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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

No, thank you

By now I'm sure most of you have heard the sad news that the Washington Times made it official - sports is not part of its new look and the sports staff was laid off. Friday is the final day for the section.


Mark Zuckerman, part of the Times' Nats beat squad, wrote a lovely farewell blog this evening. Give it a read.

And then join me in saying thanks to Mark, to Ben Goessling, to everyone else at the Times. As I noted in my earlier post about the Times, they were the underdog and they played big. Dan Steinberg of the Post noted as much in a blog post he did earlier today. They competed well and won their share.

They did the Nats right, the way a paper has to do a major-league team. With print and online responsibilities, a baseball beat is too much for one writer to do well and maintain any sort of sanity.

I don't know Mark and Ben all that well, having just made their acquaintance last season. I know enough from reading them and seeing them work that they are the type of people I loved to have on my crew when I was managing a sports department. They worked hard, they enjoyed what they did, they worked hard some more. They seemed to make a good team, essential on a shared beat like that one.

They'll end up somewhere good, I'm sure. If I was still in a position to hire, I'd take both of them right away along with many others at the Times. I was in a notes sharing group with Patrick Stevens, the Maryland writer. Trust me, he churns out more good information in a day than most do in a week. I've known Ryan O'Halloran since his days with the newspaper in Newport News. I've known David Elfin for years and years. John Taylor, the assistant sports editor, has become a good friend. Thom Loverro is a voice Washington doesn't need to lose. I could go on and on and I'm sure I'm leaving some out. It's a deep and talented staff.

Sadly, more papers are cutting than hiring these days so it may take a while for everyone to find a place. It may take a move or two.

I'd love to see the Post snap up a few of the Times gang and expand their coverage in certain areas - like the Nats.

I wish everyone there well and I'll say it again: Thanks.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Matt Capps, come on down (please)

Buster Olney is as good a reporter as there is covering baseball today, so I feel pretty good if his sources are telling him Capps will become a Nat.

I'll feel better when the deal is done.

One year? That puzzles me a bit. Not that the Nats would offer that. They're probably convinced Drew Storen will be ready by 2011 and see Capps as the Bridge to Drew.

But Capps is young (26) and has a good history, last year notwithstanding. You'd think someone out there would come up with more than two years.

Maybe he doesn't want that. Maybe he wants one year to get himself on track and go cash in somewhere. Maybe other teams don't want to go higher than that, either, preferring to see if the pre-2009 Capps returns.

The Washington Times weighs in with some information about why one-year is preferable on the pitcher's side of things.

Whatever, I'll just be happy to see him a Nationals uniform in 2010. Maybe Storen will be ready by August and Capps will be the guy who turns into some prospects?

Yeah, yeah, I know. Let's get the guy signed first before wondering when he'll be traded.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A very happy holiday

I have no idea what's under the tree for me. I haven't been very good this year, so I have no right to expect much. I think I'm getting a pair of shoes I've had my eye on, a couple of books, that kind of thing.

If this report comes true about the Nats and Matt Capps, well, Mike Rizzo will certainly have earned his Santa Claus stripes from me. I gave Rizzo a "B" in my recent poll - I'd upgrade that to an "A" right now, even without Capps. Put a plus by it if Capps is delivered.

Mike isn't exactly dealing from a position of strength. A team that has hit the 100-loss mark twice in a row isn't going to get the huge names available. Just the way it is. But in addition to the two drafted pitchers who have everybody excited, he's added Bruney, Marquis and catcher Pudge Rodriguez to the mix without giving up any of the future (or present) core of the team. He didn't have to give up Willingham to get pitching. He didn't have to trade prospects.

If Capps comes aboard, too? Not to sound all Harry the Homer here but I don't see how we could have reasonably expected more from the offseason. I don't think the Phillies are quaking in their boots just yet and I don't think the Yankees are figuring out how to deal with D.C. come Series time. But there are reasons to really like the direction the team is moving. I haven't thought to myself, "Oh, they'll get there" too much the past two years. I'm thinking that now.

Marquis is a solid starter who will win double-figure games and he's been on winners. Don't think that doesn't count for something. I like the addition very much.

What's left? Has Mark DeRosa signed somewhere yet? Orlando Hudson? I'd take one of those two. Or neither. It's already been a fine offseason. Capps makes it even better.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The answer appears to be 'yes' with Marquis

You'll recall, faithful readers, that I mentioned Jason Marquis as "the" guy the Nats should pursue when the team said back in August it was going to go after a veteran free agent pitcher.

Well, either they have or haven't agreed to terms with him, depending on which report on is accurate. (see below for update, it seems the deal is done)

There's this from Byron Kerr:

Nats to sign Jason Marquis (updated)
By Byron Kerr on December 21, 2009 1:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) has learned that the Nationals will sign starting pitcher Jason Marquis. The 31-year-old starter went 15-13 with a 4.04 ERA with the Rockies last season before becoming a free agent.

There's this from Phil Wood just 37 minutes later:

Don't put Jason's name on the marquee just yet
By Phil Wood on December 21, 2009 2:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
As Maxwell Smart used to say, "Missed it by that much..."

There are reports that the Nationals and free agent right-hander Jason Marquis have come to terms on a contract, but my own sources say it's not yet a done deal - but very, very close.

Hmmm. The "reports" Wood mentions are from the same site for which he's writing. I haven't seen it anywhere else.

Sounds like it WILL happen though, and I guess we'll know soon enough. The Nationals Journal I just viewed says it is all over but the shouting (and physical), two years for $15 mil.

UDPATE - All hands are on the same wheel at now - Wood says the deal is done and Marquis will be introduced tomorrow at 2:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bob and Debbi returning

In case you missed it on - Bob got a two-year deal this time so we won't have to go through the "will he/won't he return" thing next winter.

So the broadcast teams are intact. The big media question that remains is who gets to cover the team for the Post? And will be Times be around - at least its sports section - to cover the team at all?

Four youngsters I hold in high regard have told me they are interested in the job and have sent materials to the Post. I suspect they are four of many. If any of those four get it, we readers/fans will be OK.

The Times hasn't made anything official yet regarding its sports section, but I don't know anyone who thinks it will still be around when the paper reorganizes or regroups or reinvents itself or whatever it calls whatever it is trying to do.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's all making sense now (sadly)

This is what I feared when I heard the Nats were going to offer a contract to Wil Nieves - something is wrong with Jesus Flores.

My buddy Wil Yow was at the VCU-Richmond basketball game on Saturday. He's a Nats fan and a Rams fan, two points in his favor. We were talking about this. The only way you offer Nieves is if you know something's wrong with Flores. No offense to Nieves, I love the guy. Met him at the original Starbucks in Seattle. Saw his first home run, the one that beat the Cubs. I think he's a solid defensive catcher and I'd take him as backup for life, though I prefer a Rodriguez-Flores combination.

If Flores is indeed going to be ready, as we were told during the Pudge PC, does it make sense to sign Nieves to a contract that figures to be well above the $455,000 he earned last year? Aren't there cheaper alternatives available? Or can you go the Scott Olsen route and non-tender him, then bring him back for less?

Did something happen to Flores between the PC and now that caused this shutdown until February? I kind of doubt it. I don't want to accuse anyone of being less than truthful with us but we have quite the history of injury B.S. to support those fears (most notably Z-one-n being day to day for about two months and Z-two-n needing to shut down now instead of September but he's fine. Or needs Tommy John).

The actual story now up on makes it sound a lot less worrisome - almost makes it sound like a "shut down" is part of the plan.

I still don't like it. Something doesn't sit right. Maybe "shut down" is just a poor choice of words? Let's hope so.

Flo is a poor man's Pudge in Waiting if he can ever get healthy. I love his presence out there, I'm as comfortable with him at the plate in clutch situations as I am with Z-one-n, Willingham or Dunn., If his career is getting short-circuited as it seems to be, I will be very much bothered.

As for Olsen, I love that move. Clearly worked out in advance, the contract allows Olsen to earn what he'd probably get through arbitration if he can stay healthy and effective and pitch a full season. If not, the Nats are on the hook for a lot less money.

Great move, applause to the front office for working that one out.

But my mind is consumed by this latest Flo news. Worrying. It's what I do. It's in my blood. It doesn't make me a bad person. It just gives me ulcers.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thoughts from the Pudge PC

Major ups to my man Dave Nichols from Nationals News Network for asking the question I really wanted to see asked: (paraphrasing) What do you know about Jesus Flores?
If Pudge is getting two years and $6 million in large part to help guide Flo into greatness, I would hope he's at least familiar with his soon-to-be protege. Pudge was well prepped for that one and handled it fairly well. I didn't expect a full breakdown of strengths and weaknesses.

My pal Mark Zuckerman of the Washington Times (for now and hopefully a long time but who knows?) posted a list of questions before the presser that was pretty good. I'm copying those questions and giving my thoughts on the answers received. Feel free to add comments if you disagree (or agree).

1. Why is Pudge willing to accept a backup/part-time role when he's been a starter his entire life? Will he be content to watch from the bench once Jesus Flores is healthy? Doesn't sound like he is, he said "everyday" a lot during this thing. He said he can't go 162 games (duh) but never said anything like "At my age, I better keep it around 80." He at least gave me an idea for my new poll: Who catches more in 2010, Pudge or Flo? I'll bet anything that Pudge votes Pudge.

2. What does Rodriguez already know about the Nats' young pitching staff? Can he rattle off names like Lannan, Detwiler and Stammen, or does he still have no idea who those guys are? Well-prepped again was Mr. Pudge, though I'm not sure he could pick any of them out of a lineup. He did at least seem to know they existed.

3. What exactly is Flores' status? Does the club truly believe he'll be ready for spring training, or is there legitimate concern he won't? All is well, we're told. Will be ready for the start of spring training, which means he's ahead of schedule. Not so sure I buy all that, pardon me for being a bit jaundiced about injuries and the Nats. Assuming he is A-OK, I'm quite fine with him playing a bit less than the normal frontline guy and Pudge playing a bit more than the normal backup. Save a little wear and tear on Flo, never a bad thing.

But, again, my big takeaway from watching today is the word "backup" is not in Pudge's mind. Not sure it's in others' minds either. I found it interesting that Mike Rizzo said he was most certainly using Pudge's presence as a lure for free agent pitchers. Good idea - though I'm not sure a backup catcher is that much of a lure.
Unless he isn't the backup.

This whole thing makes for an interesting spring training story line, as if there weren't enough already:

*How's Cristian Guzman adjusting to 2B?
*Is Drew Storen going to stick?
*Is Stephen Strasburg going to stick?
*Will Javier Vasquez start the opener (once he's acquired for Willingham)?
*Who plays left once Willingham is traded, Justin Maxwell or Roger Bernadina?
*Pudge or Flo? Who's No. 1?

Still waiting

The e-mail said today's press conference would be on MASN at 1 p.m., but the Washington Times update later noted it had been moved back to 2 p.m.
It's 2:15 and I'm watching "lowlights" of Steelers-Browns.
Holdups happen but they also always make me curious.
Do we have a problem? Did the physical not go as expected? Did Pudge read the fine print and say, "Who is this Flores and what do you mean backup?"
I suspect all is well but idle time lets my mind run amok.
Plus, anything is better than watching Steelers-Browns a day later.
When did the Steelers become the Redskins?
Where is Pudge??

MORE scenarios as we continue to wait:

PUDGE: What do you mean, the Nationals? I thought you said the Yankees?
BORAS: No, no, I said a team that beat the Yankees. Might have said "a team that beat' real low

Lost on the subway?

The city changed the locks and they can't get in the press room?

Why am I still looking at Brian Kelly here? Ugh. At least it isn't Steelers-Browns.

They stopped at Five Guys for lunch and the line was long?

They dropped by to see Barack first and lost track of time?

OK, I'll shut up now. It's 2:42 p.m. and the PC has started. It's "another benchmark moment for the Nationals franchise" we're told. I'll have more later. There's one question I'm eager to hear asked.

QUICK UPDATE - It sure doesn't sound like he's expecting to be a backup. It sure sounds like he's said "everyday basis" a few times.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rule 5

Here's my thought on Rule 5: It's like that coin-operated game where you put in your quarters and move the hooky thing around and watch it lower and try to grab a prize.

Usually, you'll come up with air. Sometimes, you'll come up with something small. Once in a great blue moon, you'll come up with something good (see JimBow the Blind Squirrel's acorn in Jesus Flores).

So I pay little attention to what goes on with Rule 5. Flores is the only one who proved worthwhile for the Nats, right? Levale Speigner will always have his Santana moment but would anyone do that again? Not sure I can name any other Rule 5ers. The 2005 season was almost over before I realized the Nats had a Rule 5er on the roster. Can't even remember his name. I do remember he hit a home run and one of the papers wrote a story about some of the veterans buying him a suit. Blanco? A 3B or something?

I do so hate to lose Zech Zinicola, not because I think he has a chance to be the next great thing. I just love the name and all the possibilities. Double Z. Z Squared. Top (ZZ? Get it? OK, so it's pretty weak). You can't have too many guys whose last names begin with Z.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

And we're off

One day of winter meetings, two new players and no departures. I can't wait to see what this day will bring. I read somewhere - Nationals Journal? - the player to be named will be a pick in the Rule 5 draft.

I spent most of yesterday trying to shake cobwebs out of my old brain and figure out why Brian Bruney stuck out for some reason other than pitching. It finally clicked. He was the guy who got into it with K-Rod early in the season, I believe while he was still on the DL. Video (not very good video) here, story here.

So our man Bruney has a bit of a big mouth. Can he pitch? At this point, I think he's an upgrade over the Saul Rivera we saw last season, so I'm willing to look at it with an open mind. That bullpen has kind of become like the live well on a bass fisherman's tournament boat. They can catch five a day, so they catch five and then start replacing them with bigger fish. Bruney's a bigger fish.

MacDougal, Clippard, Burnett, Bruney. There's four keeper fish. Storen? Who am I missing here. Is Bergmann a keeper fish or one you throw back?

As for the Pudge thing, I at first thought the Nats had signed me. That's among the nicer things I'd been called. Hey, it's an easy mix-up to make. I've caught before and he's about my age. Save for 13 or so gold gloves and multiple all-star appearances and some athletic ability, we could pretty much be the same guy (although he does have hair).

No offense to former Nat Brian Schneider (or it is Snyder, where's Don Sutton?) - that's who I was convinced the Nats were going to sign and this is an upgrade. I hate to see Wil Nieves go because I like the guy so darn much, but this is an upgrade. Pudge as your everyday catcher now? An upgrade over Bard/Nieves but not what you want. Pudge as a backup? I can live with that.

My concern is about the mentor thing and his mindset toward being a backup. Does he have any history of "ment-ing?" Does he have a real desire to do so? Sure, he'll say he does and gush about Flores in the first interviews we read. Does he mean it? Because, without the right attitude in a spot like that, his presence can cause more harm than it can do good. I trust the braintrust checked all that out. I hope.

We'd all be thrilled if Flores turned into a Pudge type catcher. During those healthy periods he's had, he's shown some great flashes on offense and defense. If he's of a mind to do so, Rodriguez can be a tremendous asset to Flores. He can truly make Flores better and I'm not sure we could say that about many available catchers.

I also wonder how well he'll handle a backup role. Is 40 games going to be enough if Flores does manage to stay healthy?

I didn't pore over the available catchers as well as I should have, so I can't comment with any authority on whether this was the best option available (like that's ever stopped me). Is it? Who else should the Nats have tried to sign?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Condolences to Elijah Dukes, family

This is a sad story out of Tampa. Elijah Dukes' father died soon after leaving prison. Cancer, undetected while he was incarcerated.

I liked what we saw of Dukes after his return from Syracuse, on the field and the way he carried himself. I think Jim Riggleman's approach was good for him. They got rid of the baby-sitter, started treating him like everyone else and expecting him to act like everyone else.

Here's hoping he handles his grief in a proper manner and keeps making forward progress.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fingers crossed for the Times

This has been another bad week - most of them are - for newspapers. USA Today made some cuts this week and several friends in sports lost their jobs. Later yesterday came the news that the Washington Times plans significant changes and a huge reduction in staff.

That reduction could well include THE ENTIRE SPORTS STAFF. I'd heard this rumor for ages and refused to believe it. Or perhaps didn't want to believe it. While the Times hasn't said anything official about its sports (or metro) sections, many people I know at the Times are convinced they will not be a part of this new product.

It sickens me.

I've always been a fan of the underdog paper, probably because I spent the first portion of my career working for one in The Richmond News Leader. Don't get me wrong. I love the Washington Post. I did as a kid and I still do, even though it is much less of a product than it was just a few short years ago. It's still among the best and the Post has done a better job figuring out the online stuff than most.

But I loved the old Daily News (broke the story about Ted Williams managing the Senators) and the Washington Star. And the Times, not just because it has been foolish enough to run stories by me now and then. Back in 1982, they came out of the gate hustling (at least in sports) and they haven't stopped.

In a story the Post published yesterday on its Web site, the writer mentioned "(Times) reporters who sometimes outhustled the competition." Well, the competition IS the Post and the writer is correct. The underdog sometimes won, more often than the Post would like. I know the feeling those Times guys got when they read "first reported in the Washington Times" in the Post. It's a great feeling. The Times' staff works hard and does a good job. If the paper does squelch sports, some very talented people will be out of work.

The Times handles the Nationals the way a baseball team has to be handled these days, with two reporters. It's no longer a one-platform job. You are writing for the Web and the print edition. It's a never-ending job. Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling do it very well.

Dave Sheinin makes mention of the Times' situation in a Nationals Journal update and notes that competition makes everyone better. He's correct there. There are enough Web sites and other outlets to give the Post some competition but nothing does it like another newspaper. Particularly a good newspaper like the Times.

I will be crushed if the Times eliminates its sports section.

People ask me all the time if I miss newspapers, if I regret leaving. I miss newspapers so much I want to cry - newspapers the way they used to be. We worked really hard and had a lot of fun doing it.

I don't miss what's going on now. The uncertainty, every single day. Is this the day they come for me? Is this the day they come for the guy at the next desk? Is this the day they come for my colleague and best friend of 30 years? As a manager, I worried about all that and if I would soon be asked to take my staff of 30 and make it 18. Or whether someone would just go ahead and do that for me and leave me to deal with the fallout.

A pal who got cut at USA Today went to lunch with a colleague. They talked about a joint project they were doing and went back to the office to work on it. An hour later, my pal got called into HR.

I wish I was loaded and could start my own venture. I did start my own venture ( for a cheap plug) but I'm not loaded and I can't keep it going without some help. There's enough journalistic talent on the loose in D.C. to put out an exceptional product. Sadly, there may be more soon.

Oh, and to at least get some Nats into this post, I hope they offer Scott Olsen arbitration. I still see enough upside there. I hope I get to read about his no-hitter in June in the Times.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

One of the Metro columnists at the paper did an annual Thanksgiving column that was terrific. Always one of my favorite parts of the day. I won't even try to duplicate it here.

I will, however, offer some thanks to a few people/things related to baseball. Not without first making it clear I'm always thankful for a great family, great friends, my animals. You know, the usual.

*I am thankful to have a team in my ol' hometown again, even with a couple of 100-loss seasons thrown in there. My Son The Braves Fan asked a while back how I spent my spring and summer evenings before 2005. He couldn't remember. "Staring at random teams on the screen and wishing I cared," was the reply.

*I am thankful for the people I have met through this blog, from going to the games, from just being a fan. Nice to know you're not the only nut on the loose. That some really cool people suffer from the same thing I do is comforting.

*I am thankful for Mike Ogunwumi, the greatest ticket rep in the world (yes, I checked). Whenever I've needed something he's helped. Which reminds me: I need to get back to him tomorrow and figure out what I'm doing next season.

*I am thankful for Chris and Brian turning me on to The Ugly Mug - a great place to go before and after games (and I should charge them for this, huh?). My wife likes it, too, which is good. Makes it easier when I scream WE HAVE TO LEAVE 10 HOURS BEFORE THE GAME BECAUSE OF TRAFFIC! We can go to the Mug if we get there early, right? Of course.

*I am thankful I was in the house for Adam Dunn's 300th, for a big blast against St. Louis, for one off the warehouse (on the bounce) in Baltimore and many more. I sure hope he's around longer than one more year. In 2008, I saw three walk-offs. Got shut out there in 2009.

*I am thankful I was in the house when Randy Johnson won his 300th game. I'm convinced we won't see another 300-game winner until Stephen Strasburg does it. Although, let's make this clear again: That was ball four on Dunn. My son, watching from home on MASN, sent this text: Worst call in history. Way low.

*I am thankful for Nats Park. The outrageous parking fees drive me about nuts along with some other small issues but I get past them when I think of the alternative. I think I went to one game at RFK the last year the team was there. I've been to 50+ at Nats Park in two seasons. You can enjoy watching a game there, even if you can't always get pizza in the upper deck.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something or someone and I apologize. But it's almost 9 a.m. Something's ready to eat by now.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Coaching staff complete

Release courtesy of the Nationals. Not like I did any reporting here:


The Washington Nationals today announced that hitting coach Rick Eckstein, pitching coach Steve McCatty and third base coach Pat Listach will return in the same roles in 2010. The club also named John McLaren bench coach, Jim Lett bullpen coach and Dan Radison first-base coach. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Mike Rizzo and Nationals Field Manager Jim Riggleman made the joint announcement.

Eckstein returns for a second season in Washington, as his offense showed significant gains in 2009 in runs per game (+0.40 per game), home runs (+39), batting average (+.007), on-base percentage (+.014), slugging percentage (+.033) and OPS (+.047) compared to the previous season.

McCatty was named Nationals pitching coach on June 2. The Nationals’ Triple-A pitching coach for four seasons before being summoned to Washington, McCatty employed numerous pre-existing relationships with Nationals pitchers to help his staff post an ERA exactly one run better than that recorded in the season’s first two months (5.69 ERA from Opening Day-May 31, 4.69 ERA from June 2 through season’s end).

Listach will return for a second season as Nationals third base coach. Last season, Listach’s judgment saw only 11 Nationals thrown out at home plate on non force-outs, a figure bettered by only the Cardinals (eight) in MLB. With added responsibilities as the Nationals infield instructor, Listach had a hand in Ryan Zimmerman earning his first career Rawlings Gold Glove.

McLaren, 58, will draw on 22 seasons of big league coaching experience, including a stint as Mariners manager for portions of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He replaced Mike Hargrove as Seattle’s manager on July 2, 2007. While skippering the Mariners, McLaren hired Riggleman as his bench coach in 2008.

McLaren has worked on Lou Piniella’s staff for 15 seasons, and also enjoyed stewardships under Mike Hargrove, Cito Gaston, Jimy Williams and Joe Morgan. He has experienced five post-seasons, including four division titles (Toronto in 1989, Seattle ‘95, ‘97, 2001). McLaren spent the 2009 campaign as a Rays special assignment scout. He also served as Team USA bench coach during the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006.

Selected by Houston in the 1970 Draft, McLaren caught for seven professional seasons before beginning his coaching career in Toronto’s system in 1977. After serving the Blue Jays for nine seasons as a minor-league coach, manager and scout, McLaren joined Toronto’s big league staff as third base coach in 1986.

Lett, 58, will draw on 15 seasons of Major League coaching experience, 11 spent as a bench coach with the Reds, Blue Jays, Dodgers and Pirates. He served as Dodgers bullpen coach from 2001-04, where he worked alongside Riggleman, who was Jim Tracy’s bench coach at the time.

Lett joins the Nationals after spending the previous two years coaching in Milwaukee’s minor-league system. Lett has worked in professional baseball for each of the last 35 seasons as a player, coach, manager or front-office executive. Lett is also a highly respected catching instructor.

The 59 year-old Radison begins his third tour with Riggleman, as the two worked together during Riggleman’s managerial stays in San Diego and Chicago (NL). Outside of his stints with the Cubs and Padres, Radison has managed, coached or scouted for the Yankees, Cardinals and Mets organizations from 1984-2006.

He spent the previous three seasons as the Cardinals Minor League Hitting Instructor. While there, Radison worked closely with Eckstein, and helped Rick Ankiel (as a hitter), Skip Schumaker and Colby Rasmus graduate to St. Louis.

Radison was drafted by the Cardinals in 1972 and played professionally for three seasons. He commenced his career in coaching at the college level, serving as an associate or assistant coach at Broward (FL) Community College, the University of Georgia and Old Dominion (VA) University.

We want Livan

By a margin of 25-15 on my latest poll, the NFBLooser Nation wants the Nats to re-sign Livan Hernandez.

I'm among the yes votes for a simple reason: I like watching the guy pitch, a lot. And I think he can still do it pretty well. He'll give you a chance to win most nights. Some nights he'll get his tail kicked.

Here's what I don't know - what kind of guy is he? I know he's not "the" free agent pitcher the Nats are talking about signing and bringing in to mentor all the young folks. That'll fall on someone else. Even so, if Livan isn't the type to help the youngsters and be a "positive" person, I can understand the Nats not wanting to keep him around. I've never heard that's the case and never come away with that impression about him from watching him interact or reading about him.

I think given the current state of the staff, there's room for him for at least one more year and maybe two. said it was less than 50-50 he'd be back. I'd like to know why.

As for other pitching developments - the Nats release said this knee thing with Sir Strasburg is nothing serious. So why do I have an unsettled feeling in my stomach? Why does MY knee hurt? A commenter on the Nationals Journal asked why he was even out there shagging flies. Not sure there's much history of guys getting hurt doing that. He probably has a better chance getting hurt running or going down the dugout steps.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New beat writer at Post coming

Someone e-mailed me this today. I haven't talked to Chico in a while, but the fact that a change is coming was one of the worst-kept secrets in a gossip-filled industry. Not entirely sure what he will be doing (more with the magazine perhaps?) or if they have an in-house person in mind. If they go outside, they will draw a ton of interest:

After two very long seasons doing an outstanding job covering the Washington
Nationals, Chico Harlan
is eager for a new challenge at the Post, and a well-deserved one. We
do not fault Chico for having failed to bring winning baseball to the
District. In fact, he now joins a long list of baseball writers who
have come up short in that regard. What this means is that we are
looking for a new reporter to cover the Nats. This is one of the most
high profile and rewarding beats in Sports because our coverage of the
city's MLB franchise is at the center of our department's mission. It
is also a very demanding job. It involves covering upwards of 140-150
games per year, in addition to spring training and the off-season. The beat
writer is also responsible for regular posts to the
Nationals Journal blog, which has a large and passionate following of
baseball fans. A background in sports is not essential, though the
ideal candidate would be someone who has high energy, a willingness to
travel and a love for the game of baseball.

We would like to fill this position soon to give the writer time to
acclimate before the start of spring training in Florida in

If interested, contact Matt Vita, Peter Perl, or Alexa Steele by December 2.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ramblings on Riggleman

The Nationals put Jim Riggleman on the phone today with members of the Nats' blogosphere - welcome to managing in the Internet age, Jim. Nice of the Nats to recognize the online world exists and afford the opportunity. We'll use some of the material gathered in a later post but today is for pontification and rambling and trying to make some sense of the hire. Here's what I came up with:

The past couple of days have been spent trying to get my arms around the whole Jim Riggleman thing. Good move or not? Bargain hire or proper hire? A guy who could be around a while or a space holder for a couple of years?

The conclusion I’ve reached is you could pick any of the above answers and come up with good reasons why it is correct.

I want to declare it a good thing. I like Riggleman and I’m on the record as saying I prefer good people over the opposite in any situation. If you have to bring in knuckleheads to win, I’d rather not.

Overall, Riggleman’s numbers don’t look great. For his career, he’s 139 games below the .500 mark. Of the 663 managers listed at, only 15 are as many or more below .500 and most of them were from the 1800s or the turn of the century (Manny Acta, by the way, is at -94 in less than three seasons).

But those numbers don’t really mean much. Riggleman mopped up in Seattle last year and Washington this year. That’ll mess with your numbers. How many really good teams did he have? You give him the Dodgers and Joe Torre the Nats, I’ll bet anything Riggleman wins more games. You give me the Dodgers and Torre the Nats, I’ll bet anything I win more games.

Tom Kelly is widely regarded as a pretty good manager. He went to postseason twice and won two World Series. For his career, he’s 105 games under .500.

Would anybody have gushed over Torre years into his career? No one talked about him as a potential Hall of Famer after his early stints. When he took over the Yankees, well, he became a lot better.

How about Terry Francona? Think managing the recent Red Sox team enhanced his rep a little over what it was with the earlier Phillies editions?

Retreads can work, if they have good players. If not, they’ll probably be out of a job again before too long.

What I think is a pretty good measure is this: Did they get the most out of what they had?

A good example of that came a couple of years ago with the Washington Capitals. They fired Glen Hanlon on Thanksgiving and brought in this minor league guy named Bruce Boudreau. Didn’t he end up as coach of the year? Hanlon wasn’t getting as much out of that team as was there, Boudreau got it all out of them and more.

You saw that a little with the Nats last year. Anyone with eyes could see they were a better team in the second half of the season. If you told me when Riggleman got the job he’d win 33 of the final 75 games, I would have taken that. Who wouldn’t after a 26-61 start?

Most believed the Nats would win 70-some games and I think a full year of Riggleman would have produced that.

But that’s not totally fair because Riggleman also had a different team than Manny Acta had, mostly because of Nyjer Morgan. Suppose Acta had Morgan, Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett all season. Would we be having this conversation today? Suppose Acta didn’t start the season with a bullpen put together from Toys R Us on Christmas Eve?

One argument I’ve heard and read this week bothers me. Riggleman was chosen over Bobby Valentine because the Nats are not ready to win just yet. When they are, you bring in a Valentine type.

Interesting. I disagree. The Nats over the next couple of seasons, we hope, will be developing the core of the team that will be ready to win at some point. This manager will get Stephen Strasburg’s major-league career started, Drew Storen’s major league career started. You hope most of the winning pieces show up in 2010 and 2011 to go with Ryan Zimmerman, Jesus Flores (stay healthy, huh?), Morgan, maybe Ian Desmond and a couple of others.

A bad manager can really mess up that process. A good manager can help speed up the process, even if it isn’t reflected in his record. If the Nationals are really within a few seasons of being ready to win, this manager could be the most important in their history.

That’s why I wrote earlier that hiring Riggleman just because he was cheaper than Valentine would be a very bad idea. The keys to the future are in this guy’s hands, not the next guy. It better be the right choice.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Your new manager -

Jim Riggleman. So says and a status update on my Facebook page. They announced the baseball manager at the hockey game. This is what a Facebook friend wrote: Announced between periods of the hockey game: Jim Riggleman named manager of the Washington Nationals.

If the braintrust says this is the right move, I'm on board. In Mike We Trust has been the motto since Mike Rizzo was named GM and it will remain that way until he gives me reason to no longer feel that way.

What a day. A somewhat quiet offseason got noisy in a hurry.

Congratulations Ryan Zimmerman.

Congratulations Jim Riggleman.

So what's next? A trade or a nice free agent signing?

It's gold, Jerry, gold.

Lesson from a mentor years ago: Never miss a chance to work in a Seinfeld reference.
Congrats to Ryan Zimmerman on winning his first Gold Glove. Well earned. Imagine how good he'll be when he gets that throwing thing worked out.

I admit I don't know a whole lot about all those new fangled stats people invent to keep their calculators busy. The Washington Times mentioned something about Ultimate Zone Rating. I'll take their word for that it is a reliable standard.

All I know for sure is I watched a heck of a lot of the Nats and a heck of lot of baseball in 2009 and Zimmerman was easily the best I saw at third, even with those throwing errors. I don't know if there's a true statistical measure for jaw-droppers, but Zimmerman leads baseball in those.

So congrats again. I'm predicting he'll win 10 when by the time he's done.

Elsewhere, the Post's Nationals Journal says the manager choice will be known by the end of this week. Good. The suspense is killing me. If the choice is Bobby Valentine, can we say, "That's a wrap?"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bobby V vs. Jimmy Rigs

This story in the Post seems to point to the Nats' manager being one of those two. I'm going to stop using the term "permanent" manager, by the way, unless someone can assure me the pick is indeed going to be the Nats manager forever. Otherwise, he isn't permanent. Just an "interim" without that word sitting there.

Valentine would be an intriguing (and apparently expensive choice). Being a due diligence kind of guy, I nosed around with a couple of writers I know up New York way and the opinions I got on Valentine could not have been more divergent.

One guy I know and trust said he's an egomaniac who would be a terrible fit for the Nats. Despite that ego, he said Valentine can do a good job of managing the personalities who make up a baseball team. He'd be fine on a team that was ready to win now. Losing would make him nuts.

Another guy I know and trust swears by the guy, pretty much loves him and thinks the Nats ought to snap him up right now. He agreed that Valentine has a massive ego but contends that's part of the reason he'd work. He'd make it all about him, charm people, put himself front and center and try to deflect attention from the losing. (But will he get out the way when there's winning?). He's a strong baseball man, the guy said, who could help make the right decisions and make the team a winner faster.

Valentine's record doesn't overwhelm you - he's at .510 for his career and he's been to postseason twice in 15 seasons (full or partial). The 1999 and 2000 seasons were the only one's where his teams won more than 90 games. But he was over .500 ten times.

Interesting tidbit in Valentine's Wikipedia entry (take that for what it is worth): He claims to have invented the "wrap" sandwich. He says Bobby Valentine's Sports Gallery Cafe in Stamford, Conn., was the first to serve a sandwich in a tortilla rather than between slices of bread.

That right there ought to be enough to disqualify him.

I also did not know until just moments ago that Valentine's father-in-law is Ralph Branca. If you haven't read The Echoing Green about Ralph Branca and Bobby Thomsen, you should.

Valentine is a bigger name than Riggleman (who turned 57 Monday), but is he really that much of an upgrade? I get different answers depending on where I ask the question. Valentine has a better record but he also probably had better players.

He's more expensive, too, though he does have that wrap thing going for him. Hey, some people like them.

I'm starting to seriously think the choice will be Jim Riggleman. At some point, he'll have to open the Jimmy Rigs Cafe and patent some new kind of food item. I'm a food guy. I'll help him think of something.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

But the Nats own them!

The Yankees? I'm not impressed. In six meetings between the Nationals and Yankees since the start of the 2006 season, the tally reads Nats 4, Yankees 2.
The Nationals own they fannies, own 'em I'm telling you.

OK, seriously now. Congratulations to the World Champion New York Yankees. There, I said it. Wasn't as hard as I thought. It's much easier than it would have been a few years back.

My latest poll showed 19 pulling for the Phillies, 11 pulling for the Yankees and seven sitting this one out. I watched but I didn't much care who won.

A friend says the two participants may rank 29th and 30th on his list of teams. I wouldn't go that far, not as long as the Mets and Cubs exist. I wouldn't go too much higher than that.

I have tremendous respect for the Phillies and what they have been able to accomplish. Great lineup. I'd trade goodness knows what for Jayson Werth. Utley, too. My wife and I had a wonderful time at Citizens Bank Park in 2005 and have had great dealings with their fans. However, I've seen firsthand some Phillies fans acting badly and two blogging colleagues I like a lot dealt with some things they never should have dealt with at Citizens Bank. So that sticks in my mind.

The Yankees? Used to hate them with a passion, for no real good reason. One of my older brothers loved them so that had a lot to do with it. The Yankees were shoved down our throats a lot as kids. Of course, they were pretty good.

Whatever level of hatred I had for them went away last spring, when the team made a major donation to the Virginia Tech memorial fund AND showed up on campus to play an exhibition game. I had two students at Tech at the time - one undergrad and one grad. I know how the tragedy of 2007 weighed on them and their friends. I saw what it did to the university community. I spent eight days there as site editor for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, overseeing our coverage. It was a tough, tough time.

I can't even fathom the pain felt by the families of the victims.

The Yankees made two real nice gestures to help with the healing and, for that, will always have the appreciation of my family.

I remember my son calling me from the game, in tears, saying, "This is SO cool. The Yankees are HERE." He talked this week about walking toward the stadium and hearing, "and playing third base - Alex RodREEEEguez." Right there at English Field.

We both have those Yankee hats with the VT logo on the side. After the game, Johnny Damon mentioned how much he'd like to come back for a football game. My son and his buds stay on me to pull some strings and make that happen (anybody? can you help? They'll get his ticket).

So the hatred, even the dislike, has been shelved. Root for them? Let's not get carried away. OK, well, maybe a little.

Let me just sum it up this way: It doesn't break my heart that the Yankees are the 2009 World Champions.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I am so confused

No, I'm not confused by this report in the Washington Times' chatter section. As I've noted before, the Times does an excellent job with its Nationals blog and I'm surprised it doesn't draw a lot more commentary.

I'm also not confused by Don Mattingly's decision. As much as I'd like to be mad at him, I can't. If he's truly a serious contender to be the next manager of the Dodgers, can you really blame him? I would have enjoyed reminding him of the time I ate at his restaurant in Evansville, Ind. A Don Mattingly baseball (not obtained that night) is one of two autographed balls sitting on my display case. Livan Hernandez is the other.

What confuses me is what the Nationals think of Jim Riggleman.

Also noted before here: I have no problem with Riggleman being named permanent manager of the Nationals. There was definitely a different, better vibe to that team in the second half of the season and it may have had as much to do with Nyjer Morgan as Jim Riggleman. But I suspect Riggleman had a hand in it.

What I do not want is for Riggleman to get the job because he's the cheaper alternative. I want him to get the job because the braintrust - a braintrust I trust now that you-know-who is gone - thinks he is the best for the job, price tag be danged.

If Bobby Valentine is better and wants the job, pay the man Shirley. If Buck Showalter is better and wants the job, open up the vault.

If Riggleman is the best man, hire him. Please. But hire him for that reason.

Don't go cheap on your manager. Not now. If the optimistic proclamations are to be believed, this team is closer than results make it appear. The next manager could well be the one to lead the team to respectability and - am I really typing this? - the team's first playoff berth. It is a crucial hire. Lots of these prospects we've been beaten over the head with will be showing up over the next couple of seasons. Stephen Strasburg is going to make his debut under the next manager.

You want this next manager to be one you firmly believe is capable of handling all this.

If you think that's Jim Riggleman, I'll stand and applaud. If that's someone else, I'll support that, too.

Do it because he's the best, please. Not because he's the cheapest.

One other point of confusion: Why would they give Jim Riggleman "new electronic equipment" if he's not the guy? What is that? A computer? A BlackBerry? A HighDef TV? Satellite radio? A blender? A microwave? What exactly did they give him? An iPod? Curiousity is killing me.

UPDATE: One part of the confusion cleared. I'm told quite reliably that Mr. Riggleman got a new computer and BlackBerry. The information came with the notation that such gifts would seem to indicate he's going to be around a while. "Here, use this for a week." I don't think so.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Offseason needs

Once again, the results of my poll surprised me. The vote was overwhelming. Starting pitching is the Nats' biggest offseason need.
It got 32 votes out of 46 cast. Relief pitching was "runner-up" with eight. A middle infielder got four, a big bat got 1 and a catcher got 1.

I think starting pitching is a need. I think relief pitching is a bigger need.

Right now, I have Lannan, Detwiler and Hernandez in the rotation (yeah, I know, but I'm assuming/hoping they'll keep Livan around). Lannan is an obvious lock. I think the Detwiler we saw in September earned that, I was much more impressed with the way he carried himself upon his return. Livan is Livan - he'll get rocked now and then but keep you in it more often than not.

This free agent they talk about will be in the rotation and who knows what player will fill that slot? They'll get someone. Is Tim Hudson worth a look? Are the Marlins really looking to trade Josh Johnson? Can he be had without sacrificing the entire farm?

The fifth spot? Let the rest of them battle it out: Mock, Balestar, Martin, Martis, Stammen, anyone else.

Clippard, Burnett, MacDougal as bullpen holdovers - probably Bergmann, too. At least at the start. Will Storen be ready that soon? Even if he is, there's a couple of spots available. I'd love to see the Nats sign or trade for some proven relief help. Who is out there worth pursuing? I must go look. I will report back later.

I'll take another season of MacDougal as the closer if Storen isn't quite ready. What we saw with him is what we'll get. Some nights he'll be unhittable and other nights it will be ugly. He's not a long-term answer but he'll do for one more year. Storen is certainly the guy in 2011, you'd think. You'd hope.

Can Flores catch 130 games next year? What are the available options? Will Guzman handle a move to second base? Is it worth pursuing Orlando Hudson? Oh, I could go on and on and on.

But get some relief pitching first.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Manny to the Indians

Manny Acta is back in a manager's office - in Cleveland. Apparently had his choice of that or Houston.
He must give one heck of an interview.

Renew? Yes or no?

Waiting for me when I got home last night was my 2010 season ticket renewal package. I guess I have to make a decision pretty soon. If I choose to keep my seats and do it on the same payment plan I did last year, the first chunk is due next weekend.

I don't understand the points, the free ticket availability or any of that stuff. I like it simple. This is what I pay. These are the seats I get (the same I had in 2009, which I loved). These are the games.

Friends I've discussed this with are split. Some are, some aren't. There doesn't seem to be any pattern or underlying reason why on either side.

What to do, what to do? I ended up using more of my plan games in 2009 than I did in 2008. The exchange program was much better last year and it was easier to use tickets we'd otherwise have to eat to make a weekend out of other games later in the year.

I can't wait to see who becomes the manager. I can't wait to see what free agents are signed, what trades are made. Well, I can, but I risk losing my seats and my payment plan if I do. So I can't.

What's everybody else doing?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Terry Pendleton

Had a great dinner with my brother at his house last night - stopped by on my way home from the CAA media day festivities at the ESPNZone. Check out my coverage at - how's that for a cheap plug?

As usual, our conversation veered quickly to the Nats and managerial choices. We've heard a lot of names as I'm sure everyone else has. One name that I've not heard yet with regard to this opening - Terry Pendleton. I'm sure it has come up elsewhere and I just missed it.

My brother thinks he may be waiting a year to step into Bobby Cox's job and that may be true. He's worth trying to talk to, at the very least.

I don't know what he knows about the hit-and-run or the double switch or the intracacies of covering the bunt. I suspect a lot. What I like about Terry Pendleton is he's one of those people who is a natural leader. While his MVP season meant a lot to the Braves so many years ago, his presence and personality meant a lot more. He helped change that team from a crew with a loser's attitude to a crew with a winner's attitude. He may well be reason No. 1 why that changed happened.

A personal story that means nothing in terms of managing ability but, at least to me, speaks well of him: Back in those days, newspapers had money and mine used to send me to Atlanta regularly to do updates and stories on the many players who spent time with the Richmond Braves (may they rest in peace).

I approached Pendleton in the clubhouse before the game and said I'd like a few minutes to get his thoughts on some things I was writing. He was very polite but begged off because he had to take care of something - hitting cage, trainer's room, I can't even remember. He'd find me afterward.

Yeah, I'm thinking. That's the ultimate player dodge. Most in my experience at least try to be polite. I wouldn't see Pendleton again that day.

About 20 minutes later, I'm in a group interviewing another player and there's a tap on my shoulder. Pendleton. "I'm ready now so stop by my locker when you're done." I did and he gave some of the most thoughtful answers I've ever received. Before or since.

Big deal. I know. Think about it, though. It's bigger than you may think. Dealing with people, all kinds of people, is something a manager has to do above just about anything else. Some common courtesy curried a lot of favor for Pendleton in at least one corner.

Surely he knows the game. He's patient. He's a presence. He's a winner.

He's probably the next manager of the Atlanta Braves but I hope the Nats at least inquire.

Also, here's an interesting update from the Times' blog about Don Mattingly. I have a personal story about him, too (you expected any less), but I will save that for another day. I would be in favor of his consideration, too. Pendleton, Mattingly - if you aren't going to keep Riggleman, give me someone new or someone with a previous track record. Please.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Managerial musings

Latest poll results are in - 18 for NO to Riggleman as the permanent manager, 10 for YES. That's about the direction I thought it would go, though I figured the numbers would be a little higher. So much for getting 100 votes one week.

Anyway, I forgot to vote and that's probably a good thing. Not sure what I would have done. My heart says yes - I like the guy, they were better when he took over (as much as they could be given what he had to work with) and it's hard to complain about the finish. Having Nyjer Morgan around, though, probably made as much of a difference as having a new manager. If the team decides to keep Riggleman, I won't howl in protest. It won't be the dealbreaker as I decide whether to renew my tickets.

I do sort of think with all the other changes going on, a fresh start for manager IS coming. I won't howl there, either, though the eventual choice could be a dealbreaker.

There's a theory out there that the Manny Experience will dissuade the Nats from trying to find the Next Great and Bright Young Thing. It worked out for the Mariners with Don Whatshisname and that leads me to ask who is the next Don Whatshisname? Well, Manny Acta was the first Don Whatshisname and that didn't go over too well.

So I'm sitting here expecting a retread and hoping it is at least a high level retread. Showalter, Valentine, someone like that. A friend indicated Ned Yost might be a candidate. No way. C'mon. If that's really the best they can do, I'll take Jim Riggleman a thousand times over.

I still know a few people in baseball. I may nose around some and see if there's any buzz about this hire. Is Washington considered a good job or a place to go to get Acta-ed? Do you find someone with a rep for bringing along lots and lots of young pitchers? Do you need a drill sergeant type?

Too many questions, too few answers. I suspect we will all be watching this one very closely.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Nats bullpen in pads

Thank you, Redskins, for taking my mind off how bad the Nationals were in 2009. You just may top that.

Did they bring in Jesus Colome and Logan Kensing when they went up 17-2? How do you blow that lead? Of course, it took drives of like 10 yards and 1 yard to get those two touchdowns. Otherwise the offense did just about nothing.

Who is the Jim Riggleman of the NFL? Is he on the Redskins' staff?

Here's another question to consider: What will happen first? Mike Shanahan takes over the Redskins or the Nationals have a permanent manager. My money is on Shanahan.

Friday, October 9, 2009

It never really ends

Any of you like me? You adopt a team for the playoffs because it's always more fun when you have a rooting interest?

For me, my adopted teams are the Twins and the Cardinals.

I listened to the Twins "extra" game against the Tigers on a drive home from Blacksburg on Tuesday. The radio crew there is very much into the homer mode but they're fun and it was quite a game. Plus, I have a couple of friends who are Twins fans. Plus, the Yanks and Red Sox are automatically eliminated and I won't cheer for Mike Scioscia out of some misplaced loyalty to Frank Robinson. That made the Twins a pretty easy call.

So they get to New York and get whipped on Wednesday. It can't be that tough a place to play. The Nats won two games there (saving Manny for about three weeks).

As for the Cardinals, that's another pretty easy call though I have no real hatred for the other NL entrants (even the Phillies). One of my best friends in the world is a Cardinals fan. My kids call him "Uncle Steve." We went to St. Louis together in 2006 for the entire Cards-Nats series (saw the return of Zach Day and Mike O'Connor's debut). We saw two games in 2005, too, and are making plans to go to each city next season. He was in a ticket lottery for Sunday's game and we were going to try to get to that but he didn't win. Alas, there may not be a Sunday game anyway.

So how 'bout that ninth inning last night? How Nats like was that? One out away and a fly ball is completely butchered (glove down Matt, on a ball that low). One strike away and it never comes.

I can pick 'em, can't I?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More bad luck - Norris injured

Great scoop by Brian over at Nationals Farm Authority. This is why he IS the authority on matters relating to the farm system.

That said, I would have been quite fine if he had no need to post such a scoop. If this truly is the first week of 2010, we're not off to a good start.

Top prospect Derek Norris will have surgery tomorrow for a hamate bone injury in his left wrist. All goes well and we'll never even notice. He'll be fine by spring training.

But I know from years of dealing with players who have those injuries: Rarely are they simple. The Hamate can be a real bear of an injury. Here's hoping all goes well and Norris is there in February.

Again, great work Brian. Thanks for ruining my day!


The results of the latest poll shocked me.

23 thought the team would be a .500 operation, 10 said it would be a threat to win 90, two thought PLAYOFFS! and three thought it would be right where it is now.

As much as I love my faithful readership - even though we never did get to 100 votes on any poll - I'm surprised by this. I voted for a threat to win 90 and make the playoffs (87 worked in the Central). After five years, I think that's reasonable.

Heck, though it seems SO long ago, this team was a .500 operation right out of the gate. Remember the 50-31 start? Much sweeter than the 31-50 finish but it added up to .500 and I thought the team should build from there.

Luck has had something to do with it. John Patterson. Shawn Hill. What could have been with a little health. But I assure you every team could put up such a similar list. Bad luck hasn't made the Nats what they are today.

Let's see if I have this straight:


I'm still on board. My mind is already racing with things I want to see in 2010. I've about made up my mind to renew, though some outside factors could affect that. I'm guessing I'll be all in again.
But I am far from satisfied with the current state of affairs and I'll make this promise right here and now: A third 100-loss season will be the death of me.

Seattle made great strides this season, I don't think it is unreasonable to expect the Nats to do the same. Am I demanding 86 wins next season? No. Am I demanding a reasonable run toward that? Yes, yes I am.

It's time for this team to step up and move in the right direction. It's beyond time, actually, but what's done is done. Ownership has been in place a while now, so that excuse is kaput. The bad GM is gone, there's no more interim. So that excuse is gone. A major overhaul is not needed. Everyone involved with the team says it is closer than the record indicates. So bridge whatever gap needs to be bridged. Now, please.

Monday, October 5, 2009

IBWA Award Winners 2009

Many thanks to Dave Nichols at Nationals News Network for spearheading this effort - and for including a relative blogging newcomer in the voting process.
Here is a link to the awards announcement so you can read a little more about the process and how they were named.

Here are the awards:

Goose Goslin Most Valuable Player
Player most valuable to the success of the Washington Nationals:
1st: Ryan Zimmerman (92 points, 16 first place votes)
2nd: Adam Dunn (41 points, one first place vote)
3rd: Nyjer Morgan (25 points, three first place votes)
Others: John Lannan (19), Josh Willingham (3)

Walter Johnson Starting Pitcher of the Year
Excellent performance as a starting pitcher
1st: John Lannan (96 points, 18 first place votes)
2nd: Jordan Zimmermann (42 points, two first place votes)
3rd: Craig Stammen (22 points)
Others: J.D. Martin (6), Garrett Mock (4), Livan Hernandez (3), Ross Detwiler (2)

Frederick "Firpo" Marberry Relief Pitcher of the Year
Excellent performance as a relief pitcher
1st: Tyler Clippard (80 points, 13 first place votes)
2nd: Mike MacDougal (55 points, six first place votes)
3rd: Sean Burnett (29 points, one first place vote)
Others: Jason Bergmann (6), Joe Beimel (5), Ron Villone (3),Saul Rivera (1)

Sam Rice Hitter of the Year
Excellence in all-around hitting, situational hitting and baserunning
1st: Ryan Zimmerman (81 points, 14 first place votes)
2nd: Adam Dunn (39 points, two first place votes)
3rd: Nyjer Morgan (26 points, three first place votes)
Others: Josh Willingham (14), Nick Johnson (9, one first place vote), Cristian Guzman (6)

Frank Howard Slugger of the Year
Excellence in power hitting
1st: Adam Dunn (100 points, 20 first place votes)
2nd: Ryan Zimmerman (46 points)
3rd: Josh Willingham (27 points)

Joe Judge Defensive Player of the Year

Excellence in fielding
1st: Ryan Zimmerman (88 points, 14 first place votes)
2nd: Nyjer Morgan (69 points, six first place votes)
3rd: Willie Harris (12 points)
Others: Alberto Gonzalez, Elijah Dukes, Nick Johnson (3), Wil Nieves (1)

Mickey Vernon Comeback Player of the Year
Player who overcame biggest obstacle in the preceding season to contribute on the field
1st: Nick Johnson (50 points, 10 first place votes)
2nd: Mike MacDougal (20 points, one first place vote)
3rd: Ryan Zimmerman (18 points, three first place votes)
Others: Jason Bergmann (16), Josh Bard (9), Ron Villone (8), Josh Willingham (7), Mike Morse (7), Justin Maxwell (5), J.D. Martin (4), Nyjer Morgan, Livan Hernandez, Ross Detwiler, Elijah Dukes (3), Adam Dunn, Ian Desmond, Jorge Padilla, Sean Burnett, Garrett Mock (1)

Josh Gibson Humanitarian Player of the Year
Player who meritoriously gave of himself to the community
1st: John Lannan (72 points, 12 first place votes)
2nd: Ryan Zimmerman (44 points, four first place votes)
3rd: Wil Nieves (21 points, three first place votes)
Others: Josh Willingham (9), Nyjer Morgan, Willie Harris, Elijah Dukes (3), Tyler Clippard (1)

Minor League Player of the Year
Minor league player most destined for big league success
1st: Derek Norris (54 points, nine first place votes)
2nd: Ian Desmond (53 points, nine first place votes)
3rd: Drew Storen (41 points, two first place votes)
Others: Bradley Meyers (16), Chris Marrero (7), Mike Morse (4), Daniel Espinosa (2), Ross Detwiler, Jorge Padilla (1).

And here is NationalsFanboyLooser's ballot:

Goose Goslin Most Valuable Player
First: Ryan Zimmerman
Second: Adam Dunn
Third: Nyjer Morgan

Walter Johnson Starting Pitcher of the Year
First: John Lannan
Second: Jordan Zimmermann
Third: Livan Hernandez

Frederick "Firpo" Marberry Relief Pitcher of the Year
First: Tyler Clippard
Second: Mike MacDougal
Third: Sean Burnett

Sam Rice Hitter of the Year
First: Ryan Zimmerman
Second: Adam Dunn
Third: Cristian Guzman

Frank Howard Slugger of the Year
First: Adam Dunn
Second: Ryan Zimmerman
Third: Josh Willingham

Joe Judge Defensive Player of the Year
First: Ryan Zimmerman
Second: Nyjer Morgan
Third: Elijah Dukes

Mickey Vernon Comeback Player of the Year
First: Nick Johnson
Second: Mike MacDougal
Third: Josh Bard

Josh Gibson Humanitarian Player of the Year
First: John Lannan
Second: Ryan Zimmerman
Third: Josh Willingham

Minor League Player of the Year
First: Derek Norris (the C - I think I have the name right)
Second: Drew Storen
Third: Danny Espinosa

Sunday, October 4, 2009


What a beautiful day here 125 miles south of "Nats Town." It's a crystal-clear blue sky morning, with a slight chill in the air. Just enough to make things comfortable.

It's not even 10 and I've already been productive. Work has been done. Coffee has been consumed. Laundry is churning. The dogs are worn out from chasing their "ballie" that they dropped on my sleepy self at 7 a.m. I whipped the kid's fanny in our latest cribbage tournament and will do so again tonight before we watch the season finale of Entourage. Last night, I had the best brisket I've ever had at a place called Q Shack in Durham, N.C. It was made better by the scores that showed up on the good ol' BlackBerry (I've quickly become an addict).

Yet with so much positive going on, I'll probably be crying a little in a few hours. OK, a lot. Yeah, I'm a sap.

I hate today. The season can't really be over, can it? Wasn't it just last weekend the kid and I went to Atlanta for his Christmas present and watched the Nats roll over three times for the Braves? And then rushed home to catch the Home Opener (loss No. 4 in four days with me there)? It's over? Already?

Sure, this team drives me nuts. We're talking about a squad that could finish with seven straight wins and still not win 60 games. They make me scream and shake and beat my head against the wall.

But that's just it. Even in these bad times (and please let's not see them get worse), they're MY team. They blow games in all ways imaginable and I still put on my Curly W hat or shirt or both and wait for the next game. I set my schedule around theirs, as much as I can. My brother referred to me as a professional Nats fan earlier this year. He may not be wrong. I saw 33 games this year in four cities (D.C., Atlanta, Baltimore, Pittsburgh). I've now seen the Nats in 10 different cities since 2005 and we'll look to add at least one new city a year.

I DON'T WANT TO WAIT UNTIL SPRING. I want another game tomorrow and then another one Tuesday and then another one Wednesday.

Sure, I'm curious about what will happen between now and whenever it is that pitchers and catchers report. A year ago, would anyone have guessed Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen would be Nats? What surprises await? Who will be the manager (more on that later)? Who will be the second baseman? Will Livan Hernandez be back? Who is going to be The Pitcher That Rizzo Wants?

We can't get all those answers and keep playing?

As much as I want the meter reset on this disaster of a season, I just don't want it to end. Besides, Adam Dunn needs more games. That streak can't end. I'll cry about that, too.

UPDATE - I hate today even worse now that I've seen the lineups. Going to be tough for Dunn to hit two home runs when he isn't playing. Guess Zimmerman and Willingham need that extra day of offseason, too.

UPDATE II - I guess they felt my pain and wanted to give me an extra game's worth of action today. I would have been just fine, though, with something other than that weak at-bat by my new hero Ian Desmond. You know those guys just hate playing this long on the final day.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Desmond and Maxwell

This should probably wait until my next poll but why wait? Let's discuss it now.

Do Desmond and Maxwell fit in with the 2010 Nationals?

I've seen enough to be comfortable with letting Desmond start the season as the regular shortstop. He's made six errors, which seems like a lot to me, but maybe we have to live with that. I like his bat, like the way he carries himself out there. Here's the key: If it doesn't work out, where do you go? If you start the season with Desmond as your regular SS, Guzman is either the 2B or gone. My bet would be gone. Someone who knows the system better than I do (and that's just about everybody) can answer the question about how far away the next prospect might be. Is it Espinosa?

I've never been anti-Guzman and I'm fine with him there another year. But does Desmond really need another year in the minors? I think the time to make that move is now.

As for Maxwell, is he a fourth OF or is he better than that? I really don't want to see Willingham/Morgan/Dukes broken up as the regular outfield. Is Maxwell a Morgan with more power? Can you make a change like that after what Morgan showed? I think not. Does Maxwell become trade bait in an attempt to upgrade the bullpen? Do you move Willingham or Dukes and create an everyday spot?

Do you start next season with a bench of Harris/Maxwell/Morse/Orr/Backup catcher? If so, I guess that leaves 2B as the only position to be decided (are you listening Orlando Hudson)?

I'm just full of questions, among other things, this morning.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Take that, Mets

I'm easy, I admit. It really doesn't take much to make me happy, though I understand it often sounds just the opposite.

One of my great thrills? Any victory over the Mets. Funny thing is, I don't really dislike the Mets at all. Some of my best friends are Mets fans, however, and they couldn't be more obnoxious. Two years ago, when the Mets did that severe gag and lost five of six to the Nats late, I smiled all winter.

Both teams are in Nowhereville this year but I loved that ending today just the same.

While Maxwell was batting, I was explaining to My Son the Braves Fan how Max fits in the Nats Grand Order of Things. It wasn't a great answer because I don't really know. If Willingham/Morgan/Dukes is the outfield next year, is he the fourth? Is he trade bait? Do you trade one of them (please not Morgan) and create a slot?

My son immediately started up with our trade game again. He wasn't offering much until that ball left the park. Then he said, "Prado for Maxwell."

Done. Right now. I'd take that one.

We had fun watching the game today and I'll spend the rest of the night grinning and giggling like a schoolgirl. My wife will think I'm drunk when she gets home. Heck, by the time she does, I may be.

I will tip one in your honor Mr. Maxwell. As my son said, "For a l00-loss team, they sure do put together some moments."

A funny moment in the postgame interviews: Dukes saying the "younger guys" came through today, one of them being Maxwell. Dukes is eight months younger than Maxwell.

Two to go

and I'm getting nervous. Right now, I'd bet my ranch that Adam Dunn doesn't get to 40 home runs this season.
Has he had a hit since his last home run?
Five games left. I don't even care about wins and losses now and the Braves series might not end up meaning as much to the Braves before it starts. The Harper Cup is secure.
So there's two things I'd like to see: Lannan get his 10th victory and Dunn get his 39th and 40th home runs.
We'll know soon enough on Lannan. I'd like to be at the final home game but have some actual work to do (I hate when that gets in the way). So my final tally is 33 games witnessed, 10 victories and 23 losses.
I'll have to go back and look to see how many of Dunn's home runs I've seen. Off the top of my head, there was the monster he hit off Joel Piniero the day Shairon Martis threw a complete game (remember that guy, won a few games early and then disappeared?). I saw a ridiculous shot in Baltimore and then No. 300 off Tommy Hanson.
I'm sure there were more in there. Those jump out.
Two more.
TWO. Probably 20 at bats.
Can it be done?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Is it hockey season yet?

I moved to Richmond in 1974 to go to college and have lived in that area all my professional life. I'm 53 now and that was 35 years ago so I've lived the vast majority of my life outside the Washington area.

Yet whenever anybody asks where I'm from, I always say, "D.C."

Might change that now. Why, I'm from Richmond. A lifelong Richmonder, in fact. Never lived anywhere else.


My eyes switch to the other TV just in time to see the Nats give up three in the top of the 10th. This after watching Willingham and Dukes look at strike three with runners on. Great pitches. Easy calls. Swing the damn bat.

Ah, yes, it is a great day to be from RICHMOND.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hey Honey!

My father-in-law had a simple answer for my son when asked how he kept all his women straight. He didn't try to remember their names. He just called all of them honey.

Perhaps ought to take the same approach with season-ticket holders.

Anyone else named Shawn out there?

For those not on those magical mailing lists, the Nats sent out an e-mail to us lucky fools who repeatedly give up their hard-earned cash to watch 100-loss teams. We can renew, we can get points, we can get upgrades. The usual "please come back" blather.

I read it without thinking too much about it. Still have no idea if I'll renew any of my tickets, let alone all four.

Then came the apology e-mail. Oops. It's's fault. We had the wrong name on there. You are not Shawn. You are Mike.

Yeah, I knew that much. I never even noticed the "Shawn" thing until they pointed it out. So I went back and looked. Sure enough, they called me Shawn. That's the thanks I get for the 1,000s of bucks I spent seeing nine victories in 30-some appearances? Shawn? I look like a Shawn to you?

I'm so offended I just can't stand it. Good thing one of my favorite people in the world is named Shawn, else I'd be really steamed.

OK, so I'm kidding a little. You can call me Bob, Fred, Bill, George or Diane if you'd just stop losing 100 games every year and stop closing the Slice Down the Lines on the upper concourse. You can call me Jackass, Bubblebutt, Tubby, Baldie or Stinky if you'd somehow manage to put a better product on the field.

Those computer programs that personalize everything are cool, aren't they? Until they don't work. But let's draw attention to our flies being down by sending out another e-mail that says, "Hey, our fly is down."

Call us all Shawn. I can't imagine too many people really care. Just stop losing all the time. That'll go a longer way toward getting me to renew than remembering I'm actually Mike.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bard and Dukes

Since they combined for the play of the game highlight reel moment, non-Zimmerman home run variety, I figure it is an appropriate time to write about them.

I've been critical about Bard on the defensive side, not without reason. But he made two very nice plays last night. The tag after that throw from Dukes was well executed. Yeah, it's nothing special. A catcher ought to be able to do that. We've seen it not done before. The real gem, though, came in the ninth as the Nats tried to blow it in their rush to get to 100. He stretched hisself as far as he could to catch that horrible throw from Guzman. And unless MASN is somehow doctoring the replays, dude was out. X-mo is pretty interesting. Dude was out.

The umps also missed one on the sliding catch by Dukes earlier in the game. Umps need X-mo!

Here's my thing about Dukes - it appears the decision to send him out earlier this year actually worked. I have nothing really to back this up but a feeling. I sense he's a little bit of a different guy, on and off the field. He's playing better. He seems to be carrying himself better. Maybe the decision to get rid of his baby-sitter helped, too. Treat him like more of an adult and maybe, just maybe, he'll act like one?

I have no real idea if any of the above is correct. I could be talking about my can as usual. I do know at the time he was sent out, I was somewhat convinced we'd never see him again and I wasn't too worried about that. Now I'm back to kind of liking the idea of him being in right for a while. Unless, of course, future Hall of Famer Ian Desmond beats him out.

One more thing before I go. Thanks to "Wil Nieves" for pointing this out in the comments on my previous entry. Orlando Hudson said reports of him failing a physical for the Nats are wrong. He never took one. Didn't take one for the Dodgers either. I'd take him in D.C. next season.

OK, one more thing: Jordan Zimmermann is going to finish as this team's strikeout leader. He hasn't pitched in ages.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Two to go

Last night was another BlackBerry game. I was in airports and on airplanes. I saw quick glances of 2-1 Nats, 4-2 Dodgers and then 14-2 Dodgers. I wanted to ask for a refund on the BlackBerry.

Ah, but the one detail I got was good news - No. 38 for Dunn. I have not checked for other details and it is probably better if I don't.

I have become obsessed with this streak and I'm really going to be disappointed if he doesn't get to 40. That's pretty much all I care about now and, watching the team in recent days when I've been able, I suspect that means I care about more than some who are wearing the uniform.

I look back at my earlier post where I predicted a 77-win season and wonder what I was drinking. I suspect if the Nats did a Disappointed as Hell Night and gave away tickets to those who qualified, they'd fill the joint easily. Mr. Rizzo has some serious work to do in the offseason. I'm sure I'm not the only fan sitting here wondering, "Do I want to keep making the kind of investment I'm making in this team, financially and otherwise?" Not sure yet I want to put $1,800 or so into my partial ticket plan and who knows what on gas, food and other costs. I've been loyal and faithful, though a bit grumbly here and there, for five years now.

I'm well within my rights to expect better at this stage.

Strasburg gives me hope. That's done. The Nats will end up winning the Harper Cup easily so the team can break is own signing record next season.

What 40 HRs for Adam Dunn will do is make me happy about something on field this season - two more, let's get it done. Oh, I'd be happy with an extension for him, too.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Starting in CF today - Josh Bard?

I mean, why not? Let's see who can do what? Maybe what's his name the new guy can catch one and, since Bard has been hot lately, his bat has to be in the lineup, right? So let's put him in CF and see if that's a place he can help in the future.

Or not. Maybe it is a better idea to let catcher's catch, pitcher's pitch, infielder's play infield and all that.

I'm on the record here as being a big fan of young Mr. Desmond. I'll be able to tell my grandchildren I was there when he hit his first one out (and sailed his first throw in true Nats fashion).

But right field? Because you want Pete Orr in the lineup? C'mon. So put Pete Orr in the lineup and play the right fielder in right field. Or put Desmond at short - it is his position after all - and Orr at second and the right fielder in right field.

Here's a thought if you want to experiment: Guzman at 2B. If you're seriously thinking about trying that next season, why not try it for a game or two? I can't think there's any serious thought of moving Desmond to the outfield. Playing him out there makes less than zero sense.

But I'm being negative and I'm going to get with the program. Here's my suggestion on today's lineup:

Bard, 8 - hey, the CF always leads off. Morgan, Harris, Bard
Guzman, 4 - Yes, second base
Zimmerman, 9 - let's give HIM a shot out there and see what he can do
Dunn, 5 - well, you need his bat in the lineup and it's time to see if Desmond can play first
Willingham, 2 - wasn't there some talk of him doing this like in high school?
Desmond, 3 - He did it once in Little League
Dukes, 6 - he has a great arm
Orr, 7 - need that bat in the lineup
Burke, 1 - and you think they got him to be a catcher. Ha!

You know, it's not like they've been gold gloving it out there all year. Neither team is in the playoff hunt. So give it a whirl. It just may work.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Modern commerce and gold gloves

My son found a pair of shoes he liked at one day so he went through the checkout process, put in his info, found out shipping was free. He sat back and waited - but not long. The shoes were on the porch the next day!

I pay a little extra to Amazon to get my books in two days but they always deliver in one.

You don't have to wait for anything these days. Even catchers.

I'd love to find the Web site Mike Rizzo went to last night as he watched Wil Nieves hobble past first base. Were there pictures? A drop-down menu? Check boxes? You put "catcher" in the search window and see what comes up?

Catcher/cheap/old/desperate = CLICK - and up comes Jamie Burke. Wonder if shipping was free? They're getting him to New York tonight.

Perhaps they can just get Schneider from the Mets now and begin his reunion tour early?

What happened to Luke Montz that he fell from grace so quickly? Anyone know?

As for Gold Gloves, only 35 people voted in the current poll. So much for hitting 100 - shockingly, 32 think Ryan Zimmerman should win. I'm curious to hear from the three who voted no. I can understand arguments either way. I voted yes for a simple reason. I'm a FanboyLooser.

New poll coming later today when I think of a good question.

(and if this Web site can deliver catchers so fast, why can't it find some relievers? Maybe it only deals in retreads. Off to check and see what's out there. Probably have to have some kind of GM code to get in).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

At least Livan stays in the game

This baserunning stuff is
the wall.

What are they doing out there? This is not high level stuff here. It is baserunning at its most basic.

What the ???

This Flores news was simply a wonderful thing to wake up to this morning. Cripes a-moly. I listened last night on XM so I had the Phillies broadcast and it wasn't mentioned.

When did he tear the thing? He hasn't been throwing lately, has he? Can you tear it swinging the bat? Was it there all along and just missed?

Is it just me or does it seem like every medical situation with this team turn into the Keystone Cops?

Time to go scan the free agent catchers list. Your 2010 Opening Day catcher for the Nats - Brian Schneider! Can they take Harper early? Luke Montz, come on do *** oh, wait, he had such a fine season they took him off the 40-man. Doesn't mean he can't go back on but I don't see Montz as the guy.

This day had such promise, too. In a season of many lows, the whole Flores situation ranks right up there at the top.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Do we have our answer yet?

No XM on the way home last night, so I couldn't listen. Sounds like a good thing. I did go take a look at the box score and I wonder in general what the Nationals are doing with the following three pitchers. Garate may have been a good pickup but he's clearly not ready for the big leagues. Segovia actually lowered that ERA by getting some people out.

The Kensing thing is what continues to blow my mind. The number in bold is home runs. Two more. He must have the biggest gopher in baseball. That thing would win Best in Show at the annual Westminster Gopher Club competition every year.

I'm OK with trying new things in September so the Garate and Segovia issues don't drive me too crazy. But this deal with Kensing is not new. We've seen it before, in each of his two previous chances.

Kensing 1.0 3 3 3 0 0 2 11.06
Garate 1.0 1 2 2 1 0 0 18.00
Segovia 1.0 1 1 1 1 1 0 27.00

On the other side of the coin, I've cleared space on my display cabinet for the Ian Desmond bobblehead that must already be in production. I'll find room on the wall later for my lifesize Ian Desmond poster.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Taking my bows

Just to let everyone know, I plan to take FULL credit if Adam Dunn gets to 40 home runs and extends that streak to six seasons in a row. The discussion here has prompted a mini-surge and I believe we can all feel better now. We're down to needing three in 21 games.

I'll feel a lot better if he gets one more in Florida. He'll surely get one in three games in Philadelphia. When I made my original post, I was leaning heavily on the no side. I'm tilting toward yes now. The streak continues.

Now please tell me Desmond is playing tonight and I'll be a happy camper for once.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A wet, happy drive home

Great night at the Park and it had nothing to do with the game, though that certainly didn't hurt. We have some friends in the San Diego area who got married Sunday in a simple ceremony on a beach there. Instead of having family and friends fly out there, they're going around the country and doing five "events" - first one was last night at Nats Park. They'll do more baseball on Thursday in Atlanta (Jacob is from that area). It was great to see them and some other old friends who joined us and great to be a part of their neat idea. I would not have been able to make San Diego.

It was also fun to show off Nationals Park, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out how disappointed I was that almost all the upper concourse concession stands were closed. What the hey? Good thing we found something we wanted at Ben's Chili Bowl. My hankering for a slice of that cardboard pizza went unfulfilled.

Turned in my season ticket vouchers, too, and was surprised they still had some decent selection. No more bobbleheads but I added to the growing stack of t-shirts.

But how 'bout that game, huh? Hands up if you were convinced Ryan Howard was going to park one over by Five Guys. Mine's in the air. I just knew it. I couldn't breathe for about an hour after it finished.

Seems the team CAN win if Desmond plays. That air-mailed throw aside, I saw enough that I hope they let him play it out. It isn't just that he managed a home run and a double. He looked comfortable at the plate, not scared. One game does not allow for an accurate impression but it is certainly a positive first step. Let's see more, please. Lots more.

Four more for Dunn. Seeing him get No 36 might have been the highlight of my night. I really want that streak of 40 to continue. Sure, as I noted in yesterday's comments section, I'd take the year he's had every single year. Great average, lots of power. Edge of your seat when he comes up because you never know when it is going to fly out of there. But that streak is significant and he's capable of extending it to 10 years. Four more. Please. Am I wrong to want him extended?

Some caller on the postgame show brought up Sevgoia or whatever his name is and said "I never want to see him again." Wasn't me, I swear. The Desmond error doesn't help. Maybe he gets out of it. He sure didn't look good but I'd give him a shot in another 8-2 game.

All in all, a great night, even without pizza. I dropped some of the others off at The Ugly Mug after the game and I wish I could have stayed for a while. Alas, my old self had 125 miles of driving ahead and an early start today and another road trip tomorrow. Had to get on home.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The streak

Watching the game with my brother last night, a thought occurred to us almost simultaneously.

The streak! Is it in jeopardy? I think so.

Adam Dunn needs five home runs in 23 games to extend to six his streak of seasons with at least 40 home runs. Can he do it? Of course. Will he? I'm not so sure.

I'd hate to see it end. Dunn is still pretty young and that's the kind of streak that can grow to epic proportions. He should have a number of good years left. The pressure is only going to increase as the games wind down. I'd love to see him jack a couple tonight (especially since I'll be there) and make 40 a more realistic proposition.

My brother and I agree: We like Dunn, particularly at first base. Is he a magician over there? No. But to these untrained eyes, he plays an acceptable first base. I hope he's here a lot longer than one more year.

Moving on, only 39 people voted in my most recent poll. So much for hitting 100 in one of those things.

Of those, 29 want to see Desmond at short and Guzman at second since that seems to be a realistic possibility for next season. But, no, doesn't look like it will happen. We're playing to win, don't you know? Hey, how's that been working out for you? You're pretty much a lock to lose 100 for the second straight year and draft No. 1 for the second straight year. Winning isn't something that's been happening very much. SO TRY SOMETHING NEW IN THE FINAL MONTH. You know, see if it will help you win next year since this year is ANOTHER lost cause.

Five voters want to see some new starters. Not sure Marco Estrada qualifies. We've seen that before. Three want to see Maxwell get a good look. Maybe it will help him learn how to run the bases. Two want Orr to get an everyday chance.

Me? I just want a clear night so I can enjoy the game tonight. That is, enjoy it as much as it is possible to enjoy a game against the Phillies. It really ought to be against the law for the Nats to have to play them right now. They need to come up with a schedule like the NFL has, where bad teams get allegedly more favorable schedules. To think I feared them bringing Logan Kensing. Instead, Tyler Clippard gives up the back-to-backs. Those Phils will hit long ones off anyone.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rainy day musings

Normally, I love a quiet rainy day. I get my best work done on quiet rainy days. The dogs are all sacked out around me, I'm not tempted to go outside for anything.

Today? This needs to stop.

We're running out of season here and I think I have just three games left (I may be forgetting one later in the season). Tonight is one. I'm going up with some friends to collect yet another free t-shirt. Thursday is another. I'm meeting some friends at the Park to celebrate a wedding. Neat story that I'll share later. The forecast? Rain both times. I've seen enough rain this season. I want to see a little more baseball before the days get cold and short again.

As for those callups - was this a Big Raised Middle Finger at Martis? Is he hurt? Is there a message here? Has he fallen off the prospect radar? Ol' Shairon didn't exactly tear it up in Syracuse. He went 4-4 with a 4.96 ERA and opponents hit better than .300 against him. Not exactly call-up worthy. I haven't read all the accounts of the call-ups yet but what I have read didn't address his situation. Given that he had five wins in Washington in early May, I thought it merited some discussion. We saw him beat the Cardinals with a complete game in May. He looked outstanding. Did we catch his "blind squirrel finds an acorn" day? Or did he just fall apart?

Detwiler ended up winning four of his final five starts and allowed six runs in those games. He's made 26 starts this year but only has about 128 innings so I guess he's not a candidate for shutdown.

I'm also curious about this: What more does Logan Kensing need to do to prove he's not a major league pitcher? Sure, his AAA numbers of 2.97 ERA and 17 saves are impressive but it doesn't hide that 10.46 ERA in the majors. With a .371 batting average against. And it isn't like his stats were sterling before this year. He was DFA'ed by the Marlins - who later used Luis Ayala and Brian Sanches in their bullpen.

I do want to see Desmond play. I remember reading a Washington Times article about him in spring training of 2005, where Frank Robinson gushed about him. I can't remember if there was serious talk about him making the team as a 19-year-old. Whatever, that was a long time ago. Let's see if he's ready now.

Twenty-five games to go, five games up in the Harper Cup standings. Can the Nats hold on?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

BlackBerry walk off

Came home from Atlanta today and kept up with the Nats' game via BlackBerry. First time I've done that because I haven't had one all that long. No, I was not driving.

"Seeing" the game winning home run that way was pretty cool, though nothing like being there. Sporting events last a long time (some too long) but there's always been something amazing about the game that ends with the winner being determined on the final play. The buzzer beater in basketball, the long touchdown pass (or run) as time expires in football. What's become known as the "walk off" in baseball. Nothing like it.

I was fortunate enough to see three last season - the Opening Day shot by Zimmerman, Wil Nieves (who?) against the Cubs and Ronnie Belliard against the Orioles.

I haven't seen one live this year. The best I have is my BlackBerry. I knew that phone would prove worthwhile.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Welcome back Flo. One of my favorites returns to active duty. Good for him for working hard to get back to that point.

That said, I sure hope I don't see him doing much the rest of the season. The plan to use him as a pinch-hitter now and then seems fine. The plan, as outlined in the Nationals Journal, to maybe use him defensively later in the month does not.

Why? Why take that risk? This guy is supposed to be a key part of the future puzzle. Please don't take a chance with him.

Getting ready to head to Atlanta for a season-opening football game so I'll be in and out of touch with the Nats over the weekend. I hope to see two of the home games next week. Only 3-4 left for me this season. Can't believe how fast this season has gone. You can make a case that's a good thing.