Friday, April 28, 2006

Drinking, drinking, drinking!

I woke up this morning to a five-game losing streak. That, of course, upset me. Then I read this gem from Tipsy McLeatherpants.

"We're just in a pitching nightmare," General Manager Jim Bowden said before the game. "We need a [fill-in] starter for [Thursday]. We need a starter for Sunday. Our ERA's over 5. We can talk about all the problems of this team; you have to pitch."

Pitching, pitching, pitching, indeed! Last year it took him until September to run out of pitchers. It's not even April, and he's duplicated his feat in 2006.

Instead of writing my own diatribe, I would like to associate myself with the statements by the good gentleman from Capitol Punishment. He perfectly captures what we're all thinking.

Fire Bowden.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Pack your bags, Jim and Tony!

Since the news of the Lerners as new owners broke around noon on WUSA, the report has been challenged by Major League Baseball and Jeff Smulyan. Below are my updates.

UPDATE 3: On WUSA's 5 p.m. news, Brett Haber is standing by his story, saying MLB simply wants to control the news cycle. Haber says he has confidence in his two sources. Smulyan was not mentioned as a source, but as someone who had also heard the news.

UPDATE 2: Smulyan now denies confirming the Lerners as the new owners. But two things should be noted here. First, Smulyan doesn't exactly deny what WUSA reported that he said. Second, as an ownership candidate, he has every incentive to suck up to MLB. If he still wants a shot to get the team, he has to deny his role in any leak.

UPDATE 1: Now Bob DuPuy has issued a statement calling WUSA's report "baseless" and "there will be an official announcement when the decision is made."

That probably guarantees we won't have an announcement this week, since MLB likes to control information, and they'll hold off just to stick it to WUSA.

Since an ownership candidate is a source for the report, I tend to think that WUSA got a scoop here. But given MLB's statement, we now have to take it with a grain of salt.


My original post is below.
------------


Let's all welcome our new Lerner overlords!



And may the Lerners and Stan Kasten spare no one (Bowden and Tavares) in whipping this franchise into shape.

NOTE: WUSA seems to be the only news outlet willing to report the story. But since Smulyan, an ownership candidate, is a source for the story, I tend to believe it.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Good, The Bad, The Hit and Run

Two games in a weekend. Both on television. Two opposite results. A great win and a really tough loss. I was able to watch a majority of both games this weekend.

Friday was an exciting, encouraging win. Patterson was lights out until faltering slightly in the eighth, while Soriano justified Bowden's man-crush with a pair of solo jacks off Braves ace John Smoltz.

After the Braves tied it in the eighth, the Nats got four runs in the bottom half off Remlinger and Villarreal, capped by Soriano's three run shot. Throw in some tremendous defense, including an over the top diving catch from Zimmerman that was as good as you'll ever see, Friday night was an encouraging one for Nats fans.

After Saturday's rainout, Sunday night was a different story. The only bright spot was Tony Armas' shutout 6 and 1/3 innings. In front of a national TV audience and the lowest announced crowd at RFK since the team moved to DC, the Nats put 14 men on base but could only push across a single run.

It seems to me, a few weeks into the season, that if this team is not hitting home runs in bunches, they're still the same weak-hitting team of 2005 that can't get clutch hits.

And that's why I think the Nationals were too aggressive on the basepaths yesterday. Royce Clayton was caught stealing twice, and I believe both were with Brian Schneider batting. At least one appeared to be a hit and run, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me with Schneider batting. Sure, the pitcher is up next so you want to do everything you can to get a run. But Schneider is not that reliable of a contact hitter and Clayton is not as fast as he used to be.

The one the pissed me off most, though, came in the fifth inning. Johnson was batting with Soriano on second and Vidro on first and one out. With a full count, Frank started the runners. Both were safe, but Nick struck out by putting a bad swing on a pitch around the letters.

I don't know if it was a hit and run, a straight steal, or just starting the runners with a 3-2 count. But it seemed to me that Nick put a bad swing on a pitch he normally would have taken. Perhaps he was protecting the runners or he was distracted by the movement of the runners in his line of vision. Either way, since it was a weak swing, I feel like he struck out as a direct result of the runners moving.

Johnson and Guillen have been hitting pretty well lately. With two on and one out, why not just let them hit rather than getting cute and managing and running yourself out of an inning?

That left first base open with two outs, allowing Bobby Cox to catch Frank with his pants down by intentionally walking Guillen to bring up the rookie Ryan Zimmerman. The inning ended when Bruce Froemming struck out Zimmerman looking.

The bullpen was also a big concern, as Majewski picked up his third blown save and the loss by giving up a three-run homer to Betemit in the eighth. Svrluga's game story focuses on how Frank thought he threw too many fastballs (which he did) and how Schneider and Majewski disagreed.

It also drove me BESERK when Frank used three pitchers to get three outs in the seventh inning (Armas, Stanton, Rodriguez) before bringing in Majewski for the eighth. Stanton and Rodriguez only threw a combined six pitches in the seventh. I didn't necessarily oppose using both Stanton and Rodriguez in that situation, but if Frank bothered to double switch when bringing in one of the two, he could have left one of them in the game instead of pinch-hitting to lead off the bottom of the inning.

Good news: Armas seems to be coming along. Bad news: Everything else. We can't score runs consistently without homers; Frank got outmanaged, and the bullpen fell apart again.

You gotta love this team. Fire Bowden.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tipsy McLeatherpants' Good-Time Drinking and Eating Emporium

Woohoo! Three-game winning streak!



As is often the case with other things in life, I'm a very lazy man when it comes to blogging. So this will be a quick hitter.

Ryan Church

He should have never been sent to AAA to begin with, but the manner in which he was brought back up makes no sense. Neither he nor Watson was playing well a week and a half into the season. Each should have been given more time. But when Watson wins the job on a small sample size, perhaps it's fitting he loses it on a small sample size.

After four games and 14 at bats, Church has three homers, a double, eight RBIs and 14 total bases. Haters might call that a small sample size as well, but I think we can all agree on this: Brandon Watson wouldn't have come close to accomplishing that impressive four-game streak, maybe ever. It's good to have our sacred cow back. Even thought I'm sure Tipsy McLeatherpants will take all the credit.

Jim Bowden

Fire him. And not because of the DUI. Fire him because he's a self-important huckster who cares nothing about the team's long-term health except to the degree it helps him keep his job.

Drunk-driving is not funny. But the obvious snarky jokes ("Well, this explains the Soriano trade," etc) are hilarious.

The Punisher has a good recap.

Ownership

There's no excuse to wait any longer, now the Kasten and Lerner have joined forces. It's been blogged to death, but MLB and the National Disgrace have done damage to this franchise by not naming an owner sooner.

Everyone associated with the management of the franchise, from Tony Tavares to Bowden to the ticket office are doing half-assed jobs knowing that they might be fired the minute new ownership takes control. It was tolerable during the honeymoon period of the Inaugural Season, but now it is damaging the franchise and the fans are the ones that suffer.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Excuses

Mets 3, Nats 1



I didn't watch or listen to the game last night, but I do have this to say: Jose Vidro needs to shut the hell up.

"[The deep fences at RFK] killed us last year, and it's killing us this year," Vidro said. "They didn't change anything. They don't care about it."
Baloney.

First of all, Vidro hit a freaking home run last night.

Second, except for the power alleys, the fences are not that deep. 335 down the line and 408 (the measured distance) to center field are average to moderately deep. It's the 395 distance to the alleys that's real deep.

And besides, both teams have to play under the same conditions. I can think of plenty of warning track fly balls hit by the visiting team last year that would have changed the entire complexion of the ballgame had they been home runs.

In nine games, the Nationals have hit 12 home runs. While that's certainly encouraging on one level, it's a little disconcerting on another. In two games at RFK, the Nats have scored two runs on two solo home runs. And there have been at least three, perhaps more, deep fly balls that home runs in almost any other park.

But the Nats need to start hitting doubles in order to score runs at RFK. Because of the deep fences, the gaps at RFK are huge, perfect for landing a bloop line drive that scoots to the wall. There wasn't a prettier sight in 2005 than Nick Johnson's perfect swing landing a ball into the gap as the RFK crowd exploded.

Playing good fundamental baseball and spraying balls into the gap is the way to score runs at RFK. The Nationals play more games at RFK than any other team, so they're in the best position to use the fences as a weapon. Learn how to hit doubles into the gap, then sit back and laugh as the visiting team's sluggers hit bombs that die at the track. That's what's called a home-field advantage.

It doesn't help that Jim Bowden can't understand this either. If the Nats should tailor their play to their home park, why in the world does Bowden have a hard-on for power hitters? (e.g. Preston Wilson last year and Alfonso Soriano this year) I really believe that making those kind of trades sends a message to the rest of a team that management wants power hitters, and then they start swinging for the fences and flying out.

If the RFK fences are already "in the head" of the Nats hitters, then we're in for a long season. There's nothing that pisses me off more than excuses based on something out of one's control. The Nats need to learn to adapt to what they've got.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow

Mets 7, Nats 1



This post is almost 24 hours late, which may be a precursor to a season-long lack of timeliness on this blog. But I'm OK with that, and my opinion is the only one that counts around here.

I did go to Opening Day yesterday, and I'm ashamed to admit that I was very bored.

First of all, Opening Day was not a sellout. That's just embarrassing. Tampa Bay freaking sold out their opener. I don't know what to attribute this too, but whatever it was, it's embarrassing. I'm inclined to blame a lack of an owner and the offseason difficulties as the reasons for a lack of excitement.

Plus, the team looked like crap. Ramon Ortiz managed to escape unscathed for three innings, but his inability to miss any bats caught up to him in the fourth inning, and it was all downhill from there.

We can't swing the bat, either. Only three hits yesterday, two singles and Soriano's mammoth homerun. Starting Mets pitcher Brian Bannister only struck out one guy (the pitcher) and he didn't walk anyone either. So perhaps the Nats should have shown a little more patience at the plate. (I wish I'd kept a pitch count on the at bats so I could confirm a lack of patience.)

And I can't believe it took until yesterday to notice that Brandon Watson swings like a woman. Ryan Church isn't your typical leadoff guy, but he can hit a lot better than half the people on the team are hitting right now.

Speaking of Soriano, the crowd I was sitting near was really upset with how he played left field. They felt Lo Duca's fifth inning double should have been caught, and he definitely played Reyes' sixth inning hit into a triple by taking a horrific angle to the ball.

It may have been the groupthink effect, but I was definitely pissed as well. Since the pitching and hitting both stunk equally, I'll choose to be mad at the fielding instead!

What's most unsettling, however, is that this Opening Day did not feel like a celebration of a new season with new hopes for baseball in Washington. And I'm not going to blame that on the fans, nor the players. The blame falls squarely on the Nationals front office and Major League Baseball (which right now happen to be one and the same, thank you very much Mr. National Disgrace). And yes, I'm aware that I said I wasn't sure who to blame earlier in the post, but I guess I just made up my mind between now and then!

It's been said before by people more eloquent than I, but the Washington Nationals are still orphans. They have no owner, and they can't sell out Opening Day. Oh, and when Pedro Martinez goes headhunting in the second game of the season, it's the Nationals who suffer the ejections and the suspensions.

Give us an owner!

Free Ryan Church!

Plunk Pedro!

(Fire Bowden)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Nats Dig The Long Ball

Nats 9, Mets 5 (10 inn.)



Well, how 'bout that?! After a 2005 season in which the Nationals sorely lacked power, they got all the runs that mattered last night on dingers from three of the big guys, Johnson, Zimmerman and Guillen, including Dutch's ninth inning blast off Billy Wagner.

I didn't see or hear most of the game, but I did put a radio on my pillow to listen to the extra innings. And I may or may not have woken up my spouse with my celebration of Guillen's go ahead homer. Sources can't confirm whether this actually happened.

Monday, April 03, 2006

I'm going off the rails on a crazy train

Mets 3, Nats 2



This team is going to drive me absolutely bonkers. How do you have runners in scoring position with less than two outs more than once in a game and only score two runs?

And despite what I was yelling at the TV when Zimmerman's double in the eighth touched down, there's no way Alfonso Soriano should have been sent home. And even though sliding headfirst was stupid, Lo Duca still dropped the ball. Tschida blew the call, although his view was probably blocked by Lo Duca's body. But a blown call is no excuse for wasting so many scoring opportunities.

Livan pitched very well, but he blew two different double plays, which may have cost the Nats a precious run on defense.

I was ready to give Vidro props for a great day after his ninth inning single left the bat, but he decided he wanted to win the game right there, and got himself thrown out at second to end the game.

Stupid baserunning. Stupid fielding. Terrible clutch hitting.

The Nats are driving me crazy. Must be baseball season.