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Friday, July 31, 2009

A long, frustrating day

Well, we found Pittsburgh. It wasn't that hard. It just took FOREVER. I don't think it is supposed to take 8 1/2 hours but it did. We ran into miserable traffic repeatedly and some of the worst rain we've seen. We didn't have tickets for tonight, though I did want to head over and do walk-up. Oh well, we'll see two games weather permitting.

Ah, but we won't see Nick Johnson until his MARLINS come to D.C. on Tuesday. I wasted time during the many flat-out stops by checking up on things. When my wife heard me curse, she thought it was over more traffic.

Nope. It had more to do with hearing NJ had been traded - that much I expected - for what appears to be a very shaky pitching prospect.

Wasn't there some talk of NJ going to Boston for Manny Delcarmen earlier in the season? How did we get from Delcarmen to Andrew/Aaron Whatever, a guy who is 5-9 in his second season in AA. A guy who has a losing record for his career. Yeah, he's a former No. 1 pick. So's Ryan Wagner. So's FLop. So's Kearns.

Shouldn't Nick Johnson bring back more than this? I wasn't expecting Hanley Ramirez or even Jorge Cantu. But Andrew/Aaron Whoishe? C'mon.

Maybe it is a wink deal. Maybe NJ told Rizzo to take any live body and he'll be back next year. We'll see.

No real thoughts on the Beimel trade. I do wonder how Joe Beimel brought back TWO prospects and NJ just one, though I know so little about minor league systems and prospect evaluations that I should just shut the hell up. I find it odd that the Nats were willing to take on a rehab case. Matt Chico can be his mentor.

I do know that I'm going out to eat and I'm going to two games this weekend and I'll try not to grumble the whole time. But it will be hard. Andrew Thompson? Or is it Aaron? What IS the guy's name? I'm looking at a story on that calls him Aaron (and has a picture that calls him Aaron, too). I'm looking at a blog entry from the Washington Times that calls him Andrew. The Post, I see, is calling him Aaron. I'll just go with Whatshisname Whatshisname.

This is a joke, right? I've been in Pittsburgh for hours, I fell asleep and this is a dream, right?

Did I also hear the Nats are paying Johnson's salary? Please, please someone tell me that's wrong. I'd rather see him in D.C. for two more months and then gone for nothing, frankly, if Andrew/Aaron T. is the best they could get for him.

On the road

It dawned on me when I woke up this morning that I have never driven to Pittsburgh. I've been there countless times and I've always flown. When you taxi in from the airport and go through that small tunnel and then the city itself just explodes into view - it's really cool.

But I'm relying on myself instead of US Airways today. Guess I better get online and figure this thing out.

See you at the ballpark. Unless I get lost.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


The trading deadline during the year Soriano was a Nat came during our annual summer visit to New York. Wait, we didn't go this summer so I guess it can't be annual anymore.

I spent that afternoon in a bar watching the ticker scroll across the screen and texting with my son for updates. Yeah, I guess that fits in the category of "consumed."

Tomorrow, I'll be driving. Where else? To see the Nats. I take my no-life lifestyle to a variety of different places. I'm eager to see PNC Park and see if it can dislodge Safeco and Camden Yards from the top of my stadiums list. A friend said they sell good wings there and I love good wings.

So I suspect I'll have the ol' XM on the MLB new channel. But in case you hear anything, text me. Not that I'm consumed anymore or anything.

I have no clue what to expect. Interim Jim has been quoted as saying he doesn't think anything will happen. The market for the Nick-ster appears to have dried up. I sure hope the asking price for Willingham is sky high.

But we've all seen this season how reliable reports in advance can be. In short, not very. So there could indeed be some news after all.

If nothing else, I'll find out what's up when I get to the park.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More from MSTBF

That's My Son The Braves Fan.

First thing he does is propose another trade. Johnson and Willingham for Jordan Schaefer, Ryan Church AND, he emphasizes, Greg Norton. Uh, no.

In reality, I think the kid has become more of a closet Nats fan than he'd ever admit. Since I don't charge him rent (yet), that's a fair price.

We had the game on two TVs last night because I had some work to do in the other room. I heard him in there cheering, mumbling, grumbling and cheering some more. He also explained the whole buyers/sellers thing to his mother, trying to get her to understand why Johnson and Beimel probably ought to go and Willingham probably ought to not go.

She repeated her stance: Buyer or seller be damned, she's done if they trade Willingham. She'll use our season tickets to go boooooo. She still loves you, too, Nyjer. You didn't need to hit a home run to get back into her heart, though we'll take as many of them as you want to give us.

When it was all said and done and we were acting like this was a World Series team (only 49 more wins for a .500 record!), MSTBF told me my "blow it up" stance was not the correct one.

"They're really not that far away," he said. Keep the power core (he reads this blog). If you can't move Johnson, sign him for two more years. He's due some luck in the health department. With Nyjer up top, Flores back and maybe Johnson still in the lineup, it's a solid group.

Sign Strasburg (really genius? We Nats fans would have never thought of that), move a couple of starter prospects for some serious relievers and sit back and enjoy. He thinks Lannan and Zimmermann ought to be kept and any of the others ought to be fair game to be moved.

He never once said "we," though I think he was tempted. By this time next year, we'll have him.

Monday, July 27, 2009


My timing is good for once in my life. I got home in time to see Slam No. 1 and was rewarded with another one an inning later.

The second one wasn't all the way out before my wife said, "They're not really going to trade him are they? If they do, I may never go back."

Josh Willingham has replaced Lastings Milledge AND Nyjer Morgan. Amazing what a couple of slams will do.

I sure hope the Nats do NOT trade him. He's under club control for a couple more years. He's pretty good. I'm pretty comfortable with a power core (and power corps) of Zimmerman, Dunn, Willingham.

I hope if they do trade him, the price has increased.


Yesterday was one of those games where I had no contact. I'm in Greensboro, N.C., for two days of interviews with ACC football players and coaches. I did slip out during a break yesterday and check just in time to "watch" the bottom of the 10th. Before that, I know nothing, nothing, nothing.

Got back to my room last night and a poster at had some snide things to say about Interim Jim. Claims he pulled Lannan after eight even though he'd only thrown 81 pitches.

My first thought is, well, you do want your closer to close and he's not going to get a ton of chances. My second thought is the team has shown no hesitation to let guys complete games in recent weeks so why not let Lannan try to complete another?

You see it? Right call to pull Lannan or no? Not an easy question to ask in hindsight since the save was blown.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Of all nights to fall asleep

I tried to wait it out. I mean, it was every-other-Saturday 13-run night. We knew what was going to happen.
I nodded out with the Orioles on and woke up with the Nats wrapping things up. Didn't even have to change channels. I have no clue what time it was at that point.

Checking the box score now to get details on what happened. Someone hit a grand slam? This is like a trip in the way-back machine. I used to fall asleep listening to the Senators on the radio and then devour the box score in the morning.

Of course, back then I couldn't check the video. Heck, I feel like I was there. I wonder how many people were still there at that point? Watch the slam video. You can hear distinct clapping sounds.

I sure hope Dunn doesn't get traded. He's the one guy who moves you to the edge of your seat when he comes up. When you follow a team that doesn't provide a lot of highlights, that's worth something.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Blow It Up!

News Flash, alert the media: NationalsFanboyLooser sets a record for the second straight poll. We had 64 voters chime in this week. My goal is 100.

No surprise in the results. A whopping 43 were in favor of blowing it up (save for a few key parts) and starting over. Fifteen think the pieces are in place, the team just needs a few tweaks. Six feel the team needs to stay the course, ALL IS WELL. That's higher than I thought it would be.

The week saw some highs (Lannan, Stammen) and some lows so I don't think the results were skewed by excess funk over what was happening on the field.

How to accomplish it all is quite a task, one I suspect IM (interim Mike) could achieve a little easier without the "acting" or whatever attached to his name. Maybe that's just me. The next week is going to be very interesting as we see who goes where all around baseball.

I was one of the "blow it up" voters. While there are a few players I'd like to see stick around, I'm open to just about anything at this point. One thing that has disturbed me more than I thought it would is the persistent rumor mill that Willingham will be traded. I guess that's because he'll bring a good return? He's become a pretty productive player and he's under club control until 2011. He's one I would have thought would be staying.

A Twittering friend in St. Louis, who works in media there, seems convinced the Cardinals are going to make a serious run at Dunn. Has not indicated what might come back the Nats way.

Is Willie Harris for Jordan Schaefer a dead rumor? Was it ever really a live rumor?

New poll going up. Tell your friends. Push me toward 100.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

That's - well, let's wait

I can't make up my mind on Stammen. I certainly don't see him in the class of the other two (Lannan and Zimmermann for those with short attention spans). They could be 2-3 in a rotation anchored by The Great One.

But does he have what it takes to fit in on the back end? Can he be a solid major league pitcher, not an inconsistent one?

It's easy to lean toward yes after a night like tonight. I'm not sure it is the right answer.

Now that news they just announced is not good: Balester up, Zimmermann to DL with some tenderness. Do we see him again this season?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

That's two

Zimmermann and Lannan. Get Strasburg signed and, if he's 50 percent as good as advertised, that's 3/5 of a major-league rotation.

I've been convinced on Zimmermann for a while, pretty much since the Randy Johnson game (still steamed about the strike three call on Dunn). I've mostly been convinced on Lannan, too, though his effort tonight pushed me over the top. I'm not even sure I can explain why. Poise means as much to me as anything else and I've seen that get better with him as the season has progressed.

As I told my wife one night: All pitchers get in trouble. Good ones turn five-run innings into two-run innings. Bad ones turn two-run innings into five-run innings.

Not sure that applies here, though? Was he ever in trouble?

Ray Knight just said "he's our best pitcher." My Son The Braves fan called it "a Maddux-esque night." That's a high compliment from him, since he worships Maddux and John Smoltz.

Not sure he's the best. I still hold out for Z-nn there. I do think he's a keeper.

Now who are the other two? Are they on the team now? Are they in the system?

Monday, July 20, 2009

If you have DirecTV

the entire baseball package is free through Wednesday. Pretty nice to have some options for when things get out of hand real early, like they did in the Mets vs. Syracuse game.

I'm watching this young pitcher for Atlanta. He's retired 13 in a row and has 11 strikeouts through six. Young arms, gang, that's where it is at, or so I'm told.

Entering the Dog Days?

Not trying to poke fun at my pals at Nationals Journal with that current headline. NJ is one of many things I read constantly.

But this team is not entering the Dog Days. The Dog Days started when it came home for the first time with an 0-6 record. They have not ended. The season has been one long dog.

I have zero faith that the Logan Kensing recall will trigger a turnaround. My dog Ella did just bring me a stuffed duck, however. I'll get it in the mail.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Abridged version of drinking game

Here's the short version:

When Julian Tavarez comes in, leave the room and start drinking heavily.
Is Garrett Mock a Four-A player?

We had some house guests. My Son the Braves Fan had his girlfriend and some of their buds in to help him celebrate his birthday. They just headed back to D.C. so we walked them out, said our good-byes. Came back in and it is 11-2?? What the hell happened? Scratch that. I don't really want to know.

If Tavarez doesn't drive you to drink, sub in Villone and go from there. What's his ERA since he let in his first run? Of course, some shaky defense could well have been involved. I don't know.

All I know for sure is it's 11-2 and the kids drained every drop of booze in the house. Too bad. I was going to send some to Jim Riggleman.

UPDATE - Am I hearing this postgame right? Is Tavarez gone?? Sounds that way. Oh Lord, never mind. Kensing back up? Time to go drink again.

A repeat

We all have movies and episodes of favorite television shows we've seen too many times. We have them memorized. We say the lines before they say them. Sadly, that's kind of how I've become with the Nats.

I met an old friend at the ballpark who was there with his girlfriend. I'd not met her before. After gathering at The Bullpen, we headed over. I gave them a nickel tour and then we settled in for some baseball. They're Cubs fans by the way. That's normally a deal-breaker but I'll let it slide with these two.

During the game, I correctly predicted way too many things. I was even humming the at-bat music before it started (I'm kind of a freak about at-bat music). I just wish I'd been wrong. Up 4-0? Not enough. The Nats never seem to take advantage of their chances. The Cubs get two gift-wrapped runners and Soriano hits one that bounces off my car. The Nats load the bases in back-to-back innings and get one run. Story of our lives.

Here's the problem. I hate, hate, hate to just sit and rant without offering some smidge of a suggestion. Don't complain if you don't have a solution and all that. I just don't know what to suggest. What else can be done? I'm real eager to see what Rizzo comes up with in the next few weeks. What is fair value for some of these guys?

I haven't voted yet in my current poll but I'm leaning toward blow it all up and start over. There's a handful of players I'd like to keep around - two of them have last names that start with Z, one with F for example - but I'm at the point where I'll keep an open mind about almost anything.

Five years in. Five years in, I repeat. And this team is a very real threat not to win 50 games. Is anyone confident there are 24 wins left in that bunch?

Has Strasburg been signed yet?

A couple of other things:

*The "new" intro video isn't bad. My friend was quite right. If you never saw the old one, this one is just fine. But if you did? Old one was much better. They managed to get Nyjer Morgan in there and a reliever I assume is Sean Burnett. So let's get Riggleman involved. He IS the manager, though after this start he may prefer that very few people know that. Brooks and Dunn sing about working on my next broken heart. You think IJ is already scanning the standings to see where he can go next year to manage for half a season?

*Tried one of the Freddy Flintstone ribs again last night. Are they supposed to be cold? Overall, it was much better. Huge and mostly meat, little fat. One side was overcooked to the point of crispiness. The other side was a lot bigger and a lot better.

*Took forever to get out of the stadium and out of the lot last night, the worst I've experienced. I've been there with bigger crowds and breezed. Not sure what was going on.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

My return to the scene of the crimes

A friend sent me a message last night. He knew I was going to the game tonight and he wanted to warn me.
"Come late. Trust me on this one," or words to that effect.

One of my favorite parts of the night - seriously - is the intro video. I've seen more team intros than I care to remember. Some were simple, some complex, some well done, some remarkably stupid. One even involved fireworks. Indoors.

I enjoyed the one the Nats put together. It would be a lot more effective if the team wasn't brutal but you can say that about all of them. I always told my family, we can do whatever you want before the game but my one rule is I have to be in my seat for the intro.

NATS FANS - IT ALL STARTS -- RIGHT NOW! They play that music, Thunderstruck I think it is called. I enjoy the video.

Since Manny played a big part in it, it had to be redone. I figured they'd just shoot the same scenes with Riggleman and cut them in. Maybe they will eventually but my pal says it hasn't been done yet. They kind of just stretch the rest over the Manny parts.

Technology is grand. They had Dukes and Hanrahan cut out of there pretty darn quick. It can't be that hard to do this.

"It's not too bad if you never saw the original," he said. "If you did, well, it is bad."

Things usually go downhill after the intro. I'll be disappointed if they go downhill during the intro, too.

This will be my 25th game, three more than I saw last year. I will probably get to around 30. It's always tougher for me to get away in the second half. I've had three jobs now since the Nats have been around and all of them got pretty busy in August. Even this "un-job" I have now will crank up very soon.

Yes, you are correct if you noticed I haven't said anything yet about that crapfest of a game last night. I went to a memorial service yesterday for a 46-year-old friend of mine who died suddenly. Another reminder that, in the grand scheme of things, baseball doesn't mean squat. I listened to the first three innings on the radio - I do love baseball on the radio. I waited an hour after getting home before turning it on, hoping things would improve in my absence. They did not.

The only thing that's changed is the manager. And the intro video.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Survey says

With all the "excitement" and actual news of the past week, I somewhat neglected my latest poll. NationalsFanboyLooser is proud to announce a record 53 participated in the survey. We appreciate the hits.

Anyway, the fan base is willing to spend to get the Strasburg signing done. $20 million was the winner, with 21 votes (including mine). I sit here and type "seems reasonable" and shake my head. NO, it is not reasonable. It is an absurd amount of money for someone who has never thrown a professional pitch. I guess I mean "reasonable" in the context of the crazy way bonuses are spinning out of control.

$15 million was next with 15 votes. Eleven voters were willing to see it go as high as $25 million and six wanted to go "cheap" at only $10 million.

I guess I should also ask, "Do you think it will get done?" We're a month away from the deadline. I know some alarm was raised by Strasburg's comments at the All-Star game that he hadn't heard from the Nationals. Would he? Wouldn't the conversations be with Boras?

I'm fairly confident it will get done, though I must say if it turns out $20 million is NOT enough I will be angry but not at the Nationals.

I'll post a new poll this morning. It will be not "how worried are you about this latest Scott Olsen news?" But it could be.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Too bad for Riggleman

that they didn't send some of this bullpen crew packing, too.

Is there any reason to keep Tavarez around any longer? Eight walks in his past six appearances. At least six earned runs in that stretch. This is all about the future, right? Is he part of the future? Why not get someone, anyone, I don't care who it is, up for the rest of the season as an "interim" reliever?

This is hard enough to watch.

Who was the guy years ago who managed like one day and said, "That's enough?" Maybe it was a health issue or something. I wouldn't blame Riggleman if he said something similar.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Young arms revisited

As I continue to beat this horse ***

Half paying attention to the All-Star game, I snapped straight up when the Dodgers' Chad Billingsley came in. Forgot all about the Dodgers the other day.

Billingsley, an All-Star: He'll be 25 this month. He has nine wins and a 3.38 ERA.
Clayton Kershaw is just 21. He has seven wins and a 3.16 ERA.
Jonathan Broxton? Six wins, 20 saves. He's freshly 25.

Yep, that collection of young arms on the Nats - no one else has that, huh? Or maybe just about everyone else has that?

While we're on the Dodgers: Orlando Hudson, not healthy enough to play for the Nats, played in last night's game. He's hitting .283 and has driven in 48 runs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Right before yesterday's press conference, I had a "tweet" conversation/discussion on my Twitter account (MJHRVA if you are looking for someone boring to follow). I was hoping someone would ask Uncle Stan, "Are you next?"

No one did. But it is a legitimate question.

I'm on the record as being a fan of Uncle Stan, despite my love of making fun of his arrogance and general Uncle Stan-ness. I think he's basically a good guy who truly wants this to work. I covered him some in Atlanta and was an admirer of his work there. I applauded when he came to Washington. I don't think he's turned stupid.

But facts are facts and it is not working here. This team is moving in the wrong direction. Most of the coaches were changed. Then the GM left and then the holdover coach went and now the manager.

Who's next? If this team goes 50-25 the rest of the way, we're all dancing. If it goes 40-35, we're pretty darn happy. If it goes 35-40, we're probably not too steamed even though that means another 100-loss season.

But suppose it goes 25-50, which is quite possible? Or worse?

At what point is Uncle Stan's job on the line? How much does his small ownership stake complicate that?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Letter TO the Nationals

Here's my brief response, not e-mailed out and available only to dedicated readers of my little blog:

To The Washington Nationals:

Thanks for the note. Now STFU and produce, eh? You've changed almost everything from the day you arrived. Almost all the players. The manager, twice now. Coaches. The GM (thank you for that). The improvement seen? None. Zero. Zip. We keep hearing how things are on the right track blah blah blah blah blah. How about showing us that? You act like you're the only organization in the world with good, young talent. You are not. So save the energy it takes to tell us how sorry you are things are working out this way. Put all of it toward fixing this mess and fixing it quickly.

Nice touch, leaving your new (interim) manager out of the press conference, by the way. Not that we'd want to hear from the man charged with trying to clean up some of this mess.


Owner of four (partial) season-tickets, a big gas bill and more "Curly W" clothes than any human should claim to own.

Letter from The Nationals

This showed up in my in box just as this apparently Riggleman-less press conference started. Most of you are probably on the list already but for those of you who don't get this stuff:

To Fans of the Washington Nationals,

No one is more dissatisfied in the first half of the 2009 Washington Nationals season than we are. Like you, we had hoped that some of our younger players would have matured faster and that the addition of some of our new veterans would have significantly improved our record from a season ago. Our hope was that solid club leadership would emerge on and off the field and that some intangible combinations would begin to click resulting in many winning streaks.

We definitely do see significant pieces materializing for the future, and there have been many close, exciting games and optimistic bright spots: Strong outings by John Lannan, the home run and RBI production of Adam Dunn, the All-Star selection and 30-game hitting streak of Ryan Zimmerman and the recent addition of speedster Nyjer Morgan. Much of the season, however, has been defined by weak relief pitching, poor defense, and youthful inconsistency. We have tried to work through this period with patience and focus but now we are faced with mounting losses which are beginning to take a toll on our entire roster. Clearly, some changes are required as we prepare for the second half of the 2009 season and, more importantly, build for a competitive future.

Today, we announced that manager Manny Acta is being replaced on an interim basis by Jim Riggleman, veteran manager, and currently the Nats bench coach. Both the Ownership and the entire Washington Nationals organization have the highest respect for Manny Acta and the role he has played in the short history of the Nationals. However, it is our belief that a fresh attitude and approach is necessary as we set out to improve our performance for the remainder of the year. We want to send a strong message to our clubhouse and our fans that the status quo is unacceptable. We believe that more is expected of everyone in the organization.

Baseball operations will be reevaluating all our players and our options for improvement over the next several months. We hope to sign our 2009 draft choices by the August deadline. We hope these new additions will join an already exciting Nationals youth movement headed by the likes of Lannan, Jesus Flores, Alberto Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Craig Stammen on our current roster, and the likes of promising Minor League stars like Chris Marrero, Michael Burgess, Danny Espinosa, Derek Norris and Drew Storen, among many others. But, we also will be determining the viability of trades or roster upgrades that can be made without doing damage to the farm system or the developing talent we expect to blossom within the next two years.

When we bought the Washington Nationals in the middle of the 2006 season - just under three years ago - we committed to a patient, long term approach, building a strong farm system and core foundation that would deliver a perennial and consistent contender; to provide a second-to-none family entertainment value at Nationals Park; and to investment and involvement in the metropolitan Washington, DC community. Today we remain steadfastly committed to each component of that mission. We are proud to represent the National Pastime in the Nation's Capital, and we are proud to call the Capital area home.

We know we have a way to go, but the end result will be all the richer for the early days we've spent together at Nationals Park. We are getting better. We want you to be with us as the pieces of the puzzle come together. Your support is powerful to the Nationals and baseball in Washington. Thank you for your continuing patience and your commitment to a shared dream.

Washington Nationals Baseball Club


Interesting news to get before the morning coffee. I think we all kind of had a hunch it was coming. I was thinking "is this the last one?" while watching his postgame press conference on TV. The premature story on FOX last month bought Manny a little more time. It did not change the ultimate outcome.

While I called for it more than a month ago and don't disagree with the move, now that it has been made I have sort of a pain in my stomach. I'll stick to my guns that Manny is a good man and that he's probably a good manager and I do hope he gets a chance to show it somewhere eventually (in the American League). I just don't think he was the right fit for this team, thought to be fair I'm not sure anybody is the right fit the more I watch and shake my head about this team.

Is a new manager going to make those relievers better? I don't think so. Is the defense suddenly going to become rock solid? I don't think so.

Manny didn't have the pieces, though I did have questions here and there about how he deployed the pieces he did have. The team had some fundamental issues. Overall, the main problem is it just isn't very good. Whatever. None of that matters now. Whether the team goes with Jim Riggleman as a temporary solution or has someone ready to go full-time, the Nationals are no longer Manny Acta's problem.

So, looking ahead, YOU are the new manager. What's the first thing you do? Is there someone you bench? Is there a change in the bullpen pecking order (like that would matter)? A player in the system you demand be brought up and given a shot?

Does the new manager need to be a head-banger, an emotional, fiery type? Patience didn't do a whole lot of good. That was maybe my biggest complaint about Manny, other than actually sending Alex Cintron up to hit once when Josh Willingham was sitting right there. Stoic is good, patient is good. Just not all the time. Sometimes you have to explode.

I do hope they've managed to find a permanent replacement, if only so my buddies in the media don't have to remember to type "acting" or "interim" every time they write about the general manager or manager. This team needs some stability and we fans need a reason to keep believing in a product that has deteriorated beyond belief in four-plus seasons.

Give me a reason to keep buying FOUR (partial) season tickets, to keep driving 125 miles each way to see an inferior product live, to keep spending money on a Nats wardrobe, to keep planning summer trips to see the team in different parks.

Put people in place we can believe in, at every spot. Get Strasburg signed. Try to make these final however-many games count. Don't just ride them out with the promise of changes in the offseason. That's been done before. The team has to win 33 more games just to match last season's miserable mark.

Firing a manager just to say you've done something isn't enough. Don't make it the final step. Make it the first step.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Kangaroo Court

Did the TV guys talk about a Kangaroo Court last night? Why, why WHY is that stuck in my head? Maybe I read something somewhere recently.

I can't imagine who would earn the title of "judge" in the Nats' clubhouse. But I do have a list of suggested fines:

*$200 to Dunn for missing second base. They won so they can laugh about it. I hope someone got the actual base and stuck it in his locker.
*Another $200 to Dunn for adversely affecting Bard's batting average, costing him a hit by missing second base.
*$200 to Bard for the can of corn that ended the streak of three straight home runs. I think he would have hit it out if he wasn't playing with an injury, so another $100 for that. Dunn, however, must pay both fines. He owes Bard big.

Years ago, the Richmond Braves used to post their "fines" on the bulletin board in the clubhouse, available to everyone's eyes. They were small fines, a buck, two bucks, five bucks. One day, someone wrote in $200 for manager Jeff Cox. Under "crime," they wrote, "Being an asshole."

Real fines, imposed by the manager, go to charity, I think. Kangaroo Court fines used to go to a team party at the end of the season. Not sure that's still the case. Maybe charity benefits here, too, since the money has escalated so much. Two hundred bucks to these guys is like two bucks to most of us.

Who should be the Nats' judge? I don't know enough about their personalities.

Unrelated (though maybe worthy of a fine), thanks to former Nats blogger (my blogging here) Chris Needham for posting this link on his Twitter feed. The Pirates were in earlier in the week before the Nats arrived. I hope it was a Pirate rather than a Nat being stupid. There are a number of pro athletes who can preach to the perils of showing up out of the blue on someone's Facebook page.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A first

Over the years, I've seen a lot of odd stuff in various sporting events. Remember, I used to watch them for a living.

Perhaps the strangest came at a high school game. One out. Runner on first. Hitter blasts one deep into the gap. Runner takes off. No way it gets caught. He's halfway to third. Center fielder - no Nyjer but close - catches the daggone thing. Amazing catch. The runner sprints back to first via the pitcher's mound. The team on defense immediately threw the ball to second and he was out. You have to return the way you came, touch the bases on the way back.

Until tonight, I had never seen anyone at the high school level or above miss a base. Not once. I think Ryan Church did it earlier this year for the Mets (his former team). I did not see that.

I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing it, too. Clear miss of the bases. Went right over it. And I'm going to head on to bed because I have this hunch that will someone how come back to cost the Nats.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Young arms

Yeah, I still plan to outline a Nationals drinking game. I was going to do it today. But, with the way things have gone lately, I fear too many people will take it seriously. Including me. So I'll wait.

Besides, I have a couple other things to get off my saggy chest.

First, applause to Rob Dibble and Ray Knight for the verbal spanking they gave the Nats last night. I didn't hear it. I fell asleep after that ugly sixth inning. But I read the recap on the always-excellent D.C. Sports Bog (see the cool links to the right) this a.m. Others have written about it as well. Rob/Ray came out firing, which is good. I hope management is listening. As I've said before, all I ask in return for my investment is effort and accountability. Anything less is unacceptable.

Now, for the real point. I thought about this last weekend while watching Atlanta's very impressive Tommy Hanson and I planned to do some actual research before writing about it. Thankfully, Sports Illustrated did the research for me - we appreciate it.

Yes, the Washington Nationals have some very good young pitchers. They're building their "plan" around these arms and the presence of them is supposed to give us suffering saps some kind of hope.

But it seems that almost every team has some good young arms and I have yet to see anything that leads me to believe Washington's are better than any other team's kiddie corps.

The Braves? Hanson is 22 and Jair Jurrjens is 23. The Phillies? Cole Hamels is 25. The Marlins? Josh Johnson is 25, Andrew Miller is 24.

Detroit's Justin Verlander (26) threw a no-hitter when he was roughly the same age as most of the Nationals' young studs. The Giants' Tim Lincecum (25) already has a Cy Young. Teammate Matt Cain is 24. Like Lincecum, he has a 10-2 record. TEN AND TWO AT 24.

On to some stuff from SI: As of the July 6 issue, four of the top five strikeout leaders were 25 or 26 (Lincecum, Verlander, Zack Greinke and Jon Lester). "Of the top 28 strikeout leaders in baseball, 20 are in their 20s and none is older than 33," Tom Verducci wrote.

SI spelled it "John Lester" instead of "Jon." I could go on and on about the old SI vs. the new SI and stuff like that but I won't here. I trust the numbers even if I don't trust the spelling.

And the point remains. Yeah, the Nats have some young talent. That doesn't make them the Lone Rangers. Lots of teams do and a lot of them have young talent that is considerably more advanced.

Hmmm. Maybe it IS time to start drinking.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


I have a longer post that I may table until tomorrow. I just had to make a quick comment after watching that quick victory.

Did you SEE the look on Bard's face as he hit the ball? Did you see him hobble out of the box? Yeah, sure, he's OK to play. Not risking anything at all putting him out there to hobble like that.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Are we sure

that Austin Kearns' initials aren't really DP?

A guy out at third for the first out of the first inning (still love you Nyjer) and then a predicatable-as-the-day-is-long double play by A "DP" K in the second. This shapes up as a long afternoon.

Why is Mr. Mendoza out there again? Are Willie's olives still sore?

What on earth did I miss?

LONG day yesterday. Up at 5, on the road to Blacksburg at 6. Spent the day there working on some freelance stories (which I will plug at the appropriate times). Drove back. Got home a bit after 11. I used to have days like that regularly.

I listened to most of the game on XM, which of course featured the Colorado broadcast. Jack Corrigan used to work in Richmond. Good guy. They call the game pretty straight. I knew the Nats were making errors but didn't sense any issue beyond that.

(They did make it clear that Willie took one in the pills)

Once home, I turned on the TV just in time to hear Rob Dibble say something along the lines of, "It seems Manny Acta is the only one trying." Later, Ray Knight used the word "stupid" to describe some of the play. Unfortunately, I turned it on just in time to see the botched double play - yeah, I'd call that stupid. Seemed to me Knight was talking about more than that one play.

Sounds like I picked a good game to not watch but the curiousity is killing me. How bad was it? I thought this team had at least moved beyond the laying an egg stage. I guess not.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Great day at the park today and this goes well beyond the result, which was pretty sweet. My brother and his wife, my sister and her husband and My Son The Braves Fan and his girlfriend were there with us in section 317. I enjoy it when they're all able to go. Only my daughter and her boyfriend were missing in action.

We were giving my wife endless grief about her Nats' boyfriend being traded. The rest of us minus the kids are going to Pittsburgh next month. I told my wife I bet she'll cheer if Lastings Milledge hits a game winner for his new team (assuming he's up there by then).

"Daggone right I will," my wife said. "I'm a loyal girlfriend."

So the game was a lot of fun and the Nats WIN again. Bang, zoom go the fireworks - uh, wait - he's not out and the game isn't over yet. But they eventually won and I could abuse my son and we had a grand time. Amazing what some speed, defense and using only two pitchers will do for a team. "They look like an actual major-league team," my wife said.

We got out of there quickly enough. Per usual, my wife was asleep by Woodbridge. Not per usual, she woke up south of Fredericksburg and mumbled "It was a good deal."

What? She's a sleep-talker so I'm trying to make sure exactly what she means. Is she really awake?

"The trade for my new boyfriend."

Nyjer Morgan? I just want to be sure she doesn't mean Sean Burnett. She was into her fifth margarita by the time he pitched on Friday so I don't think she realizes he's on the team.

"Yeah him," she said. "I can't always remember his name just yet."

(my brother-in-law swears the first name comes from his parents wanting to name him after New York and New Jersey. Nyjer, get it? He's a jokester with more stories than Bayer has aspirin so who knows? But it is creative even if it may not actually be true)

Back to our story. My wife is pretty observant when she isn't sucking down Uncle Stan's overpriced booze. She talked about the plays we saw today that we never saw out of JimBow's lovetoys the Nats tried to turn into center fielders. Going back and back and back to catch one way over his head. The play to throw out Prado at second (the only time the Nats got him out). Real, live speed. Lord. He doesn't chug into second on those doubles. He glides. He just gets there so fast.

I know, I know. It is a very small sample size. I'm not enough of a stat head and I don't understand ORP, VORP, GORP, DORP, FORP and FLOPIDOP. That stuff is way too deep for me. I'm sure someone with knowledge can point out many ways I'm wrong about this. Plus, we both fall in love too easily.

I just know what I see and I see a team where the dynamic has changed on offense and defense. I think the old phrase is "where doubles go to die." Pitchers have to love having him out there. And it doesn't take something in the gap to score him from second. Third baseman deep? He'll lay it down and beat it out. Third baseman in? He'll slap it over his head and be into second before the left fielder realizes he's around first.

My wife wants ME to break the news to Milledge. I think he has enough other things on his mind right now. He'll get past this. In the meantime, I have to find someone who can take all my wife's No. 44 jersies and turn them into No. 1s.

Some other thoughts:

*I'm not as bothered as I thought I'd be by Manny letting Olsen start the ninth, though if it had all blown up I might be taking a different approach. I was all for leaving him in to finish the eighth and thought the strikeout of Anderson was the perfect to end his day. The kid still needs some shots of confidence and that was a terrific, positive ending. But I'm OK with taking the chance, too, and it all worked out.

*Chico (the writer) mentioned something about Bard's ankle or foot or something in one of his recent updates. Based on what I saw today, he needs to go on the DL now. He's hurting the team running that way and, more important, maybe hurting himself worse. I'm warming up to Bard as his bat warms up. This is not me taking a roundabout cheap shot to "hope" him out of the lineup. His gait looked ugly as he legged out that double. Get him on the DL now, he'll miss fewer games with the all-star break coming up.

*Nice job with the fireworks today. Cripes. How bad would that have looked if the Nats had lost?

*The record with The Big Guy in the house is up to 6-18. But it is 2-0 in the past two and 5-4 in the past nine. Yep, they were 1-14 with me there at one point. I have seen nine of the Nats' past 15 games. Yes, I need a life.

*I haven't seen the full All-Star list yet but I'm not going to complain. You can make a case for 1-2 others, particularly Dunn, but a team that already has 50 losses really can't expect two spots.

*I'm very glad I was going south today. Traffic was thicker than usual but we still made it home in good time. Going north, 95 was basically a parking lot from Ashland north.

We like Mike

My latest poll on Mike Rizzo drew about half the responses most of my polls have been getting. Not sure if that means anything. I do know the results were overwhelming. Twenty-five respondents said remove the acting tag and three said don't. I'd like to hear from those three about why they voted that way.

Rizzo hasn't really done anything to make me say "Wow" in either direction. I know I don't like "acting" situations, though one commenter noted on an earlier post that everybody in those positions (manager, GM, etc.) is pretty much interim anyway. What it says to me is "we're not sure yet."

I don't know if Uncle Stan is waiting to see how Rizzo handles the Strasburg negotiations or waiting until the end of the season to see if someone else is available.

I am curious to see what happens to this position, and maybe some others, over the All-Star break.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A good day becomes better

For all the good of this afternoon, the best part came when we got in the car and heard that Colome had been DFA'ed. Bergmann up. Nothing personal Jesus. I have no doubt you are a fine guy. But when your ERA gets close to my age, it is time to go.
Oh, that and Brooks Conrad being exposed! So much for that 1.000 batting average Mr. Conrad.
He comes up in the ninth, two on, two out. My Son The Braves Fan said, "If he does it again, I will supervise the building of that statue."
No need.

Also, jog my old memory. This is a cut-and-paste from the story (and the great thing about the Web is it can be fixed, unlike print errors). Didn't Belliard hit a pretty sharp single to open that inning?

Washington was down, 3-1, when it was able to score against three Atlanta relievers. Left-hander Mike Gonzalez started the inning and couldn't find the strike zone, walking Ronnie Belliard and Josh Bard to open the frame.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Brooks Conrad?

The Braves send up a pinch-hitter in the seventh and My Son The Braves Fan - The BRAVES FAN - turns and says, "Dad, who is this dude?"

Huh? That's your team. Not mine. I have no clue.

With Jesus Colome on the mound, I figured he was dangerous even if he was Minnie Pearl. My fears were confirmed as the ball sailed harmfully through the night and into the Nats bullpen.

Brooks Conrad. A guy his own fans didn't even know just stuck another dagger into a heart full of them. Brooks Conrad. In his first at-bat for the Braves. I'm sure he's smart enough to understand he'll usually be facing major-league pitching.

A young friend who worked in my office at VCU was there (in the President's Club at that) so I sent him a text.

ME: Who the heck is that guy?
HIM: No idea. But I like him.

Yeah, I bet you do. I'll trade you Colome for him. Next text to another young Braves fan who worked with me at VCU, one back in Richmond.

ME: Brooks Conrad? Who is that?
HIM: Apparently the greatest hitter ever. Beyond that, I got nothing. tells me this guy landed in D.C. less than 12 hours before stepping up and ruining my night. It was his 20th at-bat in the big leagues. He played in six games for Oakland last season, collecting three hits in 19 at-bats. This will shock you. It was his first major-league home run.

If the Braves were on MASN, Brooks Conrad would be the "who?" guy in the commercials.

Another text later from a friend at the park: The bullpen must go. All of them.
Me: I'll drive.

Yet another text from Braves fan back in Richmond: I knew the Nats' bullpen was bad. I didn't realize how bad.
Me: Brutal would be an upgrade.

That's 4-18 with the big guy in the house.

Worth noting (or nothing): We sat in the Red Loft seats for the first time. Or the Porch. The higher ones, whatever they're called. Interesting vantage point. I had seats in both rows. If you go this route, get Row A. You can see much more of the field - like all of it.

I also tried one of those Fred Flintstone ribs for the first time. It was basically a huge bone with a lot of fat covered in sauce. They were out of forks but that was OK. It was cold and I could pick up the bone. Not going to spend 12 bucks on that again.

Enjoyed the fireworks show. Was it just me or were they spelling out, "BROOKS CONRAD OWNS YOU. CHUCK NORRIS FEARS BROOKS CONRAD?"

That's enough out of me for now. On to bed, where I'll no doubt wake up screaming, "WHO IS THIS GUY AND WHY IS JESUS COLOME STILL ON THE TEAM??"

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wheeling and dealing (at home)

Life at the Harris pad is nothing if not a thrill a minute. We roll hard, particularly since my son returned. Last night was a perfect example. Allow me to allow you to share in the rip-roaring, out-of-control fun we have around here.

By the time evening rolled around, my team had already played and lost. My alternate team had already played and lost, blowing a lead in Nats-like fashion. My son's team was playing but was not on TV. So we did the only other thing we could do.

We found another game to watch.

Giants-Cardinals was on and we chuckled at walking Pujols with one already on and only one out in the first inning. The guy inspires the type of fear that makes you really stupid.

"What," my son asked, "would you trade for Pujols?"

How 'bout everybody? The whole system. All of them. No? Well, my serious answer was this: Any three players with some qualifications. No two players whose last name starts with the same letter. Can't lose Zim and Zim. Can't lose Dunn and Detwiler. Also, no two players whose combined HR total is more than Pujols. Can't lose both Dunn and RZim. And if Flores is one of the three, a catcher has to come back. My son said basically the same thing for his beloved Braves.

From there, we moved on to another of our games. I told you we roll hard here. We play make-a-trade between the Braves and the Nationals. He pulls for the Nats when the Braves aren't playing. I pull for the Braves when the Nats aren't playing. So we do this under the guise of trying to help the other guy out, too. It doesn't always work that way.

Some of our proposals from last night, proposer in parentheses:

*(me) Kearns for Francouer. Straight up. Little s.o.b just laughed at me. The nerve. This is a GREAT deal. A change of scenery thing. Kearns can play in Francouer's league when it comes to an arm and we all know he's about to bust out at any time. That's why Manny keeps sending him out there. I'm still hurt he didn't like this one.

*(him). Dunn for Kotchmann and Schaefer. I actually like this one but now that Nyjer is our main man in center, I don't see where it fits. I suppose Nyjer could go to left and Schaefer could go to center. It's the catch everything, don't hit a lick outfield. The kid loves Dunn so he's down.

*(me) Johnson for Johnson. And one. The Nats would have to get a prospect in return, too. Preferably an arm. I suggested Hanson. He was not amused. Otherwise, he liked the deal.

*(me) Johnson and Guzman for Jurjjens and Escobar. We'd risk another head case and take Escobar off his hands. Again, the little ingrate scoffs. All I'm trying to do is help.

*(me) McCann and McLouth for anyone whose last name ENDS with Z. Think of the haul. Gonzalez. Hernandez. Tavarez. They'd get help all over the field. He flipped me the bird.

*(him) Anyone whose last name BEGINS with Z for Hudson, Jones and Garret Anderson. Well, the Nats DO seem to be in a young-for-old mode. I still told him no.

*(me) Bard for Ross. YES, YES, YES he screamed. Dump a backup catcher who strikes fear into no one *** WAIT WAIT WAIT he screamed. Too late. Deal is done. Plus, Bard's been hot lately. A great deal for them.

*(him) Moylan for Tavarez. Hell yes. Right now. Moylan wouldn't have to worry about Zimmerman taking him deep anymore.

*(me) Dukes for McLouth. Straight up, a young CF for another young CF. He flipped me the bird with BOTH HANDS. Might be time for him to find another place to live.

*(him) Z-double-nn for Hudson. No thanks. Another six-letter last name that beings with "H" and I may consider this one. Even then, probably not.

He'd agree to just about everything if I threw in Willie, his favorite Nat. He still likes Belliard but not enough to take him in a variety of proposals. He also loves Roger Bernadina for some reason but not enough to give up Escobar straight up.

We'll continue this through the weekend I'm sure. Stop by for updates or to offer your suggestions. We're in 245 on Friday, 309 on Saturday and 315 on Sunday. Also, be sure to cast your eyes toward those sections if Z-single-n hits a home run. My Son The Braves Fan and Virginia Tech graduate will stand up and sing the U.Va. fight song loud and proud. I'd like to hear it about four times this weekend.

*(him) "Zimmerman for any one player you want, just so I don't have to sing that damn song again." Hmmmm. What one player do I want? I'll have to get back to him on that.


In the hubbub of travel and other stuff yesterday, I completely missed that fact that Sean Burnett made his first appearance - and gave up a home run to the first batter he faced. That's how 3-2 that I saw in the airplane became 3-3 (and then 5-3) before I got to the car.


I conclude there's something in the air that follows this team around. You walk into that clubhouse and it hits you. It doesn't seem to wash off. Nats-itis.

Welcome to the Nats, kid. Your life is now over.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Good-bye for now - or for good?

My day:

I get on my JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale, scheduled to leave at 12:20. Hook up my walkman and turn the DirecTV to ESPNews to get updates on the scroll.
It's 3-2 Nats late in the flight, after the rain. It's 3-3 Marlins as I leave the plane.
I get to the car and get XM turned on just in time to hear, "And there's another hit. That makes it 5-3 Marlins."

The Marlins. Jeezzzzz. The MARLINS? 0-9 vs. the MARLINS? This is a team that beat the Yankees two out of three. Beat the Red Sox once. It has even beaten the Phillies twice. And it can't beat THE MARLINS once? No knock on the Marlins. Never had anything against them and I like a lot of their players. I like Fredi Gonzalez. But I'm becoming convinced the Nats exist to give the Marlins someone to beat.

None of that has anything to do with my current question. JimBow heartthrob Milledge sent down never to return. Traded to the Pirates, the long-term version of the Nats. New (acting) GM isn't as in love with him as previous GM.

JimBow heartthrob Dukes sent down. Yeah, he's struggling. Probably not the worst thing in the world but there are others who I fear more when they bat - how 'bout the Kings of Double Plays Belliard and Kearns? Even my wife, a non-Dukes fan, was dumbfounded.

Will he ever return? Will he be dumped on the first willing taker, priced be damned? Is the (acting) GM not as in love with him as the previous GM?

And while I'm venting, going back to a previous post: Orioles rally from 10-1 down, beat the Sox. Nats swept by Marlins. Hopefully I will forget that by the time I re-evaluate my loyalties.

Also, read this take in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for some rather different quotes from Morgan than what we read in the D.C. media today. Mr. Ladson did not ask him about those comments in this cute Q&A today. Happy Birthday Nyjer! What a gift you got.

Shaking my head rapidly

It was 1-1 when we got seated for dinner, 5-1 when I got up momentarily and 7-5 when we headed out the door. Only the Nats. I did not allow it to spoil a great meal.

What I'm having a hard time getting my foggy head around this morning is this report on - not the report itself but the information contained within.

I'm foggy this a.m. for some reason, first time in ages I haven't felt well. I have to pack and get to the airport and get home. I don't have the time or brainpower to deal with this right now. Arrrgggh. My head hurts.

I guess my basic question is: Was anyone watching the store when all this was being built? Didn't anyone raise a hand and said, 'Wait a second?'" Was Rizzo totally silent until he got the big job, albeit on an "acting" basis.

The team has come to the conclusion that Dunn and Willingham should be in the AL as designated hitters? Their body of work came from the NL. There was a history. Dukes makes fundamental mistakes? Suddenly, Guzman can't play short? They're going to unload all four (the story didn't say that, I just wonder)? The one guy who would trade for Dukes is no longer working in baseball.

I'm sure there's an expiration date after which we can no longer blame this mess on JimBow. I'm just curious about why no one seemed to be watching what he was doing. I'm also curious about the sources on the story - there can't be that many privy to the thinking, can there? Why go anonymous?