Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Seventh Inning Magic

Nats 5, Braves 4

Wow. What a difference a few days makes. Just this weekend, we were crying in our beer over a sweep at the hands of the lowly Reds and losing two of three from the Cardinals. But after grinding out two wins over the first-place Braves, our lovable Nats are a game and a half out of first place. Baseball is a funny, funny game, and I think that's why I love it so much.

Stick!

Nick Johnson is one of my heroes. Before the season, I was disappointed when his #24 was the only jersey/t-shirt left in the store. "Man, he's just going to get hurt or stink." I bought it anyway. Now, the man has reached base in something like all but 3 of the games this year. He drove in the winning runs today, going 2-3 with a walk and 2 RBIs. Add that to the fact I've seen him sign autographs for fans a least a half dozen times this year, he's probably one of my favorites now.

Give credit to Patterson too. He pitched a rough first inning, but settled down and cruised through the fifth inning.

I also think I have a man-crush on Chad "Chief" Cordero, too. He gave up a leadoff dinger to Franco in the ninth to make it a 5-4 game. Then he allowed two singles to Jones and Estrada. Then my fellow duck-footed 23 year-old settled down and got an out on a fielder's choice and struck out two more to end the game. Sweet!

And let's not let Gary Majewski go unnoticed. He pitched the eighth inning, walking one and striking out two to get his eighth hold of the year. He continued to absolutely rock-solid for the Nats; he's allowed only three runs in 20 appearances this year.

Now for the negatives in this game (CYNICISM ALERT!):

Frank did his best to blow this one, though. Chris Needham, eat your heart out. Frank pulls Patterson after 75 pitches and 5 innings. Except for a 30 pitch first inning where he gave up one hit and one run, Patterson was rolling. JP had to have been hurt or hurting, since there's no other rational explanation. Unless he was hurting, Patterson could have gone one more inning and still been under 100 pitches. Then, you only have to rely on the pen for three innings instead of four. Frankie drives me batty.

In Frankie's defense, however, he figured out the double-switch in the eighth. Church pinch-hit for the pitcher in the seventh and stayed in the field, while Majewski went in the sixth slot for Byrd who was the last batter in the seventh. Holy double-switch, Batman! And Churchy had two hits, scoring one of the runs.

And good ol' Guzman grounded into two DPs in his first two at-bats to end great scoring opportunities for the Nats. And in the sixth inning, the asshat bunts with two outs and two guys on base to end ANOTHER great scoring opportunity. Please, please, please, please sit Guzzy for at least one game, Frankie. Please!

All in all, I'm thrilled. This team continues to thwart all logic and win games. I won't piss off some people [cough, Needham, cough] and say that this team is scrappy and gritty. Let's just say I LOVE the way this team fights and claws, despite injuries, despite a craptastic shortstop, and despite a manager that boggles the mind. Go Nats!

Monday, May 30, 2005

Back on Track?

Nats 3, Braves 2

The Foul Pole
My view at RFK today, with the left field foul pole in the picture

I was out of pocket for most of Memorial Day weekend. I missed all of the Cardinals' series. From what I've heard/read, it went about as expected. St. Louis is the best team in the league, and we managed to take one of three. About the best we could probably hope for. I didn't see any of it, so I won't pretend to know what I'm talking about.

I did make it back to DC in time for today's game at RFK. How 'bout Tomo Ohka?! I had a tough view from left field, but at the beginning I thought Ohka was going to fall flat. He was throwing a ton of junk and was all over the radar gun. But me of little faith, he allows only two hits and one unearned run. Damn good stuff from the Landlord. His junk really had the Braves off-balance.

On the offensive side: Marlon Byrd, Nick Johnson and Jose Guillen are the heroes, in that order. Byrd drove in the two runs and really showed some poise at the plate. He just keeps proving that the Chavez-Byrd deal was an absolute STEAL. My hero NJ was 3-4 and scored both runs that Byrd drove in. And "Pops" Guillien is thankfully getting back on track. He had two hits and an RBI and crushed the ball in the his two flyouts.

As for Jordan's foul ball/home run in the seventh - well, I was in the upper deck in left field and didn't see it. The ball started out at least 20 feet foul at the apex of its flight. I looked down to see the ump call it foul, but I went ballistic when he pointed fair. Lucky for the Nats, the call was overturned.

The replays on MASN were, by NFL terms, "inconclusive." It was awful close. "Flip-a-coin" close. I could give you my view of what actually happened, but it would require diagrams and 3-D models. Let's just say that the Nats were on the right side of a very close call. And frankly, we deserved it after the ump blew the game on the ground rule double call in San Francisco.

All in all, Nats fans should be relieved/satisfied at this point. After a brutal road trip, we're 26-25 after the first game of a long homestand. We haven't been playing great, not by a long shot, but with a two game winning streak and the support of the home fans for the next two weeks, the Nats have a shot to pick up some ground.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Fluff Filler Post

Well, I'm going to be out of comission this entire weekend, traveling to family on Memorial Day weekend. I'm driving back early Monday to be at RFK for the 3:05 start. I'll be out of the DC television area, so I'll miss the whole Cardinals series. Hopefully we can give the Cards a battle while I'm gone.

Since I know you'll all miss me - HA - here's a nice fluffy, featurey piece for my imaginary fans.


In February, when I heard that four of our Nats were going to appear at the ESPN Zone and sign autographs, I started an autograph project with the goal of getting an official ball signed by the 2005 Washington Nationals.

To date, I have 10 signatures on the ball. Three of the players are now in New Orleans, and some of the signatures are fairly big. So it's unlikely I'll get a full comprehensive roster to sign the ball. But with maybe 8-12 more signatures, I will have a tremendous keepsake from the Nats inaugural season.

Here are some pictures and descriptions.

This first picture below has the signature of Jose Guillen on top. It's one of the weirdest autographs I've ever seen. He was one of the players at the ESPN Zone, and he was probably the most animated player there. Probably because he came from Anaheim, not Montreal and was used to fan and media attention.

Below Guillen is Nick Johnson. After the Sunday game against the Diamondbacks opening weekend, I wandered out of RFK and noticed a bunch of people standing near a fenced-in parking lot. Turns out it was the players parking lot. Now I'm not the type of guy who stalks people for autographs. But I figured, what the hell? NJ drove his SUV out of the lot and stopped for us without hesitation. His girlfriend seemed a little embarrassed that he was getting so much attention. Nick must have signed for about 20 minutes, easily. And it was mostly for kids who were walking by and noticed he was signing. He even signed multiples for a few really young kids.

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Below is Jamey Carroll's autograph. He has signed at probably most of the games I've been to. I managed to snag him before the Friday Cubs game a few weeks back.


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The great Cristian Guzman is the autograph on top in the below picture. He was at the ESPN Zone in February as well. He was a very quiet guy.

Below Guzman is Zach Day. He was also at the ESPN Zone. A little more talkative than Guzzy, but he as clearly amazed at the turnout of fans.

Tomo Ohka is the scribble at the bottom. He signed after his bullpen session before the Sunday Arizona game on opening weekend. I was impressed at how long he was signing.


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Esteban Loaiza signed the top part of the ball in the below picture. After the Sunday Arizona game, he also stopped willingly as he was pulling out of the parking lot. His wife and child were in the car, so I was grateful that he took a few minutes for us. He also has a sweet-ass Mercedes E320. On the bumper, the 3 was replaced with an L, and the 0 as replaced by an 1 so it read EL21 - his initials and uniform number.

Joe Horgan the lower part of the ball. I snagged his autograph before the Monday game against the Marlins. Nice guy, he put down his cup of coffee to sign for a bunch of us.


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Chad Cordero is the top signature in the picture below. He was also at the ESPN Zone. Nice guy.

Good ol' J.J. Davis is the final signature. Talk about an interesting signature. He stopped his car after the Sunday Arizona game. Very nice guy, signed multiples for some people and answered us when we said Thank you.


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Well, there's my autograph ball project. I think I need to get at least Wilkerson, Castilla, Vidro, Schneider and Livan Hernandez to make it a good representative ball of the 2005 team. Guys like Church, Patterson, Tucker, Eischen would also be good additions as well. And of course, to complete the project, I'll need to get Frankie to sign the sweet spot.

Pitching Practice

Note to mediocre pitchers: If you want to pitch like an ace, beg your manager to start you against the Nats. If Claudio Vargas could pitch against his own team, he might not be on the boat back to New Orleans. EDIT: Vargas was designated for assignment today, not optioned to New Orleans.

No less than half a dozen bad, inexperienced, or otherwise susceptible pitchers have turned in good to stellar performances against the vaunted Nationals' lineup.


April 19
FLA 6, WSH 3

Brian Moehler


Career
52-57, 4.46 ERA

4/19 vs. Nats
5.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R


April 23
NYM 10, WSH 5

Jae Seo


Career
16-23, 4.10 ERA

4/23 vs. Nats
6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R


May 17
MIL 8, WSH 2

Wes Obermueller


Career
9-15, 5.29 ERA

5/17 vs. Nats
8.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R


May 18
WSH 1, MIL 0

Chris Capuano


Career
12-15, 4.25 ERA

5/18 vs. Nats
8.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R


May 23
CIN 5, WSH 3


Eric Milton


Career
74-62, 4.83 ERA, 209 HR

5/23 vs. Nats
8.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER


May 25
CIN 12, WSH 3

Matt Belisle


Career
3-5, 4.78 ERA

5/25 vs. Nats
6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Every team slumps...

I'm going to try to calm down. Boswell's e-mail column today, while nothing terribly insightful, reminded me of a few things we need to remember.

Here are some excerpts:

"Witnessing a team-wide hitting slump, like the one that has engulfed the Nats, would be comic if it were not so sad to watch."

"So, it's time to panic, right? The Nationals are doomed to turn into the '04 Expos and lose 95 games. Though the team is still slightly over .500, hopes for a decent season are just a delusion. Clutch hitting will be a nemesis for the entire season, right?"

"Actually, no."

"What Washington baseball fans are about to learn, though perhaps painfully, is that over 162 games there is no such thing as a 'normal' Nationals teams. Every team is many different teams during a season."

"When a team is going through a losing streak, fans seldom notice what's going right. They see what's failing. That's natural. And the reverse is true as well. When the Nats were winning low-scoring one-run games at home last week, the story was the 'true grit of a spunky team.'"

"For example, right now nothing of consequence is actually wrong with the Nats' batting order. Despite all the well-publicized injuries, many to pitchers or second-line players, the Nats were able to field their Opening Day lineup Tuesday with the exception of Jose Vidro. And Jaime Carroll [sic], hitting .284, is as good a utility replacement for Vidro as any team could want for a few weeks. That night's lineup of Wilkerson, Carroll, Johnson, Guillen, Castilla, Church, Schneider and Guzman is perfectly acceptable for a team with sensible aspirations of winning 75-to-85 games."

"But the whole bunch of 'em are pressing. They're not trying too little, but rather, trying too much."

"In baseball, when you think you know what will happen next, when you think you can extrapolate the present trend far into the future, that's when the game surprises you the most. Right now the Nationals look like they are about to be fed into the toughest meat-grinder section of their schedule. After an off-day, they must face the three best teams in the National League -- St. Louis, Atlanta and Florida -- in nine [ten, actually] straight games."

"One of the oldest but truest sayings in baseball is, 'A team is never as good as it looks when it is winning and never as bad as it looks when it is losing.' The Nationals weren't as good as they looked when, just a few days ago, they were five games over .500...."

"And they're not nearly as bad they've looked while losing back-to-back series in Toronto and Cincinnati."

We definitely need to keep in mind one thing Boz alluded to. As fans, we project the current trend far into the future. The Nats were winning a lot of games last week, and we thought that they would steamroll Toronto and Cincinnati.

We got killed by Toronto and Cincinnati. Now we think St. Louis, Atlanta and Florida will crush us over the next ten games. And we probably are right.

But we might be wrong. Here's hoping...

Utter Humiliation

Reds 12, Nats 3

It got worse.

We were trying to salvage a game against Cincinnati, instead the Reds handed our asses to us by completing the three-game sweep.

Thank you sir, may I have another?

I mean HONESTLY! This is not a good Reds team.

The way we're playing, we'd make the Bad News Bears look like the 1927 Yankees.

Frankie, aren't you glad you gave Vargas a chance to "develop" out there on the mound? Send his developing ass back to New Orleans, or even Harrisburg.

And aren't you glad you played for one run in the first by sacrificing the runner to third with nobody out? That run sure would have come in handy, had it even scored.

Tomorrow's an off-day, but then we get the best team in the league.

PLEASE bring your bats, guys! Stop off in Louisville to pick up some extras if you have to.

The morning after

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I was only able to catch the extra innings last night, so I'm not going to pretend to have any compelling analysis or biting commentary as to why we lost. I'm sure the bloggers linked on my sidebar will do a fine job of that.

I do know that this was bad. We're one loss from a sweep at the hands of the third-worst team in the National League. Our next ten games are against three of the best five teams in the National League. This afternoon's game is one of the biggest the Nats have faced so far this season, if purely for mental reasons. A sweep at the hands of the Reds is a low note to end on before going to St. Louis.

Thoughts-
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-You might think I'd be nursing an ankle sprain suffered while jumping off the Ryan Church bandwagon. Patches finally got the start against the lefty pitcher last night, but he struck out twice, stranding five runners before being lifted for a pinch hitter. Well, I'm glad he got a chance, and I hope he gets another. But we all look pretty stupid after clamoring for him to start.

-Luis Ayala pitched very well in the 12th and 13th innings. But sending him out to start the 14th was, admittedly in hindsight, a big mistake. Last night was his 26th appearance of the year, and he only had gone 2 full innings four times before last night. Heading in to last night, Ayala gave up four of his eight earned runs allowed in those four 2-inning appearances, never throwing more than 27 pitches. Last night, his first outing over 2 innings, he threw 30 pitches and gave up the winning run.

Admittedly, the winning hit only snuck through due to the drawn-in infield. And maybe only two pitches were hit pretty hard in the 14th. It was probably a close call over whether to send him back out for the 14th. Looking at the numbers though, Ayala hasn't done too well in 2 inning appearances, and at the very least, Rauch should have been up and ready to go.

Ugh, I hate losing. We've got the get this one this afternoon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Heartbreak

Reds 4, Nats 3 (14 innings)

A pitcher drives in the game-winner. Totally deflating. Maybe I'll have something else to say about this one tomorrow if I ever get over it.

Two losses to the god-awful Reds. After tomorrow, the next 10 are against the best three teams in the National League (STL, ATL, FLA).

Suddenly, I feel even worse.

Frankly...

... I don't understand our manager.

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I know Frankie has said that he manages "by his gut." And in a way, unlike some people, I can buy that explanation for some things. I do believe that not everything is numbers. Baseball is played by human beings, who are more complicated than mere statistics.

But some things defy explanation. The boys at Oleanders and Morning Glories had a great post yesterday morning. They pointed out that Frank said this about Vargas' bad last two starts:

“Everybody is trying to win today, and this year,” Robinson said. “Too much emphasis is put on winning. You have to teach and develop, even at this level. If you have the talent, you’re going to win your share of ball games. That’s why you have to stick with a guy like Vargas. You can’t give him just one or two starts and then pull him out because then the guy is in a bad mental state.”

Fair enough, Frank. But as OMG points out, this leads to a number of questions. First, why does Vargas get another chance, while Ohka and Day head to the bullpen after consecutive poor outings? Why does Ryan Church, who's incredibly hot at the plate, not get his own chance to "develop" as an everyday player? Instead, against left-handed starters, Church gives way to washed-up veterans like Hammonds or shaky fielders like Blanco. Why does Endy Chavez get traded for sucking, while Guzman continues to play every day?

It doesn't make any sense. I really hope he knows something the rest of us don't, but I'll believe that when I see it.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Down by the River

Redlegs 5, Nats 3

Ouch

Nothing much to say here. We didn't play well, and Eric Milton decided it was time to break out of his slump. The Nationals' hitting - or lack thereof - can do that to a lot of pitchers. It's happened before.

Loaiza didn't have his stuff today. It happens. Maybe if we'd get him some runs , things might work out a little bit better more often. Not allowing the opposing pitcher to get two hits would also help a lot!

Thoughts-
-Why in the sweet name of Hondo is Ryan Church not playing every day? The man went 4-5 yesterday! Let me say it again - I DON'T CARE THAT HE'S LEFT-HANDED! Wilkerson and Johnson BOTH hit lefties well. It can happen! How do you know he can't hit lefties until you let him try?! Give him a shot to carry his hot streak over to lefty pitchers!
-And if you don't start him, he should be the first PH off the bench. But with two outs in the ninth and a righty in for the Reds, Frankie sends the backup catcher up to hit for the pitcher! Words can't explain how stupid that was.
-I like Frank. I like his style. I love him as a clubhouse manager, as a leader. But he just BLOWS as an in-game manager.
-"Pops" Guillen is disappointing me. He wasn't so good today at the plate. Three strikeouts. With half our team injured, he really, really, really needs to step it up. I'm sure he knows this too.
-The home plate ump was abysmal. Apparently all you need to do to get a called strike is get the ball within four feet of the plate. But he was consistently bad, so you can't blame him.

The beautiful thing about baseball is that tomorrow is another day. Another chance for Frankie to be a dumbass and sit Church against the lefty, Claussen.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Found em!

Nats 9, Jays 2



Canadian customs finally cleared our bats, and the Nats actually got some hits today. Thirteen of them to be exact. And we continued our pattern of getting huge explosions of runs in a single inning. The Nats sent ten hitters to the plate in the fifth inning, getting 5 runs, highlighted by Guillen's bases clearing double.

Ohka, getting the emergency start for Patterson, was very good. He mixed his pitches real well, getting strikes on the edges of the strike zone. His lone major mistake was grooving a fastball on the inner half of the plate to Hillenbrand in the fourth. It doesn't sound like it's going to happen just yet, but Ohka's has got to go back in the rotation for Vargas.

Notes:
-Ryan Church has to play every day. I hope I'm not the only one who thinks this is obvious. He was 4-5 at the plate today and made a couple nice plays in the outfield. We're going against two left-handers in Cincy starting tomorrow (Milton and Claussen) and I really hope that Church gets to play! A guy needs a chance to hit lefties in order to learn from experience. He's also red-hot right now.
-Church will probably play tomorrow, but for the wrong reason. Wilkerson sat out today with an injured forearm, and it sounds like he might be out for a bit. Castilla and Hammonds both left the game today with injuries. No word yet on their status.
-The Nats have dealt with some tough injuries already this year. Sledge, Vidro, Eischen, Tucker, Wil Cordero, Wilkerson, Castilla, Hammonds are all hurt. Time to suck it up and go into Cincy and pound the Reds.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Anything to Declare?

Jays 7, Nats 0

Where are the bats?

Yeah, I got something to declare. We can't hit!

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We must have left our bats at customs. Sure, TA2 didn't pitch well. But we have GOT to do better than just four hits. And leaving four runners in scoring position isn't acceptable.

I didn't see much of this game. After the Jays got four runs in the first two innings, I decided to go to Sunday Mass tonight instead of tomorrow and say a few prayers for the Nats. Seriously. I guess I have to pray harder.

Ohka's got a BIG chance tomorrow to pitch himself back into the rotation and get the Nats back on track. If he can deliver, hopefully that also means Vargas will be on a plane back to New Orleans.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Blame Canada

Jays 6, Nats 1

I Like Cajun Food

Apparently, Vargas really does like Cajun food.

In all seriousness, I have serious beefs with two players after this game.

1) Claudio Vargas. He pitched fine through 3 and 2/3 innings. But in the fourth, he just kept missing his locations, and his breaking pitches flattened out. He grooved a gopher ball to Vernon Wells in the fourth that put the Jays up 2-1 and started the damage in the fourth. I really feel that he's 1-3 starts away from being major league ready. He needs a little more work, that's all. Vargas needs to get command of his pitches and work on mastering his breaking stuff. I don't think he particularly screwed up; I just think he's not quite good enough. He needs more work at AAA New Orleans.

2) Cristian Guzman. Two pathetic strikeouts in his first two at-bats. He could have very easily scooped up a ground-ball single in the first inning if he had put any effort into it. And in the fourth inning on Huckaby's RBI single, Guzzy went into a dive and the ball seemed to skip underneath his belly. If he was just a little effin smart, he would have gobbled that up.

The rotation should be this for now, with no exceptions: Hernandez, Patterson, Armas, Loaiza and Ohka (for now). Day has no confidence, and Vargas needs more polishing.

There's your rotation. Write it down, Frankie. Please!

Tough Losses and Crazy Men

Although Boswell rarely, if ever, brings his "A game" to the weekly chats, he did say a few things today that heartened me.

"I was the only reporter in the locker room after last Friday's [6-3] loss [to the Cubs]. Man, do these guys hate to lose. I've seen MANY contending teams that didn't take a defeat this hard in August/September. They'd just lost three straight close games and were collectively furious __guys just sitting at their lockers, glaring a hole in the wall, for minute after minute."
If you read my post after Friday's game, you'll get a sense of how heartbreaking and infuriating this loss was for me. For some reason, it makes me feel a lot better that the team cares just as much, if not more.

In other news, our boy Joey "Suck On It And Like It" Eischen is already back with the team.

"Eischen is already back in the clubhouse. He will set the world record for Crazy Man Recovering from Broken Arm."
This can't be anything but good news. He's clearly one of the team leaders and a guy who keeps things light in the clubhouse. Plus, he's a left-handed pitcher!

Some might discount the effect of clubhouse chemistry upon a team. But I truly do believe that collectively shared tough experiences as the Expos have made that Nats a tight group. Add veteran leaders like Guillen, Castilla and Loaiza, and you have a real great group. It's debatable how much this matters in the win-loss column. Of course, the games still have to be played. But a great clubhouse only helps the Nats struggle through adversity and injuries -- something they've done well so far this year.

¡Livan!

¡Livan!

Chris over at Capitol Punishment put up a great post about ¡Livan! last night. I think it encapsulates very well how valuable he is to this team.

He has supreme confidence in himself. He believes in himself so much, that he'll put guy on base because he knows he can the next guy out. He's confident, but he also knows the hitters and how he matches up against them.

---------

Re-reading my post from yesterday, I think I may have been a little hard on the Nats. Sure, we didn't manage a great offensive performance. It was rather weak even. But we took advantage of the opportunities Milwaukee handed us. We caught a break when Vinny took off for home on the passed ball. He should have been out easily, but the throw got away from the pitcher who was covering the plate.

Ned Yost, the Brewers' manager sure made some curious moves this week too. Wednesday night he should have walked Castilla and pitched to Johnson - the opposite of what he did. Yesterday, he IBBed in a few questionable situations as well.

We were outscored in the series, but we won 3 of 4 games. Good, scrappy, gritty teams can do that. A sqaud without two of its biggest stars NEEDS to win games that go this way. Once some injuries heal, the Nats are capable of some special things.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A win is a win is a win...

Nats 3, BrewCrew 2

Here Comes Cuz!

Sounds like a fairly non-descript game at RFK this afternoon. I won't say boring, since the Nats definitely found a way to make it exciting as Cordero walked two hitters in the ninth.

But it was a type of game that all too often has gone against the Nats this year. Six hits and three runs -- the game winner scoring on a passed ball -- is all Washington could muster today. Four different Nats also struck out twice. Not a god-awful performance, but often that's not enough to win.

I'm still not at all happy about how Washington hitters approach their at-bats. With runners on second and third, two outs in the eighth, good ol' Guzzy hacks at the first pitch! COME ON! Once and for all, here's the rule:

Rule 6.05 - A batter is out when ... (b) A third strike is legally caught by the catcher....

Know what that means guys?! You get THREE strikes before you are called out! Please, for the love of Hondo, USE THEM!

In the big picture, though. I'm satisfied. Today and last night we won games that very well could have been losses. That's nothing to sneeze at. A record of 23-18 is great, really great. As of right now, we're a half game out of first place. Go Nats!

Vargas gets the start tomorrow in Toronto. I'm going to be watching closely; he needs to rebound nicely or get used to the taste of jambalaya. Nothing against Cajun food, which I love, but I hope he chooses to pitch well!

Great Night For A Ballgame

Nats 1, Brewers 0


"That cement head is thinking more about that girl than today's game. Remember, this son. One percent of ballplayers are leaders of men. The other 99 percent are followers of women." - John McGraw
Although the great John McGraw might disagree with me, sometimes girls and baseball do mix, and mix very well.

W.P. Kinsella himself couldn't have drawn up a better script for a night to take the future Mrs. Rocket1124 to the ballpark. Great weather, good seats, fast-paced game and an exciting ending with the winning run scored by her new favorite player.

Before leaving work yesterday, the Mrs. Rocket1124-to-be informs me that she wants a Nats shirt. Always ready to please, I stop by Modell's and snap up a red Brad Wilkerson #7 shirt - it being about the only one they had left, so I thought nothing of it. But walking to the stadium from the car, she quizzed me relentlessly on Wilkerson, his stats and what kind of a player he is.

The game moved quickly. That's huge when you are bringing a casual fan to the game. A slow moving game with a ton of walks will bore even some hardcore fans.

She cheered when Wilkerson came to the plate and led off with a double. Unfortunately, Frankie was a wee bit too aggressive and more or less managed us out of the inning.

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She applauded Loaiza throughout the game as he pitched a gem. 8 innings, 6 hits, 5 Ks, 0 R. But she sat in disbelief when he was picked off first base in the sixth inning. "What the hell was that?!" were her words.

After Majewski got the Brewers in order in the top of the 9th, the RFK faithful came to its feet. Last night was my fifth game of the year, and the stadium was easily the loudest I've experienced since Opening Night.

The future missus' favorite led off the inning, getting plunked in the arm. "It looked like he turned into it," she said. Probably, that's what good players do, sweetheart.

Vinny comes to the plate after Carroll sacrifices Wilky to second. He hits a grounder to third that Branyan can't handle. Everyone's safe.

She boos lustily when Milwaukee intentionally walks Nick Johnson to load the bases. Up comes the bloated corpse of Jeffrey Hammonds to see what he can do. Suprisingly, Frankie goes against "the book" and lets Hammonds hit.

And wonder of wonders, he pulls a grounder inside the third base bag past the drawn-in infield.

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RFK erupts and the future Mr. and Mrs. Rocket1124 jump up and cheer as Wilkerson trots home to score the winning run.

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Nats win!

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"Yay! That was fun!" she says, as we walk down the concourse.

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As we leave RFK and head out into the night, I smile, hoping the Nats have converted another.

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Notes:
-What a gem by Loaiza. It's a crying shame we can't get any runs while he's on the mound.
-Capuano also pitched very well, although I can't shake the feeling we didn't work the count enough. Capuano threw 99 pitches over 8 and 1/3 innings. That's not all that many.
-Tonights crowd of about 29,500 was very impressive considering it was a weeknight against the Brewers. It was also the most lively crowd since Opening Night. This is a going to be a special summer, I feel.
-Final Verdict: Not the best game Washington has ever played, but maybe one of the most exciting. It says a lot about a team when they find ways to win, even games when they don't play all that well. I love this team.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?

BrewCrew 8, Nats 2


Does Vargas look better with a 'Z' on his cap instead of a 'W'?


Looks like Vargas really enjoyed the Big Easy; he's pitching like he wants to go back. One and 1/3 innings, 7 hits, 6 runs.

I'm not sure I understand why Vargas was getting the fifth starting pitcher spot over Rauch. Day and Ohka were not pitching well, so it was either Rauch or Vargas' spot by default. I don't know what was the distinction between Rauch and Vargas. And if Day or Ohka weren't struggling, they would be just as good in the fifth slot.

Anyways, looks like Vargas pitched himself out of a rotation spot. Ohka got the job done in relief; I think - and I'm not the only one - that he deserves a shot to start the next time this spot in the rotation comes around.

The Nats did accomplish something big tonight. We made Wes Obermueller look like a Cy Young winner tonight. He was perfect through 6 and 1/3, throwing only 67 pitches through six innings will make anyone look good. We STILL are swinging at the first few pitches too much! Let me know if I'm not being clear -- making the pitcher work hard increases the likelihood he'll throw a hittable pitch! Plate discipline, guys!

NJ's still swinging a hot bat, though.

Hopefully we got it all out of our system tonight. Tomorrow is another day.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose

... and sometimes you're down 6-0 in the second inning.

Hopefully the Great Vargas Experiment has drawn to a close.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Insert transparent attempt at "Byrd" pun here

Nats 5, Beer Makers 2

Byrd Man

Even though I'm still whipped, I managed to keep an eye on the MLB.tv feed of the game while the future missus and I watched the "Everybody Loves Raymond" finale.

Last night's win was further proof that the Phillies suck! Not that I needed any more proof anyways. We should be forever grateful to the City of Brotherly Love for taking Inning-Endy Chavez off our hands and sending us a guy like Marlon Byrd. He took a liking to RFK and DC immediately, going 3-4 with 3 RBIs, the difference in the game. Tony Armas (my TA2 nickname is catching on, I'm so proud!) looked like he pitched just fine, pretty well in fact. If he can keep it up, well I'm just giddy thinking about our rotation.

I wish I had something more insightful to say, but I only saw the game in bits and pieces. But I'm pleased right now. We're 21-17 and six of the next nine games are against teams under .500. 5-4 is a reasonable expectation over the next nine games, which would make us 26-21. I'll take that any day.

Note: I really like Boswell's column on Chad Cordero. I like "the Chief" a lot - maybe it's because we're the exact same age, and my feet also "go sideways like a duck." He also owns up to his mistakes, which earns him a lot of points in my book.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Much Better...

Nats 5, Cubs 4

Chief!

By the numbers, Nick Johnson will probably win the Majority Leader award at BallWonk or the Majority Whip at Capitol Punishment.

But I think I'm happiest for Chad Cordero with this win. His error was one of the big plays in Friday's loss and his save yesterday was just a little too exciting.

After striking out the hitter to end the game today, though, he was clearly pumped. And it's just so nice to see the guys care so much.

It may not have been convincing, but we beat the Cubs 2 of 3. NICE!

::Whip Cracking Noise::

Good Guys 4, Bad Guys 3

I think I might be as whipped as Ryan. And I don't really care either - the future Mrs., who's here for the the next few days, is a lot cuter than any of you or any Nationals player (except maybe Ryan Church - mee-yow! KIDDING, totally kidding)

I caught bits and pieces of this one, thanks to Picture-In-Picture while we were watching what the Future-Mrs.-Rocket1124 wanted to watch. It was just REALLY nice to see the Cubbie-wanna-bes with rally-caps looking forlorn. Almost makes up for Friday night.

I don't have anything insightful to say, since I didn't pay attention to most of the game. Hopefully I can catch some of the game today.

I may be whipped, but she is coming to the game with me Wednesday - so I got that going for me, which is nice.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Why do I care?

Cubs 6, Nats 3

Friday the 13th

I care too much. Five years ago I went to the MCI Center to cheer on my Red Wings against the Capitals. I thought it was pathetic that there were so many Wings fans.

Tonight at RFK (aka Wrigley Field Southeast) I was the one who felt bad. Lots of Cubs fans, maybe a third of the attendance. It wasn't that bad, but the Cubbie fans were vocal.

I wanted to win so bad to shut them up. I don't blame them for rooting for their team. But I wanted to beat their asses.

We got something started early. Bennett drives in a run. 1-0 good guys. Nats fans happy; Cubs fans quiet.

Then our Hall of Fame manager puts on a suicide squeeze. Gutsy call, doesn't work out. NJ caught in a rundown.

Whoops

Loaiza hiccups in the fourth. Cubs string some hits together. 2-1 Chicagoans. Cubs fans go nuts. Nats fans boo to try to drown them out.

My stomach starts to hurt. We're losing. Why do I even care?

Cub fans are obnoxious. We need some runs.

Bottom sixth. "Pops" Guillen singles. Alright, this is a start.

Vinny walks. Even better.

Ryan Church pinch-hits for Hammonds. Patches singles! Why wasn't he in the game from the beginning?!

Game tied at two apiece. Cubs fans quiet.

NJ pops up. Bennett walks. Bases juiced for Mateo.

Nope, Frank's gonna hit Big Boy Baerga. Maybe the rookie should get a shot, I think. But Baerga's been swinging a good stick.

Big Boy chops to the pitcher. 1-2-3 double play. Damn! Well, we tied the game.

Loaiza goes out for his last inning; pitcher's spot is due up first in the seventh. Loaiza retires the Cubs, mixing in a walk. Not a bad job by Stevey L.

Seventh inning stretch. I don't sing. But I shout out "NATIONALS" during the "root, root root for the..." part. Damn Cubbies fans think they're cool.

Wait a minute. What the hell?! Loaiza in the on deck circle? What the HELL is wrong with Frankie? Why do I even care? Frankie's gonna eff it up.

Loaiza strikes out. I bang my head against the railing. The usher turns around and smiles. "I know," he says. "Shoulda pinch hit." Maybe Loaiza's pitch count is low.

Nats go down in order.
What the hell? Ayala comes out for the eighth. What the hell, Frankie? For Chrissakes.

Suddenly I get it. Blanco is the only one left on the bench. Probably should save him. But WHY did Baerga hit for Mateo?! Give the rookie a chance and keep two bats on the bench. And wait! If you have to hit a pitcher in this situation, hit ¡Livan! The man won a Silver Slugger. He's probably a better hitter than Baerga anyways.

Frankie managed himself into a corner on this one. I could manage this team better. Why do I give a crap?

Aramis Ramirez goes yard leading off the eighth. Bastard. Damn Cub fans think they're cool. 3-2 bad guys. Ah well, one run. We've come back before.

Ayala

Burnitz doubles. Barrett sacrifices him to third. One out. Ayala plunks the number seven hitter. First and third, one out.

Here comes "The Chief" to put out the fire.

"Let's go CUB-BIES!" Nat fans respond with a mild booing. Pathetic. No one else cares, why should I?

Burnitz is picked off! Rundown! But Gary P.B. Bennett is the catcher. He caught a case of "Baerga's Iron Hands" -- balls clanks off his glove, Burnitz scores. 4-2 Cubs.

Iron Hands Part Deux

Cubbie fans start jeering. I hide my face.

Cordero walks Hairston.

Patterson dribbles one into no man's land between the pitcher and first base. "Chief" tries the scoop play, but jai-lai's it into foul ground.

Can't even bear to watch

6-2 Cubs. They're openly partying now in Wrigley Southeast.

Now I'm pissed. Real pissed. I don't mind getting beat. I HATE throwing the game away. There's just no excuse for Little League effort like that.

We go meekly in the eighth. Cub fans love it.

Harry Potter Day pitches the ninth. He pitches like he doesn't care. If he doesn't, why should I? Believe it or not, he gets out unscathed.

Bottom nine. Three outs 'till the Cubs party.

Bah, NJ flies out deeep to left center. One out.

Bennett doubles! Alright a baserunner.

Good ol' Guzzy pops up. Down to our final out.

Heyyyyyyy, it's Blanco! Frankie decided to take him off the bench!

Wonder of wonders, he doubles in Bennett!

Six to THREE now! Hope springs eternal!

Wilky walks. I'm standing now.

0-2 to Jamey Carroll. Cub fans are confident now.

Scrappy Jamey Carroll fouls off pitch after pitch. My knees start to buckle.

Full count. Nat fans are awake now. Third base stands shake a little.

Jamey works a walk. I double over with excitement. New Cubs pitcher.

"Pops" Guillen is up! He's been talking about making big plays. I can feel it. RFK is pulsing.

Guillen lifts the 2-0 pitch to DEEP right field. My heart soars with the arc of the ball. But it crashes back to earth as the ball settles into Burnitz's glove on the warning track. Game over.

I groan loudly and put my head in my hands.

Cub fans are jubilant leaving the stadium. Nat fans don't care, they're just happy to have seen a ballgame!

Cub fans care. They won.

I care. We lost.

Parking Lot 8 is awful dark.

Strains of the Rolling Stones creep through the car radio as car headlights pierce the darkness of 295.

You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes
You just might find
You get what you need

Why do I care? Why am I so crushed about this loss? I have a decent job, my own place, a beautiful fiancée. I don't need this stress. I already have what I need.

The off-ramp onto Route 1 is a tight turn.

The voice of Tom Petty greets me as I near my apartment.

Well I won't back down
No I won't back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won't back down

Hey. Buck up! We've lost before!

Hey baby, there ain't no easy way out
(and I won't back down...)
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won't back down

Tomorrow is another night.

I don't know why. But I definitely care.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Two Things...

1) I'm in a great mood this morning. I discovered $265.95 in my checking account that I missed through massive bookkeeping errors. Hmm.... more beer at the game tonight?

2) Can we get a restraining order to force Frankie to put Church in the lineup tonight? I know Glendon Rusch is a lefty - but come on Frankie! Give Churchy a chance to prove himself!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Random thoughts while cradling an old AL ball...

Gene Budig?!

Well, it's another dreaded off day, and what better time than to reflect on "What the Nationals mean to me." I know, that sounds like a stupid middle school essay, but this is my blog, so deal with it.

I don't know who (other than a half-dozen or so fellow bloggers who are just as nuts as I am) actually reads any of my little corner of the internet. Frankly, I don't care. It could 6 readers or 6 million readers; it doesn't make a difference, I still would write this thing. I'm doing this for me. Hopefully a few people get some enjoyment out of reading it.

It brings some small pleasure to life to be able to follow a baseball team passionately and then chronicle my take on events. A little background in my personal baseball history should help explain this.

I was born in Kansas in the early 1980's. My parents, my brother and I moved to Michigan in 1984, right in the midst of the Kansas City-Detroit ALCS. I was barely three years old, but the matchup between our old home and our new home kept my parents attention. This was key, I feel, because I'm not sure I would have got into baseball if my parents hated it. It's just the way things tend to work when you're a little impressionable toddler.

Go Tigers!
Well, Detroit won the 1984 World Series, and I think that probably made my parents at least casual Tiger fans.

Somewhere in the late 80's, about 1986 I believe, my father and my uncle took my brother and I to our first major league game in Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium while we were visiting family in the area. I do remember the game, it was against the Mets, but I have very little memory of any details.

But my first significant baseball memory came September 1, 1987 at Tiger Stadium. My dad, my friend and his dad, along with some other friends of the adults, all went to Tiger Stadium to see the Tigers play the Indians. We sat in the upper deck behind home plate - in the orange seats pictured here.

The Corner

Anyone who has been to Tiger Stadium knows the upper deck hangs over the playing field. When the upper levels were added in renovation, they couldn't build backward onto the street, so they pushed the upper decks closer to the field. This made the upper deck behind home plate the best place in all of baseball to catch foul balls. Probably four or five an inning shot back up in that direction.

Well, partway through the game, an usher standing near me caught one and turned around and handed it to me. I was kinda confused, being 6 years old and all. I wanted to throw it on the field, but my dad was like "No! No! You get to keep it!"

That had to be the coolest news of my young life, and I was smitten with the Tigers. Being six years old with a short attention span, I didn't follow the day to day fortunes of the Tigers. Too bad, 1987 was one of the last successful seasons they've ever had, even to this day.

But I fell in love with Ernie Harwell, the honey-voiced radio play-by-play man of the Tigers. Many a night while falling asleep, I'd have the radio tuned to WJR 760 AM, as Ernie let me know how the beloved Tigers were doing. I remember laying awake one night in 1989 (I believe) as Tigers pitcher Jeff Robinson battled with a no-hitter against the Orioles. In the eighth-inning, Mike Deveraux and Brady Anderson went yard, wrecking the no-no as I burst into tears.

Ernie

When Ernie was "fired" after the 1991 season, I burst into tears again. Soon after, my family and I packed up and moved to Boston.

I couldn't bring myself to become a Red Sox fan. First, it would be disloyal to my Tigers. But second, Boston fans seemed so angry. Every play meant life or death, and the slightest mistake by a player or manager caused fans to call for their head on a platter. It was all about self-pity and an inferiority complex with the team about 200 miles to the southwest in the Bronx. I just didn't get it.

I spent my middle school and high school years secretly rooting against the Red Sox, while trying in vain to follow the Tigers. I tried to go at least once a year when the Tigers visited Fenway Park. It wasn't the same. Sure, I rooted like heck for the Tigers to win, but I was disconnected from what nowdays might be called "Tigers Nation". (I hate the "Nation" term, by the way)

I came to college in Washington, D.C. Most of the people I knew there were fans of eastern teams: Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Mets, etc. They were all so freakin intense! This was life or death to them, and they were awfully obnoxious about it. I rooted for all those teams to lose, just so I could laugh at the reactions of the fans that I knew.

Something didn't seem right though. It's a little obnoxious of me to root against teams just for the joy of seeing someone else's defeat. Those people were obnoxious, but they put their hearts on the line for their team. This hit home even more when I watched the reaction of my high school friends after the Red Sox won the World Series. But I still felt disconnected from the Tigers.

Then we started to hear that Washington might get a team. Good, good stuff, I thought. The national capitol should definitely have the national pastime. Peter Angelos reared his ugly head and became the villain. We all know how easy it is to root against him.

I found myself caught up in the fever. I fumed when Linda Cropp nearly killed baseball. And when the deal was resurrected, I spent a two hour lunch waiting in line at the RFK team store. Good ol' Bill Ladson even interviewed me outside the trailer after I was done.

It was obvious to me, that after investing so much emotion in Washington baseball, I had to at least support the team. I didn't feel comfortable abandoning the Tigers.

Many of my friends urged me to adopt both teams. The AL/NL separation would make it possible. Besides, my brother, a Red Sox fan, living in a community when they win a championship is the greatest feeling ever.

The Dean of Washington Baseball, Tom Boswell, settled it for me. In his March 30 chat, he answered my question about dual loyalties:

Alexandria, Va.: Maybe you can answer this, Boz. I grew up a Detroit Tiger fan, but came to DC for college after living in Boston for high school. I plan to say in the DC area for a long time. Is it possible to be a Tiger and Nationals fan? Better yet, is it a violation of the code of the sports fan?
Tom Boswell: Yes, it is possible. But probably requires high moral character. Teams "on the rise" that haven't actually risen yet can break your heart. That describes both the Tigers and Nats.

I'm not too sure he completely understood my question. But with the blessing of a guy like Boz, I was going to give it a try. Tigers first, Nats second, that's how it would be.

I went to Opening Night. I won't bother to recount my experiences, as I've already done so here.

But it was the following Sunday when the Nats took over first place in my heart. I wrote about it at the time here. In the seventh inning, Nick Johnson rips a shot to the outfield. Jose Guillen waited near second to see if the ball would be caught. But Vinny Castilla took off from first right away. When the ball dropped in safely, Guillen and Castilla wheeled around the bases about three feet apart. I was jumping up and down, trying to "will them" around the bases to score the tying runs. They slid into home on top of each other and leaped into a bear hug. RFK exploded, and I went nuts.


Vin and Pops

That is the moment when the Nats became number one. I'll always root for the Tigers and hope they win. But I'll never get back the connection I used to have to them. An autographed picture of Ernie Harwell, Alan Trammell and Al Kaline hangs on my office wall as a memento of some fond Tiger memories.

But I have that connection to the Nats now. I literally live and die on each pitch so far this year. I've seen part or all of 30 of the 34 games so far this year. Blabbering incessantly online while watching the game with guys like Chris, Yuda, Basil, Ryan, Brian & even the "conNATStant lurker" (plus others I can't remember) is something I look forward to every night. I just hope my fiancée understands!

Well, that's my story. If you read this far, congratulations. Maybe I'll let you buy me a Foggy Bottom at RFK sometime soon.

Give him credit...

Pops

Jose Guillen sure doesn't make excuses. In the Washington Times today:

"Guillen took the blame for the bad throw [on Arizona's go-ahead run], as well as for the Nationals' struggles at the plate the last two nights. 'I've been [awful],' he said. 'I haven't handled key situations. I should have thrown the guy out today. ... I've not been coming through the last two nights. That's why they got me here, to win. I'm not coming through in those tough situations.'"

I'm liking "Pops" Guillen more and more every day.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Iron Hands Baerga

Snakes 3, Nats 2

Vargas

"Stay positive, Vargas pitched pretty well and we lost on a few bloop hits..."

Bah! That stunk. Very similar game to last night. BORING game and one we should have won.

Vargas, like TA2 last night, came off the DL and pitched pretty well, better than expected given the circumstances.

The offense was anemic, managing only two runs in a pretty poor performance (just like last night). Wilky was awful - looking terrible. He struck out in his first three at-bats and narrowly avoided the Golden Sombrero by popping up in at-bat number four.

I read in several places that the Nats had played errorless ball for 91 straight innings. And then what happens? With the Nats leading 1-0, the D-Backs singled the bases full with one out. Alex Cintron hit a shot to Vinny who caught it, then threw to second to try to double up the runner.

Good ol' Big Boy Baerga displayed all the fielding skills of a Little Leaguer, letting the ball clank off his glove into center field. Tying run scores.

I really want to blame Iron Hands Baerga for this loss. But he did have a hit and a run, and the error led to the first run of the game.

So Wilky gets himself a Tom Turkey (or the "White Hood" if this was pre-Civil Rights days) and becomes the scapegoat for this one.

We just really be positive. It's really damn hard though. 5-4 on a tough Western road trip is respectable - something to be proud of in fact. The four losses were all heartbreakers, however.

1) May 3rd, 4-2 Dodgers: Guillen and Guzman's dumbass baserunning cost us this one.
2) May 8th, 4-3 Giants: Stupid umps give us the royal screw job.
3) May 10th, 3-2 Dbacks: A couple walks by Armas and poor timely hitting were the difference.
4) May 11th, 3-2 Dbacks: Stupid-ass error hurt big time.

A couple breaks and some smarter play, we come back to DC with a better record.

5-4 on a road trip, 18-16 overall and our players dropping like flies with injuries - we should be pleased at what we've accomplished. And I'm trying to stay positive. It's hard though - when we should/could have gone 7-2 or 6-3 on the trip.

Kick In The Teeth

AZ 3, DC 2

Tough Luck For TA2

Well that sucked.

Armas was good, real good. After a minor hiccup in the first, he laid the hammer down through 5 innings, only throwing 62 pitches through the opening five frames. But he fell apart in the sixth, walking two and then giving up a moonshot to Glaus. There's your ballgame.

Shawn "Head Case" Estes was just as good as Armas. Frankie gives Estes the credit, but any way you slice it, Washington stranding 13 runners is what killed us. Three times we left the bases loaded. This has been our problem before - the failure to get timely hits. In our 15 losses, we've stranded a total of 110 runners. That averages out to a little over seven per game. Many of our losses have been by fairly small margins. Get a few of those 7+ runners across the plate, we might be 10 games above .500.

An aside: Frankie, why in the sweet name of Hondo do you sit Church, a guy who's 10-17 in the last few games? Don't give me that lefty-righty crap either. Like Harper at Oleanders pointed out in his brilliant post, how do you know Church can't hit lefties unless you give him a shot? And a guy who's that hot might just be able to figure out lefties! I like you, Frankie, but sometimes you drive me nuts. OK, more than just sometimes...

It just stinks big time that TA2 pitched so well and didn't win.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Tough as nails.

Boswell was nearly spot on in his column today. "The Nationals should be falling apart. They have every excuse. But so far they're not. In fact, against logic, they're thriving. In time Washington's new team may succumb to its wave of injuries," he writes. And he's exactly right. The Nats should be dead. Ten players on the DL in May? That's ridiculous.

Boswell details how just about everything has gone wrong. Eischen breaks his arm, Sledge rips his hammy, Vidro turns an ankle... And just last night, Guzman hurts himself.

The current Western roadtrip was feared to be a killer for the Nats, and it started off with MLB putting another finger in the eye of the team, their schedule forcing them to arrive at 6 am local time for a 7:05 pm game. But what do the injury-riddled Nats do? They go out and take 2 of 3 from both LA and SF. And we're halfway to another series win in Arizona.

Ten players on the DL doesn't leave the team with much room for error. They should have fallen apart already. But they didn't.

We Are Fam-il-y

I think there's a little bit of the 1979 Pirates - of "We Are Fam-il-y" fame - in this team. They genuinely like each other and care about each other. And why shouldn't they? The core of the Nats went through hell together while in Montreal, forced to play over 100 games on the road. They've been the nomads of baseball, wandering through the desert in search of the promised land.

After he went down with a broken arm, Joey Eischen was reportedly in tears. The players all gave him hugs and wished him well. Apparently Eischen said something like "I need this team as much as they need me." John Patterson called him the personality of the team. It's clear that these guys are tight knit.

And the key players added to this team, as Boswell points out, have been instrumental in the success of the Nats.

Esteban Loaiza, who has pitched wonderfully so far this year, was quoted in spring training as saying, "Being with this team is like being with a family.”

Vinny Castilla is a strong veteran presence who has performed very well. He was reportedly pranked by Loaiza when he arrived at spring training.

But the guy I think deserves much of the credit is Jose Guillen. He seems to have completely turned himself around from his volatile days in Anaheim. Manager Frank Robinson says he's emerging as a leader, and he certainly showed it in two games against San Francisco. On Saturday he put the team in the best position to win by hitting to the right side rather than swinging for the fences. "My approach was to hit the ball the other way. That shows a lot to a young player, that I care about winning. I care about my team," said Guillen, a guy who might be on his way to earning the nickname "Pops," just like Willie Stargell.

Frankie was impressed too. "He's not up there trying to be the hero himself by hitting a home run or things like that. He felt like doing what the occasion calls for to win a ballgame. That was a big play. ... I don't know too many hitters of his stature who would have done that."

Guillen has the exact mentality a baseball player should. He believes in working hard and taking responsibility for oneself. Take a look at these clips from an Associated Press article:

"Jose Guillen believes his fellow Latin American baseball players are making lousy excuses for testing positive for steroids. ... 'I don't buy that, that they didn't know what they were doing,' Guillen told The Associated Press on Sunday. 'They knew what they were doing. There's no excuse for them. We're all grown enough men and we all know what we're doing.'"

"Guillen came to the United States at age 19 and couldn't speak a word of English. He was determined to learn, and still encourages his friends and countrymen to do the same if they want to play professional baseball. 'They say we need translators,' Guillen said. 'I came to the States and spoke no English, but I took it upon myself to learn. This is an American game, not a Latin game. You need to learn to speak the language.'"

Whether he's right or wrong about using the language barrier as an excuse, the point is this: Guillen believes in working hard and doesn't believe in excuses. You have to admire that.

The New Pops?Original Pops
Resemblance?

Perhaps the most telling snippet comes from Boswell's column today. "[O]n the bench last week at Dodger Stadium, Guillen pounced on the 69-year-old Robinson before the game and each playfully punched the other in the stomach a dozen times. Guillen, hitting .311 and on a 40-home-run pace, claims Robinson has become a kind of baseball father to him while the manager has said that if pitchers keep throwing at Guillen with impunity, there will be fireworks."

By all accounts, the Nats should lose tonight. Two bench players will be the double-play combination for at least the next few days. That leaves almost no one on the bench. On the hill is a guy making his first start of the year.

Yet with guys like Guillen on the team, you can bet the Nats won't go down without a fight.

The award for best blog entry goes to...

Harper at Oleanders finally explains the logic of not playing Jamey Carroll every day.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Nacionales 4, Serpientes 3

I fell asleep a few innings into this one. So I'm rewatching the archived game on MLB.tv. Sounds like we may have stole one here. But what the hell is this injury crap?!

More later.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Game's on MLB.tv tonight

Shows how much I know... or how much MLB.tv knows....

0-0 after 1.5


I think MLB is trying to screw with us

OK, I'm officially pissed.

Maybe this is old news to people, but I just checked the Nationals' MLB.tv blackout list. Previously, it had said "no blackouts announced" or something to that effect... I was able to get every Nats game via the computer.

But I checked today and a rather extensive list of blacked out zip codes is up. Including mine.

So let me get this straight? In the DC area, only people who can receive UPN20 can get about half the games on TV. In addition, only DirecTV customers can receive all the games.

This is such lame HORSE$#!T! This situation had long ago fallen into the horse$#!t category, but until now, I had a way to work around it for $14.95 a month. Now that's gone too.

To Bud Selig, Bob DuPuy, Peter Angelos and any other bastard responsible... I hereby award you with the coveted You Suck Big Time Patch.