March 31, 2008

It's Always Sunny in Philthydelphia

Saul Rivera can pitch 162 innings this season. That won't be a problem, right?

Home Sweet Home

What a night! The NTP crew was among the 39,389 fans gathered to celebrate the opening of our new ballpark and the beginning of another baseball season. From our excellent seats in section 223 we caught every splendid moment. Starting at the introduction of the players and the patriotic pageantry of our national anthem straight through to the Zimmerman's fairytale ending walk off home run, we tried our best to soak it all up.

Here are some of our thoughts:


  • The potential of Nationals Park overwhelms me. Looking out over the craters all around the stadium makes me excited to live in DC, knowing what this city can be. Next year, I expect we’ll be in that section of town a lot.
  • Clearly, the concessions staff needs to get a little more practice, as the lines for the popular places were a little much. Missing two innings for Five Guys isn’t going to cut it.
  • I’m really excited to have some beers in the Red Loft one night. That’s going to be fun.
  • Transportation still scares me a little. Getting to RFK was so easy on a weeknight, and in particular, getting home efficiently. Metro was just a little too slow to really feel good about getting home on a Tuesday night when I have to work. We haven’t tried the Nats Express – we’ll have to see how that goes.
  • That many curly W’s, everywhere you could see, from the stadium to on people’s heads, is great. It sometimes feels hard to be a Nats fan, and I’m glad to see it really starting to take hold.


  • For better or worse, Nationals Park is going to be the House that Zimm Built. And I'm okay with that.
  • Landing flagship concessions like Ben's Chili Bowl, Five Guys and Hard Times was a must for the stadium. But making them accessible is going to be the real test.
  • Snagging the nationally televised Opening Night game was a coup, but it's a poor test of the fanbase. Between the cold and the folks who were just there to be there for the first game it's going to take a while to judge the real baseball atmosphere. Worlds of potential, but the team has to seize this rare second chance to make a first impression.


  • The Ben's Chili Bowl Half Smoke "all the way" is awesome.
  • My favorite impression of the park from last night was walking through the center field concourse. Coming out from under the stands and seeing the entire park open up in front of me literally overwhelmed me. I just stood there trying to take it all in.
  • It was refreshing to have a capacity crowd at a game. Every time I've been to Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park I noticed the energy moving through the crowd before the game. The sense of anticipation was palpable. Last night we had that and I hope it continues.

    All and all we had a great night at the new ballpark and we're looking forward to this season.

  • March 30, 2008

    Saturday in the Park

    What Dave said, with pictures! For those of you who prefer the synopsis, here it is: "It was worth every red nickel of the city's $611M, plus however much else our thrifty overlords chipped in." Need convincing? Keep reading.

    My better half and I left the Van Dorn Metro station at just before 3:30, switched trains twice at King Street and L'Enfant Plaza, and popped out of the very large Navy Yard Station exit just after 4:30. Here's the view from the Half Street exit.

    Factoring in the downtown crowds from the marathon, the cherry blossoms, the kite festival and general touristy goodness I'd say that's about the timeline to expect for your average weekend game. The postgame trip is another story, but more on that later.

    Half Street is probably not the grandest avenue from which to approach the park, but it does provide a nice frame for the Centerfield Gate, seen here.

    And, as Dave said, you can really start to picture what the "Ballpark District" will be like once the construction fills out in a season or two. I expect the revitalization of near Southeast to move faster than the redevelopment of Chinatown because the new stadium isn't the only engine driving things down along the Anacostia.

    The Centerfield Gate opens onto the outfield plaza, where we met up with Dave and his dad. To your left the Kids Zone, complete video games for the ADHD-impaired and a Build-A-Screech Workshop. (Warning: Building your own Big Chicken can easily set you back $40.00.) To your right? Food, glorious food. The lines for Ben's Chili Bowl were massive, so if you crave a half-smoke all the way (devine) or a turkey dog w/ veggie chili (also good), line up early.

    The sightlines are as advertised. The only bad seats in the house are the ones in the rightfield corner under the overhang with an obstructed view of the ginormous HD scoreboard. Note: this is not the view from those seats.
    The concession stands and vending carts are varied and abundant. At least for one night the Disney training seems to have paid off, as cashiers, ushers and stadium personnel were friendly and helpful. The restrooms, as you'd expect, are pristine and that signature sewage backup smell that was omnipresent in RFK is absent. Even better (from someone's perspective, I suppose) the facilities are eco-friendly. Pull the flush handle up, and it uses less water than a traditional downward flush.

    The view from the ladies room, an NTP semi-exclusive! The mens room was blue.

    From NTP's new home there are views of the Capitol, the mighty Anacostia and the Nats bullpen, where Joel Hanrahan was most assuredly not taking a whizz last night. No photos of the non-tinkle available, sorry, enjoy a steamy Dome shot instead. Expect to see quite a bit of some version of that shot. Note the Red Porch restaurant and bar in the foreground, the Washington Hall of Stars on the parking garage to the right and the fully completed, Lerner-owned office building to the left.

    The three flags atop the office building? USA, District of Columbia, and the Nationals. God bless synergy.

    Finally, almost incidentally, there was a baseball game played last night. Behind just enough pitching from Jason Bergmann and 4 stellar innings of 1-hit relief from Garrett Mock and Irish Mike O'Connor the Nats blanked the filthy orange birds 3-0, sending the two dozen remaining occupants of NTP's new home into rapturous applause. And yes, Bang! Zoom! went the fireworks.

    We'll let Boz have the last word on the new digs:

    Until tonight, farewell from Section 223!

    The new stadium... is glorious

    So I went with my Dad, Nate and his girlfriend to the stadium today for the exhibition game with the Orioles.

    The new stadium is just great. So much to love.

    Transportation was pretty accessible. From arriving at the Dunn Loring Metro at 3:30pm, I was standing in Nationals Park at 4:45. Leaving Nationals Park at 8:45, I was home at 10pm. That's not too bad. I think with a little more practice we'll be really good at this. And next year, with the buildings and Half Street... it's gonna be fantastic.

    The stadium is beautiful. Just a really wonderful thing. The food is great, the sightlines are beautiful... we can see the capital dome from our section 223 seats. The scoreboard is amazing... I'm just very impressed. It was bitter, bitter cold tonight, but I can see many, many beautiful summer nights in our future.

    Oh, and there are $6.00 beers. And the $6 and $7.50 beers are both significantly larger drafts than what we had at RFK. More commentary as we go, but this is gonna be a blast this year.

    Oh, and we beat the Orioles. I love to beat the Orioles. If only it counted.

    March 29, 2008

    Before, after game options

    The Post provides a little insight into the potential options around Nationals Park. With the big adventure today and tomorrow, I'm not expecting to spend a lot of time around the park, but I see a long season ahead.

    And with beer more expensive than RFK, this won't be the bargain it was the previous three years.

    I'm totally excited about the new park. I'm just a touch nostalgic already... parking and it being affordable were two big draws at RFK, and my wife already commented on her annoyance at the prices jumping like that. Her exact words... "Where are the $5 beers? F*** that."

    March 28, 2008

    Showing the Love

    The man behind our new logo is Lee Umali, graphic designer extraordinaire. Check out his work here.

    March 26, 2008

    New Season, New Stadium, New Logo

    Check out the new hotness. Pretty spiffy, huh? Jealous? Good.

    We can't go into a brand-spanking new stadium and have our beloved (if sometimes neglected) blog looking like the underside of an RFK Hondo Homer seat, now can we? Mad stupid props to Watson and his talented crew of Amish graphic design artists for the upgrades.

    Just don't go expecting a corresponding improvement in the quality of the writing. Style over substance, baby. It's what we do, it's who we are.

    In actual baseball news, the 25-man roster is set. No surprises. The death of LANGERHASCENDENTALISM! as a movement was all but inevitable.

    Planning a weekend of baseball

    I do love this time of the year. Last night, Nate, Watson and I participated in our annual Fantasy Baseball Draft. We've been doing Fantasy Baseball for about 5 years now, and it's been close friends with a consistent group of managers. With the very last pick of the draft, I picked up Paul Lo Duca. I have FLop too, but will admit it's because I think he'll be traded. A bench player to maybe become a starter elsewhere.

    The draft also means we're days away from the big event. Opening Day. My Dad is coming up for the exhibition game, and Nate and I are enjoying our preview experience that night. I expect to be there about 4:30, enjoying some time in the new park. We're section 223 this year, which is second level beyond the first base line. In looking over the directory, I'm pleased to note our seats are by Five Guys, but far from Ben's Chili Bowl.

    Sunday, of course, is the big day. It's gonna be crazy. I'm so excited.

    I'm using Saturday to figure out transport. Yes, Metro is the way to go, and I'm using Saturday to see how bad the walk is from the Orange Line to the ballpark.

    Our tickets arrived last week, and I'll admit I'm disappointed we didn't get any commemorative tickets this year. The whole batch didn't arrive in a cool box this year, and the tickets are just mass printed computerized tickets. It's a shame, too, because I have my 2006 tickets framed with the pennant from that year in my office, and my 2005 ones framed in my home office with the Washington Post Poster, and was planning something for the first and last tickets from 2007.... but 2008 just isn't that interesting. It's a real shame.

    I'm just counting down the days.

    March 23, 2008

    You Can Keep a Guzman Down

    Photos like this are why
    I don't smile on command.

    You can never have too much GUZMANIA! Today the Nats made a deal with the Minnesota Twins to acquire the rights to lefty OF Garrett Guzman. G2 was the team's second round pick in last December's Rule 5 draft, and like fellow draftee Cleveland 1B Matt Whitney, he would have been offered back to his home club, since he wasn't making Opening Day roster over Rob Mackowiak, Willie Harris or Ryan Langerhans.

    The trade, for a PTBNL or cash, allows the Nats to option Guzman to Triple-A. In Columbus he'll team with with Alex Escobar to give the team legitimate minor league outfield depth for the first time in franchise history. With Wily Mo Pena starting the season on the DL chances are good that two of the three remaining lefthanders will make the Opening Day roster as backups to Austin Kearns, Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes.

    Thin Is In

    Just days ago the team had so much starting pitching that they could afford the outright release of John Patterson. Even without Patterson the rotation was set with Odalis Perez, Tim Redding, Jason Bergmann and Matt Chico. Shawn Hill was penciled in as the fifth starter and John Lannan would be the first call-up from Columbus. Today Tim Redding demonstrated the risks of that strategy. Redding left in the fourth inning against the Marlins, with an initial diagnosis of muscle spasms.

    Whether Redding misses any significant time, it's clear that a serious injury to any one of the Nats presumptive starters, including the chronically fragile Hill, will expose the most serious weakness in the organization: starting pitching depth. The team has always had a very good bullpen and has made strides to shore up the talent among position players. But the starting pitching has never been much better than mediocre, an injury or two away from abysmal.

    That's where the decision to release Patterson outright factors in. It's not a question of whether he would have been a better option than Chico or Lannan on Opening Day. He wouldn't. But he might have been a better option than Mock or Balester in mid-June when Chico is the 5th starter and Lannan has already replaced an injured Hill or an ineffective Bergmann and another starter goes down. Maybe it wasn't possible to keep Patterson around just for that eventuality. But if the opportunity arises to sign John to a minor league deal and allow him to rehab in Columbus, I hope the front office is open to it.

    March 20, 2008

    Pattergonia (For Good This Time)

    That was... unexpected. John Patterson, 2007 Opening Day starter and inspiration for a future episode of House, was released outright by the Nationals this afternoon. The Big Narsty was limited to 15 largely ineffective starts over the last two seasons by a variety of mysterious neuro-muscular forearm ailments, none of which was exertional compartment syndrome.

    J-Pattsy had been inconsistent in his Spring starts and got rocked pretty convincingly by the Orioles in his last outing, but his performance wasn't particularly unusual for a guy who A) was coming back from surgery and B) hadn't pitched regularly in two plus years. So what's going on here?

    The team's explanation, via Jim Bowden: "We've done everything we could possibly do. He just never got the stuff back." more specifically "We believe he had better stuff last season. We hoped we could get him back, and it just never came."

    This strikes me as fishy for a number of reasons. First, see above re: coming back from injury. Second, the move was timed to avoid having to pay Patterson's $850,000 non-guaranteed contract. [Update: It appears the team will be on the hook for about $212,500. Not a bad severance package in these uncertain economic times, but still.] Third, the team has a history of frustration with Patterson's many injuries and the glacial speed of his rehab.

    If the team legitimately thinks John Patterson is done as a healthy, effective Major League pitcher, that's one thing. It's a reasonable opinion to hold, particularly given that they have access to information that we as fans are not privy to. But if someone in the front office or the owner's box looked at J-Patt and said, "Why are we about to pay this guy $850,000 for putting up a 7 ERA in Spring Training after what we've put up with the last two years?" that's a problem.

    If money was the driving issue consider this: Odalis Perez got an $850,000 non-guaranteed contract on the heels of tossing 137 innings of 5.57 ERA ball for the Royals and he's in the running to be the team's Opening Day starter. There's no question that Patterson has as much natural talent as anyone in the organization, notwithstanding his ability to harness it. Cutting him loose outright over a few hundred thousand dollars out of a budget of tens of millions smacks of penny wisdom and pound foolishness. This will certainly do nothing to dispell the ever-present "The Owners Are Cheap!" chorus, currently warming up backstage.

    If durability was the primary concern, it's worth noting that Shawn Hill has been every bit as injury-prone and inconsistent as Patterson. However, as Harper notes, Hill, the presumptive staff ace, is an "unlucky warrior" while J.P. is the Big Pansy. This wouldn't be the first time ::coughChurchcough:: that this team has scapegoated a player for lack of toughness, real or perceived.

    We will likely never know the full story behind this move. So instead of more pointless speculation, we'll end by wishing John and his family well and promise nothing but fond memories of nights like this one. Vaya con Dios, Big Nasty.

    UPDATE: Dave Shenin with more on the logic behind the move. Quoth the Mannyger, "[W]e don't feel right now that, every five days, John was going to give us the best chance to win a ballgame." If that's the story they're sticking to, then this was a good baseball move. But this is a tough town for going on the record. If it comes out later that something else was going on here, whoops, there goes Manny's credibility. Maybe he should've gone with "an anonymous coaching staff source who took part in the deliberations and understands the value of OBP." Too opaque?

    March 16, 2008

    Kickin' It Old School

    Matt Chico, who was ticketed for the slow train to Columbus, is crediting a rediscovered high school-era windup for his successful five inning, 1-run, 4 strikeout outing versus the Indians last week. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who originally drafted Chico, asked him to drop the high leg kick to simplify his windup. An NTP source close to Radio City Music Hall the team passed along this exclusive photo of Chico's most recent bullpen session.

    Encouraged by Chico's improvement, pitching coach Randy St. Clair is pushing John Patterson to add a box step and a rond de jambe to his windup. However, there is no truth to the rumor that Extended Spring Training for pitchers has been relocated to the Moulin Rouge.

    March 12, 2008

    The Most Important Thing You Will Ever Do as a Nats Fan

    The team has announced a competition to determine the soundtrack for key moments of Nats home games. Beginning tomorrow morning, and for the next week, you will be able to vote for the music played:

    1. Following a Nats home run;

    2. During the second half of the 7th inning stretch. Take Me Out to the Ballgame gets top billing, as it should;

    3. Following a Nats victory.
    This is easily the single most influential thing that you as a Nats fan can hope to contribute during this inaugural season. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing while Rock and Roll Part 2 becomes the official post-victory song of the Washington Nationals. Inaction on your part may very well lead to eighty one games worth of insufferable, unoriginal Woo-Hoos after every home team homer. (Sorry MissC.)

    Steinbog provides a full list of the options. The postgame choices are a little thin for my tastes, but hey, the opportunities to use a victory song are likely to be sparse too. The Air Force theme is a clever option for home run accompaniment, but I hope we can all agree that Build Me Up Buttercup has no place outside the closing credits of a Ben Stiller movie.

    In this election season, OMG has prepared a handy Voter's Guide with clips of all the candidates. Freed of that responsibility I can proceed straight to telling you how to vote.

    • Because We Can - If we're going Fatboy Slim, it has to be Weapon of Choice, sorry.
    • Bustin Loose - The Godfather of Go-Go, DC legend Chuck Brown. 'Nuff said.
    • Kernkraft 400 - too Eurotrash, only really works on Glowstick Nite.
    • Off We Go--Air Force Theme - intriguing choice, but ultimately the stadium's too close to the Navy Yard and the Marine Barracks to pull this off.
    • Song 2-Woo Hoo - 1997 called and would like its anthem back.

    7th Inning Stretch

    • Build Me Up Buttercup - nothing says "baseball" like pathetic single guys. Hey, wait...
    • Rock Me Gently - if we're going Neil Diamond-lite, Nats Power's gonna need a new graphic.
    • September - OK, but what about April through August?
    • Shout - only if we can Gator in the aisles.
    • The Gambler - does this come with a complimentary bucket of Kenny's chicken?
    • Twist And Shout - I'd love to see Ferris Bueller on the world's biggest HDTV, but no.
    • YMCA - Buck sez Larry Craig does not see the irony.
    • You Gotta Have Heart - Yes, it's musical theater. Yes, it's vaguely depressing if you listen close. But it's DC and it's baseball. What do you people want?

    Post-game Victories

    • Beautiful Day - too preachy.
    • Celebration - too cliche.
    • Dancing In The Streets - streets too clogged with post-game traffic for dancing.
    • How Do You Like Me Now - winner by default?
    • Rock and Roll Part 2 - too pep rally, too pedophiley (tie). Seriously, terrible things will happen to you if you vote for this song. I'll see to it personally.

    So there you go. Vote early. Vote often. Vote here.

    March 10, 2008

    Over The Hill

    Coming into this spring, I thought the Nats had cornered the market on mysterious, non-specific forearm injuries to pitchers. Then SF Giants lefty Noah Lowry goes and gets himself exertional compartment syndrome, possibly a first for a pitcher. Now that this condition has been identified, I fully expect John Patterson to come down with it by Tuesday next. Turns out the same injury derailed the promising painful-to-watch career of one-time 49ers QB Tim Rattay. Must be some forearm-tightener in that Bay Area water. But I digress. The point is, I'm done with Shawn Hill.

    As far as I can tell, Shawn has everthing you need to be a first-rate major league pitcher except the ability to pitch for an extended period of time. Let me be clear. I'm not ragging on Shawn Hill. I don't think he's dogging it, or faking, or exaggerating his pain. I've just reached the point where I believe the guy will never pitch 100 big league innings in a season, much less 200. Through no fault of his own, his arm simply won't let him do that.

    Shawn's like the female supporting character in every 80s teen movie ever made. You know she'd be a stone fox if she wasn't saddled with the giant plastic-framed glasses and the inexplicable semi-perm. The one who always shows up to the prom at the end of the movie looking like sex-on-wheels. That's Shawn with his sinker. It's a beautiful pitch wrapped in a lousy package.

    Except here's where the analogy goes haywire. Because even after you take Shawn to the salon and get him all prettied up, teach him to do his stretching exercises, open up that forearm and rearrange the spaghetti, it looks like you're still stuck with a dominant pitch and a subpar pitcher. Again, I'm not saying that any of this is Shawn's fault exactly, that's just the way it is.

    One way or another, Shawn Hill's going to be making a few hundred grand this season. Maybe he can use that time to show someone else how to throw his sinking fastball.

    March 6, 2008

    What's Wrong With This Picture?

    Photo courtesy of DC Sports Bog.

    I'll give you a hint, which also happens to be the answer: The teams aren't in alphabetical order!

    Oh sure, they group all the As together, followed by all the Cs and so forth, but look closer. Last I checked, Arizona came before Atlanta, Philadelphia before Pittsburgh and San Diego before San Francisco. Guess they had to rush to get it ready for Opening Day. If this banner was six months in the making, it probably would have been mid-2009 before the team could put together a banner alphabetized by the first three letters. If you're going to swing and miss on the whole alphabetization anyway, why not put the home team in the middle, or at the top, or anywhere other than the bottom corner?

    For full coverage of today's veritable orgy of arborism, check in with Steinbog and Misschatter.

    March 4, 2008

    No sympathy for Metro

    I'm sorry, Metro, but you suck.

    As reported by WTOP, Metro is now crying that the Green Line will be overtaxed on weekday games.

    How long have we known the stadium was coming?

    How much have you hiked fares in the past few years?

    How many new riders are you going to get based on this, who will be paying for your service?

    I love Metro. I admit it. I fund SmartBenefits for my staff I believe in public transportation so much. But Metro, you suck. I have really no sympathy for you on this, and this answer just makes my blood boil:

    "people will learn to stagger their departure times after the games so that not everyone reaches the Navy Yard station at once."

    How are we supposed to learn to stagger departure times? The game ENDS. You LEAVE. If the area around Navy Yard was ready with after hours entertainment, sure, I'd happily have another beer and put my drunk ass on a train later. But that hasn't happened. And no one is surprised by this.

    Oh, and you claim you're on schedule. So are you saying your planning sucks? Seems to me you got funded.

    I'm going to curse you every night, I can see it coming.

    Welcome back, baseball. Metro is going to suck, and I see myself longing for RFK already.

    March 2, 2008

    GUZMANIA! Busting Out All Over

    He's pacing the offense! He's scrapping for that 25th roster spot! It's two-fer Sunday at the House of Guz.

    C. Guz is sporting a healthy .333 average batting primarily out of the leadoff spot, battling FLop for the starting SS gig and trying to make the case that his hot start to 2007 was more than just a small sample size driven fluke.

    G. Guz hasn't played much, but with Rob Mackowiak hobbling and Willie Harris doing his best Willie Harris impersonation, he's got an outside shot at edging out Ryan Langerhanscendentalism and making the team as the lefty outfielder off the bench. Otherwise he's most likely going back to Minnesota, and no one, except maybe Aaron Gleeman, wants that.