Saturday, July 30, 2005

Capitol Insight

Must Read: Chris's well written rant on the state of the Nats and what the new owners must do.

It's well reasoned, even though I'm not sure I agree with all of it.

I don't think the Nats are done yet, although they're not too far away from a catatonic state. Jim Bowden needs to go, and I wouldn't cry a tear if Frank didn't come back.

Guzman should never play for Washington again at the rate he's going, but I think he's too hard on Jose Guillen. The guy is quirky, loud and annoying, true, but he can be very useful. I think Vinny is worth hanging on to for this year, at least, he can still wield a good glove and shows enough pop to probably be a competent seventh hitter in the lineup.

And I don't think June was as much of a fluke as he implies. Sure, they were playing over their heads a little bit, but it's not like this is an awful team.

I think the Nats are on the verge of busting out again, but they'd better do it soon or it will be too late.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Rocking the Coke Machine

Guess what? Yep, another one-run loss. And just like yesterday, another one-run loss in which the Nats mounted a comeback but fell just short. Signs of life again, but just not enough.

Remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry says that breaking up with a significant other is like rocking over a Coke machine? You can't do it in one push; you have to move it a few times back and forth to build up momentum.

Maybe breaking out of a slump is the same way. A few comebacks fall just short, but one eventually succeeds. I hope that's how it works. It's about all I got right now.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Baby Steps



Well, we lost another one-run game. I'm almost numb to it now. OK, I am numb. I have to be numb to it.

Earlier in the glorious month of June, the Nats found themselves behind late in games a lot. But back then, the Nats would string together a few hits, move a few runners along and voila! Nats win!

This week, the Nats lost three one run games against the Braves, in spite of great efforts. Livan was fantastic on Monday, but the Nationals walked in the winning run in extra innings. Loaiza was decent yesterday, but a few bonehead plays in the field by the Nats - and the Braves win.

Today was a little different. Ryan Drese was pretty darn bad. He was lucky to have only given up four runs.

But the Nationals battled back. In the fifth, after Nick Johnson led off with a sweet double, Carlos Baerga hit a bases-loaded pinch-hit single to score a run. A little flash of the Nats we love. Of course, the Nats left them loaded, but the mini-rally was a decent start.

In the sixth, the Nats kept battling. Vidro led off with a great double, and Guillen singled him in. Two successive hard hit balls cut the lead in half. Another quick flash. Johnson singled to move Guillen into scoring position, and things looked even better. Unfortunately, it was only a small little flash, as Vinny bunted into a fielder's choice; Preston struck out, and Schneider tapped out.

After Jeff "Where the hell did he come from?" Francouer hit his second dinger to make it 5-2, Vidro made it a one run game by blasting a two run dinger.

In the eighth, the Nats started another mini-rally, getting consecutive two-out hits. Unfortunately, Ryan Church struck out to end the inning in a pinch hit appearance. The ump called him out on a check swing, and maybe I'm biased, but I thought he held up.

Say what you want about his personality and his temper, but Guillen definitely notices that we aren't playing well.

"It's not acceptable to get swept," Guillen said. "We are playing like a Double-A team. This is ridiculous."

Guillen also longed for the golden days of May and June.

"Look at the fire we had in the first half. Everybody was fired up in the dugout and in the clubhouse. ... Look at all the fun we were having. Everybody was jumping around, taking their shirts off. I think maybe everybody was satisfied with the first half. It's going to be a big disappointment for the fans and the coaching staff and the front office if we keep playing like this."

Frank also saw a better effort: "The effort was there today, I told them that after the game. If we could come up with that every time then we'll be okay."

We lost for the fourth time in a row. We're 5-16 since the Fourth of July.

But I think there are signs of life. The Nats made two comeback attempts, but ultimately fell short. Those two little mini-comebacks showed flashes of the Nats we love. The team also sounded really pissed.

I think that shows promise of the team getting back to the Nats of that glorious June which now seems to have been a lifetime ago.

Crossing the Wilson Bridge This Morning...

Up Your Butt, Jobu



Well, sleep didn't help my mood any. I'm still angry at the Nats, mostly at Guzman. Not only did he drop Schneider's perfect throw in the eighth, allowing the winning run to get to scoring position - but he misplayed a pop-up in the seventh that also led to a run. Not to mention that he can't hit.

I try to give ballplayers the benefit of the doubt. If they've made it to the major leagues, they're obviously a lot better than I could ever dream to be. But this much is clear - Guzman is hurting this team. Maybe he just needs a change of scenery (said the optomistic one) but either way, he's killing the Nationals.

Don't get me wrong, if Guzman goes, the Nats still have a lot of work to do. The team showed flashes of it last night, coming back to tie the game in 8th on some nice hitting by the top of the order. That needs to happen more consistently.

Livan, Patterson and Loaiza have all been consistently pitching very well. Drese and Armas have shown flashes of some decent stuff. It's a damn shame that the rotation is pitching its heart out while the defense and the bats consistently fail them.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Free Fallen

You know, we lost another one run game tonight. And of course, I'm crushed. Why do I care so much?

Guzman sucks so bad. He's not the entire reason we lost, but the dude doesn't deserve to start even at AAA. He just flat out SUCKS right now. He's awful at the plate. He half-asses it in the field. Why is he even wasting a roster spot?

If he catches the ball on Schneider's throw to second to try to catch Chipper Jones stealing, then Chipper is out by a mile. Inning over - end of threat. Instead, the jerkoff drops the throw and Chipper eventually comes around to score.

Join Chris Needham, myself and the rest of the disillusioned Nats fans on the Wilson Bridge as we try to convince ourselves not to jump.

Maybe we'll take up a collection to try to fund the rest of Guzman's contract so the rat bastard can be released. I'm in for a hundred.

Summer Reading



Attention Nats hitters!

You have an assignment. Read this by the end of the day.

And then go out there and STOP SUCKING!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Double-Barrel Buckshot

ATL 3, WSH 2 (10 innings)

Grasping at straws

I don't know what to do anymore. It's not like we played particularly well tonight, but we did do enough that we could have and should have won. I mean Livan was outstanding; he threw 105 pitches in eight innings, allowing five hits and one run. His only mistake pitch was drilled for a homer.

The offense wasn't impressive, but it strung together enough consecutive hits to get two runs, which should have been enough with Livan on the mound throwing as well as he was. Nick Johnson was awfully quiet in his first game back, but I think that's to be expected as he adjusts to big league pitching.

Bringing in Cordero in the ninth was probably the right move, despite Livan's fairly low pitch count. Chief hasn't worked very often lately, and keeping him sharp is a priority. Unfortunately, he wasn't sharp, allowing a run in three pitches to three different batters. It's tempting to get mad at him, but since it's only his fourth blown save (and only the second where we eventually lost), I think we can give him a pass.

Ayala continues to infuriate though. He comes in in the 10th with two men on - hits the first batter and walks the second on four pitches, forcing in the winning run. I mean, COME ON! After "balk-off" and "walk" off losses, it's just a matter of time before we lose a game on a catcher's interference ruling.

The worst part is not that we lost, or that we lost first place. It's that we lost a game in pathetic fashion, despite playing well enough to win. That cannot be good for the psyche of the team, which is in the middle of an ungodly slump.

If I were Frank (and thank God, I'm not) I would re-enact that classic scene from Bull Durham. Call all the players into the showers. Throw a load of bats in there, and call them lollygaggers. It's a simple game, after all. You throw the ball; you hit the ball; you catch the ball. Tell them to show up at six in the morning to work on fundamentals. Namely, being patient at the plate and not swinging from your heels trying to hit a six-run homer. Also, it might be good to work on throwing some strikes.

What's our record? 55-45?

How'd we ever win 55?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Posted Without Comment

Today's Post:

"We should win by simple execution," [Nationals hitting coach Tom] McCraw said. "Not home runs. Just base hits, contact. Read the situation. When I walk to home plate and I got a man on third base, I'm not thinking home run. I'm just thinking good solid contact. I shouldn't be jumping or check-swinging, I'm looking for a ball I need to hit."

Friday, July 22, 2005

Fences



Today, the Washington Post published a story revealing that the outfield dimensions were not exactly as advertised. This is something the players had suspected all along, and the spacious confines have really frustrated them. It's even gotten into their heads, which I think has caused them to swing for the fences more.

Frankly, the Nats need to forget about home runs. RFK is what it is, and it's the same for both teams. We should be using the field to our advantage, and focus on making contact and driving balls into the gap, legging them out for doubles and triples. Stop thinking about home runs, guys!

But that got me thinking even harder. What should the dimensions look like at the new park?

Many of may know that the dimensions at Griffith Stadium, home of the original Washington Senators, were very wacky. The left field fence was extremely, extremely deep, while the right field fence was fairly short. In center field, the fence zigzagged to avoid the property of a homeowner.



So how about putting a modified version of Griffith's dimensions in the new ballpark? I overlaid RFK's fences on a drawing of Griffith's fences. Then I drew in fences for the new park.



As you can see, the left field pole would be in the same place as RFK, rather than the ungodly 388 feet of Griffith. I'd extend the left field fence along a similar path as Griffith to a point in center field slightly closer than RFK's 410 feet. After a Griffith-esque jag in center field, the fence would angle toward the right field pole at 320 feet, the same right field dimension as Griffith Stadium.

In addition, the fence height would not be uniform along the whole outfield. I'd have the fences a little higher along the closer power alleys, while keeping them lower in the deep gaps in center. I'd also raise the right field fence a little higher near the pole to compensate for the shorter porch.

The result would be a Griffith-style assymetrical set of dimensions. Straightaway left and right field would be reachable for hitters with power, but there would also be no cheapie homers, especially to center field.

--------------------

I'm off this weekend, traveling to the first of many wedding-related parties and functions. The big day is less than three months from now. Hopefully I come back Monday to a team that's playing a little better.

Miles and miles of heart

Promise

Right now, the Nats look pretty lethargic. They're swinging at bad pitches, not running out hits at full speed, and even just waving their gloves at plays that deserve more effort. I'm not going to single out any player for lack of effort; I don't know what's in their heads. Besides, that's more of a general observation about their lethargy.

Tough streaks do make me appreciate the outstanding effort of guys like Jamey Carroll. He's not even close to the best player on the team. But it's fairly evident he's one of the hardest working. He's always the first player on the field after the visiting team's batting practice. He runs hard to first base. He makes some sparkling plays in the field. He chokes up on his bat to get better control. The man plays the game the right way. All this from a 5'9" 170 pound guy who you might mistake for a dad or a Little League coach.

After tonight's tough loss, I hung around the players parking lot, hoping a player or two would stop to sign autographs, despite the tough loss. Most players just drove on by with their families and significant others -- and it was hard to recognize them in the dark through tinted windows. Some damn fine cars, though!

Jamey Carroll was one of the handful of guys who did stop. He was very gracious, smiling and talking to people while he signed a few autographs. I told him my dad went to the rival of his high-school alma mater. (Which is true, by the way) He responded with a good-natured "booooo" and a smile. I already had his signature, so after that I stood back while he interacted with others. While he was signing, a middle-aged man who was with his daughter spoke up: "Hey Jamey, you guys turn it around, ok?"

Carroll stopped, looked the guy dead in the eye and replied, "We will. Promise."

Thursday, July 21, 2005

A Simple Game

Houston 3, Washington 2



You know, if someone asked you to guess the score of any given Nats game, you couldn't go wrong by guessing 3-2.

It was another one of those games tonight, and once again we were on the short end. I was at this one, and my record in games attended dropped below .500 for the first time this year. Bleh.

If you told a team before a game that the starting pitcher would allow only 2 earned runs over 7 innings, and the bullpen would pick up two perfect innings -- they'd expect to win. Not so with our hapless Nats.

Our pitching was above average, but the bats just couldn't come alive again. Too often with runners on base, Nationals hitters would come to the plate a little too anxious, jumping on pitches too early and either popping up or grounding into double plays. That doesn't even take into account the filthy junk Oswalt was throwing tonight. Only in the ninth inning, once Oswalt was out of the game, did Preston Wilson get ahold of one for a two-run jack.

Fielding was less than desirable too. Baerga's error in the the 5th allowed the first Astros run to score. Preston Wilson was the offensive highlight tonight, but he really makes me nervous in center field. On a long fly ball to center field tonight, he got no jump on the ball. He froze in place for what seemed like several seconds. Then he took a very crooked path back to the fence before thankfully hauling it in.

Interesting lineup Frank put out there tonight. With one exception, I more or less approve. I know Frank's obsessed with alternating righties and lefties, but Ryan Church did not need to be hitting cleanup. Right now I think he's best served either higher or lower in the order, where he can be more of a tablesetter.

But who do you put in his place? Guillen? HA! He was up there hacking again, picking up an 0-4 night, grounding into a double play. The man's in a bit of a funk, I must say. Since he's the only Nat with no hits in four plate appearances tonight, he's the goat. Perhaps I should give it to Baerga for his error that allowed an unearned run, but it's too tempting to rip on the team's most vocal guy when he's struggling.

Bottom line, the hitters have to find a way to win when the pitching gives an above-average effort. The pitchers can't throw two hit shut-outs every day. Something is needed to jump-start the team. I thought that maybe a walk-off victory tonight might be the spark. But alas, we'll have to wait to see what the spark could be.

Thank God I Live In The World Of Zinc

So how'd the Nats do? Bang! Zoom!

Seriously, it was an interesting two days. Tuesday, I had a really good day. I honestly didn't worry about the Nats, and for someone who takes this all way too seriously, it was a welcome break. I read and watched regular tv; it was a nice evening. I checked the internet before bed and found out we won. Tuesday was a good day.

It was real hard to stay away yesterday. I'll admit to checking a lot of blogs/message boards, even reading Svrluga's chat. I was able to stay away from the game, although I worried about it the whole evening. Turns out we lost what seems to have been a painful one. And ¡Livan! may be lost for the year. ¡Not good!

And apparently he's pissed at someone in the organization. If he quits out of spite for someone or something, then I may have to take another hiatus to calm my rage. If he is, in fact, done - it makes you wish that you still had Zach Day, eh?

I guess the moral of the story is, the less I worry, the better the Nats do. I'll be there tonight, though. Maybe I should drink heavily so I don't worry too much.

Monday, July 18, 2005

ON HIATUS

For at least the next two games, I will be AWOL. I need to crawl back from the edge of Nats-fueled baseball depression.

I'm doing this for my own good, not to somehow throw a fit and "punish" the team.

Insert string of expletives

Worst team in NL 5, Worst playing team in MLB 4

This is it. This has to be rock bottom.

A horrendous, horrendous game all around. And there's plenty of blame for everyone.

I don't have the stomach to give you an accurate recap. But here are the lowlights that stick out in my mind.

Tony Armas leaves the game in the 3rd because of dizziness and dehydration. Hello? It's called WATER!

Eischen comes in relief and does a fine job, but Frank leaves him out one batter two long.

Preston Wilson stumbles and blows a chance in center field that Wilky would have had.

Guzman is an absolute sack of warm monkey excrement. He made three outs on two bunts that a Little Leaguer should be ashamed of. He made a fielding error that probably led to another run. He needs to sit on the bench NOW.

Vinny's fielding error let in the winning run. He's hurting bad.

Frank made the ultimate bonehead. Bottom nine. Down 1 run. Two men on. One man out. Ryan Church at bat. Left-handed pitcher on the mound. Last time he was faced with this situation, he hit a three run home run!!!!!!!!!!

And what does Frank do? HE BATS JAMEY CARROLL! I mean, I love Jamey Carroll. But he doesn't have the pop you need in that situation. Frank, I respect you, but you really boggle the mind. Whose bone does Church have to smooch in order to get a chance to prove himself?! You'll replace Church with Carroll but you won't replace Guzman with Carroll?

This was sloppy, sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. Everyone should be embarrassed. Even the crowd tonight should be embarrassed; it seemed like a tomb on TV. The leaders on this team need to step up and call everyone to account. This is where the team needs to realize it's not a joke. The Braves are for real. The rest of the NL East is not a joke.

And I'm in a rage right now. Depending on how much I think about it, I alternate between uncontrollable anger and tears.

And that's why I'm going to take the next two days off. I'm not even going to expose myself to anything Nats related for at least the rest of the Colorado series. I may even get rid of my Thursday Astros tickets if I'm still hurting.

I need this rest for my sanity. I'll see you all on the flip side.

Sometimes I really resent that the Nats have made me care so much.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

This team's in a legit funk...

Beermakers 5, Natty Lites 3



In late May, the Nationals came home from a 2-7 road trip to Toronto, Cincinnati and St. Louis and went on a tear, winning 14 of the next 16 games.

Washington comes home tomorrow, having lost 8 of the last 11 games. This time, the stakes are much higher. It's a much shorter 7 game homestand this time around, and afterwards, Washington sets out for a 6 game road trip against division rivals.

To be honest, I feel lucky to have won a single game out of the four game stand in Milwaukee. Sure, Paul "Anus" Schrieber jobbed us out of a win on Friday night, but it's not like the Nats played well.

This series has magnified how small Washington's margin for error can be. Earlier in the year, the margin was still fairly small, but the Nats were getting the little things done, clicking on all cylinders.

Thursday, John Patterson pitched extremely well again, but the offense only managed two runs on four hits, and the bullpen couldn't hold it - again.

Friday, Washington got screwed out of a win, but some sloppy play allowed the Brewers to get back in the game. Preston Wilson's misplay of a single in the outfield turned the hit into a double (in my opinion at least). And Guzman's error was a play the Wilky missed at base. That play which Nick Johnson would have made, allowed a runner to reach that would eventually score.

Saturday, Washington won, but Gary Bennett did his best to give the game away, allowing a wild pitch to go through his legs on what would have been an inning ending strikeout. The tying run scored on that play.

Sunday, Vidro let a grounder go through the wickets in the first inning, allowing the Brewers rally to continue. Two unearned runs would eventually score. In the eighth with a man on, Jose Guillen worked a 3-0 count from a pitcher who hadn't yet thrown a strike since entering the game. Yet the guy swings a 3-0 pitch way out of the zone! Why?!

The Nats did not play particularly well in any of the four games in Milwaukee. But they've had a knack of pulling out poor-played games because of their success of doing a lot of little things well. That wasn't the case this weekend.

Washington desperately needs Nick Johnson back at first base for both defensive and offensive reasons. All those calling Nick a wuss for not recovering quicker, please go away and shove it. He's scheduled to be evaluated tomorrow, and hopefully we get some good news.

Jose "I used to be called Pops" Guillen had been whining about how guys weren't playing hurt. Well, if he's as hurt as he claims to be, maybe he'd better sit down for a game or two. Despite his home run today, he hasn't been playing well. He's made some poor decisions at the plate, failed to run out some grounders, and he's (understandably) lost his temper with the umps.

After our 2-7 road trip in May, Tom Boswell wrote an uncharacteristically lucid column. I blogged about it here. Every team goes through rough stretches, especially on the road. Fortunately, the Nats are still in first by 1.5 games after a stretch of horrific baseball.

The Nats went through a rough stretch in May, and Washington responded well coming home to RFK. They have a chance to do that again tomorrow, and this time the stakes are a lot higher.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Paul Schrieber is a miserable sack of horse excrement

Home plate ump Paul Schrieber, he of the game ending balk fame, just tossed Guzman for arguing balls and strikes.

That's his right. But immediately after tossing him, he waved "bye-bye" to Guzman in a smug, priggish fashion.

Say anything you want about how he calls the games (which I have) but an umpire displaying that kind of attitude is disgraceful.

I'm surprised he didn't smack Guzman and then demand some more peanuts.

It's 3-2 Nats in the bottom of the sixth.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Shot through the heart...

EDIT 12:34 AM: After I've had time to think about this, I've come to the conclusion that Washington should have played better, and that's what is truly to blame for this loss - the struggling bullpen and the anemic hitting, for example. But it's sooooo infuriating to lose on a bullcrap call like that. So read on for my foaming at the mouth reaction.

MIL 3+1, WAS 3

...and Paul Schrieber's to blame.

I only saw bits and pieces of this game, so I can't say anything too insightful. But I did see the end, which was one of the most bizzarre endings of a game I've ever seen. I need to post this now while I'm still hot and pissed off.

In the bottom of the 10th inning, with the score tied 3-3 and one out, the Brewers had Chris Magruder on third base and Rickie Weeks on first. Robinson brought in Mike Stanton to face the lefty Lyle Overbay.

Before Stanton threw a pitch, he whipped a throw over to first base which had Rickie Weeks picked off cleanly. But first base umpire Paul Schrieber called a balk on Stanton, which forced in the winning run. Stanton immediately got up and got in Schrieber's face, an aggressive reaction for a 38-year old veteran.

If I read Schrieber's lips correctly, he claimed that Stanton stepped toward home while throwing to first, which if true would definitely be a balk. Problem is, Stanton clearly stepped toward first, although he didn't necessarily step directly in front of his body. If one draws an imaginary line from the mound at 45 degree angle from first base toward the baseline, Stanton stepped on that line. Only the most hard-assed, letter of the law umpire would even consider calling that a balk - and even then it's borderline at best.

Horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible call. The Nats got screwed by Paul Schrieber.

I know it's real nasty of me to do this, but here are some links of interest on Paul Schrieber.

Under Investigation
A Wildly Inconsistent Ump
Ejects Snow Despite Admitting He Didn't See the Play
Ejects Nevin for "showing him up"
Another Complaint from a Giants Fan


Jim Thome tells Schrieber how much he sucks

There, I feel better.

Unfortunately, as Chris Needham pointed out here, the Nats did not play well again, and this call is going to take away from that fact. Sure, we got two runs in the first, but it took three hits to get the second one after Wilky's leadoff homer. Like I said, I missed a lot of the game, but the Nats missed some decent opportunities to score. Jose Guillen is the goat, going 0-5 and leaving 4 runners on base. For a guy who was on his teammates about stepping up, that's pretty bad. Ayala wasn't good either; he was saddled with the loss and just isn't holding up out there. He's overworked and needs a rest.

Even the fielding wasn't sharp. Wilkerson's rustiness at first showed on a play in the bottom of the first inning, when a throw from Guzman one-hopped over his glove, allowing the inning to continue. The error was charged to Guzman, but Nick Johnson would have made that play. An unearned run would eventually score.

Washington is now 52-38, 1.5 games up on Atlanta. The Nats have lost 7 of the last 9, and only one of those losses was charged to the starting pitcher. Our bullpen needs a rest, and our bats need to wake up.

A loss that ends so roughly either fires up a team and makes them pissed off - or depresses them further. We'll have to see what happens. [sarcasm] Good news, Schrieber's behind the plate tomorrow. [/sarcasm]

A Crisis Of Confidence

MIL 4, WAS 2



In the second inning of yesterday's game, it appeared the Preston Wilson trade was working out very well. Wilson took a 3-1 pitch and crushed it into the outfield seats for a solo home run in his first at bat as a National.

But except for another run on a walk, single and groundout, that's all the offense Washington could muster. And for the second time in his last two starts, the bullpen squandered another very strong performance by John Patterson. He struck out a career-high nine batters in six plus innings, allowing two runs on seven hits. Gary Majewski was able to get out of a jam after relieving Ayala in the seventh, but allowed a two-run go-ahead double to Damian Miller in the eighth.

Some might be tempted to conclude from Wilson's homerun that this was a good trade for the Nats. I have little doubt that Wilson will play well and contribute to the team. But stepping back and viewing the whole picture, it's very apparent that the "malaise" of the Washington bats (as St. Barry described it) is only one of several problems. Washington has lost six of the last eight games. And in five of those losses, the bullpen gave up the go-ahead run.

Preston Wilson may prove to be a valuable member of the Nationals. But Mike Stanton is certainly not the answer to bullpen's problems. Given the struggles of the bullpen in addition to the offense, I still wonder if we wouldn't have been better off spending our trading assets on a workhorse arm for the pen.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Tap the Rockies

Now that the All-Star break is over, I suppose I should come out of hiatus and comment on the rash of moves made by Jim Bowden yesterday. Let's start with the smaller ones.

Junior Spivey and Tony Blanco were moved to the disabled list, both necessary moves. Spivey broke his wrist in the batting cage, and Blanco was stricken with vertigo/overall suckiness. To take their spots, the Nationals activated Ryan Church from the DL (we'll get to that later) and signed veteran lefty reliever Mike Stanton.

LOOGY

Mike Stanton had been a key player in the post-season successes of the Yankees over the past several years. However, he is 38 years old and was released by New York after posting a 7.07 ERA in 28 appearances. That's real bad for a reliever.

But let's be frank. The Nationals bullpen is wearing down. The overuse of Ayala and Majewski was one of the biggest factors in dropping 5 of the 7 games before the All-Star break. We're only responsible for paying Stanton the league minimum, so I say it's worth a shot. I'm not holding my breath expecting great things, but Stanton's worth a try. Stranger things have happened, especially this year. Bowden should realize, however, that Stanton is not the ultimate solution. We a need a durable arm in the pen that can take the load off Ayala and Majewski. I would have rather traded for someone like Eddie Guardado.

That brings us to the big move. Washington sent Zach Day, J.J. Davis and a player to be named later or cash to the Colorado Rockies for Preston Wilson and cash. This was a move rumored to be in the works for a while, but it finally went through last night.



I'm going to try to run through my opinion on this one as rationally and coherently as I can. Here goes:

On paper, looking at value, this is a pretty good trade for a fantasy baseball league. Zach Day, despite tremendous potential, has not really performed this year. J.J. Davis, frankly, is going to have a rough time becoming a full-time major league player. The Nats get Preston Wilson, a guy who hit 36 HRs with 141 RBIs in 2003 and was a 30-30 man in 2000.

However, a good fantasy baseball trade does not always equate with a good real-life trade. Let's look at the Spivey/Ohka trade, for one. I don't think this trade made sense on paper. But I supported it, because Bowden dealt a position of strength (back of the rotation starting pitcher) for a position of then-weakness (everyday second basemen). And picking up Ryan Drese negated much of the loss to the rotation. So far, despite Spivey's injury, this one worked out pretty well.

Good job, Churchy, now sit your ass on the bench!

Let's look at what this trade means to the Nationals. Essentially, it pushes Ryan Church to the bench or a further marginalized platoon role. And Wilson is not much of an upgrade (if any) over Ryan Church.

Church is five years younger than Wilson and does not have the gimpy knees that Wilson does.

Church is hitting .325 and slugging .544 this season, despite playing half his games in the best pitchers park in the major leagues.

Wilson is hitting .258 and and slugging .491, despite playing in Coors Field, one of the best hitters parks in the major leagues.

Although there's not a reliable way to measure these things, many would agree that Church is a little faster and a little more reliable on defense.

Sure, Wilson has 15 HRs and 47 RBIs this year, compared to Church's 7 and 28. But 10 of those HR and 34 of those RBIs have come in Coors Field.

My point is this. There's not a significant difference between Church and Wilson. A Day/Wilson trade looks good on paper, but when you force Church to the bench, what have you really gained? As I pointed out on a message board, the bench is improved by adding Church. But the starting lineup is not significantly better - and perhaps it's worse - by adding Wilson.

The only caveat to this depends on how badly Nick Johnson is hurt. While he's out, I assume that Wilkerson will move to first base and Wilson and Church will be in CF and LF. But unless Nick is out for a significant amount of time, that still pushes Church to the bench when NJ comes back.

An outfield bench upgrade, somewhere we're already fairly deep, is not an effective use of Zach Day as a trading chip. The Nats would have been much better served trying to find either an infield bat or a bullpen arm that is more durable, i.e. "Everyday" Eddie Guardado.

At best, I feel Bowden has not improved the team, but only changed the offensive emphasis. We used to be a contact, gap-hitting offense. With Wilson in the lineup, we'll be relying more on the big blow. Even if Wilson can deliver, I'm not so sure that kind of offense is a smart strategy in the cavernous RFK Stadium.

Let me say in closing that I desperately hope I'm wrong. Wilson could be a huge addition that makes the difference in reaching the playoffs. However, I just think we could have got better value for our trade.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Limping into the break...

Phils 5, Nats 4 (12 innings)

I don't even want to talk about this one; it hurts too much. Everyone's been talking about how sweet our bullpen has been this year. Well, we had a 4-2 lead in the eighth in this one, and the bullpen blew it. The bullpen nearly blew it Friday. And the bullpen let up the winning run yesterday.

Sure, we gotta score more runs. But we're going to have a full-strength lineup after the break for probably the first time in two months. But the bullpen needs some rest and some more confidence. Another arm wouldn't hurt either. You hear that, Bowden? ANOTHER ARM, not Preston "Coors" Wilson.

This blows. The Nats need three days off, and so do I.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

What Goes Around...

Phils 1, Nats 0



Yesterday, the Nationals scratched out a win in a sloppy, slugfest - a game we almost never win.

Today, the Nats played a mirror image of the May 18th game, a 1-0 win over the Brewers in which both starter pitched brilliantly, and the home team scratched out a single run in the bottom of the ninth.

Unfortunately, the Nats were on the short end of the deal today. John Patterson was outstanding, striking out eight over seven innings of two-hit shutout ball. Cory Lidle was equally as impressive for the Phils, allowing only five hits to Washington, who only got one runner to second base - and that was on a wild pitch.

Hector Carrasco held the Phils at bay in the eighth, but allowed two hits in the ninth. Frank ordered an intentional walk to load the bases with one out and set up the double-play possibility. David Bell came up for the Phils and fought off three 1-2 pitches. The fourth 1-2 pitch was a decent one, but Bell got under it and lifted it to left for a game winning sac fly.

There's not much you can say, really. Patterson pitched brilliantly, but the offense took the night off. In a game like that, there's no margin for error, and the Phillies pushed one run across. And that's the ballgame.

Cheeseburger In Paradise

Nats 8, Phils 7

Gracias a Dios

Well, that was interesting. Too interesting. Lately I've been chronicled Nats games that are typical; one runs wins, outstanding bullpen work picking up an anemic offense - you know the drill.

Not tonight. It was a sloppy, slugfest. And who led the way? The very man I bemoaned as a cleanup hitter, Cheeseburglar Baerga. You might think he made me look bad with his 2-4 night with 3 RBIs and 3 runs scored. Maybe. But then again, tonight Frank had the tremendous foresight not to bat him cleanup.

Baerga first made his presence felt in the top of the second inning. He singled on a sharp liner to center. With two out, Matt Cepicky doubled to the wall in left field. Good ol' Baerga turned on the jet engines, spinning his wheels faster than the Roadrunner but moving slower than molasses on a cold day. The throw to beat Baerga by a mile, but catcher Todd Pratt couldn't handle the ball, and Baerga flopped onto the plate to score the Nationals first run. Baerga walked back to the dugout to guffaws from his teammates over his comical display. Loaiza mimed a little imitation of Baerga's running style. HI-larious.

Would you like fries with that?

The Nats finally got a average/mediocre effort from Ryan "I Desperately Need A Nickname" Drese, as opposed to his previous starts of either spectacular or terrible. He took a shutout into the fifth inning, but he walked five batters and danced through trouble all night.

Washington got three more in the third inning, due partially to Robinson Tejada's wildness and partially to another clutch hit from Cepicky. In fact, Cepicky would be the offensive star of the game if it wasn't for the pure shock of 3 RBIs from the Cheeseburglar.

The Nats got a run in the fourth on an RBI single from Guillen. But they failed to score any more, despite having the bases loaded with one out. A few more runs there would have made life easier.

Drese faltered in the fifth, allowing three runs on an Abreu sac fly and a two-run double from rookie Ryan Howard. This was the first inkling the night would be a long one; the Phils were hitting the ball all over the place.

But guess who got those three runs back? Yup, the Cheeseburglar. With Guillen and Carroll on, Baerga deposited a line drive into the petunias in left field. Would you like fries with that, Mister Baerga? 8-3, Nats.

Drese didn't last the sixth inning. Frank yanked him after he allowed a leadoff hit to Todd Pratt. Joey Eischen came in, sucked on it, and he hated it. Our old friend Inning-Endy Chavez tripled in Pratt and scored on a hit by Tomas Perez.

The overworked Ayala came in and allowed Perez to score on a sac fly. 8-6, Nats. With runners on second and third and two outs, rookie Ryan Howard doubled off the wall in center field. Lofton scored easily, but Burrell (who walked earlier in the inning) was gunned out on a perfect relay from Wilkerson by Jamey Carroll. Another beautiful defensive play that saved the game. 8-7, Nats.



It still wasn't easy. Majewski came on in the seventh, but struggled. It took a rundown play between third and home to help him get out of the seventh inning. He was much better in the eighth, though, getting the side in order.

"Chief" came on in the ninth, of course. He made it interesting, of course. Ryan Howard lead off, hitting a high fly ball to center. He thought it was a home run, pumping his fist as he trotted to first. But Wilkerson hauled it in with he back against the centerfield wall. Crisis averted. The next two outs came easier. Chief gets save #31. Nats win.

I really feel the inclination to complain about this one. After all, we led by 5 runs twice and still nearly blew it. But the fact is, we scored eight runs. That doesn't happen often. Drese didn't pitch great, and the bullpen really showed its fatigue. And we still won. Good enough.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Un-stinking-believable

Mets 3, Nats 2 - 11 innings

You know what? I'm not ashamed to say I'm f---ing embarrassed right now. This Washington team has put on such a pathetic offensive display in this series against the Mets. Actually, it's the damn Mets who should be embarrassed that they didn't sweep! I don't know how we ever won a single game in the series.

And you know what cost Washington at least one of the games? Lineup construction! Frank, I know you're a hall of famer, but why in the name of Abner Doubleday would you put Baerga/Wil Cordero at cleanup? Put Vinny there. Put Guillen there. Hell, even put Schneider or Byrd there. But don't put those two there, especially Cordero. This guy is so bad that his supposed "hot streak" didn't even get him close to a .200 batting average. And you're batting him cleanup? On what f---ing planet is your mind, Frank? If they must be in the lineup, sixth is the highest they should hit.

This should be your biggest clue, Frank. On two successive nights, the Mets walked the number three hitter intentionally to load the bases so they could face the pathetic cleanup hitter. Both times there were two outs, so it had nothing to do with a double play. That should be like a giant f---ing brick in the face, Frank, THEY SUCK!

Of course, there are still lots of different ways we could have and should have won a few of those games. But it's so blindingly infuriating when something so basic is screwed up.

After getting swept by the lowly Reds, Frank said, in his defense, "All I can do is make out a lineup, and hopefully go out and perform. We're not performing, right now, at any level."

Well this week, Frank, the players didn't perform. But you sure has hell didn't make out a lineup that belonged on a Major League field.

A Thousand Monkeys

I'm one of Frank's biggest defenders. Just a month ago, I wrote this long treatise defending him.

But take a look at today's lineup:

Wilkerson – RF
Carroll – SS
Vidro – 2B
Baerga – 1B
Castilla – 3B
Schneider – C
Byrd – CF
Cepicky – LF
Armas – P

Um, WHAT?!

EDIT: Scratched due to bronchitis is the word on Guillen. Still no reason to bat the bloated carcass of Baerga in the cleanup spot, though.

No "I" In "TEAM"

From The Washington Post today: "Guillen Wanted Payback"

For the first three months of the season, outfielder Jose Guillen has been welcomed by the Washington Nationals, both because of his bat and his apparent desire to win. But Tuesday night, after being hit by a pitch in the Nationals' 3-2 victory over the New York Mets, Guillen had a flare-up that several Nationals players and coaches said concerned them.

Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez hit Guillen with a pitch in the first inning, and Guillen -- according to several sources -- became incensed that the Nationals didn't retaliate. Several sources said he had a confrontation in the dugout prior to the bottom of the second inning with pitcher Esteban Loaiza and catcher Brian Schneider.

I'm one of Guillen's biggest fans, but the dude has got to realize that he's not the only player on this team. I tend to agree with him that payback was in order Tuesday night, but the team comes first. It sometimes is not the smartest thing to hit someone in a close game. Along the same lines, he needs to get over his obsession with RFK. It's not easy to hit home runs there. So he needs to stop trying and swing for contact, not homers.

Frank, time to step up and earn your paycheck. Have a man-to-man with Guillen. Settle him down.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Superman He Is Not

Mets 5, Nats 3

It's been a long night for many reasons, of which the Nats are just one. So I'll be very brief for now.

I got a late invite to the game, and I sat in the outfield on College Night, so my powers of observation were very limited. But I do know a few things.

1) As much as he may try to prove otherwise, Livan is not Superman. Sometimes you may have to score more than three runs for him.

2) Wil Cordero batting cleanup is an obvious reason why scoring more than three runs was not easy tonight. And don't blame it on injuries. The rotting corpse of Cristian Guzman would be a better fit in the cleanup hole. In all seriousness, why not put Vinny there? Tonight, Jamey Carroll would have been a better fit than Cordero at cleanup. This is what should have been the top of the lineup: Wilk, Carroll, Vidro, Guillen as 1-2-3-4.

3) Guillen is pissed about something. He should have had Floyd's single to right in the sixth. Maybe it's just me, but I thought he was dogging it when I saw the play. He also left five guys on base. That's right. Five! Three of them were in scoring position. I think he might be pressing or something. We'll be back with more observations from Captain Obvious after these messages.

4) Washington has lost only 12 games at home. I've been to 10 total games. Five of those are Nats losses. Conclusion? Time for me to stay away from RFK for a while.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I Am Your Daddy

DC 3, NY 2

Soy el padre de Pedro

Well, that was (almost) exactly what the doctor ordered. A day after the Nats dropped a game largely because the bullpen was overworked, Loaiza was superb. He took a shutout into the ninth, alowwing only six hits and one run while striking out eight. Chief Cordero did his thing, working out of jam in the ninth to nail down save number 30. That's it. Every other pitcher in the pen got the night off. We needed that badly.

The Nats employed their trademark offensive style again. Petey Martinez pitched pretty darn well, but in the second Castilla led off with a double; Cepicky pushed him to third with a well placed grounder; Schneider snuck one past the glove of Marlon Anderson to score the run. 1-0 Nats.

And look who's back! In the seventh, good ol' Vidro doubled in what proved to be a huge insurance run, later scoring on Guillen's single.



Trademark Nats. Scratch out a run early; get to the starter late once he tires. Hold the opponents at bay with quality pitching. Win by one run.

Wonderful win. Yesterday, the fatigue showed. And it was probably the right decision to rest the bullpen, even at the expense of the game. But that only works when the team responds the next day. The Nats sure did that today, beating one of the top starters in the game. Now, the pen is rested for tomorrow, and that will go a long way in ensuring a successful run up to the All-Star break.

¿Quién es su padre?

I guess the Nats are my daddy

Monday, July 04, 2005

Bang, Fizzle

Mets 5, Nats 2

Well, that stunk. Just not a good effort today. And it's a damn shame, because a huge crowd of 44K+ turned out at RFK today.

Two observations. First, we got outhustled. Twice, Mets runners took second base on routine singles. In the second inning, Marlon Anderson took second as Guillen came up slowly with his line drive single. Granted, Guillen was standing on the warning track, but if he comes up with it quickly, he can gun down the runner. In the ninth, Mike Cameron hit a weak grounder up the middle that Wilkerson also fielded slowly. Cameron took second on him. Again, if he comes up quickly, Cameron doesn't take second.

Neither play directly figured in the outcome of the game, but I think they were indicative of the type of effort the Nats put in today. Although Sunny Kim (3 R allowed in the 9th) should be Capitol Punishment's Lame Duck, I'd be tempted to give it to Wilky for his lollygagging and two strikeouts. It would not shock me if Wilky and Guillen were fined by Frank for those plays.

Second, I would not have brought in Ayala in the seventh. He had not been pitching all that well of late. Majewski is the only pitcher who didn't work yesterday. So unless he's sitting out for a specific reason today, he's the guy Frank should have gone to in the seventh. EDIT: Apparently there was a conscious effort not to use Majewski today due to fatigue. Fair enough.

You win some, you lose some. That's baseball. But this is one we should have had.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The State Of Our Union Is Strong



At the mathematical halfway point of the Nationals' inaugural season, it's time to step back and evaluate the big picture and what the Nats have accomplished this year. I'm not going to get into numbers and formulas; if you want that, head over to The Nats Blog. They do a great job at that stuff. I'm going to write more generally.

After 81 games, the Nats are 50-31. If anyone predicted this before the season, step forward so I can give you a prize or call you a damn dirty liar. The most optimistic among us would have been thrilled with 40 wins at this point in the season.

I think it comes down to the core group of guys this team has. Schneider, Wilkerson, Vidro, Johnson, Cordero - all these guys (among others) were part of a team that was neglected, and frankly, screwed by Major League Baseball. Playing over 100 games on the road forced them to make inhumane roadtrips from Puerto Rico to Seattle. They had minimal support in Montreal, and that wasn't necessarily the cities fault. MLB's abandonment of the franchise gave the city very little hope.

All this crap they dealt with must have really bonded this core group. They were the orphans of baseball. In the off-season, the franchise added a bunch of additional castoffs. Jose Guillen was run out of Anaheim after his run-in with Crybaby Scioscia. Esteban Loaiza hadn't pitched well in New York, and his services were not highly sought after. Vinny Castilla was considered a product of Coors Field. Even the maligned Cristian Guzman has made some stellar plays in the field. Carlos Baerga and Wil Cordero weren't getting any looks from other major league teams, but they have been solid clubhouse leaders.

And Washington was the city that was spurned by baseball. Two teams left the District, and baseball fans in the area were forced to attend games at the den (Camden Yards) of the spawn of Satan (Angelos) if they wanted to see live baseball.

Moving the orphaned Expos to the city that baseball forgot was a match made in heaven. The size of the crowds for which the team plays has increased exponentially. Soon, the franchise will have an owner to build an economic base. And Washington has been unified by the magic of Major League Baseball. The Nationals go out and play on a near-daily basis. Caps with the pretzel W have sprouted up across the metro area. The nation's capital had been without baseball for 34 years and now it's the center of the best baseball story in the nation.

Skeptics say that this team can't keep it up. Well, even fanboys like me and Boswell will be shocked if the Nats finish with 100 wins, which what they're currently on pace to do. A lot of things have gone the Nationals way; we've got a lot of breaks and a lot of timely, clutch performances. And if you crunch the numbers and statistics, we shouldn't be 19 games over .500.

But at this point, we've accumulated so many wins that it would take a monumental collapse not finish at least close to .500. And if the Nats only win 31 of the remaining 81 games, they'd finish the season at .500. I can't believe that a team this focused and determined isn't going to lose that many games the rest of the way.

Even the most optimistic fan could have only reasonably hoped for that record. But winning only half the remaining games would put the Nats at about 90 wins, which very well may be enough to make the playoffs.

Yep, the state of Nationals baseball is more than strong.

El Jefe y el Gran Caballo



Congratulations to Chad Cordero and Livan Hernandez for making the All-Star team. They both deserve it greatly.

Although it's a damn crime either Nick Johnson or Jose Guillen aren't at least on the final-man ballot.

Lean On Me

Nats 5, Cubs 4 (12 inn.)



All year long, Chad Cordero had been picking up the Nats. He had blown only 2 saves all year, and in only two of those situations the Nats actually lost. Today, "Chief" blew another save. And like he had been doing for the rest of the team, today, the team picked up the "Chief".

Leading 2-0 in the ninth, Chief got two quick outs on deep fly balls to Wilkerson. Burnitz blooped a single, and Aramis Ramirez drilled an inside pitch into the left field bleachers. Tie game.

The Nats went quietly in the 10th, but in the bottom of the inning, Brian Schneider came up absolutely huge, gunning down Corey Patterson stealing second for his second caught stealing of the game. In both instances, only a perfect throw could nab the runner, and Schneides stepped it up again. Humongous plays by the rock solid catcher.

In the top of the 11th, Wilkerson doubled in two runs, adding a couple RBIs to two spectacular catches in the outfield.

But Carrasco also blew the save, allowing two runs in the bottom of the inning. By this point, the Wrigley faithful had predictibly worked themselves into a frenzy. Only some clutch pitching by Joey "Suck On It" Eischen got the Nats out of the inning with only a tie 4-4 score.

But with two outs in the top of the 12th, Schneides drilled a pitch into the stands to put the Nats ahead to stay. Eischen got the Cubs in order to cement the win.

This was a tremendous game, rivaling the pine tar game in Anaheim for excitement. I'm running out of clichés to describe this team. But that's exactly what they are, a team. No one guy carries the club. Chad Cordero has been tremendous, but he doesn't have to be. Today he wasn't, and Brian Schneider and Brad Wilkerson stepped up. An ability to scratch out wins is what makes me so confident about the Nats, and it's what makes them so fun to watch.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Vidro in the Carolina League

Potomac 7, Kinston 1

I made the drive to Potomac to see Vidro on his rehab assignment. I was able to get his autograph on my team ball, bringing my total to 12. He was very gracious, signing for the half dozen people or so who were waiting. I asked him how his leg was feeling, and he said "Much better, thank you." I also got Mike Hinckley on a card; he was the only card of a Potomac National I had.

It was only one game, but Vidro didn't do anything to inspire confidence. He hit hard choppers to first base in his first two at-bats, walked in his third at-bat and struck out looking in his fourth at-bat. His runs to first seemed to have the slightest of subtle limps. That probably doesn't mean anything though, it's not like he had great knees to begin with. Vidro's got a few rehab games left; I'm sure he'll iron things out.

The P-Nats hit four home runs by Frank Diaz, Greg Thissen, Josh Whitesell and Chad Chop. Devin Perrin pitched very well for Potomac as well, scattering two hits over 7 innings of shut-out pitching.

Vidro went 0-3 on a very sticky, extremely humid night at the ballpark. But it was baseball, and there are worse ways to spend an evening for 10 bucks.

EDIT: I forgot to mention the most entertaining part of the evening. With two out in the top of the first inning, Kinston manager Luis Rivera, the former Red Sox and Expos infielder, was thrown out for arguing balls and strikes. From my angle, it looked like he might have had a point, umpire Roger Wolfe was giving very low and very high strikes. Wolfe let Rivera argue, but threw him out when the first obscenity was uttered. After he was run, though, Rivera went ballistic, cussing a blue streak all over the place. He covered home plate with dirt, then walked to the dugout. As the ump was cleaning the plate, Rivera came back out to yell at him for another minute. Very entertaining to observe so close up.

¡Livan! the Billy Goat

Nats 4, Cubs 3



I missed most of this one. But I'm not sure I would have had much to say; it was just another exciting one-run Nats win. We've won 21 of the last 27 and now stand 17 games over .500. WOW!

If you want a blogger recap, try Nationalz.com.