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Saturday, May 31, 2008

This lineup STINKS!

What is Manny thinking? Is he on the sauce? Are you kidding me?

I don't even know who's playing yet. But, hey, it worked yesterday. So I'll try it again.

I'm actually more than OK with Harris and Langerhans playing again. If you can't hit (cough, Wily Mo, cough), better to have a non-hitter out there who can at least catch.

Hope Flores is OK. Maybe they'll sit him tonight and play him tomorrow instead of vice versa.

Oh, and put Flores on the "watch for all-star game" list. That's not just me pumping up my boy. If he has a June like his May, he deserves consideration.

UPDATE - Lineups up at the NJ, no Flores and NO ZIMMERMAN again. I worry too daggone much.

UPDATE 2 - Brandon Webb ought to be illegal. Is there anyone on the Nats' horizon who will be close to that good? What a treat it must be to trot him out there every fifth game.

Friday, May 30, 2008

If I am a Diamondback

this lineup doesn't exactly leave me shaking in my boots.

Of course, no other lineup Manny could put out there would either.

Zimmerman out AGAIN. Trying not to freak here. Not very successfully.

On Guzman

Interesting story on Nationals.com today about ol' Cristian and the contract situation. I had to chuckle. Having dealt with agents a time or two in my career, the underlying message is "No, we don't want to talk about this now, we want to get it done. That's why I'm throwing it out there. YOU talk about it."

OK.

Now I'm not a certified seamhead or anything like that. I don't know VOIP, GORP, RORP or DORP or other such stuff. I just know what I see and I would not have a problem with the Nats signing up for two more years of Guzman - assuming it is the healthy, vision improved Guzman.

My reasons:
*He's only 30 and he doesn't suck. In fact, he isn't bad. He won't win a gold glove but he'll do a solid job and he'll hit some. The Nats have much bigger problems than shortstop right now. Many of them.
*Bigger reason: Who would take his place? I don't think Rollins or Reyes are going to fall into the Nats' laps. I don't see the Braves saying, "Oh, what the hell, just take Escobar." I don't think the Padres will give up Khalil Greene for Chad Cordero, if they ever would have even when The Chief was healthy. I don't see anyone on this list who makes me go, "Oh yeah." If there is a ready replacement in this system already, I have no clue who it would be. Feel free to clue me in if I'm missing somebody, as long as you don't say "Ian Desmond."

Now the question - are you OK with this, too? If not, who is next year's SS? If so, what is a fair two-year price? $16 million? I'd hate to see it go any higher than that.

I refuse to talk about yesterday's game, by the way. I refuse to make jokes about how Manning won't get his cup of coffee warmed up. If we wanted a lefty to give up long home runs, we should have just kept Ray King. Maybe there's a reason he got to 29 without seeing the majors. But I'm not going to pile on the poor guy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

He is?

From a story on Nationals.com:

Lastings Milledge is tied with Guzman for the team lead with 20 RBIs.

Really? Zimmerman's 27 don't count? Nick Johnson also has 20. I guess they meant tied for the team lead among healthy players.

Also, did Milledge do something hot-dogish last night? I ask because while drifting in and out of sleep while listening to XM, one of the Padres announcers was hammering him for being a showboat. I couldn't tell if something specific happened or he was talking about Milledge's alleged misdeeds with the Mets (which is my guess). Said something about his teammates not liking it and he hadn't earned the right to do that. I haven't seen any sign of it in the times I've watched this season.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I respectfully disagree

Don't have time to do the whole Post chat today and I never get my question asked anyway. But I do have to comment briefly on this exchange:

Los Angeles: Is Tim Redding likely to be dealt at the deadline? Other than his last start, he's been remarkably consistent and pretty darn good. I could see a contender overpaying for his services, and it's hard to see the Nats saying no in that case.
Chico Harlan: Redding shouldn't be dealt; that's the first thought here. Just because somebody is having a fine season doesn't immediately make him a good trade candidate. Especially because Redding just might be the guy Washington needs at the back of its rotation in, say, 2009. If you trade Redding, you create a needless opening (and Chico goes on with some stats comparing Redding to Johan Santana this year).

Two things:
*Who is on the FRONT end of that rotation in 2009? Do the Nats think their minor leaguers are going to be ready by then? Does Hill find health?
*If the name isn't Zimmerman, Flores, Rauch or Milledge and the offer is right, MAKE THE DEAL. And I could be coerced on Milledge. If someone wants to overpay for Redding, plug the hole with someone and thank him profusely for his service, for his efforts and for the reward. Leaving a "hole" in the rotation isn't going to cost the Nats the pennant.

Just like old times - unfortunately

Night games on the West Coast kill an old bastard like me. I'm usually asleep shortly after the final pitch on East Coast games.
Last night, I managed to stay up and watch the first two innings before fading. I set up the sleep timer on the ol' XM clock radio next to the bed and listened to 2-3 more innings before Z-time took over.

When I was a kid, I'd fall asleep listening to Dan Daniel and that other dude do Senators games. I'd rush downstairs and head outside to get the papers (this was part of the reason I got into newspapers, I thought that kind of job was just so cool. Joke was on me).

I'd race back inside, rip out the sports section *** and frown because the Senators usually lost.

I don't race outside anymore. I boot up. The reaction is usually the same. Well, at least I saw both runs.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Zimmerman out again

Listening to him on MASN with Debbi now.
Why is this making me very uncomfortable? If he misses again tomorrow, I'll be apopleptic, whatever that means. Batshit crazy, I think.

"There's a problem there," Ray Knight just said.
Uh, yeah.

Also, sorry no update on Potomac yet, I'll get to it tomorrow. A guy takes a day out of the office for the holiday and he gets back and has to do work. Amazing how much you pay for one day! Then I get home, it's raining like a sumofabitch and my bay window in the kitchen is leaking. Along with the skylight in the master bathroom. I had to put the towels I just washed to work. Power out a while, satellite out, Internet out. It has been a great night and the Nats aren't even losing yet.

Now Zimmerman is out again. I'm always such an injury pessimist. Hill is pitching tonight, so my angst about him last week was misplaced (or not, we'll see).

Let's hope it is also misplaced about Zimmerman.

Monday, May 26, 2008

(Banging Head Against Wall)

I was going to take a posting holiday today and come back tomorrow with some thoughts on Potomac, etc.

But after watching Dmitri Young make a mockery of what could have been an inning-ending groundball, I just have to say: I CANNOT TAKE THIS. He cost Lannan an error the other night because he can't catch a ball that doesn't require him to jump. He's as nimble as I am over there. You simply can't butcher a play like that.

UPDATE IN EIGHTH: OK, mostly forgiven. Timely shot, great replays, good on the umps for talking and making the right call. You STILL have to make that play on defense.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Odds and Ends before going to Potomac

My wife wanted to bag the Class A game today and I was willing to consider it until I saw that Detwiler was starting. So she lost. I also saw it is Dog Day or something like that at the park. For a buck, you can bring your pup. Look, I love my dogs as much as the next guy but why on earth would you want to take them to a baseball game?

Anyway:

*Note to Uncle Stan - we took the escalator on the third-base side up last night and there's another vast expanse of wasted space. PICNIC TABLES PLEASE. A half dozen or so will do.

*I do most of my newspaper reading online these days, as does just about everyone much to the chagrin of newspapers. One reason I love being up in D.C. is I still enjoy reading the Post the old fashioned way. The Sunday baseball page is really good. I did find this tidbit interesting, about turning Shawn Hill into John Smotlz and making him a closer. I can't argue with the premise but it seems to overlook the fact that Rauch is doing a fine job in that role.

*I'm glad Aaron Boone is on the team. Great guy to have on the bench and he's been productive. I was a little miffed he got on the umpire when he looked at strike three on the final pitch of the game. Probably was low, yeah, but you have to hack at it and keep yourself alive. You can't take that one and hope you get the call. Particularly with a day game the next day! Umps have to get their beauty rest, too!

*Pokey Reese?

That's enough out of me for now. Must get in a walk around Alexandria and then head to Woodbridge to see the future. Without my dogs.

The Throwing Error

Much discussion in Section 313 after Mr. Young failed to corral Mr. Lannan's high throw early in the game. I say Young should have received the error. Yes, the throw was high but it could have been caught with a reach, not a jump.

Technically, I guess the decision was correct. But a first baseman has to make that catch.

More - but not much more - on the game later. The less said about that one, the better.

Pokey Reese?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Oh What A Night!

Apologies to The Four Seasons and The Jersey Boys (great Broadway show) for the rip off in the post title. But it fits. Our experience last night didn't match The Opener, simply for what that was and for the way it ended.
It was our best night at the park since. How? Let me count the ways:

*The game itself. It was the type of game that good teams win. Only three hits, they all counted. Good pitching in difficult situations. Taking another team's mistake and kicking them in the crotch with it. Oh, have I mentioned on here yet how much I love Flores? My wife is on that train now, too. Sanches came in and threw strikes. There was a whole lot to like with this one.

I do find the contrasting headlines on Nationals.com and in the Washington Post interesting. Bats alive? Eh. Three hits. But I see the point. All three meant something. Do just enough to win? Eh. They won by four runs. But I see the point there, too.

*The trip. I'm not a patient person, a shocking revelation to those who know me. I hate traffic. Makes being up in the area interesting. Yesterday, we made it from my office in downtown Richmond to Lot T in 2 hours, 10 minutes. One brief delay on the bridge going into the district. We paid our money, had a drink at Starbucks and read for an hour and then strolled to the stadium. I will never go any other way now. I'm spoiled. Please do not tell Uncle Stan this but I would pay double for the parking. The convenience is incredible, particularly on nights like tonight when the United are (is?) home and Lot 8 is unavailable for Nats Express. An interesting tidbit - on the way back to the car, I saw something I had yet to see at the Nats Express stop. There was a line and no bus. Have they cut the number of buses?

*The park. Hardly anybody there. My section was just about empty. That's not good in the big picture but it is great for moving around, getting food quickly, etc. We kept to our word and tried something new. We had the crabcake platter at Cantina Marina or whatever it is called next to Five Guys. Expensive but good. Very good, I thought. My wife thought it was a bit too spicy, which was OK by me because I got half her sandwich. She had one of the $9 margaritas, which came out looking like a slurpee. She reported there was no skimping on the alcohol. Should've bought her two more. Heh heh heh. Tonight, I will probably go back to my Hard Rock wings. Or maybe a Frito Pie. Or maybe both. Or I may do Five Guys.

A little chilly. I used it as an excuse to splurge for a way-overpriced $38 long sleeve T that I ended up not wearing. We saw the fireworks as we walked back to the car.

We're back tonight, in section 313. Hoping for a night that's even 70 percent as good.

As an aside: Did I miss a story or something recently? Have there been complaints about service and smiles at the park? I ask because park workers seemed to go overboard last night being extremely nice. We hadn't had any problems with that previously but maybe someone did.

The ticket person couldn't get my ticket to scan. When she finally did, she said "thank you for coming and have a great night." So did the guy who checked our bag and the woman helping the ticket taker make her scanner work.
We heard it from the food people. We heard it from the usher who let us sit in his section and eat. By the way, Uncle Stan, how 'bout some tables in that huge area of wasted space up by Five Guys? Or some rails with spot to put your food down and stand and eat? Take a trip to Citizens Bank Park and check that feature out, OK? Put it on the Lerners tab.

We walked around that concourse, not realizing it ended at the suites where the Great Unwashed like us are not welcome. I asked the guy at the door how to get upstairs, since my wife's back and bad foot make walking a chore. "Right there, sir, is an escalator that lets you out right at your section." Wow, thanks. "Thank you, sir, for coming and have a great night at the park."
We got that at the top of the escalator AND in our section from the nice usher who showed us how to get to seats we've been in many times already.

On the way out, no less than 10 workers thanked us for coming and said they hoped we enjoyed ourselves.

We did. Very much, thanks. If more were like that, I'd have a much more rosy outlook on life in general.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Off to the park

Half day of work today and I did get some work done. Honest. Full day off for my wife. She's on the way up now - we live well south of Richmond - and we're heading to the park. Or should it be The Park?

First visit in a while. Haven't been there since the Cubs were in town. We had tickets to two of the Pirates games but I was sick and her back was hurting so we watched from home. Eager to see some live baseball again and we've pledged to eat something different tonight. Dragging me away from the Hard Rock wings will be a chore.

We're in my season-ticket plan seats tonight, Section 420 Row G, Seats 1-2. She's the good looking one. We're in 313 tomorrow, I think. Sunday, we're going to hit the P-Nats and have dinner at our daughter's restaurant (right across from the stadium) before heading home.

Perhaps by the time we arrive tonight, the Nats will have announced the moves that everyone knows about already. Well, everyone who reads Nationals Farm Authority and here. STILL nothing on Nats.com!

Moves out the wazoo

OF Ryan Langerhans purchased by Washington
RHP Brian Sanches purchased by Washington
LHP Charlie Manning purchased by Washington
RHP Chris Schroder optioned from Washington
LHP Matt Chico optioned from Washington

I'm OK with of all of them, though I do feel for Schroder. I think his yo-yo days are over.
I hope Chico stays down the rest of the year. And develops.

(the goal here is NOT to break news. Yet somehow, thanks to some great connections, it is up here before it is on Nationals.com and Nationals Journal. Hell, if I was that good when I was in newspapers I'd probably still be there! I'm just f-ing around, of course. Nationals Farm Authority had it - the site is gold on, well, the farm. And NFA credits the Columbus Clippers site - which is still ahead of Nationals.com.
(Nats.com must be waiting for JimBow to make the announcement - guess it isn't news there until he says IT IS NEWS).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Milledge in Sports Illustrated

Just got mine this week and I've been reading it since there's no game to watch.
I can't find it online because I'm a dolt. Or it may not be online. But Our Own Lastings Milledge is the subject of the "first person" feature this week. It isn't a real story, it is one of those alternative story approaches so much of the media is going to in an effort to appeal to those with short attention spans. Like, you know, me. What did you say again?

Great picture along with the "story" and some interesting stuff in there. Didn't know his dad was a policeman, didn't know his mom still worked at a peanut butter factory. Didn't know he used to play the tuba. Pick it up and give it a read.

Kearns to the DL

says Nationals Farm Authority - with an interesting note about Maxwell that I didn't realize.

Anyway, let the guessing begin. Or the voting. Maxwell is my first choice but if he is hurt, I'm game for about anything.

I'd sure like to see Pete Orr get a look. He CAN play the outfield. And other places. I may be the lone ranger on that one.

A couple of things from the Nationals Journal

Some quick thoughts here on last night's Nationals Journal:

*Is JimBow contradicting himself here? In one, he says he can develop a player faster facing a Cole Hamels than some AAA pitcher even though it isn't pretty to watch. Later, he says something about not bringing up Maxwell and Daniel before they are ready. Uh, I thought you could develop them faster facing Hamels - though they are facing AA pitchers and not some AAA pitcher. Maybe that's the difference. Whatever. They cannot possibly be worse and I'm ready to give them a shot.

*I love Chico (the writer, not the pitcher). I have said that before here and will say it again. He writes better blindfolded and drunk than I ever did on my best day. That said, I have no use for the farting stuff. It's in poor taste and isn't funny beyond high school. It adds nothing. There's some good stuff in that Journal even if you don't agree with all of it. I don't need to read about farts!

*I agree with him about Flo, big surprise. It has been suggested that I change the name of this blog to "Honk If You Love Jesus." Just don't fart.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Time For A Change II

I'm suddenly glad I'm pretty tired and may not be able to hang for all of tonight's game. I'd probably throw something through the TV before the night was done.

The Nationals are sending three straight outs up at the bottom of the lineup. What the hell was Dukes watching on strike three? I'm not even asking these big, strong outfielders to hit it out. How about a long fly ball? How about a ground ball to second? How about SOMETHING to get in a daggone run?

Nope.

When it is time to sit or send them out? I say now. Give me Harris and Mackowiak out there. Give me Maxwell, give me Daniel, give me Orr, give me Langerhans, give me the middle of my three Labs (she's quicker to the ball than the other two), give me, hell, me. Give me something else.

UPDATE IN THE FOURTH - GRIPPING COMPUTER TIGHT. DO NOT THROW. DO NOT THROW. I didn't make it to bed quickly enough and had to watch another weak K from He Who Should Be Sat. At least WMP got a hit. He must have a Blackberry in the dugout.

UPDATE IN THE SIXTH - That Manny isn't throwing stuff speaks volumes about his self-control. My wife is running around bolting stuff to the floor. When Dukes goes down, can he take Colome with him? Now I'm really going to bed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More love for Flo

Yeah, I'm laying it on thick. So what??

Did you see that play at the plate? Now, I have zero confidence this game will end up as a victory. But I love that kind of play. Does anyone think either of the $6.25 million DynamicDudDuo would have made that play?

(too bad he's looked awful at the plate but Hamels was the starter. And, yes, great throw by Milledge and relay by Guzman. But someone had to be in perfect position to block the plate).

Quick thoughts

A couple of things on my mind, eager to hear/read what you think.

*All-Stars. Came up during the broadcast last night when Ray said that Guzman "is definitely our all-star choice to this point." Tough to argue that. But what about Redding? Granted, we're only halfway to halfway so a lot can happen. But let's assume another quarter season like this one for both. Do they both go?

*Guzman's contract. Now that we've seen what he can do when he's healthy and has good vision, do the Nats try to sign him again? For how much? If not, who is the next shortstop? A year ago, I might have been counting down the days until he was through. Now? This Guzman is one I'd like to see around a few more years.

*Why not Pete Orr for Belliard, sted another pitcher? Update/shocker - it is Schroder and who gives a royal rat's ass who made the announcement? Nothing screams ego like, "GET MY NAME IN EVERY PRESS RELEASE."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Maybe I was wrong






about Dukes and the slide. Or maybe not.



I hope I can make these pics work. Anyway, looking at a pic of Dukes shows me he did have the proper leg extended and the other leg curled. Probably good form. But I look at Flores hitting the dirt face-first and getting that hand out - he wanted that plate and was going to get it before Schneider (NOT Snyder, Don) got him.

Now, let's see if I can make the one with Dukes work.


OK, I can't. But it is here, the seventh pic in the gallery:

http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/components/game/year_2008/month_05/day_18/gid_2008_05_18_wasmlb_balmlb_1/av/fgallery.html


By the way, browsing through the gallery of available Nats photos was scary. Ryan Drese?!? It brought back some ugly memories.




Sunday, May 18, 2008

Whew!

These one-run games are going to be the death of me. I'm too old for this.
A couple of quick things:
*When I write what I don't like about the pitching, Lannan will not be included. I like him more every time I see him. I'll even forgive him that bad day against Atlanta when I had to sit next to an obnoxious Braves fan.
*I think Tolman crosses the thin line between aggressive and stupid too often but I don't blame him for getting Dukes tossed out at the plate. I blame Dukes for a bad slide. Watch it closely if you get a chance. On a bang-bang play, you have to make the extra effort to extend some body part toward home plate, like Flores did recently. Perhaps Dukes had textbook form on that slide but the leg back gets you tagged out when you could have been safe. Reach for the plate like it means something.

The Chief

It’s a lovely Sunday here and I had a great morning walk on a crystal-clear blue sky day. Even worked up a bit of a sweat. While I was walking, I thought about – what else? – the Nationals.

It is not true I think about the Nationals all the time. I only think about them when I’m awake.

Anyway, I’m working on my promised post about what I don’t like and part of that will be the pitching. I decided to make a separate post about The Chief because, while he is part of the pitching, he is not the major part of what I don’t like and I didn’t want that post to get bogged down with this stuff.

I pretty much love the guy. He seems like a good dude, I love the way he wears his hat, I love the nickname. I loved him a lot during that magical June of 2005, through the whole first half of the season.

I’m just not sure he’s the right closer for the future.

Yeah, it may be a moot point. There are no guarantees this shoulder thing won’t be a long-term problem. For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume he’ll be back at some point and eventually be the same pitcher he was during the Nats’ first three seasons.

When Chad Cordero is on, and I mean dead on, he’s excellent. He just has zippy margin for error. If he’s the slightest bit off, put on a hard hat if you are sitting in the outfield. I still have nightmares about the two he gave up in the ninth late in 2005 against the Phillies. They were two of the biggest “holy shit” home runs I’ve seen. Ryan Howard hit the first and it was mammoth. David Bell hit the second and it was mammoth cubed. My wife got the “holy shit” out of her mouth before I could even speak.

The next season, I enjoyed a great weekend at Virginia Tech with my son. I turned 50 on Friday, he graduated on Saturday, Sunday was my anniversary and Mother’s Day. We were at his crib, watching the Nats and Braves. Bases loaded in the ninth. Cordero struck out Andruw Jones on as good a pitch as can be thrown. I started going on what a great pitch it was, yada yada yada. I had not yet shut up when Jeff Francouer hit the next pitch out for a game-winning grand slam. My smartass son just turns to me and says, “How did you like that pitch?”

Chris did some excellent stuff on Capitol Punishment that made it clear The Chief is nowhere near as bad as it sometimes looks. I can’t argue any of his points and I sure can’t argue against the numbers. Cordero is an average to above average closer. But to win a championship, I think you need a great closer. I don’t think Cordero is that.

It pains me to say this – and you’ll have to trust me that I said it before he got hurt – but I wish they’d traded him when he had some value. Too late now so all I can do is hope like hell he gets good and healthy quickly and proves me wrong. It is some crow I love to eat because I think he’s in Zimmerman’s league as a top-quality representative of the team. It would thrill me to no end if he had a Hall of Fame career as a Nat.

While I’m on the subject of The Chief, I want to add this: It chaps my ass to no end that his injury situation has come to this. I feel very strongly someone in that organization should have figured out that something was more seriously wrong than what was being claimed.

You simply don’t lose that much velocity without there being a problem. Manny kept saying Chief said his shoulder felt fine. Just needed to build up the ol’ arm strength. Far be it from me to challenge Dr. Andrews, too. But the evidence on the mound was just screaming that there was a bigger problem. Major props to Ray Knight – were you watching the night it finally blew? Ray was in the booth instead of Don and he jumped on it when Chief came in and never let up. This kid is hurt. Why is he out there? This kid is hurt. You can see it in his face. You can see it in his pitches. And the thing finally gave out. And my heart sank.

Maybe I’m full of shit. It wouldn’t be the first time. I just can’t shake this feeling that it could have been caught before it got to this point.

Get well, Chief. Prove my dumb ass wrong. Please.

It's nothing major

Later today, I may try to look up the articles from last season but my foggy memory seems to say they had a tone similar to this one on Nationals.com about Shawn Hill.

It wasn't serious. He might miss a start. No big deal. And we didn't see him again for ages.

I'm nowhere near smart enough to figure out why some bodies can handle almost anything and some are as fragile as Mom's best china. I remain convinced that Hill can be a serious pitcher. I really like his stuff. I also remain convinced that he'll never make 30 starts in a season.

UPDATE: We've gone from a possibility of missing next start to "likely" missing next start. Safer bet than Big Brown in the Belmont that Hill will not pitch on Wednesday. Then we'll get a retroactive DL later in the week and we'll see a new starter on Memorial Day. Here is my guess for the Memorial Day game.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kearns has a bum elbow, too, says Nationals.com.

Unrelated, I didn't see a single pitch last night. Had a social engagement with no TVs to be found. I did listen to the first inning while driving there and the Baltimore radio crew indicated Wily Mo did not look good on that fly ball. Shocker. How bad was it?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Time for a change?

Pena and Dukes down, Maxwell and (I'd settle for anyone) up?

I'm really tired of watching Pena and Dukes struggle. Or maybe they just aren't any good.

Langerhans? Mike Daniel? Pete Orr? The guy did play a decent amount of outfield last season - and he could not possibly be worse out there.

I'm not sure how this option stuff works out and, at this point, I don't much care.

I also don't like the "no talk" stuff that both Chico and Ben Goessling mention in their game stories today. Yes, that's just the ol' reporter in me talking. I still don't like it. Sack up and talk.

Clueless in Richmond

Driving home from work, I thought about what I usually think about - watching the Nats on television. Such an exciting life I lead.

Anyway, I probably shouldn't admit this for fear of coming across like the total dumbass I am. But it dawned on me as I drove that I am not certain I can name a single Orioles player. I don't really follow the sport as a whole. If not for the Nats, I'm not sure I'd pay close attention at all.

Markakis? Is that right? Young outfielder who is pretty good. The closer is some castoff who was doing well recently. Dave Tremblay or something is the manager. I remember he got the job last season and my ol' pal from the Richmond Braves, Leo Mazzone, was gone as pitching coach at the end of the season.

There's some guy who throws really hard but is wild. Not sure if he is still there.

Dang. I'm worse than I thought.

I used to know the O's pretty well. Pre-Camden Yards, my wife and I would take the kids up for a weekend at least once a summer. We'd do the Aquarium, the zoo (great zoo for kids) and see some baseball. We may still be members of the Baltimore zoo for all I know. I covered several games professionally at Camden Yards, especially when my old neighbor Johnny Oates was manager (same high school as my wife). I've seen two as a fan there, one in some suite when I was attending a seminar in the area and once when the Nats played. I left during the second rain delay. The Nats lost.

I'll spend the next hour on Orioles.com, trying to learn a little something.

Are more diehard fans of one team as clueless about many teams as I am, or am I not totally alone? I know the NL East very well, since we see them so much against the Nats. I'm going to make a list of all the teams around baseball this weekend and see how many others don't make a dent in my brain.

Going to Seattle this summer. I know Jose Vidro is there and Richie Sexson - he carries a purse to throw at pitchers he doesn't like (blatant steal from Bob Ryan on PTI). Ichiro is there, too. I'd do much better on a Mariners test than I would on an Orioles test.

(they just flashed the lineups. I should have known Roberts, among others. I thought Roberts was going to the Cubs? Should have known Mora, too. I also now know the name Garrett Olson, who probably wishes I didn't as he's getting clubbed. Also, what happened in Baltimore? There isn't anybody there. Didn't it used to be the toughest ticket around?)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Life IS GOOD

I may take the rest of the day off. Willie Harris (no relation), you rock. One of my colleagues, distracted by the noise in my office, came in to see that catch and called it a guaranteed Web gem of the day.



Nice double play to end it, too. Flores knew what he was doing when he threw that ball into third, eh? That's why I love the kid.



Much love to Bergmann, too. Hell of a return game.



Is it 5 o'clock somewhere?

Mike Pelfrey?

Mike Pelfrey?

HE HAS A NO-HITTER THROUGH FIVE. SHOUT IT OUT.

Mike Pelfrey?

EDIT - thank you, Aaron, but how 'bout next time you forget about trying to steal?

Nick nicked - again

I kept hoping the news would be different this time but nope. Johnson is going to miss a significant chunk, detailed in a Nationals Journal this morning by Chico Harlan.

The quote from Acta in the Post's notebook about people being injury prone has me very curious. Why can't this guy stay healthy? What are your thoughts? I covered guys like that in various sports over the years and there was never any logical explanation. Some guys can run into a wall and get up. Some guys can swing a bat and be out 4-6 weeks.

Will this hurt? I think it will. He saves God knows how many errors at first. My guess is Boone will play there this weekend in Baltimore and Young will be the DH. At least until HE gets hurt again.

Rethinking this whole Kearns thing

Thanks to some discussion here and some e-mails, I am indeed rethinking my love for ol' Austin.

I should have clued in last season when Mr. Kearns missed a chance to make history.
Kearns could have had the first three-RBI double ever.

Work with me here.

I can't remember the specific order but a guess based on where they usually hit: Langerhans on third, Zimmerman on second, Church on first.

You with me now? I should use the tricks Chris taught me and search for the game. It shouldn't be too hard to find. How often was Langerhans actually on base?

This would have been - drum roll, please - a three Ryans-batted-in double.

It didn't happen. I can't recall what did happen but a strikeout would be my best guess. Or a weak pop-up.

It will be a couple of days before I get to my "what I don't like post" and Kearns could show up there, too. I can flip-flop with the best of them. I'm sponsored by Waffle House.

As for Langerhans: I really wish he could hit. He's supposed to be a terrific guy and great teammate. Bobby Cox loved him. Rumor in Atlanta is that John Schuerholz finally traded him because that was the only way to get Cox to quit playing him.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Here's my quandry

I can't say what's going on because, you know, you can't say it. Those of you watching the game know.

It is my 30th anniversary! I showed up after work with 30 long-stem red roses, some gifts. We had a nice bottle of wine with a nice dinner as I cursed two Kearns at bats (OK, so maybe I'm wrong about him). And now, well, you know, I can't say that either.

Except the game *** I can't tear myself away.

The younger fellows among my readership, take my word here: "Honey, just as soon is this game is over ***" isn't a good idea.

(And I didn't jinx it. Carpenter said "perfect through three" at the end of the inning. Honest)

And in honor of Nelson

I just ordered one of these.

Thanks to Dan Steinberg's wonderful D.C. Sports Bog for pointing me in the right direction.

For love of Barry

Nats320, another quality Nats blog I enjoy reading, has a good interview with Barry Svrluga. My guess is most who are reading here have already read it but I wanted to throw it out there just in case.


Here's Part 2 from today.


I'll talk more about Barry when I get to my post on the media. In short, he's proof that you can be an excellent guy and still be excellent at the newspaper game.

Educate me, please

I truly do not know.
What was the major beef with Ryan Church?

I have nothing against Lastings Milledge (hell of a catch last night). I've already posted how much I like the Flores-Nieves catching combination.

But I would have been fine with Schneider-Flores for another year and I would have been fine with Pena-Church-Kearns across the outfield (this based on the Pena we saw last year).

I always felt Church would be more than fine if he didn't have to worry whether his next 0-4 was going to get him benched.

Maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Things I Like

To show I’m not just a grumpy old bastard, I thought I’d start with the things I like. It’s more than you might think and there’s actually more than this. We’re just hitting some of the highlights here. It’s long enough without talking about everything.


ZIMMERMAN. Yes, let’s start with the obvious.

This choice has very little to do with the fact that he is ridiculously good looking, at least according to the women of the house. Nor does it have to do with the fact that he’s simply a terrific player. No one can argue that. That glove. Wow. He’s responsible for two of the biggest wet-my-pants moments of adulthood – the 2006 Father’s Day dong off Wang (or should it be dang off Wang?) and the 2008 Opening Day blow against Australia’s finest Peter Moylan. I look at video of each about 600 times a day.

So we concede the guy can play.

The biggest reason I love Zimmerman is he truly seems to be a good kid. That’s important. I don’t mean to sound all Pollyana-ish and goopy but I don’t want some asshole being front-and-center as the face of the franchise. I want a solid citizen and Zimmerman is, by all accounts, exactly that.

A few stories from personal experience to this point:

When Zimmerman was runner-up as rookie of the year, my paper wanted to include a story in our special section on Richmond’s own Justin Verlander. We’re his hometown paper and we can’t get 10 minutes on the horn with Verlander. Zimmerman, meanwhile, promptly returns a message only to find the reporter who called him on another call. So Zimmerman leaves a message and then promptly calls back when we try again.

In November, we were doing a pre-game special on the Virginia-Virginia Tech matchup. We wanted to get thoughts on the game from various celebs. I purposely avoided any Nationals coverage because I wanted to be a fan but someone had to get in touch with these folks and my staff was busy so I did it myself. I figured I could handle that much. I got in touch with a very nice, helpful man named John Dever in the Nats’ media relations office, hoping he’d take my number and have Zimmerman call. Instead, he gives ME Zimmerman’s number. Being on that side of it now, I know you don’t just hand out the number. Zimmerman must have told him to give it to media members at his discretion. I called, left a message, got a prompt callback and a very professional response to my questions (and I managed to cool it as a fan for five minutes).

At the Opener this year, I met two of Zimmerman’s uncles and his mother while hanging out on the outfield concourse. I introduced myself and told them of my newspaper past and relayed those stories to them. I told them how much the media appreciated athletes who dealt with them with professionalism and class. They thanked me for sharing the stories.

Every media member I know who has dealt with Zimmerman speaks of him glowingly.

If I ever get ahead in the money game, the ziMS Foundation gets my check.

My son, by the way, is a Braves fan. He comes by it honestly, having grown up in the Braves’ AAA city. He is a Virginia Tech graduate. When we go to a Braves-Nats game together, he has to stand up and sing the U.Va. fight song if Zimmerman hits a home run (I have to do the damn chop if Francouer hits one and I have issues with John Lannan because of this).

He was unable to attend the Opener with us. I called and asked him to sing anyway as Zimmerman toured the bases. He was not amused.

FLORES. I love Flo.

Look, I really don’t wish injury or ill will on anyone. I do not want to see LoDuca and Estrada – the $6.25 million DynamicDudDuo – hurt. I just hope they don’t play again. You will never, ever convince me their signings were wise. If this team is in the growing phase, and I can accept that it is, then let Flores grow at the Major League level.

Plus, I think he’s better than both of them. He darn sure is with his arm. Last night, my wife and I were tuned into Charlie and Dave when Flores gunned out Reyes. “I thought you said the catchers were worthless and couldn’t throw out either of us,” The Boss said. Yes, I did. But this isn’t those catchers. They’re hurt. This is the catcher I’ve been calling for all year.

“The one we saw in New York?” she said.
“Yes, that one.”
“Oh yeah!”

She likes Flo, too.

We go to New York every summer to take in some shows, shop, be tourists. Last year, I managed to convince her to subway over to Shea for a Saturday afternoon game. The Nats stunk and got beat 3-1 but Flores threw out Reyes and Milledge. A very nice Mets fan (they do exist) and his young son were seated next to us. I explained Flores and the Rule 5 thing to him and he was not happy. Catching wasn’t exactly a strong suit for the Mets at that time (and some will argue it still isn’t). “This guy was in the Mets’ chain?” he asked, many times. WAS, sir, WAS. He’s a Nat now. And he better be for a long, long time.

I’m quite comfortable with a Flores-Nieves combination all season.

An aside: Wife and I were in our Section 420 seats for the Wil Nieves “Zimmerman moment” game. Also in the section were about 100 high school kids on a tour from Indianapolis. We struck up conversation with the 3-4 who weren’t trying to feel each other up. When Estrada came up for the first time, one of them tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Who is this guy? That’s the biggest butt I’ve ever seen.”

KEARNS

My sister is one of my half-dozen readers and she may come after me with a bat for this. I can’t help it. I have no evidence to support my fondness. In fact, there’s way more evidence against. I still like the guy, still feel comfortable when he’s at the plate.

Maybe it’s because he, too, seems like a very good guy. There I go again. I just don’t like assholes. Channeling my inner JimBow, I really think Austin Kearns is going to become a big-time hitter.

That’s all I have on Kearns. Nothing logical, nothing I can support. I just like the dude.

EDIT - I wrote this before Kearns played Ryan Church's out into a two-run double. I still like the guy, I just won't sleep tonight. How much you think Church loves kicking the Nats' asses?

RAUCH

The big guy has grown on me. Get it? Big guy? Grown? Groan. Yeah, that sucked. But I no longer whimper at the site of Rauch up and throwing. Maybe my feelings changed when he cut his hair and revealed his neck tat (why do you tat your neck?). Whatever. I’m OK when he’s in the game and OK with him as the closer. As my wife is my witness, I even said that before Chief’s shoulder exploded.

This is guaranteed to jinx him but he’s had a good month. Rauch has only given up one run since April 11. At 6-11, you expect him to just rear back and blow people away. I go nuts when he gets all cute out there but it doesn’t change the fact that I like him.

Until ol’ double-Z is ready – Zech! – Rauch will do nicely as the closer.

ACTA

I’m still not sure what kind of manager he is and don’t think we’ll be able to tell for a while. I tilt heavily toward him being a good one. I like his demeanor. I think he’s the right fit for this club now and I hope he remains that way when (not if, WHEN) the team finally gets good and contends. I hope that is in my lifetime.

NATIONALS PARK

A guy I work with and a guy I know who works on the video for the Pirates both said the same thing after visiting Nationals Park: No “wow” factor.

Uh, yeah? So what? What is a “wow” factor?

Here’s what I want in a park:

*Easy to get to, easy to leave. Check, as long as you aren’t on the subway going out. Only way I’ll get on a train out of there again is if I’m dead and someone drags me on. We’ve done RFK Express and that’s fine, though I can’t imagine Uncle Stan will keep it free much longer. We’ve also parked near the stadium.
*Easy to get around. Check.
*Good sightlines. Check, and we’ve been all over the place. When we go up for one of our package games, we buy another the day before or after. We’ve had a number of vantage points.
*Food and drink of quality, since the prices will be ridiculous. Mostly check. I love Hard Times CafĂ©. The wings are good, meaty and reasonable. Love the Frito Pie, too. My wife loves the barbecue platter at Red, White and Blue. We enjoyed the vegetarian chili at Ben’s. We haven’t done Five Guys yet. The only bad meal we had was the night we sat in the Red Porch. The service was excellent and polite, the food blew. My daughter about blew a gasket (that’s meant in a good way) when she found out Leinenkugel was available. She won’t pay $7.50 for a mere Bud. I won’t pay $7.50 for any beer.
*Relief. Check. You can get in and out of all the heads I’ve visited pretty quickly.


Nieves’ “Zimmerman Moment” game was the night we took the subway in and, as we strolled up Half Street, I mentioned to my wife that I had no earthly idea what the stadium actually looked like.

“It looks like THAT,” she said, pointing straight ahead.

I explained that THAT was two parking decks and the outfield concourse, the only view we get whether we drive, RFK Express it or take the train (never again). There’s no reason to go to the other side. There is, I assume, an entire structure on the other side of all those seats. We may make it all the way through the season without seeing it.

“Wow” factor? There’s an actual nice stadium in the ‘burg where I grew up that houses a team I love to watch play even though I appear to be in agony most of the time. That’s “wow” enough for me.

Now let’s watch some ball.

Why I love Chris

I mention a game, I can't even remember the year.
He FINDS the game and sends it to me.

My first game in D.C.

Hey Nelson

how 'bout you drink a tall glass of STFU?

I'm glad Chico is there to get my quotes for me. This is from today's Washington Post recap of the Nats victory on my birthday (thank you gents for making 52 a little bit easier).

"They were cheerleading in the dugout like a bunch of softball girls," Figueroa said. "I'm a professional just like anybody else. I take huge offense to that. If that's what a last-place team needs to do to fire themselves up, so be it. They could show a little more class, a little more professionalism now that they won tonight, but in the long run, they're still who they are."

Well, Nelson, that means they're still the team that beat the Mets five times out of six in the final two weeks last season to keep the Mets out of the playoffs. I like the Mets as much as I like any non-Nats team. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Ryan Church *** lots of players over there I enjoy watching. But that gag in '07 was one for the ages and I'm thrilled the Nats could play a part.
You want them to shut up during the game? Get them out, how's that? Lots of people do it, it ain't that hard.

I get on Ayala for not talking one day and Figueroa for talking the next. Yes, I see the contradiction. I guess my message is: Talk without being a dumbass.

From the NY Post, offered without comment


Call me petty (I am), but this doesn't break my heart.

When Sosa was with the Braves, I used to think he was the next big thing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Coming soon to a blog near you

This is what we called a "teaser" in the newspaper bidness - just a hint of what's coming in the next few days to give you a reason to bookmark your new favorite blog:

*What I like. More than you may think.

*What I don't like. I might need two posts. Hell, I might need two just for the pitching.

*On the beat. A few thoughts on the media covering the team. Unlike baseball, I actually know a little about media.

*Touring the lineup with The Boss. My wife and I go around the horn as she tries to learn something about her new favorite team.

*A day in charge. If JimBow ever picks up the phone and asks, here's what I'd tell him to do.

Decisions, decisions

My wife, aka The Boss, wants to take me out for a birthday dinner tonight. It is a lovely gesture and one I won't turn down.
Now the hard part:
Do we go to Outback, my favorite restaurant close to the house?
Or do we go to the new Olive Garden, which has DirecTV?

If we go to Outback, do I try to sneak in my mini-XM?

Update - We went to Outback, so I positioned myself to watch the ticker on ESPN. We got into the car just in time to hear Flores throw out Reyes. We saw him do that last year in New York. Love that kid. Someone needs to explain to me why he hasn't been up all along. I've always thought he was a better option than the $6.25 million DynamicDudDuo.
And THEN we got home and got the TV on in time to see Flores' two-run double.
This has been an OK birthday after all, no matter what happens in the final four innings.

OK, let's do this blog thing

First, an explanation.

I know Barry Svrluga from my newspaper days and I read with interest his story last year on all the blogs that popped up about the Nationals. I checked out most of them. Capitol Punishment immediately became my favorite.
It was a must read.
This is not meant to serve as a hummer for Chris Needham. He doesn't need that from me. But as a newspaper editor by that time, I'd sit there reading it and think, "This is what we need to be doing." (Newspapers, you may have noticed, aren't exactly kicking ass in the circulation department anymore). Chris was at times informative, at times analytical, at times snarky, at times humorous. He was always entertaining.
I cried a little when he posted last week that he was giving it up, though I understand his reasons. It's like a big ol' hole in my pitiful little life.

What is going to fill the void?

Well, nothing. Chris was one of a kind. (IS, one of a kind. Dude ain't dead). I can't and won't do what he does. But I will at least try to give you something to read, something to think about, something to curse at, all that stuff. Chris has been one of the biggest boosters of this attempt at blogging, seeing as he now needs something else to read. His consulting fee, by the way, is Frito Pie and beer at the next game we attend on the same day.

Who am I, besides some chotch bag with a computer? I'm a Washingtonian by birth. I grew up in Falls Church and left the area in 1974 to attend Virginia Commonwealth University. Got lucky and got a job here before graduation so I stayed. Forever. Worked my way up the newspaper chain and eventually became sports editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Lasted all of 461 days in that job before bailing and go back to my alma mater as assistant athletic director for communications. My daughter summed up my new situation best when she called her mom after visiting me in my new digs. "THAT is the Dad I used to know," she said.

I became a Washington baseball fan as a kid. My first game was in 1963 (or maybe 1964). The Senators beat the Kansas City Athletics 8-4 and Ed Brinkman did something. Over the years I attended many games at the dump that eventually became RFK (yes, it was a dump even then).

The team left my freshman year of high school. I tried jumping to the Orioles. Didn't work. I followed the Braves (their AAA club is in Richmond) but I also covered them some and that doesn't work at all. Can't cover and be a fan, just trust me on that.

So I waited and waited and waited *** and then it happened. D.C. GOT A TEAM! I went a bit overboard. I own at least 100 hats, about 10 jersies, too many t-shirts, some hoodies, several jackets and a dozen bobbleheads. I kicked my cable to the curb and switched to DirecTV. I also have XM. Of the 162 games the team plays, I'm involved as a spectator, viewer or listener in 150 or so of them. I schedule my life around this team. Yes, I'm a sick bastard.

We saw a lot of games at home the first season but RFK is such a craphole that we didn't go there much in years 2-3. I have seen the Nats in Baltimore, Philly, St. Louis, New York and Boston. I will see them in Seattle this year.

I've seen six home games thus far this season, despite the long drive and traffic hassles (how do you people do it up there??) and will see many more. I'm a season-ticket holder, see, and deserve all the courtesies from Uncle Stan that go with that. I have the Saturday-based 20-game plan. My wife and I are the kindly old couple in Section 420, Row G, Seats 1-2. She's the smiling one, I'm the grumpy one sitting there praying Manny doesn't wave in Ayala. Come say hello. I'm approachable even when I'm crying.

Please stop by and share your thoughts. Please be gentle. Also, please don't expect Chris II. Not in my wildest dreams. He's funnier than I am, more net savvy (links, all those stats, yeah, right. Not happening here). He's younger, better looking.

I'm not sure how often I'll be able to post. A lot, at first, I'm sure as I have fun with my new toy. I'll do what I can. Feedback is welcome.

By the way, I'm 52 today. Odds on a victory for my birthday? Slim, I'd say. My wife and I were driving home from Blacksburg yesterday after attending Virginia Tech's graduation. I'm tuned in to Charlie and Dave. When Ayala came in, I turned to The Boss and said, "This won't be good." She shortly turned back and said, "At least it was quick."

My favorite part of my man Chico Harlan's game story in the Washington Post (more on Chico and the man thing later):

Before departing, Ayala stood in a quiet clubhouse, an ice block mummy-wrapped atop his right shoulder. He refused to comment about his latest performance, saying, in English, "I don't speak English."

Hey, Luis, if you are going to suck, just suck, OK? I'll deal with it. Don't suck AND be a jackass. Man up and talk. You owe it to those who fork over money to watch you allegedly pitch. Maybe it is the former reporter in me talking but I cannot stand that kind of crap. I want to know what you are thinking as you watch those balls fly out. Does your neck hurt? Did you have a good view of the play at first?

Oh, but he doesn't do English, so this is lost on him.


Finally - what is a looser? I participate in and moderate a forum for sports media called SportsJournalists.com. One day, some dude registered and got all over our kind, calling us a bunch of "loosers." It became part of the SJ.com vocabulary and, as such, I was tabbed a Nationals "fanboy looser." Seems to work because I am indeed a fanboy looser.

This is also only a test


Seeing just how tricky I can get with this thing.



Wow. It worked. Just playing around with a picture of a pitcher I'd like to see throw next time I go to Nationals Park (May 23). If I really get ambitious, I'll post pictures of all those I'd like to see in and those I'd like to see out but that could take a while.

Dang. Who knew it was this easy?

This is only a test

This is only a test. Nothing that appears to be this simple can actually be this simple. We'll see.