One of the highlights of my former career was being the Heisman Trophy chairman for the state of Virginia. I got to choose the voting panel from the state. In 1993, I was invited to the ceremony and got to sit on the dais. The speaker that year? O.J. Simpson.
I bring that up not to "pimp" the highlights of my former career. I am going somewhere with this, honest. The Heisman selection system is one of the most criticized things going and many of the complaints are legit. I told those who called me to complain that but added something else: Don't complain about something if you can't offer a viable alternative. The Heisman system isn't perfect. Give me a better one.
So that's my backdrop for the rule I'm about to break. Something is wrong. Something is broken. Something needs to be done. I ought to just shut the hell up becuase I can't offer any concrete solutions. Ah, but that would be so unlike me. I'm not going to shut up.
I was in the house for last night's disappointment. The place was buzzing beforehand with the news of Stammen up, Cabrera to the pen. A little excitement in the air. At the end of the night, it was just another shake-your-head defeat that left me a lot to think about on the long drive home (I am getting too old for these up-and-backs). Allow me to share some of the thoughts and questions.
*Is it Manny? I'm still not in the fire Manny camp but I get the feeling those on my side of the line are getting smaller in number. Some of the callers on the post-game last night were very pointed. One even asked Byron Kerr what he thought. Byron sidestepped it nicely. I'd still like to see what Manny could do with a full deck but I'll admit up front I'm growing more concerned about the way he's handling his current deck. But, here's the key: Even if you are on the Manny-must-go train, is there a better alternative available? Don't change just to change.
*Is it Randy St. Claire? I'd be more inclined to make a change here. I think we've put St. Claire on a pedestal that he hasn't earned. What makes him so great? Give me the name of one pitcher he's developed. Is Jason Bergmann better now than he was in 2005? Not at all, it doesn't seem. Why not? I think Bergmann and Zimmerman are the only players to have appeared in at least one game every season of the Nats. Rob Dibble, who knows pitching, hasn't questioned St. Claire directly that I've heard. He does question (often) the mental approach the Nats' pitchers take to the mound. That speaks volumes to me. But again, is there a better alternative available?
*You can't make chicken salad out of chicken s**t. Could the Nats really be any worse if they chucked most of the bullpen and grabbed replacements from a variety of sources including those currently unemployed (Villone seems to be working) and your minor-league system? They say you can't fire the players. Why not?
*Bear with this story for a minute. My daughter played field hockey for a school that had a tradition of being awful. She was part of a large group of sophomores kept on the varsity. The thinking was they could go down to JV and win but keeping them on varsity would expose them to the level of play they'd need to achieve. The next two years they were really good. So if Detwiler and Stammen aren't getting rocked out of the building, why not let them learn and develop on this level. Keep money and arbitration clocks and that nonsense out of the equation for a moment. The team is 11-28. It probably couldn't be worse if it tried. Why not let them learn here? Is that totally crazy? I like the four rooks and Lannan rotation.
*Eight relievers? C'mon. Chuck one. Having 13 pitchers basically limits you to three bench players, assuming you save your backup catcher. Another bad pitcher doesn't make a bad bullpen better.
*Do you not at least try to buzz one at 97 mph by Adam LaRoche? I'm not down on Nieves for failing to block every single ball in the dirt. Throw them down there and one is going to get by every now and then. I am a bit disgusted that he couldn't get a bunt down. Do they work on that stuff?
My next trip up is Saturday and I'm eager to see Detwiler pitch. I hope the Nats aren't staring a 10-game losing streak in the face. The above-mentioned caller flat-out asked: What if the team goes 0-11 on this homestand? Laughable? Not really, they're already seven games into that. If that happens, doesn't a change HAVE to be made. Yeah, I would think a change HAS to be made in that case.