boston has.... two. Ah, your mighty dynasty. And to add a little salt to your wound, your hated New York Yankees? 10 World Series since the O's came to Bal'more, hon.

(Yes, so I've answered it crazy Boston Fans... How many to the Nats have? We have zero in that time frame. Considering we didn't have a team from 1972 until 2005, excuse me if I don't give a cr@p about that comparison.)

This added to with several moments that told me these were annoying, fair weather fans of baseball. Now, Nate and Watson will quickly say I'm the last person who should call someone else not paying close enough attention to the game, as I'm easily distracted by shiny things, beer and ice cream at the ballpark, so when I'm annoyed, it must be bad. Even my wife, for whom radio broadcasts of baseball assure her of a good nap, was annoyed.

Every damn pop fly -- EVERY FLY BALL BY EVERY BOSTON PLAYER -- was a cheer like it was a home run. It's one thing to be on your feet for Manny -- I was too, as that was genuinely exciting -- but to cheer a simple infield fly like it's a dinger... you're not engaged. Even I don't pull that crap.

To top that, they stopped and stood in the damn aisles! I'm sorry, your "Big Popi" T-Shirt does not make a very good viewing angle when I'm trying to watch the game! I didn't even have any skin in the game, and I was paying attention.

Sharon and I have also decided that Nationals Park kicks the $hit out of Camden Yards. Yes, Nationals Park has the benefit of being new, but it has made an impression, and some of the items that bothered me the Orioles could fix.

First off, Nationals Park's sight-lines are truly amazing. It sank in for me when I went to get a beer in the 3rd and suddenly couldn't see the game... at all (except for TV). The decision to put the vendors on the outside was genius, and while not a first, it clearly makes Nationals Park a better place to watch baseball than the Yard. Add to that the fact that the seats are angled correctly at Nationals Park -- my head on view of the outfield and scoreboard allowed me to watch Manny fumble two catches but not to easily watch the pitch, particularly through the giant ass of a Boston fan standing in the aisle.

Leaving the bowl left me feeling completely disconnected to the game, and I realized this had shifted for me since Nationals Park. RFK long had this problem, as the moment you left the bowl you were in the dingy concourse, and so the airy outside of Camden was a blessing. With our new park, I never feel this way, as when I wander around the concourse for another beer or a Five Guys burger, I just turn and see the game. I love it, and it's connected me to the field in a new way.

Sharon wanted me to mention the food, as that's even more a priority for her. Our O's seats were up in section 370, putting us in the upper deck of Orioles Park, which is a wasteland for food. I checked, at National Park put premium vendors up there, including Foggy Bottom Diner and a Micro Brew stand, "Base Line Brews". No such luxury is in the upper deck, as Sharon will attest to on her quests for the $1 cheaper beer. (She's always willing to walk down five more stands to find the one that serves beer for $1 cheaper. When we first toured Nationals Park, I made note of these stands for her so as to ease the pain of her quest for beer.) O's, you could fix this one.

Before Watson calls me out for being venomous and just hating, I had a really good time and was into the game. Boog's BBQ is delicious, the ushers in Baltimore were great at working to shoo people out of the way and make sure everyone was having a good time, and the Orioles played some good baseball, despite the loss. I had a great time and am glad I went. Manny's 500th dinger was something to see, and kudos to him for it. Some Orioles fans behind us were just being bad sports as they claimed "Oh, is something important happening?" when everyone stood for Manny. It's something to see. I felt the same way when Bonds hit his record breaker against the Nats, and that's a more controversial moment. Sure, you don't want it to be against your team, but that doesn't take away from the historical significance of it, and I cheered for him. The guy hit 500 dingers. That's 500 more than I've hit in the majors.

I've just come to the conclusion that for all the hype about Camden Yards... Washington out did it. Nationals Park is really something.

And Beantown fans... god I'm glad we only play you here in Washington every three years. You're horribly annoying. Phillies fans may be assholes, but you're another dimension of annoying.